I’ve been finding some very confusing messages in my children’s book bags about what I’m supposed to send in for the school play/the school fete tombola/the Secret Santa present scheme, etc. Our school is run along the same lines as MI6: instructions are given once, usually way back in September, and thereafter, you are only given oblique references. Tagged onto a note about Drama Club being cancelled, there’ll be a cryptic message: ‘The weather in Prague is very clement for the time of year’. Aaaargh, what does it mean? What does it mean?? Hopefully, you’ll find some kindly old-timer with kids in year 5 or 6 to translate for you: ‘They need to bring in 50p on Thursday for Action Aid.’ But of course!
Anyway, I’ve managed to deduce that I need to make a Christmas tree outfit for my son, which involves safety-pinning some baubles to a green T-shirt. I think I got off lightly. Other parents, whose children are playing Santa’s helpers, have been told to make elf ears, while anyone in the Christmas Fayre scene needs a ‘headdress shaped like Christmas food.’ Well, that’s no trouble at all, doesn’t everyone have a roast-potato hat at the bottom of the wardrobe?
My children hate me this week. Daddy is away, and they talk about his reign (a benign dictatorship, vs my despotocracy) wistfully, like it was the Elizabethan Golden Age. ‘No one shouted when Daddy was here.’ ‘When Daddy was here, we always had sweeties.’ My daughter is a particularly meticulous grudge-storer. She would be recording my every misdeed in her Hannah Montana Secret Journal if only she could hold a pen the right way up. No doubt she’ll turn out a nice line in middle-class misery memoirs in 20 years’ time: ‘Please, Mummy, No More Couscous’; ‘Forced to Brush My Teeth’; ‘Tears before tennis’; ‘No Hi-5 for Hannah’… You never know, the proceeds might pay for me to go into a better class of OAP care home, when she decides ‘the time has come’. As it stands, her father and I will be lucky to spend our twilight years at the local donkey sanctuary, given that we have zero savings, and he’s officially ‘job free’ as of December 14th. Santa’s sack will be a whole lot lighter this year…
My daughter’s Christmas list reads like an Anglo-Saxon poem: it’s about 100 pages long and everything alliterates: Pony in my Pocket playpark; Baby Born, Barbie Bicycle set… What worries me is that although she will pine for an item for months, the VERY MOMENT she has removed the last layer of plastic wrapping, the light in her eyes goes out. What, this old piece of tat? It’s, like, two and a half nanoseconds old!
If there’s such a thing as a compulsive shopping gene, she has it. She’ll be the type of teenager who moons over pictures of belts/boots/bags in Grazia, and is able to read the annoying little captions – ‘Gotta have it!’ ‘Add a pop of colour!’ – without gagging. Worse, she’ll probably drag me round shopping malls when I’m too old to resist. ‘You can never have enough shoes, Mother!’. ‘But I’m in a wheelchair!’
I’ve taken to preceding the handing over of each new toy or treat with a heartrending true story of poverty in the Developing World, in an effort to curb her consumerist tendancies. ‘And so, this little boy’s daddy decided he would make more money begging if he was disabled. So the boy’s daddy broke his arms and his legs, so that from then on he could only scuttle like a crab. Now, here’s your new Bratz doll…’ It kind of takes the shine off things.