Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sore losers

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

I am packing light for our holidays this year. No more Lego, Connect 4 (travel edition), or interminable Nintendo. All I am taking to Spain for our recreation is a humble pack of cards and an emergency iPad. This is our chance to bond as a family. It'll be fun! We'll chat around the card table and indulge in a bit of friendly banter. As I slip the Disney-themed playing cards into the suitcase, I feel the glow of smug motherdom warming my cockles.

Two children playing cards
No sign of the iPad...
Most of my childhood was spent playing whist and rummy. Tucked away in an old shoebox, I still have the scores from a summer-long contest with my sisters twenty years ago. What a jolly time it was! No need for an iPad back then. We made our own entertainment. I feel secretly gratified that I am about to pass this gift of gamesmanship onto my own children.

***

Day One of the Holiday. Middle Child storms off to his bedroom in a fit of demonic rage. He has lost two rounds of whist and cannot bear the humiliation of being beaten by his sister.

Day Two. Quiet One sits at the table with tears sliding unobtrusively down her cheeks after I engineer a win for her brother. On the bright side, he is doing a naked victory dance around the terrace and has forgotten to ask me if he can watch SpongeBob SquarePants for at least five minutes.

Day Three. Neither Middle Child or Quiet One will play cards with me as they are too afraid of losing. I am reduced to playing snap with Walking Toddler, although we spend most of our time admiring Cinderella's blue ballgown. (Next time we'll use the golf-themed cards.) Inside the villa, I can hear Middle Child pleading with Siri to tell him a story about Bikini Bottom.

Day Four. A long day at the beach means that none of us feel like playing cards. Instead Quiet One reads Harry Potter out loud to Middle Child by the pool, while Walking Toddler draws a black squiggle onto the forehead of her baby doll with my new eye pencil. 

Day Five. Quiet One begs me to let her post a selfie of her new bikini on Instagram. I hold firm, telling her it might alert the local burglars to the fact that we are on holiday. To forestall a bout of eye-rolling, I offer her a game of rummy. Reluctantly she agrees but then starts to enjoy it, in spite of herself. Attracted by his sister's squeals of excitement, Middle Child joins in.

Day Six. We play seven games of whist, four games of rummy and three games of snap. Even I am beginning to tire of wholesome family entertainment. 

Day Seven. While Walking Toddler snoozes in her pushchair, the rest of us play cards on the floor of Malaga airport. "No trumps," shouts Middle Child, as he deals with the slick professionalism of a Macau card shark. 

Day Eight. We are finally back home and the kids are whining to play contract whist. "The washing won't wash itself," I mutter under my breath. When my mother pops round to collect her duty-free gin, I ask her to stand in for me so that I can get on with some unpacking. As I unload the washing machine, I overhear Granny telling them, "Your mum used to be a terrible loser when she was a little girl. Auntie Sue refused to play with her." 

***

Now that the holiday is officially over, I feel once more the siren-like pull of slack parenting. "Anyone want to watch SquareBob?" I ask nonchalantly as Middle Child starts to reach for the pack of cards in the kitchen. "I've charged the iPad." He hesitates for an instant, but is unable to resist as I silently slide the screen in front of him. 

Everything in moderation, I decide, as I head off into the garden. Peace at last. Within seconds, there is a cry of horror from indoors. "Mummy!" yells Quiet One. "There are black squiggles all over the playing cards!"

"Naughty Walking Toddler!" I murmur from the sun lounger.



Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam