PARENTS

Help! My Children Are Sabotaging My Social Life

18/11/2011 09:56 | Updated 22 May 2015
Mother looking thoughtful with presentsGetty

Please tell me I'm not alone – I suspect I'm not – but is your social life being increasingly ruined by the social lives of your children?

And, if they're not already out, are they beginning to refuse to join you on group outings this festive season?

I'm excited, but increasingly frustrated, as the gorgeous Christmas invites start dropping through the door. Beautifully handwritten cards inviting us to lunchtime drinks (thereby child friendly) or early evening festive nibbles entice us to leave the house, wrap up warm and walk a few streets to well-meaning and generous friends who would like to share some Christmas cheer with my husband and me and our children.

But more and more often - and this year seems worse than ever - my lot either don't want to come full stop, or exclaim, barely able to contain their joy, that they can't accept because they are going out with their friends.

Or, even worse are needed at their own Christmas social event (where I am needed for taxi service) or indeed are required for the umpteenth time to put in yet more (weekend) hours of rehearsal for their up-coming festive production.

"You wait," mutters my friend Sally annoyingly. "It only gets worse before it gets better. And by the time you're free of children who now Don't Want To Come With You, you'll be too old and exhausted to want to bother going out anyway." Dear me.

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I got a taste of things to come a couple of years ago when one of my daughters was in a Christmas production for her dance class. Let's get one thing straight – she doesn't dance for the Royal Ballet. She used to clump about with her leotard stuck up her bottom on a Thursday after school in the church hall.

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But nevertheless the dance teacher clearly thought she was a retired Darcey Bussell and when the daughter signed up to take part in the show we were warned that 100% commitment was required. So it was I found myself ferrying lots of screaming little girls back and forth to weekend rehearsals, not to mention spending the entire weekend before Christmas either watching the show, or chaperoning little prima donnas backstage.

Apart from the number my daughter was in – obviously - it was not really my scene, and my mood was not improved one bit by the fact that some of my closest friends were enjoying yuletide drinks nearby.

My cousin Michael laments the same change in his household. Every year for many years he and his wife and a bunch of long-standing friends and their children would venture out on New Year's Day for a bracing walk and a warming supper back at one of their houses.

"It was as much a solid tradition as hanging stockings in the fireplace or making the Christmas pudding," he told me.

But last year his boys, delightful in so many other ways, refused point blank to go along with the wishes of their parents. "Just because they're your friends doesn't mean their children are our friends too," said their eldest son Tom, backed up with alarming rigour by his younger brother.

"If I'm honest I could see their point," Michael generously conceded. "After all I remember our parents doing the very same thing to us – assuming their friends' children would be our friends."

It's a tricky one. My friend Rebecca, a teacher as well as a parent, offers some helpful advice. "I try and present the options to my children in a way that allows them at least to think they are getting some kind of choice.

"So this year we are going en famille, with a group of friends and their off-spring to sing carols at the Royal Albert Hall. But we have offered the older children in the group the option of making their own ways home afterwards, whilst the younger children in the party, who are still happy to tag along, will stay with us whilst we go for a bite to eat and a catch-up. You never know, the thought of free food and drinks, as opposed to a bowl of cereals back home, might encourage them to spend the entire time with us."

Or perhaps I could just bribe them to stay with us.

Does this ring true to you? Whose social life gets priority in your home - yours or your children?

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