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When nagging is a way of life!

Byline: Hilarie Stelfox

WHEN DID I become one of those parents who nag their offspring?

Funnily enough I think it was around the time that they started to find me an embarrassment.

And while I know that both aspects of parenthood are part of the job description there's still part of me that pines for the golden era when my presence was not just required at every school event but de rigeur; when I was a VIP instead of a Very Embarrassing Person; and there was really nothing much to nag them about.

This time of year is a particular reminder.

It's the time of tinsel and tea towel headdresses; cardboard crowns and crepe paper outfits.

Time to perch on small chairs in school halls and wipe away a tear or two as the Offspring cavort about on stage dressed in the sort of outfits that require a lot of imagination on the part of the audience.

I was always a hopeless blubberer at such events.

Sometimes I used to wonder if it was just me or I was responding to a sort of mass welling up of parental emotion.

Then all of a sudden I became a persona non gratis.

Instead of wanting to be watched and shouting "look at me" at every opportunity, the Offspring began to slink about in darkened bedrooms; furtively My Spacing their friends and, apparently, spending much of the time doing either "homework" or "nothing." (The stock answers to that frequently asked parental question: "What are you doing?")

Now it's me that wants to hang out with them. But, of course, I have become a VEP, whose very clothes mark me out as sad.

Particularly the clothes that Firstborn witheringly describes as "like the sort of things our sixth formers wear," and then throws in for good measure: "How old do you think you are?"

Secondborn is less critical and even agrees to listen to my Amy Wine house CD in the car, which is also condemned by Firstborn . "I don't like her and none of my friends like her. The music is old fashioned."

To think that this is the same child who used to know all the words to Elvis Presley's Greatest Hits.

Nagging, of course, takes parenting to a whole new level of responsibility. For me, it all began with the arrival of school planners and homework agreements. "I've signed the agreement," I'd mutter, "so it's my job to see that it gets done."

Firstborn always claims to be on top of his homework and can see no reason at all why I keep nagging him. Although, to be fair, most of my nagging of him is concentrated on his, as I see it, excessive computer use.

I've taken to calling our PC the 'fem-puter' because it seem to have an almost siren-like hold over him. The first thing he does after taking his coat off every teatime is switch it on and the last thing he does every night before going to bed is check his emails. In between he's to be found glued to the chair and paying rapt attention to the beautiful, glowing flatscreen as it imparts its wisdom to him.

Secondborn has admitted that she NEEDS to be nagged. "I don't like it," she has explained to me," but I wouldn't get things done if you didn't." She is clearly a person who knows herself well.

According to the dictionary, to nag at someone means to be a constant source of discomfort or worry, which is not very nice at all. (Interestingly, nag is one of those words that was brought over here by the Vikings, who were a constant source of worry for quite some time).

In fact, it's so not-nice that I'm changing the definition of what I do to something much more modern, accurate and PC.

From now on I'm going to be a FACILITATOR, or someone who helps others to make progress. A true definition of parenthood if I ever saw one.

"Do I have to facilitate you to do that homework, play that violin or clean the rabbit out?" sounds so much better, doesn't it?

From now on I'm going to be a FACILITATOR
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 15, 2007
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