Tag Archives: children

My inner masochist…

I don’t know why (well, I do, which I’ll explain later!) but I decided to stop by Mumsnet this morning. God I wish I hadn’t. What vitriol!

I do love forums. I like knowing what other people think. Often, it’s a lot like I think, but it fuels my inner rage from time to time. My first forum love was the BB5 one. I’m not a fan of Big Brother at all, but this series captivated me. I mostly liked it because I loved Nadia (as did the population, hence the winning vote) but I was also stunned into car-crash-watching mode with Michelle Bass, in that she’s pretty much everything I dislike in people: shallow, vain (yet insecure – a heady mix!) jealous, bitchy, pathetic, whingey. I watched BB6, hoping for a re-run of it, but it wasn’t as good, though BB7 captured my interest. After that, it just didn’t cut the mustard. Still, I liked the C4 forums, since they largely voiced what I felt. It’s good to know you’re part of the morality zeitgeist.

I’ve also been a regular on a couple of mental health forums, since I was diagnosed bipolar – and they really also show what idiots there are on the planet. People who want to be bipolar, over-concerned partners, including one sad-sack who drove me to such distraction that I left the site for good. She spent an enormous amount of effort moaning about her ‘mate’ (not partner, not even really a friend!) and getting a lot of attention, and not listening at all to anyone. I did make two excellent friends from here who really supported me, and I learned a huge amount!

Then it was on with the forums about France, most of which confirm the kind of English people I can’t stand and I hope not to meet: those who won’t learn English, think they are entitled to benefits, want to buy cheap cheddar and moan about absolutely everything. I don’t often go on them now, as it’s just the same-old same-old.

I made the mistake though, of thinking I’d find a little bit of support on mumsnet. I don’t often post – I’ve never posted on that site – more often, I just read and digest. However, I thought I was opinionated. Not so. I try to moderate what I say, and I’m bipolar and a Sagittarian to boot. Not so Net Mums. Vile!

An example:

“I’d choose my words more carefully IIWU, otherwise what you say makes you sound immature, selfish and cold. “

Oh, right; don’t take your own advice. I’d choose my own words more carefully IIWU, because you sound like a judgemental bitch.

The responses to various threads are ‘you’re unbelievable’, ‘how dare you…’ and so on. I also hate the cliquey shared-world ‘DP’ and ‘DSS’ and so on. WTF is a ‘DSS’??! I’m guessing dearest step son, but could equally be demon step son. They go from berating a step mother for not being enough involved, then supporting a mother whose child’s step mum wants to go to his parents’ evening.

Speaking as someone caring for a child who is not her own, I thought this site was utterly abysmal and totally ludicrous. Step parents get it in the neck whatever they do. I did think about ‘defined’ roles of parents etc, but then I also thought the ‘blended’ family is a big, huge kibbutz-like thing when it works well, (like my own is and always has been) I never disobeyed my step-mum, I accept that she will give them more attention than she gives us, and rightly so. Everything she does is an added bonus. Likewise my step-dad. Nobody said they should end up with a load of ungrateful kids just because they loved someone. Nobody said they should be involved in our life like real parents. Yet Brenda. my step-mum, is a real true friend of mine and I love her dearly. She is sensible and rational and makes my father complete. John, my step-dad, is a wise being who struggles to understand the ‘human’ side of people sometimes, I think, but he and my mum make the best couple. I hope he makes her as happy as she deserves to be. My parents just weren’t meant to be together. As they’ve aged, they’ve become even more opposites, united by one thing alone: us.

I’m glad my parents are happy and loved and treasured as all people deserve to be. It makes us better people.

And to hear, from scornful mums on Mumsnet some ‘step mum’ dos and don’ts, I’m horrified. I can’t believe they can be so rude to people who need support. It’s everything that’s wrong with parents. They think their children are the be-all and end-all of a family. They aren’t. They’re part of a unit. The family unit. They aren’t little princes or princesses. The step parent doesn’t have any real need to be involved, should they not wish to. Judgement spewed forth like acid eruptions and in terms that were totally inappropriate from ‘mums’

I can only assume these are the sue-them-all-my-child-is-the-centre-of-the-universe-don’t-tangle-with-me bubble mothers who drive around in Range Rover Vogues and live in a complete bubble of self-entitlement and manage to hold paradoxical views in a way that goes way beyond hypocrisy.

Bah, mumsnet, bah to you. Yay to step parents. It’s the dirtiest of jobs at times, and the most rewarding at others.

Going faster than a roller coaster

Steve’s back off to France today, carrying a bottle of Pimm’s for our neighbours who are picking him up. Thus begins the end of our time in England. He’ll never be here for more than a week, now, God willing. I’ve got Jake with me, in his last two weeks of school in England, wondering if we’ve heard anything about where he’ll be in September. I can’t help thinking it’d be a whole lot easier to teach him myself! I’d really enjoy that. Not sure he would, though!! Plus, he’d end up lonely and friendless. We overlook the role of school in socialising.

