Category Archives: #parenting

Be happy now

I saw one of those annoying pictures on Instagram or similar recently, one of those ones with a summery beach background and the words in italics across it “be happy now”. I normally scroll on past those pictures, because they are everywhere you look and they can be a touch saccharine, especially if you’re having a bad day.

But this one made me stop for a moment, because it tied in with an article I read a few weeks ago, about the pressure to be happy all the time. All the time! That’s just not realistic is it? I did the 100 Happy Days challenge when I first started this blog, in fact it was the reason I started it, and I enjoyed it immensely – so much so that I repeated the exercise several times – because it made me think about one thing each day that had made me happy, even if only momentarily. But, it didn’t make me feel I had to be happy ALL THE TIME. Small moments are great, and should be acknowledged, but if they happened all the time then they would not be worth noting. However, it would be nice not to go through each stage of life thinking “when X happens I will be happier”. For example, when I was little I thought it must be so much nicer being an adult – you get to choose what food you eat, you get to choose your own clothes, you have your own money, etc etc. But, as we all know when we grow up, choosing your own food invariably means shopping for the ingredients and cooking it for yourself (and probably others) too; don’t get me started on buying clothes; and yes having your own money is great but no-one mentioned mortgages when I was seven.

When I was in my twenties, I thought that when I lost another half a stone I would be happier (we’re back to the clothes thing again) and when I met the man of my dreams and had a family I would be laughing every day. It took a while to meet K and although I quickly realised he was the one for me, it took us a while to get sorted (mainly due to the logistics of living 90 miles apart) and then it wasn’t always a laugh a minute. When we had T and he was colicky and then the reflux kicked in we were told “things will be better when he is walking”. When he wouldn’t sleep we were convinced life would be better when he eventually slept in his own bed. By then we had A and we started all over again with the “when she is 3 she won’t have tantrums anymore” (still waiting on that one). Life always seemed like it would be so much better when……

As it turns out this mentality is hard to shift. I said only yesterday as I was darting back out to the garden office in the pouring rain “it will be so much better if we get that extension built!”

Be happy now, eh? Hmm, well perhaps I need to repeat the 100 Happy Days because there are so many things to be happy about and all this wishing time to pass, because life will be better then, is just a waste of time. Time is passing all the time. That little colicky baby sat his first GCSE yesterday (short course PRE – not full fledged GCSE’s yet but nonetheless we are on that train and it seems to be a high-speed one) and the little tantrummy madam was dressed up and going to her first proper gig on Saturday night. And yes, life is easier in some ways now, but it was good then too and we were happy, I just didn’t always realise it.

Sitting in my garden office I can see fields and farmland and trees and open countryside stretching out. It’s beautiful. I didn’t have to sit on a train to get here or in my car for hours on the motorway. But, the sun is shining today and I didn’t get soaked just walking across the patio. It will be so much better when…….

 

A lump in my throat

I’ve just waved K off as he heads off to Germany for a week. Well, 5 days and 6 nights to be precise, he will be back next Friday, but it feels like a week. Since we moved in together 17 years ago, we have never spent more than 2 nights apart. Neither of us has ever been inclined towards holidays away with friends without each other, even if we had the means. We’ve always wanted to go away together, and since having the children this has been a given. I’ve had weekends away, he’s had work trips away, so this trip has made us both a tad unsettled.

I need to explain. We’re not a lovey-dovey couple who can’t bear to be apart. We don’t shower each other with overt displays of affection. We just like being together. We like being at home in the evenings watching a bit of TV and chatting about stuff. We like spending time with the kids (why else have them?). We just like it that way. Of course we have time apart, we both have friends that we see (me more than  K as his friends are dispersed far and wide) and we do go out separately, but more often than not we are together. I often joke with friends that I would only miss him if he wasn’t here because I would have to put the bins out (in fairness it was one of the things I thought of when I knew he was leaving on a Sunday – “but it’s bin night!”) but in reality he does far more than that. He makes me feel grounded and he stops me worrying so much about stupid stuff and he makes me laugh. When he’s not here it just doesn’t feel right. And I can pretty much forget about sleeping.

K is nervous about the trip for different reasons to me. He hasn’t been abroad with work before. He hasn’t flown alone before. I usually organise trips (apart from last summer holiday) and take the blame when it all goes wrong. This makes him sound useless and a bit pathetic – he’s not, he is more than able to sort this and he has made all the arrangements necessary. He’s just not confident that it will all work out. He’s a bit apprehensive about the itinerary while he is away – mainly because he doesn’t have one. He is unsure what format the trip will take and he doesn’t know if there will be any communication issues, as he doesn’t speak any German. I’ve assured him that their spoken English will probably be better than his (let’s face it, he’s a brummie) and for him not to worry. A has given him the phrase “My name is K…” in German as a little bit of help. I suggested a name badge.

