Influencing teenagers

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One of the challenges of parenting teenagers is knowing when to speak and when to back off. I have raised my three to ask questions and to think for themselves, to follow the path that they consider right even if others are insisting that they should be going another way. I have hammered home the message that there are many sides to any argument and that they should seek out why others hold an opinion before forming one themselves. I want my children to become adults capable of critical thinking.

Other adults in their lives have not always appreciated the rough edges resulting from this upbringing. Learning to debate cogently and persuasively is a tough skill to master, and some adults do not welcome having their opinions dissected by someone they consider to be lacking in knowledge and experience. To them I would say, learning has to start somewhere. If my children appear brusque then do not dismiss them as rude and irrelevant, teach them by responding to their points calmly and clearly.

We have had a number of fairly heated discussions around the dinner table recently; my elder two children have developed strong views, some of which I do not always agree with. In many ways this is gratifying as it demonstrates that they have learned well. In other ways though it worries me. Some of the views that they hold appear to be at odds with my own core beliefs. It has made me look at our family values, especially the conflicts between what I hold as important and my husband’s views. Obviously my children have been listening to both of us throughout their lives.

Politically I would put my husband to the right of me. He would counter that notions of right and left no longer apply. He is very much against state intervention. I would argue that this is an ideal; in practice the state should be investing in its future (educating young people) and taking adequate care of its most vulnerable (the poor and the sick). We both despise the current political elite and feel strong resentment at how they choose to spend the huge amounts of money forcefully removed from us in the form of complex taxes.

As no political party adequately represents either of us, elections are always times of soul searching as we decide which of the charlatans standing will receive our votes. We always vote.

Our children have soaked in our views alongside those they have picked up elsewhere. When I disagree with their stated opinions I try to discuss calmly, despite finding it hard at times to accept that I have raised young people who think this way. I recognise the irony of my discomfort, I have brought this situation on myself.

Politics is messy, views differ widely, and no individual has much power over what happens anyway. Perhaps I could have shaken off my concerns had it not been for two other incidents that happened in the same week as our most recent elections, which gave rise to these initial debates.

The first to grab my attention was the reported changes to the English Literature curriculum and the suggestion by exam boards that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, had forced these through due to his personal preferences. I was livid at yet another damaging intervention by this odious little man. Whilst not quite standing up for him, my husband did not condemn his actions, claiming that studying any book for an exam will strip the enjoyment away anyway. He appeared to miss the point I was trying to make entirely. I am aware that I am not always good at stating my key point clearly and concisely.

Whilst I was still raging over yet another assault on teachers’ ability to educate, and the narrowing of students’ exposure to diverse literature, another news item demanded my attention. Elliot Rodger became the latest in a long line of American serial killers, and the documents he left behind suggested that he was driven by a hatred of beautiful women because they would not have sex with him. An on line society was mentioned that appears to promote a belief that men are entitled to sex. Perhaps I am hopelessly naive, but I had no idea that such extreme and damaging views could lawfully be promoted in a supposedly civilised country.

And then, with all of this swirling around in my head, I started to see the twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen appear on my feed.

I am all too aware that women live their daily lives with problems that a large number of men just don’t seem to get. I am just one of these women, and the Everyday Sexism project has been highlighting the issue for some time. This though is the nub of my problem today. I feel that I need to have another conversation with my children, yet feel ground down by the disparate opinions that we have already recently aired. How do I get my sons to see that this is a significant problem that they should be considering, and not just mum going off on yet another of her rants?

Nobody ever said that parenting was easy. Reading back over all that I have just written I realise that I am trying to cover some pretty hefty issues. They need to be covered, but it will take time. I guess I am just aware that so much is currently being discussed in the media making it a good time to be talking about it as a family. My kids can go read other’s opinions, critically examine the plethora of views, and then come back and discuss the conclusions they have reached.

Is it bad that I am worried about what my husband will contribute to the family discussion? I suspect this shows me up as being less open and accepting than I sometimes like to claim. I know that he often amuses himself by winding me up, by attempting to tie my arguments in knots with his ability to remember little details that can appear to erode my opinions. He is cleverer than I, but this does not necessarily make him right. It can be harder for me to accept that I will not always be right either.

