Should children be seen and not heard?

Do you have a small child?  Then it is without doubt the cutest thing that ever graced the earth… in your opinion.

The thing is – and there’s no easy way to say this so I’ll just come out with it – other people probably don’t find your child as endearing as you do.

Hard to believe, I know.  Fact, nevertheless.

Some friends came over recently for Sunday lunch.  As we all sat at the table, they asked how my work was going.  Well, since they asked, I had a rather amusing anecdote to tell…

Only I’d barely started when their six year old daughter – let’s call her Molly – looked me straight in the eye and announced in piping tones that she could count to ten in French.

‘Really?’ I replied.  ‘Clever you.  Anyway, as I was saying about this thing at work…’

But I’d already lost my audience.

‘You got a sticker from Madame Blanche, didn’t you?’ said the mother, gazing dewy-eyed at little Molly.

‘Please can we hear you do that, Molly?’ said the father, head on one side, bowled over by the sheer amazingness of his child.

I know when I’m beaten.  ‘Yes,’ I sighed.  ‘Do let us hear how talented you are, Molly.’

So she did.  And then she sang Frère Jacques and then she recited one of the poems she’d been reading with Daddy at bedtime.  She chattered and performed for the next three hours solid, in fact, her parents melting with adoration, until we finally got rid of them.

My anecdote – and it really was going to be very funny – never did see the light of day.

I’m all for children being seen and heard but, come on, isn’t there a time and a place?

Save the performances for the grandparents.  At a push, the aunts and uncles.  They’re probably as besotted as you are.  The rest of the world, I’m sorry to say, isn’t.

3 ways to stave off drought

It seems a drought is on the cards.

What can we do to prevent it?  The media is full of handy tips – flush the loo only when essential, don’t shave your legs in the shower and drink wine instead of water.

(OK, I admit I made the wine one up.)

I’d like to contribute three more suggestions:

  1. Invest in a new barbecue and set of outdoor furniture.
  2. Book a summer holiday in the UK, preferably camping.
  3. Decommission your tumble-dryer and peg washing out on the line instead.

All will cause, at the least, persistent drizzle.  For truly dramatic results, go for number 3.

Hanging out washing is guaranteed – and I have years of personal experience to back this up – to bring on a deluge that will give way to sun only once your sodden clothes are back inside the house, sloshing around hopelessly in the dryer or dripping from radiators onto your nice carpets.

So come on, everyone.  We don’t want a repeat of 1976.  Remember?  Those long, lazy, hazy, crazy days of real summer?  Er, I mean that dreadful drought that was, you know, really bad and everything?

Indeed not.  Time to get serious and do one’s bit.

The technological genius of children

Do the words digital switchover make your heart sink?

Here’s a conversation I had with my husband the other day:

Me:  This digital switchover thing.  Isn’t it happening soon?

Him:  Is it?

Me:  I think so.  It’s already happened in some places.

Him:  Has it?

Me:  Will you know what to do on the day?  With the TV?

Him:  Of course.

Me:  Will we still need our aerial?

Him:  Yes.  No.  Maybe.

Me:  Have you kept those instructions they sent through the post?

Him:  No.  Won’t need them.

Me:  Have we got Freeview?

Him:  Possibly.  Look, why do you always get so stressed out?  Leave it to me.  It’ll be a piece of cake.

Here’s what will happen when the big day arrives:

My husband will spend three hours:

  • Pressing buttons randomly on the TV.
  • Disconnecting and reconnecting wires.
  • Throwing the remote control across the room.
  • Swearing loudly.
  • Getting absolutely nowhere.

Meanwhile, I will remind him several times that I knew this would happen.

Our 13 year old son will then stroll into the room and say, ‘Do you want me to do that for you?’  In less than two minutes flat, he’ll have it sorted.

Thank God for children and their innate grasp of technology.  Where the heck would we be without them?

Advice for tired parents

If you have a baby or toddler, I’ll hazard a guess you’re not getting as much sleep as you’d like.

I spent four years in the black pit of sleep deprivation when my children were young.  Despite our faultless (obviously) parenting skills, both boys were permanently awake until the age of two.  I still haven’t forgiven them.

In the same boat?  Here are my survival tips:

Offload your child during the day whenever you can.  Grandparents are your best bet.  Failing family, good friends will do.  Then climb under the duvet and conk out for a couple of hours.  Ideally, arrange it so that your child gets taken elsewhere; there’s nothing guaranteed to wreck your nap more than the sound of them driving someone else round the bend.

