Dear Parenting Guru,
I have a hard situation that I hope you can help me with.
In the last year or so it has not escaped my notice that my daughter’s sixteen-year-old friends have become….more adult-like in their physical appearance.
I find it increasingly difficult to conceal my awareness of this when they come round for sleepovers and loll about the kitchen dressed in nothing but a see-through T-shirt and pants.
I don’t want to ask them to wear more clothes, lest I make anyone feel awkward, but short of wearing steel underpants or carrying a tray in front of my crotch the whole time I don’t think I can be in their presence any more.
I am, after all, just a male animal and there is little I can do about my body’s natural reactions.
What should I do?
You clearly have a very strong sexual side to your nature.
My phone number is attached.
Call me any time.
Dear Parenting Guru,
My children are all incredibly fussy eaters.
I have to cook three different meals every day to suit each child’s eating requirements, and even then they leave half of it untouched if it has ‘lumps’ in.
I’m at my wits’ end. Can you help, before I boil over?
‘Fussy eater’ is a term invented by the writers of parenting manuals for children who have never known the true meaning of ‘starvation to the point of near-death hallucinations.’
True, it’s hard to tell the difference between near-death hallucinations and watching In The Night Garden, but if you waft a sizzling 12-ounce steak under your child’s nose when the Pontipines come out and she bites your hand off, you can identify the ones who have gone beyond peckish, and are ready to eat properly.
I strongly suggest you help your children not to screw up all future dinner-dates, by starving them out now so they learn how to eat properly.
I’ve done the test myself on my own brood, and I can assure you that when a child is ravenous enough it WILL eat broccoli.
And lumps. And ‘stuff with yucky sauce on’.
This method also prevents the embarrassing situation of having to explain why your child has scurvy.
If any of them pulls the Human Rights card, just roll your eyes and say ‘Human Rights, Schuman Rights, love’.
That always goes down a treat, and it’s a vague nod to their musical education as well.
Dear Parenting Guru.
My son is taking exams at school this week, which count towards his A-Levels.
I am finding it almost impossible to get him to do any revision, and worry that he is going to fail the lot.
Are they are any tips you can recommend to get a stubborn teenager to revise?
There are times in life when gentle persuasion, bribery or lying through your teeth are called for, to make people do things they don’t want to.
Indeed, the above accounts for 60% of successful parenting, and 90% of marriage.
But occasionally a situation arises where we must adopt the ‘Cutting The Crap And Telling It Like It Is’ method.
I strongly advise you to try the below.
I used it on my children, and as I haven’t heard from them since I can only assume it worked brilliantly and they are in their rooms right now studying hard, and definitely not watching Youtube videos of people exploding things for no apparent reason, other than to post the videos on Youtube.
“Look, Bozo, when you finish school your 18-year voucher for free board and lodging chez Mum and Dad expires.
That’s it kiddo – game over. Finito. Door’s on the left.
You will be thrown into a turbulent, cruel world of rent and phone bills and things that don’t magically appear in cupboards like food, drink, light bulbs, DVDs, printer cartridges, bicycles, anything from Abercrombie&Fitch, hair gel and clean pants.
A confusing, merciless world of deadlines and responsibility and redundancy and landlords and rail strikes and coffee that costs, like, HOW MUCH?? For ONE CUP?? You’re SHITTIN’ me! What, are they, like, GOLDEN BEANS??, and heartbreak and leaking gutters and hard-to-explain stains on bed linen that you can’t shift, even at 60 degrees after a 24-hour soak with Hard-To-Explain Stain remover.
Yes, life will get tough for you, sweetheart.
But I’m not going to bail you out any more because I’ll be in the South of France with my lover, a bottle of coconut oil, and a suitcase full of Gitanes.
Your bedroom will be rented out to foreign language students, or filled with boxes of junk that your father and I can’t decide what to do with and hope might vanish if we ignore them for long enough.
It’s entirely up to you, of course, and there’s always the chance that your ability to burp ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury’ in one go MIGHT get you noticed by a talent scout, and bring you untold riches.
But if you want to reduce your chances of spending the rest of your life with no clean pants and shit coffee, then I’d suggest you GET BACK IN YOUR ROOM AND DO SOME BLOODY WORK.”
If it doesn’t work, do send your son to join me in France. There’s plenty of coconut oil to go round.
(But a photo would be nice first. You know. Just to check.)
