I live in a posh area of London. Well, one of the desirable London postcodes anyway. Thandie Newton and Damien Lewis are local school run parents in the vicinity, my husband saw Michael McIntyre doing the school run in a Ferrari the other day and Lil Bro shared his first shaving foam and sand pit discoveries at nursery with a bevy of offspring of Arsenal football players.
Designer children’s clothes, designer children’s shoes, designer children’s toys and fabulous children’s parties are the norm around here, which can all seem a bit mad if you spent your own childhood begging for penny sweets from your friends and making your own chess sets from drawing squares on the back of a cereal packet. Here is a collection of my posh kids stories that made me laugh:
1. A friend of mine attended a childbirth support group. Upon being advised by the facilitator to moisturise their new born baby with olive oil, one of the group asked if extra-virgin was OK as that’s all they had in the house. I think you’ll find it’s only the second-press of Sicilian olives that are acceptable.
2. Whilst the stroppy kid screaming in the Morrison’s supermarket for sweets is probably the norm the country over, at the local Waitrose, Lil Bro has a tantrum for Yakult. It’s like: “Give me my pro-biotic yoghurt drink – NOOOOW!”
3. Whilst schools the country over are serving chicken nuggets, in our area, they are chicken goujons. “You mean nuggets?” I said to Lil Bro, “No, no, I didn’t have chicken nuggets, I had chicken goujons” (with a quinoa salad on the side I suspect).
4. 3-year old Big Sis and her friend were on one of those car-rides for children that they put outside supermarkets to extract money off parents. Her friend was delighted and declared that she was driving to the cinema. Big Sis pipes up with lovey aplomb, “I’m driving to the THEATRE”. Her friend’s mother raised an eye-brow at me. Ah, such mixed emotion of pride and embarrassment. To be fair, Big Sis at the time had gone to the theatre more times than the cinema (I’m talking “Tiger that came to tea” not “Ibsen’s Brand”) so it was not her fault, but, oh, the snobbery.
5. Big Sis and Lil Bro were playing with their friends on a toy sled. They pretended the sled was an aeroplane, packed up belongings and were going on holiday. “We’re off to the Maldives” one friend cried, “No, St Lucia” said the other. Well why not? My kids started trying to sell them food on the plane. The others said that you did not need to pay for food on planes. My kids said you did and demanded that they pay up. I think I know where the problem is here…
6. I don’t go big on presents for children’s parties. Kids who invite my kids to their parties are lucky if they get a small Melissa & Doug wooden jigsaw off me. It was rather embarrassing then that in the going home party bag of a party at which we had given said small Melissa & Doug jigsaw, was a bigger Melissa & Doug jigsaw, alongside other goodies including sweets, pencils and an anorak! What happened to a slice of cake and a few penny sweets…?
7. “Excuse me, can you pass the parmigiano?” (this is a 4 year old speaking); “Err – you mean the cheese”; “Yes, and if you’d like an espresso, my father will make one for you with the gaggia”. I kid you not…
I am super glad that my children get to live in this brilliant postcode and experience the good things in life, but I am keen for them to know that hard work is the bedrock of it all; and not to take it all for granted. In my mind, my less-than-privileged upbringing has “recession-proofed” my life. I don’t see what’s wrong with state primary school, budget airlines and holidays in camp sites, can’t imagine anyone handling my unwashed clothes and McDonalds is a guilty pleasure. It meant that when I earned money, I truly enjoyed it, rather than expected it to be so. Further, having had a happy childhood, I know for a fact that happiness lies not in material wealth. I was just as happy saving up and bunking off school to queue up at 5am for seats at Wimbledon as a teenager as I am now waltzing into the Steward’s enclosure to drink Champagne at Henley. So it was with concern that I listened to Big Sis complaining that “Our house is so small, my friend’s house is much bigger and they have a big garden”, all the more worrying as our house would likely be subject to a mansion tax due to its location.
On a holiday to visit Banker’s family in South Africa, I pointed out to Big Sis and Lil Bro the township shacks along the roadside. “Do you see those children playing football? That’s their house” I said, pointing to a small tin shack. “No it’s not. You’re joking” they said. It took a while for them to believe, but I answered all their questions and I hope this and many other reality-check conversations since will cement their feet to the ground.