So today is Father’s Day. I won’t be at my computer, and I’m entirely too long-winded to bother blogging from my mobile phone, so this blog will be coming to you from the future… or the past… whichever. I just hope there isn’t something tremendously interesting in the news tomorrow.
Anyway… since everything is relatively quiet here at the moment – the book submissions are awaiting a new printer, and there is no filming for the next week or two, because I’m building virtual sets – I thought I’d give a shout-out to 21st century families.
I have a 21st century family, and today I will be sharing the day with most of them. We have unmarried partners; most with children. We have divorced people; parents and grandparents alike. We have remarried parents; some of them married several times. We have half-sisters and step-sisters, half-brothers and step-brothers. We have step-fathers, step-mothers, and poor, confused little children by the dozen, who are happy to call anyone Uncle, Aunt, Granny or Grandpa based upon their willingness to remain in their lives long enough to have hung up their coat.
To add to this confusion, we have all kinds of ridiculous nicknames for EVERYBODY. My brother is referred to as “Uncle Crisp” for example. Earlier today, my children were asking what silly nickname my niece might burden me with, now that she is on the verge of speaking. “That’s complicated” says I… “My family don’t call me Jim, like mummy does. They call me Simon.” (don’t ask) Various suggestions were then given by the little darlings, and we all had a good laugh. We settled on “JimSim”, until it occurred to me that a toddler would almost certainly announce my arrival by yelling
“Uncle Jism”… at which point questions began, and I quickly changed the subject.
The point is (yes… there is one), that the world hasn’t really worked out how to deal with the problems of 21st century families. The kind of problems I’m talking about have always been there, of course. Previous solutions have included “Let’s not talk about it” and “Pretend you didn’t hear the question”. The main problem in the late 20th/early 21st century seems to be that we DO talk about it.
You have no idea what I’m talking about, have you?
OK, let me give you an example:
Unmarried parents are quickly becoming the norm these days – I am one myself – but what to do about the child’s name? Around here people like to hyphenate. Brilliant! But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we’re going to run into problems pretty fast if that becomes the accepted solution.
Imagine introducing your latest girlfriend; a product of just 3 generations of hyphenation: “Hi mum. I’d like you to meet Jenny Douglas-Johnson-Daniels-Smith-McPherson-Woods-Hughes-Clarkson. Please say you like her. It took me three months of dating to learn her surname.” Marvellous. It’s a good job the internet revolution got here before the un-married family revolution. Imagine the problems… Phonebooks would have to be delivered by forklift truck… bookshelves would have to be twice as deep… Nametags would cause more injuries than the nurses wearing them could reasonably be expected to cope with… the personal number-plate industry would probably suffer to some degree… It doesn’t bear thinking about!
And what about today? Father’s Day? Have you tried to find a step-father card? They are available, but they are certainly not easy to find. Even finding a card that doesn’t say “Dad” on it, limits your choices to one of those dreadful vomit-inducing things that mean the greeting-card aisle in the supermarket has to be guarded by a pissed-off looking bloke with a mop and a weatherproof poncho.
OK, I’m getting carried away. So I’ll leave you with this:
What do you want from me? It’s 2.45am for crying out loud.