Father of the year is a term often banded about but not always justified…

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Being a dad is tough. The tantrums, tears and frequent breakdowns over the years really take their toll on you, and they are usually caused by your kids.

I love my children more than anything and I’d like to think I’m a pretty good dad. Sure, I can be strict sometimes but I also play the mediator role very well – when my wife needs to be the autocratic disciplinarian, I can be the UN Peacemaker that smooths things over and gets everyone back on side.

Father of the year is a strong term, but one I’m sure that I could rival anyone for. I’d like to think that my children feel the same…though after what happened earlier this week, I’m not sure whether my son – or his friend – would necessarily share that lofty opinion.

My son is 11, naive and young compared to some children in his school of a similar age, with some of them more streetwise than me in all honesty. The boy is bright though which is part of the problem, let me talk you through our most recent issue:

I had a phone call (actually five, I missed four of them), from my son after finishing school recently to ask if he can go to town with his mates. This is unusual – firstly I never get a phone call, maybe it’s because the mum is stereotypically the ‘go to’ person, or because I’m not as decisive as my wife (I’m not sure). I immediately panicked and like a true man said “have you asked your mother?”, he hadn’t as he couldn’t get through to her, so it was all on me.

In my mind 11 years old is pretty young to be going out with friends, I wouldn’t have been able to go in to town at that age (“in my day…”) but I know that most, if not all, of his friends can and do.

I thought for a second and asked who was going along with him, and was given a fairly long list who had already agreed to go in return. There were a couple of kids I knew, and a couple of undesirable kids that I was also aware of. You know the ones I mean, those cool kids that were always in trouble when you were in school. This did concern me to be honest – what were they going to get up to? Smoking or thievery I would wager.

Then I remembered, I’m the cool (albeit, second choice) parent. I know what it’s like to be his age (lonely and awkward), and there are some sensible kids going. It’s time for an executive decision and to give him a chance, also my chance to be the big man, so I said:

“Okay that’s fine, but, just make sure you stick with {sensible kid 1} and {sensible kid 2}, don’t you go around or bother with {naughty kid 1}!”

There was some chatter in the background, slightly raised voices, and my son saying “we’ll all be together, it’s fine, there won’t be any problems!” I listened to more background chatter and voices, and made my point again:

“Make sure you don’t go around with {naughty kid 1}, I don’t want you getting up to anything silly, he’ll probably be shoplifting or something” I said with middle class confidence.

It was then I realised…

The call was on speakerphone.

With all aforementioned children – sensible and naughty – listening to every word. The chatter in the background? Yes that was {naughty kid 1} protesting his innocence.

The call was being made from the house of {naughty kid 1} with his mother (who I am tempted to call naughty mother) listening to the call as well.

It was as I heard the boy calling his mother in the background that I decided to end the call because I had an essential meeting to go to (honestly I’m very important), and I bailed.I put the drama behind me and simply ignored it (my recommended way to deal with many problems).

I had agreed to meet my beloved son at 5pm at his friend’s house, a short walk from the town centre. I happily turned up at 5pm and was greeted by his friend’s mother smiling vacantly through me – “Is he here?” I asked, smiling vacantly back. “No, they’ve gone to town? I wasn’t that happy with them going but because you said yes everyone had to”

Woah! Where did this come from? I am now totally confused and feeling more and more like I had been set up.

“Because I said? I only agreed because everyone else was going along?”

I was then informed that this wasn’t correct: I had been called first, and because I had said yes, every other parent involved felt forced into agreeing it too. Oh and now they were lost, and all of their phones are going straight to voicemail, and it’s all my fault.

I wont bore you with the details but I had to go for a short drive to eventually find the group gathered outside a closed furniture shop chatting, with no concept of time or danger.

I had been set up, betrayed and besmirched all one afternoon – these things normally take longer than that if I’m honest. As I drove over to the boys I honked the horn, to which my son responded “There’s my dad by there!”; I wont repeat what I muttered under my breath.

There it is folks, always beware of speakerphone calls – don’t say anything to your lousy kids that you wouldn’t want said in public. Being a dad isn’t about winning awards, it is about the stupid situations that you regularly find yourself in, and having the confidence to get out of them, or at least appear that you know the way out.

If you are a dad, don’t be hard on yourself when things like this happen – you’re doing a good job fella, and at least your therapist will find the stories amusing in years to come.

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