Tag Archives: #friends

Stress, Social and Smooth

Stress. The kids went back to school nearly two weeks ago. Last Monday, T had a mini-meltdown. When I say meltdown, he was mildly stressed out. T doesn’t do meltdowns. He does calm and laid back so when he gets stressed it is unusual but not insurmountable. He doesn’t have to tell me when something is worrying him, it is obvious – he goes quiet and in turn becomes argumentative. And anyway, I just know. Before I had kids, I didn’t really believe the whole “mum spidey senses” thing but it is actually a Thing. Anyway, we had a chat after the argument and he admitted he was feeling a bit pressured by the whole GCSE thing and the pressure to do well. We had spoken at length during the summer about how much effort he has been giving so far and how it is not enough to just do the bare minimum. The failed RE GCSE seemed to spur him on, but have I created a monster? Have I made too much of it and now he is stressing out? Anyway, we talked a bit more and it transpired that the homework app wasn’t working (see, technology is NOT always a good thing – what was wrong with writing things down into a homework diary?) and he didn’t want to get behind with his homework………….because he wanted to watch the Apple Conference live the following evening. I don’t need to worry, he clearly still has his priorities in a different place.

Social. On Saturday night, A went to a friend’s birthday party. I am finding it increasingly hard to keep up with her social life and the way it is organised. There’s no invites any more. Parents don’t contact parents any more. Your child gets a text (or Whatsapp message, or Instagram DM, or Snapchat PM….etc) invite from their friend and they ask you if they can go. You say yes or no and if in the affirmative the details get passed to you as and when your child gets them. You don’t have to text a parent or call a parent to say that your child can attend and “hi” I’m J, A’s mum”. None of that. On this particular occasion I had not met the girl whose party it was, or her parents. I just knew she lived in “the big house on the corner of the road that goes down to the school”. She was being dropped off by another friend’s step-dad (again all organised child-to-child but at least we know the friend in question and have met the mum and step-dad) and we were picking them up later. I had an address and a time and the knowledge that they were going to watch a movie at the house and then dinner out at a local pizza place. That was all. Now, I don’t know how you feel reading this, but I felt a little lacking in my parental duties. However, knowing that I could see her whereabouts on my lovely app, I felt slightly less nervous than I could have done. And I knew two of the other girls she was going to be with who are both pretty sensible. She was being dropped off and picked up. Nothing to worry about. And there wasn’t, it was all fine, she had a lovely time; they were even left unsupervised in the restaurant while the birthday girl’s parents went to the chip shop (it’s classier than it sounds) and so she felt very grown up (which I suppose she is becoming). I went to pick her up at the designated time with K as chauffeur. The idea of the “big house on the corner” made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person who lives in a VERY big house…you get the idea. I was nervous. Especially having had ZERO contact with her previously. She was perfectly nice, they had all “been fine” and so after collecting all their belongings (why do girls have so much stuff?) we left. I have no idea what the mum’s name was. We made small talk while they were getting their stuff but other than that she has 2 older children and one younger one and that her house is MASSIVE I know nothing more than that. It’s not a problem, it just feels weird. Up til now, I have pretty much known the parents of A’s friends, because I have seen them at school and probably chatted to them in the playground. I haven’t had to worry about this stuff with T, he still hangs around with the same mates he had in nursery. He has other friends, new friends from secondary school, but boys don’t really do the whole “tea” at each others houses thing. Or parties really. Well, T doesn’t anyway. It’s a whole new world and one I am finding hard to adjust to. We have a “new friend” coming for “tea” tomorrow and another one for a sleepover on Saturday night (I have met her before so it will be fine) – I might need therapy by Sunday.

So, that just leaves Smooth. I have not been sleeping brilliantly for a few weeks. When I say not brilliantly, I mean I can get to sleep no problem (in fact probably too easily, i.e. in front of the TV most evenings) but I have started waking up around 4am again. I don’t know why but it is annoying. What is even more annoying is that when I am lying there awake all I can think of is a bloody song that I can’t get out of my head. Not always the same song, but normally one that I don’t even like. I have realised that it is probably down to listening to Radio 2 all day.  It’s not their fault but they do play the same records over and over again – their playlist is pretty limited – and it can get a bit repetitive, and one of the songs will get stuck in my noddle and at 4am it decides to start blasting out. So, I have decided on a change of station. I started out this morning with Classic FM – no lyrics, no catchy tunes, was my thinking. After ten minutes I couldn’t take any more. I need lyrics. I need a catchy tune. I scrolled through the list and Smooth caught my eye – billed as “your relaxing music mix” I though it worth a go. Ooh I like it. So far not one repeat of a song. Nothing current, I grant you – I’m not in danger of being Down With The Kids – but nothing repetitive that could get stuck in my head, not so far anyway. Some old classics, actually only old classics; DJ’s whose voices are not too annoying, so far; a few adverts, could get annoying; but mainly just easy listening background noise with a few “oh I LOVE this one”s thrown in. Let’s see what happens tonight.

