Tag Archives: childhood

Counting to teen

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Yes that’s right. You read it correctly teen. You see with teenagers in the house there’s no counting to ten or you’ll go on the naughty step/not watch Ben and Holly/not go to the library/not go to the park bribery because it doesn’t work. Teenagers need a different set of rules or words of encouragement each day. At times it feels like nothing works.

My girls (not kids they might be stubborn but they’re not goats, although I am fond of goats) are 16, 14 and 10 (that’s ten not tween which is one of those terms I can’t use because it’s too sugary and reminds me of Tweenies and then I think back to when my teenagers were smaller and weren’t teenagers). I’ve had the “oh my god 3 girls”, the “bet you want a boy next” and the “weddings will be expensive in your house” helpful remarks which are up there with the others like “only one more child to go through the teenage years” but the most unhelpful comment ever is the “remember what you were like as a teenager?”. That’s not helpful one bit, because when I was a teenager I wasn’t a parent and it’s very different.

My girls are all very different and our parenting style (or lack of) is as individual as the child we’re cuddling, cajoling or chastising. As we try different things with them as babies so we try things with them as teenagers. Trial and error. At least a non sleeping baby wouldn’t stamp its feet, or a hungry baby wouldn’t slam doors when there’s nothing to eat (because they’ve eaten everything).

Parenting teenagers is a completely different chapter and nothing prepares you for it. Subtle changes happen in body, mind and attitude. Children are inbetween phases (for girls the next big change to their body is motherhood and then menopause – no bloody wonder they’re angsty!) and it’s hard for them to appreciate, not only that but their bodies are going through the most mental changes. It’s not like being ill and you’ll get better if you follow the prescribed route as there isn’t a prescribed route, there’s not even a suggested map.

I’ve said before I’m no expert and parenting teens will never be my chosen specialised subject but there’s a few ways to make it more bearable and they include drinking wine, grandparents, giving in or going out! Only joking. Am I??

I use my police training and the PAT (problem analysis triangle) to explain how a problem could be sorted and that it is much like a triangle, there’s three sides to a triangle and if one side is removed there’s no triangle and therefore no problem. For example (Side No 1) Teenager {annoyed} (Side No 2) there’s no clean mugs (Side No 3) they’re all in the dishwasher. By emptying the dishwasher the triangle collapses, the mug cupboard is full and the teenager is happy. Until someone else uses the mug they wanted to use and then that’s a different set of negotiation tricks as the parents are caught in the crossfire and can only be settled by a Nobel Peace Prize, I’m surely due a few!!

But taking all frivolity and high jinkery aside I’ve found coping strategies when dealing with teenagers …..

Listen when they tell you something earth shattering however dull or repetitive. Keep the lines of communication open. It makes me smile to be asked “what have you done today” when the house is tidy, the cupboards are full and I’ve been cooking, but it’s conversation.

Be honest with them about addiction. Not only did I tell my girls about how addictions ruin lives I also took them to see the performance of Mum can you lend me twenty quid based on Elizabeth Burton-Phillip’s book.

Don’t take sides in their arguments with their friends, by all means listen to tales of friendship disagreements but don’t wade in as you’ll only make it worse.

By all means mother them but they’re not babies so don’t smother them. They’ve had their baby phase and the teenage years are a different bag of frogs.

Remind them how to use the washing machine, they’ll thank you for it. I’ve stopped using the washing machine after 6pm on a Sunday as a whole weekend has gone by and washing, tumbling and ironing isn’t my treat at 9pm.

Make sure the cupboards are full. Not just food but toiletries.

Don’t try and be their friend, you’re not. No honestly you’re not. You’re their parent and by putting yourself on a par with them the parent/child balance is skewed.

Surround yourself with good friends – you’ll know who they are when they know what to say with just a nod as they push the glass of wine and then the bottle your way.

But above all breathe, it’s testing but they’ll be parents one day and you’ll be grandparents! Karma.

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We will remember

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As children born in the late (very late) 60s our exposure to WWI and WWII was from the memories bestowed upon us by the generations before who had been there.

Like countless families, lives and loves were lost.

Life after WWII for my parents’ generation was a time of change but also a time of stiff upper lip, carry on, as you were! I remember saying to my mother that we only heard about the war meanwhile they lived through it and when the menfolk came home they had seen first hand conflict and suffering, whereas in our carefree childhood our grandparents’ generation and how they were was the only way we knew them.

