Dad the Basset hound

It is 9.30 in the morning in Sydney, which is where my Dad and stepmom have just arrived to commence their honeymoon of a lifetime.

In the space of a couple of years my Dad has made the woman he loves his wife, obtained broadband where he lives in the sticks, discovered the World Wide Web, got his email, registered a Skype profile and bought a tablet pc.

The biggest change is that he is now a big softie, looking at me, his grandchildren and my stepmom with a doughy eyed look similar to that of an old Basset hound. In fact, what with his slight hobble, if he was a dog he would be a basset.

My Dad proves that with age comes an appreciation of time and that it is not infinite, so he is doing what we should all be doing, appreciating what is right in front of him.

This blog is for UNICEF.

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Deadlines

It is 8pm. My daughter is busy creating an elaborate pack of home-made cards as part of her homework, I ask whatever happened to a standard worksheet? Baby boy has (i think) finally gone to sleep after several false alarms followed by successful visits to the potty. In an attempt to wind him down i sing ‘ba ba black sheep’ at his request and he then has the audacity to say ‘try again’. The dogs were unimpressed when i put down a handful of bonios for dinner because i haven’t had the chance to buy proper dog food and my husband has passed out on the sofa catching flies with his mouth wide open,exhausted after a day at college and his motorbike ride on the M25, which took all his concentration to prevent accidentally ending up on the organ donor list. A prospective client rang earlier and asked when he would be able to call her, i said it may not be this evening because he works late on Wednesdays to which she replied, ‘well can he try and call me tonight as i do need to get my trees looked at’……i dont fancy her chances.

I am typing this blog upstairs because despite all my best attempts, bombs keep exploding downstairs resulting in a permanently dishevelled existence, in fact ‘dishevelled’ is a very accurate description for most things at the mo.

I just overheard my daughter explain to a sleepy/semi-grumpy daddy that she has to cinish her jomework, ‘otherwise i am going to be dead’. I think her teacher needs to let them in on the secret about ‘deadlines’ what is the point in trying to burn them out at 8.

Talking of which, that is why I missed a blog post last night (£1 in the pot to Unicef) because i was reviewing my husband’s homework till 11pm last night and after helping out my daughter with her homework earlier in the evening, i didnt fancy staring at another screen of text. I would hate to know how many hours we lose just struggling to meet deadlines and staring at bloomin screens.

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Kirstie Allsopp and nesting

Finally a woman has had the balls to say women should not be expected to do everything and this is from a feminist standpoint.

Kirstie Allsopp’s views have divided opinion, like all views on life choices, there is not ‘the best’ choice and KA is by no means suggesting that women should give up entirely on higher education, it is simply a matter of priorities and like it or loathe it, most women would like to have children so why not do it earlier rather than later? Why should we bust a gut getting qualifications, salaries and everything else ticked off before children? Only to then exist on an endless and exhausting merry-go-round of work deadlines, bedtime routines and house-work, by which time we are too tired (and a bit too long in the tooth) to enjoy any of it?

In an ideal world, men would also carry babies and deliver them so partners could play swapsies with career progression and childcare. However we still live in a society where it is less acceptable by men to take a break from work and look after children, therefore women take up this role in the majority of cases. I believe being a mum is the best job in the world, but it also helps to have a bit of money coming in, not lots, just enough to pay the food bills and mortgage and enjoy  the occasional break and holiday. Not many couples can afford to do this on a single income. To get a job that pays 20k plus, most employers require a degree, so then we are back to square one again.

Hopefully degrees will not be such a pre-requisite for high-paying jobs and the value of experience, on the job training and apprenticeship schemes will once again come to the fore. This approach will help people who are young and unsure which career to follow. So many are under pressure to make these decisions at 17, work hard to get a degree in the relevant subject, only to be completely disenchanted when they enter the world of work.

I think my advice to my daughter and son would be to do what they enjoy and work and careers will come and find them . As for relationships and babies, i think these are better left unplanned because none of us ever start life knowing when we will meet the right person or whether we can have children, so to start life expecting to have this ‘ticked off’ by a certain stage in life is doomed to disappoint. If it happens, it happens.

If you make plans in life, God laughs.

Just like the Mummy and Daddy bluebird who returned home tonight to find their Oak tree gone and their nest full of babies gone with it. My husband thought he had checked the dead Oak before he felled it, but obviously not close enough. As he glanced down he saw a nest and three babies on the ground, one dead the others still alive. Cursing their misfortune and blaming himself, he moved the nest to the nearest safe place. Life happens and rarely in the way you had hoped or expected.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Happiness is perfect yet perfect isnt happy

I read an article by actress and stand-up comedian Francesca Martinez. It was brilliant and inspired me to order her book ‘What the f*** is normal?’ It also made me re-evaluate some of my views, particularly relating to parenting disabled children. I had always thought that parenting a disabled child overwhelming, although I could never have brought myself to abort a baby based on a predicted disability forecast by health professionals – a predicament that would have no doubt finished our marriage. My husband’s views on bringing up a disabled child are in contrary to his own childhood, which was marred by severe hearing loss due to brain damage.

