Remember the days of only three telly channels?Â '“Â Simon CarterÂ
A new year brings you a new Dad's Diary columnist.Â A big 'thanks' to Kieran Howard for keeping us informed of his young family's adventures.Â
Kieran, as regular readers will know, penned his last diary just before Christmas. 'Having two young children, two dogs and a full-time job sadly leaves very little time for much else,' he wrote. I guess I was not the only one nodding my head furiously in agreement.
Having two young children even without any canines in the family or employment '“Â full time or otherwise '“Â would leave very little time for much else, it must be said. Â
So who am I to write weekly about the emotional rollercoaster ride which is bringing children up in the 21st century?
While Kieran's two kids are under five, both mine are fully-fledged teenagers '“Â Ben is 17 in March and Ellen celebrated her 15th birthday two days after Christmas (yeah, I know, spectacular family planning ...)
As a result, while Kieran is wrestling with nappies and ensuring all loose wires are firmly out of harm's way, my kids will no doubt be either a) on their phone (Ellen) or b) playing computer games (Ben).
While Kieran is trying to engineer a good bedtime routine for his two, he will be delighted to know it doesn't get easier. Bedtimes get later and later, because there are always more selfies to take and post on social media sites (Ellen) or more baddies toÂ slay in cold blood (Ben).
Â My kids' relationship with technology will remain a constant topicÂ within these pages.
We often talk about their teenage lives compared to mine when I was growing up in Devon in the 1980s.Â I'm usually bombarded with questions.
'Dad, when you were my age, did you REALLY have to put your finger in a hole when you rang your friends?' Ellen once asked.Â 'Yes, it was fun,' I lied.
'Dad, did you REALLY have only three channels on television?'
'Until 1982, yes.'
'Dad, did you really go down the park with your friends and NOT spend all your time looking at your phone?'Â
'Yes, and do you know why?'Â 'No'.
'We didn't have mobile phones when I was your age.'
Ellen pulled a face as if told she would have no WiFi connection for a whole month.
Suddenly, I was off. 'No mobiles, no social media, no memes, no LOL, no emojis.'
'Doesn't sound much fun, dad.'
'Well, we got by. Somehow.'
And we did. My mates and I, we got by '“Â doing things today's kids don't seem to do in these heady pre-Brexit days, like playing football down the park until the sun went down.Â Without a selfie in sight '¦
Will I ever be cool to my kids?Â
As Father Time advances, so kids' interests inevitably change.
Back in the early 80s, Santa delivered me Subbuteo '“Â the famous '˜flick to kick' footie game. It kept me entertained for hours.
A few years ago, in a sports shop somewhere, a pitch was set up for customers of my age '“Â ie middle age '“Â to rekindle the happiest daysÂ of our lives.
I instantly challenged Ben to a game. He was bored inside three minutes. No technology, you see.Â
'˜You think this is dull, I used to play blow football when I was nine or ten,' I informed Ben.Â
I then explained blow football '“Â basically, you blew through a straw and tried to propel a table tennis ball across a table into a makeshift goal. Your opponent had to blow through a straw to prevent the ball going through his goal.
As I was saying this, I was feeling embarrassed. THIS was MY youth, compared to the myriad of amazing computer games available to today's millennials.
My son was gobsmacked.Â
Dads always like to believe their children think they are cool '“ especially when the kids are old enough to engage in serious conversation.
The reality is somewhat different. I cannot believe my kids EVER think I'm ever remotely cool.
And when I get misty-eyed describing blow football, sadly I cannot blame them ...