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Seeking approval

I had an interesting conversation over dinner the other night with the teenagers. K wasn’t there, which has no bearing on the conversation – we chat even if there is only 2 of us eating –  I am just setting the scene.

A started it off when she complained that a couple of boys in her form are always doing polls on Instagram asking if they should buy X expensive jumper or Y expensive jumper. “They’re just showing off that they have loads of money”, was her main gripe. I asked if they thought that their generation are more concerned with money and belongings than perhaps my generation (of old fogeys). They thought that perhaps they were more materialistic, but only because they have it rammed down their throats by social media, the press, companies aiming their products at the youth/teen market.

We talked about their own motives for buying, say, an item of clothing. T is into designer labels but is happy to buy replica/fake/unbranded stuff that looks like the real deal. A is happy with a bag full of cheap stuff from Primark (something that I had no issue with until I saw Stacey Dooley’s documentary about the pollution caused by companies like this) rather than spending the same amount on one item from a higher end shop.

They both agreed that their motives were the same: wearing something that they liked and had spent their own money on made them feel good. I asked T if the designer brand thing was due to wanting others to say “oh nice jumper” or if he just liked the clothes. He said that it was because he liked the clothes, but it was a bonus if someone commented on it. A was the same, saying that she liked to wear a new t shirt or top, for example on Non- uniform days, whereas some people wore the same thing every time “just because it’s a designer brand. I would rather wear something new that cost a fiver than wear the same £50 top all the time”.

We talked about the pitfalls of buying something to make you feel better or to improve your mood, because that’s only temporary and will wear off. Better to be happy with yourself and wear clothes as an extension of who you are. T said that he likes to wear stuff that other lads his age wear, as a kind of way to fit in, but that it wasn’t the main factor. He has a friend who bucks the trend and wears quite retro stuff that most lads his age wouldn’t look at. But no-one gives him a hard time, they respect his choices.

A said she likes to wear what she feels comfortable in and won’t bow to trends. She was very anti the crop top fashion when she was in Year 6 and still tends to wear slightly more conservative clothes compared to some of her peers. I have to say I am not upset about this at all!

We were just clearing the plates away when T hit the nail on the head for me and made me have a glimmer of hope that they are not lost in the sea of consumerism. “I’m not looking for approval from anyone when I buy or wear clothes. I may follow a trend but I don’t care what anyone else thinks. If someone doesn’t like my trainers or my jumper I am not going to stop wearing it. It’s their opinion and they are welcome to it but I will wear what I want to wear.” A wholeheartedly agreed. And this makes me happy.

In the same sort of vein, I’ve had a gripe myself this week. I normally listen to Radio 2 in the morning until lunchtime, but today I had to switch off. In the run up to Children In Need (a fantastic thing, which is to be hugely applauded) Chris Evans runs a series of Auctions for various events and, again, this is to be applauded. But, the bidding on these auctions reaches far beyond anything that the Average Joe could afford and I get a little bit frustrated by it. I know that making money is the aim of this, and I know that the more money they make then all the better for all the charities supported by Children In Need and it is fantastic that there are so many incredibly generous wealthy people out there.

But, the notion that someone could scrape together £10, £20, £30 and call through to bid on one of these “lots” only to hear that the top bidder is in excess of £10,000 must be terribly disheartening. To know that you don’t stand any chance of getting tickets because you do not have the kind of money that is being pledged is quite sad. And that’s not what it is meant to be about. One comment that made me particularly cross was that people should not “try and get tickets on the cheap” and that being tight would come back and bite you on the bum. Is it being tight to pledge an amount that is affordable to you, and that you are willing to give up other things for in order to pledge it, just because your amount is nothing like the huge amounts of the highest bidders? No, it’s just being normal, average and giving what you can. Rant over.




Perseverance finally pays off

For at least the last year or so we have been trying to get A referred back to our local Orthodontist practice from the care of the hospital. We were finally told by the consultant on the 12th September that she would support the transfer.

It should have been simple.

It wasn’t.

I have made phone call after phone call to the hospital, the orthodontists, our dentists; sent email after email; cried tears of frustration*; wondered whether I should just stop bothering.

Until – finally, I have had an email today to say that she has an appointment on the 28th November at the local practice.

No more 3 hour trips to the hospital. No more time off school. No more dealing with an egotistical consultant who wanted to shave bits off of her teeth to make her smile “perfect”. She is perfect to me in every way (apart from the stubbornness –  when it is directed at me) and one millimetre difference does not matter if it means no more procedures.

Finally, I can put the numerous letters away and not have them taunting me, saying “you still haven’t sorted it”.

One massive tick off my to-do-list.

