I really thought my children would be older before they realised that I am not the cool, fix-it-all, wonder-mum they believed me to be. But now that they have noticed I’m not perfect, they are working tirelessly to improve me. Obviously, this is a life’s work and something my own mother gave up on long ago, but my children are made of sturdy stuff, and they truly believe that, with sufficient effort on their part, I can do better. Some areas for improvement they have been focusing on recently include:
My language My children (and I can only assume this comes from their excellent schooling and not my awful parenting) are implacably opposed to all forms of swearing. Their antennae are finely tuned to when I might be about to utter some sort of profanity, and they immediately start imploring me to stop. To make the challenge more demanding, their definition of what counts as a swear word is much more extensive than mine. There are a number of words they object to that I didn’t even know were swear words (I mean, ‘crikey’ – that’s not a swear word, is it?) Now that they are occupying the linguistic and moral high ground, losing my temper has become a verbal mine field.
My performance under pressure Whilst I thought my rubbish parenting was teaching my children resilience, it turns out it is they who are teaching me. To improve my flexibility and resourcefulness, they create a series of practical and creative challenges for me to solve on a daily basis.
They do it by announcing over breakfast that they are supposed to wear an Egyptian headdress, amulet and neck collar to school that day. (Oh, how I love to scavenge round the house looking for suitable items to cannibalise into a costume whilst exhorting them to clean their teeth). They create a sense of urgency to car journeys by accepting invitations to over-lapping parties, then shouting ‘Are we late?’ from the back seat as I desperately try to break the land-speed record getting from one part of south-east London to another. Flexible, resourceful, able to break the laws of physics? I fear I am falling short on every front.
My humility. No matter how hard I work, or what I do, my children continue to believe I am an idiot. It is true that I don’t understand grid multiplication. And it is also true that I have an alarming tendency to get lost when going anywhere in the car. (So in answer to the question above ‘Yes, we are probably late.’) But I still feel that some sort of credit is due for all the swimming bags that are packed, sandwiches that are made and washing that is done (so, so much washing). But my children shrug those things off like there’s an invisible fairy that makes it all happen. And did you know that the fairy puts toys away, washes up after dinner and does ironing too? What an asset to our home she is!
On the up-side, because they are of an essentially kind and generous nature, the children have started to make allowances. Last week I took them swimming. ‘Let’s have a race,’ said my youngest. ‘I’m better than you, so I’ll give you a head start.’ So thoughtful of her. Now I am wondering whether I should be proud that my eight-year-old is so fair-minded, or worried that she can already swim faster than me. Better add ‘improve my swimming’ to the list…