Monthly Archives: December 2016

“Flu”, festivities and Faith

On Christmas Eve eve K began to feel slightly unwell. I put it down to a bit of tiredness and slight hangover from my office Christmas do the night before (a brilliant night out which we both thoroughly enjoyed). But by the time we went to bed he was coughing and feeling achy. He had a flu jab earlier in the month so I pronounced that it couldn’t be flu and that hopefully he would feel better in the morning, with a muttered but still audible “you’d better not ruin Christmas”. I’m not unsympathetic; I don’t like anyone being ill but I don’t pander to it and I reserve the right to being a bit pissed off if he had ended up being in bed all over the festive season. He’s not a shirker; he will generally go to work even when he is at death’s door but he does tend to feel a bit sorry for himself and make everyone know that he isn’t feeling well.

Anyway, moving on, he didn’t feel any better on Christmas Eve morning but insisted that we still go ahead with plans to see my brother and his family, but that he would not be joining us on our planned walk to the pub in the next village. We went anyway and it was very nice. My brother and I haven’t been in a pub on Christmas Eve together since circa 1997 and it would have been a lot more full on than the half a lager that we had this year. But it was nice to get out and get some fresh air and the kids didn’t moan about the length of the walk too much – I think it was the lure of cake when we got back to our house.

Christmas Day dawned and he was a trooper and we had a lovely day with Mum and Dad here. He didn’t eat all his Christmas Dinner but it would have probably over-faced anyone who had been slightly under the weather to be honest. I don’t hold back when it comes to Christmas Dinner. But he did use the fact that he hadn’t eaten all of his dinner as proof that he was “clearly not right” and mentioned it several times over the following 24 hours. By Boxing Day he was feeling pretty much back to “normal” (I obviously have to use this term loosely) and, as we had a chill out day planned, by the evening he was feeling ready for a day at his brothers house, with the 4 hour drive it involves, the next day. Another lovely day was had by all. The journey home was eventful with A getting a nose bleed 20 minutes in meaning a stop at the services to clean her up and stop the bleeding, and then feeling sick 20 mins from home meaning a stop at the side of the road until she felt better (a biscuit from one of the three – yes, three – boxes we had received from K’s mum helped). And then the festivities were over.

So, on to Faith*. Boxing Day morning mum called and after the initial chat, she said “What about poor old George then?”. In my near-constant state of unawareness (and because I hadn’t had chance to look at Twitter yet) I hadn’t heard that George Michael had died. I have to confess to a small gulp and a forcing down of some leakage from my eyes. I refer you back to my blog when David Bowie died and I recall that I was rather disdainful of the outpourings of grief and people ringing in sick to work because they were distraught. I didn’t feel distraught but I did feel a pang of sadness that someone who had been such a massive part of my teenage years and who had adorned my bedroom walls for several years was no longer here. I haven’t followed his career much since Listen Without Prejudice (still my favourite album of his and Mothers Pride never fails to make me cry) but I still feel sad that he has gone and think he was sorely undervalued with people making too much of his sexuality and his so-called misdemeanours. He had a wicked sense of humour which people took as arrogance but you only have to watch the clip of him and James Corden doing the first ever carpool karaoke to see how self-deprecating he was. It’s only since his death that his philanthropic deeds have started to come to light, proving me right and that he was a good bloke who messed up a bit (who hasn’t?), with his gifts to people in need and many unpublished good deeds. Very sad indeed.

Today, I am back at work and if it wasn’t for the fact that I only have today and tomorrow before another 4 days off I would be very, very fed up indeed. As it is, I have just had a cup of tea made for me by the boy and a slab of Christmas cake made by the girl and all is well in my world.

*I haven’t made the link for you between GM and Faith because quite frankly I shouldn’t have to. Ok, Faith was his first proper solo hit – you can’t count Careless Whisper because he wrote it years before, and credited Andrew on it so that he would have equal shares of the royalties. Because that was the sort of guy he was.