Making stupid jokes is the way we (in our family) seem to deal with nervous moments. I think it’s so that the subject matter seems less ominous. It doesn’t mean we don’t care, it’s just our way of saying “hey don’t worry it will all be OK” without actually saying it (because we are not American).  Here’s a case in point: K developed a rather unfortunate lump on his neck a few days ago and has had to get it seen to by the doctor. She diagnosed a boil (sounds very 1950’s) and prescribed a steroid cream. T’s immediate response was to refer to it as Susan. This has now stuck firmly in all our minds and we now say “Susan’s looking better” rather than “your boil is not too bad”. It’s mainly due to relief that the lump was nothing more sinister and therefore we can be silly about it. I was rather disappointed that my comment of it being where his bolts had been removed was overtaken by the Susan comment, but you can’t win them all.

An email K received from his German colleague last week confirmed the hotel booking and the plans for collecting him from the airport. It was signed off with “we look forward to welcoming you to our house”. Of course, we said this was surely due to a Google Translate issue and that they meant “to our company offices/our place/our town”. Then, we saw the hotel booking was for bed and breakfast. Still no big deal, as no doubt they will be taking him out for food each night rather than expect him to sit alone in a hotel restaurant (for K this would be almost preferable to having to be sociable). And then, it hit me. “Welcoming you to our house” might mean exactly that and he could be dining “chez nous” as the French would say (I have no idea what the German equivalent is). Unfortunately, the kids overheard our conversation and we now have an ongoing joke that he is going to be having selfies with Helga and Wilhelm, the directors lovely kinder, while eating home-cooked bratwurst and sauerkraut. Even his Auntie S joined in when we saw them last weekend. I was slightly perturbed by his Uncle D’s comment of “watch out for the lady-boys”. K reiterated that it was Germany he was going to not Thailand, and we have since put it down to a slip of the tongue; we think he meant to say “lederhosen”.

Joking aside, we will all miss him massively while he is away. A has sneaked a letter and cuddly Panda toy (his nickname) into his suitcase, T has been giving him way more hugs (i.e. more than one) than usual and I have found myself looking at him a bit longer than I normally would (i.e. more than a few milliseconds). He has promised to FaceTime and asked if I would like him to bring back a bottle of Gin from duty-free (did he even need to ask?) so it’s not all bad. The week will soon be over and he will be back with us: annoying us with his singing, farting and general nonsense. And it will be fab.

 

 

Re: the title of the blog piece. Whenever I am a bit stressed, I get the sensation of having a lump in my throat. I first had it when we were planning our wedding and after weeks and weeks of being convinced I had throat cancer and would not make it to the wedding day, I finally plucked up the courage to see the doctor (funnily enough, the very same one that diagnosed Susan) and she gently asked me if there was anything big going on in my life, with a quick diagnosis of a stress-related phantom ‘lump’. It comes and goes at certain times but is never more apt than when waving K off this lunchtime. A true lump in the throat moment.

Uphill battle

On Wednesday the Beddoe Four went for a walk around the nearby Ashridge Estate taking in Pitstone Windmill. It’s a walk that I’ve done recently with Mrs F and I thought the others might like it. That might be a slight porkie pie – I wanted to go on the walk and I wanted them to come with me. And I wanted them to enjoy it. I’m not sure they loved it as much as I did but it was a lovely day, the scenery was beautiful and I was with all of my family so I was happy! It was a 7 mile walk and we managed it in just over 2 hours so I was pretty chuffed and decided we all deserved a cup of something hot and a cake at the cafe afterwards.  

Spurred on by our successful walk, we decided that on Thursday we’d get out on our bikes. We’d initially toyed with the idea of a trip to the coast but the tides weren’t in our favour and so we decided to stay at home. T goes on bike rides regularly with his friends and wanted to show us the route that they’ve recently discovered through two local villages. I was quite nervous about getting back on my bike after a long break – it must be nearly ten months since I last went out – but decided that all the walking I’ve been doing recently would stand me in good stead and I’d be fine. How wrong I was. After a very short time and just one small hill later I was struggling – a lot. I persevered and managed the 6 miles to our pit stop of the pub (not part of T’s usual routine I hasten to add!) and glugged back a very welcome cold half of lager shandy! The three miles home were less arduous but it was a huge disappointment to me that I had lost all of the fitness that I’d gained before last summer. I wasn’t Olympic fit by any stretch of the imagination but I could cycle up some pretty fierce hills without too much trouble. Now I can barely push my bike up them on foot. But as K rightly pointed out, I’ve just got to keep at it and I’ll soon find it easier. 

