This week, as well as cooking tea, doing the laundry, vacuuming, ironing, wrapping Christmas presents and looking after Baby Louie, I have given The Houses of Parliament a lick of paint and helped to build a London bus.
I am not alone. Another of my mummy friends has been designing an art gallery.
No, we haven’t become involved with a architectural project. This activity is more commonly known as helping your child with their homework.
Entitled A World in Miniature, Lottie (and I) have had two weeks to construct a scale model of a building of her choice. I suppose I should be thankful she opted for the iconic clock tower of Westminster, rather than Lincoln Cathedral, I still don’t know where to find the Imp and imagine if we (I) got our city’s majestic church out of proportion.
As with any homework, I encourage Lottie to do as much as she can by herself. I find if I offer to help too soon, it often ends in tears and not just my daughter’s.
A recent page of maths addition took all three of us to complete, with Mr C harking back to his 1980s schooling, while Lottie was trying to explain number sentences and I was hovering in the background muttering something about her not being taught to carry 10s like the good old days.
Thankfully, with a bit of persistence and cooperation all round, the questions were answered by our daughter using the method she has been shown in class and Mr C and I rested our weary brains. Like most journalists, maths is not our forte.
On the other hand, literacy homework is always pleasure. Mr C and I often push each other out of the way to sit at the kitchen table and assist Lottie with her adverbs and similes. It’s almost a matter of professional pride she knows how to punctuate a sentence correctly, although I do find myself holding back in case we help too much and her 70-word story ends up mistake-free, which would be a dead giveaway.
To be honest, I am never quite sure how good is good enough when it comes to homework. Lottie is in Year 3 now and the expectations of her teachers are higher than when she was in the infants.
I now have to find the balance between offering gentle encouragement and pushing her to do her best. Most times we sit down together, one or the other ends up taking a few deep breaths, walking away from the books or ripping up the paper in frustration.We’d both rather be eating cakes and watching I’m a Celebrity on catch up but I’m a stickler for getting it done.
Occasionally, (I feel guilty admitting this) when time has evaporated over the weekend, we have rushed a Venn diagram over Rice Krispies on the day homework is due in but I resist doing this. It really cranks up the stress.
Imagine my joy to see a letter sent home from school about the The World in Miniature project. Over the last fortnight, Lottie has done all the preparation, she has written up an action plan, listed the materials required and researched Big Ben on the computer. All she needed to do was build it.
So, on Thursday, in plenty of time for the deadline, the tower was constructed, painted and completed. Four clock faces, all telling the same time were drawn by Lottie and a spire, albeit a bit wonky, was attached.
On Friday I popped into school. Taking Lottie down to her class I saw a collection of models other children had submitted. I mentioned to a teacher about the high standard of the buildings and cast my mind back to our own effort.
On Saturday, with Louie snoozing and Mr C out at a game, phase II began – The Houses of Parliament.
Lottie helped me for an hour as we stuck cereal boxes together, scrutinising an image on the iPad to get the details correct, then she’d had enough. She had already given three hours of her time to it.
But I carried on.
Two hours later, it was getting dark outside and I was finished. I was particularly proud of the red London bus I’d made out of a Honey Loops box.
I even posted a Facebook picture and one friend commented it was better than the one she had done ‘with/for’ her child.
I was reassured to know I wasn’t the only parent who had been up to their neck in glue, cardboard and white paper.
Mr C and my Dad have many things in common; a good sense of humour; a laid back attitude; little flecks of ginger that grow in their beards and they both like people watching, especially female people watching.
Take my dad for example. Like me, mum accepts he might surreptitiously check out a pretty woman walking down the street, usually when he’s driving, using the mirrors to get a front view once he’s gone past the person in question.
Like me, mum usually lets out a little sigh but accepts this is normal behaviour and to be fair, she acknowledges after 46 years’ of marriage, a spot of window shopping is pretty harmless.
But let this be a cautionary tale to those who’ve an eye for the ladies.
My parents have recently returned from a cruise to the Caribbean. Although there was plenty to do on board, dad was up to his old tricks around the pool.
With the sun shining, bikini-clad bodies were sprawled out on sun loungers. According to Dad, he was looking out for flying fish and dolphins that had been sighted off starboard and while he didn’t see any dolphins, he did spot an attractive woman sunbathing.
Like something out of a Carry On movie, he was so engrossed in the view, he walked into her lounger. The girl looked up in surprise at the cracking sound as my dad’s toe made an impact with the metal bed. She asked him if he was okay. He grimaced, smiled, then hobbled back to mum. I’m not sure how much sympathy he got but two broken toes is a hefty price to pay for being distracted by flying fish.
Sam Curtis, 43, lives in Lincoln in a house that’s not as clean, tidy, or quiet as she‘d like with her husband Leigh, Lottie, 8, and new arrival, baby Louie.