 

 

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I am linking this in with Perfection Pending‘s weekly parenting blog hop. I hope that all the witty, perceptive bloggers who share tales of their experiences raising young kids don’t mind me adding my perhaps overly serious ruminations on parenting teenagers. I sometimes read back over what I write and think I should lighten up a bit. Maybe one day I will learn how to do that. xx 

Sitting exams vicariously

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Exam season is in full swing here in the Law household. Younger son has papers to complete which will decide the sets that he will be placed in for GCSE and whether he can do the advanced science and maths modules that he hopes to take. Elder son is sitting the majority of his GCSEs plus a few AS papers, and has the most challenging exam timetable that I have ever seen. He will be required to spend two days in isolation due to clashes, sitting four important papers on each day between 9am and 5pm. How exhausting is that going to be? Daughter has her AS papers to sit, the results of which will dictate the universities she can apply to next year. We are living in a fug of stress, trying to find the balance between support and encouragement. We have another six weeks of this to survive.

On Monday evening daughter and elder son were discussing the challenges and merits of the universities they would like to apply to and I was taken back to my own decision process. So much has changed, yet so much remains the same. Whereas I did my research via handbooks, they use the internet and forums. I did not consider visiting the universities that I applied to; attending open days now seem to be de rigueur. Still though, it appears that the well regarded institutions for particular subjects have not changed over the years. This was a conversation that I could join in with, that was of mutual interest. With their research and my experience we had an adult discussion. For once I was not regarded as impossibly ancient and irrelevant, but as someone from whom interesting facts and opinions could be gleaned. It felt good.

So much of what I say to them as a parent comes across as me trying to tell them what to do. They often seem to believe that I have no understanding of the lives that they are required to live and wish me to back off, to allow them space to make their decisions unhindered. I have experienced another time that may as well have been another world given how relevant it is to their here and now. We do not talk as equals as we see what happens around us through eyes clouded by differing experiences.

This conversation felt more like a meeting of friends. I do not know if it is them growing up or me letting go, but they allowed their more typical guard to relax and I was able to see them as the amusing, intelligent and thoughtful individuals that they can be. I would be so happy if I could enjoy this more often. It can be exhausting being treated as a nuisance; a provider of food and clean clothes but with little else to add to their lives.

One conversation is not going to change the way we treat each other, but it has offered me a hopeful glimpse of our evolving familial relationships. Living with three teenagers can be challenging, but it is the potential for the clashes to damage how my children will see me in the future that worries me most. I want so much to remain close to them as they move into adulthood, and this showed me that it could be possible.

The only people who will be qualified to judge if I have been a good parent will be those who have experienced it, my children. I suspect that how I cope with this formative time will be critical in how they look on me in the years to come. When they no longer need me will they choose to include me in their lives? Despite the stresses that we are currently living under, I am feeling more hopeful that this could be possible than I have for some time.

 

 

Exam season

 

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This post is part of a Parenting Blog Hop hosted by Perfection Pending.

 

Monday came and went this week in a blur of demands, discontent and unfulfilled desires. Life with three teenagers in the month before exams can be a challenge, although not as much of a challenge for the parents as for the teenagers themselves. I hate to see the pressure that youngsters are put under these days, it is no wonder that so many crack under the strain.

I have reached the stage in my children’s lives where I am often going to bed before they do. Instead of trying to keep the house quiet to ensure that little sleepy heads get their rest (which actually translates as ‘to ensure mom can have a glass of wine in peace’), I am lying in my bed exhausted wishing that my big kids would work more quietly and let me sleep.

Yesterday it seemed that nobody was happy and I needed that early night. We are having the outside of our house painted and the weather is against us meaning that the job is dragging on. I had arranged a walk with a friend that I had to cancel when the decorator decided that he would turn up after all. Obviously it is not his fault that it keeps raining, I know that he is doing his best. Nevertheless it is frustrating for me being unable to make plans and stick to them. He requires access to the house so, until the job is complete, I have to stay in if there is a chance that he may turn up.

My daughter has been offered a fantastic work experience placement at a hospital in Cornwall in July, but it looks as though she is going to have to pull out. She needs a hospital placement and has struggled to find one which makes this turn of events especially upsetting, and at a time when she is under so much pre-exam stress. She had hoped that a friend would be able to put her up, but that has not worked out. July is peak holiday season and Cornwall is a popular holiday destination meaning that accommodation costs are prohibitive. I am convinced that she thinks we are failing her as parents by being unwilling to pay for a hotel room. Once again I am left wondering how ordinary people ever get to medical school.

My elder son refused to eat dinner with us last night because I wrote a note to his music teacher instead of leaving him to talk the issue through himself. If he remembered to do the talking this would not be necessary. Such reasoning cuts no ice with a truculent teen who wants me to back out of his life. Sometimes that boy is the most sociable of all my children, the next minute he just wants me gone. I find his attitude exhausting and dread to think how he sees me.

