My youngest son, Isaac, will often pull me up and claim that I love Bradley, his older brother, more than I love him.
It’s a sweet, disarming tactic that cuts no ice with this heavy duty fatha.
“Well,” I always tell him, “I’ve known Bradley longer than I’ve known you, so naturally, you know? ...”
The secret is to leave the thought hanging in the air.
Either he is so insecure that he actually believes I can love his brother more than him, or it’s a tactic to elicit sympathy, attention or both.
Whichever it is, it shows weakness … and it’s good to exploit your children’s insecurities to stay on top, don’t you think? I read in a parenting handbook, I’m sure.
If not, I’ll include it in mine: Don’t Let the Little Blighters Grind You Down: Parenting without Chloroform, Volume 2, by Richard Ord.
The exploiting of your offspring’s weak points will be the chapter sandwiched between Zen and the Art of Nappy Change Avoidance and Santa’s Dead - Your Mam Killed Him. Available in all really terrible bookshops soon.
Anyway, our Isaac is nothing if not imaginative and, oddly enough, a stickler for the rules.
He can create a game from nothing and takes great care setting long-winded ever-evolving rules. Once those ground rules are set and agreed, he can get on with the business of cheating his way to victory. Yes cheating.
And like our Australian cousins, he’s extremely naive and obvious when it comes to that ruse.
For those who may have missed it, Australian cricketers in a match against South Africa thought they could tamper with the cricket balls to their advantage by applying sticky tape to rough one side of the ball up.
The secret of success was to do this subtly and out of sight. So they opted to do it in the middle of a cricket pitch during a game in front of thousands of supporters, opposition players, watching journalists, and high definition TV cameras! What could possibly go wrong?
And so it is with our Isaac. He set up ping pong on our dining room table. The net was a Jamie Oliver food stand and the playing surface the oval table.
Every time I hit it out, he got a point. Every time he hit it out, he claimed the point saying “That would have been in if the table was square.”
The scoring system was first to 11, unless I got there first, then it was “I said first to 15.”
If I served to him and he hit a winner, he got the point. If I served to him and his hit it into the net … well, he wasn’t ready!?! “Take the serve again dad.”
And so this continues until I win or he storms off.
Why, my wife would constantly ask, “don’t you just let him win?”
A reasonable point. It would make life easier.
But in Chapter 5 of my book, I explain the issue fully, with diagrams. The title of that chapter? Why Dads are Best, of course.