Monthly Archives: November 2016

The art of letting them down gently

A is not interested in boys, yet. Of course, I say “yet” because it goes against the laws of nature to suggest that she will remain disinterested until she is 22, although I think K would like it very much if this were the case. (I am also making a great assumption here that boys will be her choice of romantic interest in the future – who knows? – but let’s go with it for now). Apart from a moment when she was about 4 when she picked up a copy of a magazine that I had lying around and told me to “look at the picture of this man, Mummy, he’s soooo handsome” (it was Ryan Reynolds. The girl has taste) she has not been remotely interested in boys in her class – smelly, stupid, or basically they are like siblings as she has grown up with them. She has boys as friends; she had one very special one who she used to talk about like he was her soul mate but he sadly moved away at the end of year 5. She gets on OK with boys – she has a brother and this helps her not to feel awkward around them, I think. Although, I have a brother and I still feel awkward around most men so not sure that actually has any bearing n this whatsoever….Anyway, you get my point – boys can be OK but mostly they are annoying and idiotic and irritating (is she wrong?)

I wondered when she started at secondary school whether this would change and she would start to make romantic attachments.

I can remember vividly the moment I noticed boys as Boys and not just boys. It was a friend of my brothers at secondary school and he had his ear pierced and was basically, in my eyes, drop dead gorgeous. Of course, I was just P’s little sister with the short hair cut and the awful A-line skirt and there was no way on earth he would ever see me as anything else. But this was actually the point. I really only ever had crushes on completely unobtainable boys – I think it was a way of keeping myself safe from rejection. If you are never, ever likely to get noticed then there is nothing to lose. You can suffer in your unrequited love from afar with no fear of discovery and the inevitable humiliation. It was only when I left school, got a job, started going to the pub and found the bolstering power of a couple of vodka’s that I started to be more realistic and put myself out there (that sounds wrong, I don’t mean it like that!) a bit more. I was always the one to end the few, very short relationships that I had. I think I enjoyed the flirting more than the actual “going out” bit!

Anyway, enough of me. Back to A. So, I have been waiting for her to mention names in more than just a “god he’s so annoying” way, but nothing. Which is great. Please don’t think I WANT her to be into boys yet; I don’t actually want her obsessing or being distracted by it all, but it is going to happen and I’m just bracing myself here. But today, she came in from school and after the usual “how was your day” (me) and requests for food (them), enquiries into homework (me) and assurances that it is all in control (them) A confided that she had felt a bit awkward in French. Apparently, a boy that sits behind her in class has been shamelessly flirting with her since they were put in a set together but has always kept it at that. Until today…..when he upped his game and asked her to go out with him. And her response made me feel chuffed. She told him that she was sorry but she liked being friends with him and didn’t want to ruin things by agreeing to be his girlfriend. He made a typical boy response of “oh, well, I was only joking anyway, so that’s fine” and they both laughed it off. Top marks to her for being so quick thinking and kind and not laughing in his face or pretending to be sick while shouting “NO!! What the hell are you thinking of?!!!” I am sure she will have other offers over the coming years (I am biased but she is lovely – inside and out) and I hope she will let them all down just as gently.

Until she is at least 22.

 

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Enrolled and discharged

Proud mum last week (I’m proud a lot of the time, but this was notable). T joined the local Police Cadets group around a month ago and this week he was issued with his uniform, after passing his formal interview. He came home wearing said uniform and I had a slight “oh my god” moment. From a very young age, like many small boys, he was adamant that he would be a police officer when her grew up. The ambition didn’t really dwindle, until he became old enough to watch the news and understand the world around him a bit more clearly. I think he has a more mature attitude towards the idea now and realises that it won’t necessarily be an exciting, heroic job chasing robbers or speeding cars, but one where he would likely be faced with some pretty awful and hazardous situations. His real passion at the moment is tech. He’s loving his Computing GCSE lessons and is flying through the Business Studies course (his teacher asked at parents evening on Thursday if he is going to go on to study it at A-level? He’s only just started the GCSE course!). So, I think he is keeping his options very much open but when the opportunity came up to join the cadets he jumped at it and is enjoying it so far. At his first session they learned about scenes of crime and how to secure and preserve evidence. This week they had a go at crowd control and riot procedures (using tennis balls as missiles). He has volunteered to help man a stall at the local Christmas Market next month and is hoping for the opportunity to marshal at other events in the coming months. Seeing him in his uniform was lovely; he looks incredibly grown up and it seems to give him a confidence that is wonderful to see. I am not allowed to post any pictures of him online (this goes against the code of conduct that we have both had to sign) so you will have to take my word for it.