 

 

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Pure Joy

When A went to her induction day at secondary school last July she met another girl, O, who was going to be in her new form. She hit it off with her at the time and although she didn’t get to see her over last year’s summer holidays she was in touch with her by text and the usual social media ways that (pre)teens use to keep in touch these days and they became firm friends when they started school in September. The friendship is brilliant. O is bubbly, fun, kind, lovely. A has made lots of other friends in the last year, she’s been invited to tea after school, parties, days out. One of the best things about her friendship with O is that they are not jealous girls. They have no qualms about each other having other friends. O doesn’t bat an eyelid if A is busy doing something with someone else and vice versa. Almost like the way that boys conduct their friendships, but with prettier hair and nicer clothes and a bit more squealing.

This summer they have seen a lot of each other, but they haven’t been in each others pockets the whole time. A has seen other friends and she has had days when she hasn’t wanted to do anything other than slob around in PJ’s and re-arrange her room for the hundredth time; bake cakes; we’ve been on holiday; we’ve had family time. She has finally seemed to find her place. She has slotted in and she is happy. She refers to other girls as “populars” but has no designs to be one; she is happy with her place in her world.

O has just arrived at our house to spend the day here. I beat A to the door and O announced “I’m here” as A came squealing down the stairs “is it O?!!!” They hugged and squealed a bit more. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the squealing, but they were so happy to see each other (it must be, at most, 36 hours since they were last in each others company) it made me smile and was a proper moment of pure joy.

I’m trying to throw off my old habit of expecting the worst. I’m not going to say “touch wood it will continue”. I’m not going to say any of my usual ‘fear the worst and if it doesn’t happen then that’s good’ mantras. I am going to enjoy seeing her happy with her friends and try and ensure that she can go to things she gets invited to – she has a good few years of making up to do on this front and if it means I have to taxi her all over the place then it’s a small price to pay to see her happy.

I know from my own experience that friendships change: people make new friends, fall out, move groups, move away, and she may well not be friends with O in six months, a year, two years time. But for now she is having a great time with a great friend and I love it.

 

 

 

Finally….Facebook Free

I’ve been holding off and holding off. I’ve made excuses like “I’ll miss seeing this person’s posts” or “I need it to keep up with Book Club”.  The problem with it is: it gets under your skin. You start by ‘just looking’ at specific things, but then before you know it you’re liking things and then your friends who don’t even know the person whose thing you’ve liked will see that you’ve liked it and how odd is that? It gets to a point where all you see is that someone you know has liked something from someone you don’t know. And then before you know it you find yourself throwing your hands up in the air and screaming at the screen “FFS, why do I need to see that X has liked that thing by Stranger Z?”  or words to that effect.

Anyway, today I had a message from the lovely people at Facebook to say that the Groups App is being discontinued and after a few more weeks will be no more. I have managed to keep away from the main event by using the Groups App to look at For Sale groups and Book Club. When that goes, I can see that I will just end up with my hands in the air an awful lot and saying ‘FFS’ all the time. Not Good.

So, I have taken the proverbial bull by its pointy bits and I’VE DEACTIVATED MY ACCOUNT. I’ve set up a WhatsApp group for the lovely Book Club ladies so I am still in the loop – hoping they will all be kind enough to humour me. I’ve created a new profile under my work email and a pseudonym so I can still manage the work Facebook page and I have left. I’ve left! I’ve actually bloody done it. The kind people at Facebook have told me I can come back whenever I want (when hell freezes over) and they will continue to allow me to be invited to stuff (gee, thanks) and I can still get messages – frankly, anyone who needs to contact me and doesn’t have my number should be ashamed of themselves. (I have hastily gathered together people’s numbers that I didn’t have previously, while hanging my head in shame at my neglect).

