Janet Christie: I know it's bad to use the arts as punishment

When Youngest Child was small she loved to play You Must Choose. Answers were demanded to questions like 'would you rather lose all of your fingers or all of your toes? Would you rather have a severe lisp or a permanent limp? Would you rather jump off a cliff or play this game?'

Janet Christie. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

So now that she’s been up to the capers (I’m banned from revealing the exact nature of her crime) today’s You Must Choose is “theatre with your mother or be grounded?”

I know it’s bad to use the arts as punishment, but smacking’s out and what else have you got apart from grounding or starving of cash? And with Culture or Grounding there’s a strong chance they might love whatever they’ve been dragged to see. Which defeats the object of punishment, I know, but punishment or rehabilitation? You must choose.

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“Sigh. Ok, theatre with my mother,” she says. Eye roll. Good. Normally she’d have opted for a severe lisp and a permanent limp over theatre with me, but I’ve got her. “It’s Of Mice and Men. You’ve done that at school. You might like it.” “Oh yes, read that, seen the film. At the end we were all shocked. We were like, ‘OMG you cannot do that!’ Don’t mind going.” Then she remembers it’s a punishment and adds, “I suppose.”

Culture consumed, we’re homeward bound when I ask, “Did you enjoy that?” “Yes, it was good. And they did the end well.”

Yay! Everyone’s happy. Child’s punished, schoolwork reinforced, it’s time to move forward.

Which is when the car judders to a halt. It sounds terminal. So, Youngest Child, drive or push? “Push, obviously,” she says. We abandon the car at the kerb and start to walk as the snow falls. “Of Mice and Men. It’s Robert Burns,” she says. “The best laid schemes of mice and men...”

“Gang aft agley,” I finish.

“No, go wrong.”

Quit while I’m ahead or be insufferable know-it-all?

I’ll just keep mum.