KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
t is, according to The Boy, ‘the worst thing that ever happened this family’. The Teenager, simply, isn’t having it: ‘ YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME!’ was her measured response on day three. The Youngest, having initially spotted an opportunity to earn brownie points over the two opponents, was briefly compliant, but by the second week, was also requesting leeway and dreaming up loopholes. I am calling it a Technology Break. Bizarrely, it has almost instantly been renamed Technology Time. And insofar as it is now the allocated two hours a day in which we fight over technology, I suppose it is.
I have told them to blame their school. I got the idea, see, at the meeting for the parents of new first years a couple of weeks back. It had started so well: me, third time around the block, walking into the hall with a swagger, knowing which box the welcome pack would be in, taking my familiar place amongst the startled newcomers and listening to advice and wise counsel that I’d already heard twice before.
And then it started creeping up on me: that some of the stuff the principal and deputy principal were advising didn’t really happen in our home. Oh, I long ago gave up trying to persuade The Teenager to conform with the uniform code, and since she currently fetches up there with green hair, without a tie, and with a collection of button badges on her jumper — and then comes home again without a note — I gather the school has too. But there was other stuff: oblige them to read every day, they said, and I thought of The Boy, who has been reading Steven Gerrard’s autobiography for so long now that he’s essentially following the Liverpool captain’s life story in real time. Don’t allow televisions or computers in their bedrooms — and while I’ve held fast on that, phones are now both television and computer and two of mine actually sleep with them under their pillows. And I swear, in the cartoon they put on the screen about excessive gaming, the culprit was the spitting image of The Boy.
And so I bounced home, full of resolve, and broke the news: from now until the end of term, technology is banned in our home between seven and nine on school nights. Cue the
No bedroom TV? When phones are now both television and computer, and two of mine sleep with them under their pillows
complete collapse of civilization.
There are exemptions, of course. Oh, suddenly, there are so many exemptions. If they need the computer for homework, they can ask permission and use it under supervision. The other evening, I noticed that The Teenager’s exam preparation seemed to involve Facebook (this was what prompted the whole YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME outburst). The Youngest went directly from a project on the solar system to another one on India, without either passing go or collecting a gold star, which struck me as odd. The Boy explained that he suffers from a syndrome that means his brain can be damaged by spending too long in the company of a maths book (to be fair, I suspect that might be genetic). When The Youngest asked if it was alright to turn on the light during technology time, I pointed out that a) it was broad daylight and therefore academic; and b) she is now as exasperating as her siblings.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In my head, on the way home from that school meeting, I had imagined that they would all become smarter, happier and better read — and that, in a week or two, we would go on The John Murray Show in order that a grateful nation might congratulate me on my magnificent parenting.
Instead, technology time has become a battle ground, with the only respite coming when The Boy has a match (fixtures he might have skipped a fortnight ago have now become an excuse to leave our technology- deprived home), when The Teenager has her singing lesson and when I go for a walk. Which I am doing a lot these evenings, ensuring, of course, that the electronic devices are all turned off before I go. Then I leave the children on trust and in the care of a parent who is so surgically attached to his mobile that he hasn’t even noticed that technology time now officially exists. I’m finding, curiously, that these walks of mine are lasting about two hours. And accordingly, everyone — including me — suddenly seems a lot happier. You can just email me the parenting award (though not, obviously, between the hours of seven and nine.)