So, no more FFS’ing at a small screen while wondering why I can’t be stronger and JUST STOP LOOKING.

I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s just wrong for me.

 

The results are in

I know at least one of you (probably only one of you, in fact) is dying to know how the list-less holiday went. Well, I can happily report that we didn't forget anything crucial, we didn't have any disasters and we all lived happily ever after. K had a brief moment of not-quite-but-nearly-panic when he realised that the boot of the Mercedes is considerably smaller than the one in the previous car (S-Max) and that we might struggle to get everything in (we did, struggle that is) but we got in the essentials (clothes, cool-bag, bodyboards) and it was All Fine, until the repeat performance for the return journey when he wasn't quite so calm as there was no option to leave stuff behind.

Not having a list (or lists, or lists of lists) was liberating. Packing at 10pm the night before travelling was interesting. Repacking the next morning  - the mini suitcase I had opted to take was causing no end of distress to the car boot-packer so I had to resort to the only (tiny) holdall that was left (everyone else had already nabbed the bigger ones the night before)  - was slightly unnerving but I actually only wore two-thirds of the severely downsized pile that I ended up taking, so lesson learnt for the next holiday (in 18 days and, yes, I AM COUNTING).

Not having a list of must-see places or any sort of itinerary was inspired, because it meant that the 2 days of solid rain we had didn't spoil any plans, we just had to go along with it and make the most of the lovely sunny days we had. The only planning we did was to look at the forecast the night before (still not a cast-iron guarantee but we had to base it on something) and think about where we would like to go. I had a mental list of possible places and the house we were renting had a whole host of leaflets for days out, so we had no shortage of ideas. We managed to see all of the places we wanted to see – Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Kimmeridge fossil beach (a wave-cut platform, actually, not a beach, as I was informed by the soon to be year 11 GCSE'er) and Studland Bay. All beautiful. All made me fall in love with the UK coast all over again. All made me wonder why we ever think about going abroad – until it rained again.

One thing I did remember to take was my camera. K bought me a camera for my 40th birthday and has berated me ever since when we go to places and I don't have it with me. I've got so used to using my phone camera and instantly "sharing" my snaps that the camera just gets forgotten. But, as part of my 'going off grid' plan for the holiday I decided that if I took my camera I wouldn't be tempted to go online and share stuff and subsequently get caught up in what the world at large was up to. Another winning idea. Apart from checking the weather app (for what it was worth), keeping an eye on emails (you never know when you're going to get 20% off something you had no intention of buying) and looking at directions, I haven't really used my phone that much. And since we came home I have uploaded my photos onto the laptop and I've really looked at them. They are now in an album which I have added to my Google Photos and I can look at them whenever I want to. And they're far better than ones I take on my phone – no filters, no messing about. Just really good pics.

It has to be said, sitting on a beach while your, thankfully much older, kids are messing about in the sea or laying around listening to music, is very relaxing. Being able to tell your, thankfully much older, kids that there is no more food and that the "loos are that way – see you in a minute" and not being met with any complaints is quite nice. Being able to walk down to the local shops from the house your renting, with your husband, while the kids are still laying around in bed in the morning is quite nice. Mainly because they aren't there to nag you to buy twice as much food as you need and they can't complain about what you have bought because "they should have got up and come with us" (no! please don't!). I know I keep saying it, but the older they get the more and more I like them. Don't get me wrong, they can still be very annoying (teenage brains letting them down on the remembering stuff front; A hitting a sugar low around 4pm and crashing in the mood stakes; not to mention smellier feet than I ever imagined; and not going to bed til really late) but they are also really good company and actually quite interesting and knowledgeable (wave-cut platforms, etc). Being away with them is quite easy and er, hmm, I quite like them. Being told by someone you think the world of (you know who you are) that they are "a credit to you" makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and pretty proud of myself. Yes, you heard it right. Proud of myself. I'm even starting to almost like myself as a parent.

So, all in all being list-less was a winner. The holiday was great. Coming home not so much, as it always heralds the return to normality with work looming on the close horizon – even having a whole weekend to get used to the idea didn't really help as it was 2 days of torturous thinking about Monday being only 2 days, only 1 day, tomorrow… and it's here. But I have started my countdown on the lightbox – only 18 days to go! No lists, no plans, no suitcase. Just a few clothes, my camera and, this time, my bike. And off we will go.

