My next fatherhood book – ‘Dude! Figure It Out Yourself!’

 I should mention that before one embarks on something as foolish and dangerous as parenthood, you should get some training.

One way to do this is to go to your local big-box bookstore, read everything you can get your hands on about being a great parent and then do the exact opposite. This is why my next bestseller on fatherhood will be called Dude! Figure It Out Yourself!

Chapter One will go through what in our home we call The Point System. The sheet is kept on the fridge and each child has a weekly tally. Good behaviour garners points and bad behaviour, of course, means you lose points. The points translate into money tacked onto one’s allowance, which, during our annual eight months in Africa, is given in shillings.

The basic weekly rate is 1,000 shillings, which, with Uganda’s inflation, translates into about 0.0097 cents. Liz figured out long ago that this is less than a typical Brinks truck heist, if not a bit paltry. But these thousand shillings are upped exponentially by, for example, perfect spelling tests or setting the table or not picking your nose, or the nose of your brother or sister, or not poking them in the eye more than three times while they are brushing their teeth.

There can be various ways to undercut or pilfer the system. You child offers to make breakfast and ends up getting not only extra points but the bread sits under five inches of Nutella. Or, I can trade my points to you if you do a job that mom and dad had, in fact, had given to me for a specific reason, maybe to learn something as obtuse as a so-called lesson.

Even so, all-in-all The Point System is an effective sort of Pavlovian conditioning. Instead of that bell and promise of food for Fido, there are other good things that await. And everyone is happy. Mostly. Sort of. Well, at least once in a while.

Chapter Two of Dude! Figure It Yourself! will discuss the various ways to rescue baby rabbits from the toilet.

 

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