We love you Miss Hannigan!

Ruby Shoesday 3 – and an attempted close-up of my hair pin…
which you may recognise as my felt flower brooch!

First a disclaimer. I love children. One day I hope to have some of my very own. But mine will be different. Naturally.

(I think that particular line is one of nature’s own design – in much the same way the pain of childbirth fades enough to make you think having more kids is a good idea, the theory that your kids WON’T be terrors from the bowels of Hell itself is necessary to the survival of humankind.)

Standing in the queue at the 99p store in the Cowley Centre at lunch time I found myself murmuring to myself:

For the first time in my life I was actually sympathising with the beastly Miss Hannigan. Only it wasn’t just little girls, it was little everythings. From Ollie, who’s Mum repeatedly screeched “where are ya?” and grabbed him, only to let go again a second later to chat to her mate, to Harry, whose father was in the queue behind me and pushed the buggy into my legs every time we moved forward so that Harry could kick me that little bit harder as he screamed. Kids were everywhere, running around, knocking people and things over. Their mothers were encouraging them to pay for their toys themselves, which is cute when I’m the checkout gal in Waterstones, but not when I’m in the queue behind a mother of five, none of whom are willing to part with their toy long enough for the girl to scan it. I swear to the heavens, if I were to hear the words “Have you got your pound?” one more time…

In fairness with children that young I tend to blame the parents. In fact, that disclaimer runs on right through to teenage years: certainly the boys on the train on Saturday were too young to be drinking, old enough to know better – but considering their Dad’s were studiously ignoring their behaviour so they could drink their own lager unhindered further down the carriage, had probably no frame of behavioural reference. Ollie’s mum was screeching aggressively in a way that didn’t carry any authority, rather taught the child in question that the fastest shortcut to attention was volume. And Harry’s dad was muttering obscenities, telling him that he’d be “f**ing for it” when he got home if he didn’t shut up. The child was in a buggy for Christ’s sake – he was either too young to understand the concept of when he got home or too old to be pushed around like that!

I can’t help but compare their behaviour to my own family’s though. Neither of my brothers would behave in the way those lads did on the train – never in a million years! As a child I was frighteningly well-behaved – the one time I was cheeky enough to warrant a smack it so surprised both myself and my mother that she had to come into ballet class with me to explain to Miss Austen why there was a handprint on my thigh! Ben was only naughty in a devious way until he was about 5 – as soon as he’d given up on killing our youngest, apparently indestructible brother he turned into a perfect little angel. And Bobby – well, Bobby got a bit of a rough deal. He was only tiny when my parents divorced and I think a lot of his attention seeking as a child was tied in with that, alongside being the youngest, which can’t be easy, and having conflicting parenting styles to live up to. He was an absolute nightmare, but has provided endless humourous anecdotes to the family collection – I’ll doubtless be writing a book about him (also, my Uncle John in his little peddle car) one day. In fact, when I was eight, I immortalised our daily routine in a poem:

“Late again!” the teacher cried, “Couldn’t be later if you tried!”
“What’s the excuse this time then dear
– don’t tell me: you forgot your gear…”

My brother made me late today
He just kept running off, away
We sat in the car, Ben and I
And watched the clouds go sailing by.
Then I got out to help my Gran
And round the caravan we ran
Me, chasing Robert, round and round
’til Robert tripped and fell to the ground.
But luckily our soft green lawn
Was there to pad out Bobby’s fall.

And that is why I’m late today.
Is it still alright to go out to play?


2 thoughts on “We love you Miss Hannigan!

  1. Love that hairpin!

    I know what you mean – it’s more undisciplined parents than undisciplined children, isn’t it? Whenever I’m with friends’ kids they seem to be behave perfectly well (if I’m at his house, one of them for some reason likes to show me what he’s been doing lately at school, bless him!). If they get fractious they’re usually bored or over tired, which is dealt with by making sure you’ve provided entertainment and, well, letting them sleep. Not to say they don’t treat their parents to the occasional tantrum, of course!

  2. Children always behave worse with parents for the simple reason that it’s with them that they test their limits.
    We are always much better with other people kids, trust me.
    That doesn’t mean that sometimes I didn’t wish I could just run away and be in a non-kid environmemt.

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