Self improvement, the number one holiday activity


Daughter one has been going through my blogs, as she does from time to time, and she’s not happy. “I didn’t say that in so many words,” she said of one comment on summer holidays just showing up the essential meaningless of life. “You’re such a journalist,” she added for good measure. I explained that I cannot write word for word entire paragraphs of what she said in a blog and that essentially “daughter one” functions as an avatar for the real thing.

Daughter one is far more complex and interesting than “daughter one” – as are daughters two and three and the bundle of enthusiasm that is only son. Daughter three has been creating a self-improvement grid for the holidays. It includes measuring her water intake and being less sarcastic, although it does not quite extend to picking up her clothes from the floor. There is an elaborate system for marking when a self-improvement activity has been achieved or partially achieved or indeed flunked. There are lots of slogans about beauty being about the inner person, despite the fact that daughter three currently spends an awful lot of her time investigating make-up. The mixed messages that pre-teen and teen girls receive are enough to make them spontaneously combust.

Only son is working on his own self–improvement plan. He has got some books out from the library – a few Horrid Henrys and a David Walliams novel. He is already on chapter eight. I sold it on the idea that it was going to be “really, really funny” and contain lots of farts and poos. “I’m on chapter eight and I haven’t laughed yet,” said only son yesterday. Oh dear. You wouldn’t want him as your book reviewer.

I’ve been casting around for rainy holiday activities that cost nothing. It was so easy in the old days. Stuff like making dens, playing hide and seek, cleaning the house, etc, could always be counted on to motivate the team. Now they are mainly pre-teen or teen-ish and any suggestion of doing anything at all gets short shrift. “What about cleaning the windows?” I said the other day. “We could put some music on and create our own cleaning concoction. Bags of fun.” Daughter one had brought home some old LPs from my mum’s house the previous day. The vast majority were my brother’s – he was the cool one in the family – but there was one of mine. Boney M’s classic, Nightflight to Venus. What better than ra-ra-Rasputin to clean the windows to? No-one reacted to my suggestion. Daughter three simply asked: “So what ARE we doing today, mum?”

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Picture c/o Wiki Commons.

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