Susie Fowler-Watt

Susie Fowler Watt's children Lola and Hugo quietly share a book - but it's not always so peaceful!

Susie Fowler Watt's children Lola and Hugo quietly share a book - but it's not always so peaceful! - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The hubbub of home life gets the BBC Look East presenter thinking about her own childhood

THE LONGER I parent, the more I admire my parents. How did they do it? Two competitive boys, close in age, and then a “feisty” (that’s other people describing me) daughter after quite a large gap.

Both parents worked full time, and yet the only things I can remember being resentful about as a child was that they couldn’t always make it to my school events, and that I was asked to empty the dishwasher when my brothers weren’t. As the twitterati would put it: #everydaysexism #middleclassproblems.

Yes, there was the odd cross word or hormonal strop, but from my recollection at least, everything ran pretty smoothly. In comparison, my parenting experience seems a lot more fraught. And definitely a lot more noisy!

Actually, if I had to name the thing I find hardest about parenting at this point in time, it is the noise. Maybe I am particularly sensitive – I always have to turn down the talkback level in my earpiece at work after someone else has been plugged in, and I am forever asking my husband to turn down the TV or radio.

Still, the noise in a house with a toddler and a “feisty” tween (that’s me describing her) seems unbelievable. There are only two of them – how many decibels can a child create? Sometimes I find myself hollering at them, and then pause. What am I doing? I’ve never been a shouter. I hate shouting! I realise it’s because it’s the only way to make myself heard above the din.

I used to dream of a house full of children, running riot and only stopping occasionally to refuel at the dinner table. In real life, my idea of heaven is an hour of complete silence, so I’m the one who can stop - to think. I miss thinking. I don’t get much time to do it these days.

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It used to be that children were seen and not heard. In our house, they are heard even when they can’t be seen. Our friends (the ones who have grown up children and peaceful houses) keep telling us it will get easier. But teenage years are looming, and I fear there’s a lot more hullabaloo on its way first. I see only one solution: a pair of industrial strength earplugs.

Only about a decade ago, my doctor’s surgery had a sign on the wall urging patients to “Drink alcohol”. From memory, it went on to say a glass a day was good for you, and should be treated as medicine. I mentioned it in this column at the time, joking that it was my kind of medical advice.

Nowadays there is no sign of that sign. And those of us who tend to have a glass of wine of an evening (“my doctor told me to!”) are more likely to get the message we’re a potential burden on the NHS.

It’s the same with red meat. Didn’t it used to be encouraged as a good source of iron and protein? Now, the experts say it causes cancer, and should only be eaten occasionally.

Will we all be eating and drinking very differently in a few years’ time? In the same way I was late to the party with smartphones, am I going to be one of the last people to realise that enjoying a rare steak and a glass of rioja is seriously last century?

My brother turned up at Christmas looking a picture of health and vitality. He’d lost weight, his skin was glowing and he looked incredibly well. It turned out he’d been on a health drive.

He even caused consternation by requesting a post-prandial peppermint tea instead of coffee. Much rooting around in the cupboard unearthed some herbal bags (best before 2008) someone must have given us. He bravely sampled one, and reported that it “didn’t taste of much”.

If my big brother is on the peppermint tea, then something major is going on. I predict it won’t be long before we’re all eating buckwheat and black beans, washed down with a spirulina smoothie. We’ll be taking “artesian” bottled water to parties instead of plonk.

The adventurer Bear Grylls is already there. In his new home cookbook he writes “When I eat now, I think ‘is this food really contributing to rejuvenating cells and eliminating toxins?’”

In contrast, when I am eating, I think “does this taste good?” This is clearly where I am going wrong. I blame the doctor!

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