Louise Margaret: Perils of 21st parenting

Louise

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etc’s columnist on why parenthood is all about small victories

So, I get home from work and see that my washing machine is on, mid cycle and not because I had set it on a timer but there it was, spinning away.

Neither of my children say anything and after ten minutes, I tentatively asked what was in the washing machine, to which my daughter replies nonchalantly that she’s washing her school tights as they had gotten muddy. I stare through the foam as the machine launches into its final wash cycle, and yes, it is indeed her tights and only her tights.

An entire wash cycle with laundry soap, fabric conditioner and 28 minutes of electricity for one solitary pair of tights.

When they were toddlers, my kids, like everyone else’s, pushed boundaries. Whether it was how long could Mummy survive on two hours’ sleep, to how long would ‘saucepan drums’ take to shred Mummy’s last nerve. Now they’re bigger and rapidly approaching their tween years, the boundaries are no longer sleep deprivation motivated, but more how to run my electricity bill through the roof, and how I can assist them with constant item location tracking, “Mum, have you seen my iPad, hairbrush, socks, school uniform, homework book, shoes, etc? I also have a dizzying array of new job titles too now they’re older, Hamster Environment Cleansing Operative, Head of Light Switch Deactivation and PS4 Controller Charging Instigator, honestly why are these roles not hinted at in the Bounty Books when you have children?

So, I ignore the £2 tights wash cycle and designate chores. My son is allocated the upstairs vacuuming, a job which he curiously doesn’t mind doing, if it were not for the lure of the PS4. After prepping dinner, I wander upstairs to retrieve the vacuum as it has now stopped, to find my bedroom carpet has two or three liberally applied lines where an attempt was made and there is excited yelling and cheering from my son’s room and car revving sounds from the PS4 game.

For all their incomplete dusting, three passes with the vacuum and one item wash cycles, they do their homework and hand it in on time, and they will do their lunches for school though more as a ‘delay bedtime’ ploy. So, after plugging the vacuum back in, I pop my head around my son’s bedroom door and witness him winning a race on his PS4 game wearing only his pants and snuggled in his duvet. I smile to myself and am thankful that at least he’s out of his school uniform. At the end of the day, it’s all about balance.