Friday 1 January 2010

Mummy on the Edge- FamliesNW Magazine Jan/Feb 2010

Mummy on the edge tries not to pass on long-standing homework anxiety to Mini-Me and makes a New Year’s Resolution on the way.

Mini-Me’s homework is getting weightier in quantity and required quality. And I am feeling the pressure. The latest assignment was a project on Victorian Schools which we – I mean SHE - forgot all about – until it was mentioned by my friend, another mum, in passing. This left us – I mean HER – 2 and a half weeks to complete it, instead of the 4 weeks that we - I mean SHE - should have had.

It was time to take affirmative action. Which meant not spending half the available working time on the following pencil-related activity: 5 minutes: lecture on not using a pen for homework because it always turns out messy, despite the fact that she has been told repeatedly with near Joan-Crawford-wire-coat-hanger clarity that all homework should be done with a pencil, NOT a pen. 10 minutes: looking for a pencil, despite the fact that she has precisely a zillion of them. 4 minutes: looking for a sharpener (ditto). 1 minute: sharpening the pencil, 2 seconds: the lead breaking because she’s dropped the pencil several times, 1 minute: re-sharpening the pencil, 5 minutes: looking for a less-pointless (har har) sharpener that didn’t con its way into our house via a party bag. That’s over 20 minutes used up without writing a single word. According to the homework guidelines that Mini-Me brought home in her first week of Year 3, homework shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. So we are – I mean SHE is behind before she’s even started.

We needed to re-asses the use of time and allocate minutes more effectively.
So, while at the pound shop picking up padded envelopes (£1 for a pack of 6!) I also bought some auto-poppy pencils. (Plus a pot of pickled peppers! Amazing what you can get there…)

“What did Victorian children do at home mummy?” Mini-Me asked me that evening.
“Well,” I answered thoughtfully, “they had to keep their house very, very tidy.” Mini immediately skipped off up the stairs to clean her room and I was left wondering how I could milk this thing. Could I also tell her that Victorian children helped their mothers empty the dishwasher and washing machine and vacuum the interior of the car?

So for two weeks, spurred on by her tyrannical Victorian schoolmarm mother (just to give her a realistic experience, you understand,) Mini-Me spent an hour and a half every evening reading several books and scanning websites. She diligently wrote and illustrated sections of her project on Victorian school punishments (finger-stocks for fidgets – fantastic idea!) equipment, clothing and Other Stuff. Sentence by spidery sentence, she worked her way through the project, with an admirably fastidious commitment to putting things in her own words that sometimes turned up-side-down what she meant to say.
It seems harsh but I just feel I have to train her from an early age not to turn out like me. I mean, look: I was supposed to email this article this morning and I’m writing it this evening! I have come to feel inured to this sick feeling at the pit of my stomach, always knowing that there is something I need to have done. It is an inheritance I would be eternally grateful not to pass down.

I can still feel the itch on the end of my nose that I couldn’t scratch myself, because my hands were soaked in wallpaper paste, while working with BFFB (best friend fashion buyer) on a joint primary school project on Astronomy. While our classmates were diligently writing, heads down, we wasted all class project time farting about with balloons and papier maché with the vague and doomed intention of making a moving model of the solar system. Because it was hilarious fun. Needless to say, we didn’t finish it. At the last minute, we changed the subject to Astrology and copied most of the information from an article from my older sister’s ancient Jackie annual.

Anyway, by the time it came to handing in Mini-Me’s project, I felt like I had taken part in a BBC Three reality show called “The most impatient parent in the world”. Any minute I could be kidnapped, locked in the conference room of the Watford Travelodge with Mini-Me and a psychologist, and made to watch video-footage of myself in our house, barking about pencils and dishwashers. What an ordeal. And what a relief that it’s over. Hopefully, both Mini-Me and I have learnt our lesson. Our New Year’s Resolution is to start our homeworks the very day we get them. So I’m going write next issue’s article RIGHT NOW. Happy New Year.

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at