I have no quarrel with Iggle Piggle. You won’t hear me say a word against Winnie The Pooh. I don’t even mind the Teletubbies as long as you don’t force them on me before breakfast.
But Barney the Dinosaur is no friend of mine.
In fact I’d like to punch his stupid purple face and tip him out of his tree house.
It is nothing to do with ‘that’ voice or the sickly sweet songs. It isn’t even the thinly veiled attempts at enforcing positive adult values on tiny children.
It’s the fact that my eldest son told me he wants to be Barney when he grows up.
With no uncles, grandfathers or elder siblings in the country it has been left to me to be a proper male role model to that boy. His only male role model. The person he looks up to and idolises more than any other. His dad. Things aren’t so bad for the younger one – he has an older brother to adore and copy. He’s off the hook. But the eldest is left with me and whatever he can pick up from TV and the back of a cereal box.
That is why he was wearing football boots and swinging plastic golf clubs before he could crawl. That is why I held him tight the first time he got sick, read to him every night and happily replaced my entire music collection for a couple of Baby Bach CDs.
Partly to give him a good head start but also so he could see what a cool guy I am: somebody with a shared passion for fun and a willingness to make a sacrifice.
But I’ve been betrayed for a purple T-Rex with a penchant for show tunes.
I suppose that is part and parcel of being a father and I can’t complain too much. In all fairness I’ve probably been beaten by a better man/stuffed puppet. I can’t remember the words to a single nursery rhyme (from birth my children have been put to sleep with advertising jingles rather than lullabies) and Barney is, after all, very squishy. How can I compete with that?
I refuse to go down without a fight though. Our Barney DVD has been mysteriously scratched and the soft toy has never really recovered from the time it accidentally fell into the bath. Sam’s mum swears she had put it into the toy box that night and I maintain that the boys must have somehow reached up to the top shelf, unlocked the chest and dunked him under water while she was fetching a towel. It could happen.
Sam is starting to notice there is something wrong. ‘You do love Barney don’t you Daddy? Like you love me, mummy and Joe?’
The lie just comes too easily.
‘Of course I do son. I love him more than any other dinosaur in the world. I love him more than all the cakes in Dubai,’ I say whilst looking deep into his eyes and tenderly holding his hands.
‘Then why are you trying to push him underneath the sofa with my cricket bat?’
The thing is I am not sure I am even lying any more. I’m starting to accept defeat and I really don’t mind. It has taken three years of being a parent and I’m finally starting to be a grown up. And Barney taught me how.
So if you see me diving for the stage at Barney’s concert in Dubai this month don’t be alarmed. I’m not going in for an attack – I just want an autograph for my boys. Honest.