24 March, 2014 / Parenting
I was dog-walking with a friend this morning when I mentioned applying for my sons’ provisional driving licenses. ‘They’ll have to wait until I’m paid,’ I added, as I’m at that time – not of the month, a freelance writer’s earnings are far more haphazard than that – but the time when I seem to respond to every request with, ‘Yes, fine – but you’ll have to wait till I’m paid for that.’
‘You mean you’re paying for their licenses?’ my friend asked, looking shocked. Well, yes, they are still at school full-time – but her remark did make me think, am I being overindulgent? I paid for my own license and all my lessons and test – but then, I was 25 and hadn’t lived with my parents for eight years. It would have seemed mad to phone up and say, ‘Mum, Dad – any chance of footing the bill?’ They’d have assumed I’d got myself into terrible bother, or rolled their eyes and said, ‘See – told you she’s not coping.’
In some ways, though, maybe it was better that I stood on my own two feet from a pretty young age. Jimmy goes one better, telling me that at 11 years old he was running around, doing the shopping for three different aunties which took him the whole of Saturday. He’d also build the fire and make the house all toasty for his parents coming home from work – that’s after digging over the veg patch and re-pointing the house. What did our offspring do at that age? Come in, throw down an array of bags and coats and flop in front of the telly. Sometimes, I like doing stuff for the kids: ironing a shirt, or picking up a requested item from the shops. But, while it makes me feel pleasingly motherly, I do wonder if I’m a bit soft.
That’s why I started to think about all the things I haven’t done – the things I’ve said no to, with no negotiation. That made me feel a whole lot better about the provisional license thing. Tough love, I think you call it… well, toughish.
‘No you’re not…’
- Getting an exotic pet. I’ve been bombarded with requests for bearded dragons and snakes (what is about scaly things in tanks?). When my friend Annie allowed her son to get a dragon, she was rewarded with a bite on the hand. It’s not that I have disallowed all pets; we’ve had fish which resided in a murky tank, and two rabbits, neither of which lived to pensionable age. And we have a dog, Jack, who we don’t really regard as a pet at all – he’s elevated above pet status. But honestly – I don’t think I could sleep, knowing we had a reptile in the house.
- Having your ears pierced at seven. My daughter was about 11 when she had hers done. I know this still seems terribly young – but, believe me, holding out until then took every ounce of mental strength I possessed. As she was old enough to take care of her ears, with all the cleaning etc, I (sort of) felt it was okay. Although one friend did ask, ‘So you’re fine about your little girl having her lobes punctured?’
- Buying everything out of Hollister. The brand seemed to have a moment a year or so ago, and I was nagged about buying very ordinary items from there at vastly inflated prices. You’re probably aware that Hollister stores are pitch black inside, and staffed by impossibly beautiful people. So I refused to go in, saying that I wasn’t prepared to humiliate myself by standing on some model’s foot. Also, without special night vision, you can’t possible tell what colour anything is.
- Inviting the whole class to a party. In fact, hosting any kind of lavish kids’ party at all. Entertainers, limos, live pumas bursting out of cakes – there’s no need for any of it. All kids care about is lots of rubbishy food and friends to run around with. As long as you don’t offer rice cakes, or become too dictatorial over the games, everything will go swimmingly. I think the trick is not to start offering very much in the way of entertainment, then you’re not expected to up the ante every year.
I was trying to think of more things I’ve said no to – but I ground to a rather premature halt. Which probably suggests that I am a pushover, and that my friend was absolutely right.