Our youngest son, Isaac, 13, has joined the school debating club.
As much as it would be nice to report that he had a burning desire to further his quest for knowledge and to hone his eloquence in public speaking, he doesn’t.
Isaac was ordered to join.
Ironically, joining the debating club wasn’t open to debate.
Earlier this year he decided he was going to “take a year out” from playing football. Having spent hours in the freezing cold watching his team get a drubbing week in, week out, I had to admit I didn’t shed a tear over the decision. Couldn’t he take a decade out?
We decided he could drop his football, only if he replaced it with another activity. He suggested playing video games. Funny that.
To be fair, who can blame kids for wanting to stay in the house and play their PlayStations? The games are so good.
However, as a parent, it’s my duty to crush any activity that my children enjoy (Ord’s Good Parenting Guide: Rule No 32) - and insist a more worthy (ie .dull) pastime is pursued.
I remember my parents putting a block on me having a skateboard in the 1970s, citing safety issues. And this in a decade when wearing a seatbelt in a car was strictly for wimps (not my words, that was how it was described in the Highway Code at the time). I’ve no doubt there were parents in Victorian England who were equally critical of children using kaleidoscopes and spinning tops, blasting them for corrupting the youth of the day.
And so it was that our Isaac was told to choose at least two after-school activities to replace his football.
He picked the debating club because, as he put it, “I want to see how quickly I get kicked out.” I asked him how it went. “It was okay,” he said. “We had to sit about and talk about the environment.”
The environment is a hot topic at the moment, particularly balloon releases.
We love a good balloon release in the North East, whether it’s in celebration or in tribute to individuals and groups.
Problem is, for all they look lovely being released in a blaze of colour in the sky, they have a habit of popping a few miles out and falling into the windpipes of furry animals and sea creatures.
Some councils have now banned balloon releases, but without coming up with an alternative.
Instead of balloons, how about a boomerang release? Colourful, majestic, and instead of landing in the gullet of a guillemot, the boomerang comes back. I told our Isaac to suggest that at his next debate. He said he didn’t like the idea of standing up in front of other pupils to argue his point.
I suggested he wear a disguise to preserve his anonymity. “You could be the Masked Debater,” I said. He quite liked the idea. His older brother, aged 16, fled the room in fits of giggles.
The Mystery Debater may be a better name, it’s not so easily misheard.