Life should be more like a Shirley Hughes story. I love those books because the rooms in which the families live are never tidy and the kids are always grubby. A Shirley Hughes story is a hug in a paperback. Kids get over-tired, tempers are lost, but there is always a cuppa and a cuddle in the end. In fact I can’t think of any of her stories that don’t feature a brew and a restorative digestive. The households are cluttered and chaotic but charmingly real. And the parenting style… relaxed.
All of which fits in with something I was chatting to friends about the other day. Why do we feel so pressured to do stuff? Whether it’s shelling out on an action-packed kids day out or taxiing them to and from every last club or sporting activity just because we feel we ought. You don’t see Alfie and Annie Rose at Peppa Pig World every other week, or My Naughty Little Sister wolfing down a sarnie between Spanish lessons and streetdance.
Somewhere along the way we were told that in order to put our kids first we need to actually subjugate all our adult needs to them, so instead of heading to Glastonbury we sit in a field of fractious four year olds, watching Mr Tumble, spilling on ourselves while attempting to puncture a Capri Sun.
Increasingly I’m starting to feel that the things created to make our lives easier with the kids actually do quite the opposite. They sap our energy and time (and sometimes will to live), leaving us edgy and wracked with guilt about the 101 jobs that don’t get done around the house, the lack of food in the fridge or lack of quality time with our partners.
The hours spent in soft play centres that create artificial fun for the kids and a headache for you, could so easily have been spent turning the sofa cushions into a bouncy castle. At least that way you could have put a wash on while little Johnny bounced – and the coffee would be better.
I’m not sure the child-centred day is all that good for the little ones either. How many times have you planned a big day out only to fire-fight the same squabbles all day as you would have done at home (only this time you’ve paid for a family ticket). And they never turn around and say, ‘Thank you Mother. I am truly sated and stimulated by my experiences today’, do they?
I’m not suggesting we all ignore our kids and get on with what we want to do entirely. I’ve always thought the bit in ‘Alfie’s Feet’ where Alfie dons his new yellow wellies for a trip to the park – and his Dad takes along his newspaper is a bit off. Surely he should be taking more of an interest in watching his son frolic in puddles? Or maybe he’s spot on to bring something along to amuse himself with – and I can feel a little less guilty about my mobile phone over-use. Is there anything wrong with pleasing both the adult and the kid?
Let’s be more Shirley Hughes : After all, My Naughty Little Sister is not very naughty at all, Mrs Macnally’s Maureen is a model teenager and they did find Dogger in the end.