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Irritations of Modern Life

59. Earth Mothers
EARTH MOTHERS sound so reasonable: they never smack or shout at their children; white sugar, salty snacks and TV are out; they care about the environment.

But at the supermarket, you threaten your toddler with sudden death unless he stops whining for Smarties, and a weedy voice pipes up: "He's chanting, exploring his relationship with the cosmos. Deny him kindly. White sugar is a killer."

Absolutely. A pound of Tate & Lyle, lobbed skilfully, might put this woman out of her self-inflicted misery. However, your child is now swimming in a sea of Hula Hoops. "No!" you scream, dumping him back in the trolley seat. "`No' is a negative," says the woman. "Far better to reason. I never use the N word." "No?" you ask. "Well, I never normally use the F word. But here goes: fuck off." Big mistake. As you load the boot with the weekly shop, your errant offspring lisps: "uck uck uck."

But at least your kid looks healthy. Unlike her little sprite, with bandy legs and a small head, sucking on a brown rice cake. No wonder Mummy doesn't use the N word. The child doesn't have the energy to misbehave.

At birthday parties, these waifs face the wall munching alfalfa sprouts while their peers go crazy on jammy dodgers. When the cola comes, Mummy stuffs the child up her jumper to suckle. "I can't risk soya milk. GM contamination is such a worry," she says, rolling a cigarette one-handed. When she steps outside to light up, someone gives her daughter a doughnut. The girl perks up and starts a fight over a tricycle. Horrified at the violence, Mummy says, "She was never like this before I exposed her to your bullies." But, you counter, he's a normal little boy, exercising the skills needed for hunting and leadership. "Well, he can practise on someone else," she snaps. "Before I go, has anyone got a spare nappy?" She never bought washables - and can't afford enough disposables - the price of organic vegetables being what it is.

Come dawn, earth mother is shattered. She still sleeps with her daughter, who was kept awake by the doughnut, while Daddy slept in the spare room. Again. Sex is off limits. The world population is growing too fast. Mummy won't risk another baby.