My Father’s favourite saying, when we were growing up, was this:
‘Quod licet Jovis, non licet bovis.’
(That which is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to an ox).
My Mother’s was, ‘Stop it.’
I have been thinking about ‘do as I say, not as I do’ a lot recently, mostly because I have been spending my mornings with a new 6 year old friend. (Sorry- ‘a new almost 7 year old’ friend). I believe, with the fervour and enthusiasm of anyone who doesn’t actually have children, that all moments are ‘teachable moments’, and therefore regularly turn innocuous questions about ‘which are good after-school clubs to do’ into searing monologues on gender equality and religious tolerance.
My 6 year old friend puts up with these with the equanimity of someone who is used to ignoring over-enthusiastic adults, and politely waits for me to finish. ‘So, are you going to bring your new micro-scooter over tomorrow?’ She asked yesterday. ‘Certainly,’ I enthused. ‘We can race on them and practise our times tables.’ My friend nodded happily.
It was not until I got home that I realised what a moral quagmire I had stumbled into. I have, proudly and delightedly, recently received a very shiny and speedy-looking adult micro scooter.
What I do not have, however, is a helmet. ‘Just wear your bike helmet,’ My housemate suggested. ‘No,’ I snapped crossly. ‘Scooter helmets are entirely different. They’re a different shape, and colour, and vibe- are you trying to make me look like an idiot?’
Which was the wrong thing to say entirely, as I suddenly realised that it didn’t really matter what helmet I was wearing, or how ‘suitable’ it was for the activity. I am a fully-formed adult. I do not need to wear a helmet whilst scooting along happily on my micro-scooter. I also do not need to wear knee-pads when I roller-skate, or sit in a special seat when I’m in a car. Unfortunately, my 6-year old friend does.
‘So just wear the helmet, look like an idiot, and make sure she knows that she must always wear her helmet,’ My little sister suggested. Which sounded like an entirely reasonable suggestion. Until the morning, when I carefully wheeled my micro-scooter outside (these things are valuable, I have been keeping it safely tucked up inside my room- or, as my little sister insinuates, inside my bed- which, obviously, is entirely untrue. It stands by the door, to make sure any burglars or clothes-stealing little sisters are prevented from entering my room) and began to put on my bike helmet.
‘I don’t even rinse fruit,’ I wailed to my little sister, who ignored me entirely and went to work. ‘How does anyone have children and still live the life they want to?’ It was here,in a flash of panic-induced inspiration, that I remembered my own childhood.
‘Quod licit Jovis, non licit bovis,’ I thought happily. ‘And I can begin to teach her Latin at the same time.’