*I am not ashamed to say that I had a little weep when I received the email. It may not sound like a big deal but after 4 years of hospital appointments it is a huge relief.

I’m dreaming of an average Christmas

I know, I know, its REALLY early to be thinking about Christmas, but I am. For the last few years we have started buying presents early to spread the cost, and this means that it’s in my mind already. Sorry.

I used to be pretty ambivalent towards the “Season to be Jolly”. I could take it or leave it. As a child it was exciting, of course, and I remember it as a time when we saw family and had lovely food; one of my Nans (sometimes both) would spend the day with us and Boxing Day would be at one of my Auntie’s houses or my cousin’s. It was a happy time. But as I got older it was a time of disappointing nights out at the pub, sometimes a hangover to nurse, too much expectation to Have A Good Time.

As an adult, before K and I were married, I always wanted to spend the day with my family. K was very kind and always made the journey down to my parents house, sometimes eating a second Christmas dinner when he arrived (pig!). When we moved in together I think we took it in turns to go to each other’s parents houses, but when we had both the children we agreed that we would like to spend the day at home, with our parents if they wanted to join us. We quickly fell into a pattern of one set of parents coming on Christmas Day and the other set on Boxing Day and then reversing it the next year. There has been the odd year when this hasn’t been the case: we had one year on our own as both sets of parents had been invited to our respective siblings houses (which was strangely nice albeit a little odd) and one year we went to my brothers house. I prefer being at home. I like having people here. I like cooking a lovely lunch and the opening of presents. But, even so, I never really looked forward to it as much as other people seemed to and was definitely a bit bah humbug when anyone mentioned it, in my opinion, too early.

Several years ago I caught the infectiousness of it. My fabulous friend, Mrs F, is a HUGE fan of Christmas the decorating and the present buying and the general, in her eyes, loveliness of it all. Her enthusiasm rubbed off and now I like nothing more than a Christmas section in the shops or even a Christmas Market. I like buying a new decoration each year, be it big or tiny and I love that a lot of what we have has special memories attached to it. We’ve developed a few small traditions: new pyjamas for us all on Christmas Eve (a borrowed tradition from Mrs F); a new decoration; a new board game; bacon sandwiches for breakfast on the day; making the cake with A in the weeks before; cooking a joint of gammon on Christmas Eve (as my mum always used to); table presents. Not many, but enough to make it more “ours”.

However, one thing that has never changed is the expectation. I always imagine the Perfect Day. Not helped by the adverts, social media, other peoples photos, the expectation becomes unrealistic. And then throw in the guilt.

In the months before, I worry that we are not generous enough with our gifts. Other people seem to throw financial caution to the wind and buy their loved ones laptops, phones, etc. We have always been more cautious, never wanting to be faced with a huge credit card bill in January. If the kids have made noises about something “big” we have encouraged them to contribute towards it. A laptop for T one year was half funded by us and half by him – through money he had saved or money from other people for Christmas. You get the idea. We weren’t in a position to spend a lot on them when they were little, before I went back to work, and I suspect that mentality has stayed with us. And I worry. That we should be less cautious. More generous. Spoil them. And I worry. I know we do what is right for us and our kids have never complained about contributing, or aiming their sights slightly lower. In fact, they are both pretty restrained when it comes to lists and I often have to ask for a few more ideas.

The expectation mounts the nearer it gets. Will we all be in a good mood? Will anyone be ill? Will we manage to diarise it all well enough so that we get to see everyone we’d like to see? Will the dinner turn out ok? Will there be enough gravy? (this only matters when it’s K’s parents turn to come for the day). Will it snow and stop people travelling?

The main question is “Will we have the Perfect Day?” On past experience, I would imagine the answer will be “no”. Of course it won’t be perfect. Something will ALWAYS happen to make it not so. Batteries missing from a toy, when they were small. Something broken within minutes of using it. Someone feeling unwell. Last year, it was one of the kids forgetting to shut one of the car windows the day before, it rained overnight and the inside of the car was “soaked through” (slight exaggeration but nonetheless enough to cause huge discontent and ill-feeling for a big part of the day) and was only noticed as K’s parents were parking their car, so the first hour of their visit was spent with K outside trying to sort it out, leaving me to entertain and cook and smile like a Stepford Wife. Not the Perfect Day I had imagined.

So, this year I am lowering my expectations. I am not going to try and control every element of it. (K has booked himself in for a flu jab so at least that shouldn’t rear its ugly head this year.) I am going to try and just enjoy it for what it is – a day to be with family, to eat (hopefully) yummy food and maybe open the odd present or two (hopefully the present won’t be odd, you know what I mean). I am NOT going to expect everyone to be in a great mood. I am NOT going to expect it all to go perfectly. I am NOT going to expect there to be no arguments or bickering. If we don’t get to see everyone we would like to, then so be it. I am just going to try and enjoy it.