Dear Parenting Guru,
What with the arrival of a New Year, a fresh start and all that, I thought it might be a good time to make some positive changes to my life.
And Number One on my list is to try and be a better parent.
I wondered if you might have any tips to help me achieve this?
Don’t be ridiculous.
Here, have this stale mince pie, and listen:
The New Year is a time for self-loathing, depression, regret, ‘flu, and stabbing thin people with sharpened eye-daggers.
It is most certainly not an opportunity to fiddle about with anything as foolhardy and self-defeating as trying to be a better parent.
That way yet more misery lies, waiting to slay the last shreds of hope that cower in a pool of their own urine, deep in the putrid recesses of your over-fed soul.
Much more positive would be to accept failure and defeat where all aspects of parenting are concerned, and celebrate it by polishing off those Christmas chocolates you found behind the living room curtains, having hidden them there two weeks ago for that very purpose.
New Year. Same old shit.
Keep it real, my friend.
(P.S. I am also available for Life Coaching and Positive Thinking techniques, if you are interested.)
Whenever we invite friends for dinner our evening is ruined by our children refusing to go to bed. If I try to take them upstairs they throw tantrums and cutlery.
Should I just let them stay up late and join in with the adults? They do this in France, and it all seems very civilised.
The key question to ask here is, is your surname von Trapp, or Jackson?
If it is neither, then I would suggest you break it to your children that they are not one of the world’s best-known family singing sensations, and it would therefore be better for the world if they kept quiet.
If they need confirmation of this then stick them in front of The Sound of Music; not only is it three hours long, giving you ample time to eat three courses and get pleasantly hammered, it will also show them how to dance wearing lederhosen made of curtains, and throw in a little History lesson about the Nazi invasion as well.
If they’re old enough to be useful, say by acting as waiting staff or pole dancers, then you can put them to good use.
Other than that, there is no place for a child at an adult’s dinner party.
Half the reason for inviting people for dinner is to forget how dreary one’s life has become since one ruined it by having children. The other half is to flirt with someone else’s spouse and blame it on the Sauvignon.
Having children running about the place demonstrating their ‘undulating belly’ trick makes both of these impossible.
A parent without an evening sans children is one of those hollow shells of Once-Human you see in Tesco chasing after a screaming toddler, looking as if they will implode from Weltschmerz before they get to the end of the cereals aisle, and be grateful when it happens.
Trust me, you don’t want to be that person.
Oh, PS. As regards the France thing: I lived there when I was a child and can report that while my Maman et Papa were playing footsie under the table with Pierre’s Maman et Papa, we were allowed to stay up as late as we liked and spent most of the time sitting in the lounge calling premium-rate numbers where ladies said rude things to us in French, and quaffing vin de table until we threw up.
Très civilised, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Dear Parenting Guru,
Our eight-year-old son hit his friend yesterday and knocked his front tooth out.
(It was a baby one, and anyway we think it had a funny white mark on it so it’s probably no bad thing, aesthetically.)
Should we be concerned about his violent behaviour?
In the red corner,
Nick and Jo, Cardiff.
Dear Nick and Jo,
The only question you need to ask when your child hits another is,
‘Did he deserve it?’
There are various situations in which the answer would be ‘yes’. These would include,
farting into your packed lunch box when your mum has made your favourite sandwich filling;
making eyes at The Girl With The Nice Hair who smells of vanilla and has shown signs that she might holding hands with you in PE;
breaking your Lego Star Wars Death Star;
being called Tarquin.
Under these circumstances, a wallop on the chin should be expected.
There’s a lot of talk these days about reasoning, negotiating, trying to understand the other person’s personal issues, yada yada yada, but quite frankly it’s all tosh;
it’s a jungle out there, where dog eats dog.
(Except not dogs, obviously, because there aren’t any dogs in the jungle. It’s not the best combination of metaphors, I agree.)
To keeps things from getting out of hand I also advise leaving some copies of Pride and Prejudice lying around.
Victory through wit, intelligence and intensive embroidery can settle many an argument peacefully. The art of the slam-dunk eye-roll-with-sigh is also something worth passing on to any daughters you may have, if their marriages are to survive.
I wish you all the best.
If any further fights develop into something similarly meaty, perhaps you could send me the YouTube link?
Dear Parenting Guru,
Every time I take my 3 month old baby to the cinema he screams his head off half way through, louder anything I have ever heard.
