Monthly Archives: March 2017

Table for one

There are some real bonuses to working from home, and I know I am lucky to be able to. I can get washing done, I am in for deliveries, I am around for the kids if they need me, I can attend daytime meetings at school, go for coffee or the odd cheeky lunch with friends, I can pop to the shop if I need to and pesky things like doctors appointments are easy to slot in. Its all good.

I break my week up by going into the office at least once a week and it’s nice to have company (even in the form of two belchy, sweary, sometimes grumpy, men) and chat about the lovely customers and the lovely emails that I get from them. We shout at the radio together (Jeremy Vine, we’re talking about you here) and try and answer the questions on Pop Master. It’s quite nice, especially as it’s not every day. I wouldn’t want to do it every day. I quite like my own company and don’t have any problem being on my own.

But, there are some real downsides. I haven’t been in to the office at all this week for one reason or another (T was off on study leave on Monday and no-one was going in today – my other scheduled day) and so the week has really dragged. The mains reasons for this are:-

Food – the biggest issue I have is food. I don’t raid the cupboards (well, I do sometimes but only on REALLY bad days) but I do find it hard to eat properly. I have breakfast fairly early with the kids or wait until I get back from dropping them off (another perk (?) to working flexible hours). Breakfast is fine. Lunch on the other hand is weird. I don’t see the point in making myself anything proper – it seems too much effort just for me. Occasionally I will have poached egg on toast or something like that, but rarely and I tend to just graze on random stuff: a piece of toast here, a banana and yogurt there, some oatcakes, some nuts, the list goes on. But I don’t stop and eat a proper lunch and I’m pretty sure I have eaten an entire days’ calories before I pick the kids up. Not good.

Motivation – it’s really hard to stay motivated when you are working from home on your own. Don’t get me wrong, I get the job done. I am conscientious and I take it seriously (as seriously as you can when you are dealing with the general public, who are impatiently waiting for printer ink to plop through their letterbox) and I work hard. But my job is very reactive, so I am only as busy as long as my inbox keeps getting messages in it. I have other stuff that I can do when no-one is complaining but it is called “slow burn” work for a reason – it’s boring and slow and just like the dying embers of a fire it is quite yawn-inducing. I find it hard to get myself into gear and get on with it. And when I do I generally end up with a headache or my eyes start feeling scratchy and tired. I start yawning (a lot) and want to go to sleep. Not good.

Company – some days I don’t speak to another person between taking the kids to school and picking them up again. Shouting at the radio doesn’t count (I’m talking about you again Jeremy Vine). Sometimes I can be lucky and the postie will knock the door with a package (normally for T – some freebie or other that he has been given to review) and we chat for a minute. Ok, she says “morning”, I comment on the weather (so British at times I want to scream) and we say “bye”. Not really chatting but it can be the highlight of my day. I sometimes get calls from customers, but they are generally moaning so not exactly a pleasure. I am quite happy with the radio on or music on Spotify but it can be a bit sad not to be able to turn to someone and comment on something that has been discussed or something on the news. Like yesterday, for example, when I heard the news of the attack in Westminster (*), I was horrified but my little yelp of “oh no!” went unheard. A bit like the old conundrum of the tree falling in the forest, if there is no-one to hear me do I make a noise? The biggest issue that this void of company all day causes is the irritation I then feel when someone comes in (K) or the kids come home from school. I have been alone all day, then suddenly (not really suddenly, they come home at the same time every day) I have people making noise, talking, expecting a response. Some days I embrace it, thankful to finally have someone to talk to; other days I can’t bear it, I’ve got so used to being alone. I know my mum will read this and think she needs to call me to cheer me up – she doesn’t, I will be grumpy and snappy and make her wish she hadn’t called. Not good.

So, after 3 days at home alone, and not being needed in the office today, I decided I had to get out. The weather has been very hit and miss so I didn’t want to risk a walk. Luckily, I had an excuse to go ‘out out’ as I had some stuff to return to a shop, birthday cards to buy and T needs cakes for school tomorrow, so I nipped out to a local shopping centre to get it all done in one go. While I was out, I walked past the cafe in M&S. And walked back in and had lunch. On my own. I NEVER eat out in public alone. Ever. I don’t know why, I just don’t. It’s like going to the cinema alone – I just don’t ever think of doing it. Anyway, I ordered a toasted sandwich and a pot of green tea, and I sat on my own people watching. I didn’t get my phone out for company or try and strike up a conversation with the older lady next to me. I just sat and ate my sandwich, drank my tea and did nothing. It was very nice. It has broken the day up and I don’t feel quite so grumpy. I don’t think it will be a regular thing (seems extreme to get in the car and drive 10 miles to get lunch) but I won’t be averse to the idea should the opportunity arise.

Good.

