I almost dare not write the word, but it has somehow started to become part of my daily vocabulary against my will. I’m talking about Christmas, of course. Here we go again with another big helping of seasonal songs, rich food and gifts.
If you’re a parent you will know that the gifts part of the equation will essentially take over your life for the next 6 weeks, tipping you precariously close to bankruptcy and wreaking havoc on your festive goodwill.
Nothing makes me think violent thoughts more than trying to negotiate a Christmas crush of frantic people in a toy store. It might even beat taking the tube during rush hour, which occasionally makes me fantasize about wielding a deadly weapon.
With a slight shudder I learn that the Chatterbox, now seven years old and still (miraculously) believing in Santa Claus, has finally composed her Christmas wish-list, all 14 items of it.
She shows me her cute card to Santa, adorned with a mini replica of the jolly old man, while I’m frantically trying to decide what I could possibly make for dinner with half a packet of green beans, two carrots, hummus and some eggs. They’re the kind of ingredients likely to stump even the most accomplished chef, which clearly I’m not.
Later that evening – with the trauma of dinner mercifully behind me – I look closely at the card and discover that top of the list is an ‘Apple phone’.
It has me thinking nostalgically about what I wanted for Christmas when I was seven. I’m pretty sure it would have been a Barbie sports car and some new Ken, Skipper and Barbie dolls with all the accessories.
How have humans evolved to the stage where a seven-year-old wants an iPhone? I’m not entirely sure this is what I would call progress.
What has happened to the innocence of childhood and playing with an assortment of cheap Chinese plastic?
I say to the Chatterbox, with my serious mother face, ‘Honey, I don’t even have an iPhone.’ I lie to the kids a lot, but this happens to be true. My phone is the kind of archaic thing that still does nothing more than text or make phone calls. For some reason I’m reluctant to part with it. It could be because getting an iPhone, or one of its rival equivalents, will then mean that I spend even more time with an electronic device in my life. I just don’t need it.
So the Chatterbox turns to me, her tone just a tad sulky: ‘But Kate has an iPhone.’
Kate happens to be eight, and I’ve not seen her take the iPhone out yet. Still, it’s quite possible she has one, especially because she lives in the United States, the land of plenty.
‘Well,’ I say, trying to sound firm, ‘I don’t think that means you should have one.’
Since I’m dealing with a seven-year-old, I think I might have outwitted her. I give myself three more years before I find that I need to come up with a better argument for why my daughter shouldn’t get a smartphone.
On a parting note, the Chatterbox has actually been missing her two front teeth since last winter – so, yes, she could really do with getting them for Christmas.