It’s Thursday night and I can hear swearing and the banging of pans. I mooch warily into the kitchen to investigate.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“I’ve been accepted for the fu**ing London marathon,” says my wife. Bong, crash, bang.
“I’m confused. You love jogging.”
“I hate jogging.” Bong, crash. “I pretend to like it. This is bad. I’m fu**ing crying.”
“You’re confusing crying with swearing,” I say.
“I’m crying on the inside.”
“It’s impossible to ‘cry on the inside’. And even if you could, how would I ever know?”
“Easy. I’ll be jogging.”
My teenage son shuffles in.
“What’s happening?” he asks.
“Did you know,” I say, “that your mum has the power to cry on the inside?”
“Any chance we can teach her to swear on the inside?” he asks.
“No need,” she says. “I’m doing it now.”
My son turns to leave. “Hang on,” I say. “How was school?”
“Meh,” he replies.
“What’s the matter?”
“Have you fallen out with someone?” I ask.
My wife and I were fed up with our son sitting alone, marooned in his bedroom playing on the Xbox, so we encouraged him to get involved in a team sport. He chose football but it’s been an emotional ride.
My son’s school team has lost every match. Even so, my son struggles to get selected. He’s only played once and was subbed after ten minutes. It was tough seeing him slouch off the pitch, feeling the sting of public rejection. We’re just hoping he turns a corner soon and plays a full game without being substituted.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I ask.
“The other team were bullies,” he says. “Private school bullies.”
“We took them to the refectory and gave them a meal, and I overheard one of them complaining that we didn’t warm the plates before we put the food on. During the game, their supporters were chanting: ‘You don’t warm your plates! You don’t warm your plates!'”
“I’d like to report it,” I say, “but I’m not sure if there’s a cutlery trash talk helplne. Did you get a game?”
He perks up. “Yes.”
“Did you get substituted?”
“No,” he says and smiles. I look at my wife and mirror her excitement. This might be the turning point. “Well,” he adds. “I sort of got subbed.” I see the glint of hope fading from my wife’s eyes.
“How can you ‘sort of’ get subbed?” I say.
“I asked the coach if I could come off. I was playing really badly. I thought it would be best for the whole team.”
And that’s when I realised I also have the power to cry on the inside.