The Summer Holidays are over. ‘Congratulations!’ I said to the children ‘During your six weeks of leisure you have read an average of twenty-three pages of a book each, that's including the Captain Underpants pages that are just a picture plus ‘SPLAT!’’. I issued a queenly directive that Reading Time was now mandatory (thirty minutes a day is sufficient, I am not unreasonable) before anyone was allowed to switch on a computer or TV. ‘OK!’ they said ‘No problem!’.
I spent the following week being model mum, welcoming them home with a little snack – home-made banana muffins one day ('what’s that stink?') – before offering to play a non-electronic game ('uh, no thanks'), asking them how their reading was going, then morphing into cop-mum, prowling around the house hiding behind doors and leaping out “HANDS UP! PUT THE DS DOWN! READ YOUR BOOK! GRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!’.
A week of them flouting ‘our agreement’ and I was a wreck - mute with fury and disappointment. It was me and the humble book against the world of high tech wham bam super-stimulation and I was beat unless I could remove the competition. ‘How was your day?’ said Alan, invigorated from a day of tricky meetings handled well.
‘THE CHILDREN ARE TURNING INTO VEGETABLES. I AM SERIOUSLY DEPRESSED ABOUT THIS AND NO-ONE CARES! I’D LIKE TO THROW THE WHOLE LOT OF THEM OUT OF THE WINDOW!’ (the computers or the children, I was past caring).
Alan’s ears pricked up at this for I can be rash and he likes his technology. ‘We can’t turn back the clock thirty years;’ said that sensible man, ‘we are where we are’ (that is very helpful - thankyou.). The children were jittery (‘She’s gone mad – she might actually lob the lot out in the road!’) and suddenly I was awash with desperate pledges: ‘No computer-time during the week, quarter an hour at the week-end if we’re good…’ ‘No, five minutes once a month, or you cut our ears off...’
But of course the next morning…trot trot trot…the Wii was on, 7am. I stormed in and slammed it off:
‘DO YOU NOT CARE ABOUT MY FEELINGS? DO YOU NOT LOVE YOUR MOTHER ENOUGH TO DO WHAT SHE SAYS JUST A LITTLE?’
Oh it was good, it was very good. Reading Time was conducted in complete silence – exam conditions – broken only by the occasional terrified whisper ‘have we had half an hour yet’ ‘No!’ I grunted. I am thinking of selling the idea to a Young Offenders’ Institution.
Later Bonnie came to me with a little membership card she’d made to hang around her neck. There was a photo of herself, and she'd penned the following caption: ‘Bonnie Grant-Pyett – Member of the Family’. She put her arms around me and said ‘I’m sorry I’m so bad, Mummy’. Oh God. Arrest me now.
On the upside, the children are positively queuing up to get out of the house in the morning and go to school – no separation issues whatsoever. Alfie is enjoying his SATS year, (after the initial struggle remembering how to write his name) mostly because there is a builder in his classroom whose trousers show ‘loads and loads of his BUM!’, and because after school he's exploding coke with mentoes with his chums. Bonnie is being entered early for her Arguing The Toss GCSE:
‘Mr Goolam Possum is in our old classroom now’
‘Do you mean Mr Goolam Hossen?’
‘No, Mr Goolam Possum’
‘A Possum is a fluffy long-tailed animal found in Australia’
‘No it’s not, it’s a flower’
‘That’s a blossom’
‘No it’s not’…
Maddy has shifted out of stand-by mode (dressing-gown, remote) and into Year 9 with her customary enthusiasm (‘How was it???’ ‘Uh.’) and Josie is on the verge of a nervous breakdown one week into Year 11 because she hasn’t completed phases 1(i),(ii) and (iii) of the 97th draft of her colour-coded revision schedule: 'Oh my god I am like so exhausted you have no idea and I’m not kidding seriously I’m going to mess up all my exams do you think my ears are weird..?' so it’s best I shut up if she needs to go shopping again for relaxation purposes, and make her a cup of tea when she gets back. Unless we’re reading..