I love books. I love to read. I believe that most things that you need to know to succeed in this world can be learned from books.
Unfortunately life in the circus does not generally lend itself to long periods of quiet, so I don’t get the chance the chance to read as much as I might like.
That’s not to say I don’t read at all; I have at least 15 of the ‘Free Kindle Bestsellers’ list on the go at any one time, though admittedly I generally read one page and get distracted mentally writing an email to the author outlining the various spelling, grammar and punctuation issues followed by a rundown of what I believe are the major character flaws and helpfully point out any holes in the plot. You know what they say; those who can do – those who can’t………..criticise.
My daily reading list also includes the back of various cereal boxes as the monkeys shuffle through the boxes declaring their dislike of each and every one. Including, of course, the one they definitely, adamantly, absolutely needed from the supermarket that they faithfully promised they would eat religiously every day without fail. If I was ever to appear on Mastermind, I would probably choose as my specialised subject “The fibre content and nutritional information of every cereal known to man” (except cocoa pops because only nice mummys buy cocoa pops.)
So, with all this is mind, I have decided that I shall take my parenting hints and tips from the books I do actually get to read. Bedtime stories in the circus are wide and varied and range from the sublime to the ridiculous. So in my search for parental role models I have researched and discounted:
- Odin king of Asgard – I’m sure he meant well, but I’m really not sure that banishing one of the children to another realm until he can lift a hammer is really going to help.
- Big Nutbrown Hare – Sure, trying to outdo everything your child attempts sounds like fun on the surface. But, do you really want to get into a competition with a three year old with boundary issues, no embarrassment filter and questionable morals?!
- Dilys Price – All my children so far have gone through a Fireman Sam stage, so I have been forced to watch and read about this woman’s delinquent son more times than I care to remember. I think he is the one exception from my ‘no banishing children from realms’ rule.
But finally I have seen the light and I have found a couple of books that really helped me with a few things and I admire their sheer cunning and genius. Let me share with you some of my new found parenting advice.
Picture the scenario:
You’ve had one of those days. You haven’t cleaned the house, you haven’t been grocery shopping and you can’t be bothered to make supper.
Here’s what you do:
You will need a small child; preferably one who loves to play pretend and will go along with things willingly. Firstly you will need to prepare a very simple tea (small sandwiches, a few biscuits and a pot of tea will suffice). Whilst the tea is brewing, you will need to locate the water stopcock. Once found, turn to the OFF position. Next, explain to small child that you’re going to play ‘who can mess the kitchen cupboards up first?’ don’t worry, small child will like this part so no effort needed from you.
Next thing is to ensure that anything that could potentially be turned into supper should be removed (call it ‘reorganising’ if you like), outbuildings and airing cupboards are useful here.
Now, to be able to carry this through is going to require complete dedication (I would suggest sampling any beer that may be cooling in the fridge).
So, the table is laid and now to coerce your sidekick. Tell small child (extra points if she happens to be called Sophie). “Small child, wouldn’t it be hilarious if, while we were sitting here eating our small sandwiches and biscuits, the doorbell was to ring. Wouldn’t that be funny? Because, as you, know it wouldn’t be the milkman because he came this morning, and it wouldn’t be the boy from the grocers as this isn’t the day he comes. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Daddy because he has his key.”
You might need to leave this to sink in for a moment, children can be annoyingly cynical.
Next. “You know what would be even funnier small child? If you opened the door, found a tiger and invited him in. I wouldn’t be cross because he must have been hungry to ring our doorbell, mustn’t he? Wouldn’t Daddy think that was funny, if we told him that the tiger ate all the food in the cupboards and drunk all the water out of the tap?”
The next part is crucial. Small child needs to be wearing nightwear (perhaps the tiger might like a sleepover?). Unfortunately the OFF position of the stopcock means a bath just aint happening.
Right as soon as you hear Daddy’s key in the door, prompt small child to relay the hilarious tiger story to Daddy. Small children can be incredibly convincing, especially when they mention that the tiger drunk all the beer too.
Poor hungry, unbathed child. Poor (slightly tipsy…shhh!) wife traumatised by the mess left behind by the feline visitor.
Daddy steps up and suggests a nice dinner out.
I’m sure you’ll agree this is the perfect (if somewhat convoluted) get out clause of a ‘can’t be bothered day’. Thank you Judith Kerr.
My second go-to for parenting advice is slightly different. I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old so we watch quite a lot of a programme called Bing, and repeatedly read the associated books.
The excitable bunny on the left is ‘Bing’. The slightly bizarre looking, knitted thing on the right is Flop. For reasons unknown, Flop is Bing’s guardian (despite being half his size). But what Flop is lacking in size he makes up for in patience. Seriously, his patience would make Mother Theresa quake in her boots. His favourite phrase is “it’s no big thing”. He says it for everything from too many bubbles in the bath, to a broken and hidden mobile, to a shoplifting incident.
He never raises his voice. He never rolls his eyes. He never threatens to summon a policeman (god knows why I thought that threat or that phrasing would be effective). He never evens counts to ten while frantically figuring out what suitable punishment will be enforced by number ten.
He is actually a knitted saint and I hold the upmost respect for him. Thus now when faced with a parenting decision I follow the code of WWFD? (what would Flop do?)
I do hope that me sharing what I’ve learnt from books has been helpful to you.
Welcome to my world