Big sister takes over

Sweets and sugary foods on a table


Daughter one has taken on the role of strict mother and educator of only son. She is constantly telling him off when he eats anything vaguely sugary. In this, she is in league with daughter two. Both are highly health conscious in a way that shames their parents and, most particularly, their mum, given that their dad, being Spanish, follows the Mediterranean diet and is a Rick Stein fanatic.

Daughter two is vegan and won’t even let me go near her food preparations in case I breathe in their general direction. Her meals are legendary. Heaps of pasta [wholewheat], chick peas, pulses and vegetables of all varieties plus fruit. She eats porridge for breakfast [made with water, of course] with mounds of fruit and never ever has processed sugar. In fact if she eats chocolate she claims she is having heart palpitations.

I call this extreme and have had words, but she seems to have done a degree in nutrition and animal welfare and, as long as she is eating enough of the right stuff, it is hard to complain, though I am worried that she is going to find it hard to go to other people’s houses. Daughter one is not quite as healthy and definitely not into exercise of any form, but is vegetarian and doesn’t do much sugar. Daughter three is going the same way and one of her charts for the 2017 involves drinking more water. She has a resolution to eat more healthily and when daughter three makes a resolution and writes it on a list, it will get done.

That leaves only son, who doesn’t really like meat anyway unless it is chicken, but is a big fan of sweets. Because he is six. I tend to think that a little of what you fancy is okay as long as you also put across the healthy eating messages and ensure it is not an everyday thing. As soon as he puts something sweet in his mouth, though, daughter one feels the urge to make a speech about the sugar industry. I think if there were parenting ratings [these probably exist…no doubt on Snapchat], I would be rated a two out of 10 by daughter one. This could be slightly optimistic.

Next comes education. Only son was in the bath the other day. He is beginning to study history at school and it has caught his imagination in a big way. He has become fairly interested in Samuel Pepys and his diary. “Did you know Samuel Pepys had slaves?” asked daughter one. Only son did not know so daughter one proceeded to explain the history of slavery to only son. “And that is why we have institutional racism today,” she finished.

Only son looked slightly perplexed. He had lost the thread of the talk after the bit about the British wanting Africa’s riches such as diamonds. “Do you know what diamonds are made of?” he asked daughter one. Daughter one said this was beside the point. “Did they steal the emeralds too because emeralds are made of…?” daughter one cut him short and went into more detail about slavery. Only son was getting the picture. History was not necessarily about good stuff. “Did they make the babies slaves too?” he inquired, his eyes opening wide. “Yes, they did,” said daughter one. “And that is why there are so many problems in America today.”

She started to talk about the US elections, but only son was getting slightly tired [and anxious – he thought he only had to worry about the Green Goblin in the US] so she took him to bed and read him some stories about the Greek gods, pointing out helpfully that she believed that no gods really exist. Only son is at a Church of England primary school.

I told daughter one that maybe she should consider the fact that only son is only six and that he’d much rather be told that the good guys always win, even if it takes a while. “He needs a message of hope in the manner of Barack Obama,” I said. She said she is worried that he is too into Minecraft and that it will “rot” his brain. “I do not want my son becoming a nerd,” she muttered as she went downstairs to do her homework.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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