Do you ever remember thinking about the things you would share with your kids, when they came along?
All those things you love. All those things that you know something about. All those things that you think might even be helpful to them when they grow up.
Well. Some of that happens. Occasionally they even listen to you about something you’re keen to tell them about.
Just like any of us, kids develop specialist subjects, and they expect you to be expert in them.
Whether you are or not.
Mini is all about cars. Car identification: tick. Identifying old cars never previously seen: tick. Ability to continue to identify cars, at speed, even when tired or grumpy: tick.
I have been apprenticed to the school of digger appreciation in the past, so I have learned a little in this respect. Part of me rails against it; part of me is genuinely fascinated by the interest in something that would never have taken my fancy at that age.
So we talk about cars. Turns out I do know something about them now. Driving helps. As does looking at badges of Suzuki vs Seat close up, so we can tell the difference between them. (You’ll be off to check for yourself now.)
We start to introduce some car part terminology: hub caps, exhaust pipes, soft tops. Mini is entranced. I am quite proud of myself. This level of car knowledge I can deal with.
Mini will tell you as soon as a car has different hub caps to its overall make. It never occurred to me to look at hub caps, unless they happened to be particularly shiny and caught my eye, but now we look at hub caps.
We play variants on hand sandwich. Somethings we use hands, sometimes we just talk it through when walking along. There is still bread on the bottom, but then we get windscreens, horns, seatbelts.
Just the kind of things you want in a sandwich.
Mini wants to know ‘how cars go to the toilet’. So we talk about exhaust pipes getting rid of what cars don’t need. And, for good measure (and because we’ve noticed them too), we talk about radiator grilles, and what the car does if it gets too hot.
There is even a particular red Ford GT that we look out for, on our way to the sports centre.
When kids love diggers, you learn to love them too. You spot them when the kids aren’t even there. You might even turn and remark to the person next to you when you’ve seen a particularly cool bit of equipment.
Until you realise that they are just another adult at the bus stop next to you. Then you go quiet.
Actually, I’ve managed not to do that part, just about. And by now, I have forgotten more of my digger knowledge.
Plus Junior has moved on to other things, and I need some working memory to talk about spies, and the MI5 and MI6 buildings, and how much of the spy equipment in books is likely to be possible.
Fortunately, there are also specialist subjects where you overlap. I am discovering that Mini knows a lot of the songs and rhymes that I do. And is keen to learn more.
I can remember telling Junior about the phrase ‘once upon a time’. There was this frisson: I am getting to tell my child about this really wonderful thing. The magic phrase that starts so many stories.
Now Mini is prepared to hear other magic. Like Morningtown Ride, or Golden Slumbers. And, equally, songs like Yellow Submarine, or She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.
Every now and then, we’ll find another song we have in common. And hopefully sing it together.
(Sometimes I am told off for this. Including for singing along with a song on CD in the car. It’s obviously fine for Mini to sing along with it, though.)
I’ve written before about those points of connection with a parent: where you share the thing they love.
There is a special status to those things. Even in memory, they have some kind of internal glow about them when you recall them.
I am very grateful that there are those points of connection for me with both Junior and Mini. And that Dan has his too.
And part of me can share a smaller glow when recalling things that are my children’s specialist subjects too.
Even when it’s diggers. Or hub caps.