Younger son is preparing for the first exams he has ever had to take that matter. He is my worrier but seems no more organised than the other two. With two exams today he informed me last night that he needed a maths kit. How can he have prepared without these tools? His older siblings were, thankfully, willing to lend him the required items, but he must have known what he would require more than twelve hours in advance.

Husband was the wise one and spent much of his evening hunkered down in his office while I dealt with each of the mini tornados that blew through the house. By the time all were at peace in their rooms revising I was too exhausted to pick up my book and didn’t wish to cause a disturbance by putting on a DVD.

The children were babies when we decided to do away with broadcast TV, a decision I have never regretted. Over the years we have watched films and favourite shows via DVD, together as a family treat. Now that they are older the kids watch their TV shows on their computers. My little notebook does not have a DVD drive so I use the big screen downstairs.

When the kids hear me turn on the sound system they take it as a signal that we are going to indulge in some family viewing time, which effectively stops me watching much during the week when they need to be concentrating on their studies. It is no bad thing to limit my TV habit, but there are times like last night when I could use a little mindless entertainment. I guess I will have benefited more from my early night.

Preparation for exams has been going on for some time already. They start today for my youngest and continue throughout May and into June for my elder two. I suspect that we will have a lot more days like yesterday before we are through. The pressure is intense for the individuals sitting the papers, but important exams affect the whole family as we come together to offer support and to ease all burdens other than the need to revise.

I am ignoring the messy bedrooms with their floor coverings of ring binders, revision guides and past papers. I try not to complain when shoes, coats and bags are left scattered on the floor as they come and go, heads full of whatever subject matter requires attention that day. I bring them cups of tea, tasty snacks and encouraging smiles in an effort to bolster their flagging spirits. I try to keep up with the never ending demands for new pens and pencils, which seem to evaporate at an alarming rate. I am convinced that I am supplying stationary for half the children in their classes.

For the next six weeks I must try to keep my own feelings under wraps and support my kids. If I dare to voice any complaint they are quick to point out how much harder their lot is, and rightly so. Nevertheless, I will be so glad when we get through and can once again relax and enjoy some free time. I won’t point out that, although the need to sit exams finishes when they leave formal education, if they ever have kids of their own the pressures of exam season will return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents, power and empathy

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As parents we have power over our children. If we are to do our job successfully then, at times, we will be forcing our children to behave in a way that they would not choose. We will punish what we perceive to be inappropriate behaviour, even when our child feels strongly that such punishment is grossly unfair. We will micromanage their lives, dictating bedtimes, activities, consumption and language. Although we may know and explain to them that we are doing all of this for their benefit, our children are unlikely to see it this way every time.

The parent / child relationship is always going to be unbalanced. I would not expect my children to feel the overpowering and never ending love and concern that I feel for them. It can, however, be hard to deal with being treated as a provider without feelings. I cannot help the fact that I am human and events around me will affect my mood and behaviour. Now that they are older, I wonder if it is too much of an ask to expect empathy from teenagers.

It seems at times that my children do not understand the value of something that they do not have to pay for themselves. In our effort to equip them with the necessary skills to cope with modern life, my husband and I agreed to assist them in their desire to learn to drive a car. This is expensive. My daughter was given a block of ten lessons for her seventeenth birthday and, when she is capable of safely controlling a vehicle, we will insure my car for her that she may practice her newly learned skills. She seemed keen to learn and we were willing to assist.

Why is it then that she does not ensure that she is ready for each lesson? At £50 a time I am eager for her to make maximum use of every minute. She tells me that my desire to get her out the door as soon as I spot his car in our driveway is stressing her. She is under so much stress at the moment, as she prepares for important exams next month, this accusation makes me feel incredibly guilty. Am I valuing these lessons too highly simply because they cost so much? Is this a valid reason? I cannot help but wonder how she would approach the lessons if she were the one footing the bill.

Spring has well and truly sprung in the UK. The field behind our house is alive with little lambs, the trees and hedges are turning green as their leaves unfurl in the sunshine, and we have colour in abundance as the borders and shrubs flower, enticing bees to busily buzz around collecting their bounty.

The good weather has also seen the return of a painter who is to smarten up the outside of our home. With a run of good weather forecast he decided that he would get started on a job we commissioned him to do at the end of last year. Over the weekend we ensured that the pots of thick, wall paint that he requires were ordered and delivered. This morning I was up before 6am, ready to greet the guys who were to erect scaffolding around our house first thing. Five hours later and they have still not arrived.