 

 

List-less

For years, whenever we have been going away – even for just a few days – I have written lists. One year I needed a list of all my lists, there were so many. I've always seen lists as a saviour, as something I can't live without. With lists I was in control and knew exactly what I needed to do. I had lists for other people so THEY knew what they had to do and I thought it was all a brilliant way of going about it.

In recent months, I have been making myself challenge the way I deal with things. Not Big Things, just Small Things that I get stressed or annoyed about and that make me stress other people out in the process (or annoy them, which is far worse). For example, cooking dinner every night. A Small Thing, but I used to get so wound up by having to decide what we were going to eat, decide what I needed to buy from the supermarket, actually do the shopping, the cooking. Deciding, shopping, cooking. And on and on it went. So now, we agree what we want to eat as a family (I still order the stuff we need – I can't change the world overnight – slowly slowly catchy monkey) and K cooks a few times a week now (and seems to be enjoying it mostly). Over the summer I have announced that one night each week a child will cook. I say child. They're not kids anymore really, young adults. And very capable of knocking up a dinner for four people. So why did I get so stressed and annoyed if it's not difficult? Because I don't want to be the one making ALL the decisions ALL the time and it's very nice to have dinner cooked for me now and again. Thank you.

So, back to the lists. I still write a shopping list, I haven't got that good a memory, but I have decided to ditch the lists for other things. Like to-do-lists and holiday lists. I realised that the lists were actually making me more stressed. By writing a list I was taking responsibility for it all. I was saying "look, I've got this, I am in control and if we get to our holiday destination and we don't have something important then it is all MY fault". And believe me, it's happened. And the consequence is me feeling terrible, other people feeling annoyed and the holiday loses it's sheen of loveliness. So, instead of saying "I've got this", I've said "pack what you want to take". Job done. I realise this is easier now that the 'young adults' are, well, young adults and can decide how many T-shirts they want to take. T has packed his own bag for at least the last 4 trips that he has been on and I haven't even asked him how many pairs of pants he has in his bag. See, progress! So, if someone doesn't have a phone charger, well then they will be very sad but they will be annoyed at themselves and not me. If they don't have enough pants, well, er, they will have to wash them or go commando. But it won't be MY fault.

(N.B. I've jotted down things like 'cool box' and 'picnic blanket' because they are in the garage and I don't rummage around in the man cave.)

I have NOT made a list of places we MUST go to while we are away. We have a map that a lovely friend has lent us and some leaflets; we have the National Trust app; we have our brains and the internet if we get stuck. I started to write a list of places and forced myself to throw it away – for so many years I have had my list and it's rained and the list sat there making me feel sad that we were not going to get to these lovely places I had planned to go to. Not this year. I am going to wake up each morning, check the forecast and as a family WE will decide where we are going and WHAT we will do and WHERE we will get food, etc, etc.

I'm not saying that this is going to be the best holiday we've ever had; equally I'm not saying that every holiday that has gone before has been a disaster; but I am saying that I am NOT going to be in charge.

So I may be list-less but I feel quite free and quite excited by the idea.

Another N.B. I am not going to be 'online' while I am away. I am not going to be checking in, or checking other peoples check-in's. I am going to take some lovely pictures using my camera (if I remember to take it – ha ha!) and I will post them when I get home, if I want to.

 

One third of a lifetime

It’s a funny old thing hitting 45 (as I did a month ago). As I said to K at the time, it’s proper middle age now, on the basis that 90 would be more than long enough, thank you very much. We went to see my brother, P, and his family at the weekend and we were reminiscing about a U2 concert we went to in our twenties. He has recently been to see them on their latest tour and it got us wondering about the year we went. We speculated for a few minutes, trying to work out where we were both working at the time, who we went with, etc, until he resorted to good old Google and discovered it was 1993 – the Zooropa tour. We were only out by a year or so but we were both shocked by how long ago it was. 1993 doesn’t sound that long ago to my ears, but 24 years ago sounds like a lifetime. In fact, it is exactly half of my brothers lifetime, being as he turns 48 tomorrow.

