I have set out a series of activities for the day, all of which are designed to maximise the time that my eight year old daughter and her toddler sister can entertain themselves and each other, so that I can slink away to do more important things, like have a shower, drink a cup of coffee in peace, and respond to the 25,000 emails in my in-box (some of which are not even from kindly and munificent Nigerians offering me their great fortune in return for minor details such as account numbers).
The activities include:
- Watching TV. A lot. They can watch as much as they want, and then a little bit more. And when they think they can't watch another minute, they can return to the television and watch again. I want them to watch until it hurts.
- Scissor play. The girls can cut out pictures from newspapers and magazines and stick them into scrapbooks. And when they're tired of cutting out pictures they can cut up old books and their old clothes, trim their nails, and, finally, cut each other's hair. The results might be unsightly, but if it buys me some time in the bath, it's worth it.
- Nutella time. This involves handing the toddler a jar of Nutella and a spoon. I wander off for half an hour of Me Time, and when I return, she is groaning contentedly in a corner, coated in chocolate, with a look of drunken satiation on her filthy face. This also leads neatly to the next activity, which is...
- Bath time. Fill the tub up with water and some toys, dunk in two children, and retire with a cup of tea and a book. Kids are ready to be removed when they are shrivelled and prune-like and the entire bathroom is drenched. This entire procedure may be repeated in the evening, for, although the kids are clearly not going to get dirty sitting around the house doing nothing, you can never - I repeat, never - be clean enough.
- The cornflake game. Offer the kids bowls of cornflakes to eat. The eight year old will happily eat her bowl (she happily eats bowls of pretty much anything) which will keep her occupied for a while. The toddler will yell 'No! Yucky confake!' and throw her bowl on the floor, before proceeding to climb down from her chair, stomp on the flakes happily for twenty minutes or so, then rub them into the carpet. I will need to vacuum, of course, but at least I can eat my lunch first. (Not confakes. Are you kidding me?)