On another note, a moment of sheer joy on Thursday. T has been discharged from the fracture clinic! After an X-ray (the radiographer remarked how well and how quickly his leg has healed) and a chat with the registrar he has been discharged with another 2 months reprieve from doing sports at school. For T this was the best part of the news – his group have just started the rugby module and he is not a keen rugby player. In his own words, “I am sure they won’t miss me on the pitch”. Although, I think he is equally un-enamoured at the thought of having to watch from the sidelines! For me, to know that he is healed and appears to have no lasting effects of spending 12 weeks in plaster, apart from a set of very stiff toe, is the best news of all and not to have to spend one more afternoon at the fracture clinic is very pleasing indeed. What has become of the longboard? I have waited until he was discharged to raise the subject again – we last spoke about it in the ambulance “burn it, mum” –  wondering if he would change his mind and consider giving it another go when the pain is a fairly distant memory. Thankfully, he is still adamant that it is to be sold. Relieved doesn’t even come close. I was not looking forward to having to cover him head to toe in bubble-wrap before allowing him out of the house! Joking aside, I know it was a freak accident that is unlikely to happen again, but why risk it? I have few qualms about him going off his bike (even that makes me a little nervous) but I really don’t think I could have relaxed for a second if he decided to give the board another go. So, I won’t be asking twice. Longboard anyone? Used twice. Open to offers.

 

 

 

Love, Love, Love

When I was young I thought Love was romantic and passionate and burning. I thought that Love was what people sang about. I thought it was something that hurt so badly that you had to sing about it or write about it. I still prefer to listen to music with meaningful lyrics or that tell stories of lost love or unrequited love or burning love (I also like music that has a good tune or is a bit daft. For example, yesterday I was listening to one of my all time fave groups, The Beautiuful South, and their songs are far from romantic, just really clever and witty). I know now that this isn’t what Love really is, but there is still a small part of my younger self that thinks it must be incredible to feel so deeply for someone that you pour it all out in song lyrics.

Yes, I am a self-confessed romantic when it comes to music and books. I could read Jane Eyre or Far From the Madding Crowd all day long, or watch soppy films (the film of Jane Eyre is pretty good, actually). But, in my real life romance has a very small part; it’s not credited on the cast list and it doesn’t really get much work as an extra on the film-set of my life. I’m not complaining. I worked with a lady years ago whose husband bought her flowers every Friday. I thought it was a lovely thing and used to say how romantic he was. He was a big lump of a man – very unassuming and kind. She eventually told me that actually it was anything but romantic. It was a habit. He’d done it a few times and then realised that she probably expected it so just carried on buying them every Friday. She said it would be far more romantic to get a bunch of flowers just once in a blue moon, just because. Not out of habit or some sense of duty. I can see that now. I also found out a few years later that she had been having an affair with our boss for years behind her husbands (very broad) back. I buy myself flowers most Fridays from Aldi. Not to make K feel bad (he wouldn’t anyway) but because I like flowers and they make me feel happy.

No, romance is not a word that would be associated with our household. We don’t bother with Valentines Day, we quite often don’t bother with Anniversary Cards. We definitely don’t do PDA’s. We hold hands very occasionally in public. We rarely kiss in front of anyone other than the kids and that’s not often. But we hug. A lot. And we ALWAYS tell each other that we love each other before going to sleep (unless I’m already comatose, or if K is away). We tell the kids that we love them and hug them a lot too.

But that’s not what Love is about for me. It’s not about declaring on social media that my spouse is the most wonderful person in the world or posting selfies of the two of us and #love. The majority of selfies we take are with quasi-ironic pouts or Quasimodo grimaces. No, that’s “show” love. That’s the social media equivalent of the couples that insist that they are “as much in love now as when they first got together” or that are all over each other like cheap suits the minute there are more than 3 other people present, just to show everyone how much they still fancy each other. Seriously? That’s not real.

Obviously, there are different kinds of love, hence the title Love, Love, Love. I love my parents and brother beyond belief. They are the people that shaped me and helped make me who I am (for better or worse) and who still know me better than anyone else ever could. Then there’s the Love that I have for my kids. The “you can have the last piece of cake because Mummy probably shouldn’t have it anyway” love that means you would give up anything for your kids – even if you actually really, really wanted that last piece of cake. That hold the hair out of their face when they’re being sick Love, the Love that comes out when they need to tell you something that’s scaring them or that Love that you have when they are hurt and need you to make it feel better. That Love that stops your heart beating for a few seconds and makes your stomach drop through the floor when you think you have lost them (metaphorically or ACTUALLY lost them like that time at Stockwood Park years ago, or in Wilko’s last weekend – A both times).