 

* Horrific events and dreadful that I feel like we have almost been waiting for something like this to occur after the incidents in other parts of Europe. I am in awe of the bravery of the people who put their lives at risk to keep us safe and thankful that we have such fantastic emergency services that deal with all this stuff, and of the kindness of strangers who wanted to help those injured. We didn’t really talk about it as a family last night as it was one of those evenings where we were all doing other stuff, but I know the kids are aware of what happened. I suspect that, a bit like when I was a kid and heard of IRA attacks, they don’t really get the enormity of these events. But, this is the world we continue to live in and we just have to hope that the message they get from all of these horrific events is that there are far more good people in the world than bad and that we all have to look out for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

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Status update

Since Making myself unpopular (again)  was a while ago now I thought I would check in on how it is all going.

So, initially the teenager was VERY resistant. For the first few days we had a bit of moaning but he reluctantly gave in; then on the 4th day we had an all out slanging match. He didn’t understand why. WHY? I refused to be drawn on it and stood my ground. I think he believed that I would soon forget all about it like I do so many other things: diets, exercise regimes, chore lists. We repeated this pattern over the course of the next few weeks and eventually I finally ended it with an all out “I AM NOT BACKING DOWN. GET OVER IT”.

The pre-teen was less bothered. She is not quite so invested in the social media scene yet and so is less concerned about having access 24/7. I am sure her time will come soon enough. This plan of attack is for both of their benefits and it makes me feel better. I’ve spoken with a few other parents about it and annoyingly most responses I had were along the vein of that I was an idiot to let them have them in their rooms in the first place (thanks) and that it was a given in their houses that all devices live downstairs. Smug much? Only one friend had had to take the same route as me and it was nice to know I’m not the only idiot out there.

Joking aside, I found this quite annoying. I’m not actually an idiot. I’m pretty sensible and on the ball. I know I don’t really get recent technology – well not the technology as such, but the platforms that kids use and the way they use it. I mentioned in Birthday, poo, shopping and the hostess with the leastest that I found it a bit off that one of A’s friends was ‘live-streaming’ during the back at the house bit. I do find the idea that our kids are living their lives so publicly quite hard to fathom. I don’t get Snapchat and ‘streaks’ – what’s the point in messaging someone just an X or an emoji just so you can say that your ‘streak’ with that person lasts 120 days? Am I really that old that I am missing something amazing here. Is it a test of friendship? Surely not, as T will ask another friend to do his ‘streaks’ for him if (heaven forbid) he is going to be off the grid for more than 24 hours. This is not a friendship thing, it’s just a Thing. I don’t object to sharing photos, or updating statuses or, here’s an idea, chatting with a friend (albeit online), but do we have to have it in our faces ALL THE TIME?

I worry that  anything that happens in this online world (because there’s no escaping that this is their world) is seen as less real somehow, less accountable for – that you can slag someone off online and it’s not as bad as saying it to their face; that you can post an awful picture of a ‘friend’ and because you have added a crying with laughter emoji or some hearts after it then that’s OK? You didn’t do it to be unkind, it was just a joke so that’s OK? No parent could fail to be moved and horrified by the poor, poor mum who went on This Morning a matter of days after her daughter’s funeral to make other parents aware of how insidious and secretive this bullying is. Her daughter was to the world around her a popular, bright, sporty, confident young woman with no worries other than the next test or the next match. In truth she was being relentlessly hounded on social media culminating in a message asking her why she didn’t just hang herself. She did. It was only after her death that this all came to light. Her parents were completely in the dark about it because she kept it from them. She could see no way out of it. She could see no end to the constant stream of abuse and so she killed herself.The person who sent her that last message – did they mean it as a joke? Did they think that because it was sent online that it wasn’t real and wouldn’t hurt her or affect her? They have to live with this for the rest of their life – they tipped her over the edge. They were the catalyst that made her end her short, beautiful life.

These cases are few and far between, thankfully, and are so shocking. More close to home recently a large number of girls at a local secondary school have been groomed by a man online purporting to be a teenager and many of them have taken the next step and met him. Luckily none have been harmed but this is by luck more than anything else.

But the overriding message of this is that these kids’ parents DIDN’T KNOW this stuff was happening. When I was a teenager, I had to call my friends on the phone from the hallway. The only other way we had of being in touch was to write each other letters, which we did – we would pour our hearts out on paper and give it to our friend the next day at school. If someone didn’t like me I usually found out by them not hanging around with me any more, or a friend of the friend would tell me. If someone was calling me names I usually heard them, out loud in the playground. Of course, I didn’t tell my parents everything that I was worried about or everything that went on in my life, because that’s not what teenagers do and that’s just they way it is. Teenagers are making their own way in the world and learning to deal with stuff by themselves so that they are ready to leave home and go off and be adults. They have secrets and they have a right to privacy. But the difference between bullying when I was a teenager and now is the other worldliness of it. It happens in a world which we parents can’t see and have little control over.

