The Day of the Father

Any minute now Khwezi, my five-year-old son, is going to bounce into my room and hand me the worst cup of coffee ever – three teaspoons of coffee, tap water, salt, sugar, maybe even a bit of tomato sauce. I’ve never been happier.

Khwezi has been planning this for days. In the last week he has been bursting with anticipation and shivering with excitement.

You see, today is Father’s Day and, in Khwezi’s 5-year-old eyes, I’m da bomb!

I wasn’t always da dad bomb. In fact, not so long ago I was daddy non grata. Khwezi suffered from ADHD – anti-dad hyperactivity disorder. To be fair, he wasn’t so much AD as he was PM – pro-Mom. He had two parents: Mom (with a capital “M”) and me – a small “d” dad, more commonly known as “not-mom”.

What would Freud say? A great deal, I suspect, but I ain’t going to lie down on that couch.  In the last few months, though, the balance of parental power has shifted and I’ve dethroned Mom as the top parent dog. It had nothing to do with me; it had everything to do with Khwezi.

He switched from being a toddler to becoming a boy and during that transformation I became uber cool. I remember the moment where I went from dad to Dad. I was playing Spider-Man PS2. Khwezi watched as I swung from building to building, rescuing distressed damsels and battling bad guys. And then out of nowhere the invincible “green guy” struck.

“Be careful, dad,” Khwezi said, “it’s… it’s… it’s the green guy.” Somebody needed to take control of the situation and it wasn’t going to be the green guy – well, not if I had anything to do with it.

“Don’t worry, Khwezi,” I told my boy, “the situation is under control.”

Khwezi held his breath. He wasn’t convinced.

I jumped, I ducked, I skipped, I leapt, I soared and I spun webs for all I was worth until I had the green guy tied up in a gazillion knots. It was a moment of PS2 glory.

“Wow, Dad,” said Khwezi, his eyes wide: “You’re… you’re… you’re so cool.” And that was that. My chest swelled.

There’s nothing more affirming for a dad than seeing yourself through the eyes of your five-year-old boy.

I relish my super-cool status because I know that it won’t last. Just as your toddler turns into a boy without so much as a “how’s your father?”, your boy turns into a teen. One day your son thinks that if you were any cooler you’d be in the fridge and the next day his voice crackles and croaks, he’s got fuzz on his top lip and he thinks you’re a loser.

That’s in the future. For now, though, I’m Hero Dad.

What has absolutely cemented my place in the numero-uno spot is that Khwezi – being a boy – has entered the lavatorial stage of humour; a stage, it must be said, that I haven’t managed to exit yet. I still think there’s nothing funnier than a fart.

His mom, however, doesn’t appreciate the art of “toilet talk”. She also isn’t impressed with the fact that when I think no one is watching I sneak Khwezi sips of Coca-Cola.

With my new super-cool status, though, comes a new responsibility. Khwezi believes I know everything – absolutely everything. There is not a sliver of doubt in his mind that I will not know the answer to any question he asks. I don’t want to disappoint him. We’re walking down the street and a car drives past.

“Dad, what kind of car is that?”

“It’s a Chevy,” I answer

“Where is it going?”

“To the levee.”

“Why?”

“Because the levee is dry,” I answer.

“Oh, and why is that man grumpy? Why is that woman’s umbrella orange? How do radios work? Why is the sky blue?” If it’s answers he wants, it’s answers he’s going to get.

“Because he’s on his way to work and his boss won’t give him a turn on the monkey bars; because orange is her favourite colour; little people live inside radios and when we push the ‘on’ button they sing songs; and, er, uhm, why’s the sky blue? Well, it’s because, well, uhm, er … do you remember what happened on Saturday?”

“Saturday?” asks Khwezi.

“Yes, on Saturday I beat up the green guy on Spider-Man PS2.”

“Yes, I remember, Dad,” Khwezi nods. “Wow! You’re so cool!”

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, a breathless 5-year-old is knocking on the door. I’ve got to drink a cup of the world’s worst coffee – it’s a small price to pay for being the best Dad on the planet.

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About Jonathan Ancer

I'm a journalist, cryptic crossword junkie, keen cyclist, Billy Bunter book collector and a Billy Bragg stalker. I love words and will post some of the columns I have written over the years on this blog. They include: View from the G-spot (my time as editor of a community newspaper in Grahamstown), Virgin Cyclist (the build up to my first Argus Cycle Tour), Pop psychology (my take on fatherhood) and Angry Utterances (10) (how crossword puzzles unlock the world's secrets and the meaning of life). Since leaving Independent Newspapers in September 2014 I have started freelancing and write a column for the Witness - The Diary of a Bumbling Hack. I've also become a podcast junkie and have produced a podcast biography series called Extraordinary Lives. Let me know what you think.
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