Parents: A Users Guide. Part 6, The Strict Parents.

Will never be heard to say, “Do what you like. It’s up to you.”

Strict parents’ expressions 1# What on earth are you doing?

2# I cannot believe you just did that!
#3 Right! No spends, no computer, no phone for a year!

Another way to describe strict parents is bossy. As far as they’re concerned, you and your brothers and sisters are raw military recruits and they’re the sergeant majors who have to knock you into shape – not literally, of course, that’s against the law, although prior to the 1950s, a little light thrashing could easily have come your way because strict parents (which was pretty much all of them,) had a whole range of punishments with jolly descriptions that we’d now call common assault. Below are some examples:

A clip around the ear = Nothing to do with hair ornaments. It means a sharp, painful smack on, or near, the ear.

Six of the best = The best sounds promising, doesn’t it, until you discover it refers to being hit across your palm with a cane six times. Hard.

A round with Tommy Tickler = Again, sounds like it could be fun, but in reality it’s being hit on the backside with a gym shoe in a way that’s anything but ticklish.

Phew! Bet you’re glad you missed those.

Of course, there are other punishments parents can employ because, let’s face it, they’ve got the power. They can stop you: going places, using electronic devices, having your spending money etc. and while some parents might just threaten, strict parents follow through. Always. And it’s pointless to beg, reason, or threaten right back, because that’s their excuse to ramp up the punishments. Seriously, some prison inmates have easier lives.

What can you do? You could do as you’re told, but that would make you middle aged before you’re twelve. So the answer is, you have to become very devious and develop a split personality.

At home you are obedient and a carbon copy of your parents’ opinions and activities – thus lulling them into a sense of false security. In no time at all they’ll genuinely believe you’ve just popped out to the library/chess club/art gallery/chamber concert.

Meanwhile, to the outside world you’re a wild child who hangs around the skate-park, bowling alley, shopping mall, disco and pool hall. At school, teachers dread having you in class and you can be as cheeky as you like, because there’s no way on God’s green earth your folks can imagine you being anything other than obedient, so will defend you to their last breath.

Just be very careful you don’t get found out. Good luck!

Do you, or did you have strict parents? How did you cope? Comments and tips welcome!

Problem Page: A Fishy Romance?

This week’s problem comes from a mermaid on the South Coast of England.

The young lady wishes to remain anonymous.

Dear Aunt Grizelda,

Every evening a young man comes down to fish in the cove where I live and I suspect he’s taken a fancy to me. At first he just kept glancing over to where I was sunning myself on the rocks, but now he throws me pieces of bait.

Yesterday evening he arrived in the cove with a surfboard and started paddling out towards me. I felt shy, so I dived deep below the waves, but now I wish I hadn’t. My friends say I shouldn’t trust him and that he probably wants to catch me for re-sale purposes. But he’s got a really nice smile, kind eyes, and the bait is delicious. Should I trust my gut feelings and let him get closer, or keep him at tail’s length?

Miss X

Dear Miss X,

Young men with nice smiles and kind eyes should never be trusted, but more importantly, have you seriously considered the problems inter-species relationships bring? A mermaid /human combination would be fraught with difficulties right from the start.

For example, how could he wine and dine you? If you went to a restaurant under the waves, he couldn’t eat because of his aqua lung; and if you went to a restaurant on land, the chef might mistake you for the fish course. Also his parents would be unlikely to welcome you as their daughter-in-law as humans will go to great lengths to avoid fishy aromas in the home and generally avoid getting their soft furnishings wet.

Reluctant as I am to pour cold water on this budding love affair, I cannot in all conscience recommend you to pursue it. Find a new cove in which to relax and remember there are always more fish in the sea.

Aunt Grizelda

Parents: A User’s Guide, Part 5. Active Parents.

Will never be heard to say, “Let’s just chill with a box set.”

If you enjoy fording rivers, scaling mountain ranges and skidding through forests on a trail bike, then active parents are no problem – they are in fact the perfect fit. But if you’d rather curl up with a good book, or view the dangers of the natural world through a You Tube video, this type of parent is your worst nightmare come real.

Just one of the daring activities active parents want you to try.

