Sunday, 22 March 2009


Is it a real word? I don’t think so and if it is it shouldn’t be.
I first came across it as I mentioned earlier (the Rules) in the doctor’s surgery when I was hoping to find a solution to Snooks’ piercing squeal (as yet, nada).

I think it means ‘exposing your child to other people so he learns how to rub along with his fellows ’ or it could mean ‘making your child do what you say so you are not tut-tutted at in the supermarket’.

Whatever it is, a lot of strangers seem anxious that I should do it. It is often the riposte delivered when I say that I have given up work to stay at home with Snooks.

‘Oh he needs to be around other people,’ they say. ‘He needs to interact with other children,’ I am told, firmly.

I didn’t say I planned to bolt the doors each morning after the Engineer departs for work, draw the blinds and hold him to me murmuring ‘Mummy loves you the most’ until tea-time.

Snooks, as it happens, is a wildly sociable baby. From the moment he could focus, more or less, he demonstrated a clear preference for young blonde women whom he would beam at as we trundled our way around the streets and shops of south London.

He was the first of his little gang to smile and has always been ready to play whenever anyone else was up for it. It is true, he prefers adult company to his peers but then this too only shows a rather sound grasp of his ‘society’ as he knows that food, tickling, whizzing around like an aeroplane and snoozing on a warm broad chest all involve adult participation.

His first social occasion was a dinner party, where he was passed from knee to knee and sung ‘The Day I Went to Sea’, earning him a new hat and the nickname Captain S. McGinty.

He attended both his father’s and mother’s birthday dinners turning a resolutely sour French waitress all gooey with his twinkling smile at one and being invited to some kind of Masonic meeting taking place in an adjoining room at the other.

And at six months, on his first trip to the Med with the Engineer and I, he pulled another waitress, this time a brassy blonde Spaniard, who blew him kisses across the room as she served the endless stream of gruesome English tourists.

But as he is getting older and more mobile, and some of his first friends are disappearing to nursery, he and I need to make sure we have a community to be part of, for his entertainment and my sanity.

To this end I find myself peering at church notice boards to establish whether they run a playgroup, as oddly, it seems to have been left to the good will of elderly female Christian parishioners to provide socialisation for mothers and toddlers who have not chosen the nursery/back-to-work route.

And what a service they provide too. For around £1 a go, I get all the tea I can drink and a rather bossy mother figure, and he gets the run of the church hall.

Snooks loves it, and despite the gap in age (he is usually the youngest there) and height (he is small but perfectly formed) he takes off like a tiny bull in full charge, head down, fearless, into the crowd. I watch anxiously from the sidelines, nursing my tea, as he wrestles the most interesting looking toy out of the hands of a boy twice his size and then wince at the inevitable, but well-disguised shove he gets as a result.

I have asked other mums when they think it right to intervene and restore order – this boy was playing with that toy first and will you please take your foot off my son’s fingers - and had varying responses. Some get in there immediately establishing the ‘who had it first’ code, instilling some sense of external monitoring. Others believe in a more laissez faire approach so their children will learn about hard knocks – how to give and receive them – without their intervention.

I find it almost impossible to stand by and see Snooks puzzling over the injustice when something he thought was his to play with, that no one else seemed to want and he has dragged across the room to show me, is snatched from him moments before he reaches his destination, and then tossed aside by the assailant. He looks at me in confusion.

So is the news that Life Isn’t Fair part of his socialisation? Or do I bring in the big guns at this point and tell him “Life isn’t fair and in fact it may suck sometimes but your reward will be in heaven if you don’t snatch the toys back off the other children.”

Maybe I just give that little tyke who took the train off him a good clout next time we go to playgroup. Tempting. Very tempting.

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