PGL 1984

I went to 3 primary schools, spending the most of my time at Lowercroft CP. In my class, there were only 10 girls out of a class of thirty, and you might have thought that the addition of one more would have made it odd. Not so. I can’t remember any girl I didn’t spend time with, or anyone who excluded me, even though I was the last to join the group. Vicky, Sarah, Sandra, Lisa, Nicky, me, Caroline, Dawn, Joanne and Suzanne: I spent time at all of their houses, can still remember where they all live, and it was only secondary school that split us up. Sandra, Lisa and I went to the grammar school, Vicky went to a grammar school in Bolton and the rest of the girls went to Elton. Of all of them, I was closest to Nicky, perhaps because we were similar in nature, and we even looked a little alike, with our long brown pony tails. I think we all had a wonderful time at primary school, and I certainly don’t remember any rivalries. I wish I still had that set of friends.

At Secondary, hormones kicked in, and friendships changed. Initially, I spent time with Sandra and a girl called Katherine, who was probably most like the 11 year old me – a little nerdy, a little out of place. I knew I wasn’t a nerd, like some of the girls, but very soon, I was part of the Holcombe Brook hardcore – girls who knew each other before, travelled together and were good friends already: Emma, Pam, Janet, Michelle and Susan. Friendships cut and changed, and one day I will publish some of my diary entries about these times, but not just yet – they’re a little too close to the bone, still! I was still the social butterfly, even then, when firmer friendships were being formed. Angela and Julie would let me hang around with them. Anna, Laura and Helen would do the same. I went to my first gig with Helen, uber-cool Helen, who is now a head of programming at ITV – we went to see Bjork in the Sugarcubes at Manchester Uni Student Union. I was 13 and it was about the coolest 13 year old behaviour I know!

Helen and Anna London 1988

I went to the pub with Angela first, as she had access to my first major league crush on Daniel Showman (now, unfortunately, not the dark-haired, doe-eyed beauty with the olive skin I fell in love with as a 13 year old) and we had many sleepovers and drunken nights about.

Liz and Angela - London 1988

I think sometimes the in-fighting and best-friend-swapping got to me, a bit. I used to pine for the company of Anna and Laura, who were the people who kept in touch with me when I went to uni. I’ve lost touch with Laura now, which is a massive shame. We had epic letters back and forth when she was at Oxford. I miss her sharp humour and self-depreciation. Laura rocked more than any one I met. Anna and Laura were some cool girls, and no mistake!

When we’re advised not to worry about how we look as teenagers, I think that just about sums it up for me: we were cool indie-chick girls who didn’t care. I was lucky to be allowed to flit from group to group, and what I missed out on in terms of deep bonds, I made up for in being able to connect with many different groups. I looked back at my time at secondary school as if it were miserable and bitchy, but in fact, it ruled! I had good friends (those who never made it to my diary entries) although I seemed to be preoccupied with the bitches. It wasn’t til sixth form that I managed to get away from that preoccupation!

Big-up my school times with Anna and Laura, Liz, Angela and Julie… girls who knew there was more to life than bitching!

Laura, who introduced me to Depeche Mode and David Byrne; Anna who introduced me to early David Bowie: these were the girls who defined my musical tastes for years and years. Even when, as a little mosher, I liked Metallica, it was always good to know they stole ‘leper messiah’ as a lyric from Bowie. It was always cool to like Bowie!

I hope Jake ends up with the kind of friends I did. I hope France will bring him the kind of innocent friendship you can’t seem to find in England these days, when all that matters are iphones and PSPs and Nike trainers and Reebok tracksuits, and wearing £50 football shirts. I know that ET jumper I’m wearing on the PGL photo was dirt cheap from Bury market, but I loved it. I know we were poor back then, but all the girls – all of us – are wearing cheap, functional clothes, with the nod to Mr T and ET. I wish Jake at 10 was so un-bothered by fashion as we were!!

It’s just me and the boy (and the dog)

So… Steve’s time is nearly up. I’m jealous. Our conversations have been a little perfuctory of late, mainly because I am doing my usual thing of trying to find out as much information as possible and Steve is doing his usual thing of giving away as little as possible.

“Hello Lillian. What do you want now?”

Lillian is his pet name for me. I’m not sure why.

“I’ve lost the dog.”

Yesterday, Molly decided she did not like the distinct lack of entertainment since her erstwhile friend Monty has been hemmed in next door. He used to be able to jump over the fence, they’d hare about the garden a bit and then roll about panting. Sometimes, whilst the dog sleeps next to me on the couch (blame Steve. I never had a couch for a dog. Couches are for cats!) Monty would come bounding in and off they’d go, racing about. Not so anymore. Monty is now behind 6 foot waneylap and they have to resort, like Pyramus and Thisbe to kissing through the chink of a wall. Well, okay then, a B&Q fence. Anyway, Monty, a.k.a. Houdini must have given the Mollster the wanderlust bug, because she’d run off by breakfast.

