My son has been able to do his own school tie for approximately 18 months now.
He mastered this skill the day after his sixth birthday and the triumph of the achievement was greeted by a fanfare of praise and so many entries on the sticker chart it promptly fell off the fridge.
According to my calculations, he’s completed this task about 450 times now, and that doesn’t even take into account getting changed for PE.
Yet one morning last week, he flopped down on the sofa and whimpered, ‘Can you do this for me?’
‘Why?’ I asked, because – as I ran round making breakfasts, dressing the three year old and attempting to fling mascara on myself - he can’t have been under the impression I was looking for something to do to pass the time.
‘I can’t do it,’ he replied, pulling a face designed to look as sad and pathetic as possible.
Once you’ve been brave enough to have three children, you come to notice certain phases as they grow up.
And this pretend helplessness is one of them.
I’ve heard it all over the years when they don’t fancy doing something. I can’t find any socks in the drawer . . . I don’t know how to tidy my room . . . I can’t reach the tap to pour some water (though given my husband is 6ft 2, that one’s wearing a little thin).
If children can’t be bothered, they’ll pretend they’re incapable of virtually anything to get out of it.
I read something recently that said this feigned incompetence – which is what child psychologists call it – can be caused by any number of issues. In teenagers, it’s a way of exerting power. In school, it can reflect anxiety – a belief that if they try, they’ll only fail.
Then there’s the one that happens a lot in our household: they’re just not in the mood.
I do sympathise.
I’m rarely in the mood to do what I have to do in the morning either – given that it involves attempting to bundle three kids and a mountain of sports kits out of the door before 8am, usually before I’ve thrown half a cup of tea down my throat.
All I’m in the mood for at about this time is rolling over, falling back into a deep sleep and possibly slipping into a nice dream involving Daniel Craig and a beach in Mauritius.
He is learning the toughest of life’s lessons I suppose, God bless him, and it can’t be easy.