Of all the unlikely things ever to have happened in my life, joining a gym has to come top. Exercise to me has always been like vegetables to my children: essential, yet minimal and never voluntary. And yet, I find myself now pretending to row and ski and
fall asleep on the floor do Pilates several times a week.
Among my new-found gym-based knowledge is Paleo: a diet for people for whom avoiding crisps is just not challenge enough. The idea, apparently, is to eat like a caveman. There are adverts for it everywhere: on the walls, by the equipment, on the back of the loo door. I don’t know about its followers’ dinners, but I’m feeling hunted.
It struck me this morning, though: why stop with food? What else could we learn from our Neanderthal ancestors*? What, in fact, do our children already know?
1. Don’t waste daylight
Perhaps my children just haven’t caught up with evolution yet, and think that being awake as soon as the sun rises gives them an advantage over their competitors (for which, read “their parents” *yawn*)
2. Don’t waste food
In a harsh prehistoric environment, there was no Mr Tesco to bring fresh supplies. This might explain why I regularly find crusts of bread down the sides of the sofa, sweet wrappings scrunched under pillows and lumps of broccoli under the table (on second thoughts, this last one might have another cause)
3. Defend your territory
So that’s why they will fight to the death over their bedroom, their toys and (on one memorable occasion) fresh air
4. Fight or flight
What I take as an opportunistic bolt from my side in the playground is, in fact, a honing of the reflex to bolt in an emergency (or on seeing a small colleague with an exciting-looking toy)
5. Don’t trust the dark
I know that there’s nothing to be scared of in the middle of the night when the lights are all out, but they have an atavistic impulse to see a woolly mammoth or a sabre-toothed tiger in every shadow. Muuuuuuuuuummmmmy!!!!!
6. Travel lightly
Cavemen weren’t burdened down with coats or hats or gloves. Why tolerate it nowadays?
7. Appeal to the tribe
As well as being equipped with those heart-meltingly huge eyes, human babies have an innate ability to evoke the urge to protect in any adult they encounter. This might explain yelling blue murder when being required to do something against ones will in public.
The wanton dismemberment of soft furnishings to build a den is, in fact, a primeval instinct to retreat into a confined space. Children and dens. I rest my case.
*disclaimer – on reflection, we may not actually be their descendants.