People think the big questions are things like Is there a god? or Why are we here? But on a day-to-day basis I spend literally no time wondering about the existence or otherwise of an omnipotent deity. The big questions in my life are things like ‘are my children supposed to wear wellies for their school trip?’ and ‘why didn’t you tell me last week that you need an elephant costume this week?’
So the questions that are perplexing me at the moment are:
QUESTION 1: Why, when they have to do it every day, are my children constantly bewildered by the requirement to clean their teeth and get dressed before school? They can remember the planets in order of their distance from the sun. They can recall every promise I have ever made that is still unfulfilled. They can even do grid multiplication (something I was never taught and, frankly, don’t understand). But they cannot remember from leaving the breakfast table to arriving upstairs that they are supposed to clean their teeth. By the time they reach the landing, they have literally no idea why they are there. So instead of attending to their dental hygiene, they set about pulling faces in front of the mirror and competing for who can do the silliest walk. And when I reprimand them, they look genuinely bewildered and hurt, as if the requirement to clean their teeth is entirely new information, and not something I say to them every morning after breakfast. Seriously, why can’t they remember this?
QUESTION 2: Am I rearing resilient children, or just excusing my lax parenting? I only ask because my children’s diary is filled with so many activities that sometimes things fall between the cracks. Well, I say ‘fall between the cracks’, but what I mean is disappear into a gaping hole. On top of regular activities like swimming (pack knickers and a towel) and after school club (pack snacks – different sandwiches for each child), I am also required to be alert for school trips (pack £5 and a waterproof), class assemblies (wear costume to school, collect granny on the way) and opticians’ appointments (return to school to collect forgotten glasses). On any given week at least one child will arrive at school without the requisite swimming costume/snack/signed consent form. My children have become so accustomed to my parental under-performance that they aren’t in the least bit flustered when we get lost on the way to a party, show up late, or forget to take the present. They’re used to it. So am I teaching resilience (as I like to think), or just setting the bar really low for what constitutes competent parenting?
And lastly, and not really on the subject of my children:
QUESTION 3: Am I too old to like Justin Bieber? I don’t mean Justin himself you understand. Apart from anything else, I am old enough to be his mother, so that would be, well, eeeuuuwww. But I do like his music. My children find it grotesque and unacceptable that I should like any music that has been released since they were born (my eldest child is nine). But they also moan and whine about listening to all my ‘Best of the 80s’ compilations (of which there are many – what with the 80s being such a good decade for music and all). Actually, now I think about it, I realise that the real question is not whether I am too old to like Justin Bieber (answer: probably), but whether my children should be allowed to determine the music I listen to? And just like that, it’s all about my children again…
If you too are grappling with important and fundamental questions like these, I’d love to hear them – please put them in the comments box at the botto0m of the page!