The painter is doing his best. Despite the fact that his assistant answered neither door nor phone this morning he has turned up ready to start on his own. Despite the fact that the promised scaffolding is not in place, he has taken up his brush and is currently working from a ladder. He has been let down but is doing what he can to get on with the job. I am frustrated by these failures to fulfil obligations, but as much for the painter as for me. I want the job to be completed as quickly as possible; I know that he is doing his best.

Unfortunately my frustration overflowed with my daughter. As she is currently off school for the Easter break she is having her driving lessons on a Monday morning. Last week she forgot to set her alarm and, by the time I realised that she was still asleep, barely had time to shower and gulp down a cup of tea before her instructor arrived. This week I woke her earlier and assumed she would get herself ready. She did not. For reasons unknown, she thought that she could complete a piece of work on her computer, which she then refused to leave when her instructor arrived. I got cross, she got stressed, I felt guilty.

I find it hard to understand my children’s often lackadaisical approach to time keeping. I intensely dislike being late and almost fear keeping anyone waiting; my desire not to inconvenience borders on paranoia. Whilst I do not wish to instil such an extreme approach to time keeping in my children, I do think that they would benefit from a little more concern for others. I cannot be sure though if this is an issue for me more than them; if my approach to time keeping is more of a problem than theirs.

It would be interesting to be able to observe how my children behave around others. The house painter is doing all that he can to provide the service that he promised. The driving instructor turns up on time and is unfailingly cheerful. I wonder if my children find it easier to rein in their reactions when it is not parents they have to deal with. Does our unique position in their lives mean that we will never be treated as they would almost everyone else?

Parenting can be tough but then so can growing up. Having spent so many years telling my children what to do, how to do it, punishing them if they do not behave as instructed and limiting what they are given for fear of spoiling them; perhaps it is inevitable that I should be treated differently from all others in their lives.

My role is not to be their friend, but there are times, like today, when a more friendly treatment would be most welcome.

 

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This post is part of a parenting blog hop hosted by Perfection Pending

Children and authority

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This post was written for a parenting blog hop hosted by Perfection Pending.

This Monday morning I am mulling over how best to proceed with an issue that affects my kids and their relationship with their school. Does anyone else struggle with teaching their child to respect authority, when that authority does not appear to respect their child? I do not wish to raise my kids to blindly follow, but rather to think for themselves and ask why. There are rules that should be adhered to for the good of all, but when a bad decision is imposed, should we be encouraging our children to respectfully challenge it? Does putting one’s head above the parapet denote a troublemaker or a defender?

I feel uncomfortable on committees and rarely get involved with how things are run. I used to dread having to do my stint on the parent help rotas for preschool or Sunday school, as having to deal with other people’s children makes me nervous. I would sometimes grumble about the decisions being made but would accept that, as I was unwilling to get involved, I would have to accept outcomes.

Once my kids were at big school I always made sure that I went along to the parent/teacher meetings to discuss academic progress. I would attend any shows or performances that my children took part in to offer support for their efforts but, other than that, I avoided the school. I left the teachers to teach while I parented to the best of my ability. Sometimes this included helping with particular lessons at home that had not been fully understood, but I tried my best to be supportive even when I did not always agree with the methods being employed.

There were exceptions to this. If I felt that my little cubs were being badly treated by the adults responsible for their care and education, then I could turn into a fierce momma bear. Injustice of any kind makes me angry, but when that injustice was imposed on my babies in a setting that they were compelled to attend then I felt the need to act. I even removed my youngest child from formal school for a little over a year when it became clear that both he and his potential to learn were being damaged. That difficult decision to home school him was one of the best I have ever made.

I believe that school exists to educate children. The definition of education is broad, but the purpose of the school is to teach the children who attend. Sure, the staff will want job satisfaction and career progression. They should be treated respectfully and I would like to see a lot less central government interference in how they do their job. They are there, though, to benefit the children.

What matters in a school is how the pupils think, work and interact with others. What doesn’t matter is how they look. Now, I’m not advocating that children should be allowed to attend dressed totally inappropriately. However, guidelines for what is acceptable dress can be broad without affecting a child’s ability to learn. Children are individuals and will respond positively if treated as such. I am a big fan of allowing all, including staff, to express their individuality so long as it does not disrupt others.

My children’s school is currently trying to smarten up the appearance of the whole school, including the teachers. The patronising attitude of those overseeing this project risks damaging the good relations between leadership and staff, and between staff and pupils. It is making me angry because it is unnecessary and detrimental to my cubs well being.

