Despite an ear-splitting burglar alarm, our next-door neighbour has been broken into four times. The last time the police came round they told us to be extra vigilant because, thieves often come back and turn over nearby homes. Though that’s a good deterrent, he said, referring to the sign on our front door that, as well as scaring timid children and nervous old ladies, apparently also works on your jobbing macho tea-leaf. It strikes fear into the pants of husky taxi drivers and gasmen - and, even - praise-the-lord, door-to-door evangelists, who can be found edging backwards down the front path after they’ve rung the doorbell – all because of a generic sticker the size of a 2-bar Kit Kat that reads ‘beware of the dog’.
But don’t worry, said my daughter reassuringly to a frightened friend, cowering by the garden gate.
We don’t actually have a dog.
Oh yes, I am mother, see me roar.
It’s true that my fantasies on the mothering front seemed to have gone awry. I had always thought I’d be one of those nice, touchy feely, Little Women type of mother. A young, fun, gentle Marmee type, bestower of cuddles and cakes – a modern clone of Nigella in an apron and Diana Rigg in leathers. But forget the ‘Good Wives’ crap. These days I do more shouting than a sergeant major. The kids call me Stalin - but not to my face – well not unless I’m already one glass of wine into the evening. Just the other week during the Brazil v Germany World Cup Final, I asked one of the kids why a player was crying.
He’s just been kicked in the face mum, he replied before whispering to his brother: ‘can you imagine mum as a football coach – she’d be saying. What are you crying for - get the xxxx up and stop being such a woose, there’s nothing wrong with you.
Louisa May Alcott’s father was said to expect ‘prompt cheerful obedience’ from his children. Ah - no wonder they were all slobbering over Marmee. But in our house it’s the more pacific father, easily got round and forgetter of punishments who gets to be Mr Nice Guy - while I am Medusa in a twin set, whose withering ‘mummy stare’ demands immediate submission.
The scale of domestic PC punishment has escalated from being sent to sit on the stairs (where one of my kids spent so much time that he assembled books, toys and blankets and just walked there without being told) to being grounded into the next life and beyond. But as the kids get older it seems that all I do is give them stuff so I can take it away later as punishment.
For instance, Son No 2’s long awaited mobile phone - where is it now? Hidden down the back of the bookcase after a £280 phone bill. Now he just uses the land lines – one on each ear. The internet is a distant memory since Instant Messenger took over as the only means of contact. Then there’s the Nintendo game cube, the Playstation 2, and the laptop. All are in and out of the attic like wedding rings at the pawnbrokers, for crimes as varied as ‘forgetting’ to turn up for a pre-paid school holiday, going walkabout at three in the morning during a sleep-over and all-night chat room sessions. Though how do you punish them when you find their legs dangling out of the attic as they surreptitiously try to get the television back for the Big Brother evictions? There’s nothing left to take away.
But it’s not the big things that infuriate me as much as the constant pilfering.
You kind of expect your five year olds to be fascinated by lipsticks and frocks (or is that just my boys) but does my teenage daughter really have to wear my bras, my shoes and my Agnes b jumper? Her attitude is finders keepers - if it inadvertently turns up in her drawers then it’s a little gift from the laundry elves.
But its finding the megabucks shampoo you buy for colour treated hair, empty, in a NIKE sports bag, after No 1 son has passed it round the locker room. Then your hair gel goes on hedgehog spikes, your fake tan on teenage legs, your salt scrub on football injuries and your cleanser, apparently, works wonders on acne.
Nothing in my bathroom cabinet is sacred.
Boundaries, boundaries, I yell as the only pair of nail scissors within a nine mile radius of West London disappear again. And who’s taken the fxxxing tweezers?
Oh that would be the little prince formerly known as unibrow.
What ever happened to the good old days when teenage boys just didn’t bother washing?
As a result – security has been
tightened in our domestic police state.
I have a sticker on the top of my bubble bath saying – open this and I
will wallop you. And if a burglar
does ever risk the dual threats of the non-existent dog and the fierce mother,
he’ll quickly come clean. If he
breaks open the combination lock on the cupboard under the sink to get at our
valuables, he’s in for a big surprise.
Behind the lock there’s a pair of nail scissors, a stockpile of shampoo and conditioner, bath oil, a SPF15 moisturiser, nail varnish remover, a small stash of Chanel cosmetics, and a razor.
My treasure. Stalin would have been proud