A moment when you realise your child is starting to develop formidable independent cognitive powers.
Or to put it more plainly.
He’s learning to think for himself. In his own way.
I view this as the moment when you know you can’t get away with the same old crap anymore.
For me it happened at the weekend. We were at Belfast Pride and he asked me why all the people in the parade were laughing.
Without missing a beat I replied: ‘Because they’re all so happy that you’ve come to see them son.’
It’s a stock response. The sort of answer I’ve been using in various forms for a couple of years.
It saves me having to think, you see.
But this time it was different.
This time my son looked at me hard and answered back.
‘But that doesn’t make any sense daddy.’
I was left with the feeling that I’d just been rumbled.
My parenting strategy of mindless constant praise was now in tatters.
But it gets worse.
My son asks questions all the time. I mean….All. The. Time.
My way of protecting myself from this barrage has been to answer nearly all of them the same way.
It’s served me pretty well up to now.
It’s another of the main planks of my parenting skills.
Now it lies in splinters.
The last few times I’ve done it he replies ‘Daddy when you say yeah it means you’re not listening to me.’
He’s 4. And he’s onto me.
With this development comes a scary level of manipulative skill.
This morning he was upstairs with mummy.
She was getting him dressed for the crèche.
I was hiding downstairs watching He-Man and hoping they’d forget I exist. Just for half an hour.
Then I heard him say something.
‘Mummy, do you love me so much that you’ll stay with me all day?’
I winced when I heard it, relieved that I’d dodged the bullet with that question.
I’m watching my son develop his own little personality. It’s both wonderful and a bit scary.
But at the heart of it all he’s still a little boy.
As I was giving him breakfast he asked me if we could have a barbecue tonight.
‘Of course we can son. What do you want? Hotdogs?’
‘No! Barbecued bogies!’