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The day you first buy your dad dinner

I had a college tutor. He was a distinguished man with floppy hair and a tweed suit and almost certainly a spy. Once, in a tutorial, out of the blue he said:

“Think about the first time you heard your parents made fun of by another adult.

Long pause.

“We never truly get over that, do we?”

He came as near to breaking down as his kind of Englishman ever could.

I was a bit taken aback at the time because, to be honest, if I’d even noticed my parents being teased I’d apparently gotten over the emotional trauma. But ever since I’ve thought about those landmarks in the child/parent relationship; there are lots and not only when, well, you are a child.

In the new issue of Do Not Disturb we have an article by a very good sports writer where he takes on his 14-year-old son at a variety of sports. We were thinking of The Fast Show and the Competitive Dad character. It’s funny. But there’s also something more serious beneath: the marking out of time. It’s the day your son beats you at tennis. You’re proud and devastated at the same time. He’s a step closer to being a fully-fledged person. You’re a step closer to – well.

The rite of passage for me was two or three years in paid employment when I picked up the bill for dinner with the folks. Look around the hotel dining room this Sunday and you’ll see the drama being played out. You can’t afford it. Yes I can. Come on – over here. Dad – I’d like to get it.

Then, one day, he lets you and there is another of life’s tipping points.


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