Yesterday, as per every Good Friday for quite some years now, we had fish and chips with G&G for dinner and I enjoyed them, but in the back of my mind was the niggling voice that this would not be helping my crusade to get fitter! A walk today should ease my conscience a little – we’re meeting my brother and his family and G&G for a “bluebell walk” which doesn’t sound as taxing as the 7-miler but it’s better than nothing and is really all that my poor blistered feet will currently allow! 

Home Alone

Don’t worry, this isn’t a film review about small blonde boys running amok, scaring off incompetent burglars. I’m talking about me. Again.

It is the Easter holidays and I have worked for the first two days and now I have a glorious (regardless of the weather) 12 days off (including weekends). K is off for just slightly less time. We don’t have much planned; we’re not going away. I am mostly looking forward to not rushing up – I don’t like to lie-in but anything past 6.30am will do me fine, thank you very much. I am looking forward to not having to sit at a computer all day. I am looking forward to some walks and maybe some bike rides and perhaps a day-trip to the coast.

The kids, on the other hand, have made it very clear that they are cramming as much time with their friends into these first 2 days as is humanly possible, as they will be stuck with me and K for the remainder of the holidays. They haven’t said it out loud, but I can tell. I asked them both to ensure that all homework is done before the close of business today (no I didn’t use that exact phrase) so that we don’t end up with frantic, last-minute panicking ruining our break. A spent most of yesterday doing all of hers and has free time today to go out with friends. T’s response was “but I only have these 2 days to see my friends…..” (and then I am going to have to spend the rest of the time with you, you boring old woman, and you are going to make me do ‘family stuff’ and I will be bored, so no, I am not going to do my R.E. revision, are you mad?)  It’s the unsaid words that are the loudest.

I love that my kids have friends that live close by and that they have a safe environment to go out in and that they are free to do as they like (within reason) most of the time. T has spent most of his free time lately going for long treks through the local woods with his friends, undoubtedly annoying dog walkers and wild animals. A pops out with a friend, they come back here and giggle in her room. It’s lovely.

But, I see friends with younger kids going to the Zoo, the Farm, the Park and I feel a bit wistful. I used to love going to the Zoo. I still would love going to the Zoo but might look a a bit odd on my own. I suppose I am forgetting the horrendous trips where it started raining and we had to dash back to the car, or when someone spilt their ice-cream all over themselves, or the time at the Farm when my friend’s child slipped over in pig excrement (this wasn’t just poo it was Excrement with a capital E) and we all stood horrified not knowing what to do with him. Or the time when we went to the seaside and A fell over at the waters edge and I HADN’T TAKEN A CHANGE OF CLOTHES (*) so she spent the day in her brothers thankfully very long hoody in lieu of  a dress. The list of nightmare events while attempting to enjoy ourselves is never-ending. But, I forget all those when I see my friends pictures of little faces beaming at lambs, or baby elephants. I remember the time when T held a rabbit for the first time and the look on his face and him whispering to me how soft it was still makes me want to weep. And the time when A wanted to feed the lamb but was too scared so we did it together and she held my hand while I held the bottle and we laughed at how hard it was to keep hold of it, even with 2 of us doing it. I wish I had enjoyed those moments a bit more. I wish I recalled those moments more than the ones with sick involved.

As much as I would love more of these moments, I am not going to force my kids to spend the next 12 days solely in my company. We will have some days out where we will be on our own together, just us four. But, it wouldn’t be fair on them to stop them going out and seeing their friends. I am sure K and I will have plenty of Home Alone time and that is quite nice too, especially as it is guilt free alone time, i.e. we haven’t ditched the kids at my mum’s or taken time off during term time to have a day off on our own – the kids are off out doing their own thing, having a great time, and so we can too. There are definite bonuses to having children old enough to fend for themselves, who like to be left to their own devices sometimes (most of the time) and who, when they do spend time with us, are good to chat to and nice to be around (most of the time) and who are less likely to puke down themselves, fall in mud (or excrement) or into the sea.

So, although I may be feeling wistful at the ever-changing, teenager-centric, world I live in and remembering the rabbits, I do actually quite like it how it is now. For now.

 

(* a lesson I never really learned from and still see as one of my biggest mum-failures. T had to once borrow a pair of pants from the well-stocked boot of my friends car when he had a slight accident on a day out at the farm – the same farm as the pig poo episode but on a different occasion.)