Staff relations matter. There is always going to be some staff turnover as newly qualified teachers, employed because they are cheap, gain experience, and then cannot all enjoy promotion within the school so move on. Too high a staff turnover, however, suggests that there is a deeper malaise. It is disruptive to pupils who benefit from building a rapport, respect and trust with their teachers. Fostering good staff/pupil working relationships matters because resentments damage learning. The patronising attitude being adopted at my children’s school over the issue of appearance risks doing just this.

A hand picked committee has made decisions in secret, and is now trying to impose them on the school community. A consultation has been promised, but there is a reluctance to engage in meaningful discussion. This is the second attempt in just a few months to impose change that is not wanted by the majority of those directly affected, the pupils. I cannot know how the majority of other parents feel, but the large number of students that I and my children have spoken to are not in favour of this change.

Change is unnecessary as guidelines already exist that, if enforced, could improve the appearance of the few pupils who are stretching boundaries. If learning is to be improved, and that is why the school exists, then perhaps the school should look at why sixth form lessons have been cut back, or why GCSE science is now to be lumped together rather than taught as three, separate subjects; thus disadvantaging those who are not equally good at physics, chemistry and biology. Changes in teaching methods affect learning far more than what a teacher or pupil wears.

There has been a suggestion that the school is trying to teach the pupils about appropriate work wear to prepare them for when they leave full time education. As many of the older pupils already have part time jobs, they are already aware of and comply with employers dress requirements. A large number of pupils will go on to attend university where there will be no dress code. This is not something that the school needs to concern itself with. I cannot see how any perceived benefit could outweigh the cost in damaged respect.

How do you react when decisions are imposed that you strongly disagree with? I am hoping that I am making a mountain out of a molehill with this; I am hoping that it is not a symptom of a change of direction for a school that I chose because of how it appeared to work with it’s pupils individual needs.

We do not live in isolation and parenting is as much about preparing our children to be good citizens as it is about developing their abilities as individuals. They will have to learn to accept authority, but I do not believe that this should include quietly acceding to every poor decision imposed. Do you think that, by encouraging my children to respectfully challenge, I risk raising troublemakers who will suffer as a result? Should I back off rather than risk being labelled as a parent to be avoided? We only get one shot at raising our kids and I have no wish to mess up.

 

 

 

 

They used to just drive me to distraction

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 This post is part of a parenting Blog Hop hosted by Perfection Pending.

Over the years my kids have fallen out of swings, trees, down steep slopes, over fences, off their bikes and from horses. They have banged their heads, suffered greenstick fractures and sported the cuts and bruises inevitable when allowed to run and climb and play in the parks, fields and woodland around our home.

Of course I worried about them, schooled them on avoiding risk, taking care, on not playing alone, not straying too far from home. I recognised that they needed to learn for themselves but tried to ensure that they did so in as safe an environment as was practical whilst granting them the freedom to explore, stretch themselves and grow. Looking back on their childhood experiences, that they survived is as much down to luck as judgement. The potential for accidents is everywhere, including in the home.

To all you young moms out there, frantically trying to stop your kids eating dirt, banging their heads when they fall, running in front of traffic, falling in a river or pond; I have been there and I empathise. The world can seem so full of danger when you are responsible for a little person intent on learning for themselves, who seems to consider mom to be nothing more than a spoilsport when she says no.

Do you look at me with my teenage kids and dream about how much easier it must get when a full nights sleep is to be expected and those little people can go to and from school on their own? It does get easier, but the potential dangers just seem to get worse. Oh my.

My children have always wanted to drive. Be it push alongs, pedal cars or go-karts, if it had wheels they wanted to ride. Add a motor and they were in heaven.

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Yesterday my daughter had her first driving lesson in a much bigger car. A ton of metal that she claims to have driven at up to 50mph. Apparently her driving instructor only had to use the dual controls twice. No casualties were reported.

I knew that this day was approaching, and that this would be the start of a process that I will have to cope with for some years to come. Elder son, happily driving with his sister in the picture above, turns seventeen next year; younger son just a couple of years later. In a few weeks time, when she has learned the basics, I am going to have to let my daughter drive my car, with me in the passenger seat, in order to allow her to practice her newly learned skills. This must be the ultimate teenagers revenge; I will not have the benefit of an instructor’s dual controls.

I guess that, as with any other milestone, I will simply get used to it. The first time my daughter used a local bus by herself, the first time she took a train to the city, the first time she made a complicated journey that required multiple changes, I was worrying every step of the way, whereas now I barely give it a thought. I know that she will benefit from learning to drive a car, but oh my is it a challenge to let her loose on those dangerous roads.

