Janet Christie: Mum's the Word

For a week an envelope from the school has been lying unopened on my bedside cabinet, serving as a coaster for my insomnia-dodging evening whisky. I'm working my way through a bottle of Dalmore.

Beside it, a glass of water that Biggie Smalls the kitten thinks is for him. Around 5am, with the dawn chorus taunting him into a frenzy, he manages to spill it over the letter. Ok, I'm awake, let's open it and see what fresh hell is this – not wearing uniform? Lateness? Skiving?

But no, it's an invitation to the prize- giving. Eldest Child has won not one, but three prizes.

Next time he shows up at home I grab him.

"I'm not going. I hate things like that," he says.

"I love things like that," I reply.

"Well you go then."

"I can't if you're not there."

"Sorry, not going."

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I cast my eye around for a replacement. Middle Child is ahead of me.

"Ok. If you pay me."


"But the teachers will notice."

True. Middle Child, although equally gifted, is well known to the authorities.

Our friend Margaret is round, so I drag her in.

"Listen to that, Margaret. He says he's not going." She didn't get to the age of 95 without appreciating the value of hard work and well-earned rewards.

"No, you're right son … sounds really boring. Life's too short."

I'm still going.

• This article was first published in The Scotsman on June 18, 2011