Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Kids say the darndest things (and can even be nice sometimes)

FOR someone with an intense dislike of figures (both the numerical type and my own hourglass-in-a-fatsuit one), I seem to have been doing an awful lot of calculating lately, working out sums on scraps of paper and taking my shoes off to get to my toes if I have to count past 10.

So it came as no surprise to me that my son, the Sunshiney Seven-Year-Old, is also a bit rubbish at maths.

“Do you know how old I’m going to be in 10 weeks?” I stupidly ask him this morning.

“Ummm…,” his eyes roll up inside his sockets as if the answer’s lurking under his eyelids somewhere, “fiiii…ftyyyy…nine?”



“No…,” I half-smile at him, wondering whether he’s winding me up or whether he really does think I look...

“Sixty nine!”

“Jesus! Let’s do some colouring in,” I say, putting a decisive end to this pointless conversation.

For if I’ve learnt anything over this long summer holiday, it has been that with too much unstructured time on your hands, you can a) scupper your feeble weight loss attempts and sabotage yourself into a size 18 faster than you can say “with butter, double cheese please”, b) accelerate the already-rapid ageing process to depths previously unknown what with all that stress and grey-hair-growing tension and c) hear far too many home truths you’d quite frankly rather not be privy to at all, if you don’t keep the kids out of your hair.

Take yesterday, when we had to go into John Lewis to get school backpacks and some clothes for our holiday in Cornwall (does a bright orange fox fleece onesie count as either of those?).

The Eleventeen-Year-Old didn’t want to leave her pit (sorry, bedroom) because she no doubt had hours of WhatsApping and instant messaging to catch up on, so as we’re shutting the front door and I’m glowering at her, she screams “I HATE YOU!” and stomps past the postman who’s walking up our garden path, whistling a jolly tune.

“Mornin!” he trills, righting himself back on to said path.

“Hmmm? Yes, hello,” I do my best to smile back.

“Nothing good ever came in a Manila envelope,” he beams as he hands me several of them.

The day only started to get better several hours later, once we’d deposited my daughter back at home and my son and I took Cookie out for a run by the river.

I started talking to an old lady in the park when she asked whether that little boy romping with that enormous, slightly-whiffy-even-from-here dog over there was mine. Naturally, I took a gargantuan breath in and thought, “Oh, Christ, what’s he done now?”

But she told me how polite he was because he had opened and held the gate for her.

I exhaled and said: “Really? My son?” and she said: “Yes, you should be very proud.”

She then told me that when she’d said thank you to him, he’d smiled and said: “It’s my pleasure.”

I’m still reeling from this when my daughter runs up, pulls me to her in a rare public display of affection and apologises for her earlier behaviour with a sincerity I’ve never seen from her before. I’m gobsmacked. Hormones, eh?

When we got home, I girded my loins and confronted The Loveliest Neighbour In The World about her reasons for moving house.

Despite the highly offensive olfactory assault that is our dog, she reassured me that it wasn’t his anti-social aroma that was making them move — they simply need a bigger place. And the noise? She swears she’s never heard anything that might spark concern or a call to social services coming from our place — she couldn’t possibly hear anything over the cacophony created by her own two kids.

Told you she was lovely but even I was unaware of what an accomplished liar she is.

Still, at least now all I have to worry about is the five-hour drive to Cornwall, avoiding all motorways as I must, lest the panic attacks return.

Apparently, where we’re going (Coverack) has been colder than the Hebrides this summer, the forecast for next week being cloudy with a 99.9 per cent chance of precipitation. And a 100 per cent probability of family meltdowns due to being stuck indoors.

But that’s another story…

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