Some parents, however tired, insist they can’t sleep during the day.  Doesn’t work for them, makes them feel even worse, blah, blah, blah.  If you’re one of those people, I suggest you give yourself a slap and get over yourself.  Of course you can sleep during the day.  I agree you’ll feel terrible on first waking – confused and shaky with a vague sense of panic – but once you’ve regained your bearings and had a nice strong cup of tea, you’ll be on top of the world.

What if there’s no one around to take over the parental reins?  Be creative and remember that any sleep is better than none.  I’d like to thank Walt Disney for the many forty winks I’ve managed during his films over the years.  Position your head just so on the end of the sofa and avoid snoring and your kids may even believe you’re watching along with them.

Office bound parents can top up their sleep reserves too.  One working mum I know slides away to her car at lunchtimes for a quick zizz.  Another gets extra shuteye on the khazi thanks to the compactness of the office cubicles whose walls make a handy head rest.

When you’re really tired, the world is a bleak and hopeless place.  Don’t play the martyr and don’t fuss about all those chores.  Just do whatever it takes to get more sleep.

How not to hold a dinner party

Is it me or are dinner parties a pain in the arse?

I don’t mean going to dinner parties.  Once I’ve come to terms with being parted from my sofa for the night, I’m more than happy to totter off to someone else’s house to be fed and entertained.

The bit I could do without is holding dinner parties.

Some people came to dinner recently.  I’d decided – don’t ask why – to do a Thai banquet.

Preparations started a week earlier with an afternoon in the supermarket.  There were fifteen dishes and sauces to prepare, each requiring an average of twelve ingredients.

For the next few days, I peeled, chopped, grated, ground, mixed, soaked, marinated and fried.  Raw fingered, I crammed everything into the fridge and hoped I’d know what was what on the night.

The day itself and I deep cleaned the house.  I’d read somewhere that carpet stains disappear in dim lighting so I rushed out last minute and bought a job lot of candles.  And a new tablecloth.

7pm arrived and I was a wreck.  I showered, squeezed into my glad rags and necked a G & T to get in the mood.  Feeling suddenly brave and bold, I threw on so much slap that the dog growled when I came downstairs.  At which point the doorbell rang.

How did the evening go?  Well a respectable amount of wine was drunk and there was only one awkward silence (when conversation dried up mid-coconut and galangal soup).

But the food, seriously, was bland.  Everything tasted the same.  And there were so many dishes I couldn’t fit them all onto the table.  The new tablecloth remained hidden.  It was too dark in the candlelight to see anything anyway.  The rice was stone cold.  And the pudding inedible.

Oh, and I got so drunk I only vaguely remember people leaving sensibly at 11.30pm.

The following weekend, we were guests at another dinner party.  Get in there; someone else’s turn.

They answered the door in jeans and jumpers.  Had they forgotten we were coming?

‘Good to see you!’ they cried.  ‘You don’t mind watching the end of the match, do you?  Then we’ll switch off the telly and sort out the food.’

We sank onto their comfy old sofa and they sat on the unhoovered floor.  We ate crisps and chatted with half an eye on the football before moving into the kitchen.  A pile of stuff was cleared off the table and we sat down to jacket potatoes with tuna salad followed by supermarket cheesecake.

The evening ran away with us.  It was 1am before we tumbled out onto the street and made our happy way home.

At last, I’ve seen the light.  I know the secret to dinner party success.  And it’s not a Thai banquet.

The key to chilled out Christmas kids

As a parent, there’s one thing you must do on Christmas day if you want to come through in one piece.

You may already have it sussed.  Indeed, many use this technique to survive your average Sunday.  But you’d be surprised how many parents haven’t yet worked out the key to sanity on the festive day.

And it’s this:  getting the children outside for fresh air and exercise.

Sorry.  You were probably expecting something a bit more ground-breaking.

But seriously.  I don’t care where you live or what the weather’s like.  Get those kids outside first thing on Christmas day and wear them out.  Put colour in their cheeks.  Run them ragged.

Once you’ve done that, nothing else matters.  The rest of the day will fall into place.

My family’s secret vices

Does your family eat round the table together every night?  We don’t.  We sometimes (whisper it) eat on the sofa in front of the telly.

I can only admit this because I’m anonymous on here.

While I’m on a roll….. we, en famille, sometimes:

  • Have frozen pizzas for supper.
  • Watch crap TV.
  • Stuff down bumper packs of sweets in one go.
  • Stay up too late.
  • Sleep through four alarm clocks in the morning.

I’ll be honest; we’ve done all of the above in the last 24 hours.

We’re not perfect.  I bet you’re not either.  Come on, it’s Christmas (ish).  If we can’t chill out now, when can we?