Friday, 24 April 2015

Mum of Boys

The fridge opens once again, shuts softly once more
A rustle belies the bread bin, as crumbs hit the floor
The clink of plates, the swish of juice, the sound of a happy crunch
The chomping, and the slurping, an hour after lunch.

The arguing over who has left dirty socks on the chair
The endless hours of staring in the mirror at ‘the hair’
The grunting, with legs stretched out, in front of the tv
The lid left up on the toilet, the bowl full of pee

Trainers stinking in the hall, kit bags far and wide
Shoes randomly in singles, some living outside
The weird rush of affection, manifest in hurried hugs
And then back to the business of racing lady bugs

The jumping on the trampoline, then sitting there for hours
The ability to sniff out food with extraterrestrial powers
Thoughtful silences coupled with an existential roar
‘Do not disturb, get out my room and shut the b*** door!’

Striding out for a Duck, handsome all in white
Scoring sweaty goals, mauling without fight
Noisy celebrations, slapping backs and shouting loud
Raising arms high, wave to an unseen crowd.

Shouting at the telly, the ref’s got it wrong again
I watch them as they grow up, my funny little men.
Where farting is hilarious, no matter what the age
And sulking is unheard of, just turn another page

No matter what the difference, no one hurts a bro
His siblings rally round, tell others where to go
Living, fighting, squabbling, a happy little pack
Growing ever upwards, with no turning back

Muscled arms and legs, baby fat becomes lean
The cute and chubby toddler is nowhere to be seen
Voice becomes melodic, scaling up and down
Round face becomes a bloke’s, swaddled in a frown

The rising of the food bill, the electric charges high
Bedrooms resembling nothing short of a piglets sty
Yet sound asleep it seems like they’re toddlers once more
If you ignore the empty plate,
and the breadcrumbs on the floor.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Red Mist

There comes a time in life when the red mist descends.  To those happy souls who have no idea what this is, I will explain.  It is an uncontrollable rage that bubbles up within your very being, making you take leave of your senses and howl, shriek, shout or scream uncontrollably.  It is usually triggered by circumstances or people’s behaviour. 

It strikes anyone – the drunken young man in the pub who has just had his pint spilt, the meek housewife who has found letters from her husband’s lover in his trouser pocket, the teenager who has been refused another night out , and the toddler who can’t have a third lolly.  We’ve either seen it or read about it.  And the weird thing about the red mist, it blankets your mind such, that once it has cleared, (and it does very quickly, leaving behind a shaking body in fight or flight mode), you rarely remember exactly everything that you said or shouted, but are left with this overriding feeling that you have fought for what you truly believed in at the time, and that therefore it is justified.  I’m not saying that a crime of passion is justification for the crime, but it is a reason for the action.

And why does the red mist descend on some people and not on others?  What makes one persons’ spilt pint a potential motive for murder, and another ones’ an opportunity to accept an apology and a new drinking buddy?   What makes one cuckolded female go round to the mistress’s house and attempt to scratch out her eyes, whilst another is content with stabbing holes in her partner’s suits and scratching his car?

Can it be that in this day and age, with technology giving us all the information, wanted and unwanted, necessary or unnecessary, pleasant or unpleasant at the push of a button, that we are simply getting a sensory overload, and our mind short circuits, making our stress levels rise and our reactions to situations become extreme.

There is no doubt that stress on the mind and body plays a huge part in the anger that we all carry around with us.  The prescription of antidepressants in the UK continues to go up, reaching 1 in 6 adults in some parts of the country, and at its lowest in areas where there are proper therapy treatments available – i.e. regular contact with someone who can talk through any mounting problems before it builds into a red mist moment. Holistic exercise classes such as Yoga and Pilates have never been so popular, full of people wanting to empty their minds as well as tone their bodies.  The popularity of walking, hiking and outdoor sports ensure that endorphins combat negative feelings. And there are hundreds of self help books out there – all vying for the key to a peace of mind.

As a mum to teenagers who are in the midst of exam fever, I have long been conscious of the red mist. Coupled with the hormonal changes coursing through their bodies, teenagers are extremely vulnerable, and it is a source of worry to all us mums who hear what stupid things they or other kids have been up to.  It doesn’t matter that we did equally as stupid things, because it is a different world out there.  Drunken partying was not instantly relayed around the world on social media in a matter of minutes, to remain for a lifetime of employers and employees to discover.  Porn was not easily accessible.  ‘Duck Face’ was a character in a jolly British film.  The school bully couldn’t access you at home. And bikini shots were saved for the beach.  

