I always start off a noisy game of tickling or “let’s play 101 Dalmations” whenever a certain advert comes on the telly. It’s the one where Smarmy Man One beats Smarmy Man Two to his boss’ eternal affections by working on a report at the weekend and emailing it out before Monday rolls around.
At this point I’m usually holding my hands over Liability’s ears and singing the latest Britney Spears single at the top of my voice for Deminimus’s benefit, because, frankly, I don’t want them to think that working at the weekend is a normal thing that daddies do.
I’ve given up on Subjudice because she spends Sundays counting her gains at Pokémon trading and preparing her portfolio for Monday lunchtime. But I have vowed to keep the younger two innocent for as long as possible.
“I hate that advert. I think it sets a bad example,” I told the Lawyer recently.
“I disagree,” he said smarmily, looking up from the laptop. “If you’re paid well you should expect to work at weekends.”
I retreated in a huff to the utility room, where I spent my Sunday afternoon ironing his shirts, unsure of where the moral lies if I expect to work at weekends and not get paid at all. I fished a mangled piece of paper out of the top pocket of his best striped shirt. It had gone through the wash, but biro, like strawberry stains, is one of those things you can just never get out. It had calculations across it. They read 2500/47=53.191; 2500/49=51; 51/6=8.5; 51/7=7.3. Numbers which mean so much to the Lawyer, just irritate me, and I threw it out.
Later that evening I found him ferreting around in the neat row of clean, ironed shirts in his wardrobe. “Have you seen a piece of paper with numbers on it?” he asked.
Being practised in tough love I resisted the impulse to start looking for him and began the litany from page 125 of How to be an Enabling Mother. “When did you last see it? Where were you? Who were you with? What did you do with it?” At this point my children usually retreat in tears wailing “It’s not fair! Mummy’s being horrid to me!” and I’m free to pick up my book again.
Unfortunately, this time I remembered I was the one who had actually binned the Lawyer’s scribblings, so I changed tack. “What numbers? What do you want them for anyway?” which comes straight from page 3 of the Lawyer’s manual, How to Make Your Wife Feel Guilty By Turning a Perfectly Reasonably Question Into a Vicious Counterattack.
Shamefaced mumblings came from the Lawyer, and I eventually learned he was adding up how hard he’d have to work to make a US lawyer’s salary.
“What’s wrong with your nice UK salary?” I asked him. Honestly. He drives a BMW, and all those Rover workers are going to be out of a job.
“Not big enough,” he mumbled. “I want one as big as everyone else’s.”
I resisted the impulse to cradle him in my arms and murmur “you’ll get one soon, just wait and see,” because I know that in exchange he would have to give up his every waking hour and I’m hoping to keep a few for myself. A huge crash and screaming stopped the discussion dead and sent us running into the living room, where Liability and Deminimus have been fighting over the laptop. They’re playing “Daddy at work” and the laptop is the magic key – whoever has it gets to stay up all night.