'Ever since the time you learned to pin your own diapers, you've been smarter than me,"
- Homer Simpson.
My eight-year-old son beat me at chess last week. It was humiliating. We all hope our children will surpass us one day. Grow taller, achieve more, make more. You definitely want them to turn out smarter than you did. But you don't want it to happen while they're still at primary school.
I love my sons more than anything. We spend a lot of time hanging out. The best part of my life is my time with my family. I also really enjoy destroying my oldest boy on the chess board. Completely smashing him. Toying with him. Taking every piece before checkmating his lone king. I signal checkmates well in advance. It impresses him. He says things like: "How come you're so good at chess Dad?" Unfortunately, like the 1999 All Blacks, I got cocky. I took the eye off the ball. I started talking on the phone and eating dinner at the same time as playing.
Suddenly everything went horribly wrong. He trapped my queen with a rook-bishop combo then mated my king behind a lazy row of pawns. Disaster. The room erupted in celebration.
He jumped up on his seat, danced and pointed at me yelling, "In your face Dad, you suck!"
He got on the phone to his best mate: "I beat Dad, I beat Dad!" Then his granddad: "I smashed him Pappa, I smashed him."
Then back to dancing on the chair and waving his buttocks at my face. One of the most embarrassing defeats of my life. He's 8 for f***'s sake.
Dads should run a line of invincibility with their sons. Give them something to aspire to. Kids should be thinking: "If I try really hard, one day I will beat my father and win his respect".
Some fathers bowl nice easy deliveries to their children in the backyard. Hoping to build confidence. Personally I prefer to steam in at full pace and clean my beloved little son's middle stump right out of the ground. I tackle him hard during our lounge floor rugby championship and brutalise him at Monopoly.
There have been some scrapes, bruises and tears but it's all in good fun. If done right it should harden him up. Strangely the other son refuses to play with me anymore. We are working on that. He's dangerously clever that one.
But your kids aren't going to save the planet, play for the Black Caps, All Blacks and Silver Ferns and re-split the atom if everyone takes it easy on them. Unfortunately, this whole strategy of earned respect falls to pieces when they start beating you before the age of 10.
My father v son humiliation hasn't been isolated to the world of chess. Recently we moved into our new house. My boy and I were really excited to get out on the new driveway and play cricket. I marked out my run-up and bowled what I thought was a reasonable delivery.
The 8-year-old cleared his hip and smashed me over cow corner for six. We found the ball in the far neighbours' yard. "In your face Dad, in your face." He danced down the wicket, bent over and waved his buttocks at me. "You suck Dad." I bounced him with the next ball. Which isn't hard to do; he's still under 5 foot. You have to hit back hard and fast.
Same with the chess. After that loss, I boned up on the "Scholars Mate". A vindictive four-move checkmate strategy. You employ the queen early and catch your opponent's king while it has no room to move. The sting played out perfectly. Check in four moves. He was stunned and impressed. Revenge is sweet and I celebrated big. "In your face son, you suck, yoouuuu suuuuucccccckkk!" Yes, yes, yes! He gave me a wry smile of respect.
The correct order of things had been restored. I was feeling great, dancing on the chair until I remembered his age. Bloody 8.
It's an interesting era for father-son relations. At end of year parent vs kids footy matches, for example, we are expected to "let them win". We should smash them. That way, years down the track when they finally beat us, it will mean something. Why would anyone want to pretend to be lame in front of their kids?
Encouragement is good but so is personal aspiration. Aiming to beat and humiliate your father should be every kid's dream. God knows, people won't go easy on them out there in the real world. So why not give them a mountain to climb at home? As Rod Kimble said to his stepfather Frank in the movie Hot Rod: "I'm going to uncork the ass-beating of a lifetime on you! And then you will respect me!"
We all hope our kids will surpass us in life. That's why we spend so much time and money driving them to after-school activities, buying them flash sports gear and worrying about the schools they attend. When they do beat us in any field we should feel pride. Our job in life is done.
Unless of course they're only 8 at the time, in which case it's total and utter humiliation. If it ever happens you'll be needing this: 1. e4e5 2. Qh5Nc6 3. Bc4Nf6 4. Qxf7#.