I faced a full scale mutiny in my house this week. It emerged from nowhere, as these things often do, catching me unawares as I sat around the kitchen table with my children, all of us tip tapping away on various laptops or tablets.
I was catching up with a bit of work and the kids, even my four-year-old, were completing their online homeworks, when I noticed the hum of disgruntled murmuring emanating from my two eldest. I asked what the problem was and my son, egged on by his big sister (who's too smart and experienced to put herself directly into the parental line of fire), told me that he hated having to sit around the kitchen table to work.
"Why can't I do this in my room?" he asked, closely followed by: "Why do I have a desk in there if I can't do my homework at it?"
His questions caught me off guard for a moment because the real answer is that I make them sit at the kitchen table because that's what my mum always did with my sister and me. Isn't that the case with so many of us, that no matter how much we loved or loathed our own parents' techniques, chances are we end up modelling them when it comes to our own offspring?
I confess, I've had flashbacks to my own childhood in the Eighties when I've caught myself shouting up the stairs: "I don't care who started it - I'll come up and finish it!" Or: "Enough misbehaving now or I'll have to go and ring Santa!"
That last one has made an early appearance this year, frequently in use since the start of October.
Of course, thinking about it, the logical answer is that having them sit in the same room means that I know exactly what they're working - or rather not working - on. But, deciding that I had to show my teenagers a bit of trust, I agreed that they could work from their rooms as long as there was no mucking about on phones to their friends or a sneaky slide onto the games console. They skipped away contentedly, leaving the youngest equally happy to have me to herself.
It's great to still have one who's young enough to think the sun rises and sets with her mummy! But no sooner were they out of the room than they were back. Our broadband had gone down leaving them unable to complete their schoolwork.
In today's modern age, and especially in recent months, we've become so reliant on that link to the outside world. Being able to contact friends and colleagues around the globe, hold meetings and send vital documents instantly at the click of a button are all actions we take for granted. When it suddenly disappears, it's awful because there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. It's totally and utterly out of our hands. No matter how stressed or how cross we get about the situation, we're stuck until the masters of broadband rectify it.
I told the kids not to stress and that I would write notes explaining why their work was not completed. Then I went on to explain what life was like a mere 20 or so years ago when I started my first job, when there was no such thing as a computer at every desk. I vividly remember the first person I knew who got his very own email account at work, something he was very excited about until he realised he didn't know anyone else who had one so couldn't send a message. I told them about a world before Wikipedia, when essays had to be researched from things called books and if you wanted to talk to your friends you had to sit in the hall, at a telephone table, and use your voice to communicate.
By the time they finished laughing at their old Ma, the broadband fairies had worked their magic and I told the kids that they had to go and finish their homework. "Could you not just write us that note?" asked my son. "Coulda, woulda, shoulda - now on you go!" I answered, borrowing another of my mother's often used phrases. And no, I've no idea what it means either. But it still works!