There’s a dead phone in the kitchen. Dropped in a puddle on Lothian Road. A puddle so big and deep it’s probably a hit on YouTube.
“You don’t look after that phone. Careless. Thoughtless, blah, blah, blah.” And on I’ve gone, down the years, castigating my offspring for mashing their mobiles, footering about with their fancyphones. Then I shell out for repairs and buy covers for replacements in the hope that this time, these shiny new items that are worth more than my car, will be treated with care.
Of course, now that I’m on child number three and staggering towards the finish line of 18 years of successful rearing with the last but not least one, the delay between phone damage, punishment and replacement is significantly shorter. It’s the rule of diminishing parenting – the more wrung out the parent, the easier they go on the younger siblings. As Eldest and Middle never fail to point out.
“When we were younger we had to wait six months to get a replacement phone,” says Eldest.
“‘Ken,” chimes in Middle.
“Had to use a pay-as-you-go brick for months after I left mine on the beach in Maga’,” continues Eldest.
“‘Ken,” says Middle. “But I like mine with the screen smashed. It’s better that way. You don’t have to worry about smashing it.”
Eldest goes on: “People shouldn’t get a new phone if they don’t look after the one they’ve got. Careless, thoughtless, drone, drone, drone,” and on he goes, as Youngest and I wait, eyes cast down, knowing we’ve let him down. Worse, we’ve let ourselves down. Yes, yes, soon enough the boys will shake their wise old heads and go away, and I’ll get on with sorting out the insurance.
But these days there’s more. “And you know what? Mum was right. It taught us a lesson.”
Ha! Vindication. And a distant stirring in the memory of how I used to have standards, a conviction that boundaries should be set for children, and a system of punishment and rewards employed. And that one day they would thank me for it. And finally, this is that day. Hallelujah!
Except it’s not Youngest’s phone that’s dead in the kitchen. It’s mine. n