I can count on two hands the number of times I have spent whole one-on-one days with my nine year-old stepdaughter. This is because she has two younger brothers, who are very much omni-present, and a very loving dad, who she sees every weekend.
But for two days only, it’s just Me and The Girl, because her brothers went back to school yesterday and her girls’ school doesn’t resume activities until next week.
Unfortunately, one of the tasks I have been left with is to get her to do her homework. It would be easier getting shit from a wooden horse.
She will avoid this chore by any means possible. Yesterday morning, for example, I caught her rasping her eyeballs with a cheesegrater and hammering rusty nails into the tips of her toes. Anything was preferable to picking up a pen, or opening up the laptop and Doing Homework.
‘It’s such a chore,’ she complained.
‘You have no idea what a chore is,’ I replied. ‘Walk a day in my shoes.’
‘OK, ten,’ she challenged. ‘I’ll do your chores if you help me with my homework.’
And so the deal was struck.
Yesterday was an especially heavy chores day because we’d been away for a week visiting grandparents. There was a mountain of washing to do; a colossus of ironing; plus shopping to do and meals to prepare.
But to be fair to her, she got stuck in. After loading the fridge with the product of our shopping trip, she loaded the washing machine, got out the ironing board, pressed not only her clothes but everyone else’s, peeled some potatoes, then finally made me a sausage sandwich.
‘There,’ she said. ‘Now can you help me with the homework.’
‘No problem,’ I countered. ‘Point me to it.’
She opened her laptop and pulled up a page entitled ‘Flora and Venus.’
‘What do you know about them, Beef?’ Child 1 asked.
‘Er, one is a butter-like spread, the other is the second planet from the sun,’ I replied.
She rolled her eyes in that ‘Oh, per-lease’ way she has, and took the laptop back from me.
‘You stick to ironing; I’ll stick to Roman goddesses, eh?’ she said. Then shooed me from her room with a contemptuous wave of her hand.