Maturity, Determination and Expansion

Three completely unconnected words, but ones which have meant a lot in our house since the last blog post.

Maturity

Last week, T was on a break from school doing work experience at a local tech company. He hadn’t originally been selected to do work experience, as this is now only offered to year 10 students who are not deemed to be working at the level that they would need to be in order to do A’levels. (Quite how the school determines this after only 6 months of the 2 year GCSE course I can’t tell you but I guess they know what they are doing..) Anyway, T was not selected  – which I suppose we should be pleased about on the basis that he must be doing OK in his chosen subjects – but in actual fact we as parents and he as a student were all a bit disappointed. He is pretty sure that he won’t want to stay on at school to do A’levels. He has a keen interest in tech, as I have mentioned on my blog before, and he thinks (this is all subject to the teenager’s right to change his mind numerous times in the next 18 months and so is not set in stone) that he is more likely to go onto college and do a more specialised computing course. Regardless of his future intentions, we all thought that work experience would be of benefit to him. After some discussion we agreed that there was no harm in him approaching the Careers Officer at school to see if there was any possibility of him getting on the list. The answer was”yes” and he was given the details of how to apply. He found an IT Support company on the database and applied via the school to go there. He had the placement confirmed by school and was told to contact the Director of the company to make the necessary arrangements. I thought he might baulk at this and would, at most, fire off an email (perfectly acceptable, but the easier alternative to calling). Wrong again, mum. He called straight away and although he got the guy’s voicemail he left a message and followed it up with an email. We worked out the logistics of getting him to and fro and he started last Monday. He was a little nervous going in, but had a great first day and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the week. Among other things, he went out on site one day with one of the technicians to install laptops for a client, spending the whole day in the company of a complete stranger twice his age but he didn’t bat an eyelid, just took it all in his stride. The report back from the Director at the end of the week was brilliant. To quote a few lines “nothing was too much trouble”, “didn’t have to be shown anything more than once”, “showed maturity beyond his years”. Fab. These flashes of real maturity totally outweigh (for the time being) the bouts of nonsensical behaviour (texting me 27 times to ask for a later curfew, despite each reply being “no” being the most recent example and most frustrating, resulting in the biggest row we have ever had).

Determination

At our Secondary school the PE department requires the students to run a set course once every half tern. The students lovingly refer to this as “The Death Run”. The idea is that they endeavour to improve their time each half term and outrun their last Personal Best. A, like her mother, is no athlete and was dreading The Death Run way before even starting at the school. The first time she had to run it she “felt ill” and had to walk most of it, coming in very close to the back of the pack. She wasn’t overly bothered but the run had lived up to it’s moniker in her eyes and was firmly established as A Big Deal. She dreaded the next one and performed equally badly. Just before the end of the Christmas term she announced over dinner one Tuesday evening that she had been to Fitness Club at lunchtime. We were all pleasantly surprised and wondered if she would go more than once (she is very much her mothers daughter). She surprised us all and probably herself by sticking to it and last half term she ran The Death Run and made such an improvement in her performance that she received a postcard at home from the PE department congratulating her on her improvement and attaining a new PB. Today, she has run it again and taken another 6 seconds off her last time, earning her a place on the latest photo of PB smashers on Twitter. Her time may well be 3 minutes behind the faster runners, but as I pointed out to her this afternoon, the idea of a PB is that it is yours and yours alone and all you have to do it better your own time. She is proud of herself and rightly so. She may be her mothers daughter but she has way more determination.

Expansion

Every summer, when the weather permits it, K and I like to sit outside in the evening and drink wine on the deck and talk about what a waste of space it is. Don’t get me wrong, we love sitting outside but we only get to do it for about one month every year. And for that month every year we talk about how much better it would be if we could use that space all year round. It’s always been just talk, over a bottle or two of wine, and punctuated by lots of “if only”s and “if we had more money”s and “wouldn’t it be great if”s. Nothing has changed in our financial circumstances – we haven’t won the lottery (we wouldn’t be thinking of extensions if we had; we would be moving to the posh part of town) or had massive pay-rises (remember those?). We have just decided that this summer we won’t sit outside and talk about it; we are going to make it happen. We’ve talked to the bank, rather apprehensively. They asked a LOT of questions, and eventually said yes. We have a budget. We have an architect on board. We have an idea of what we would like to do. The architect has suggested other things that make much more sense – that is why he does this job – and we have got the beginnings of a plan (not actual plans yet as we have to make a few more decisions first). We may actually be able to spend this summer talking about something real rather than a pipe dream. There are planning hoops to jump through first and neighbours to talk to, but for once I am allowing myself to believe that this might actually happen. Watch this space.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.