After throwing a truly sensational New Year’s Eve dinner party of left-overs for my oldest friends, Alan went off to visit his parents on New Year's Day, and I sat down with the children to receive their compliments about what a wonderful Christmas they’d had and how the old family wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Well. Two of them said they felt that their siblings all absolutely hated them. Josie said she felt invisible. Alfie made no contribution to this inspirational exchange since he’d been ill in bed since Christmas, incidentally stemming the usual two-way flow of emotional and flesh wounds between himself and Bonnie. Anyway, I was going off this conversation fast and decided to delay my book on parenting.
Maybe we’d all had enough of each other’s company? Could it be true?
Alan returned from the parental visit also rather strained; the remit for the trip was, as ever, to inject enough odd jobbery, bright-eyed listening, and good news stories about all of us into their lives to last until the next visit; it was merely an unfortunate side-effect on this occasion that he was able to notch up another Bank Holiday out of the house when everything is shut shut shut, not that I’d complain, it being his Dad’s birthday and all.
Yes, Alan was definitely on the ratty side today; as we climbed into the car (for we were out for lunch), Bonnie said ‘There’s a huge scratch on the car, Daddy’, and the reply came straight back: ‘There are a lot of scratches on the car that don’t appear to be anyone’s fault’ (barely perceptible glance at me). Ouch!
It was high time to launch New Year’s Resolution Number One themed around stop-being-a-grumpy-old-cow and SMILE in the face of adversity thus spreading joy and harmony about your person. When Alan comes home from work instead of continuing to wipe counters with my back to him and mumbling ‘…didn’t know you were going to be late again..’ or continuing with my foul stream of consciousness but out loud for his benefit ‘...who left that there!!?? Already tidied up once!...’ I shall turn around, look him warmly in the eyes – perhaps even take him in my arms! - and say ‘Hello, how was your day?’, then I will SMILE widely. Likewise, when the children get up in the morning, instead of carping on ‘…What’s the point in me waking you up an hour ago it you just lie in bed?!!You’re late!!! ..’, I will SMILE and exclaim ‘Well, looky here! It’s my special girl/boy! You really needed that sleep didn’t you??! Now you gotta run run run!!’
So there we were in the car, me SMILING all over my face, no point denying that scratches do appear on the paintwork quite frequently. But let's move on! I requested freezing air conditioning during the journey, since we were taking ice-cream with us to our friends (surely thumping our hands together for warmth was better than melting the ice-cream?). Alan’s response was a sharp ‘This is a family car, not an ice-cream van!’ (Ooooh!)
Time to pull out New Year’s Resolution Number Two, ‘Let’s Agree to Disagree’ (or ‘Two Rights don’t make a Wrong’ as one of the children so refreshingly put it) for I had inadvertantly wandered onto mutually forbidden territory – heating of airspaces!! – the subject of open warfare between two otherwise reasonable human beings for twenty two years. SMILING would get me nowhere here. The germ of this second resolution had been born on a mild night in December. Alan had come home earlier than expected and caught me red-handed with the heating off. ’Fires are not for just switching on and off!!’ he fairly shouted, as if I was crazy. ‘Why did you turn the fire off?’ ‘It was stuffy’ I muttered into my lap, shakily ‘the heating’s been on since 6am’. ‘Well, now I’m cold’ he pouted, and we were off, or would have been if I hadn’t stopped and thought ‘Let’s Agree to Disagree!’ (I’ll just turn the heating off without telling him).
Back in the car, I glanced at my ice-cream anxiously, and forced it out: ‘Let’s Agree to Disagree’ and - score! - a compromise agreement was struck and the air-conditioning was set to ‘cool’. Bring it on, 2011!!