I wouldn’t want to go back to the sleepless nights, the constant vigilance and the inexplicable tantrums of their early childhood, but it can be a challenge to let go of those little hands that I held tight and safe for so long. In the end it is a matter of trust, of hoping that my children have absorbed enough of the lessons taught to act carefully and sensibly whatever temptations are put in their way.

It seems that we never stop parenting our children, we must just learn to do so in a more quiet and unobtrusive way. If teenagers suspect what we are up to, that there is a risk that we might interfere in their chaotic lives? Believe me, those tantrums can return…

 

The bad mother

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This post is part of a parenting Blog Hop over at Perfection Pending

I felt like the world’s worst mom on Friday, and I suspect that my youngest son may concur with this opinion of my mothering skills. I would ask him except he is fast asleep, snuggled up in bed with his favourite teddy bear, on a Monday morning in term time. Even teenagers taller than their mothers benefit from a favourite teddy bear when they are ill.

On good weather days my son will sometimes cycle to school. As he is one of those computer game playing, stay holed up in his room type teenagers, we actively encourage this rare exercise. On Friday he set off in the morning with a friend, the second time in the week that they had cycled in to school together.

Being early in the year my son has had a full winter to lose whatever semblance of fitness he managed to acquire last year. As we live on a hill he finds the final mile home tough. After a busy day at school he just wants to get back to his computer, and the prospect of traversing that steep hill is off putting.

The routine has been the same in previous years. When his fitness levels are low he will sometimes phone to ask me to rescue him; to drive down to the cycle path, load him and his bike into the car, and bring them back the easy way. As I am not easily persuadable, especially when I know that he will benefit from the exercise, he will claim that he feels ill.

This has worked on a fair few occasions. However, when he started to get ill from just cycling three miles along fairly flat terrain, and recovery took about fifteen minutes from entering the house, I grew wise to his cunning. When he called for assistance I refused to collect him, an act that caused a great deal of complaint but no lasting damage. As his fitness improved so the calls for help diminished along with his journey times.

I guess we all know Aesop’s fable, ‘The boy who cried wolf’. Last Friday he texted to say that he was ill and I told him to cycle home. He told me that he had a headache and couldn’t cycle so I told him to walk. In my mind I was being harsh but fair, tough love. Except this time he really was ill. He tried to get home and couldn’t do it, so he phoned a friend. Friend’s mother rescued him, a kind and generous act that I humbly thanked her for the next day. The guilt I felt cannot be expressed.

As soon as he got home son went straight to bed and slept through until the late morning, a straight seventeen hours of sleep; it was obvious that I had messed up. He has had a fitful weekend, barely eating, with long periods of rest. Every time I see his pale face and dark ringed eyes I inwardly berate myself for not taking notice when he called me. What sort of a mother am I that I will not believe my own son?

My other two children are more circumspect. They remind me that their brother is one of those people who cannot seem to cope with illness. Whereas they will generally be stoic, he fusses and complains over the slightest ache or pain. It has always been hard to know when he really does have anything wrong with him; there is the regular suspicion that he simply wants to avoid the training session or have the day off school. He certainly claims illness more than anyone else in the family, yet is clearly not an unhealthy child.

I feel guilty for not believing him and guilty that a lovely neighbour had to rescue my son. I know that neither of these things are major issues, but mother guilt is so hard to cope with. I messed up and my son suffered.

Have you ever made a decision about your kids that proved wrong? Finding the correct balance between offering support and teaching personal responsibility can be a challenge.

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A small postscript to this sorry tale. Lest any of you fear that my son may be spending his recovery time playing on line games, worry not. For no reason that we can fathom, the hard drive on his computer died on Saturday afternoon. It will take at least three weeks for a replacement machine to be delivered; he is not a happy boy.

Best laid plans

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In case anyone missed it, yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day. As an Irish girl living in a foreign land I am, of course, enthusiastic in my support of my home country. I mean, I wouldn’t want to live there again, but I am more than happy to lay claim to my Irishness from a distance at every opportunity that presents itself.

Over the weekend the boys in green did us proud by winning the Six Nations rugby championship after a hard fought game against France in Paris. Yesterday, another slightly less illustrious rugby match was played, one that I used to support from the freezing cold stands at Ravenhill in Belfast and which fostered my continuing mild interest in the sport. The school that my niece now attends came up trumps winning the Schools’ Cup final. My understanding is that they were worthy victors in another close fought match.

I wanted to wish my friends and followers a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day so, with my love of Teddy Bears, was delighted to find this little video which I spread around my social media sites: Irish Dancing Bears. After a wobbly start to the day, by evening I was feeling good, ready to celebrate, looking forward to continuing with my many and varied plans for the week ahead.

