The problem with Yetis

At around eight o'clock this morning, my six-year-old daughter asked me when Father's Day was.

21 June 2020 | 5 Minutes

I didn’t know, so I looked it up on my phone. Turns out that today, in fact, is Father’s Day – in the United States, at least.

Odd coincidence, actually.

I didn’t know, because there’s no television in the house. Due to a global pandemic, Boudica and I are somewhat disconnected from the zeitgeist (which isn’t a terrible thing in the current era). The absence of television is turning both my daughters into remarkably imaginative people, and I recommend this as a useful parental strategy for anyone who doesn’t mind being unsettled by, say, their children’s imaginations.

There are upsides and downsides, of course. Boudica hasn’t the slightest suspicion that religions are even a thing. When she was three, she pointed to a cathedral and said, ‘daddy, that’s where the nice bear lives’. I told her that as far as I was concerned, that was as good a theory as any I’d heard. In retrospect, it might even be the best.

There is a quote attributed to Aristotle that goes something like, “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” Despite some fairly glaring gender bias, the phrase contains a germ of truth. And it reminds me that we should always be careful what we tell small children. Because they believe us.

So you know, the rule in my house is that, at least until Boudica turns 7, nobody is to mention the existence of invisible, celestial beings who may allegedly be directing human affairs, you know, from afar and all that. I’m not saying such beings exist or don’t exist; who knows? The point is just that if I discuss the subject with her, then she’ll be discussing the subject with me – constantly, and with creative abandon, I promise you. All sorts of sentences would be flying my way, and they’d sound a lot like this: “Well, I know you don’t want me eating chocolate, but I was talking with God and He said it would be okay, but he doesn’t think my sister should have any because she hasn’t been good …”

You know? The normal sort of stuff that devout people tend to say. Perfectly understandable, of course; I mean, why not use complex mythologies to justify one’s own petty desires and prejudices? That’s what they’re for, after all, but frankly, I feel that debating my children is hard enough without them bringing theology into the equation.

I would be open to the plausibility of their beliefs. I was open to the possibility that a nice bear lived in the cathedral, wasn’t I? And incidentally, a relative of mine claims to have been visited a number of times by a species of alien from - now, let me try to remember, Rigel V, I think it was - and you know what? I’m fine with that. I don’t talk about it with my children, however, because I don’t want my children talking to me about aliens.

I suppose it’s because of the Yetis.

Wait. Did I mention this? Well, for about a month or so, at least, Boudica and I had almost daily arguments about the existence of Yetis. Long story short, somebody mentioned them to her. Yes, that’s all it took. That and the phrase ‘some people believe that…’ It turns out that there’s a reason that Fox News anchors are so enthusiastic about saying things like, ‘some people are saying’, which is of course that in the ears of small children and babyboomers, ‘some people are saying’ equates to ‘here are some certifiable facts about which the scientific community is completely unanimous.’

Look, while I’m on this subject, I never told her about Father Christmas either, but damn it, she found out about him somehow and she apparently she won’t be having any of my skepticism, thank-you-very-much. To her mind, I’m being ridiculous.

“He doesn’t exist, Boudica!” I explain. “When you were born I decided never to lie to you, so -”

“He does exist, Dadda, I even saw Father Christmas in a department store that one time, plus my friend Esther’s auntie saw Father Christmas through her window, with reindeer and everything, and she would never lie!”

"I submit to you that I have been here for forty-five years, and Father Christmas is not a real thing.”

“And I submit that you are wrong hahah!”

Anyway, Boudica and I eventually decided that, at least in regards to topics that fit within the broader spectrum of cryptozoology, we must agree to disagree. All the same, ever since the Yeti incident I have been wary.

You know what? This newsletter was supposed to be about Father’s Day. I was going to tell you how I think it’s all rubbish, but accidentally described what it’s like to be a father instead. Well, before I go, let me mention one last thing.

This week, I was idly looking at my phone and noticed that Boudica had been sending people messages. She’s on excellent terms with one of my ex-girlfriends. Do you know how eerie it is to realise that your six year old has been texting someone you dated roughly 20 years ago? The message: “It’s Boudica. We need to talk.” Then: [Phone call established at 11.42am].

Yes, not at all ominous. I’m not asking questions. The call was probably about my frustrating skepticism vis-à-vis Yetis or something – in other words, none of my business.

But this is what I wanted, I suppose. Smart daughters. It’s why we don’t have a television, just a sizeable pile of books, and lots and lots of pens and paper. If those children want a religion, they can do it the old-fashioned way and invent one for themselves, thank-you-very-much.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, though, because Boudica’s cosmology would almost certainly involve Yetis. And knowing my luck, she’ll be right about all of it. God would turn out to be some sort of abominable snowman. It wouldn’t be a case of me being turned away at the Pearly Gates, either – it will be me stomping away in angry irritation at the injustice of the universe, while my daughter – the Great Prophetess – looks on from His side, muttering about how she obviously tried to convince me but, “you know he gets…”

May the Great Yeti spare me…

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