Role reversal at Fortress H

PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

Back in the days when Brats M and M needed constant supervision, I remember how we craved for a night out. But money was tight and we could not afford to hit the town very often.

Back in the days when Brats M and M needed constant supervision, I remember how we craved for a night out. But money was tight and we could not afford to hit the town very often. When we did go out for a meal, it was a special occasion. We'd build up to it; Mrs H would spend even longer than she does now planning what to wear and I would… well, just be grateful we were escaping.

As we wallowed in our meal, part of us would naturally worry that everything was ok back at base, but here was the chance for some adult talk; no interruptions with demands to play Hungry Crocs or kick a ball around.

But what did the main topic of conversation turn out to be? Yes, the children. How they were developing, what they'd achieved. We relived funny moments from the past few months and talked of our aspirations for them. Then it was off home to release the babysitter.

So much for a brat-free evening.

And it still happens to some extent when we go out. OK, there's no babysitter and we do discuss other topics such as will we ever get round to decorating and Mrs H will set out her vision for the garden, but there remains a large part of the conversation which is centred around what the pair of them are up to in their independent lives.

I mention this because I realised the other day that Brats M and M must discuss us when they're out, either with their friends or with each other. I suppose it's as natural for them to compare notes on us as we do on them. From the playground days of: “My dad's bigger than your dad,” to the more intense analysis now they're older and they have the “Why are we all here” debates that young people have. They start in the pub and go on into the early hours.

This all cropped up when Brat Minor was staying with us during his recent illness. He was listening quietly while Mrs H and indulged in a good marital chunter. Finally he could resist no longer and interjected with a comment.

“You know,” he said thoughtfully. “I'm never sure which of you is the most stubborn.”

There was a moment's silence while, simultaneously, Mrs H and I sucked in huge breaths in readiness to deliver our cases. I must have been stung because I actually got in first.

“Yer mother is,” I crowed. “And she's awkward; if I said the sea is blue, she'd say 'Hmm, well it's a bit green really.”

“Phworr!” exploded Mrs H. “If you don't want to do something you won't do it.”

We sparred excitedly while Brat Minor stood there grinning.

“I think,” he said ponderously, “that Mum just comes out and says 'no' but Dad's subtly stubborn.”

It was clear from his considered answer that he had thought about it - and probably discussed it with his sister.

Mrs H and I continued to trade tart remarks before agreeing that, if we were honest, he was probably not too far off the mark.

This is another step in that gradual reversal of roles. From telling our youngsters where we thought they were going wrong or how they ought to handle a particular situation the boot is slowly transferring to the other foot.

Last week, Brat Minor was giving me a lesson on how to store my CDs on the computer and download them to my MP3 player.

“Hang on,” I said. “It wasn't so long ago that we were sitting in this very room and I was helping you with your schoolwork.” And I added with a hint of regret in my voice: “Now I'm the pupil.”

It is reassuring that they will still ring us for advice and guidance. But even there we seem to ring Brat Minor just as often when the video plays up or the computer crashes.

Recent events have proved that we are still useful when it comes to acting as hospital, doctors, nurses and pharmacist. But how long will it be before they are doing even that for us.

I can see it now; Mrs H and me huddled by the fire clutching hot-water bottles as we sip our hot lemon drinks. The Brats turn up; demand to know if we have eaten that day. Have we called the doctor? Are we sleeping properly?

One of them cuts the lawn while the other goes to the shop. We promise faithfully to do everything they have told us and as soon as they are in the car we ignore it all and go back in front of the fire with a fresh mug of Lemsip.

They will be the ones delivering the taxi service, taking it in turns to pick us up on a Sunday afternoon to take us for a ride in the country.

And I suppose there will come a time when they have Power of Attorney over our money. Mind you, I think they assumed that at birth.

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