And there’s the other Love. For him. The Love that makes me smile when he says the same thing that he has been saying for 20 years. The same idiotic reply that I set him up to say, because I KNOW that’s the answer I will get. The Love that has us both starting the same conversation at the same time. The Love that ignores the grumpiness, the sulking. The Love that forgives the stupid little digs, the nagging or the taking of a bad mood out on each other  That Love doesn’t need flowers or Valentines cards. My friends know me to be very disparaging and dismissive when it comes to my spouse. I roll my eyes when there is mention of romance and I cringe when people talk about sex. I make no bones about K being a bit clueless when it comes to handling emotions or coping with my sometimes teary moods. I am always wary of talking about undying love, forever love. No-one knows that they will be together forever. We can hope and we can trust that it will work. We make vows in front of family and friends and we promise to take care of each other, but love doesn’t always last and even the most solid-appearing partnerships can fail spectacularly. And being the eternal pessimist that I am I have never allowed myself to think of forever. But, for now, I know that when I need him, when I REALLY need him, K would step up.

So, yes I can’t lie and pretend that I haven’t dreamed of being swept up in the arms of Mr Rochester. Or of being the subject of a Tom Odell song. But give me an hour spent in the company of my parents, or a cup of tea made by one of my kids or give me a hug from the man who will allow me to put my freezing cold feet on his legs to warm them up in the night and I will be more than happy.

Love.

 

The importance of being positive

K just texted to say that he is on the M25 somewhere near Heathrow and not moving. Up until a few years ago this would have made my stomach drop and I would have been filled with dread and probably a bit of anger. When the children were very small K was still a Tech and worked “on call” once a month, sometimes more often. I hated him having to go out. Selfishly, this wasn’t because I felt bad for him having to go out at all hours of the night to some pretty awful places to deal with some pretty shit situations – OK, I felt a little BIT bad for him – I hated it because after a long day at home on my own with the children the last thing I wanted was to have to do dinner (battleground), bath-time (so much hassle) and bed (would T ever go to sleep?) ON MY OWN. I am pretty sure I made things very unpleasant and sad for all involved. I would have got upset (cried) or cross (shouted) or silent (so upset/cross I can’t cry or shout) and it would have been horrible. Horrible for K and horrible for the kids. I am not proud of this and can’t blame all of it on PND – some of it in the early years definitely was – I just didn’t like having to do it all alone.

It’s hard to stop these responses when you have felt the same way for so long. Obviously, as the kids have got older I don’t have the dread of doing all the routine stuff alone with them. For a start, I don’t have to bath or put them to bed anymore! But when I get a text like the one tonight I do have to stop myself from being pissed off. Quite often my initial reaction is “Oh, great, well that’s dinner buggered then” and then I have to have a word with myself and see if from his point of view. Where would he rather be? Stuck in traffic on the M25 with nothing to drink and no-one to talk to, or at home eating his dinner (freshly cooked and not heated up to an unidentifiable mush) with his family? Er, OK.

Another all-time classic situation where I have to stop myself from making the same negative, old-habits-die-hard response is the “how has your day been?” question. He didn’t ask me that very often back then and I can totally understand why. It would have been (and sometimes still is) a morose “oh, pretty boring/crap/horrendous/awful. Never “brilliant, thanks” or at least rarely, write-it-on-the-calendar-she’s-had-a-good-day. And I hate to admit, that even if I had had a reasonable day, I wouldn’t admit it. I don’t know why. I think I wanted him to feel sorry for me, being stuck at home all day. It wasn’t that bad, I mean, it wasn’t brilliant but we were generally happy and the kids have turned out OK so far so I guess they were also pretty happy. I don’t think either of them when asked about when they were tiny would answer that mum was a miserable cow who cried all the time. At least I hope not!

