Monday, 10 January 2011

The Order Of Things

It dawned on me this morning at breakfast that our toddler will in the blink of an eye be a teenager. I do not exaggerate.   
Today’s genteel start to a Monday with us both slowly chewing Weetabix with Radio 3 on in the background has every chance of being replaced quite soon with Radio 1 (or worse, Capital/Real/Magic - whatever generic commercial pap has taken over MFR in fifteen years) and Pop Tarts.

My mornings will be sullied.

I am a delicate flower but I am happy to ‘park’ such serenity for a couple of decades in return for the joys of dad-hood.

Top brain boffin Oliver James has some interesting thoughts on maintaining some decorum about the house.

In short it seems if you’re a rubbish parent with a messy house your weans will turn out to be right terrors. But how do you achieve the parental nirvana of loving attention and tidy living space? James suggests dads should do more chores.

This may explain my current whirlwind of de-cluttering and dusting. The recent thinning of the DVD collection has been followed by the dismantling and hiding of baby’s changing table and the near-napalming of mummy and daddy’s bedroom.

Oh my God were Wife Features’ words on entering her boudoir this evening, genuinely amazed at being able to see surfaces. Two years’ worth of accumulated receipts, packaging from baby goods and crumpled clothes were whisked away.

The Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed was on brave form during my industrial scale scouring of her and our bedrooms, actually helping me switch on The Oovah. She has a serious trepidation when it comes to this monster. Its sudden whirring, sucking noise and snake-like power cable are frightening enough but then when you see it’s got wheels and can be manoeuvred into all sorts of awkward nooks and crannies, it takes on the status of a Cyberman or Dalek, except you‘d find Kim & Aggie rather than The Master giving it its dastardly orders to clean, damn it, clean.

So, an ordered house plus decent parenting should result in a smart kid. Here’s hoping. While the tidying is on track, we’ve also tamed the TV. A wee bit of addiction was setting in following repeated showings of The Gruffalo and Snow White so we’ve taken to draping a blanket over it at night and explaining it only really comes awake at 6pm for Waybuloo and In The Night Garden. This blatant big fat fibbing lie seems to be working.

TWMBO is already smart enough to point out other kids’ failings. On a recent train journey a toddler older than her was having a tantrum so she pointed and said to me (and the rest of carriage) ‘Baby?’ The whining nipper quickly quietened down.

My own childhood is scarred with good behaviour.

I was trained (I can’t think of another way of putting it) to set the table each night and clear it away afterwards, including giving it a polish. It was my duty to trundle out the wheelie bins for our entire block of six flats every Sunday night. And it became second nature by the age of nine to check for bombs in the wheel arches of the car before getting in. (Did I mention I grew up in West Germany during the Cold War?)

It strikes me the best way to raise TWMBO is to be as British as possible. Already she loves making cups of tea with a plastic tea set. Using little teacups with saucers and a teapot. If I could get a plastic tea strainer and sugar tongs I would.

She’s eaten more kippers than Coco Pops for breakfast.

And she blows her nose with a tissue rather than viewing nose contents in the traditional toddler way: food.

Other decidedly British traits we’ve yet to instil:

- How to queue. I am considering a numbered ticket system for the use of the toothbrushes in the morning

- How to not make eye contact when on a crowded train. Except when it’s someone else’s misbehaving child, of course. In which case they should be looked at and pointed at.

- How to tut whenever someone on Radio 4 crashes the pips. Come on, Naughtie! Look at the clock. When the big hand’s pointing up…

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