I have made one small change this year. I have taken Christmas week off. Not a huge issue, it only amounted to 2 days leave taking into account the bank holidays and my usual day off.  But I’m hoping it will make a difference to my mindset. Maybe this combined with my lowered expectations will mean I go to bed on Christmas night a happier bunny than in previous years. I’ll let you know.



Getting it wrong, sometimes.

I don’t like it when people have problems. I want to solve them. In that respect I probably have quite a male outlook. When you tell a man a problem, mostly he wants to solve it. When you tell a woman, she is more likely to empathise/sympathise and offer words of support. Or, so I am led to believe in articles I have read.

My daughter is an incredibly self-sufficient, level headed, sensible, thoughtful young woman. She has had her ups and downs with other members of her gender in the past and although she now has an amazing small group of friends (not needy, not jealous, not bitchy) she still has the odd bit of grief (or beef as the kids call it these days) from some other students. The source of a lot of this is her “make-up account” on Instagram. I’ve talked about this before – she likes to film herself doing demo’s of makeup looks and, on the whole, it is well received amongst her peers. She’s not showing off, she’s not saying that she thinks she is a perfect specimen (if such a being exists), and she doesn’t force anyone to follow her account.

She gets mocked now and then, for whatever reason. Friends that I have talked to about it, some of whom work in schools and live this stuff, say it is likely to be jealousy – that she has the confidence to film herself with no make up on, to put herself out there, to do something that she loves. I don’t understand it, but then I have never really understood what goes on in other females minds. I support her and talk to her about the possible reasons behind the mocking – see above – but I struggle to not want to resolve it.

She tells me when she is having grief, for which I am eternally grateful, and mostly I seem to handle it OK. I try to empathise without telling her what to do. I ask her what she thinks she should do, if anything. (Lets face it, some people will find a reason to mock others regardless of their actions.) But today, for whatever reason, I didn’t. I didn’t handle it well AT ALL. So badly in fact that she uttered the dreaded words “I just won’t bother telling you anything in future”.

This worries me more than anything else she could say to me. When your child is telling you about grief they are getting, as much as it hurts you and you want to do something, at least you can be reassured by the fact that they are TALKING TO YOU ABOUT IT. When they go quiet, it’s time to worry.

Somehow, I need to find a way to sort this with her. At the moment, ten minutes after it has happened, I am at a loss. I am upset, worried and want to turn the clock back 15 minutes and handle it differently. Not try and solve it. Not tell her to ignore them. Not tell her that she has had this all before and she knows it will blow over. It’s all true but it wasn’t (this time) what she needed to hear. I don’t know what she needed to hear – I asked her, but she couldn’t tell me.

Maybe she just needed a hug and no words, no solutions, no advice.

So, that’s where I will start. With a hug.

All By Myself….

….don’t wanna be all by myself….

Or do I?

Today I am in the office – ALONE. The two Directors have taken some time off together for a spot of male bonding and have left me in charge, the fools. We struck a deal back in May, when we were getting the extension done. Over a curry one night, they offered to pay for our decorating if I would hold the reins for two weeks so that they could go and stay in Director One’s house in Barbados. I agreed, after much persuading that I am capable and that they have every faith in me. With a five hour time difference (they are behind) they are not really contactable until 2pm by which time most of the drama (if there is going to be any) will already have happened. Oh, and not just keeping the cartridge side of things ticking over, but the recently founded motor racing supplies side too.

Monday was hell. It was the first of the month, so I had month end reporting to do. I have only done this unaided once – last month – so it takes me a while to check and double check everything. This, in addition to sorting out several orders for the motor racing stuff, my normal job and stock ordering, was a lot to take on in one day with no support. My colleague was here and she helped out where she could. I survived what is expected to be the worst day of the two weeks. I may regret saying that…..

Tuesday was better, less stressful. No motor racing stuff. Just my usual day. And my other colleague was in so there were three of us to chat stuff over together.

Today is my work from home day, but as no-one else is in I am here to hold the fort. Alone. I was a bit reluctant to be here on my own. I thought it would be weird and a bit sad.

It’s not.

I have my 2,652 Spotify songs on shuffle through the Sonos. I have sorted all the motor racing shipments in my own time. I am covering Customer Services which is quite nice as it takes less brain power – I can do it on pretty much on autopilot. No one is here slurping their drinks or belching or eating smelly food. I have cleaned my desk and the spare admin desk. Everywhere smells of lemons. I’m not lonely because I quite like being on my own. I don’t like having to make small talk or respond to every huff and puff or comment that someone makes. I am in my own little world. And it’s nice.

