Conversations with my children

I am certain my children were born with the lazy gene.

Or perhaps the learned helplessness mutation of the lazy gene. Dark Princess and I are downstairs in the lounge. The lounge is covered in boxes and baskets full of washing, oh and floor rug a la dog hair! Like a mohair rug, with a hint of fox stink.

‘Can you go and start dinner for me please?’ I ask Dark Princess.

‘What are we having?’ She asks without lifting her head from her laptop. Rattlesnake eggs and spiders’ webs.

‘Bangers and mash.’

I wait for a moment or so. No movement.

‘Now would be good.’

She harumphs, gets off the couch and makes her way into the kitchen. I continue folding washing. The never ending Himalayas of laundry. One day my Sir Edmund Hillary will come.

‘Mum, where’s the potato peeler?’

‘In the drawer.’

‘It’s not there.’


‘Oh. Got it’.

Fancy that! Someone’s actually used it and put it in the diswasher. There’s a moment of silence.

‘The potato peeler doesn’t work’.

I can see all movement in the kitchen has ceased. She appears to be reading a Pizza takeaway brochure, with intent. I wait, and then put down the washing I’m folding to go into the kitchen to check on the faulty potato peeler. Of course it doesn’t work. It is after all an extraordinarily technical tool, full of moving parts and hi-tech chips that often breaks down.

‘It’s fine! Of course it works! Like this!’ I demonstrate how to hold the potato peeler.

Dark Princess is 14.5. At her age I was cooking meals for the family. But that was back in the day when we ate dog food for lunch (if we were lucky) and I walked miles through the snow to school with only newspapers on my back to keep me warm. Occasionally dinner was fricasee of hard-luck rat.

Dark Princess picks up the potato peeler and laboriously starts to peel. It takes ten minutes to peel one potato. We may be eating at about 3am at this rate. I have to force myself to not get involved and head back out to the lounge. After all 3am is dinner time – somewhere in the world.

30 minutes or so later.

‘How long do I boil the potatoes for?’

‘Until they’re done.’

‘How do I know if they’re done?’

‘When you can smash them with a knife and they’re soft.’

It would not be maternal or kind to add ‘you numpty!’ but I think it anyway.

I am losing patience. I was not blessed with patience at the best of times but to not know when the tatties are cooked? God above, have I spent my life running around after them so much they have no life skills at all?

Minutes pass. Decades wander by. I am aging before my very eyes. I now wear glasses, carry a cane and take daily suppositries for my constipation.

Dark Princess is still cooking dinner.

‘Have you put the sausages on yet?’

A huge flurry of movement in the kitchen. Papers are rustled, books slam down, the fridge door opens and shuts. I can hear the frying pan slam down onto the gas ring and the sizzle of sausages.

We may get to eat before the end of the milennium. Hurrah!

Which is a good thing as my Englishman has arrived home, Son breezes in through the door from college and Miss Ten has emerged still dripping from her shower.

‘How are we going?’ I enquire of the chef.

‘Almost ready.’

The cook sounds stressed.

Could it possibly have  anything to do with the smell of singed pork and the pall of smoke? I fight a strong physical urge to race into the kitchen like the cavalry. I start counting. Patience can be whipped into action by recalling numbers.

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 56.., 89..’

Surely it would have been easier to  cook myself. Surely? And that is the trap. That’s how they get you. Learned helplessness.

Dinner is served not long after by a red faced hassled looking cook who will, from now on, be paying far more attention in her cooking classes at school.

Dinner was charred sausages served on a bed of potato that had devolved into a river of chalk. Not a hint of green on the plate, but considerable lashings of tomato sauce.


Mums and Dads of younger kids, hear this old wives’ tale and consider this: if you constantly do things for your children how on earth will they ever learn enough to do it for themselves?

And more importantly, do it for you?

Images: Flickr CC



'Conversations with my children' has 9 comments

  1. September 18, 2010 @ 4:08 pm kayK

    (I love your blog and I am not giving up although your commenting system seems to strike in both my browsers.. )
    My husband is very hesitant to impose any chores on his teenage kids who ‘hang about’ with their laptops in our house only a part time basis. I am fine with this, but I have different plans for my 4 year old. I am keeping him interested and make him assist in the kitchen, especially after the hysterical fit of laughter I had when my 18yo stepson actually offered to help with the potatoes and then did not have a clue how to hold the peeler, just like your dark princess (great nickname, ours just getting out of that phase via her first bf, thank god). generation y or z, tech savy certainly. but life skills ? fail.


    • September 18, 2010 @ 10:38 pm Anonymous

      Sorry about discuss misbehaving I’ll see if I can fix it tommow. Thanks for
      your comments. Good to know my teens are not only ones without life skills!


  2. September 18, 2010 @ 4:11 pm Steve

    Too right. We have similar arguments and accusations of gross cruelty and slavery every Saturday when we aks our eldest to do his sole weekly chore of hoovering the house. We get tantrums, we get mutters under the breath, reproachful looks… but the thing that annoys me the most is the “deliberate go slow”… as you say; it would be so much quicker to do it myself but that is not the point at all!


    • September 18, 2010 @ 10:41 pm Anonymous

      Oh we even the line trotted out.: we have rights. They must be doing child
      labour in school. Didn’t go down well. What rights do parents have?


  3. September 18, 2010 @ 7:13 pm Notes From Lapland

    my husband told the kids (4 & 2) to tidy up their bedroom a few days ago – it looked like it had been gone over by the crime squad, all the shelves were bare and not a scrap of floor could be seen.

    My daughter looked up at mu husband and said with all sincerity ‘but mummy does the cleaning, me and *insert brothers name* play.’

    Since then i have been making them do stuff even if it would be 10 billions times faster and better done if I just did it myself.


  4. September 18, 2010 @ 10:10 pm Miss Behaving

    Lol, same story here, I think I’m giving them the gift of independence, they take it as neglect and exploitation. My teenager once asked me how she’s know when the coffee cup was full? ( How do you not scream ‘numpty’ there?).


  5. September 18, 2010 @ 10:41 pm Susie @ Newdaynewlesson

    My kids know how to do almost all of things. They complain, try to get out of it, but do it.

    Is it the way I would do it? Nope, but I have relaxed my standards in the past 20 years. (My 20 year old self would have cringed at the thought, of me relaxing my standards and also being 40 ouch). I now clean my house which is almost 4 times the size of my apartment 20 years ago in less time then it took me to clean the smaller apartment. (However the advantage of once being a neat freak is that people don’t believe you can really be a slob and they let things go, thinking I am just having a bad day-ummm nope it’s bad years.)

    Each kid has their speciality. One does floors and bathrooms better, one cooks better, one straightens up and folds laundry better, one empties the garbages…

    My kids may complain but
    a) I want my daughter in laws to like me
    b) I don’t think we do our kid a service by spoon feeding them everything
    c) I would collapse without help.


  6. September 18, 2010 @ 11:56 pm aussiejazz

    They end up doing things for you?!? A glimmer of hope….

    At this very moment, I have a 4yo Miss flapping about and complaining that her “bottom hurts because I didn’t wipe properly. You need to do it for me.” To which I am trying to keep my cool as I explain to her that if she can so eloquently express both the sensation AND the reason for it ANNND, no less, her own justified solution…. she no longer needs a wiper.

    I think I am a long way off being cooked for. But I live in hope that the day will come.


  7. September 19, 2010 @ 12:22 pm river

    Mine all learned to cook fairly early, because I told them that they would not be allowed to leave home until they could cook a full meal, including dessert. They didn’t actually cook for me very often, but they knew how.


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