Tuesday 13 November 2007

Mummy on the Edge Families NW Magazine Nov/ Dec 2007

Mummy on the Edge
Angelina Melwani sits, mouth agape, in a television induced stupor.

It’s impossible to avoid the onslaught of Christmas advertising everywhere, from shops to television. I try to remind myself that it’s the time I spend with Mini-Me that she remembers, not the money (thank goodness because, let’s face it, there’s not always much of that around). It’s the welly-time dodging cow pats in Bentley Priory in Stanmore on our way to feed Rudolph and the other deer. Or pretend spaceship time under the duvet dodging the “astronoids” on our way to her various imaginary worlds where non-fruit objects grow on trees. Or simply doing the Pyjama Rhumba before breakfast in our own version of Strictly Come Dancing.
Apart from Saturday night competition telly (the ideal accompaniment to after dinner cuddles on the sofa – not counting when I start blubbing when a woe-ridden single mother gets through to the next round of X Factor looked on in adoration by her heart-meltingly proud little daughter – this will surely change their lives), Mini-me doesn’t watch too much TV. Ours is wonkily nailed to the wall at neck-ache-inducing height which means that unless I deign it otherwise, the standby button remains off. I ration out kids TV - with our Freeview box a choice of either Cbeebies, (mostly too babyish) or CBBC and CITV (mostly too grown up). Draconian? Yes, but it means I have the ultimate remote control (geddit?) Also, I have recently discovered that in the day time on CBBC they show Schools Programmes which I now record and pass off as “kids tv”. After all, for a five and a half year old, learning how important coconuts are to the lives of children in Kerala is infinitely more useful than watching the Ninky Nonk’s nocturnal habits in the Night Garden.
The good thing about the BBC is that there are no advertisements corrupting our children and supplanting their innocence, creativity and enthusiasm for fresh air with unworldly desires for fantastic plastic tat. Mini-Me has been told that generally it’s not wise to ask for toys advertised on television because they are almost never as much fun as they look on TV and will surely only ever disappoint. She has since digested, assimilated and churned back this sensible advice, but unfortunately not in time for me to cancel my order for TV’s best selling “Rocket Blender” (as seen on a reliable infomercial) which now occupies an inordinate amount of space at the back of my least-frequented kitchen cupboard.
In terms of pure evil I don’t think it is too harsh to say that it comes in the form of shoes. First it was LED lights on shoes; but okay, they were a bit of harmless fun for trainers. Then came wheels in shoes with all their resultant fractures. Now, as you read this, tens of thousands of children are collectively yanking off their Clarks school shoes in the freezing wet playground to peel back their insoles and fight over their identical “secret” toys (shockingly sexist – dolls for girls and cars for boys) and, no doubt, raising feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in those whose parents and carers did not succumb. There already exist secret compartments in children’s clothes; they are called pockets and, having spent 10 minutes emptying the crevices of the washing machine drum of re-hydrated raisins I am prepared to argue that even these are extraneous to needs! Toys in shoes is marketing at its most manipulative. I concede that a colourful piece of junk makes hydrogenated fat-filled fast food infinitely more appealing at the golden arches. But since when did children need an incentive not to leave the house barefoot? Who was the inspiration behind this product’s development? The shoe-bomber? And whatever is next? Probably secret TVs in shoes so they don’t have to play together at break time at all.

If you need help with cutting spending or just sorting your finances out a bit, it’s really worth checking out the moneysavingexpert.com website run by Martin Lewis and signing up for the free money-saving newsletters. It’s not for profit, it’s not annoying and it’s where I found out about a super free laptop offer which I’ve now applied for and which will enable me to work from bed – whilst zooming through space on my way to Cream Slice World!

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing courses in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.