Just me, myself and I.




Ups and Downs

On Friday the kids had an inset day from school. We went to Thorpe Park. I haven’t set foot in a Theme Park (not counting Legoland when T was 5) since circa. 1997 when K and I went to Alton Towers. He made me go on the Nemesis ride and when we disembarked I punched him. I hated it and vowed never to return, EVER. But, when you’re a parent you do things for your kids that you wouldn’t ever choose to do in your other life. T has never been to a Theme Park. We were due to go with friends two summers ago but the leg got broken and we couldn’t go. A went last year for a friends birthday and loved it. So we agreed that we should Do It For The Kids. Reluctant to pay full price I looked into the best deal and having purchased 2 tiny Pepperami sticks for around £2 we were able to pre-book tickets for all of us, including parking for under £70. This is around half the price of full price so I felt very smug.

The smugness did not outweigh the fear and trepidation of actually going. Fear is wrong. I am not scared of the rides. I simply DON’T ENJOY THEM. I am not a scaredy-cat, I just don’t like the sensation of being thrown around, upside down and at speed. I was nervous that T would hate it. A seems to not have inherited the scaredy-cat hating it gene from me so maybe he would?

He loved it. They all loved it. I still hated it. I went on what is classed as the baby ride with A and that was enough for me. Luckily both K and T were happy to go on everything else with her so happy days. I was happy to sit looking after the rucksack, people watching, while they queued and queued and queued some more. I love people watching, especially in the sunshine, so I was in my element. I love trying to work out people’s relationships, back stories. Sounds a bit weird but it’s fun. I don’t follow them or listen to their conversations (unless I absolutely can’t help it) – I’m not a stalker.

But what a rip off these places are. Not just from the entrance fee point of view  – they should have a “bag holder only” option where you pay a nominal fee to be able to go in but not go on any rides – but from all the other stuff that they bombard you with: fast passes; refillable drink bottles; fairground type stalls with massive teddy bears to try and win via near-impossible games; food; ice cream made using nitrogen at £4.50 at pot (three mouthfuls worth it looked like). The list goes on. Just shocking. Seeing people who look as if they don’t have two pennies to rub together (as my Nan would say) paying fiver after fiver to throw three balls into a tub, which they inevitably bounce straight back out of, in a bid to win a hideous soft toy is heartbreaking and infuriating.

Thankfully, we had taken a packed lunch and only splashed out on a couple of ice creams (not the nitrogen ones I hasten to add) and a coffee. So all in all a pretty reasonable (in the grand scheme of things) day. Sometimes it’s not all about the money, money, money though. The kids faces when we finally admitted where we were going (after stringing them along that we were off out to some woods for a LONG walk) was priceless and the adrenaline-induced smiles on their faces when they came off the rides was equally so.

And even better – I didn’t punch K.


Fighting the inevitable

The start of a new school year, or a return to school/work after a break, is always hard. Part of me relishes getting back into a routine, knowing where we will all be at what times. The control freak/organiser in me likes it. But, there is another part of me that fights it. Fights against early starts and school runs and homework and nagging. (There’s always an element of nagging – empty your bin, bring down your dirty washing, wash the ten million cups up that you have in your room, to name but a few.)

Conversations are no longer about nice things: plans for long sunny days out with their friends, holidays, fun stuff. The sorts of conversations we have now are about lessons, homework, food tech ingredients that are needed the next day, clean uniform, lack of socks, text books, showers, whose turn it is to clear the table and wash up. God, its boring. I ask “how was your day” and get grunts. Before it was “good, fun, really great”.

So, I’ve been mentally fighting it. Moaning. Being grumpy. Shouting (once). This has not been productive – you can’t fight something that is inevitable. It won’t last forever. Socks will be bought, teachers will settle down, homework won’t seem so alien and difficult, I will get back into the swing of asking for the food tech list the week before so it is all purchased well in advance –  to avoid the last minute dash around Tesco’s, praying that they have some wooden skewers loitering around in a small section of leftover BBQ season stock, when in actual fact they have the Christmas stuff in already and BBQ season is long forgotten. (I did find some with the help of a kind member of staff who could see I was nearly losing the will to live).

I need to stop wishing the week days away. I find myself saying in emails to suppliers or messages to friends “nearly the weekend” or “halfway through”, wishing my days away so we can all have some time out, do something more fun than sitting at a desk or driving to and from school and work, back to school and home again. And repeat.

The danger then of course is that everything hinges on the weekend being brilliant, which is unreasonable. I hate the Sunday night regret – that we should have done more, gone somewhere nice, had more fun, made more of it, been nicer to each other. Another weekend gone, never to be revisited.

I need to stop. Stop fighting it, start making the most of it.