So, anyway back to tonight and the dreaded text. My response? “God, poor you, that’s not fun”. And I wasn’t even being sarcastic. The difference that my response made to his response is funny. When I used to react with “oh great, well what shall I do about dinner now then?” he would, understandably, react accordingly with “dunno, not much I can do about it” and then when he eventually came in we would skirt around each other for the rest of the evening until one of us grunted that we were going to bed. His response, tonight? “Not really no. How’s your day been?” Uh-oh. Not that one too! OK, keep going. “Alright, thanks. Same as usual for a Monday but one day closer to the weekend”. K is now thinking “Have I got the wrong number? Who is this person?”. Ha ha. I’ve learned over the years how important my responses are. I can set the tone for the whole evening/weekend by being a morose, negative, I-have-to-do-everything moaner or by being a bit less stressy, a bit more supportive, a bit more positive and, dare I say it?, being a bit more fun I can make the house a happier place to be.

Right, I’d better go and find something to cook for dinner as he’s totally ruined my plans, the tosser.

Worth the pain?

So, in “Boy .v. Girl (again)” I talked about A’s attitude to homework and the painstaking effort she put into her Geography assignment. We’ve had a couple of other homework related moments in the last couple of weeks and I realise that it is all a massive learning curve for her. She had a drawing to do for Art over half term and as we were away for the latter part (and the geography had taken precedence in the first half of the week) it was still outstanding when we returned, meaning she had a limited time to complete it in. She found a suitable tree to draw and took a photo on her phone rather than sitting outside in the freezing cold (smart move) and cracked on. I clocked at some point that she was drawing on a small pad and not the A4 sketch pad that she has been supplied with by the Art department. I wondered if this was correct but not wishing to interfere I left her to it. Oh dear. She appeared a while later with a very stony expression. On finishing her drawing she checked the homework app (I know, times change) and to her horror realised it was meant to have been drawn on, yes you guessed it, the A4 pad. “But it’s taken me AGES!!!” she wailed (and I mean wailed). I sympathised and considered for a split second telling her to just hand it in as it was. Then, I snapped myself out of it and told her that she needed to weigh up whether the pain and annoyance of having to re-draw it on the correct pad would be worse that the potential H3 (after school detention to you and me). Being as this has wider ramifications as I have 3 other passengers to bring home from school, I was hoping she would decide to go for option A. She did better than that. She opted for option A but she very sensibly (after she calmed down an hour later) suggested that she also hand in the smaller and, in her opinion, better drawing so that the teacher could see that she had made more effort originally but was not prepared to hand in the wrong thing.

I had hoped that this would be a massive lesson for her; something to remind her to check and double-check what is expected of her before embarking on a task. Sadly, this was not to be. Roll forward a week and yet another task that, yet again, through no fault of her own was having to be done rather last minute. Our printer decided to start playing up earlier in the week and we were unable to print off some sheets she needed for her History homework. K ended up printing them at work on Tuesday but as he doesn’t get home until dinner time the homework had to wait until after our evening meal. Not great. She normally  comes in from school, has a drink and something to eat and then cracks on with homework. Like her mother she can be a bit tired and irritable in the evenings so it’s better this way. So, we were already on the back foot but K sat with her and they talked over what she planned to do – the task was to choose a location for a castle based on information supplied (the pesky sheets) and then write about the pros and cons of the site. An hour later she had produced some great work but she had written a paragraph on the pros and cons of ALL the sites (she’d done 2 of the 4 at this point and was asking for feedback from me before continuing). I checked the sheet before imparting the bad news. Result: head on table, sobbing. By this time it was 7.45pm. I tried to calm her and tidied all the sheets away with the suggestion that she leave it until the following evening and start afresh with a clear head and less tired as soon as she came in from school. She was not impressed but saw the sense thankfully. She was very morose the following morning and when she came home I turned a bit “positive mum” and told her to snap out of the negative frame of mind, see it as a new task that she is starting from scratch and, basically, get on with it. She did and she completed it in half an hour and did a very impressive job. She went off to hip-hop class a happy bunny. Phew.

Later in the evening after dinner and bath, she came downstairs with her Geography folder. The one from Boy .v. Girl (again). I tried to gauge her expression but she has quite a good poker face. “Flick through that mum and tell me if you think I am Acquiring, Developing or Securing* based on the comments from the teacher”. OK, hoping my poker face is as good as hers. When I saw the words “WOW” I relaxed a touch. “Err, Developing…?” Hedging my bets here, not wanting her to have to say that she had not done as well as I guessed…”NO!!!! I’m one of only 4 in the whole class who is Securing already, AND I got an A for effort”. Bloody brilliant. But was the pain of the hours and hours of effort worth it. I am not sure. I am incredibly proud of her for wanting to do so well and mightily relieved that she achieved her goal. It’s a great boost to her confidence and that’s never a bad thing where A is concerned. But, I still wish that there was a little bit of a happy medium; that she could be as chilled as her brother and not end up sobbing with her head on the table, but that T would strive just a little bit more like she does to go for the harder option and just try it for size. But then, they would not be themselves and they would walk the same paths and that would be boring wouldn’t it?

