Despite my attempts as a conscientious parent to do battle with the TV for control of my children's lives, I often concede defeat. Such was the case recently when my wife was out for the evening and dad was left in charge. And so, after a nourishing round of Kraft dinner, my two sons turned to me and wondered aloud what other treats dad had in store for them.
It was Friday night after a long week at work, so when swimming was suggested, all I could think of was the arduous and possibly futile search for clean towels (the odds that three males will locate three towels without a female present to say, 'They're right in front of you. Why didn't you check the drawer?' aren't good).
When building Lego was suggested, all I could think of was crawling around and the pain in my knees after the sixth tower crashed. But when TV was suggested, I found that extra jolt of energy needed to leap up and locate the remote first. In a two English-channel household, the person who controls the remote controls the future.
So I clicked the on button and the greatest mind of the 20th century emerged out of the darkness. Channel four was doing a documentary on Albert Einstein and his attempts to mathematically explain misplaced towels in the universe. It looked interesting, but my boys had taken one look at genius and bolted to their bedroom, where they were taking swipes at each other with their ninja swords.
If it wasn't going to be Einstein's Theory of Everything, it would have to be ... The Amazing Race. So I left Einstein and flipped to two married pro wrestlers from California hurling insults at each other as they tried to read a map of Iceland - upside down. Far more entertaining, exciting, stimulating stuff. At least it must have sounded that way because the boys were now on either side of me.
Actually, I was interested to see how they'd react to all the zaniness of reality TV. It was clear right from the beginning that they didn't like it much when the couples were interviewed. Too much talking. They liked it when the couples were running fast and driving fast. And they especially liked it when they fell. But the most important thing they seemed to pick up was summarised in the comment expressed by my five-year-old as the closing credits rolled: 'Dad, it must be OK to say 'I'm gonna kick your ass'.'
I'm glad we straightened that out - and turned off the TV - before mum got home.