There’s this thing that me and my friends do after surfing together and I bet that, whether you surf or not, you and your friends do a similar thing too. I’m referring to the age old art of giving a compliment to get a compliment, and for our group of friends (I won’t say friendship group soz) it goes a little something like this:

“Nice wave mate/bro/bra/bru/bruvva/girl/you wanker. You pretty much got barrelled on take off and that turn you did on the end section was wicked. I saw your fins and the spray took ages to land! You were ripping mate/bro/bra/bru/bruvva/girl/you wanker! … Erm, did you see my last wave perchance?”

And cue glowing return compliment from glowing friend (who is so pumped right now from your mega-compliment that they have forgotten that the wave you are complimenting consisted of a botched takeoff to rail bog to lip of wave in side of head which put them so off balance that by the time they had righted themselves and the mushy end section loomed, the only possible option that they were left with was to violently throw themselves – board and body both – at the crumbling lip, and that the spray that ‘took ages to land’ was caused not by the turn they didn’t do but in fact by their fat arse hitting when they fell and that as left the water after the session, they were so frustrated that when they thought no one was looking, they punched their surfboard and put their head underwater and screamed the C word for as long and as hard as they could).

We do compliments in our family too. I compliment my kids and my wife, and my wife compliments my kids. Joking of course. It was only yesterday that she told me that I looked handsome and that she “remembered me”. When I asked her what she meant by ‘remembered me,’ she claimed that what she had actually said was “I love you.” I remain mildly unsettled by the whole exchange but I am trying not to let it bother me.

And now, S at least is starting to give us compliments back, which is both cute and lovely. The other day I picked him up from his nursery and I had my surfboard in the car and when S saw it he said, “Oh! Like it, Daddy’s surfboard. Like it a lot!” Which made me very happy because not only was his choice of words cool, but his delivery was cuteasfuck too and he once again showed that he is interested – for now at least – in surfing. Then a couple of days ago we were making pancakes and when I did a particularly flamboyant double flip, I got “Good boy, daddy. Good man, daddy.” Which I love too.

And when we compliment the boys, we try to do meaningful ones and not just tell them that they’re the best boys in the whole goddamn world (although they are) because we don’t want them to get too big headed. Yet. For example, I say things to S like “everybody likes you because you’re so nice and fun and funny and kind,” and I say things to M like “Your dedication to your cause of making the world a damper place through the generous sharing of [a seemingly inexhaustible supply of] your dribble and vomit is breathtaking and I respect you – a bloody lot.” Instead of just blurting out the stuff I’m really thinking, like ‘OMG you two are so bloody handsome; mostly due to your mum being a fitty of course.’

And we try to use tactical complimenting in order to emotionally manipulate the boys into doing what we want them to do. At the moment we’re beginning to get S en route for potty training. (Which, so far has involved leaving *potties around the house, and letting him hang out with us when we’re on the loo. Well, I say ‘letting him’, but basically the bathroom door doesn’t lock and anyway he doesn’t much care for playing alone so he comes in and out at his leisure). I myself have been pushing the potty agenda along a bit by encouraging S to respect and admire his own excreta by complimenting his poos whenever I change his nappies. Happily he is a fine pooer and as his poos are often compliment worthy [IMHO], this comes easily. “Good poo, S,” I say. “Great poo!” And he says, “Is it a good poo daddy?” And I say, “Yes,” because usually it really is.

Well last week it was I who was on the loo while S was busily coming in and out of the bathroom with various shampoo bottles and toys to play with. He stayed for a bit then and was lurking around trying to get a look between my legs at my poo – which I was shyly trying to not let him do. Whether he managed a proper look or not, I cannot say for sure, but what he did do was to give me the sincere compliment that I have since realised I had been waiting for all my life:

“Good poo, daddy,” he said.
And then, because he is literally the best and nicest little boy in the whole goddamn world, he took a series of sniffs and added,
“Like it. S likes it. Yes!”

*We’ve got three potties – they are second hand but they came from a mildly neurotic friend and were probably cleaned to within an inch of their lives before we received them.

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