Deborah Ross: Our Woman in Crouch End

The boys are up the chimney and the girls are on the game - hooray for traditional values

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As "family values" are back in the news, I feel I must speak out, as a family without values is a terrible thing, not that we would know. As it is, our family has so many values that sometimes I have to put my food down and sternly say: "No more values in this house. I'm sorry, but enough is enough. I don't want to come home and find the house full of values, hanging around, smoking pot, leaving dirty dishes everywhere, and have you seen how much they eat? I did a big shop yesterday and now it's all gone. Don't they have their own homes to go to?"

Obviously not. In fact, I can now see that the reason some families don't have values is that they are all round at our place. Please collect, asap. I know, I know. Values are not just words, they're what we live by, but you try putting up with the shoes they leave all over the hall. Some of them don't even say "please" or "thank you". I blame the parents.

Naturally, I am always glad when the church and politicians and governments climb aboard the "family values" bandwagon because, of course, it's very important that they meddle in our own private business and impose their own moral outlook and prevent gays from getting married which may, bizarrely, suggest to some that what they mean by "family values" are their values.

Further, some even say that when a politician speaks about "family values" if you look at his lips really, really carefully what he is actually saying is: "After a great deal of careful thought, and so I can devote more time to politics and my own career, I have decided to spend considerably less time with my family, if I spend any time with them at all, as I now have my own little flat in Westminster, praise be."

But that is just absurd. Everyone knows that, when it comes to it, happiness is all about having a loving, warm, close-knit family, and that still holds even if they're on the other side of the country and the manner in which small children flick Coco Pops makes you want to punch them on the nose and then get the next train back to London.

It is definitely time for a return to the "traditional family", although I must confess that it does worry me a bit that, as "traditional" is never defined, it might be traditional to Mongolia in which case I should have put on a funny hat and knocked down our house so we could put up a yurt years ago. Perhaps, by "traditional", what is meant is father, mother and children all living together, a relatively modern social unit but one that has proved so successful that only 40 per cent (if you go by the divorce rate) fail.

Holy smoke, Mum!

Alternatively, perhaps "traditional" means the family typical of the Victorian era. That would make sense, as that's when the family had its heyday, and when all mothers stayed at home, as they absolutely should, except in those really extremely rare instances when they were working-class, and had to be economically active, or middle or upper-class, in which case the servants did everything.

Indeed, a recent study by the Families, Children and Childcare project showed that children do much better when looked after by their mothers, although I don't think they factored in mothers who have just given up smoking, as I have. "Mummy, will you play Batman with me?" No. Piss off. "Mummy, what's for supper?" Don't know. Don't care. Piss off.

A hard-knock life

Only joking. I try to run my own family along Victorian lines, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find fault with us or complain about any lapses in traditional values. We cover the piano-legs, do not believe in lesbians, have all manner of hang-ups about sex, and so what if my husband beats me? After all, he has the statutory right to do so, so long as the stick isn't thicker than his thumb, and my husband would never, ever use a stick thicker than his thumb. He's a good man. He only, for example, visits under-age prostitutes three times a week, which means he is probably at home more than a husband who plays golf.

Our boys, of course, go up chimneys while our girls are themselves under-age prostitutes, and why shouldn't they be? If it was OK for the Victorians then we're not going to argue with it. They're doing very well although it hasn't all been plain sailing. Sometimes, I admit, they will complain. "Mother," one will say, "I'm only 12 and I don't want to have sex with some old gen'leman. Can't I just watch The Simpsons and circle Claire's Accessories like all the other girls my age?" That's kids for you. Ungrateful to the last. Some things never change!

Of course, as a parent, it's essential that you learn to say "no" to your children if they are to be brought up properly. So it's: "No, you cannot watch The Simpsons and circle Claire's Accessories like other girls your age. Off you go now. You'll enjoy it when you get there. And you know how much the old gen'leman looks forward to your visits." Plus, as all Victorians knew, sex with a child cures STDs and - a good tip here - if you have a young daughter that has yet to be de-flowered you can bump up the price.

Lastly, we have spent many pleasant evenings together, as a traditional family with traditional family values, helping the unwed parlourmaid strangle her bastard babies at birth. It sure beats Ludo. In fact, if there is no infanticide on the go, I now find that the evenings can seem awfully long. Give it a try. Alternatively you could, I suppose, just accept the modern world for what it is. Up to you.

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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