As Keara infiltrated the kitchen she called upon each of her fourteen years to support her now. Standing alone in her figure hugging dress, soaring stilettos and darkened eyes she waited. It didn’t take long. Peering above the rim of his glasses, past the ageing sellotape that bound them together, Michael, the eldest in the brood, slowly shook his head.
“That just won’t do”, he commented.
Tight lipped she ignored him.
Stephen, next in line, twisted round to look for himself and tut tutted as big brothers occasionally do. From a very young age Stephen always measured his response. Why use two words when one was enough? For that matter why use words at all when others could speak for you? The child in the middle often gets squeezed out and has to fight harder for his space. If he chooses not to he can become so chilled that freezing is a real possibility.
Now at this point you might think that I, as their father, should have intervened, but time, if it’s taught me anything, taught me that learning to be a good father is not for wimps. It takes lots of patience, a decent amount of bottle and a fair degree of luck.
Keara blew out hard.
Sean, ever the diplomat, just smiled and went on eating, waiting for the next move. The youngest male in the pride knew there was nothing more for him to add. Of course Sean could at any time simply choose to work the room in his own inimitable way. One of a rare breed of enlightened youngsters that could dazzle an audience by cracking a cipher with his eyes closed but unlike most Sean did humility. She knew that too.
Suspecting that I might not have to police her any longer I said nothing. When panning for gold the ancient Chinese used blankets to filter the sand and gravel catching the precious metal in the weave of the fabric. When a daughter’s moves are filtered by three sons there is no need for further sifting.
This was the occasion of Keara’s first trip to Wes. The ultimate teenage disco has a fearsome reputation. At closing time anxious fathers pack the street outside, double and treble parking. Car horns and raised voices threaten every emerging male with a look that says ‘not my daughter’. Here you’ll see the highest of high heels and the least generous of dresses. It’s where boys come of age as the girls teach them how.
“You’re not going out like that”, continued Michael.
Did you ever pick sides in the nurture verses nature debate? I think it depends on whether you are judging boys or girls? For instance, Michael’s declaration was definitely nurtured and came straight from the book of wisdom that all fathers and caring older brothers subscribe to. I think so anyhow. A bit ironic that it came from Michael, given that he had left a trail of broken hearts in his wake as he passed through college. No doubt though he was remembering his own Wes odyssey. He never asked to go a second time and I never asked why, preferring to leave the question aside until some later time, down the road, when father and son were of an age to go for a pint together and share such matters.
“You’re not my father”
Now that was definitely nature. It was accompanied by raised eyebrows and a pause aimed in my direction which much to her disgust didn’t elicit a response.
At this point, knowing that she’d remember that he never went when it was his turn, Stephen opted for discretion and joined the growing band of mutes. Anyhow, the professor had said enough. Sean smiled on, occasionally swallowing hard, trying to choke back the laughter.
Just then it happened. A higher authority arrived. The cavalry appearing in the form of my wife charged through the atmosphere brim full of duty and sense.
“What do you think of your daughter?” she asked, ordering an answer.
At times like this I begin to wonder why the world is so imbalanced. It surely can’t be right that there is an almost equal number of men and women on the planet. While men purport to be the stronger of the species, any self-respecting male who is honest with himself knows that women win most of the battles. Ten to one sounds a bit more reasonable.
Accepting that the tide has turned I cave in.
“Lovely”, I lie.