I am a grown up. I have a mortgage, a driving licence and a responsible job. I pay my bills and I have managed to keep myself, a cat and some fish alive in the sixteen years since I left home.
Despite this, there are still some things that I just can’t bring myself to do because I suffer from perpetual parental panic. This is the anxiety experienced whilst doing something in the knowledge that your mum and dad would disapprove.
Eating food in the supermarket before it’s been paid for
There was a child in a trolley munching on a gingerbread man when I went to the supermarket earlier today. When I say “in a trolley” I obviously mean in the foldey up child seat bit at the front, I’m not suggesting that he was rolling around in the back bashing against the baked beans. Anyway, back to the gingerbread man. I noticed the tasty treat because I’d just left work, I was hungry and I was pondering whether I could distract the mother for long enough to sneakily snap an arm off the gingerbread man and scoff it; seagull-stealing-a-chip-from-unsuspecting-victim-on-Brighton-seafront style. As I was standing staring at the biscuit formulating ‘operation : amputate little ginger man’, I heard the mother say ‘Give me the wrapper, I’ll need to pay for that when we get to the checkout” and suddenly I went from yearning baked goods to considering making a citizens arrest.
I just don’t understand it. You wouldn’t nip into Marks and Spencer on the way to work, grab a shirt, take all the labels off, wear it for a day in the office and then pop back in at the end of the day to pay for it. At the very least, if you tried this, you’d probably end up justifying your behaviour to Mr Security Guard. Why is a gingerbread man any different? Besides, even if I did attempt pre-purchasing pigging out, I would not get away with it because, even if she wasn’t there, my mum would know that I was doing it. Her internal mothering monitor would start shouting at her “This is an emergency alert. Daughter number one is doing something wrong. I repeat: Daughter one. Code Red” and she’d drop everything that she was doing in order to telephone a policeman who would come and find me, put me in handcuffs and lock me away. Probably forever.
Sleeping in past 10am
I am the only member of my family who does not get up early. My mum starts work at about 2am or some other ludicrous hour of the day. Before my sister had her babies, she was always up early. I suspect that now she’s got children who think that 6am is a late start, she’s regretting those dim and distant days when she could have had a lie in and chose not to. My dad is also an early bird and will get up as soon as the sun appears. I, on the other hand, am definitely a night owl. If I had to live my life without ever seeing another morning, it would be no great loss to me. I have no idea why I’m different to the rest of them. I can’t even suggest that I’m the milkman’s secret child.
Now, getting up late is not a new thing for me. I am a hamster in a family of squirrels and I don’t just mean that I am the fat, fluffy one. I’m also referring to sleeping habits. I was even born mid-morning. As a newborn baby I was likely to still be asleep at 10am. Rumour has it that when my mum was in hospital after I was born, the nurses used to have to wake me up in the morning by flicking my feet so that I could be fed. Shocking behaviour. Am I able to make a retrospective child abuse claim?
My biggest sleeping late fail was on 15 August 2012. I know the exact date because it was the day that my nephew was born. I was on holiday from work and the baby was not due for a while. The rest of my week off had actually involved getting up pretty early but on the evening of 14 August for some reason I decided to stay up late. As I’d stayed up so late, I’d also had a lovely luxurious lie in. When I woke up, I sleepily picked up my phone to check the time only to discover that it was about 12.30pm and I had missed calls from my mum, my sister, my brother-in-law and my dad and a whole bunch of texts from them telling me to “wake up sleepy head” because I was an auntie again and my nephew had been born. Not only had he been born, he’d been alive for almost half a day before I even knew of his existence.
My dislike of getting up early and the length of my lie-ins are both legendary and yet, I still feel guilty about sleeping in late. If I wake up past 10am at the weekend and have a missed call from my father, it sends me into an immediate panic. I have to rush out of bed and stand next to an open window so that cars can be heard in the background and call him back. “Hi Dad, yeah, I’m just walking back from the supermarket, can’t you hear the traffic?…”
Going out if I’ve not been to work
I am very rarely unwell and I don’t take much time off work. Even if I am sick, I have to be pretty poorly not to drag my sorry behind into the office. However, when I do take a day off, there is one rule that my parents will never ever let me break: If you are not well enough to go to work, you are not well enough to do ANYTHING. You can visit the doctor and possibly the chemist but only if you look terrible. If you do not look sickly and weak and as though you may faint at any given moment, you just can’t go out. The rules of being off work are as follows:
- Do not do your hair, sick people do not do their hair, they are too sick to care what their hair looks like. You may wear your emergency ‘Feeble and in poor health’ hat to cover your hair instead. If you are well enough to do your hair, you are well enough to go to work.
- Same goes for clothes. You can wear comfortable, baggy, old clothes only. Any clothes that are too complicated (you are too sick to do buttons up), too tight (jeans are for well people) or too clean (implies that you have been doing laundry recently rather than being ill) are unacceptable. If you are well enough to care about your outfit, you are well enough to go to work.
- You can not go to the corner shop to buy a loaf of bread, if you are well enough to want to eat toast, you are well enough to go to work.
- You are forbidden to have a little walk to get some fresh air. If you are well enough to want to breath fresh, clean, park air instead of stale, disease filled, germ infused foggy bedroom air you are well enough to go to work.
My parents drummed this into me from an early age and let me tell you, I’m scared to even answer the phone if it rings when I’m sick just in case it’s one of them; “Jolene [said in that tone of voice only ever achieved by my parents], if you are well enough to answer the phone, you know that are well enough to go to work.”