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.