Posts Tagged ‘parenting’
I try to bring my children up not to be materialistic.
Yes, in Dubai.
We do public beaches and pools, not malls. But still, the materialism permeates like soggy rain: the children want things their friends have. They want things they see on TV.
(I’m a child of wartime parents. My children don’t often get what they want.)
So DS today writes a Christmas wish list.
‘There’s only six things on it,’ he tells me.
I read the list:
Guinness Book of World Records – 2016.
Guinness Book of World Records – 2015 (why?).
Lego City Police sets (‘But DS, you have the police station?’ ‘I know, but there’s loads more I could still get!’)
Laptop (he is six).
Phone (I repeat: he is six).
Now it’s at this point that I start to get embarrassed, for I am the mum who Googled ‘toymaker’; only to realise two minutes later that there is no such thing. It is not something he’s seen on Disney Channel. It’s not something he’s seen on the ads on Channel 5; it’s something out of his imagination.
‘If I get that, Mummy, I’ll be able to make every toy I ever want and never ask you for anything again,’ he says. ‘Please?’
‘Sure,’ I say. ‘Just tell me where to buy it…’
“I’m not buying that for you now: Christmas is coming!”
“If you fiddle with those presents, you’re not having them!”
“No, I’m not buying it: Santa might bring it!”
“If you don’t behave, I’m taking one present out from under the tree!”
“Remember: Santa’s watching you…”
[“When does school go back?”]
“No, darling… it’s not a kitten.”
DS is an early riser. At first, when he was a baby and used to wake at 5 or 5.30am, I used to comfort myself with the thought that he’d grow out of it; that as soon as he went to nursery / went to school / got older, he’d start to wake at a more civilised time, or at least stop coming in to wake me as soon as he was up. It never happened.
I remember reading, in desperation one weekend morning when I’d been awoken yet again at 5am, an article on ‘how to deal with early-wakers’. The life-changing conclusion? Go to bed earlier yourself, or you’ll die of exhaustion, because your child is not going to change. An early-waker, said the article, will always be an early-waker.
Five years later, I have the black under-eye circles to prove it was right.
Still, since DS has been about four and a half, I’ve been buying myself a little extra morning lie-in on the weekends (say, till 6.30 or 7am) by placing some cereal and the iPad in his room along with the strict instructions every weekend night not to wake anyone up: not Mummy. Not Daddy. Not DD, and certainly not Gerlie, who quite rightly doesn’t take kindly to having DS knocking on her door pre-dawn on the weekends.
In fact, the last words DS hears at night are not ‘Good night, sleep well, darling,’ but ‘Remember: don’t wake me up.’
So today I was washing the dishes while the children played. Going around in my head was a bit of an ear worm: Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Getting Back Together. As I soaped the dishes, I sang: ‘Never, ever, ever…’
‘Wake me up,’ said DS.
My prediction for the next decade? Taylor Swift has two babies, followed by a re-release.
There’s a strict division of labour in our house. I’m not going to beat about the bush and pretend it’s anything it isn’t: DH earns the money, does the odd jobs / dirty work and drops the kids at school every morning, and I do everything else.
And, in our household, “everything else” catches a lot of stuff, from meal-planning and cooking to managing the finances, maintaining the house and garden, planning the holidays, making sure the family paperwork is all up to date (passports, visas, alcohol licence, ID cards and so on), trying to make sure we have some form of social life – oh, and looking after the children with all that that entails. I’m sure you all know the score.
Usually, we all bob along nicely: we both know our place and our system works for us.
But this week there’s been a hiccup. DH’s car developed a flat tyre. In my job as sorter of “everything else” I took the tyre to the tyre place: it’s not a puncture, it’s a cracked wheel rim that’s causing the tyre to lose air.
So, in my role of sorter of “everything else” I searched for new rims for DH and presented him with a few options, which he – in his role of boss of “dirty work” – rejected. He found a place that mends rims. I took the rim in to be mended… and DH was left with no car.
As you can imagine, this lack of car has had a profound effect on DH’s ability to drop the children at school every morning, so the division of labour has shifted: I’ve added morning drop-off to my list of daily chores while DH has enjoyed an altogether more leisurely start to his days.
