This week has seen the start of the new school year and with it a host of changes. The one thing that has not changed though is the morning routine. Every morning Ben and I stroll to the school bus stop. It is only a ten minute walk, but it is good father/son time. Those ten minutes have allowed the two of us to put the world to rights and answer the big questions that weigh heavily on Ben’s mind:
Who is the greatest footballer?
Can I make it as a professional cricket player?
Where does God live?
Do we like Donald Trump?
What do badgers eat?
Sometimes it can be a very long ten minute walk as I try and navigate religious, geopolitical and philosophical issues as well as many other subjects requiring a crystal ball. In short, there is nothing that can make a man feel thicker than ten minutes trying to answer the questions of an 8 year old child. I’m fairly sure that given time Ben could find a question that would leave the likes of Stephen Hawkins or the Dalai Lama feeling intellectually or spiritually inadequate. It just happens I am a mere mortal and he finds a question every other day to leave me intellectually poleaxed.
This term though, the easy going nature of our discussions has made way for some real work. You see the problem is that when it comes to school, Ben is a very busy guy. At the age of 8 he has sunflowers to draw, pottery to craft and gold stars to win. In short, he doesn’t have time at school to do things like his times tables…..Now, the crux of the issue is that Ben is no Vincent van Gogh….I mean those sun flowers are loved by just his parents and no one else. The last piece of pottery he brought home he put in the bin himself, and frankly gold stars count for nothing in this world unless you work at MacDonald’s. Hence, I am feeling a vague obligation to grab his education by the scruff of the neck and try and teaching him something that might actually be useful in an exam scenario!
Ben and I now stroll to the bus stop chanting various times tables like Benedictine Monks singing psalms. Well, when I say chanting, in Ben’s case I mean quiet, unconfident mutterings in the hope his guesswork is correct and for me; a pleading, whining chant as I pray Ben can actually remember something, anything just to show some vague gesture of progress. I’m not too sure who is happier to see that bus; Ben who has sunflowers to paint or me a broken, failure unable to deviate my son’s mind from the fact 2×7 is 12….
At the back of my mind is also the issue that – I never actually learned my own times tables! I was the kid who just failed them until the age of 13 and then the educational system hands you a calculator! 30 years ago you could get away with it, today I’m sure it eventually catches-up with you.
Still, it is early days for Ben and I on this new mathematical journey. I have no idea whether it will be successful, but I’m told God loves a trier…..wherever God lives!