 

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I’m a potted plant

“A cactus?” I hear you cry. No, cheeky. I can be prickly but the actual type of plant is not in question here. I just am. A potted plant sits in its pot and it’s just, well, there. It doesn’t do anything -some flower, some have big leaves, some have long spidery bits that dangle down, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that the plant is there.

I read an article yesterday (I like reading articles about teenagers and how to deal with them. I think that forewarned is forearmed and I need all the help I can get) about teens and what they need from parents. Money? Well, yes of course that is the main one, but we’re talking emotions here. What do they need emotionally from their parents? To shout at them sometimes? to slam doors in their faces? to make them feel like the worst parents in the world? No, they just need us to be around. Like a potted plant, not saying anything, not doing anything; just being there.

This article centred around a study of teens and their parents work patterns and the effect this has on their emotional well being. It all sounds a bit touchy feely and I am not stupid – I do take a lot of what I read with a large pinch of salt because we can all read into these studies what we want to and make them fit our own outlooks and lives so that we don’t feel that we should start wearing a hairshirt because clearly we are the worst parents ever because we don’t do A, B or C. Anyway, back to the study. The teens involved were reported to say that they didn’t really want much from their parents, they get a lot of their emotional support from their peers, but they just want to know that their parents are around and available if they should need them. It also said that some parents are baffled when their teen comes into the living room and flops down on the sofa, sits for a few minutes not saying much maybe just looking at their phone or chat for a few minutes before buggering off upstairs again. This happens to us a lot. And it is a bit baffling really. I always feel bad when T goes back to his room, worrying that I should have instigated a conversation, engaged him in some way or, when I have tried to do so, he goes anyway and clearly I failed some test. But apparently they are just “checking in”. They just want to know that we are there and that we are available to chat if they want to, even if they don’t want to. It’s not a test; it’s not an opportunity to start a massive discussion; they don’t actually want anything from us. Phew! What a relief.

It went on to say that even where parents work full time, it’s not a disaster. Phew again. It is not important for parents to be there ALL THE TIME (this is where the potted plant analogy falls down a little – a plant doesn’t nip out to the pub, as far as I am aware) but so long as the teen knows they will be there at some point and available then they adapt to that. Being around at dinner time, eating together more often that not – ALL GOOD. Being there every day when they come home from school – not essential, as they really only want food and normally do not want to talk about their day until later on, probably dinner time.This makes sense. I work from home 2 days a week so I am there when they get dropped off from school and on the days when I am in the office I pick the kids up from school so am home with them from that point on too. But I don’t see them. We don’t talk (at least not very often and my enquiries about their days are generally met with “alright” unless some drama has kicked off). They get some food, they sometimes make me a cup of tea and then they disappear off to their rooms only to emerge again when I shout them down to lay the table for dinner. Sometimes they chat over dinner. Sometimes they wolf their food down whilst barely making eye contact with anything other than their plate and then they’re off upstairs without so much as a “that was nice thanks”. IT’S ALL QUITE NORMAL.

So, I am a potted plant. I am here, I am available just in case. Please water me occasionally and pick off my dead leaves. (Ok that last bit was slightly weird, ignore me.)

 

 

The “know it all” phase

It’s started. I knew it would. I am no longer a source of useful information. I need to stop hoping that I might be listened to. I need to stop offering advice, unless asked – and even then I need to carefully consider if it is worth it. I definitely need to stop thinking that my opinion may count.

I hate this phase so much. I remember T went through it at around this time. It’s the curse of starting secondary school – they’re being treated far more grown up by teachers, friends and also us parents too – and I know she has to go through it. They’re expected to make decisions; to be responsible for themselves; they are working more independently. Unfortunately, this means that she thinks she has the answer to everything.

