I got a phone call from my husband this week that started like this:
Him: "Hi darling, it's me"
Me: "Oh, hi! God, thank god...Where are you??"
Him: "I'm in a pub..."
So many things I could have said next have since come to mind. All are witty and cutting. All are executed by a thin woman wearing Zara, clutching a salad. Unfortunately I was too relieved to say anything at all, wearing my dressing gown and clutching a Twirl.
The children and I had come in after a trip to the shops to find the house empty. Henry's sister ran up and down the stairs calling 'Daddy! Daddy!' to no avail. He's probably popped to the shops I thought, flopping our bags down in the hall and picking up coats and shoes.
Half an hour passed. I made a cup of tea and, hiding a Twirl from the children, gave him a call. His mobile rang out from the sitting room.
That seemed weird. And there was his wallet too.
And inside me, a teensy little bit of worry...
You see, Henry's Father has been looking for work for quite a few weeks now. It's the nature of his job as a contractor that he will sometimes have lots of work and sometimes have none. But when there is none you can never quite relax somehow. And it's hard for someone who is so used to using his brain doing Very Hard Maths all day, everyday, to suddenly finding himself at home reading Dear Zoo and cutting cheese sandwiches into triangles.
Maybe he is really depressed and I hadn't noticed, I suddenly thought. Maybe I've been so busy sitting at the computer turning faces for hard boiled eggs and shoes for jellyfish into a craft book that my husband has been sitting, sad and alone, all by himself in the kitchen with only his unemployed thoughts for company and I hadn't realised....Maybe he's walked out. Oh God. He's left us. He's left us! But left me his phone as a present. And his wallet. With all his cards...let me just...HSBC, Santander, that's our savings...I do know his PIN don't I..? I wonder how much a KMix is on Amaz...
Then the phone rang.
And I truly was relieved because I have been really distracted this week, amongst other things working on a reward chart for Henry's sister.
Since the introduction of pocket money three weeks ago I have found reeling off a list of Excellent Things You Have Done This Week really hard. Not because she hasn't done any, but because it's quite difficult to be very specific at 6.30am on a Saturday morning when a poor ceramic representation of a Disney Princess is two centimetres from my nose in bed. What I really need, I decided triumphantly, is a Reward Chart. Something to point at, something to show her. Something to prove to people who come round that we are
And she needs it. I didn't realise quite how 'assertive' four year olds can be. Have the Government introduced 'backchat' as part of the Early Years framework? So far this week I have tried and largely failed to find appropriate and witty responses to:
- "I don't like any of your options" (suggesting things to do that aren't watching television)
- "I can't be bothered to do you a favour" (request to close a drafty door)
- "Beauty and the Beast is using my imagination" (suggesting things to do that aren't watching television, round two)
- "I'm not ever going to be your friend" (plea to get dressed)
- "No" (encouragement to share Easter Egg with me)
- "No, Mummy" (demand to share Easter Egg with me)
- "I SAID NO" (begging to share Easter Egg with me)
- "Can I have some" (plea to keep a secret from Daddy while eating Henry's Easter Egg)
So I wrote a list of things I think are important for a child to learn and that they should be rewarded for.
The first is to be Caring and Kind. So far, being a parent seems to be all about being caring and kind but through slightly stressy enforcement of made-up-on-the-spot rules such as 'I care about your face, please stop pressng it against the oven' and 'I care about you being a bit fat when you're older, no you can't have a bit of my biscuit.' Confusing.
The second is Trust and/or Honesty. Will struggle to demonstrate this; Father Christmas, the tooth fairy, where the Easter eggs really are (in me)...I must lie to them every day.
The third is Initiative, as in using it. This one will be difficult to reward as I've found that the best examples of initiative in a child occur after they have done something naughty; telling Daddy that Mummy said she could watch television is a massive lie, but a clever one. Minimising the impact of grease from cheese that has ruined the upholstering on our antique sofa this week by simply sitting on it - my child is a genius.
The fourth is Effort, or Trying Hard. Difficult for me to lead by example so much on this one as I tend to reserve most of my effort for the evenings when I Try (very) Hard not to watch Masterchef and instead sit down and do some work. Effort during the day is minimal; I'm trying not to eat all the stilton, but do it anyway and so on. Things that require genuine effort are totally lost on small children. For example today's attempt to have a conversation with John Lewis Customer Service while a one year old cries into my leg downstairs, a four year old is shouting 'I've done a poo' upstairs and I'm simultaneously separating several basket loads of clothes - most of which are not mine - into 'colours', 'darks', 'whites', 'lights' and the two garments, one jet black and one pure white that go under 'why-did-I-buy-this-thing-that-can't-be-put-in-at-40'. Where is my gold star please?
The fifth value is Helpfulness. A bit like asking them to be caring and kind but there's more in it for me.
The sixth is Trying New Things. With the exception of guinea pig food. Henry, if you're reading this...
The final value is Bravery and/or Confidence. It's vitally important to approach life with a sense of adventure, to embrace the challenges that we have been born to face, to learn to stand up, stand tall in the face of adversity and not be afraid to go for our dreams. And bloody well go to the loo without me having to take you - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MONSTERS.
I've also realised you are never too old for a Values Chart to be stuck on your kitchen wall. I sometimes think, when I am on the edge of throwing my tea at the wall because Tesco substituted somerset camembert for a cornish brie in our delivery, or I'm fuming because somebody deleted the series record for Holby on Sky so I have to watch it on the iPad, that I need a little reminder of how to be a better example to my children.
And I'm glad Henry's father is at home, because while he is around there is an even greater chance of them understanding good values in real life.
It turns out that, although he was in the pub, he hadn't left us and then changed his mind.
He had gone for a run.
A run for the first time since he broke his foot some months ago (brave). He decided to go on a new route (trying new things) but got lost. Miles from anywhere he flagged down a post van (initiative) and got a lift to the nearest village. He had no money, water or phone so asked to make a call in a nearby pub to ask us to come and get him. He got a drink and said he would pay when we arrived (honest).
He had run 13 miles (effort) and was dehydrated and exhausted. He said thank you to me for picking him up (kind) and sorry for interrupting my Twirl* (caring).
When we got home he looked after the kids while I made dinner (helpful) and looked up his route on a map. It turns out that while he thought he was following the River Ouse, he was actually running around a pond.
He trusted me not to put that bit in my blog.
The chart isn't up yet.
*Blog not sponsored by Twirl. Probably owe me something though, for all the mentions...Happy to discuss, Cadburys?
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