We expect a lot of our leaders. We don’t tolerate human frailty in them. The truth is, though, we all have our weaknesses. We all have dark secrets lurking in our past.
My dark secret was safe. I thought. If I ever entered politics, which is unlikely I admit, not even the most tenacious tabloid journalist could root it out. And yet, the telltale heart beneath the floorboards never stops beating. Your sins will come back to haunt you, from the most unexpected quarter.
“Daddy, I haven’t had any sweets today.” My son tells me as we drive, apparently for no reason.
“No.” I say carefully, my parenting senses scanning for any attempts to trick me into buying sweets. “That’s true, son.”
“Can we buy some sweets from the shop?” He asks. I almost chuckle. He’s not even trying.
“No.” I say. My son asks why not. “Because sweets are bad for you.” I say. My son asks why. “Because…” I trail off. He’s ever asked me this before. There’s no point explaining to him about fillings or obesity or diabetes. Even if he know’s what they are, he truly doesn’t give a damn. “Because…” I say, struggling, “if you eat too many sweets, you won’t grow big and strong like daddy.” He falls silent. I feel a bit queasy. I may have just told him that if he eats sweets he will die.
“What if I eat crayons?” He asks.
I go cold. My God, is it genetic? “How did you know?” I want to hiss at him. “Is this a set up?”. I’m back in the primary school classroom, secretively nibbling a red crayon from a secretive fist. I can’t help myself. The wax sticks in my teeth. Amanda Belcher sees me and her fist goes up like she’s trying to punch God in the face. “Miiiiiiiiiisss!” She screeches, grinning ecstatically. “He’s eating crayons!” She pauses for effect. “Again!!”. The whole class stares at me. I look back, fist half raised to my open mouth.
“Will eating crayons stop me growing up?” My son asks.
“Er…” I say, feeling as though I’m being recorded. I look around for an incongruous van with an incongruous aerial. “You shouldn’t eat crayons, son.” I say stiffly
“Am I not going to grow up?” He asks, sounding worried.
“Er… I, er… I think… just one crayon will be alright, but you shouldn’t eat any more.”
“What about two? Will I still grow up if I eat two?”
Cleverly, I pretend to fall asleep. With one eye open, because I’m driving.