“You’re sunburned,” said my daughter, accusingly. “Your face is really red.”
“I know,” I replied. “It’s from the boat trip I went on. Didn’t top up the sunscreen often enough.”
She tutted with that special kind of contempt only teenagers can express. “If that was me, you’d be so cross.”
She wasn’t wrong. In fact, it struck me there were quite a few things we tell our kids they should do – or not do – that we then cheerfully ignore ourselves.
Score a point for each one you recognise!
1Slip, slap, slop
See above. When our kids are little we’re obsessive about not letting them out in the sun unless they’re smothered in Factor 50, have a t-shirt over their swimwear, and a hat rammed firmly on their heads. There’s no way those rays are going to harm that delicate skin if we can help it.
Yet so many of us are lax when it comes to protecting ourselves. Just because our hides are older, rougher and thicker than those of our offspring doesn’t mean we should look after them any less.
It’s still as important to reapply sunscreen once you’ve been in the water, as I’ve found to my cost. I’d blush, if anyone could tell the difference.
2The water of life
Drink more water, we say. We need at least two litres every day. No, not fizzy drinks. Ok, fruit juice counts. So does milk. But plain water is best. Yes, you can use it to dilute some flavoured syrup if you like.
We go to extraordinary lengths sometimes to make sure our kids get enough fluids, yet we often ignore our own needs. We know there are alternatives to make it less boring. We know that cups of tea and coffee count. We might even go so far as to virtuously fill up a bottle and keep it close to hand, intending to sip it regularly during the day.
But many of us still fail to drink the recommended amount.
3Follow a healthy diet
Show me a parent who’s never struggled to get their kids to eat vegetables. Who’s never experienced the futility of trying to persuade them an apple is more delicious than ice cream.
I’m not saying they don’t exist; I’ve just never met them.
We monitor our kids’ diets anxiously, mentally ticking off those daily portions of fruit and veg. We’re thankful that at least our child isn’t like little Freddie over the road, who refuses to eat anything that isn’t deep-fried and smothered in mayonnaise.
And yet most of us, peering hungrily into the cupboard looking for a snack, would take the tube of Sour Cream ‘N’ Onion Pringles over some sticks of raw carrot any day.
“I thought you said it was nearly tea-time,” says the in-house teen, as I reach guiltily for a square of chocolate. Caught red-handed…
4We always eat at the table
Sometimes with the addition of ‘and the television is switched off’.
But what do you do when Wimbledon has started and there’s a tense match on centre court? Or it looks like a particularly thrilling game in the World Cup is going into extra-time and possibly penalties?
Parental privilege gives you the right to relax the house rule on those occasions, of course, so you can sit eagerly on the sofa in front of the screen with a plate balanced on your knees.
Just don’t be surprised at the dark stares you get the next time you insist a new episode of 13 Reasons Why has to wait until everyone’s finished their spaghetti Bolognese.
5It’s time for bed
We need sleep. Most of us wish we could get more of it. As parents, over the years, we spend quite a lot of time persuading our kids they should have more too. (And, as they get older it seems, just as much trying to get them out of bed in the mornings.)
It’s impossible to study, work or function effectively without it.
So how come, when we know we should be tucked up in bed and out for the count because we’ve got a particularly busy day tomorrow, we find ourselves sprawled on the sofa binge-watching Game of Thrones until 3am?