The big problem is their belief they’re giving you a lifestyle that will keep you fit and healthy. Sadly, even recurring visits to A&E to set your broken bones won’t convince them otherwise. You see, the outdoorsy mums and dads consider accidents a small price to pay for the whizzy adrenaline rush that comes from hanging off a mountainside with two fingers, or hoisting a topsail in a tsunami. That’s their idea of fun. Honestly.

But if it isn’t your idea of fun, that’s probably because you’re not good at it, and if you’re not good at it, your challenge is, “How do I survive?” The best plan is to develop an allergy to something outdoors, such as pollen, or trees, or water. Just make sure it’s something vague and common or they’ll find an environment without it.

Of course, developing allergies on demand isn’t easy, so you must become a master of theatrical make-up. There are many You Tube videos that show how to achieve rashes using nothing more than crispy breakfast cereal, glue and a little face paint. Or if you feel the need for something more dramatic, fill a hot water bottle with vegetable soup, hide it beneath your jumper, then, bending over expel the contents, making bleughhh! noises. It’s surprisingly effective. After your allergy has ruined a few days’ outings, you’ll find your folks less keen to drag you along. At this point, suggest spending the day at a friend’s house or your grandparents’, and as long as they’re as laid back as you, you’ll have no trouble settling down to a whole day of computer games.

If you’ve survived active parents, why not share how you did it?

Problem Hair

Let’s be honest, do you know anyone who doesn’t have problem hair? Of course not, and that’s because hair has a will of its own. To get tresses that are manageable, you need to start being very firm with them at the soonest opportunity, otherwise they’ll take advantage of you, as they did with Bill.

Scary Hair

Bill was a boy with reckless hair,

That sprang out here and sprang out there.

It leapt and lunged, it streaked and swooped,

It coiled and curled and looped the loop.

It grew so thick, so long and wide,

That little creatures lived inside.

Bill’s hair providing a home for mouse and snake.

With tangled strands, wild as a bush,

It taunted every comb and brush

To try and tame it, make it neat –

The brushes soon declared defeat;

The combs’ attempts were also brief –

More than a dozen lost their teeth.

Its wayward mood rudely defied

Whatever products were applied,

And barbers wept that there should be

Defiant hair, so wild and free.

One barber cried, “Impudent mop!

You are not welcome in my shop!”

Poor Bill felt it was most unfair

To have such rowdy, wicked hair.

He threatened it and called it names,

He said it ought to feel ashamed.

But did it listen? Not a tad!

It carried on behaving mad,

And grew and grew like some deep wood,

Until Bill’s face was lost for good.

His arms were next and then his hands,

All hidden by the hair’s thick strands.

And further still the tresses grew,

Till legs and feet were lost from view,

And nothing could be seen at all

Except a boy sized, hairy ball.

His mum at last, out of despair,

Went running to the cellar where

She took a large electric saw,

And cut for several hours or more –

But not a trace was found of Bill;

And to this day, he’s missing still.

The lesson of this tale I’ve told

 Is keep your hair under control;

And thus ensure your crowning glory

Doesn’t turn to horror story.


Parents: A User’s Guide. Part 4, The Inconsistent Parents.

Will never be heard to say: “You know very well that’s what we always/never do in this in this house.”

Probably the trickiest parents to manage are the inconsistent. They swing from strict to easy- going with the ease of a pendulum. One minute there’s no way you’ll be allowed to go to the roller disco even for ten minutes while the next it’s of course you can go and here’s a tenner to get yourself a taxi home. Confusing, eh?

The cause of this erratic parenting is lack of confidence. If you need to confirm this, just look at your parents’ book shelves, which will be full of guides on how to raise a child. From Negotiating with Your Infant or Gentle Ways to Nurture Your Child; to the more didactic Show Your Baby Who’s Boss From Day One, or I’m the Parent Get Used to It. Clearly there’s a world of difference between these approaches, but the inconsistent parents have never found the confidence to plump for one over the other.

So now you know what’s at the root of their unpredictability, how do you manage it? Observation is crucial. When making requests, for example, you may find your mum is most co-operative after a glass of wine (relaxed) and strictest when your grandmother is around (tense). Your dad, on the other hand, if he’s a football fan, will almost certainly give you what you want when his team has won a match, but don’t be tempted to put in requests at half time, because even if his team is winning, if the midfield are passing badly and allowing the opposition too much room, he’ll be anxious so will probably say no.

