It’s an underrated parental skill – the power to bring people with very different agendas together, even if only by force…
So much of the role of a parent involves bringing people together – a much underrated skill in today’s world of division.
As anyone who has more than one child and is involved with sibling relations on a day-to-day basis knows, this is no easy task. Often the children involved have totally different ideas about what they, for instance, find ‘fun’ or ‘cool’. This leads to a system of bartering. If we do inflatable fun with your brother, we can play K-pop very loudly all the way there and back and you can laugh at your mother attempting to slide under a giant plastic ball, for instance. This does not always work.
Last weekend my partner was away which can make for a more easy-going atmosphere because he has fairly entrenched views about what he wants to do on a Saturday. These centre around food, rest and doing not much. I, on the other hand, have a long list of things to do to prepare for Monday and making up for not having enough time to talk to the kids during the week. This is, I realise, nowhere near the nirvana of ‘shared parenting’, but it is how it goes in our house.
In any event, there I was trying to keep everyone happy and doing fairly well in the morning part when just one child was up – watching Harry Potter, cleaning, chatting about HDMI cables, editing Geometry Dash and the like, as you do. I asked only son what he wanted to do and he listed rounders, tennis [it was freezing and raining], inflatable ‘fun’ and other delights. I knew that none would appeal to the teens in even the most remote sense. In the end I tried to encourage him to come to the library to investigate Harry Potter books.
When they were up, I suggested various options to the teens, including shopping trips which I thought might appeal. Daughter three ruled out any shops in a fairly wide-ranging area which covered half the county in case she bumped into people she knew. I suggested the cinema. No-one knows you in the dark. There was no film on which everyone agreed, although I did a very good PR job on Farmageddon. It appeared, however, that only I was the one convinced by it. Only son is holding out for the new Jumanji film.
Daughter three, meanwhile, was totally preoccupied with her iphone situation – it’s bust. I tried to sort it, but ended up making it worse. Stropping followed, mainly by me. I had attempted to do something nice, but life is complex and buying a second-hand phone is not easy. I got one that is locked to EE and has not enough GB for K-pop downloads. I flounced out to Tesco with only son and rang my partner who I sensed might know about unlocking phones. He was in mid-siesta and not really all there. I decided Saturday was not working out too well. I rang daughter one at university to share my thoughts. She was on airplane mode – she probably switched as soon as she saw my number coming up. Only son was doing his best to look on the bright side. He’d be happy to take the iphone, he said. Hmm.
I returned home and decided that what was needed was some sort of group activity. I decided that group activity was Scrabble, a game I am highly competitive in. Daughter two spent the entire game making up words. Daughter three was feeling a bit guilty so was trying to do her best despite loathing Scrabble. Only son was winning, but retired early.
We watched Harry Potter. Daughter three said nothing beat home. Only son made a cogent bid for homeschooling [again] and daughter two just smiled mysteriously. Daughter one texted to say we could meet up in the morning. It was not quite the Waltons, but I think I’d call it a successful bringing together of different interests.