Someone else with a birthday tomorrow is my lovely boy. I like that he was born on my brother’s birthday – they are very alike in many ways and not all good ones – although at the time I was just desperate for him to finally be born after a couple of excruciating days and nights in the hospital. That was 15 years ago. One-third of my lifetime. I have held and loved this boy for 15 years; for a third of my life. Sometimes I can’t imagine or remember time before him. Although, the first few hours/days/months/years were hard going my life has been so much fuller, happier and just downright better with him in it than the years that went before (they were still very happy years, by the way, just to make that clear). Even if I sometimes feel as if I have my teenage brother as my son – sounds weird, believe me it’s even weirder living it – with his unwavering ability to wind me up and irritate me in the EXACT same way that P used to; although he may be smelly and grumpy at times; and even thought he has horrible feet; he makes me very proud.

With the two peas-in-a-pods birthdays imminent, so comes the end of the school year. My “on this day” app yesterday gave me a memory from 4 years ago – at T’s junior school leavers assembly. It seems incredible that this time next year he can leave school. And that A has almost finished her first year at secondary. Sometimes, I would like time to slow down, just a little bit.

 

 

Being Brave

Last Wednesday at work I received a frantic message from A (sent during afternoon form time) saying that she had been selected to take part in a rounders match after school the following day and that she “really, really didn’t want to do it”. She went on to say that she had told the teacher that she only came to Rounders club for fun and exercise and didn’t ever intend to compete IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE!!! It is the IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE bit that she was most worried about. The teacher had replied that she felt it may do her good to take part and overcome her fear of competing. (n.b. we had had an almost identical situation over Sports Day). I agreed with the teacher, but how to tell A that without her feeling that I wasn’t supporting her?

Hmm. My issue is that A is a confident person. She has never baulked at joining a new club or talking to people she doesn’t know. The fact that she chose to go into a form without anyone from her old school shows that she is not scared to make new friends or put herself “out there”. She performs dance routines on stage with 3 other girls at the dance club’s annual show and although she gets nervous, she loves the adrenaline rush and the excitement of performing.

When it comes to sporting activities she is a wreck. She has never seen herself as sporty, despite being perfectly able. I think a lot of this stems from junior school where only the really talented athletes were given a chance to compete and she was not one of them. So, I’ve tried to encourage her to give more sports a go since starting at secondary school and she has – she tried dance club but found it too conflicting with the class that she already goes to; she attended Fitness Club for a whole term and improved her PB on the “Death Run” considerably as a result of this, earning herself a postcard from the PE Department praising her efforts; and most recently Rounders club which she has been enjoying – until now.

I replied to her message telling her not to panic, that we would talk it over when she got home and see what she wanted to do. My hope was that the hour or so that she had left at school would give her chance to think about what the teacher had said and come to the conclusion on her own that she should take part. I really want her to be more confident and hope that the teacher wouldn’t put her forward if she didn’t think her capable.

We got home after a very subdued car journey and she immediately burst into tears of panic. She had told the teacher that she wasn’t going to do it, but I could sense that she was wavering. I asked her what was holding her back and she said that she didn’t want to mess up. I offered the idea that the teacher must think her able if she has put her forward and (as always) she had an answer for that one – “she just wants everyone to have a chance to take part and it’s my turn”. Hmm. OK, but surely, if she was really bad at it, the teacher wouldn’t allow her to humiliate herself in front of others? No, probably not. What should she do? I took the wavering to be a request for encouragement so told her I thought it would be a good way to overcome her anxieties and that if she really hated it she could at least say she had tried. OK, but she’d already told the teacher. This is where I love the high-tech world we live in. In the ‘good old days’ I would have had to try and get hold of the teacher at school after hours. No chance. Or write a note for the next day. Too late. In the enlightened age that we live in, A was able to email the teacher to tell her she had changed her mind and it if was OK she would like to give it a go. Reply within an hour or so. Sorted. Teacher very proud and happy. A feeling nervous but slightly pumped that she had been brave enough to think about it.

And so the next afternoon I anxiously waited for her to finish her tournament, hoping and praying that she had (a) not fallen over and humiliated herself, (b) not fluffed every stroke of the rounders bat and humiliated herself, (c) not failed to catch the ball when needed, etc, etc. She was VERY late getting to the car with her friend, who was cadging a lift with us, but she was VERY HAPPY. She HAD fallen over – “so embarrassing but, what the heck, it doesn’t matter”, she hadn’t messed up her batting and she HAD scored a rounder. But, far more importantly, she HAD DONE IT. And she was, quite rightly, very proud of herself.

And I am proud of her. She’s a little star.