Francesca looks at it from a different angle, ‘Most parents-to-be still fear that their beloved Newborn will turn out to be -oh, the horror – disabled. My personal fear is that my future child will turn out to be unhappy. I don’t care what he or she can or can’t do, how they talk or walk or how many fingers and toes they have. Because I don’t think that is a good indicator of happiness. Forget aborting babies because of the suffering they might endure. What about the suffering they will create? Wouldn’t it make sense to develop a test to check for the arms-dealer gene, the advertising executive gene, the corporate-overlord gene, or the gossip-magazine editor gene? That would eliminate quite a lot of suffering.’

I wish I had read Francesca’s article in The Guardian before I passed judgement on my daughter’s maths test mark. She described the scale of marks to me with 6 being the top score. I cant pretend that I was disappointed she had got a 3, they then get a sub mark in the form of letters, with A being the lowest and D being the top. Her total mark was 3B. I couldn’t hold back this disappointment and said that I didn’t  think her mark was ‘that good’ and that if she wanted to get into boarding school (her wish not mine) she was going to need to get a 5 or 6. What made me suddenly turn into a mother with the support and encouragement skills of an amoeba? Why did I turn into one of those pushy mothers who focus so much on grades they don’t recognise their daughter’s anorexia and anxiety attacks because of this unnecessary pressure to perform. Most parents say they just want their child to be happy, but also gets lots of qualifications and a high-earning job, the stress of which will put them into an early grave? I managed to halt the destructive path I was proceeding down when she explained to me that she had done her best and I later described it to Daddy in front of her as a ‘good’ mark, to which he said, ‘well that’s OK, it’s average’ gah! So I quickly added that no doubt Mummy and Daddy would have scored a 0 or a 1 if we had taken the same test at her age. Then I thought about the research that found those  who doubt their own maths abilities pass this down to their children. A fine case of how not to support the school life of an 8 year old. Next time I will apply duck tape to our mouths.

So tests are meant to give the teachers a steer on how the child is progressing and what additional support the child needs. I just wish teachers would give parents a steer  as to how we handle the news of the scores and whether we do nothing, praise regardless or encourage to try harder.

I agree with Francesca that kids and adults should just aim to be happy, so why as parents are we so f***in obsessed with perfection, when we are anything but.

I am blogging for Unicef.

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Moving on up

Time with the family is often fraught over the holidays because my husband and I are like our 2 Jack Russels. Some times we are quite happy to share a bed together, other times we want to rip each other’s throats out. We do actually growl at each other in frustration over disagreements.

We disagree a lot. Disagreements often begin as follows, hubby has a certain way of thinking about something. I have an alternative approach. Hubby doesn’t do alternative approaches, it is his way or the highway. If you try and suggest a different way he discounts it immediately without listening to what you have to say. In the majority of cases if it is not similar to his opinion then he is not interested. There are two ways of dealing with this mentality, accept or fight. On the whole I fight and eventually get my voice heard.

Unfortunately for my daughter, she is having to figure out how to work with her Dad when he will not listen to her opinion. Gone are the days when she w’s a toddler and all my husband had o donnas say ‘no’. Now she has her own voice, independent thinking and views that are often contrary to her Dad’s. So very often I am caught as the piggy in the middle, trying to encourage my hubby to listen p his daughter more and encourage my daughter to reason with her Dad better by recognising what he is asking her to do, showing that she respects him but at the same time voicing her opinion. My husband just starts shouting if he feels he isn’t being heard so this ‘UN peacekeeping’ process can be quote exhausting.

But I am hoping that my daughter is observing that behaviour like this is not to be perpetuated through submission. My Mum calls me confrontational but she is in a situation where my stepdad only has to say jump and she says ‘how high’.

Things need to move on.

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Funny families

According to my potty training manual, baby boy has now been virtually accident free now (pants wise) for over a week and his reward chart is now smothered in stickers to the point where we have run out. So, with great fanfare, I announced to my son and the rest of the family that baby boy was now officially ‘dry’ and had graduated from potty training school. So his potty training manual is now up on the shelf along with other milestones in development and his vaccinations schedule. I also made sure every significant detail of his progress was mentioned in his baby book, particularly the day when he pooped in sister’s room. It is important to have these details recorded so that he can go through the ritual of embarrassment during his teenage years. My parents did it to me in the form of cine footage that captured the moment when my dress caught on the top of a kennel I was crawling into so that I could play with (more like terrorise) the puppies. For some reason my Mum didn’t put knickers on me then. Quite a few people have seen the first Moonie of my life, husbands, boyfriends, step-siblings. So, like a family ritual, I am doing the same to my children.

I figure if you have the ability to laugh at yourself from an early age, life and social life in particular, is a whole lot easier.

The trouble with my Dad was he never stopped having moments in compromising situations, well into his forties. He was like a combo of Delboy, George Best and Frank Spencer. I have seen my Dad hang outside my car when I was little and watch him attempt to climb through the window when my mum drove off in a strop, I have heard how he left his car on a ferry only for it to leave without him so he could just squeeze in a ‘swift one’ at the local pub and how he helplessly dangled half-naked from the toilet window, with his head half in the toilet bowl after attempting to get in through the fan light when he forgot his key and waiting over 2 hours upside down with his trouser buckle caught on the window opening for my mum to come home and release him.

With that kind of upbringing normality is anything but normal.

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