Except this morning I woke up feeling dreadful. Not mentally dreadful this time but physically, so now my plans are in disarray. I had to cancel the appointment I had made with my gym coach as I could barely make it downstairs for a cup of much needed tea, let alone think of attempting a workout. The swim I had planned is not going to happen this afternoon, and it remains to be seen if I can summon the energy to craft a story I hoped to submit to a challenge later.

In the grand scheme of things me being ill is not the disaster that it once was. I no longer have young children who need my time and attention; as co owner of our business I can grant myself time off work when needed, I have not been required on a client site in years. Being ill has simply messed up my own schedule and fuddled my brain. It is frustrating that my determination to make this week count has been scuppered so unexpectedly. I do not like surprises, especially ones that demand I do not stray more than a few feet from a bathroom.

At times like this I am grateful for machines. When I struggle downstairs to fetch myself another drink I can load and switch on the dishwasher, sort a pile of washing, then escape back to my bed to rest my aching head. I am also grateful for the home delivery service that will ensure my groceries arrive as planned. By the time my family return home this evening the worst of their detritus will have been sorted and the cupboards restocked. The house may not be as clean and tidy as I would like, I may not manage to achieve much for myself, but my little family should not be inconvenienced.

Why am I so concerned about not inconveniencing my family? A part of me thinks that I should just lie here until someone comes home and then wail about how awful I feel, try to drum up a bit of sympathy or appreciation for the efforts I go to making sure their lives run so smoothly. Of course, I will not do this. Mums are expected to cope, not to make a fuss. It would be an interesting experiment to see how they reacted if I suddenly demanded some attention, but I will not be putting them to the test.

I have walks with friends planned for later in the week as well as an important meeting at my children’s school, so I hope that this illness is short lived. I am impatient with incapacity; I do not show enough appreciation for my normally healthy body. Days such as today when I feel so dreadful remind me that I take it too much for granted.

Even assuming that I recover quickly I will now be playing catch up for the rest of the week; perhaps next week will be better. I would feel more positive about that thought if it did not recur on an almost weekly basis.

sick girl 

Being a mum to teens

I am taking part in Perfection Pending‘s weekly Blog Hop

Perfection Pending

It is said that we humans are creatures of habit. I tend to have a daily routine, but only when my day works out as I would wish. This happens more often now that I am mother to teens rather than having to deal with the varied needs of young children. These days I am less in demand so have the luxury of organising my day with a reasonable certainty that things will go to plan. At least that is how it would be if I was less of a pushover.

There are still simple tasks that I complete for my children because I am an awesome mummy if I didn’t do them then they wouldn’t get done. I suspect that this would bother nobody except me. For example, I prefer lights to be switched off during the day, curtains to be opened, beds to be made, pyjamas shaken out and rooms aired. I am not convinced that the three teen caves in our house would be habitable if I did not open the windows from time to time.

Whilst tiptoeing carefully through the detritus of their teenage lives, most of which seems to reside on their bedroom floors, I come across the used mugs, plates, bowls and wrappers that suggest I do not feed them. Funny that. If I piled their plates higher at mealtimes their food would spill over onto the table. Perhaps this is the answer; perhaps I need a large, table sized trough permanently topped up with pasta, noodles or other salt laden delights for them to forage in when they feel the need. My insistence on cutlery, crockery, healthy food and sociable eating times is just so last year.

Each weekday morning, having made sure that all three children have set off for school, I return the house to some semblance of order and then start my own day. Unless of course somebody has forgotten something. Today, for example, younger son remembered to pack his PE kit, he even remembered to take it with him when he left the house. It did not, however, make it into school with him but was instead abandoned in the hallway of a friend’s house as they waited for their lift. This is an improvement on the number of times PE kits have been left at bus stops, but still meant that my first task today was to carry out a delivery that had not been a part of my planned agenda.

Some mums that I talk to can relate to my willingness to indulge these cries for help, despite my frustration. Others suggest that I should just make my kids go without forgotten items. Coping with the trouble that this would cause is supposed to teach them not to do it again, a bit like letting them go to school on a wet and windy day without a coat is supposed to teach them something. This has never worked with my kids. Elder son does not wish to carry a coat around with him all day so leaves it at home whatever the weather. It reminds me of my mother’s insistence that I always carry an umbrella, just in case. I still prefer to go out in the rain bareheaded and cope. I remember my mother’s caring concern as nagging that irritated me intensely. Children do not always hear the intended message.

