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12 Things I Learned About Family Life Before I Was a Teenager

Life can be too serious or lack purpose, its joys and fears mark time. In life, the passage of time can be a friend or enemy to you.


Don't Decorate or Stay Up Late

These are 12 of the life lessons that I as a child of the 1980's learned before I hit adolescence. They set me up for life or for therapy, not sure which really.

  • Your sister will never thank you for painting her pesky recorder. Never. It was a lovely shade of pink nail polish but all she did was holler and whine. So ungrateful. Then my parents got her a clarinet. I resisted the temptation to decorate. I know not how.
  • A younger sibling (me) staying up late infuriates an older sibling (Elly) which is a most satisfactory and smug face inducing situation. I was partial to a particular magic show (Paul Daniels Magic Show) on Saturday nights but when the programme wasn’t being shown I frequently schemed my way to a later bedtime. Who wouldn't?
  • Your dad will pay for access to the bathroom which you and your sister have been in for about an hour probably just twirling your hair. It was a war of attrition for extra pocket money or perhaps there was potential for death by hairspray.
  • When you’ve been overdressed against the cold by devoted parents it’s certain that you will pass out and make the crowd around you at an outdoor event scream in horror as little old you, a bobble hat, ear muff and mitten clad yeti in four thick layers of clothing crash to the ground and knock innocent bystanders over. ("But you weren't cold, were you?")
A dad who can't get into the bathroom will soon pay to access the facilities.

A dad who can't get into the bathroom will soon pay to access the facilities.

Santa Claus Can Break Into Houses?

  • Smock dresses and I should have remained strangers. Those photos of me wearing them should have been burned long ago. I had pipe cleaner legs until I was a teenager. Those smock dresses so beloved by my mum gave me the appearance of a gangly doll. Sat on Santa Claus' knee one year, I looked like a ventriloquist's dummy brought to life. No, there is no chance of a photo appearing!
  • Some people have a steely determination to be disagreeable in the face of a chase-and-blow-up-targets game on a state of the art (in those heady days) Spectrum ZX computer with its spongy keypad, joystick and attached cassette player. Talk about a low tech sore loser!
  • Santa Claus can access houses without chimneys and he left door handles slightly down which I found incredibly scary at the age of five nearly six. I was informed that old Papa Noel has keys and all manner of sci-fi gadgets to ensure the presents are delivered on time. Incidentally, my family were still trying to convince me that Santa Claus was real after I’d told them without a shadow of a doubt that he wasn’t. Oh, how I laughed at their folly. They did eventually concede defeat.
Santa Claus/Father Christmas: He got into the house but how when we didn't have a chimney?

Santa Claus/Father Christmas: He got into the house but how when we didn't have a chimney?

You washed my teddy bear? He's traumatised! Look at him.

You washed my teddy bear? He's traumatised! Look at him.

Who Needs Coordination?

  • I was not born with super co-ordination or athleticism but I could capably carry an egg on a tablespoon as a child. I won the egg and spoon race...once. The achievement has not served me at any time in my life but wow, I got a rosette for my trouble. Don't worry, I've indefinitely postponed trying to qualify for the Olympics to give others a chance. You're welcome.
  • From the age of three I was the proud owner of a cherry red scooter and later a vivid green bicycle. Regrettably my skillful driving techniques were under appreciated by the distrusting adults around me who often dived out of my way like goalkeepers when I careened in their direction. Good reactions from my 70+ grandfather though, he never impaled himself on his tool bench.
  • If you should happen to fly off a roundabout in a park and land on the thick layer of wood chippings on the ground the tasty snack potential is zero. The pain factor is 100% when you cut yourself and post fall requires at least an hour of spitting out wood chips and picking bark out of every fold in your clothes and hair. Your family and friends will find this activity highly amusing for reasons best known to themselves. Harrumph!

A Monster in the Bedroom

  • You will reach that inevitable day when you happily skip home from school to discover that your favourite teddy bear has been in the washing machine and is pegged on the line by its ears. They’ll tell you that the teddy bear “enjoyed his swim.” I'm sure that he didn't, thank you very much!
  • And finally, monsters don’t hide under beds or in wardrobes, they share your bedroom. They have the audacity to be cheerful in the morning and they threaten to douse you in cold water to get you out of bed. Thanks sis!

© 2022 Joanne Hayle

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