My husband I decided when we first moved into our house, five years ago, that we would one day invest in a cabin bed for Amelie, and that day finally arrived. However, once we had chosen the bed – and paid for it – I thought I’d best have a little look at the online instructions. Which, disturbingly, totalled 24 pages.
The Bed Beast arrived last Sunday at 12.30pm. Luckily the girls were off out for the day, and we cleared Amelie’s bedroom in advance. And yet, despite laying out each numbered pack, and sorting out each different screw into organized piles, The Bed Beast was not complete until 9.15pm.
That is nearly 9 hours of bed construction. 9 hours of life, disappeared down the flat-packed plughole. Which leads me to wonder, how many other hours of my life have I spent constructing, dismantling, or merely undoing, objects for my children?
Take toys, for example. The average toy takes approximately 30 minutes of time, 20 gallons of sweat, and 10 expletives to open. It is easier, and perhaps preferable, to gain entry to North Korea, than it is a Barbie doll.
The plastic ties; the wire ties; the plastic casings; the hermetically sealed boxes. It is like opening Tutankhamun’s tomb, only with less quality riches and a mummy in (only marginally) better shape. I’ve suffered broken fingernails, broken kitchen scissors, and a sizeable contribution to the destruction of our environment due to being festooned in a shroud of plastic wrappings.
And all the while, there is the pressure of your children, who are sat, watching you, whilst you battle on through gritted teeth, pretending to smile at the sheer family fun of it all. It is like Disney does the Krypton Factor.
Once you are red-faced, and slightly teary, with splinters of cardboard embedded under your fingernails, the toy finally emerges from its casings. You remove yourself from the swathes of polythene feeling a little bit heroic, the faint strains of the Chariots of Fire soundtrack reverberating in your ears. You tear aside the caul of polystyrene sheeting that is glued to the sweat on your eyelids, and stumble to your knees at the feet of your offspring. With a flourish of parental pride at the duty of motherhood that you have bestowed up on them, you present The Toy.
At which point, you realise, they’ve already gone, having been distracted by something that Great Aunt No-One picked out of a local skip for them when they were two, and the box that the flatpack bed came in.
First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 10th March 2015