One other thing to bear in mind is manners. You’ll always get a better result if you avoid muttering darkly, frowning until your face resembles a gnome’s and screaming like a banshee. Try biting your tongue if at first your request is denied. A sweet smile and a remark such as “Oh, well, just thought I’d ask,” will always undermine a parent’s confidence in their decision – and with luck, they’ll feel so guilty they’ll change their mind. Because if there’s one thing you can rely on with inconsistent parents, it’s their changeability.

Good Luck!

Aunt Grizelda’s Problem Page

A letter today all the way from Egypt, but on that universal theme – insurance claims.

Dear Aunt Grizelda,

My tomb was recently raided, the thieves taking two golden statuettes of Osiris, an enamelled Canopic jar with Anubis head handle, and a throne with ruby, lapis lazuli and sapphire decoration.

I immediately contacted my insurance company who sent round one of their assessors. A few days later I received a scroll telling me they could not pay out because my curse protection system was not set at a strong enough level to deter break-ins.

I pointed out this is only the second time in four thousand years that thieves have managed to get in and five of the six who broke in on that first occasion met swift and grisly ends. Unfortunately the survival of the sixth to a rich and happy old age is in their opinion sufficient to demonstrate a fundamental weakness in my curse security system.

What can I do?

Yours HRH T

The stolen Canopic jar.




Your Highness,

Many of my readers will sympathise with your predicament. Insurance companies are not what they were and insurance assessors are known to seek the smallest excuse by which to reject a claim.

I recall a similar incident back in the 1920s when Egyptian tombs were under daily assaults. One mummy, like you, was told his tomb was not protected by a strong enough curse. He decided to demonstrate its efficacy by cursing the assessor, who, but a day later, was killed in a camel stampede. The insurers were suitably convinced by this and paid out handsomely. Even the no claims bonus was left intact.

Of course, the above was an extreme response and before resorting to anything similar you could contact the Association of Pyramid Insurers, who will investigate your complaint, and in the meantime a warning message in blood-red hieroglyphs may deter the more cowardly or opportunist thief.

Good luck,

Aunt Grizelda.

Parents: A User’s Guide, Part 3. The Anxious Parents

Will never be heard to say, “I haven’t got time to pick you up. Catch the bus.”

In many ways you’ve got a good thing going with anxious parents. They are the taxi service par excellence. In fact, it’s very much like having your own personal chauffeur, for no matter where you need to be or when, anxious parents will make sure you never need to use that most dangerous of services – public transport. Their anxiety about buses and trains covers everything from the slim chance you’ll pick up a cold from the person sitting beside you, to the possibility a vile kidnapper will abduct you.

Also, as the child of anxious parents you’ll have lots of days off school because any tiny ache or pain is enough to persuade them you need some time in bed surrounded by your favourite computer games and snacks. You’ll probably be on first name terms with your doctor, too.

Another plus is you’ll be allowed to invite your friends for sleepovers almost whenever you like. Worried parents like to know exactly where you are, and you being in your bedroom is the kind of situation they are most happy with.

There are of course drawbacks, especially if you’re an independent type. For example, going into town on your own, or with a friend, is the kind of situation that will have them pacing the house while you’re away (that worn area of carpet around the sofa is a tell-tale sign.) They may even prevent all your attempts to strike out on your own and this can be frustrating. So how do you train them in such a way that you keep the services side, while at the same time gaining more freedom?

You will need to devise some cunning strategies. One of these is to say your friend’s parents are bringing you home/going with you/taking you there. This can work well for a while, but it only takes being found out once for them never to trust you again. Another cunning plan, if you’ve got the cash, is a life-sized dummy double and is well worth the expense. You can use it to make it look as if you’re doing homework/ in bed/ watching a video. The more realistic it is, the better, but top of the range models do have a big price tag.

By far the best and simplest strategy is to encourage your mum and dad to have another baby. Why? Babies can send parental anxieties into orbit, which means they won’t have the energy left to worry about you as well. All you need to do is suggest the lack of a small sibling is impacting on your mental health, and I’ll wager that nine months down the line you’re as free as a bird…although you might find the taxi service a little less obliging. Still, you can’t have it all.

