Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Postcard No. 1

Dear Wifey,
Spent yesterday at the dinosaur museum with the children. This was a good idea. It was such a good idea every other mother in London decided to have it too. Utterly heaving. Thought about queuing for dinosaurs, decided the queue was too long; similar decisions regarding Antarctica exhibition, coffee and even the shop. Saw a large number of stuffed birds and a great many backs of heads. The very worst moment was in the picnic area where we were waiting for friends. It too was crowded. I had wrapped four salami sandwiches in a tea towel, popped in three satsumas for the children and a bottle of mineral water between the four of us. I had been entirely happy with this as a lunch until I sat down at a table with a woman, a baby in a pushchair and a little girl. There was a reason this table was the only one with free seats. Every other mother in the place knew that this woman was going to make her look bad. My children ate their baps watching the banquet opposite with wonder. I knew I had made a mistake as soon as I saw the first Tupperware box, but it was too late - we had already sat down on the bench. Sandwiches, hummus, carrot sticks, raisins, yogurt, chocolate soya dessert, sliced melon, green grapes, juice. There was probably more but you can only use your peripheral vision for so long before your eyeballs drop out of your skull. She also made endless "happy chat" with the little girl; the more happy chat she made, the more silent my own children became. Having watched for long enough, my baby daughter decided she had no intention of eating the substandard fare I had provided; she emptied out her salami on to the floor, picked apart the bread and then dropped half her satsuma segments. My six-year-old immediately handed her what was left of his. The Picnic Queen took pity. "She can have some melon if she likes," she said and pushed over the left-over melon. This was so humiliating, I blushed. The boys leapt on the melon as if they had never seen an exotic fruit before in their lives. Obviously, I said "Thankyou; that's very kind" as you do when someone has just shown you up in front of your children as a mother who cuts corners. She then compounded it by telling me: "You worry too much." I "worry too much"? I felt an incredibly "British" locking up of those facial muscles that were not already in spasm from the humiliation of the pity fruit. I wanted to say: "If I worry too much it is because women like you make me feel bad." She was the sister of that irritating stranger who accosts you in the street with "Cheer up! It might never happen." I hate people who tell you to cheer up. I hate mothers who feel sorry for my children. I stopped hating her as they left the table when I heard her say to the little girl: "I told your mummy..." I thought: "Oh, you're a nanny. You should have said. That's alright then. That explains the carrot sticks in their own tupperware box and the expensive fruit and the relentless chat. Right. I'll stop worrying then."
love,
Wifey

13 comments:

Tina said...

Oh goodness. Competitive picnics. Do people lie awake at night, dreaming up new ways to humiliate mothers, do you think?

Eats Wombats said...

Peuf! Double peuf!! You should live in Japan where children are beaten half to death if they show up at school with a bento box that is not an exquisite work of art. Foreign mothers have been known to be suicidal if they can't hack it. The pressure is conveyed by the misery of the bullied child. There are special discreet classes for these inadequate mothers.

Iota said...

When I read the details of your picnic, I thought "sensible, healthy, non-fussy, minimum of packaging, perfect - what a clever, experienced mother". Any mother whose children eat fruit is the envy of us mere mortals.

When I read the details of the other picnic, I thought "far too much choice - that will bewilder the child; far too much food -that will teach her to graze and pick instead of having a proper meal; lots will end up in the bin - what a waste; messy food - hopeless for an indoor picnic; all that tupperware to carry round all afternoon; and CHOCOLATE dessert, for heaven's sake". We all know there is a special place in hell for mothers who give their children anything to do with chocolate (even soya stuff).

Being in London is making you feel all competitive. You're much better off in the North you know. Bears are much less scary than dinosaurs.

Winchester whisperer said...

You should take the children to see Mary Poppins

debio said...

Oh I just knew the punchline would be that she was the nanny - just knew it!

I hate being told to calm down - it is not possible just because you have been told so to do - it does not take away the reason for being un-calm in the first place.

Rachel said...

I am impressed that all your children eat salami. Many adults I know refuse it. (I love it, by the way).

Sounds like you are having a good half term. Enjoy your time in London.

Potty Mummy said...

...and I live in this area. Can you imagine the fun?

BTW; if I offered my son salami sandwiches he would think all his birthdays had come at once. He would eat it to the exclusion of all other foodstuffs given the opportunity. So you are definitely on the right track for our family. (Satsumas, though? Not so much...)

Swearing Mother said...

Aha! I knew she must be getting paid to pack that sort of lunch and talk that sort of tosh. If you have amateur status, ie., being an actual Mum, life can be too hectic to bother putting on an impressive packed lunch show. Or to keep up an animated conversation throughout, unless on prescription drugs.

And anyway, did they eat it all? Course not.

mutleythedog said...

You should have taken them to McDonalds - you can impress mothers there by ordering the little fruit box thing to follow the double deep fried cholesterol burger and reconstituted fried potato fingers...

or by hiding the 'salad' and pretending your kids have eaten it...

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Next time just take along a few deep friend mars bars, a tin of condensed milk to pour over them and a few sugar sandiwches and a full fat family sized bag of crisps each. The kids will love you for it and they matter more than some uptight nanny who would be about as popular as a fart in a finishing school anyway.

Mummy Banana said...

Oh wifey - oh how familiar a story, we've all been there & my child will just not eat fruit!!! or raw vegetables!!!

As I was reading your post I too was thinking McDonalds - in fact have attended the establishment only today - no wastage there I have to add!

Stay at home dad said...

I didn't know it was called 'happy chat'. That's very good. I have been a victim of it too, but fortunately expectations are already very low in my case.

Incidentally I don't think parental competition is any different from other careers, in which people are always comparing salaries, position, companies and trying to impress in meetings etc etc.

Motheratlarge said...

Tupperware boxes - the feminine equivalent of 'badge of macho pride'. If mothers ever got unionised, they (we) would have a badge depicting the Tupperware box in all its scuffed plastic glory. Possibly containing carrot sticks, blueberries, rice cakes or whatever. Grrrrrrr!!!