I was frantic. I drove about her usual haunts (she’s escaped twice before, and she’s always ended up in the new estate ferreting about.) She was nowhere to be seen. I raced back, trying to get the boy ready.

“Come on, Jake. Moll’s escaped. Can you get ready for school? What do you want for breakfast?”

“Crumpets.” Hmmm. Concerned then!

So I set about making the crumpets, burnt them, made some more, doused them with chocolate spread to hide the second lot of burns, raced upstairs and dumped them on his table. Breakfast in bed. Alright for some.

He grunted.

I went on looking for the dog, doing another three circuits in the car. No sign of her.

When I got home, Jake was standing at the top of the stairs in his Nike trackies. Hmmm. Not happy. We’ve had this argument for a week, since Miss let him wear them after PE. Apparently, it’s okay now. It’s not okay with me.

“Can you put your school pants on?!”

“Miss doesn’t mind.”

“Well, I mind. When we get to France, fine. Non-uniform is fine. Not here. Rules is rules.”

And then the sulks come.

“But Miss says it’s alright.”

Well, fine then. No arguing with that. Except I’m way more crafty than the boy. I have 37 years of experience of craftiness.

“Well, we can go by the head’s office and check.”

“No!”

“What? Will he mind?”

“No, but…”

“So let’s go then.”

Dog still missing, burnt crumpets on the side, boy in a sulk. I’ve had no caffeine and no nicotine. It’s too early for all of this shit.

Boy deposited via headteacher’s office who reminds the boy that it is not okay to wear Nike trackies (like it is anyway?? He is mini-chav in the making!) in school and grumpy boy stomps off to class. 0-1 to me.

I go home, hoping Moll has returned. No such luck. I know I need to do something, so I call the dog warden and notify them. They don’t seem to care much about finding them as making sure they don’t do anything wicked, like chase cars, fight or violate old ladies. Probation for dogs. Then I have to call Steve. I don’t know why I do, except I don’t want him later to say I should have called him. He’s more bothered that someone might have stolen her. He knows I’ve covered all the ground he would have done.

I drive up to the quarry, thinking this is Moll’s favourite haunt. She’s not there. It’s a bit of a way and I think there are far too many distractions along the way. So I start with the side roads and work my way back.

Just as I’ve decided to give up the ghost and come home, there she is, standing nose to the wind on a piece of waste ground. Brazen as you like, like she’s on the chase for a lion. I pull over as soon as I can and go after her, shouting like a maniac. No sign of her. Shit.

Just as I think I’ve made a mistake and it wasn’t her at all, out bounds this filthy, smelly creature holding half a tree in her mouth, dragging it for all its worth. She bounces over to me, leaps all over me, tears half my skin off my arms, dirties my top and runs riot. 0-2 to me. Take that, Universe!

She’s still so giddy I can’t possibly take her home, so I finish the walk off trying to make her wash off in the quarry lodge. She’ll still need a bath. Poor dog didn’t know what she was in for.

I phone Steve.

“Lil, any news?”

“I’ve found the dog. She was halfway to the quarry, pleased as punch with herself.”

He muttered something about belts for lawnmowers and I said I’d call him back later.

3 hours later, one clean dog, one exhausted me.

Jake is still sulking out of school. He continues to sulk all evening and when he said he was going to his friend’s for tea, I was kind of glad. To be honest, he’s been an absolute star whilst Steve’s been away, and it’s the longest they’ve been apart since the Boy was born. There’s been a few sleepovers, a few nights where he’s gone to sleep down here on the couch in an odd parody of me and Steve, and a couple of nights where he’s asked me to read to him in his room, but other than that, he’s been an angel. Monsieur Sulk had gone with Steve, I thought.

But no, because here he was, larger than life, when he came back at 9 and asked if he could play out. So far, he’s never been out later than half eight on a weekend night, let alone a school night.

“No.” Harsh, me.

“Why?” I hate it when he does the ‘why’ whinge.

“Because it’s late. It’s dark. You’ve got school in the morning.”

And then he does his teenage ‘urgh’ groan and throws himself through the door way, into the kitchen, searching for God knows what.

“Lillian, what do you want now?”

“The boy says he won’t listen to me.”

“What have you done?”

“Sent him to his room.”

“Do you want me to speak to him?”

“Yes.” Because this is very much what I want. I want the boy to go back to being happy Jake and not sulky Jake. So Steve speaks to him. It doesn’t make any difference, but it calms me down. When we talk about it, though, it’s clear that Steve thinks I’m as much to blame. Grrr. Not a good line to take right now. So I leave it.