My kids have their own house keys so I do not need to be home when they return from school in the afternoon. It is rare indeed for this to happen. I enjoy sitting down with them for a cup of tea and a chat, it is one of my favourite parts of the day. When I am caught up in some other task and miss out on their daily banter it can be hard to catch up. Once they are ensconced in their rooms, chatting to their friends on social media, my company becomes an unwelcome diversion.

I have recently written about what I do all day when not dealing with my house and my kids. The days are too short to fit in all the things that I wish to achieve. Perhaps the true reason why I continue to indulge my teens when they are easily capable of sorting themselves out is because this is the easiest way of staying involved in their lives. Their mess and lack of appreciation may get me down at times, but they do still find me useful. I like that.

messy room

How to embarrass your teenager

I am taking part in Perfection Pending‘s weekly Blog Hop

Perfection Pending

I had two important tasks that needed to be accomplished yesterday. Number one, get passport photographs for each family member. Number two, buy new trainers for elder son. Not too tricky you would think, no great challenges involved. A quick trip into town, two places to visit and home. If only things could be as simple as they sound.

First off we all had to get out of the house together. Cooking up a big breakfast seemed like the easiest way to coax those sleepy teenagers from their beds on what is usually a lazy Sunday morning. Cups of tea were delivered as wake up calls and warnings given that food was being prepared. Somehow, by the time we were fed, dressed and the debris cleared away, midday was approaching. How does that happen?

Getting toddlers out of the house always seemed like a major accomplishment. All those socks, shoes, coats and toilet visits had to be sorted; juice, snacks, changes of clothes and toys packed in the large bag I dreamed of being able to one day leave the house without. It should be easier when they are old enough to get themselves ready, yes?

I have long since dumped the bag, but somehow it still seems to take forever to get more than one child out the door at the same time. I suspect that the distraction of computers and social networks may have something to do with this. That and their ability to tune out the sound of my voice.

Eventually however we piled into the car and drove into town. Concerned about wasting his valuable time, Grumpy in the back was asking how long this was going to take and if it was really necessary. I pointed out that I needed his head and his feet so yes, his presence was necessary. He did not appreciate my comments.

There are three photo booths in the town shopping centre. The first was out of order, the second did not produce passport quality prints, the third was rejecting around 90% of the coins it was offered. Having got this far I was not going to turn back. We fed coin after coin into the irritating machine, even going back to the car to fetch the change we keep there to pay for parking to see if those coins would be more acceptable. Slowly we managed to coax the uncooperative device into submission.

It is possible that we may have got away with the delay and frustration had not my elder son’s worst nightmare then occurred. Standing in the mall, trying desperately to get the blasted booth to just take the damn photographs, two of his friends walked by and recognised him, in a public place with his mother. I could see that he wished the floor could just open up and swallow him whole.

As I collected the last of the prints (which incidentally make us all look like convicts) my son strode off towards the sports shop. Hurrying after him I was stopped in my tracks as he swung around and demanded to know if I needed anything from this shop. I knew from his look what he wanted; I was banished to wait in the car lest I be spotted once more in his presence.

Letting go of our kids as they grow up can be a challenge for any parent. It would seem that shaking off those pesky parental units can be as much of a challenge for certain teens. They need us for the roof over their head and the food that they can never get enough of. What they really want though is for us to acquire invisibility should we ever be required to inhabit the same space as they outside the home.

My son has reached the stage where he believes that he knows a great deal more about what matters than I. There is no doubt that he is quicker at maths, more knowledgeable about the intricacies of science, more in tune with the latest happenings amongst his peers. When he talks to me I can appear foolish because the things that interest him do not always tally with my own areas of expertise.

If I knew that he wished to talk about the development of a new jet powered engine, the orbital capabilities of a certain type of rocket, the possibilities unleashed by over clocking a computer processor, then perhaps I could look into these topics and pick up enough knowledge to at least nod in the right places during our conversations. He has no interest in the matters that engross me; we are both drawn to enquire but about different subjects.

I remember not so long ago I was the font of all his knowledge. If I could not answer the question then we investigated together. It must be hugely disappointing to discover that a parent is not as bright as once thought. I wonder how long it will be before he understands that my abilities lie elsewhere but can be just as interesting and challenging as his.

My son is capable of showing patience when I cannot keep up. He explains and modifies his explanations that I may gain an understanding of the subject that is so fascinating to him. This is, of course, in the privacy of our home.

I suspect it will be quite some time before I do not embarrass him in front of his friends just by being there. Until that time I will do my best to quash the hurt I feel when he rejects me, and remember that we all have a lifetime of learning ahead. He may not know everything as he sometimes appears to think, but then neither do I.

parents-and-teenagers