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Tuesday, July 17, 2012
If you have more than one child, you will swiftly realise that you have gifted yourself a lifetime of competition as both kids fight to win the title of “most-wronged child in the household”.
My children can, and will, find offence in every social situation: one was off sick from school last week and the other accused me of favouritism because I hadn’t given them the day off too.
“But you’re not ill!” I said.
“That’s hardly the point,” they answered.
Imagine my unfettered joy, therefore, to discover that one child is gifted an extra week of summer holiday while the other one still has to uniform-up and make it through the school gates by 8.40am.
As it stands (Wednesday, 4pm) I haven’t broken the news to the offspring that will be going to school this week that their sibling… won’t be. If it’s Monday morning and you’re struggling to read this due to a lack of natural light, you’ll know what caused the mushroom-shaped cloud of fury currently blocking out the sun.
Now my children are older – 14 and 11 – I have discovered that ensuring they have fun during the summer holidays means opening my wallet, handing out cash and walking away. I am no longer fun –if I ever was. In fact my presence is the antithesis of fun, like an algebra lesson at Disneyland.
Swapping the school run, complaining about making packed lunches and moaning about making another ‘donation’ so that a group of mime artists can come into school to teach the kids about STDs for six blank weeks of hearing two people say “I’m bored” 900 times a day doesn’t seem like a good deal.
My kids, as I tell them with monotonous regularity, have no idea what boredom really is. They didn’t live through Sundays in the 1980s. Sundays were like despair diluted and measured into hourly doses: like a never-ending meeting about annual sales targets in a windowless room sitting next to the worst person on earth who smells of fish pie. When the highlight of your day was watching Antiques Roadshow in the hope that someone would bring in a painting they paid £2,000 for only to find out that it was actually only worth £3, you knew you were living in desperate times.
Our video recorder was a Betamax, meaning that the local video hire shop (nine light years away) could only hire us one film from its entire collection, an actual physical lock was on my home phone, I had no brothers and sisters to play with or burn under a magnifying glass, I lived in Old Costessey and my parents didn’t drive.
These days, such credentials would qualify me for a grant from Children in Need or some kind of award handed over to me by Gary Barlow, but back then we were all in the same boat. Some of us even considered signing up for war in the Crimea rather than face another Sunday in Costessey. (It was only the lack of war in the Crimea that stopped us.)
My son once asked me how I’d coped with only a few TV channels, no internet, no video games and no mobile phones when I was a child. “We made our own entertainment son,” I told him, before remembering what that ‘entertainment’ actually consisted of. I would regularly hold competitions, against myself, to see how long I could hold my breath for. I would try to count up to a million (my best friend Louise beat me to it). I would study the Great Universal Stores catalogue and create the Neanderthal equivalent of an Amazon wish-list.I would try to circumnavigate the entire front room without touching the floor. I would throw things out of windows. I once pretended that I’d left home by leaving a note next to the cooker explaining my reasons for leaving and then hiding under the bed until my fear of spiders forced me out, long before my note was discovered.
Old habits die hard, and I will still attempt to entertain my offspring with a packed itinerary of activities which include crying about horrible school shoes, arguing the toss about any upbeat suggestion made as to what we should do next and whinging about who gets to sit in the front seat of the car. And that’s just what I’ll be doing.
Still. Six weeks isn’t that long, is it? Just 42 days: or 49 if you’re the child who gets the extra week off and causes World War Three in the Golden Triangle – think Unthank Road Tesco kerfuffle times a billion. Wish me luck.