In this highly volatile world where there is so much pressure to conform, and so much uncertainty in the future, our teenagers need us now more than ever to provide a stable base in which they can vent in safety, knowing that anything they say will not be used in evidence against them, but will be used, once they subside shaking on to the sofa, to illustrate the points of tension, and how best to move on.

My car has a feature called ‘Ambient Lighting’.  This enables you to change the colour of the internal lights.  There are five choices.  Perhaps we can’t change the kids, or even the world, one family at a time.  But perhaps we can change the ferocity of the red mist.  Maybe to a topaz blue, or a cool white.  One button at a time…

Monday, 13 April 2015

Working from Home

Yes, it’s been a while… So to those regular readers who wondered if I had fallen out of the blogosphere and landed on my head, rendering me in an unconscious blogging coma for 3 months, I am back.  And to those new readers who have wandered into my little puddle of the blogosphere, welcome!

As it happens, there was nothing dramatic about my departure, it just seemed to spiral, and every time I envisaged sitting down and updating my blog, life just happened, and then a bit like the impending gloom of writing ones Thank You cards, or To Do list, or tackling the pile of ironing that remonstrates with you in angry fabric conditioned punches as you open the cupboard – it was simply easier to delay doing it to another day.

As many of the blog followers know, I have for the 16 years in which babies have been in my life, worked from home.  This has a lot of benefits when you are a mum of young kids.  You can dictate your own hours, your boss doesn’t frown if you turn up to work in a shabby faded dressing gown smelling suspiciously of nappies, you can attend those interminable baby hand-clapping gym-bouncing rhyme-singing mornings that all young mummies feel that they ought to, until they realise that they are doing more of the above than their babies who are soundly asleep in their buggies. 

And it means that despite the teething sleep deprived hours , the worry of childhood diseases, the endless unsought advice on said diseases, the tantrums in the supermarket, the eviction from the house of biting, fighting, scratching mums (and their toddlers), you can wearily hobble in to a client meeting, baby sick unnoticed on your shoulder, and sit down for a conversation that is only slightly elevated from the ‘Me want’ stage…

But as the kids get older and start developing personalities of their own, this working from home lark can get trickier.  Again, it has its advantages – I can simply inform my boss in a slightly schizophrenic way that I am taking the afternoon off to watch my son play a football match. And if one of the kids is sick, I can keep an eye on them whilst on a phone call to a client.  But when it hits holiday time, this can be a little bit of a problem.

The older two respect my wishes to be left alone on the days that I have set out to work.  They can cook themselves basic meals without setting light to the kitchen.  They are perfectly capable of loading the dishwasher and making their beds.  They can tidy up after themselves.  They can do all of these things… Whether they do, as teenagers, is a different matter.  Their hours are not mine.  I learned long ago not to wait for them all to emerge for breakfast. During the holidays this can stretch from 7.00am to 11.30am.  But by the same token I have learned that expecting them to make a lunch (yes, the timing is a little tricky) means that the fridge is constantly raided throughout the day, and this simply won’t do.  And so I set a lunch time. In between phone calls and document writing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a moan, just simply stating it as it is. I absolutely wouldn't have it any other way. I get to see my kids whenever I want and wherever I want, and to carry on doing a job that I love. I get to have my cake and eat it. 

But that doesn't detract from the fact that working from home with kids can get a little tricky.  For a start, working mums in offices who need someone to maybe have their kids for a few hours, forget that you too, work.  Sometimes having an extra child around as a kiddie distraction does actually work for me too.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  It can be a little tricky if you are on the phone and someone rings the bell and the dog hurls himself in an enthusiastic ball of fury at the door.  It can be a bit off putting when you are copy editing a technical document online, and your child comes in to tell you he has nits or that he has forgotten that he has extra sports training 20 miles away starting in ten minutes.  

I had a conversation with Little Man this morning who was sitting companionably beside me as I worked.  He was doing some homework for a test. 

‘Imagine,’ I said, to establish the boundaries, ‘That I am sitting in an office like all the other working mummies.  You need to think about what you need to ask me.’

He looked at me.  ‘But you are sitting beside me’.

‘Yes, I know, but imagine that you aren’t.’

There was a little silence as he turned back to his book, and I to my computer.
Suddenly he began to make a really annoying loud noise.

‘Ring Ring, Ring Ring.’

‘What are you doing?’

He continued the noise.

‘Stop It!’ I said sharply.

He stopped and looked at me admonishingly. ‘Answer the phone then!’

I rolled my eyes and put my hand to my ear.

‘Hello?’ I enquired wearily.

‘Hello Mummy!  What time’s lunch?’ said my son cheerfully.

I’m going to have a stern word with my boss about working conditions…