They say that if one praises one’s child too much, it may eventually turn into an arrogant asshole. If one praises it too little however, then it may end up as one of those annoying bastards like me on FB, trying to be funny…
It may very well be that placing so much power in the hands of complete and utter amateurs, which young parents obviously still are, less than a year after they start fucking around, is one of those pivotal evolutionary miscues.

It is not true by the way!
I was praised as a child. As a matter of fact I have had nothing but praise… from my mother. But somehow that did not count for so much…
Please, don’t ask me why!
Anyway, as far as I can remember my dad fell from his role only once; he burst into laughter about something I said.
I know, laughter is not praise, I know. But, it is awfully close! Innit!?

At the dinner table my father always used to ask us what we had been up to at school. More specifically, he wanted to know what the teacher had been up to…
After I told him, he often landed his fist on the table with a loud bang, that could easily be overheard from two blocks away, looked at me menacingly, as if he wanted to eat me alive, and bellowed: “Oh, yeah, did the teacher say that!? Is that so!? Well, next time around tell him that he’s a bloody liar! You hear!? A bloody liar!!”

Of course, somebody with only half a brain – like my brethren, poor dears – would have gathered that to act upon such a recommendation would be – to put it mildly – somewhat problematic – if not a probable career-breaker.
Personally, I had the disadvantage of having developed a brain the size of a walnut, uhh… half a walnut. Possibly that’s why, I had an almost canine faith in my father.
As a matter of fact, still today I am experiencing problems in determining what to say – or rather, what not to say – to authority figures…
Come to think of it, I have a problem with authority figures, period.

Anyway, one day when my father asked what I had been up to at school, I told him that at singing class the teacher had wanted us to sing individually, in order to be able to mark us individually…
Obviously, at ten years of age I was too much of a man to stoop as low as to admit to the teacher that I was… not bloody bold enough to sing a song in front of… well, basically everybody, innit! To tell you the truth, I was shitting my pants, full-colors!
So, in order to save my face I asked the teacher what mark I would get if I simply refused to sing…
“What did he say to that!?”, my father wanted to know.
“The teacher said he would give me an unsatisfactory mark, didn’t he,” I replied, “a five out of ten!”
“So, what did you do?”
“I told him to give me an unsatisfactory mark, and stuff his song… where the sun don’t shine! Because – in all honesty, dad – with my singing abilities I am never going to top that, a five out of ten, am I now…!?”

I’m still not quite sure what happened next…
I believe my father had just taken a mouthful of his dinner; he started to swallow and to cough at the same time, and then – all of a sudden – he was roaring with laughter, which could easily be overheard from five blocks away. For the next couple of days my sister kept pulling traces of half-chewed spinach from her hair, enough to keep Popeye pumping iron for at least half a year.
That evening my father could be heard giggling every now and then while reading his paper.

Man, what an achievement!
I was glowing with pride; I had made the old man laugh, all by myself! What a great feeling…
I beg your pardon?
No, laughter is not quite the same as praise; you are absolutely right – I already told you! As a matter of fact it is… even better!!!
Many times since that eventful day I have tried to repeat that epic achievement. I am afraid I never succeeded; a faint distracted smile at the most – that was it…

Now, with my parents long gone, I sometimes feel I still have not quite regained my former balance yet. And, if you should ask me what I want from life, what I am trying to achieve, what I actually want to accomplish… I fear I might answer absent-mindedly: I want to make my daddy laugh!