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September 21, 2011Letters to LaurenNo comments

I’ve had an epiphany.

I’m not sure when it happened. It could have been whilst reading back through my previous letters to you, or whilst listening to Danny Baker’s Desert Island Disc show (none of which may mean the slightest thing to you) – it might even have been whilst reading you, your dinosaur book.

Either way, what struck me with my epiphany is that no matter how much I pretend that I do not try to mould you – it is pretty clear that through these letters, the story books I buy – the manner in which I speak to you are all part of a wider plan.

I want you to be a you, that is a you, you may not necessarily want to be.

I told myself when you were born that I would not force my wants on you. That I would not make you a fan of sport; make my tastes in music, your own. Food is already an interesting topic as you eat a far greater variety of foods than I do – so it may well be you pushing me to try new things as we grow older together. But everything else is clearly being led by me.

So there are subtle things that I do with you, that clearly stem from an interest I have, that I want to pass on to you.

Take dinosaurs for example. The simple act of reading you a rhyming storybook – which focuses on individual dinosaurs, is not necessarily an innocent thing. It’s by no means evil – but it is a subject I would love to be able to share with you. So I’ve started to read you a book, which I hope softens a subject matter, so that when we walk through the main entrance of the Natural History Museum – you’re not so scared of the Diplodocus skeleton that you want to leave immediately. Those precious night time stories, where we go back over the cute, pink Diplodocus page, is more of a lesson than an aid to your sleep routine.

The same can be said for your Italian nursery rhyme CD. OK, so we didn’t buy that for you – and it is a dual language version – but it does sit alongside the Italian word books we bought for you. I want to learn Italian, I’d love to one day move to Italy – and so it’s a wise move to get your mutual interest ignited at this early stage. Admittedly you have a choice. You can fall asleep when the CD is on in the car, but it’s usually me who wants to put it on before you ever ask for it.

Where will this stop? I’m not entirely certain which of our dreams we will be fulfilling if we ever go to Disneyland. If you ever take up cricket or volleyball – will that be because your schools offer those sports, or because Daddy always has them on in the background?

If my actions are by no means innocent, they are at least carried out with the best intentions – to give me the opportunity to have as much quality time with you as possible. And I mean that from the selfish perspective of doing things “we” both want.

So at the moment – whilst you are young enough to mould, to encourage and to guide – I’ll get out of all the dolls play, tea parties and dressing up games I can; and focus on the story times, the dinosaurs and the strange Italian/Spanish hybrid counting you have picked up from Dora the Explorer and your CD.

But then I am acutely aware of the balance between what I want for you, and what you will eventually want for yourself. For there is no good in me proclaiming that your independence is the key defining quality that I hope will set you apart from others, only for me to then “innocently” push you in one direction or another.

If I am allowed one final push, it is that you one day pick up a teacher or parent on their misuse of the dinosaur name Brontosaurus – and correctly point them in the direction of Apatosaurus – especially if you can do it with a broad, knowing smile on your face.

But then that’s just because your dad can be quite petty at a times – one of those characteristics I’ll leave you to develop for yourself.

Image: Apatosaurus (Natural History Museum site)

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