JACK, our third-born, will soon be 18, which means he is on the cusp of being a man.
By October, he’ll be able to vote and I noticed when we were swimming on holiday that he now has a chest hair – just one, but it’s a start.
The problem is that his mum still sees him as if he’s her baby boy – and it drives me mad.
Take his trip to the Leeds Festival as a prime example. Along with thousands of other youngsters from across the North, Jack and his friends had saved up to watch some of their favourite bands at the festival.
They’d looked forward to it with growing excitement for months. It’s part of growing up – a rite of passage – to sleep in a tent, in a muddy field, and have your ear-drums blasted by the latest big thing.
We’ve all done it in our time, although in my case it was kipping under a coat on Birmingham railway station after a Queen concert.
But the simple truth is that mums can’t cope with the thought of their little boys being out there under the stars, getting rained on and catching a chill.
You see, one of the big differences between mums and dads is that us dads are quite happy to kick our teenage boys out of the house and let them rough it, while mums can’t let go and feel the need to go on mothering them.
(I’m just talking about boys here, of course. Girls are a completely different proposition as far as dads are concerned.) Anyway, Jack set off for Leeds in a friend’s car, with his rucksack in the boot and a sense of adventure in his heart.
He’d only been there one night when my wife couldn’t resist texting him to ask how it was going.
“It’s wet and freezing,” was the response.
So do you know what she did? She texted back to ask if he wanted her to drive down to Leeds with some dry clothes and warm food.
“I can be there in an hour,” she told him.
“What have you done that for?” I exclaimed when I found out. “It’s supposed to be rock and roll!”
“But it’s not very nice when you’re cold and wet,” she groaned.
I swear I could come home after walking to the North Pole in my boxer shorts and she wouldn’t give two hoots – but if her little boy’s camping out at a muddy rock festival, her motherly instincts go haywire.
Fortunately, Jack texted back to say he’d see it through for the next couple of days, otherwise I have no doubt she’d have jumped into the car with a bag of clothes, a duvet, a flask of hot milk, an assortment of biscuits and – more than likely – an old cuddly toy.
When my dad was 17, he was up to his neck in mud in a trench at Anzio – and he didn’t have Muse or the Arctic Monkeys to look forward to.
And don’t run away with the idea that our Jack is an isolated case. I mentioned what had happened to a couple of fellow dads and their wives had made exactly the same offer to their sons.
It’s pathetic, isn’t it?
THE last Dad At Large, about how I had to take my lifesized Kylie Minogue cardboard cut-out to the tip, seemed to strike a chord.
Robert Oxley sent an email – subject: “the lovely Kylie”...
“I’ve just read your column in today’s Echo about your Kylie cutout.
I’d have taken her off your hands. I’ve loved Kylie for nearly 23 years now and already own four life-sized cut-outs of her. I’m sure I could have made room for another.
“Hope the lads at Darlington dump are treating her well...”
BY coincidence, I happened to be back at Darlington’s municipal tip the other day, getting rid of a load of plasterboard from the kitchen wall my wife has suddenly decided to have demolished.
The cheery tip assistant who took Kylie off my hands – Richard Mallon, he’s called – was there to help again.
“So how’s Kylie doing?” I asked, and he clearly didn’t recognise me.
“Hey, I got a brilliant write-up in The Northern Echo about that you know – dunno how they heard about it.”
The column is apparently stuck to the wall in the site cabin, but Kylie’s whereabouts are a mystery.
“I put her to one side and went on holiday,” said Richard. “When I came back, she was gone.”
Where could she be?