Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Food is a nightmare. There are two approaches: either you take a hard line and insist that everyone eats what's been put in front of them; or you prepare individual meals for everyone, taking into account all the princessy peccadilloes. Of course life isn't that black and white and, inevitably you will end up in some horrible grey area in the middle of the two. And then the little bastards have got you.

The problem in our house is that I'm a fussy eater. Me. I'm the one.

It's like this: anything green that's been cooked (with the honourable exception of peas - I love peas) strikes me as a vile and unpleasant thing to put into your mouth. Along the lines of - oh I don't know - a turd. My secret name for broccoli is "evil trees".

Given this weak-natured state of affairs I'm very much occupying the moral low ground and consequently I have set up a permanent camp in a MASSIVE grey area that hands control to my kids in exactly the way all the parenting manuals tell you you shouldn't.

Luckily my oldest, L, loves veg and regards my dislike of brassicas as a silly aberration that places me on a lower evolutionary rung to her. S, my youngest, however, is much more of my mind on these matters and that's where the problems come in. It's not that she dislikes what I dislike. It's more that my dislike gives her permission to dislike her own stuff.

She's going through a stage just now which her sister went through at the same age. The stage is the neatly named I-will-only-eat-discrete-foods-that-are-not-touching-and-are-completely-separate-on-the-plate-stage. So it's OK to dip your sausage in tomato ketchup. It's NOT OK if your sausage is already touching your tomato ketchup on the plate. No. Then you have to wail as though someone had torched Flat Teddy in front of your very eyes and then rubbed the ashes in your face.

Incidentally, sausages are the Holy Grail of all foods as far as S is concerned. They are to be grilled or fried in a pan and in this state are referred to as "straight sausages". Present her with anything other than straight sausages - mess about with them in ANY WAY and you will pay the

The other night I had made a sausage and bean casserole with borlotti beans and butter beans and tomatoes and butternut squash and all manner of other goodies in it. Modesty aside, it was delicious. She point-blank turned it down and just ate boiled potatoes. I naively thought that she might eat some of the sausage. Oh foolish man! She hadn't spotted the heresy until I pointed it out. "NO!!!" she yelled " I WANT STRAIGHT SAUSAGE!!! NOT THIS SAUSAGE!!!" She glared at me in the way that I imagine George Osbourne would glare at an actual real person: with a mixture of confusion, fear, anger and incomprehension and began to weep.

S's nickname when she was a baby was Foghorn Leghorn because of the volume of her crying. Ships in the Firth of Forth sail closer to the Fife coast when she is in full flow. The volume is akin to letting out time at the klaxon factory. After I had mopped the blood from my ears and calmed her down I assured her that we would have straight sausages the following day.

The next day at tea time I served her baked potato and straight sausages: her absolute favourite tea. There was still a lot of the beans left over from the casserole so L and I had them. In an attempt to be firm I placed a tiny pile on her plate which she scraped of onto the table declaring, "I am not very keen on beans. Beans are exgusting. I am allergic of beans".

There is no way to win this battle. If you take route one then meal times become a misery of tears, snot and rage and the kids will get upset too. If you take route two, I pity you. More often than not you will find you have started out with the best of intentions and, via some convoluted path ended up with a child that eats pretty well over the course of the week but splits their carb and protein intakes to different days. And that's fine. Better that than they are allegic of anything.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Birthday Party

This is what we did wrong in holding L's 6th birthday party at our house:

1. We had it at our house.
2. It went on for two hours. Next time it'll be an hour and a half shorter.
3. We only invited girls. Now I used to be a boy so I know what they're like. It's why I'm never entirely at ease with them. But sometimes girls need to be diluted. 14 girls and no boys is too intense.
4. I had too much dignity. Next year I'm begging some other parents to stay. When L was at nursery her parties were, in part, a chance for all the parents to have a get together. Not so in P1. The minute the hapless parent issues the invitation evil laughter breaks out amongst the parents of the guests as they plan what to do with two whole hours of free childcare.
5. We failed to anticipate the refusal on the part of some guests to participate in party games on the grounds that, "it might mess up my hair."
6. We failed to anticipate the impact this assertion might have on the rest of the guests. Full scale rebellion was only headed off with a liberal sweetie-based bribe.
7. NEVER wrap the pass-the-parcel in as many layers as you have guests. It's a really boring game. Quite incredibly dull in fact.
8. Invite less guests than you think you should. We had 14. One mother, on coming to collect her daughter told us that she was having a party the following day (to which L was not invited...) with only 2 guests. Is that a party? I think not. That's just having some kids round to play. However, semantics aside, she's MUCH cleverer than me.
9. Buy booze. Not for the kids (although that could be entertaining). No. For you. For later. Don't for the love of all that's holy leave yourself in the position of having to leave the house to go and buy drink after they've all gone. Have you any idea how much of a lush that makes you look?
10. Test all blindfolds. A scarf tied round the head like when we were kids works really well. The blindfold that comes with the stick-the-tail-on-the-donkey set you bought in Sainsburys because it was only 50p? That blindfold is shit.
11. REMEMBER! I'm writing this in the vain hope that I'll recall all of the above but it's already beginning to fade. That horrible parenty thing is starting to happen when I forget the unutterable ghastliness and instead a sort of golden syrup is poured into my brain infusing the memories with golden sweetness.

What was I saying? Umm. Oh, never mind it probably wasn't important.