My wife received a text from a friend recently, asking her to thank me for something I had said about home schooling. My wife told me this, and followed up with the question: “What the hell do you know about home schooling?!” I decided to interpret her tone as playful rather than laced with rage, but she is absolutely right.
I have been spending an increasing amount of time working, which means my involvement in home schooling has evaporated. I am upstairs while the kids do home school with their mum, seeing me only when I pop downstairs to ask them to keep it down a bit, which I imagine makes my wife love me even more. In my defence, I only do this when I am recording voiceovers, a home setup that requires me to cover myself in a duvet to deaden any echo and use my phone as a torch inside my makeshift tent. (Remember that if you happen to watch anything with my voice on it during lockdown.)
My wife and I are both from teaching backgrounds, and everyone assumes we are finding this an absolute doddle. They imagine we dust off the whiteboard that we have knocking about for whenever we fancy some role play, and deliver the curriculum to our children in a manner that is superior to them actually being at school.
The reality is that we try and fail to log in to the websites that the school needs us to, before discovering the work requires us to print something out. Our printer, which has been sitting in a corner next to the ab roller, has been called out of retirement only to have us bang the top of it repeatedly while screaming: “Why would the school set work that means we have to print stuff?!”
The fact that I am spending nowhere near as much time with the children as my wife is something I feel increasingly guilty about. There will, hopefully, never be a period in our lives like this again, with the opportunity to spend so much time together as a family. I have decided, therefore, to engage with them as much as possible when I finish work, joining them for Fortnite discussions and letting them help me to a level of proficiency that will stop kids from Pittsburgh calling me a bot. We talk about skins; I pretend to understand when they give me instructions; and they pretend not to be annoyed that I continue to make progress at a pace a sloth would take the piss out of.
Does this make me a great parent? They are put through their educational paces by their doting mother, and pulled into line when they mess about. Once they’ve finished doing that, Dad comes over with the figurative ice-cream and lollipops. “Oh, enough of that boring woman, guys: Fun Dad is here!”
I was pondering the unfairness of this while playing with the boys the other night. “I must figure out a solution,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I’m just too much fun?”
It was then that the boys finally plucked up the courage to ask if they could abandon me for a bit to play with their actual friends online. I realised I wasn’t Fun Dad at all. They were having just as miserable a time with me as they were doing home school, which I consider job done. I’m playing with them again tomorrow, though.