So what values do you live by?

Janet Christie's Mum's the Word


Youngest Child has homework.

“What values or beliefs do you live by?” she says. “I’ve got to ask a ‘respectable’ adult. But I’ve decided on you anyway, never mind about the respectable thing.”

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“OK. So… this is hard,” I say. “Can’t we do maths? I like it when you explain things to me.”

She rolls an eye.

“Well, there is one, but I don’t think we can put it in your jotter because it’s got a swear word in it,” I say.

We don’t want a repeat of the time she was castigated in class for a limerick I helped her write that contained that good Scottish word “bum”. Seemed like the perfect rhyme to me. And a*** just didn’t scan.

“I know the one you like,” says Middle Child. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’”

“Hmm,” says Youngest. “Any others?”

She’s right, apart from the swearing it’s a bit negative. You’ve got to be more woo-woo upbeat these days or the positive thinking police grind you down with their passive aggression.

“Some people are bastards,” says Eldest reasonably, before disappearing to write a song. His would be “No Time Like the Present.”

“Muhammad Ali had a good one,” says Middle Child.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee?” I say.

“No,” says Middle. “It’s long, but ends ‘impossible is nothing’.”

I look it up later: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Back at the table I ask Youngest, “What’s yours?”

“Treat everyone like you want to be treated yourself,” she says.

“Nice one. I know, mine is: ‘From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.’”

“What’s that mean?” she says.

“It means... can I have one of your 
chips?” n