The Easter holidays have arrived, and it’s time to decide whether I can hack having the children at home squabbling over Archie for free, or whether I should book them onto some self-improving activities that they don’t want to do (it’ll be fun!) when they could be lying in bed, playing computer games and lying about how they were doing their homework, actually.
A friend asked if Bonnie was interested in a four day high quality orchestral course – ‘Uh no!’ she said after a second’s reflection. But I felt she’d enjoy it once she got there, until I checked the website and at £135 decided that actually, free time was what she really craved. ‘I’ve just texted back that’s it’s too expensive’ I said to Bonnie. ‘Mummy!’ she said, alarmed, ‘they might think we’re POOR!’
‘I beg your pardon?’ I said, ‘What if they did think we were poor? You don’t judge people by how rich they are! Wouldn’t you be relieved if one of your friends said that they couldn’t afford something? There are children in the world who don’t even have enough to eat!!’ I was off.
They’d switched off, but I hadn’t. ‘You have no idea what poor means; we are very lucky we can go on holiday each year – to Wales or somewhere else nice!’
‘Big deal – everyone else goes to America or somewhere’
‘Well we choose to spend our money on different things.’
‘What do ‘we’ choose to spend our money on? I never get anything.’
‘Children’ I intoned, ‘this life of ours doesn’t pay for itself – there are bills to pay, food to buy...the car needs fixing...and we spend money on making your lives rich in experiences and the learning of skills.’ Unless it’s too expensive.
‘Why don’t we ever go out for meals, mummy?’
‘...You will look back and remember learning ballet with your friends, excitedly preparing for the Christmas show.....You will always remember the concerts you took part in...’
‘I want to go to Disneyland – everyone’s been there’
‘You will remember the holidays you had walking in the countryside with your family – that’s much better than buying a new top from Primark every week – isn’t it?!’
They looked at me as if I was completely mental.
‘How come you can afford to spend thousands of pounds on Daddy’s new teeth??’ ‘Well...everyone has their vanities’
‘How come you spend loads of money on Daddy’s golf membership’
‘Er...Daddy works very hard to pay for this nice house and for all the nice things we do, so he is allowed to play golf and enjoy himself too!’ It made me sick to say it.
‘I’m going to buy a laptop with my own money,’ said Maddy. ‘I need it for my homework’ ‘Very funny’ I said, ‘You’d be watching junk all day. I do not give you permission’. ‘It’s up to Daddy – he earns nearly all the money and he said maybe.’ Splutter.
Alfie gave up and went back to surfing the internet for £200 mobile phones to play games on, which he is under the delusion he will get when he goes to secondary school, despite being too scared to phone anyone (‘someone might answer’) and too confused to text, although the keyboard going this way instead of that way is crucial. ‘Alfie, I’ll get you a basic phone and if you use it properly, we’ll see about getting you a posher one.’ But the way he looked at me, I could see his social cudos would be in tatters. It’s complicated.