I can’t advise her on anything; I say black she says white. She has always been strong willed (which I am mainly glad for as it has helped her over the years with friendship issues, etc) but this is a whole new level. I have to bite my lip so much these days that I am in danger of creating a hole in it. An example: today, she came home with a gift from one of her new friends. It’s a body scrub, which is lovely and an ideal gift for any girl. Unfortunately,  A has very sensitive skin like K and has a tendency to get rashes quite frequently. I stupidly (not stupidly actually, sensibly and as any mum would) suggested that it might upset her skin (I was going to follow this up with the suggestion that she try a small amount on an inconspicuous are of skin to test it) and was met with a resolute, “No it won’t”. OK…. But….. “No, it will be fine”. I agree this in itself doesn’t sound too awful, but when you add in the disdainful look and the folded arms and dominant stance, well you get the picture. The twelve year old in me was inclined to suggest that it would serve her right if she woke up looking like she had been attacked by a horde (?) of mosquitoes (horde?), but I quickly reminded myself that I am 44 and that I would actually be mortified for her if that happened. I somehow managed to quietly and calmly (yes, me!) make the patch test suggestion and politely reminded her that on past experience it might be sensible to proceed with caution. We then had to navigate the choppy water that is “backing down without losing face” and  – because I am kind – I allowed her to get away with a muttered “yeah whatever” and off she went to immediately find some misdemeanour that she could even the score out with – namely me omitting to remind her that I had been unable to lay my hands on any mini-marshmallows for the cupcakes she is making in food tech tomorrow (I had told her on Friday after the food shopping was delivered; we were in Sainsburys yesterday but she didn’t think to ask if we could buy some from there. Because as independent as she is and as much as she doesn’t need me for anything, somehow I was supposed to remember that she needed them.) How useless can you get?  The cakes are now going to be “totally boring”. Ho hum.

I love my girl to bits with her sense of humour, her steadfastness in who she is, her brightness, her self-containment, her self-assuredness. But I hope to god this phase passes soon. I’m not known for keeping my cool, for biting my lip and counting to ten. I don’t like being treated like an idiot (even though I may behave like one sometimes) and won’t put up with it from anyone. But, IT IS ONLY A PHASE. IT IS ONLY A PHASE. Let’s hope it’s a short one and we can move on to the next joyous part of the life cycle of the teen. I’ve been here before of course, but this time it’s got a whole new added dimension of GIRL. And we all know that makes a whole world of difference.

 

 

 

 

Overprotective

I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, it has to be said. I don’t like flying, heights, caves, tunnels, enclosed spaces, spiders, big dogs; I don’t like being in the house alone overnight; I don’t like walking alone after dark; I don’t like horror films or gore (yes, I love 24 Hours in A&E but that’s different) – the list goes on.  I try and keep the show of fear to a minimum, not always successfully, and have tried not to pass my irrational fears onto my kids.

A goes to a dance class at her old school once a week and she walks there and back with a friend. Since the winter has set in and it’s been getting dark earlier her friend’s mum and I have shared responsibility for picking them up and walking them home again. They are both OK with this. Tonight, after hearing of a couple of burglaries locally and an incident involving a couple of friends of mine being approached by a man in a car late at night, I was reluctant to let A walk alone to the place where she meets her friend. I asked T if he would walk her down to meet the friend and then the friend’s mum is walking them home. I didn’t tell A the reasons for my request – just that it is a lot darker now and it would make me happier. No big deal? No different to me and the other mum picking them up? It seems so. Totally unfair. Ridiculous. Treating her like a child (hello? 11 years old?). I was very tempted to respond with the real reasons. But, I spent a lot of my childhood being scared of shadows and strange men in cars and I don’t want the same thing for A. There’s enough horrible stuff out there that they have to be aware of – online weirdo’s mainly – that I don’t want to add to the fears.

I don’t suppose I handled it very well. I should perhaps have explained my concerns and asked her if she was happy going alone and let her decide for herself. I know deep down in my well covered rational bit that she is highly unlikely to be abducted /attacked/hurt/ assaulted on the street in our quiet little village at 5pm on a week night just as I know that incidents of this nature are few and far between across our whole county in general. In fact, she’s more likely to see someone she knows on the way there and will probably be seen by at least one person driving past her that knows her. But, my little scaredy cat self wanted her to be safe. Should I have worried about T then walking back on his own? Am i being sexist as well as overprotective? I try and make her feel empowered and strong enough to deal with anything. I encourage her to believe that her gender won’t stop her doing anything she wants to do (even though I know that it IS still an issue and she will come up against all sorts of obstacles). Am I undoing all that effort by asking her brother to see her safely to meet her friend? Probably. Would I ever forgive myself if anything happened to her just because I was worried I might make her feel less empowered? Absolutely.

