Charles Dickens, London’s The Guardian newspaper reported, inspected his children’s bedrooms every morning and left behind letters for them if things weren’t ship-shape.
The Guardian, never a paper that lets go of an opportunity to be amusing and irreverent, asked if that sort of parental discipline would work today, and framed for its readers, as a pastiche of Dickens, a letter from a father dissatisfied with the condition of his sons’ bedroom.
And I, never a man who lets go of an opportunity to steal, thought I should try an adaptation of that adaptation. I don’t know if I shall ever actually do this. Would you? Do you think that this sort of rigour might work with our children?
Anyway, here it is.
My Dear Girl,
1. I appreciate your attachment to the mop (the long handle customised to your height) I bought for you last week. You have been magnificent at cleaning up the flat, and your insistence and persistence are to be admired. If you — as you often do — want to use it as a witch’s broomstick or a hobbyhorse, you are welcome. The only thing is that you could do either/both if the mop were left where it ought to be: in the kitchen. Propped up against the wall on the other side of your bed makes it an odd aspect of interior décor.
2. Your bangles, headbands, beads, pens, pencils, hairbrush, books and DVDs add a touch of colour to wherever you choose to leave them behind. But I find it mildly distressing when they happen to be on my apology for a writing desk because a) it gives me an excuse to do the one thing that I want to avoid when I sit down to write in the morning — waste time; and b) because I like to think of that desk as the only place in the flat that I want to believe is mine, and only mine.
3. The streamers and paper chandeliers that we’d put up for your birthday one month ago were terrific. But these things — unlike the wine you see me drink, and quite like human beings like me and food kept out of the fridge by mistake — don’t age well. Given that your next birthday is eleven months away, will it not be a good idea to take them down?
4. Your shoes are truly dainty and smart, a fact multiplied many times by the fact that you have thrice as many of them as you need. But their daintiness or smartness is not any more intensified by your leaving them in states of unpairedness (sorry for the neologism even if you don’t known what a neologism means) in your room. We do have a cupboard especially for your shoes. If you think they won’t all fit there, might it be an idea to donate some to charity?
I hope you will attend to my suggestions, and that you have a good day in school.