Monday 18 March 2013

Mummy on the edge - Families Magazine March April 2013

Addiction to tablets (or a hard pill to swallow)

If I was going to give Mini-Me a tablet at Christmas, it would have been packaged in a blister pack and said “Calpol” on the box. The one she actually got (not from me but from her abroad-dwelling father who promised it to her way back in May) seems to precipitate headaches rather alleviate them.

Take the other day: Mini-Me was supposed to be getting ready for her Saturday morning activity while I was getting ready for work. Was she getting ready? Was she heck! She was on the tablet playing one of these games she had downloaded. I'm not sure if it was “Temple Run” (which involves following a desperate figure running around an ancient building seemingly looking for the loo) or “Subway Surfer” ( which worryingly involves graffiti and possibly trains). Either way, she knew it was an inappropriate time to be playing. This, as well as other infractions varying from not giving me school letters (causing my non-payment of school lunch money - quel embarrassment!) to READING when she was supposed to be HELPING caused this paragon of self-control and inner peace to blow her top.

“How are you going to manage at secondary school” I ranted, “if you cannot do what you are supposed to do without being reminded?” Maybe it was my fault for being too soft on her all these years. Historically, I have never been very good at punishment. This is partly down to being a sufferer of acute “OCAF” (only child absent father) guilt syndrome, and partly because her misdemeanours never seem grave enough to warrant it. (Can you really tell a child off for reading??) Which led me to my good cop bad cop dilemma (being the only cop in the house, it's sort of a dual role, actually). It was time for bad cop to pipe up.

“I'm taking your tablet away now because I need you to understand that when you don't do what you are supposed to do (i.e. listen to me), or when you do what you are not supposed to do (i.e. play games on the tablet at the wrong time), there is a consequence. I think I haven't done this before so it's about time I started.” This virtual admission on my part that her repeated transgressions were indirectly my fault, had a completely neutral effect: “I think that's a good idea, mummy, because I don't want to be the kind of person who gets addicted to games on the tablet. And anyway, I have managed perfectly well without it all these years.”

I thought telling her to use a book instead of the interweb for her science research homework would annoy her but no, not at all. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Punishment That's Not a Punishment At All.

So I have changed tack. Incentives are the way forward. On Mini-Me's birthday wishlist was a pack of 20 Staedler Triplus felt tips that lots of her friends have. They have a triangular barrel and don't dry out if you leave the top off but they are about 1000% more expensive than a pack from the poundshop. Did I get them for her? Yes! Have I given them to her? NO. As I write I am hatching a cunning plan: I'm going to give her the empty box as incentive to earn one to two pens a day (starting with black, then brown, then grey, beige...) IF she does everything she's supposed to WITHOUT me having to nag.

So at a rate of 1.5 pens a day, that gives me around 2 weeks turn her into a reformed Mini-Me who makes her bed, does all her homework on time, and practices her instruments every day as well as anything else I deem essential to her personal growth (par exemple: emptying the washing machine and hanging the clothes to dry). In the mean time, I'm going to do my own research into installing parental controls on the gadget to make it a bit harder for her to go google-eyed.

Assuming, of course, that I can remember where I hid it.

For more Life on the Edge with Angelina (including the results of her parental control - both human and gadget,) visit Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at

Sunday 17 March 2013

This is my entry to win an online writing bootcamp from Urban Writers’ Retreat -

I am a single mummy on the edge, running my own business teaching baby signing classes and writing a bi-monthly column called “Mummy on the Edge” (all about being a single mummy on the edge and running my own business teaching baby signing classes). Commencement Of The Oeuvre is blocked by Sole Responsibility For Everything. However, my daughter will be spending nearly three quarters of April away from me, which she has never done before. And (uniquely this spring) my teaching terms, like two halves of artisinal ciabatta, sandwich April! Making it a decadent, balsamic-roasted-vegetable-and-buffalo-mozzarella of a month: I will have the time and space to participate and therefore NO TIME OR SPACE FOR EXCUSES. I was led to your site by happy accident and I feel participation in your Boot Camp (and the ensuing scribing habit) may just lead me to accidental happiness.