Teach them young
“You do it Tash”, whined Little Dude. “You do it so much better. And look, I’ve just created another crease.”
I started teaching Little Dude how to iron but he had been martyring himself over his school shirts for 40 minutes now. He started off cheerfully enough but towards his fourth shirt he lost all the interest in the lesson, along with his jumper and some of the skin off his fingers. He claimed to have burnt himself with steam at least five times. I wistfully looked at the bottle of Malbec, patiently waiting for me on the counter.
At regular intervals he kept reminding me that it was unfair he had to iron his school uniform when there was ‘an important England game’ on (if I had a penny for every time I heard the adjective ‘important’ in relation to a football game).
A couple of times I was close to snatching the iron off him and finishing the job myself, but I knew it would achieve nothing. After all I was on a mission.
It all started a week before when I was having a lunch with Jenny. She recently joined a new company in the City which meant we now were only one tube stop apart and could lunch whenever we wanted to.
Over a bowl of delicious pasta, Jenny confided that her boyfriend does absolutely nothing to help around the house. He doesn’t know how to hoover, dust, mop the floor and it would never in a million years even occur to him that the chores should be shared. No, in his world house work is a woman’s domain and should never be imposed on a man.
“And you know what”, Jenny was seething, waving her fork with a meatball stuck on it in front of me, “I blame his mother! She taught him absolutely nothing! The man is over 40 years of age and he can’t hoover, for goodness sake!”
I stopped with my own fork mid-air, the spaghetti I carefully wound on it unravelling and splatting me with spicy tomato sauce. Slowly I put my fork down and stared at Jenny as if she had just told me she was an alien.
His mother taught him nothing and in his early 40s not only he didn’t know how to hoover and dust, but didn’t think he should be doing those jobs either. I have two boys of my own growing up, who hide and put their headphones on as soon as I turn a hoover on, only vaguely know how an iron works and whose rooms look like the aftermath of an exploding bomb.
I couldn’t help but wonder, in ten years from now, what will my boys’ girls have to say about them? Will they be helpful and handy or will the girls quietly condemn me as a parent? What does it take to bring up a successful man?
Suddenly a penny dropped and I realised that my job was not only to teach my boys everything there was to know about taking care of themselves, but also that splitting chores is a perfectly normal arrangement in a 21st century family.
As I looked at Little Dude huffing and puffing over his last shirt, I knew that the 40 minutes of ironing were a great investment into his future.
He finally finished his shirt, put it on a hanger and exhaled. “I’m really not good at this, Tash”, he gave a theatrical sign.
“It takes practice, darling. By the end of your school year you will be a pro. Well done today and I will see you next Sunday”, I chimed, unfazed by his performance.
Unimpressed, he made a quick escape towards the lounge and the noise of yet another ‘important’ game. I poured myself a glass of Malbec immediately.