Next time I invite friends for Sunday lunch, I am going to ask my children to do the following.
When you see me opening and closing the oven door, whilst trying to select a flattering yet casual outfit and simultaneously throwing any stray toys/shoes/dirty plates into the cupboard under the stairs, I would like you to:
1. Find a food or drink that stains and spill it down yourself. Timing is key for this one, you must wait until you’ve just been changed into your ‘nice’ clothes. You may well be still in your pyjamas ten minutes before the guests arrive, but don’t be tempted to do the spilling too early.
2. Tip a whole box of craft materials onto the floor of the kitchen, preferably the really small shiny stuff that it is impossible to vacuum or sweep up and must be picked up, individually, with fingertips.
3. Decide that you both want to play with the same toy and fight over it relentlessly. (Remember that this one is even more effective if the toy in question is a baby toy that you’ve just found behind the sofa and that neither of you has shown any interest in for the previous 12 months.)
4. When you tire of this, find a toy that has a million tiny pieces (jigsaw puzzles work well here, or any kind of play set which includes tiny figures) find that one piece is missing and cry/whinge until someone helps you to find it.
When the guests arrive:
1. Don’t share any of your toys with the visiting children, particularly if the visiting child is asking you very nicely, with impeccable manners and offers to share their own toys in exchange.
2. Refuse to eat any dinner, demanding chicken nuggets or similar.
3. During dinner repeat “Why can’t we watch a DVD while we have dinner like we usually do?” ad infinitum.
When they follow these instructions to the letter, I will be able to smile proudly, in the knowledge that I am an Alpha Mother whose children obey my every command. No longer will I be crying into the washing up that no-one listens to a word I say.
If, on the other hand, they revert to type and do the exact opposite from my requests, I will be able to relax and have a lovely afternoon as my guests look on in envy at my perfect children.
Either way, I win.