I know the pass-codes to my kids phones. I treat them with respect and only look at their messages/social media accounts/photos etc if I am concerned about something. Luckily, I think we are still at the stage where A tells me if anything is going on with her. She had a small bust-up with a friend in the half term holidays and she wanted to know how to sort it out. She took my advice and she didn’t try and contact the friend by phone or WhatsApp. She wrote her a letter and put it through her door. The result was positive and the issue was quickly resolved. But, soon she will ask my advice less and less. She will tell me less and less. But for now all I can do is keep the channels open. I tell them my fears, I tell them about things I read and the horrific things that other parents have been through and I tell them to please keep talking to me. Please tell me when someone is hurting you. And, almost as importantly, if they know someone is being hurt please tell someone. But it all comes down to hope and the small amount of control that I still have.

So, yes the new rule is going OK. It’s still being adhered to and I’m not backing down. Not on this one.

 

Birthday, poo, shopping and the hostess with the leastest

On Friday we celebrated A’s 12th birthday. It is astonishing that she is twelve already (to me at least, in a mad moment one day last week K was convinced she was going to be 13) although on some days she behaves more like a 16 year old than the age she actually is – and this is not always in a stroppy, teenager-like way. She is mature for her age and pretty sensible most of the time. I think it is hard for all of us to cope with her when she is in turn silly and childish, until we remind ourselves that she is, er, well, a child.

She was fine with being at school on her birthday. She has a good bunch of friends now and they were messaging her in the morning before school with birthday wishes. It was non-uniform day which was a complete bonus for her. We then planned for G&G to come over for cake and present opening before a meal out at a local  Italian chain restaurant that we frequent from time to time.

School was great – one of her friends in her form had decorated her locker with a collage of photos of her and balloons and presented her with a lovely gift. She had cards from other friends and generally had a Good Day. Her request this year was for a shopping trip instead of presents so most of the family, including K & I, gave her money which meant there was only a few smallish gifts to open, but it was All Good. My attempt at a rainbow cake was also not too awful so the cake part was also Very Good.

In fact, the whole evening was perfectly lovely except for one small moment – unfortunately, one which will be remembered by me for a while. We were getting ready to leave the house, T going out the door in front of me. I noticed as he walked out of the door that there was a small clump of mud on the mat. “Oh you’ve walked mud into the house” I groaned at him. I picked it up and chucked it onto the grass verge. It was then that I realised IT WAS NOT MUD. I repeat: IT WAS NOT MUD. I had picked up, in my bare hands and with no question, a piece of dog poo. DOG POO! IN MY BARE HANDS! Anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that this is Not Good. After 4 hand-washes, 3 squirts of antibacterial hand gel and a lot of disgusted whimpering we were able to leave the house to go for dinner. I would like to say that it put me off my food but, again, anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that NOTHING puts me off my food. We had a lovely meal and the birthday was a great success.

The next day, we had arranged to take A and four of her friends to the cinema to see La-La-Land (initial choice was Beauty and the Beast but selfishly the film company did not release this in time for A’s birthday) followed by pizza at our house (being on a bit of a budget and not able to fork out a further 50-odd quid for dinner for them all at a restaurant). Believe me when I say that any type of hosting of anyone other than family fills me with a sort of dread. I like having friends round, but find it stressful. I am not a natural hostess and constantly question myself – will they eat what I have cooked? Will they think the menu is boring? Will they think the music is rubbish? What will we talk about? blah blah blah. It’s no different when the kids have friends round. Some of them I have known since they were tiny, others are new friends: unknown quantities. It’s all quite stressful.

So the idea of four girls in the house (two I know pretty well, two I don’t) was nerve-wracking. I worry that kids, like dogs, can smell the fear, or, in my case, the desperation for it all to be over. I worry that they can tell that my smile is a bit forced and that I am a tad nervous. Kids don’t expect their friends’parents to be shy and nervous. They expect them to be fun and in control (but not a control freak) and nice. I am nice. I am not fun. I hate mess. I hate excessive noise. Five girls in a small space are loud. They squeal a lot. We got through it though. K was dreading it as much as I was but was kind and didn’t desert me. It was fine. I don’t know if they had a good time – I think they did. One was constantly “live-streaming” the occasion on some form of social media which struck me as slightly odd but then I am OLD so what do I know? Perhaps I should be flattered that she felt it worthy of trying to induce some FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in her other friends who had not been invited. In reality it made me shudder at the thought that the other girls may then question their new, tentative friendships with A and wonder why they hadn’t been invited too. I was that girl. I would have not survived my teens if social media had been around – I would have cried a lot (more than I did).

The final day of the Birthday Weekend was the big shopping trip with Grandma. Three generations of women out shopping together could be a bit of a gamble. My dad always used to say (and still does, in fact) to mum and me when we were heading out to the shops “Be nice to each other – no fighting”. I am not sure what this was based on – I don’t remember any one particular occasion where we had a disastrous outing but I suspect there probably were some. However, we had a great day – A spent her budget wisely and bought some lovely clothes and accessories, announcing in one changing room that she has definitely “found her style” and loves shopping. We had toasties in M&S and hot choc in John Lewis and she ended up with tons of bags so all in all it was a Very Good Day.

Happy Birthday my beautiful girl.