It’s called time management, parent style

2013-11-28 00:00

“YOU’RE a terrible liar, Mum,” my daughter said.

“What do you mean?” I replied in wide-eyed innocence.

She shook her 11-year-old head, and said: “I saw the way you looked at Dad when you said we sang beautifully.”

It was a week night and my daughter had just participated in a musical evening at school, organised to show parents how our children had progressed during the year on their musical instruments, as well as listen to the choir sing. While I’m very pleased that my daughter is playing the piano and enjoys singing in the choir, the thought of sitting through yet another evening of listening to children I don’t know bash away at their instruments waiting to get to my daughter’s one-minute piece was a stretch too far. The final straw was a table full of tea cups. We left. We headed to a nearby pizzeria, planning to return in time to slip in at the back and pretend we had been there all along. Satisfied with our cunning plan, we ordered two large glasses of wine and a garlic-encrusted focaccia, and settled down to discuss family, friends and the world at large. But, the best-laid plans can fall apart, and a second glass of wine made us late, just in time to see the audience trooping out of the theatre, followed by our little musician who knew exactly what we had been up to. Oh well!

Unfortunately, my daughter has received the short straw as she is the younger sister of a cricket-playing brother. Nine years of endless Saturdays spent on the side of a cricket field have depleted my capacity for being a doting parent. With a few more years to go, and with cricket games now taking an entire day, I have devised a strategy to keep everyone reasonably happy and still preserve a measure of sanity. First off, I informed my son from the outset that I would not now or ever attend away games; being trapped on the side of a field at a school in which I have no interest, financial or otherwise, is not how I want to spend my precious free time. I do, however, watch him when he plays at home, but only him. My husband is usually there for every ball, so we are in constant telephone communication. If it looks as if my son is up to bowl or bat, I get an SMS and rush to the school in time to watch him play. Then I leave. My son has accepted this piece of time management; although once he did say: “You know, Mum, cricket is a team sport, which means you should really watch the whole team.” I confess that when I’m there, I’m suitably proud when I look at the strapping young man he’s become, so handsome in his cricket whites, and I cheer as loudly as any mother when he takes a wicket or hits a six, just as I love hearing my daughter play the piano in the comfort of our lounge, choreograph an elaborate dance or sing a word-perfect version of Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball.

There are various other school functions that get similar treatment — welcome-back-to school evenings, parent-teacher meetings, carol services — but the events I have become most adept at avoiding are mums’ teas or lunches, or class get-togethers. I’m not a joiner and I would rather spend my time with people who have significance in my life, whose opinions and advice I willingly seek and value. Although there are not a huge number of people who fall into this category, there are enough, and I would do anything for any of them. Recently, my daughter’s school organised a mums’ breakfast on a Saturday morning. I never considered going and my friends didn’t try to persuade me — they know me well by now. A while after the event, I asked my daughter if she had known about the mums’ breakfast because she hadn’t once mentioned it or asked if I was going.

“Yes, Mum,” she replied, “but I knew you wouldn’t want to go. I told them that you weren’t that type of mum.” Feeling some all-to-familiar mother’s guilt, I asked if this bothered her.

I squeezed her until she couldn’t breathe and covered her precious face with kisses when she said: “No Mum, I wouldn’t have gone either.”

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