I can't ice cakes.
On the one hand, I'm not very good at it. On the other, I just don't care. The combination of these two factors nearly always leads to sugary catastrophe.
This doesn't matter when the cake making is merely an activity to entertain children (with the the added by-product of cake!) but, when I'm baking for a birthday party and other parents are going to see the results, it's more of an issue. The solution I use is to get my offspring to do some of the decorating, even if it's only to add a single chocolate button. That way, I can always claim loudly to have had 'help' from the kids. I go straight from hapless cake defacer to long-suffering, indulgent parent.
I had somewhat less help with these than you might imagine...
It's a step up from the usual routine of using the children as an excuse for everything from being late to the state of the house. In these cases, it could always be suggested that I just need to be a little more organised or a little less lazy. No, this is turning the situation on its head and making the disaster into a parenting badge of honour. 'Sorry we didn't get here on time. I had the kids help with the navigation and, well, would you believe it, we ended up in Peebles. They were getting quite good with their map-reading skills by the end, though. I'm thinking of starting them on their Duke of Edinburgh award...' or 'Mind where you step. Fraser's supposed to be helping me mop but he's just too tired today, the poor lamb. I thought we'd leave it till tomorrow. I would do it myself but I wouldn't want to deprive him of the sense of accomplishment and contribution...'
I wonder what other things I could claim to have got the kids to aid me with? Normally I shy away from getting them to help because it means that whatever I'm doing will take twice as long and only turn out half as good. It probably doesn't help that I'm a control freak. I like things done my way.
This is an issue, however. I need to train them. Otherwise they'll never learn how to do anything and I'll be running around after them until they're fifty and then have to watch helplessly as they attempt to look after me and get it all wrong. They'll clean the toilet with a facecloth and then iron the carpet.
I need to avoid that future but, let's face it, some help here and now wouldn't go amiss, either. Maybe the way forward is to start by getting them to help with things that are bound to end in disaster anyway. No harm done then. Once we're all used to long-winded calamities we can move on to things which I'd normally expect to pass without incident, like the washing up, a little light dusting and cleaning the fridge. By then, anything which doesn't involve us all needing a complete change of clothes will feel like success. I'll be more laid-back and they'll just be glad I'm not getting them to do my tax return or clean the wheelie-bin.
I've begun by getting some help with this letter. I asked Marie what I should write about. She said, "The boys." Smart answer - incriminating one's siblings is an important skill when you're three. This wasn't really enough to go on, though. I pressed her further. "The boys dancing," she said.
I've no idea what she was talking about. The boys haven't done any dancing recently. They do like a good ceilidh, though. It's an excuse to wear a kilt and twirl round at high speed until they feel ill. Unfortunately, someone taught them that the purpose of sporrans is to collect other people's loose change and so they have a tendency to walk up to other dancers, point at the region of their groin and demand cash. This is kind of embarrassing.
Maybe next time I should claim they're helping me with something.
Or maybe not...
Yours in a woman's world,
PS The pronunciation war continues. I overheard Marie taking my side with one of the (Scottish) helpers at parent and toddler the other day.
"I made biscuits with daddy last week," she said excitedly.
The helper duly made a show of being interested. "You made biscuits last week? That's nice."
Marie shook her head. "No, we made biscuits laa-st week."
The helper didn't get the problem and just tried to sound even more interested. "You made biscuits la-st week. What kind of -"
"No!" said Marie, jumping up and down in frustration. "We made biscuits LAA-ST week."
"Yes, I know. You made biscuits la-st week. I wanted to know what kind of -"
"No," said Marie, starting to speak loudly and slowly, clearly believing she was dealing with a particularly stupid adult. "WE MADE BISCUITS LAAAA-ST WEEK!"
The helper was aware by this point that something was slightly amiss but couldn't quite put her finger on it. A small child was saying something, she was repeating it back verbatim and somehow the small child was getting upset. It was a mystery and she couldn't seem to think of a way out. "You made biscuits la-st week?" she said.
Marie prepared to explode.
Luckily, it was time to go. I grabbed my daughter and ran, leaving a trail of exasperated long vowel sounds behind us. The two of them might have gone on for hours otherwise.