‘Mmm,’ he said this morning as he lay in bed with his coffee and I galloped about the house gathering children, lunches, homework and swimming kits while making sure I had two contact lenses in and at least some knickers on. ‘I could get used to this… and… you seem to be enjoying doing morning drop-off?’
If looks could kill, my friends, if looks could kill.
DD, who’s now nine, has, to date, lacked any interest whatsoever in the facts of life. I know some people’s children start asking questions quite early on but I’ve managed so far to dodge the whole issue of the birds and the bees simply because DD hasn’t yet asked a difficult question.
That all changed on Saturday.
Picture the scene: all four of us in the car, going out for lunch.
‘Mummy,’ pipes up DD, apropos of nothing at all. ‘Why are there males and females in the world? I mean, why isn’t there just one sex? Why do we have to be different?’
‘Yes, Mummy,’ says DH, beaming at me and rubbing his hands with glee. ‘Why is that?’
I’m driving, for goodness sake! On the highway! My mind is otherwise occupied!
‘Well…’ I say. ‘Because… umm… goodness! What a good question!’
The thing is, DD is old enough to hear the facts of life and I’m happy to tell her (with the aid of an age-appropriate text book, of course). But we’re in the car with DS – aged five – who’s all mischievous ears and, to my mind, still too young to be told about any other wonderful things he can do with his willy.
I’d imagined this conversation would take place in DD’s bedroom – DD and I alone somewhere planned, not ad hoc in the fast lane of Emirates Road. I think about fobbing her off, but then opt for a halfway-house of a reply:
‘Well, because, to reproduce – you know, to have babies – you need a male and a female. And if you didn’t have both, the human race would die out.’
I nod to myself: well dodged Mrs D.
‘But,’ says DD after a pause, ‘what does the male do? What does he contribute? I know the female has the eggs and the baby grows in her and stuff. But why is the dad needed? What does he add?’
There’s a silence as I think about what to say, then DH jumps in.
‘The money,’ he says. ‘The dad contributes the money.’
As I start writing dates into my 2015 diary I see that, back in about 2000, I bought tickets for DD, DS, myself and a friend as yet to be chosen to attend a One Direction concert in Dubai in April 2015. At the time of booking, DD was all over 1-D. Her room was plastered in posters of the band; she wore those rubbery bracelets with hearts and the names of Harry, Zayn (and who are the other ones?); her school book-bag bore badges of their greasy teenage faces.
When I booked the tickets – as I remember, at precisely 10am when the online booking opened and on a day I had better things to do given I was literally about to fly to London – I was the best mummy, like, ever.
But, as I opened my diary to April 2015, a little shudder ran through me. Would this be like Bieber-gate? Having bought tickets to Justin Bieber’s Dubai concert also about a decade in advance, I found that, by the time the concert rolled around, DD had completely grown out of him and had precisely zero interest.
(It probably hadn’t helped that I’d done a pretty comprehensive smear campaign using the Daily Mail as evidence of how unworthy the Biebster was of our time and money, what with spitting on his fans, rocking up late to concerts and getting done for drink-driving) – thankfully I managed to sell the tickets and no animals were harmed in the avoidance of said concert.
But is 1-D to meet the same fate, I wonder?
While eight-year-old DD, when I booked the tickets, was heavily into the band, nine-year-old DD – who will be 10 at the time of the concert – is into other things. Malory Towers (yes, I had a hand in that). Books by Louis Sachar (thanks to her school for that). American Girl dolls (DH brought one back from San Francisco; anything to keep her off the iPad)… and 1-D is suddenly 1-Who?
Well… if four middle-aged ladies would like to join me ogling Harry, Zayn and [blank] and [blank] next April, I suppose we’ll at least be able to see over everyone’s heads. Every cloud and all that.
“Which side does the zip go on?”
“Will I need my geometry set today?”
“Do I have to do up my top button?”
“Can you do me a plait?”
“What have I got for snack?”
“Where are my new shoes?”
“Can I have an omelette?”
“Who’s picking me up today?”
“What are we doing after school?”