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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.

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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.

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.

10 easy ways to embarrass your teenage son

Life is hard.  So it’s reassuring to know one thing at least remains easy:  embarrassing your teenage son.

The most obvious approach is to display any kind of affection towards him in public.  Even smiling does the trick.

Less obvious but just as easy are the following:

  1. Wave when driving past him at a bus stop.
  2. Use the word disco.
  3. Turn up to watch him in a school rugby match.
  4. Tell a joke.
  5. Chat to his friends about girls.
  6. Express delight at anything.
  7. Make friendly conversation with a young shop assistant.
  8. Suggest he’ll be warmer with another layer.
  9. Sing along to the radio.
  10. Wear a hat.

These tips are tried, tested and guaranteed to work.

If you can find a way of doing them all in one go, I salute you.

Competitive parent? Moi?

How do you feel when other people’s children excel at something?  When they achieve the highest score ever, say, in a national maths competition, join a football academy for outstanding players or win a prize for their musical talents?

Are you over the moon?  Genuinely delighted for them?  Or do you feel a tad miffed?

I admit I struggle to be thrilled in such situations.  And I don’t think I’m the only one.

Why are we so competitive with those in our immediate circle?  Why are we (let’s admit it) jealous of their successes?

I blame natural selection.

Natural selection is happening all the time, all around us.  It’s happening to us.  And some primitive part of our brain knows that.  So, when faced with evidence that our family may not be up there with the best, our instinct for survival kicks in.

Luckily, we tend not to kill our adversaries the way we might have done a few hundred millennia ago.  Instead, we do the modern equivalent which is to feel jolly cross when they get one over us.

I suppose this competitive lark must be a good thing for the human race in the long run.  But for you and me, here and now, it’s rubbish.  It makes us feel crap.

So let’s forget the battle for gene supremacy.  When you hear that next door’s kid has been signed by Manchester United, just be happy.

(Even though we’ll all know it’s a fluke, down to pushy parents, bound not to last, etc, etc…)

Tune in to your children

Do you listen properly when your children are talking to you?  Or do you sometimes hear them yet fail to take in a single word?

Perhaps you’re wondering what to cook for supper as they describe a film they’ve just seen.  Or fuming over work politics as they talk about their afternoon at a friend’s house.  Maybe you’re just daydreaming as they chatter.  Whatever, you’re miles away.

It’s OK.  We all do it.

Yet it’s not really OK.  They may only be children but they’re not stupid.  They know when someone’s not listening.  The sad thing is they won’t question it because they assume adults are right.  They’ll just grow up thinking they’re not that interesting.

So next time your child tries to tell you something:

  • Stop whatever you’re doing and look at them.
  • Empty your mind of all other thoughts.
  • Focus 100% on them and what they’re saying.
  • Look interested.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Don’t tell them to get on with it.
  • Don’t assume you know what they’re going to say and jump in with a response before they’ve finished.
  • At the end, ask questions to check you’ve understood.

Parents of teenagers often complain that ‘they never tell me anything’.  That’s probably because the teenagers have finally sussed that it’s not worth bothering.

Get into the habit of listening to your children when they’re young and you may never be burdened with a monosyllabic teen.  That alone is a good reason to pay attention.

You could try listening more to your spouse too.  What you thought was just them talking drivel might turn out to be fascinating after all.