Good Luck!

Anxious parents are usually very tired. Protecting you 24/7 is exhausting.

Parents: A User’s Guide: Part 2, The Ambitious Parents

Will never be heard to say, “We just want him/her to be happy.”

Oh dear. If you’ve got ambitious parents, I’m afraid you’ve drawn the short straw. These are people whose whole reason for living is to achieve success. Unfortunately, the success they crave isn’t for themselves, it’s for you, and they’ll stop at nothing to make you achieve it.

So how do you know if your parents come under this heading? Take this fun quiz to find out.

  1. How many after school activities do you take part in willingly?

      A)  5  B)  3-4  C)  1-2  D)  0

2) How often do your parents ask about the achievements of your friends and classmates?

      A)  Every day  B) 3-4 times a week  c) once a week   D) Never

3) Which of the following comments have you heard your parents make?

A) The early bird catches the worm.

B) You make your own luck.

C) It’s not taking part that counts, it’s winning.

D) Big results require big ambitions.

For question 1 score 5 marks for A; 3 for B; 2 for C and 0 for D

For question 2 score the same as for Q1

For Question 3 score 2 for each saying you’ve heard them say.

Results

12-18: Your parents couldn’t be much more ambitious unless they were fascist dictators or emperors

8-11: They are very keen for you to do well, but call a halt at the more extreme forms of ambition, such as bribing talent show judges and junior league referees.

3-7: Fairly keen, but can occasionally give it a rest. In fact some of the really ambitious parents would call them slackers who could try harder.

0-2: Not bothered. Phew! Your folks are NOT ambitious for you AT ALL. Congratulations.

If you scored in the 12 -18 category (and to a lesser extent in the 8-11 category,) you’ve got problems. So, how do you loosen your wildly ambitious parents’ clutches? Well, if you’ve got a younger brother or sister, it’s worth working on ways to make it look like they’ve got far more success potential than you. This can include massaging their school test results; describing to your parents some amazing sporty feat your little sibling achieved; forging a letter from their class teacher suggesting they are amazingly talented and gifted at something (choose something in the realms of possibility – a precocious talent in nuclear physics is unlikely in a nursery age child.)

The only other approach is to appear utterly hopeless at everything. This is trickier than it sounds and requires huge amounts of self-control and intentional stupidity, but even the most ardently ambitious parent will reach a point where they abandon their plans for you if you keep failing long enough. In addition, you can get back at them with a certain dramatic irony by becoming simply fantastic at something the moment they stop forcing you to do things you don’t want to do, ( see for example Winston Churchill.)

Good luck!

This illustrates the ideal for the ambitious parents, but should be followed by a Nobel prize or high public service such as Prime Minister.

Aunt Grizelda’s Problem Page: Advice to a Scottish Queen.

Family mistrust is a pernicious thing and can often prevent family members accepting help from each other and this is exemplified in today’s missive from a queen north of the border.

Hail to you Mistress Grizelda,

I would pose thee a question regarding the trust betwixt cousins.

Mine own fair cousin is monarch of a land that doth border mine own, but she is beloved of her people and ministers, and doth hold full sway over them, whilst I am beset by rogues and traitors that would hurry me from hence to my grave. In consequence, thereof, I am minded to accept the sanctuary she hast most recently offered me.

Howsomever, it is said by some that her sweet missives offer false hope, and cometh from a grasping, wolfish heart – that in truth, she doth seek to steal Scotland from me.

What course should I take?

Adieu and God rest you merry,

M. Q of S. 

Dear M Q of S,

As G. H. Lewes wrote, “Murder, like talent, seems occasionally to run in families.” And never was this truer than when the family in question is royal. The briefest scan of a history book reveals a shocking litany of horrid murders of kings and queens that in the most part were plotted by their nearest and dearest. And for why? Power. And what avails more power? More land.

But of course, your cousin is currently in a very strong position while you are in a weak one, and while good sense might caution you from throwing yourself upon her mercy, surely she would not sleep easy were anything to befall a sister queen?

It seems to me you have little option but to accept your cousin’s offer and I am sure all will be well if you can demonstrate to her your thankfulness.

Good luck, (and hide a dagger beneath your farthingale just to be on the safe side.)

Aunt Grizelda.