Category Archives: teenager

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…….


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.


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).


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.


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.

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.




Good changes

Thinking back to half term holidays in recent years gone by, T would be out with friends most days – on his bike or at someone’s house – or one of his friends would be at our house. A would have been busying herself baking, reading, popping out to the shops or for a walk with me – generally occupying herself.

This half term has been almost a reversal of this situation.

T has had revision to do, admittedly, so has been occupied that way but has also been at a bit of a loose end during his scheduled breaks due to most of his friends being away. In contrast, A has been to a birthday party at a local “bouncing arena” type place, had a friend over to just chat and do whatever it is girls do when they get together, just and this afternoon has gone to another friend’s house for a sleepover. All three of these friends are new ones that she has made since starting at secondary. I am almost giving myself a little hug and am overjoyed that my mantra for the last 2 years of primary school “it will all be different at secondary school, it will all be different at secondary school…” has actually (so far) been spot on. It HAS been different. She has grown in self confidence without losing her innate kindness and thoughtfulness. She has maintained the few friendships that were good ones from her old school, but she is equally unafraid to do what SHE wants to do and chooses who SHE wants to spend time with. I am so very happy for her. I am also very proud. SHE has made this happen. The fact that she changed schools has enabled this change but SHE has made it work. My favourite motto that she has on a picture in her room is “She believed she could, so she did”. It sums her up totally.

Another difference for me this half term was going into work today. We normally all work from home during school hols as we all have kids and we all prefer to be around when they are off. But today I needed to train a new member of staff and so we all met up at the office. Until now I would have asked K to be at home, or would have asked G&G if they would do grandparent duty for the day and have them at their house. But, now they are both old enough to be left alone. And we regularly do, when they don’t want to come to Sainsburys or Homebase  (who can blame them – even I don’t really want to go) and they are perfectly fine. But I have never left them ALL DAY. It was therefore with some reluctance and trepidation that I left the house this morning at 8.45am. By 10am I had created a Whatsapp group ‘Kids’ and messaged them “both ok?”. “Yep” was the response. And maybe a smiley emoji from A. I then heard nothing, and honestly was too busy to message them, until midday when T rang to ask could he have crackers for lunch instead of a sandwich, and could his friend come round about 1pm until I got back and then they would go out. Yes and yes – but don’t annoy your sister.

I’ve come home to a bit of washing up and a daughter desperate to get out to her friends for the aforementioned sleepover. The boys had gone out just before I got back as he had rung to see if it would be OK to leave A for a half hour until I got home, which it was.

I am now finishing off work (and writing my blog!) waiting for K to come home and an evening with just him and my boy. One day very soon it will be just me and him. All the time. Oh.