I think it’s important to give children choices – it helps them prepare for the pressures of adulthood, teaches them responsibility and most importantly, it takes the pressure off me.
Only yesterday I empowered my offspring with yet another choice: would you like to contract skin cancer, or would you prefer rickets, bad teeth and breast/colon or prostrate cancer? As usual, they selfishly picked the option that would cost me the most money.
After spending years telling us that we should cover up in the sun to block out the harmful UVA and UVB radiation, scientists are now telling us that too little direct exposure to sunlight is harmful to our health.
According to the Cancer Council of Australia, most of us are lacking in vitamin D, which is manfactured in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and which may have a protective effect against certain cancers by preventing the overproduction of cells.
This is bad news on several levels.
For years I have been dipping my children in industrial-sized vats of SPF 250, which means I could leave them in the oven for 45 minutes at Gas Mark 6 and they still wouldn’t get a tan. It has cost me a small fortune.
Holidays have been routinely ruined by my compulsion to coat the kids in sunblock. Despite always arriving at the beach at 8am, by the time I had correctly applied sunblock to each child it was inevitably 11pm and pitch black. The only way we made it back to our car was by virtue of the fact that I’d used that luminous “fun” suncream which meant the kids could light our path to safety.
On this note, the day-glo sunblock had another benefit; it made the children look like extras from a particularly poor episode of Doctor Who, circa 1973 – five minutes after sun cream application they were coated in grit like ambulatory rolls of glowing sandpaper.
This meant that no other child on the beach, unless they were wearing welding goggles and were fans of video nasties, would talk to them, which in turn meant I didn’t have to share pointless conversation with said children’s mind-numbingly tedious parents.
Ah, how fondly I remember the good old days when the ozone layer was a silent killer and the sun was our enemy.
Now the Australians are claiming that we should send our tender-skinned babes into the glaring sun with no SPF protection whatsoever for at least 15 minutes a day so they can soak up the vitamin D.
Yes, your children may stagger back indoors cooked to a crisp and complaining of dehydration, but at least they’ll have lovely strong teeth, good bone structure and will look slightly less like you put them to bed under a dank stone every night.
Even if you do bake your kids in the sun for quarter of an hour every day, it still won’t prevent them becoming deficient in the winter, by virtue of the fact that our bodies can only store vitamin D for a maximum of 60 days. The only way we Brits could keep our vitamin D levels topped up naturally would be to have year-long summers and the only way to have year-long summers is for us all to start releasing some CFCs into the atmosphere – fast.
This creates a real dilemma for my daughter, who recently announced that she had become an “eco councillor” at school, which appears to involve knowing where the school compost bucket is and being sanctimonious about clingfilm.
So I decided to hand the balance of power over to her by offering her yet another choice: do you want to die a horribly slow, painful death, or do you want to help mummy spray paint the house and smash up a few fridges?
Eco councillor my arse.
* I used suncream on the children for the first time this year yesterday. Then I scraped it all off for 15 minutes before reapplying it – by the time we got outside, the sun had disappeared entirely. Are you satisfied, Cancer Council of Australia? Well?
*** All new singing and dancing newspaper column by the Woman in Black here . Get to find out what I’m doing IN REAL LIFE. God, I spoil you lot. ***