Metro 184

We went round to my wife’s parents for Sunday lunch. They have acquired a new doormat, of which they were touchingly proud.  It reads, “Grand Children Spoilt Here”. It made me laugh and I was glad to know that my daughter is surrounded by love, but it is also slightly ominous. If parenthood is a fascist dictatorship, then they had revealed themselves as part of the resistance.

It’s an almost universal truth that parents bring up their sexcrement with a strict hand, making sure we didn’t become too precocious. But as soon as they become grandparents, they seem determined to undermine our attempts to bring up our children in the same way. But grandma and grandad’s job is to  pamper their grandchildren and I am looking forward (should I be lucky to live so long) in making my daughter’s life Hell by giving her kids all the things that I denied to her. It’s the way things are. None of us really believe in the stuff we tell our kids and it’s a huge relief to drop the pretence once we’re no longer the authority figures.

But something was niggling at me about the doormat throughout the afternoon. And slowly it dawned on me. The mat doesn’t say “Grandchildren,” it says “Grand Children”. Are my in-laws actually saying that they are interested in rewarding children who come to their house and act in a superior and aloof manner? Are they encouraging my daughter to act above her station and offering her rewards if she achieves the goal of believing that she’s too good for this family? This is more subversive than I thought.

But then I realised that the mat says “Spoilt.” That spelling is only used in the sense of damaged or ruined. If you are going to spoil someone with gifts, the past participle is “spoiled”. So in fact the doormat is giving out a clear message that any haughty children who come to this house will be harmed. In fact, not just harmed but “spoiled”. Presumably no longer functional as children.

Whilst I applaud my in-laws stand against conceited infants, I am not sure that causing them irreversible physical or mental harm is the right course of action. This seemingly charming, if slightly gauche declaration of familial love is in fact a dire warning to the children of Hertfordshire- “If you value your physical and mental well-being then either become less supercilious or enter these premises at your own risk! Because Snooty Children Will Be Broken.”

It can’t be an accident. Someone went to the trouble of making that mat and surely they would have taken the two minutes required to check the grammar and spelling of the four words they were printing. So they knew what the mat meant. If not then they would only have got one of the words right, and you might argue that technically the grand children would be spoilt inside, not here, literally on the mat. Unless there was a trap door with a mechanism that detects puerile pretention.

I am not sure that doormats are the best medium for this crackdown on ostentatious sprogs. Surely they’re only interested in reading jewel encrusted iPads. They treat everything like doormats. Especially doormats.

It might be a hollow threat anyway. There’s only one way to find out, kids. Turn up at my in-laws with a cape and a silver topped cane and an affected haircut and see what happens. Safety not guaranteed.

And make sure you carefully read all doormats in the future. They might not be saying what you think they are.