“How’s my carrots?”

“Good.”

“And the potatoes?”

“Doing good.”

“Good good.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me about the others?”

It’s a standing joke that for the last two weeks I have been asking him if my melons have grown, no pun intended. I daren’t ask. They haven’t grown at all.

“No.”

“What about your melons?”

“What about them?”

“They’re growing!”

Hurrah! 0-3 to me and the day ends well.

Jaques piaille

Today’s Jake’s first football match with the school team – he’s nervous but a bit excited. He was up before us today. This never happens. Not even at weekends. Thomas, the boy next door to me, is known for somersaulting out of bed within a second of waking up (usually about 2 hours before his parents want him to) with a smile on his face, ready for the day. Not so Jake. Jake is definitely that bloke out of the Cornflakes’ advert who improves over time and can become functional about an hour after breakfast. Even in the summer holidays he’s still in bed at eleven if you leave him sleeping. And believe me, that often feels like an option. However, I realised too much sleep is as bad as too little, and I took to waking him up. You have to time this just right. Too early, he’s moody. Too late, he’s moody. It’s a fine art. So to be out of bed at 8:00 on a friday morning – something’s afoot. Hopefully he’ll win and be proud. He’s actually really good at physical stuff. Last night he did a headstand first try (though the handstand eluded him)

“Jake did something today – something really hard – and he did it first time!” I said, as a warm-up.

“It wasn’t hard!” Jake argued (he likes to do this – whatever you say, it’s the opposite)

“Well, it is and you did it first time!” I said.

“I am Jake. That’s what I do!” he replied, matter-of-fact. I love him for that. He’s a real sweetheart. He hates getting things wrong – it’s almost pathological – and even when he’s right, he thinks it’s for some unknown reason, rather than him just being good at it.

Following the triumph of the headstand, it was a good time to broach France with him again. He veers from ‘I don’t want to go’ to being interested. I don’t think he has any concept of how big it is. However, having listened to his demands, I think we can indulge him. It’s a big move and we’re both really, really conscious that he’ll find it hard. It’s somewhat better that his cousins are moving to Scotland and that we’ve promised him the school holidays can be filled with old friends, but I’m secretly hoping he’ll get into it really easily and spend the summer with his new friends.

His list of needs is as follows:

  • the biggest bedroom (or possibly two of the smaller ones) – reasonable; all the rooms are huge.
  • an 80cc motorbike – reasonable; he’ll be able to ride it about, much to the annoyance of the neighbours. Is it a bad thing the petrol station is not 24/7 and only 10/4.5??! I can forsee the ‘oh, I’m so sorry! There’s no petrol!’
  • a tree house
  • a weekly visit to McDonalds in Angouleme – easy enough, since the supermarket’s right by it, as is Mr Bricolage.

Jake’s also worried about what he will eat. Bless. He lives off a diet of tuna-and-sweetcorn jacket potatoes, pizza, coco pops and chicken nuggets. If left to his own nutritional devices, he’d live off chocolate, lucozade, sour sweets, McDonalds and take-away. Not sure which of those things he doesn’t think France has, but nonetheless, I reassured him. He was satisfied that they have chicken kiev.

I’ve also suggested a webcam (which Steve seemed to think was for the purpose of doing stripteases with towels…. I’m not sure he really gets using it to just chat to people, not for ‘adult’ fun) and a laptop. What with Skype and MSN and a webcam and a microphone, it should make communication that much easier. Steve won’t use it (except for striptease with towels. Be warned, if he invites you to a webchat), I probably won’t (since my stripping-with-towel-days are over) and Jake might for about 2 minutes, since he’s a boy and they generally run out of things to say to one another after a minute and a half.

But we have a ‘kind of’ date in mind. Easter falls early April next year, so tying it in with the end of the tax year, the holidays and general family members being free around that time, I thought it’d be a good idea.

“I checked out when Easter is,” I said, to Steve’s back. He was playing Locked Up. “I think it’d be good if you could finish work on April 1st.”

That got his attention.

He turned around.

“Those are the words I’ve been wanting to hear all my life!”

Seems like I have a way of sweet-talking people and giving them what they want to hear. To some, it’s the promise of a medium three-piece chicken select meal with a chocolate milkshake; to others, it’s the promise of a date they can quit their jobs.

The idea will be that Steve goes out with an army of half-wits, family members, slackers and ne’er-do-wells to do the plumbing and the electrics. He’ll come back in May and we’ll stay in England for a couple of months, going over at half term and then again once Jake finishes school. Who knows – we might finish him early. As a teacher, I can hear my headteacher saying ‘use the last week productively!’ and I can also hear the scramble for the DVD booking sheet. I know which sound is louder. So, educationally, if he missed the last week, it wouldn’t be an ordeal.

Seems like a long time, but I bet it goes unnaturally quickly….