My So-Called Life: Another fungal infection? What fun

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The other day, I heard on the radio one of those authoritative parenting experts - obviously a graduate of the LSP, the London School of Parenting, located, I believe, just off the Euston Road - saying that the problem with parents today is that they do not play with their children enough.

The other day, I heard on the radio one of those authoritative parenting experts - obviously a graduate of the LSP, the London School of Parenting, located, I believe, just off the Euston Road - saying that the problem with parents today is that they do not play with their children enough. It's a lost art, she said, and it doesn't have to cost anything. "You can always make a den by simply hanging a blanket from the washing line." Here is my response:

OK, lady of the parenting-expert type, first off, you have to give birth to this child of yours, right, which is no small matter, with the doctor shouting "Push!", and the midwife shouting "Push!", and your partner shouting "Push!", and the tea lady shouting "Push!", and the man who runs the hospital flower stall shouting "Push!", and every passer-by shouting "Push!". Because if none of them did, you'd do what? Lie there quietly, embroidering cushion covers and antimacassars?

And then you have the baby, which comes out as a scary, bloody, screaming thing, and two minutes later, before you've even had a chance to pull your nightie down or take up your next antimacassar, the contraception lady - possibly a graduate of the LSC, which adjoins the LSP - comes to talk to you about your birth-control plans, and you are, like: "Birth-control plans? If you think I'm ever going to have sex again after this, you are much mistaken. Birth-control plans! What planet are you from, lady? As it is, I feel like a grenade has just gone off in my knickers. Twice."

And then it's off home, and impossible car seats and breastfeeding and having to get your bosom out in front of people you don't really want to, such as your father-in-law and the man who has come to fix the boiler, and all those sleepless nights when you try to sweet talk God by saying that you will never tell another lie again if only the baby would sleep four hours in a row. But the baby never does because God is a total bastard and won't give you the benefit of the doubt. And then there is the snot and the spew and the hearty bowel movements that are sometimes "up the back" jobs and sometimes "down the leg" jobs and sometimes both, which is always an extra special treat. And then there is the dummy, that can never be found when you want it. Where is the dummy? It will eventually be found under the sofa, covered in fluff and dirt, and as fluff and dirt are bad for babies, you have to sterilise it with this complicated sterilising thing the size of Battersea Power Station, unless you just think, "Oh, sod it", and blow on it instead, which appears to work just as well, but it's wise not to be too evangelical about it, especially down the baby clinic.

And then its crawling and stuffing peanut-butter sandwiches into the video, and you turn your back for an instant, or several hours, to do something important like pour a quadruple gin for elevenses, and by the time you return it'll be playing with the bread knife and a bottle of Ajax. (I know! Let's not play dens! Let's play eye surgeons! Bagsy be eye surgeon first!)

And then it's off to nursery school, and it starts bringing friends home, some of whom are quite spooky, like, for example, the small boy who has, perhaps, spent too much time with an elderly grandmother and has acquired her vocabulary. "Would you like a drink?" you might ask. "Yes," he might reply. "I am fair parched." And if that doesn't put the wind up you, then maybe it'll be the boy who will tell you that his mum says he looks just like his dad. "That's nice," you will say. "No it isn't," he will reply. "My mum hates him and says if she ever sees him again she is going to stab him." You might wish to opt for a finger supper.

And then it's nits and impetigo and ringworm and athlete's foot and fever strips and Calpol and doctors and dentists, and the development lady who wants to see if he is deaf so she whispers a word into his ear and that word is "comb", and he keeps saying "what?" so the lady thinks he is deaf even though he isn't, it's just that he has never seen a comb, but you don't want to admit that so you go along with her diagnosis, although by the time you get him home and have boxed him round the ears a bit, he is certainly less able to hear than he once was.

And then there are birthday parties. Birthday parties! You might as well just stand on the doorstep and shout, "Would every kid in the neighbourhood like to come in and trash the house? That's right, you just tread that jam tart into the carpet. And make a proper job of it." And then they go to parties and you go to pick them up, and as you leave you say: "What do you say to Christopher's mum?", and the reply will be a pleading cry that goes: "Where is my goody bag?" This will lead to another box round the ears and further hearing impairment. You are now beginning to think that the development doctor was a visionary.

And then there are the school plays in which no one knows the lines except for one child who knows them all and goes about shouting them into the faces of the other kids, and this is meant to be quality entertainment?

And then it's more nits and more ringworm and more of every fungal infection you can think of, and thank God for Canestan, and then it's ferrying them all over the shop and watching them play football on cold Sunday mornings while shouting "Good try!" at random intervals to appear interested, and packed lunches that come back untouched even though you went to the all-night garage at 2am to get the bread... and... and... and... and now you're expected to play with them, too?

That's just taking the piss, right? Blankets and dens and washing lines? I don't know what they teach these people at the LSP, but I can only think that it doesn't get them very far. Otherwise, apart from anything else, they'd all have tumble-dryers.

The LSP can be found at the big cardboard box with cut-out windows at 650 Euston Road - visitors welcome but be prepared to see lots of incredibly bored grown-ups pretending to have fun

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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