Friday, June 22, 2012

There is a light and it never goes out

In the UK, for the lazy, slack parent, this is the summer of hell. I use summer loosely because give or take two days around the middle of May the skies have been leaden and the rain regular and ferocious. This is some consolation, given that relentless rain forces children indoors and in front of the television and removes the pressure from parents to entertain their sullen offspring by organising days out, nutritious meals etc.

But, still, it's ridiculous. What with the Diamond Jubilee, the forthcoming Olympics, not to mention the backdrop of Euro 2012 - a football tournament in which, at the time of writing, England have not been an abomination - there are an unceasing number of events that my kids expect to watch and attend. I have blogged before about how I have already paid enough to bail out a troubled EU nation for tickets to the women's heavyweight weightlifting and the women's volleyball (not beach, the other one) in order to give my kids a memory to cling to from this action-packed summer, other than the sight of their father weeping. Add into that the street parties and forced jollity of the Jubilee, now thankfully behind us, and you can see why I'm so agitated.

Our woes (I say 'our' - my wife shows worrying signs of enjoying all this stuff) have been made worse by the school. They seem to think it fun to ask the children to make all manner of things at home. This week it was an Olympic torch. Sounds like fun, you might say. You'd be wrong. The problem with all school projects these days is that it turns out to be a massive endeavour to try not to mentally scar your kids for life. You encourage independence by telling them to make a torch themselves out of the inner tube of a toilet roll and some scraps of tin foil, only for them to go to school to be met with their peers brandishing huge, gleaming torches spouting lifelike flames, made out of carbon fibre and real silver and the flayed hide of a unicorn or something.

That's because the parents of the other kids have got involved. Even though you might think that it's only right and proper that your child should make their own project, however flimsy and pathetic the result might be, some kind of weird parenting chip is activated in your brain. You must protect your flock from ridicule by making sure their torch is not flimsy and pathetic. So you ramraid the crafts shop, buy coloured card and tissue paper and spend half the night making a torch, while your children sleep peacefully. Just so they can walk in with their torches held high. The next morning, surveying their  father's work, my eldest son asked for a modification - 800 holes, just like the real one. My reply is unprintable, but it was along the lines of my response when the papier mache 'earth' I made for my daughter's space project, while she watched ICarly, exploded and redecorated the entire kitchen with soggy newspaper.

If that's not enough, not content with having 'made' a torch, the kids have now decided they want to see the real thing. For the past few weeks, the Olympic torch has been making its way through the council estates of northern Britain (ooh look it's in Blackpool, ooh look it's in York) gradually making its way to London for the start of the games. At some point in the next few weeks I am going to stand in a crowd for four hours waiting and then watching Britain's Taekwondo no. 3 run past us in the rain with a torch. And I won't think about excellence and friendship and all the other Olympic values. I will wonder why I used silver bloody paper when the torch is gold.


Dan - Friday


  1. You shall go into the parents' hall of fame ... torch and all.

    And speaking of Euro 2012, my Greek friends say there's a game on tonight...

  2. Sympathy for your parental plight.

    I remember a statement made by my sister when her son was young and she had to help him with a diarama, "I didn't know parenthood required knowledge of arts and crafts." That said, he did well.

    Glad I never had to do this; there would have been toilet paper rolls with aluminum foil wrap or I'd have bought them big flashlights and wrapped them in aforementioned foil.

  3. Cheers Jeff - do they have real ale in their too?

    As for Greece, well, it was good while it lasted. But as well all know football is a game two teams play for 45 minutes each way and then the Germans win.

    Thanks Kathy - your sister is very wise. And I wish I'd though of the flashlight in foil. Genius.

  4. Your children are too young yet for you to have reached the level of horror that goes with science projects. Science projects require experiments. We knew every craft store within a hundred mile radius because the display explaining the project was more work than the science. We all want our children to do well until they win and move on to even more complicated projects. The easiest was the invention of a language. The experiment was simple enough. The test subjects were elementary students who were given various methods of learning the language. This was petty straightforward until it moved up the levels of regional science fairs and the permission of the parents of the test subjects was required.

    This was a decided improvement over the year the house was taken over by the variables used in testing the growth of houseplants (26) or the year discarded materials were used to test their value as insulation.

    At one point my husband suggested she not enter a project in the science fair. I don't know who were more horrified by this act of educational sabotage, my children or the science teachers. The department lived for the excitement of those days.