Our paternal grandmother had lived in India (or Indya or Injar) and used to regale us with stories that always started with “When I was in India / Indya / Injar ……”, we would roll our eyes and desperately try to change the subject realising it was futile, besides we probably bored her with our childhood frolics that were so far removed from her own childhood, but we tolerated these tales and I’m glad we did. We’ve been able to repeat these stories and share photos with our children and in turn I hope that they share these with future generations.

Our paternal grandfather died before we were born but Granny kept everything and by everything I really mean it! I still have his metal hat box and trunk (with the tag that says “not needed on passage”) that I use to this day. We used to mess around with gas masks and dress up in uniform, play with lead soldiers and watch war films to give us ideas for our next assault under a fence or throwing grenades (fir cones) over the Ha-Ha. We also had a tree that was called The Plane, I was never allowed to fly it with passengers and cargo, probably too much of a liability but I did fly solo when the boys weren’t around!

Our maternal grandfather, who was in the same regiment as my paternal grandfather and great uncles, never came back as he was missing presumed dead in Burma aged 24. I can’t imagine Granny reading such devastating news in a telegram. No age at all 24.

Granny remarried and Grandpa used to say a lot of things were “because of the war”. At breakfast he would put enough butter and jam on a mouthful sized piece of toast, eat it, then repeat the process until toast, butter and jam were gone. When asked why, he replied that if he had smothered his toast with butter and jam and had then been ‘taken out’ it would be a waste of food if the next person didn’t like butter or jam. Sounds sensible and we accepted it because it was from his “during the war” catalogue of stories! He also used to have hard boiled eggs that were lovingly referred to as bullets and still my preferred choice. He said that if there were hard boiled eggs then they’d never get ruined or go to waste. So true.

Big Welsh’s maternal grandfather had been in Africa and Sunday lunches were always hilarious when either his late sister, the hilarious Aunty Helen, or myself just happened to mention Africa. Off he’d go, starting with “during my days in Africa”, if my ma in law’s looks could kill then we’d only have ever had one Sunday lunch but it became something of a joke and in remembering his days in Africa it kept his mind active!

These are the stories and memories that I hold dear and as we watched the coverage yesterday I remembered with love and pride those who came back with stories to tell and those who never made it back to tell us of how it was.

We will remember them.

Being 9

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As I watched my youngest throwing herself into the sea recently, wearing swimming bottoms, haphazard bunches and a heart melting smile I marvelled at how carefree and happy her world is. Much like the sea the world for her isn’t entirely daunting. Not yet out of her depth, a reassuring glance at her family, the ability to run to fun, the endless energy and the beaming smile.

Being 9 is an age of inbetween, neither a small child nor a teenager, not yet old enough to walk to school but knowing the route, able to do much more than we give her credit for but we can’t seem to let it happen. Being 9 means going into the upper school in September before turning 10.

We spend a lifetime making memories and that carefree day on the beach watching Laree just being 9 will stick with me forever.

Dear Daddy

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I find myself looking at men of your age and wondering what you’d be like in your late 70s, amusingly I also think of you when I look at a squished tube of toothpaste!

To be honest I’ve wondered what you’d look like in your 40s, 50s and 60s. It’s not the older man thing though it’s because I’ve not seen you for 35 years. Today it’s 35 years since I said “bye bye Daddy” and was driven to Bath where I didn’t sleep all night. When I heard the phone ring early on the morning of 19 February 1979 I knew, without being told, that you had died.

In those 35 years I’ve grown up, become an adult, married, had 3 girls (who all have your skin or eye colouring, or both) and now I am older than you ever were.

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My memories of you are treasured and although there’s not that many in such a short space of time there are so many things that remind me of you and they make me think! I only knew you for 9 years but I’m so much your girl!

The other day I watched as Laree squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle and I yearned for the little metal thing you attached to the toothpaste. She’s the age I was when you died and I wish that she and your 4 other grandchildren had known you and your high standards of toothpaste etiquette.

But above all I wish that they had known you for your beautiful smile, your fabulous sense of humour, your amazing organisational skills and your pipe smelling bearded hugs – and maybe, just maybe, my girls wouldn’t squeeze the toothpaste in the middle of the tube.

Thank you for the memories and the happy times.

Lots of love Nellie Noo Noo xx

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