The Thing Is With Steve Canavan

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I’m getting a little concerned about my daughter Mary. She is now 13-months-old yet all she can do is point.

We know several couples with babies of exactly the same age and their offspring are all way more advanced – one can walk and talk, one has written a small book of poetry, and another was recently signed by Manchester City.

Meanwhile, all our Mary does is sit in the lounge jabbing her finger towards the ceiling or the wall with a slightly gormless look on her face.

Now don’t get me wrong, she’s an excellent pointer. She’s the best of her age group. No one can match her at pointing and I’m very proud. It would just be nice if she could do something else.

In Mrs Canavan’s eagerness for her daughter to develop and learn new skills, I fear she is getting a tad desperate.

She shouted me from the lounge the other night, ‘Come in here quickly, look at what Mary has learned to do’.

I inwardly sighed, for I knew this would be something banal, but as a parent I know I am contractually obliged to act interested.

“What is it?” I enquired as I entered the room.

Mrs Canavan was on the floor with Mary, who was looking nonplussed and pointing at the cat. ‘I’ve taught her to blow a kiss,’ said my wife. ‘Watch’.

Mrs C then looked at Mary and blew several kisses in her direction, while saying, ‘Go on Mary, sweetheart, blow mamma a kissy’.

Mary stared at her for several seconds with a look of complete disdain, then kind of hit herself in the mouth. ‘There,’ said Mrs Canavan triumphantly, ‘she did it’.

“Well,” I said gently, aware it was risky to appear unsupportive, “it wasn’t really blowing a kiss was it. It was sort of more slapping herself in the face.”

Mrs Canavan got upset by this and accused me of not showing enough appreciation for the efforts of our daughter.

“All she can do,” I ventured, “is point. Actually, truth be told, I’m getting a bit worried about her. What if she’s, you know, a bit slow?”

I said this not out of malice but genuine concern.

After all I already have worries about Mary – she has inherited my ears (they stick out at a sharp right angle); her mother’s feet (thick and rectangular, and smelling faintly of Red Leicester cheese); and a weird shaped mouth reminiscent of a goldfish with breathing diffculties.I’m not saying she’s odd-looking but when the window cleaner saw her, he fell off his ladder. To spare the general public I’ve installed a pair of shutters on the pram.

“All I’m saying,” I repeated, “is that I thought by now she might be doing more.”

Mrs Canavan visibly bristled and gave me a seven-minute lecture about how every child develops at their own rate and in their own time.

“I understand that,” I said soothingly, “but if she’s still doing it when she goes to university, there’s no way she’s going to get her degree. I’m just saying that she seems a bit – well – thick.”

My wife shook her head tetchily, and said, ‘anyway, she can do other things besides pointing – she can clap her hands’.

“Can she?” I asked. I didn’t know this.

‘Yes, of course she can,’ she snapped, then looked at Mary – who was sat with a vacant expression on her face, the same one she adopts whenever awake – and said, ‘go on, clap hands, clap hands’, while manically hitting her hands together.

Mary tilted her head to one side and observed her mother for several minutes, while Mrs Canavan, determined to prove her point, continued to clap in increasingly manic fashion.

About six minutes in, with beads of sweat beginning to form on her brow and blood seeping from her swollen and damaged hands, she pleaded, ‘Please Mary, please, just clap’.

It was at this point Mary put her left hand in the air and vaguely moved it in the direction of her right.

‘There!’ screamed Mrs Canavan, slightly hysterically.

In a rare display of common sense, I resisted the urge to pass comment on this ‘clap’ and, sensing Mrs Canavan was a little unstable, instead lied about how wonderful it was.

Maybe Mary will prove me wrong and make incredible strides in the next 12 months – I certainly hope so or else parents’ evenings are going to be hugely embarrassing.

(‘Well, Mr and Mrs Canavan, I’ve been her high school science teacher for four years now and although she hasn’t quite learned the names of the chemical elements on the periodic table, she’s awfully good at pointing at them’.)

That said, as long as my daughter turns out a nice person and never wears those stupid jeans with huge rips up the front, I’ll be a happy man.

Making my skin crawl...

At work in a room full of men the other day, someone mentioned they used moisturiser.

After a slight pause, all the other men nodded their heads and confessed they used it too.

Actually, confessed is the wrong word. It makes it sound like they were ashamed. They weren’t. They thought using moisturiser perfectly normal.

What? Am I missing something? Prior to 1990, no man – even Hollywood film stars – would have dreamed about applying moisturiser.

But in the space of a generation or two, it seems – at least based on my experiences in the staff room – that all males are now not only using it but, what’s more, think anyone who isn’t is a bit odd and unhygienic.

‘What, you really don’t use it?’ a guy called Geoff from marketing said, staring at me as if I were a leper.

I tried to explain I didn’t see the point. After all, when you’re born with a face like mine – already beyond repair – there’s little point trying to improve.

Robert, a man from accounts who I’d previously thought a decent chap, said to the others, without any shame, ‘Which brand do you use? I think Lancome’s best – it contains Vitamin E micronutrients and natural moisturisers like shea butter and palm oils.’

They all began chattering away. Even when I attempted to steer the conversation back towards more normal man things – such as Arsenal’s back four or grouting – they ignored me and continued to discuss whether you should use hand balm once or twice a day.

I walked out in disgust. My skin may not be as smooth as the others, but my dignity remains intact.