Monday, 22 June 2009

domestic bliss

My son is on his way to becoming every girl’s (or boy’s) dream.

As I have mentioned once or twice before he is quite extraordinarily handsome (he just walked in here in his stripy Barnacle Bill t-shirt), has an easy laugh and a good grasp of the basics of kissing.

Most teenage girls settle for far less.

But there’s more. He can add to this fine personal profile a penchant for housework and in particular a keen understanding of the workings of the washing machine and tumble dryer.

Now at first I did not encourage this. I thought it was a fad and just waited for it to pass. But then it dawned on me as I battled to keep him out of the way while I whisked baskets and baskets of washing out of one appliance and into the other, that there could be another way. I should heed that famous pearl once delivered by former Prime Minister John Major, “Better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.” (I'm guessing he was referring to those pesky party faithfuls who never got over his succession to That Woman - but you get my drift.)

So I changed tack and started to teach little Snooks how to feed dirty washing into the washer drum, how to wait for the conditioner to go into the drawer before shutting it, how to shut the drum door and finally how to press the ‘On’ button, just once.

I see you more experienced parents nodding. Ah yes. She will regret that. Once he knows how to do ‘On’ he will soon move on to ‘Off’ and will employ his new talent to quietly sabotage future washes, secretly halting the programme to leave all our essentials unwashed and forgotten until moments before we need them. Oh yes, I have foreseen it all.

But so far, such rapprochement has brought only domestic harmony. I let him press the button; he does not put the clean washing down the toilet. I let him put it into the dryer; he does not drag the freshly laundered bedding around the garden attached to the back of his Combi.

And it does not stop there.

Just yesterday I found myself partaking in some voluntary Hoovering, partly to pick up the bits of organic-carrot-cake-made-with-oats-and-no-sugar-but-something-very-orange-which-stains-like-nothing-on-earth bar, which Snooks had spread from one room to the next, but mainly to entertain him.

You see, he is now the proud owner of his very own mini Electrolux upright, which is lovingly stored next to his cot each night where he can see it first thing the next morning ready for a new day of busy, busy, busy (if only it actually worked!) cleaning.

However, cute as it was to watch, I had to admit that he could hardly be mirroring me, as the times he has seen me use a vacuum cleaner can be counted on your one free rubber-gloved hand. The Engineer asked me once, when Snooks was about three months old, if he was afraid of the vacuum cleaner. I stumbled over the answer a bit, considered lying, and eventually answered truthfully that I had no idea.

This does not mean we have three months worth of dust on our carpets, I should add. It just means that I run away to the park during the weekly visit by the cleaner, too embarrassed to be here while she cleans around me.

So at the risk of filling Snooks’ head with any silly ideas about women’s role in life (a friend recently said how she regretted asking her three-year-old daughter what she wanted to do when she grew up, to be told “Nothing mummy, like you.”) I rummaged around in the hall cupboard and emerged with the real deal, vrooming up and down alongside him, and actually making some impact on the cake debris.

There may be a danger that Snooks could turn what many consider to be demeaning, domestic drudgery endured by women trapped in their homes with lively toddlers, into fun.

But don’t tell anyone.

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