I’ve invested heavily in the boys education. By invested I don’t mean financially, obviously. There’s no way they’re going to a fee paying prep school so long as I’m still watching my football on a not-so-flat-screen TV. It’s more of an emotional investment.
And by education I’m not talking about the three Rs. I appreciate those are important too, but it’s not like failing my 11+ prevented me from becoming a … ah, stay-at-home dad.
Let me start again.
I’ve invested heavily, on an emotional level, in the boys alternative education, on the subject of comedy.
I’m not expecting a round of applause for doing so, even if my funny walk clearly warrants one, but should I not be seeing some kind of return on my investment by now? I mean, five year bonds pay out sooner than this.
For the first couple of years it was easy. Child’s play, if you will. I could garner a giggle from blowing a raspberry. Temper a tantrum with a silly face. If anything it was too easy.
But as they’ve grown older, so too has their expectations. Laughter no longer comes as a given. It needs to be earned.
And yet despite this, and I’m not normally one for blowing my own trumpet (unless you’re referring to my comedy trombone, in which case I absolutely am), I like to think I’ve risen to that challenge.
When my funny walk stopped being funny I added a comedy fall with scant regard for my own physical well-being. I showed them how a song can be improved by substituting any word for something ruder. Demonstrated how an opportune fart can be hilarious but it’s all about the delivery, and more importantly the time and place. Lifting a cheek at the dinner table, particularly in a restaurant, fails on both counts. How many times do I need to keep telling them this?
I even taught them how the mundanity of having to go upstairs to brush their teeth could be offset by a simple cry of,
“last one up is the stinkiest!”
You see, I have put in the hours.
I’ve explained in great detail how they shouldn’t laugh at their brothers misfortune without first checking for blood, and if they’re going to laugh at anyone’s expense they must first be prepared to laugh at themselves.
I’ve deconstructed a joke to within a vowel of its life just to show how and why it was funny, then provided real-life examples of how that very same joke may be considered inappropriate depending on where and to whom it’s said. Parents evenings and teachers often being a case in point.
But despite all my best efforts they’ve been finding me less funny by the day. Maybe they’d outgrown the slapstick? It’s quite possible they’d had too much of a good thing with my side-splitting one-liners. Could they have matured beyond my observational wit already?
Whatever the reason, it was time to take it to the next level. Time to increase the complexity. Time to teach them the dark arts of sarcasm.
Have you ever tried teaching sarcasm to a five-year old? Of course you’ve not. Why would you, they’re five!
What starts as a light-hearted after school activity soon becomes a six-week intensive course on the importance of facial expressions and how you should always ensure the person knows you are in fact joking. It’s a very fine line between witty beyond their years and the rudest child imaginable, bordering on psychopathic. Get it wrong too often and it’s a one way trip to social services!
Clearly I’d gone too far. Time to pull back on the subtleties of sarcasm and settle on its more simple form, mockery.
Now I’ll have to go back through my parenting books to see when a child is expected to be so adept at mocking their own parent, but I’m pretty sure it’d show they were over achieving for their age, possibly even gifted. What they may lack in the fine motor skills necessary to hold a pencil correctly, they more than make up for in mocking each others handwriting.
But why am I telling you all this? Well, what I’m trying to show is just how much of my heart and soul I’ve poured into their appreciation of comedy, in all its forms. How I’ve gone above and beyond what could realistically be expected. Of how I’ve selflessly devoted six years of my life so that just like how Venus and Serena’s dad can now sit back and watch them win Grand Slams, I too might one day have the satisfaction of finding my boys watching episodes of Stewart Lee, diligently taking notes on his style of delivery.
I’m not being funny, as my boys will happily attest, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that had I invested this much time and effort into their maths skills, Eddie Redmayne would be rubbing his hands at the prospect of acting out their lives.
And yet, in the last few weeks my ability to make them laugh has regressed still further. I’ve barely gleaned a giggle from either of them, and by God I’ve tried.
“What do you do when you see a spaceman … park in it man!”
… not even a smirk.
But Mark, I hear you ask, didn’t I hear them both howling with laughter the other day?
Yes you did.
And were you not the source of such hilarity?
No I wasn’t.
Sonny was watching the Annoying Orange on YouTube. Luca, Alvin and Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.
I mean seriously, that’s not even the funniest of a bad bunch of Chipmunk films!
So that’s it, I’m quitting. I’ve had enough. When they find someone dicking about on Minecraft far funnier than anything I have to offer then it’s time to throw in the towel.
But when they do finally realise the error of their ways, and they will, I’ll be ready to accept their apology. Ready with a box-set of Dads Army. Ready to pick that towel back up, twirl it around and chase them up the stairs, because that’s never not funny, right?