Uncle Schmuck1 Aug 2011
Dear Friends and Regular Readers, I was back in good old Blighty recently and caught up with the Family Darling. Mother and Father are still well, you’ll be pleased to hear. Mother’s arthritis’ not causing her too much pain and Father’s enjoying a bumper crop of radishes from the allotment this year. I know you worry about these things so I thought I’d tell you at the very start of this month’s message.
While there I spent some time with the sister and her young family. It’s very hard for them living so far away from such an obviously talented and wise authority figure like me, so I made sure I passed on as much of my brotherly and uncle-y insight and guidance during my time with them.
Their kids are six and three, so they are at a perfect age to learn all of Uncle Peter’s old tricks. Well, not all of them. Although if they ever find themselves in a bar at 3am with a huge bill to pay, no money in their pocket and the need to attract a young lady who will pay for a cab back home, they know where to turn.
Lesson one: character building. At my sister’s house their fridge is like a shrine to the kids. They have photos of them and those magnetic letters and loads of paintings and pieces of ‘art’ done by the youngsters. So I moved the letters around to spell “Fridge of Shame” at the top. The eldest kid can read so was able to pass on the message to her brother.
In such caring, uncle-y ways, can I help make them feel that by virtue, their best is never good enough, they must always try harder and thus strive for excellence in everything they do. Strangely my sister didn’t see it that way.
She also didn’t appreciate lesson two. That was in helping the kids be more popular at school. What’s the best way to make friends when you’re a kid? By telling jokes of course. And who better to give you jokes than your favourite uncle? But you’ve got to be careful.
Apparently my choice of joke didn’t go down well.
Knock knock. Who’s there? Little Boy Blue. Little Boy Blue who? Michael Jackson! How was I to know that this innocent gag would result in a ‘Parent-Teacher Conference’?
In the end, it felt like I could do no right. Is it my fault that the only television shows I enjoy watching are ‘inappropriate for children’? Has it really been medically proven that eating cake and ice cream for breakfast isn’t a healthy lifestyle choice? And just once in a while maybe it does a child good to say “Mmmm, that felt goo-ooood” rather than “excuse me” after a burp.
Things reached a head when we went out for dinner and my sister was complaining that her phone was broken. Up pipes Darling junior with the immortal “So’s your face” line, impeccably delivered just so the entire dining room could hear. My sister shot me a look of sheer anger and I spent the rest of the meal intimately studying my plate.
The role of Uncle is no easy task. Parents bang on about having to change nappies and waking up all night with crying kids but they forget that even if we don’t change them, us Uncles still have to smell those filthy nappies and we stay up all night partying anyway, so don’t talk to us about being sleep-deprived. And then in the morning, and not just the morning, but cock-crow in the morning, sometimes as early as 9.30am, far before the Alka-Seltzer has kicked in and the hangover worn-off, we are expected to entertain, amuse and generally get beaten up by offspring that are not even our own.
What I’m saying is: You get Mother’s Day, you get Father’s Day and you even, thanks to the greetings card industry, get Grandparent’s Day. But where’s Uncle’s Day? Where’s the day when people like me get to show their nieces and nephews rude movies and talk about “blow offs” and eat too many cupcakes?
In Malaysia they have it right. Here, any man who we infer respect towards is called Uncle. Maybe it’s time we lobbied for the reverse to also be true.