I do need to try and stop being so scared of stuff that will probably never happen – planes crashing, caves collapsing, dogs biting, being burgled. But I will never stop being worried for my kids.

Growing up is hard

*****Warning: Mum this may upset you. Don’t read it if you don’t want to.*******

(I know you probably will, so sorry)

If you ask me how old I am my whole being screams 25!!! I’m 25!! I know I’m 44. I’m not stupid. I just don’t feel 44. I look 44 (people are kind and say “you haven’t changed at all” or “you don’t look your age”. They’re kind. But they’re wrong.) and I do behave like a 44 year old. But in my head I am still 25. I don’t know why that is such a magic number or why I chose this age – I’m not actually sure I have actively chosen this age, it just pops into my head every time I am asked, which isn’t often.

On Saturday, we went to see my Nan. I haven’t seen her since May. That’s an awful thing to admit, but I do have reasons. We are busy. We had a slightly different summer and ensuing months than we expected due to the “big break”. It wasn’t possible to get to see her while T was in plaster as she lives 3 floors up in a block of flats with no lift. I could have gone on my own, but it just didn’t happen. I have spoken to her on the phone, but frankly that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After the initial “who is it?” rigmarole (she only has one granddaughter – no-one else other than my brother and male cousins call her Nan – it should be obvious it’s me) I then normally find that I have called at an inopportune moment. She’s 95 (96 in January) but she has a routine. She has carers that come at certain times of day and she performs a little spiritual service by herself each morning. I always seem to ring at the wrong time – nine times out of ten her line is engaged! – and we don’t speak for very long. I’m not complaining or knocking her. Bloody hell, she’s 95, she’s allowed to say or do what she wants (within legal boundaries).

Anyway, we finally managed to get over to see her. Sounds like she lives on the other side of a vast ravine or that we have to traverse some sort of perilous terrain to get there. She lives near Barnet. But life is busy and weekends are busy and things have to be scheduled in. In my head she is about 60. Like I’m 25. The maths don’t add up but it’s never been my strong point. When I saw her, looking 95 and hugged her I just lost it. She looks old; there’s no getting away from it. When she was 60 she looked 40. When she was 80 she looked 60. Now she’s 95 and she looks 95. She felt thin and unsubstantial. She’s always been strong and solid and someone who could overcome anything, and has (and then some). She is still a soldier. She still has her ALL of her very, very sharp wits about her. She’s still very in touch with the real world and she is still very interested in everyone. But she is getting old and frail and she won’t be here forever. And I don’t like it. At all. I don’t want her to be frail because I know she hates it. I don’t want her to have to have carers. She’s always been so independent and I know she hates having to have help. She makes my mum’s life a bit tricksy (that is a word) because she hates having to have my mum do stuff for her, so she takes it out on mum. Mum has to bite her lip, take a deep breath and count to one hundred a lot and because she loves her and she’s her mum she won’t say anything and she doesn’t mind helping her.

It’s a rubbish situation for all concerned. But the alternatives are not really viable. She won’t go into a care home (and frankly none of us want that in our hearts) but it’s A LOT for my mum and aunt to be doing her washing and cleaning and shopping and ALL the other “jobs” that she needs doing (and there’s a long list) every week. She wants to stay in her own home that she has lived in on her own for the last 50 years. And of course she has every right to choose that – until she can’t safely stay there.

I don’t want to be a 44 year old woman with a 95 year old nan and parents who are getting older too. I don’t want to be worried that each time I see my Nan it might be the last. It’s morbid and sad and I’m not grown up enough to handle it. Because I’m only 25.

Growing up is hard.