The long, hot days of summer 2018; when no-one knew quite what to do with themselves. When no-one could sleep and the children came home from school with that grimy, sticky look that only being smeared with suncream can give you. When the country was in total chaos (still), when Trump came to town, and when routine went out the window at least a month before the end of term because of a) the World Cup and b) the fact that everyone was just too hot to even contemplate putting children to bed at a normal time. When mummy spent her afternoons asking her children to please be kind and gentle with each other and to please please please come in from the garden for their tea.
And absolutely no-one listened to her.
“It is NOT tea time mummy. It is not. Just one more minute. One more minute, mummy!”
“But you’ve had one more minute“, says Mummy, with her gritted teeth voice. “And now it is time to come in.”
“YES! It’s a goal for Portugal. What A GOAL!” screams Twin 1 as he rolls around the garden.
Twin 2 is furious. “I’m telling, I’m TELLING, I’m telling RIGHT NOW! That is not a goal. Mummmmmyyyyyyy – that was NOT a goal!” he shrieks, wiping his tears and his nose and his grubby hands on Mummy’s top. “He says it’s a goal but it went over the post so it is definitely NOT A GOAL. Not-a-goal, not-a-goal, not-a-goal. Yellow card and free kick to me!”
Mummy resorts to her screechy voice, and threatens to eat her children’s tea if they don’t come in in the next five seconds.
Mummy then hears quiet voices drifting over the fence from next door. Tea is being poured. The newspaper is being read. Mummy immediately regrets having resorted to her screechy voice. “Whoops!” says Twin 1. “The ball has gone over the fence mummy. It was an accident, Mummy. I’m sorry, Mummy.”
Twin 1 runs off to retrieve the ball, meanwhile Mummy wants to make a thousand apologies for disturbing the peace of the entire street; and then dig herself a hole and hide. The hardest thing about summer for Mummy is that family life now takes place in the back garden instead of in the confines of the house. Squabbling children, complete with a slightly shrieky mummy. Lucky neighbours.
After 15 minutes and a selection of increasingly random threats, Mummy’s children are finally inside. Mummy announces that there will be absolutely no more playing outside if her children can’t listen to what they’re being asked to do.
One by one, Mummy’s children announce that it is not their fault.
Mummy talks about the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, before then asking them to take a moment to think about their neighbours.
“Do you think the neighbours want to be listening to you shrieking while they’re trying to enjoy a sit down in their garden?” asks Mummy. “And do you think they want to get whacked on the head by a football as they’re trying to drink their tea? ”
Mummy’s children agree that this is probably not an ideal scenario for the neighbours, and then swiftly move on to a passionate argument over who has got the most Costa Rican players in their Panini World Cup sticker album.
“Now boys“, says Mummy, “we are all very hot, and tired……”
“I am NOT tired”, interjects Twin 1.
“OK, well we are all very hot and not-tired”, Mummy continues. “And when we’re hot we feel irritated.”
“I am NOT irritated!” says Twin 2, sounding more than a little irritated.
“Well, irritated or not; in this hot weather, what we all really need to do is be gentle with each other. And kind…..”
Mummy’s children start poking each other with their forks and searching for onions/peas/any unknown ingredients to pick out of their dinner.
“As I was saying,” Mummy continues. “We need to be gentle and kind to each other. So can you please all think about what you are saying, and not say anything that is deliberately intended to upset anyone.”
The eldest boy tells Twin 1 what a bad goalie he is – he is absolutely, definitely not as good as the Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea. Twin 1’s sobs into his dinner and kicks his big brother under the table.
Mummy knows that any more words from her about being kind and gentle are pointless, and that she will be saying more or less the same thing to her children tomorrow anyway. And so she leaves them to their arguments about how their goalkeeping skills compare to David de Gea’s, and goes to raid the treat tin. Because, in this hot weather, it is very important that Mummy makes the effort to be kind to herself.