 

 

*for those of you, like me, who are baffled by this whole new way of grading children’s work, the terminology means: Acquiring (Working below age related expectations); Developing (Working at age related expectations); Securing (Working above age related expectations) and there is also: Mastering (Working well above age related expectations); Mastering + (Exceptional performance).

At least the “A” for effort was nice old school lingo for this old dinosaur and I didn’t need to look that up!

Relaxation, responsibility and restrictions

We’ve had a lovely few days away. We ate lots of lovely food, walked on the beach, had afternoon tea and fish and chips (not on the same day), watched films, went to some favourite places and generally relaxed. We’ve been to Suffolk a few times over the last 5 years and we love it. We have lots of “happy” places and lots of memories so it was nice to stay somewhere new but close enough to all our favourite places. Of course, there were some moments of aggro – silly bickering, a few strops and a couple of “are you determined to ruin this holiday”s – but on the whole we got along and agreed on plans and had a lovely time and made some new memories. But the problem with relaxing (as lovely as it is at the time) is that you don’t want it to end. And I’ve got it bad this week.

We came back on Sunday early evening and after unpacking I realised that I would need to do some washing. Grr. I hate that it is me who has to be the grown up and responsible one who has to think of things like clean underpants. I’m not sure how we got into a system whereby I am the one who does all the washing, food shopping and most of the cleaning and cooking. K will cook on occasion – if I ask him to – and will put the hoover round – again if I ask him to or if his parents are coming to visit – but that’s about it. I can’t remember him ever putting a wash load on, in fact I don’t think he would know how. I suspect that it comes from the stay-at-home-mum days and the fact that I had nothing else to do other than housework and chores (oh, and look after 2 small children). And I’m also probably to blame. I’m quite organised and have a bit of a routine with chores, but sometimes it would be nice not to be the one that has to say “oh look the wash basket is full” or to notice that there are no more loo rolls. Why can’t the person who puts the last roll on the holder mention that they have done so? We have a board in our kitchen where we write stuff that needs to be bought when the weekly shop is done (by me) so it’s quite easy to work out – you use the last of something, you write it on the board. And why is it down to me to realise that A only has one pair of tights that don’t have holes in. Somehow I was supposed to know this and be able to wash said pair of tights on a daily basis so that they are clean for the next day. I don’t like this side of parental responsibility. It’s rubbish. Told you I’d got it bad.

I’ve mentioned before that I have been leaving the kids to their own devices to the main when it comes to school work and bag organising. I have an app on my phone that tells me what homework tasks they have each been set and I check in with them that they are on top of things and help where necessary. I also have a quick shufty at their books every now and then. I was a little disappointed that T had a few “reasonable effort” comments in some of his books and we’ve agreed that if he doesn’t get good feedback at parents evening this month(*)  we will restrict screen usage. I’m not too sergeant majorish about screen  use – I restrict Playstation to 40 minute sessions once or twice a week and insist on no phones at the dinner table – and both of the children keep their phones in their rooms overnight on the understanding that they won’t use them after a certain time in the evening. However, I recently decided that I was being too lax about it and a friend recommended an app that you can use to block phone usage at scheduled times or on an ad-hoc basis (as punishment for example). So I installed the app on my and the kids phones. Well. T sat in the lounge with his hood pulled over his head for 2 hours one evening in silent protest at the new regime. And this is the boy who is not a “typical teen”. He was mainly annoyed that, when the block is lifted, all of his apps are rearranged and not in their usual folders. Hmm. A little bit annoying I’m sure but at least I know that they are not on their phones at silly o’clock and I have some control. And I’m all about the control. After a few days he got over himself and seemed to have taken it on the chin. but then something happened and he needed to access something and it all kicked off again. So I suggested that the alternative would be for me to remove the app BUT phones would need to be left downstairs at bedtime, without fail. I thought I would be laughed out of court but he agreed to give it some thought and decided that he would go for the alternative as it meant he could keep his apps all neat and tidy and where they should be.

 

(*)Since the ultimatum for a good parents evening, I have had an email from T’s Business Studies teacher to say that he has made an outstanding start to the course, contributes loads in class and is producing brilliant work. Chuffed.