There seems to be – in the UK at least – a sort of parenting mass hysteria based on reading loads of conflicting parenting books; as if we have all become self conscious of raising our children how we want. I’m not saying I am not guilty of this myself: when we first had kids we were literally parenting from an open book like we were putting a new engine into an Allegro (I use this random analogy because I have actually put a new engine into an Allegro and we did it from an open Haynes manual. It worked, but we (my brother and I) had a large number of worryingly important and heavy components left over…thank fully, this worryingly laissez-faire manual usage has not translated into my parenting.)
With our second child we were obviously more laid back and learned that there are a few certainties when raising small children: kids cry, kids fall over, kids fight and kids don’t sleep as well as you want, hope or expect…and the absolutely guaranteed fact that there will always be some well meaning idiot telling you how to resolve the aforementioned issues…little realising that the aforementioned issues leave you so emotionally wrought that you are literally seconds away from twatting them with a Tommy Tippee sippy cup…with the teat out…for maximum impact.
Where was I? Ah, differences between the Swizzers and Non-Borg. Let’s play spot the difference:
Marie and Jean-Claude with their son, Marc, 5 and daughter Diane, 3
Marie and Jean Claude are invited for a playdate at 3.30. They arrive at 3.29 with a box of pattiseries from the best boulangerie in Geneva and a bottle of wine – they are dressed to the nines. Marc and Diane greet every adult and shake their hand. Marie and Jean-Claude say that he can go and play with your children. Marc bounds upstairs. 5 Mins later the screams of Darling Daughter can be heard and after you investigate find that Marc is ritually humilating DDs favourite dolls by making them perform depraved and illegal sex acts with My Little Ponies. You tell him not to and he rushes off, distressed, to his parents who shrug.
Meanwhile, Diane sits quietly on the floor reading a book. You offer her a chocolate biscuit, but Marie leaps over the sofa with the lithe agility never seen with someone who has had to worry about her pelvic floor and grabs the biscuit before a crumb can contact the pristine white dress – like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. The Family breathe a sigh of collective relief and Marie berates Diane in rapid French about her near miss with a stain.
Later, Diane – her initial timidity a distant memory – and Marc have sustained a ceaseless destructive campaign upon both your children and your house. You’re emotionally and physically wrecked from splitting up fights and defending both your home and your children from the feral imps in front of you.
It is now 8.30pm and your children are rocking backwards and forwards from exhaustion, too tired to defend themselves from sleep deprived and sugar fueled Marc and Diane who’s vicious smiles gleam manically as they inflict chinese burn no.32 in front of Marie and Jean-Claude, who shrug: boys will be boys…But suddenly there is quiet in the air – as if in the eye of a hurricane – and Marie spots it: a pin-head of jam on Diane’s dress! Marie grabs Diane by the arm and pulls her screaming to their car, shouting all the way. They apologise profusely and leave. You look at your house and decide it is best if you raze it to ground so as best to forget the day and minimise the clear-up.
Meanwhile Marie and Jean-Claude arrive home, the kids stay up to watch CSI New York and play Left 4 Dead on the Xbox while Marie and Jean-Claude go out to the cinema – it’s been a stressful day. They don’t have a babysitter so leave the kids with a can opener, a bottle of Merlot and a smoke alarm: after all, you can’t be too careful can you?
Mary and Alan with their son, Mark, 5 and daughter Debra, 3
Mary and Alan are invited for a playdate at 3.30. They arrive at 4.00 (because they forgot Felcher – Debra’s special cuddly beaver – and had to turn around and get him) with a plate of brownies made by the children, but they used gravy powder instead of cocoa so everyone gags or vomits at some point in the day. Mark bounds upstairs. 5 Mins later the screams of Darling Daughter can be heard and after you investigate find that Mark has kidnapped DDs favourite dolls and is making them perform random acts of violence against My Little Ponies. Alan sits Mark down and tries to explain that violence is wrong and ends up in a semi philosophical discussion about death, the afterlife and horsemeat.
Meanwhile, Diane sits quietly on the floor reading a book. You offer her a chocolate biscuit and Debra looks at her parents who start a fifteen minute discussion about whether or not a chocolate biscuit will ruin her supper and they eventually agree on half, with the other half for Mark, so that it’s fair. By this time Debra has eaten the biscuit and Mary weeps uncontrollably about having not slept a full night in five years and that if Debra doesn’t eat her supper she’ll wake up…Alan starts weeping too.
By now it’s 4.52 and Alan and Mary leap to their feet, stuffing wet wipes, toys – theirs, yours, what does it matter? – anything within reaching distance into a nappy bag the size of a sports holdall. Kids supper is at 5 and Alan takes out his phone and works out that if they average 160mph all the way they can make it home at 5.05. Alan and Mary decide it’s an acceptable risk and start pulling jumpers and coats (even though it’s 32º and blazing sunshine – because it gets cold in the evening…) onto the kids.
You offer supper of sausages, chips and beans and ice cream because the kids have been so good. Mary and Alan debate whether the kids should have chips – checks watch – and if they do have chips then maybe they shouldn’t eat the beans because they’re not organic – checks watch – and the sausages definitely aren’t organic so maybe they can have some chips, but no beans and only one sausage and – checks watch – definitely no ice-cream, by which time the kids are finishing the ice-cream. But now it’s 5.42 and the kids won’t make it home in time for bathtime and bedtime and their whole routine is shot and they will definitely not sleep! We’re doomed! they scream.
The kids immediately fall asleep in the car – or try to – but Mary screams Billy Idol songs to keep them awake so that they’ll sleep when they get home. Kids are too tired for a bath – it’s a disaster – Alan and Mary have a glass of chardonnay and fall asleep in front of Antiques Roadshow. They wanted to go out but couldn’t agree upon which babysitter would be best suited to their parenting environment.
This has gone on for far too long. Can you guess which is which? I’m not saying that either approach is right, but I think a combination of the two probably is.
p.s Image is from Orphan. Yeah, she gives me the heebie-jeebies as well.