How can I stop him from doing this?
I used to take all of my children to the cinema when they were babies, and I’m glad you are doing the same. It’s a vital part of their early years’ education, especially if you can throw in some foreign arthouse numbers and at least one Bond film so they recognise Christmas when they see it.
The screaming thing can be a huge problem where poor direction, a weak script or wooden acting is concerned. Babies are remarkably discerning, and their shrieks are merely an expression of artisitic frustration and a reaction against the unimaginative Hollywood machine.
My experiences taught me two things that can silence the cinematic protest: one, put your breast in his mouth, even if you’re not breastfeeding. Most people like having a warm bosom thrust in their face, and it’s very hard to scream under such circumstances.
Two, put an empty popcorn bucket on his head. It’s the only reason I can possibly imagine why they would make them the size of a human infant, so use it to your advantage.
I wish you all the luck. Oh, and I ought to warn you that if you think a three month old baby screaming is the loudest thing you’ve ever heard, wait until he’s two.
Dear Parenting Guru.
I experienced some strange stomach pains at the weekend, and went to the bathroom. After a few minutes of straining, I gave birth to a 7 lb baby girl.
I didn’t even know I was pregnant.
This feels a bit slap-dash to me.
Do you think I’m going to be a bad mother?
Firstly, many congratulations on the birth of your daughter.
I hate you.
Forgive me, but I do.
Not because you are ill-prepared to be a mother.
Nobody is ever prepared to be a mother, which is one of the great Mysteries Of Humankind. You’d have thought that of all the things a female of a species could do, being even vaguely prepared for motherhood would be right up there with ‘know how to use orgasm balls without Googling it.’
I hate you because your entire experience of pregnancy and labour was ‘a few minutes of straining’ – which the rest of us call mild constipation.
I am contacted by women like you every few years. And I think……
WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE??
Do you have no internal organs, or something??
Are you employed by Ikea to produce their first line of flat-pack babies?
Are your vaginal walls made of super-high-strength material designed by NASA?
And tell me, Suzie, did you not notice that your breasts were suddenly so enormous you needed to steal a supermarket trolley so you could rest them in the toddler seat, and push them around in a bra the size of a hanglider? Did you not look as if you’d swallowed a transit van?
Were you able to PUT ON YOUR OWN SOCKS??
For forty weeks were you not a vomiting, aching, spotty, haemorrhoidal mess who, in moment of desperation, tried to get the baby out yourself using a giant pickle-picker?
Did you not ruin every evening of the last month drinking raspberry leaf tea, which we all know tastes like pig’s urine but ‘they’ (the manufacturers of raspberry leaf tea, one assumes) swear it helps to prepare the womb for labour, so we drink it like the desperate, frightened, stupid creatures we are, even though we did this last time and it did SWEET BUGGER ALL to make labour easier because the only things that would make labour any bloody easier would be to
a) not be in labour in the first place
b) get pissed for the duration, and
c) whack the father repeatedly around the head with a baseball bat?
As if having the easiest journey into motherhood EVER weren’t enough, I have further good news for you: you seem to me to have every qualification needed to be a very good mother:
You have clearly no idea what you’re doing, which is the starting point for all successful parenting;
You can recognise a newborn baby when you see one; most of us are handed our newborns, and think ‘WHATTHEFUCKISTHAT? Who brought the hairy moose brain?’
You know how to use weighing scales. They will come to dominate most of your life from now on, if they didn’t already;
You know how to irritate other mothers. This is key.
I wish you all the very best, and hope that motherhood continues to be as smooth for you as it has been so far.
One request though: when your calm, tidy, good-natured teenagers cook you dinner every night, tell you they love you, come home when you ask them to and don’t demand money every twenty minutes, please don’t write to me again asking if this is normal.
I’ll be an old woman by then, and it might kill me.
Dear Parenting Guru,
I don’t want to let my daughter walk to school by herself.
I let her go to the corner shop on her own last term and it took me a month of intensive therapy to get over it.
Am I being over-protective?
Yes, you are.
I suggest booking yourself in for a bungee jump, a Brazilian wax and a night in a strip club as soon as possible. I think you need it.
And please take your daughter with you. One is, after all, never too young to learn how to remove one’s own bra while balancing on a small table and stuffing ten-pound notes into one’s pants.
It’s all about multi-skilling these days.
It’d also give her something interesting to talk about while she walks to school….without you.