I gave up the ghost when it came to changing my kids

MY workday begins with watching Daybreak as I get dressed and have my first cup of tea.

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This morning's debate was centred on a recent survey which reported that children spend a lot less time with their families than they did 20 years ago.

It was suggested this was due to work pressures on parents and the use of technology.

A posh, clearly well-educated lady began the interview by referring to some of today's kids as 'Ghost Children' who are constantly tired and unresponsive.

'Ghost children'? 'Unresponsive'? That rang a bell with me and took me back to a time when my kids would return from school and disappear into their bedrooms and we barely caught sight of them for the rest of the evening.

My son Ross would arrive home from school and, without breaking breath to anyone, would raid the fridge before locking himself in his bedroom where he pretty much stayed for the rest of the evening. This was routine night after night.

We did everything we could to entice him out of his room, to no avail.

Now, sometimes as a punishment, kids are banished to their room. But this was no sentence for Ross. He loved it. So I decided to use some reverse psychology.

Screwdriver in hand, I unhinged his bedroom door and bumped it two floors down to the garage. He'll have to come out of his room now, I thought to myself.

Chuffed at my bright idea, I waited on Ross returning from school and peeked up from the bottom of the stairs to gauge his response.

He stood like a statue, staring in silence for ages at the openness of his bedroom and trying to figure out what the heck had happened to his room door.

Eventually he roared: "MUM. Where's my door?"

What I hadn't realised was that his prized Star Trek poster was still on the back of it.

"Calm down Ross," I said before explaining my motives.

"We never see you these days. But if you promise to come out of your room now and then, you can have your door back."

So for the next couple of weeks Ross parked himself in his room while his irritating younger sister would gloat at his dilemma by standing at the entrance to his room mocking: "Ha ha, I've got a door and you haven't."

Eventually, the tension wore me down and I relented and gave Ross his door back and life returned to 'normal.'

My so-called bright idea had been a waste of time.

However, a few months later I had another brainwave. (Much like the one the posh lady on TV had this morning).

I decided that for one night a week there would be no TV allowed in our household.

Surely, that way we would be forced to speak to each other.

"No TV?" screamed Jenna.

"Are you mad? No TV? What are we supposed to do then?" she asked in bewilderment.

"Talk to each other?" I suggested. "And, em, I'm sure we'll discover lots of exciting things to do as well."

"No TV?" gasped Ross echoing Jenna.

"You're taking things too far now mum." Ross rarely agreed with his sister.

"Look, we can all agree a night," I said attempting to find a compromise. "It doesn't have to be a Friday or Saturday."

Ross was adamant: "Well, it can't be a Thursday, because Star Trek is on."

"And not a Wednesday cause I can't miss Sabrina the Teenage Witch," moaned Jenna.

Eventually, and reluctantly, it was agreed that every Tuesday all TVs and computer games were out of bounds.

So Tuesday arrived and the house was eerily quiet.

With dinner over, and just before the usual scramble from the table, I made a suggestion.

"Right, let's have a nice evening to chat and play games."

"Games?" grunted Ross incredulously.

"Or a jigsaw. How about a jigsaw?" I suggested.

"Great," says Jenna rushing upstairs before quickly returning with an unopened Christmas present.

"No way," said Ross in horror.

"No way am I doing a thousand-piece Lion King jigsaw."

The evening was barely started and already he was in a mood.

"Well, you and your dad can do something different." I offered although I had to admit I wasn't sure what to suggest.

To kill time, the two male stooges shuffled from the room and headed towards the garage.

The following Tuesday, Jenna and I were almost finished our thousand piece jigsaw when she said: "Mum can we go out and clean out the rabbit's cage before it gets dark?"

Just then I heard the sound of glass shattering from the garage, where the boys had ended up once again, and wondered what the heck was going on.

I consoled myself with the thought that at least they were spending some quality time together.

"OK Jenna," I answered, "that's a great idea."

I was starting to think this Tuesday night thing is really starting to work. We were all really bonding.

However, on our return we discovered the two stooges had infiltrated our space and had mischievously finished the last few pieces of the Lion King jigsaw.

Jenna flew into in a rage and burst out crying. "That was the best bit," she bawled.

I yelled at the pair and the troublesome stooges skulked out of the room still sniggering.

"Do you know what?" I screamed in submission at the three of them. "I've had enough. Put the bloody TV back on."

And thereafter, we became 'Ghost parents' and they became 'Ghost teenagers' and everybody was perfectly happy.

Families

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