28 September 2009

Hands off Parenting?...Or not? And a little bit of EMA

I'm having a little dilemma at the moment.

When DO you let your Teenagers take responsibility for themselves? To leave them to make decisions and choices on their own?

TD has been at college for 3 weeks now. Her timetable is varied, time wise. For 3 days she starts at 8.40am, which means she leaves the house at about 8am, and 2 of these finish at about 1pm. The other 2 she has 11.10 starts, and these finish a little later, 3.15pm.

Almost every single day so far, she's not come back home until 9-10pm. I do get phone calls or texts, telling me she's going to a friends/meeting up with friends in town etc..

OK I thought, she's 16, I realise a strong social network IS important at this age, my addled brain does allow me to remember that much!

Also, it's good she's letting me know where she is. I ask if she wants a meal here or is she eating with friends & when will she be home? Just standard questions. Nothing interfering in those. So far almost all her meals have been eaten at about 11pm in the kitchen, whilst still 'texting' the friends she has just spent 7-8 hours with!

There's been little evidence of any coursework being done, and 2 of her courses are 'very heavy' on the coursework* front. I'm sure they must have given her some by now?? Although of course, when would she have time to do any coursework, what with all the socialising??

TD also complains at the moment about how unfair it is that a lot of her friends get EMA and she doesn't, so she has 'no' money. Erm...apart from all that money we hand out on a very regular basis.

If you're not aware of what EMA is, it's a Government initiative to get school leavers to attend Further Education in the form of a bribe to keep unemployment figures down. I'm sorry if I offend anyone by saying that, it's just my personal view. I know that's not what it's supposed to be about, its about helping families with lower incomes continue with Further Education, when possibly they would not have done so, due to financial constraints. But it seems to have changed into the very reason a lot of Teenagers actually go to college.
Basically, if a household income is under £30,000 a year, the student gets up to £30 a week (means tested) to attend college, and is based on attendance. The student has to have (not sure of the exact number) 90% attendance to claim it. This is tough for families getting just over the £30,000, as the student doesn't qualify for EMA, but they still have all the expense of College life.

So, as you can imagine, my suggestion of a part-time job for TD did not go down too well. Why should she go and get a job when lots of her friends get £30 a week for going to college, when she goes for nothing! Don't you just love the logic in that.....this is the opinion of one teenager, but I think it's the feeling of many who don't receive EMA. Gee.... thanks Government, for the encouraging 'Work Ethic' message you're promoting.

On the part-time job front, TD says her 'College recommends not getting a job in the 1st year'....presumably this is to do with the amount of coursework given..Hmm (*see above).
Or, of course, stupid me, it's to allow their students to fit in 8hrs of socialising a day!

Sorry, I've digressed a little.

Back to the dilemma.

I'd hoped that over the years, I'd given TD some guidance, enough to help her make informed choices for herself. And I do understand there is a transition stage, for us mere parents, of 'letting go' and allowing Teenagers to make their own mistakes. But how far should we let them go before saying something? Because at the moment, if I say anything I get accused of 'not giving her any responsibility'.

When your children are small, you wouldn't dream of letting them walk out in front of a car. You teach them about road safety, and watch them to make sure they've learnt. And you jump in bloody quick if they haven't. Eventually they learn, I know.

So for now I'm trying a little hands off parenting.

Trying not to put my twopence worth in. I did the 'its about balance, a bit of socializing, a bit of college work, maybe a part time job...balance' talk....that went down as well as you might expect!.....I seem to remember the words 'always telling me what to do and how to do it' were in there somewhere...

TD is not walking out in front of cars, not literally anyway, she's not a toddler. So I am trying to stand back, hands off, well to be honest, it's more like holding them clamped over my mouth, while she makes her own mistakes, and hopefully learns from them. But it is very hard.

This is definitely one of those times when you question your parenting skills.
Am I doing this right?...Wrong?

Who knows? Only time will tell...

18 September 2009

Woo-hoo! I got sent my 1st award...

I'M SO HAPPY, WOO-HOOOOO!!! Thank you, thank you....OK...Sorry, I'll calm down now, but I am surprisingly chuffed by this!! So love & huge thanks to the lovely Maternal Tales from the South for sending me my first ever award. I will place it proudly on my blog, where I can sit & stare lovingly at it...it really is quite a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Now I think I have to send it on to blogs I love too...YAY...this is fun...

As a source of many a giggle at my computer, for her insightful and amusingly written observations of Teenage Daughters, I'd like to pass it on to amomonspin

Also to selinakingstonisforty for her incredibly honest, from the heart sharing.

Next I'm sending it to menopausaloldbag for her beautiful writing, which always captures the imagination and makes me wish I could write this well!

To maialarasaid for her ability to remind me that my Teenagers were once this sweet & adorable.

And finally to 3bedroombungalow for her amusing, down to earth stories of life in the UK with her family...

To all the above, many thanks for making me laugh & cry, often at the same time, and please pass it on to your faves too....

15 September 2009

Everyone has a junk drawer in the kitchen..What's in yours?

My ex-hubby posted an interesting 'status' on Facebook this morning.

'Everyone of us has a junk drawer in the kitchen. I have a hot water bottle and 3 amp fuse. What do you have in yours?'

The 'hot water bottle' made me laugh, but then, well, where do you keep a hot water bottle?

So I thought it might be time to take a peek in mine. Let the listing begin....

Erm...er...I do have a small confession to make.....

I don't actually have a junk drawer.

Now, don't you think that makes me sound like the most amazingly tidy, organised, uncluttered owner of a kitchen ever???

Oh no, no, if only it were that simple. I don't have a 'Junk' drawer in my kitchen...

...because I have a full height, floor to ceiling, double doored 'junk'
CUPBOARD in my kitchen.

Admittedly, it does contain some little wooden drawers (maybe that counts), sitting on one shelf holding;
Pens, pencils, staples. fuses, batteries, birthday candles. All the tiny bits & bobs that would roll away forever if put on shelves.

The remaining cupboard space is filled with;
Printer paper
Spare birthday cards
Light bulbs
Old candles
Bags of hamster bedding & hamster ball (Yes, we do have a hamster, before you ask)
Takeaway menus
3 out of date passports
3 old instruction manuals for things I don't think I own anymore
Bottles of brush cleaner (how many???)
9 (yes, 9) old paint brushes, in a container, still covered in rock hard paint (I obviously haven't figured out I need to use the above item)
5 (!) all but empty school geometry sets
3 nearly empty tubes of wrapping paper
A box full of odd IKEA fittings
1 tube of multi-vitamins
1 small tube of extra volume hair conditioner! Huh?..no one in this house needs bigger hair
A dust buster
A blow torch
1 hot water bottle..Ha-ha, that's where it is!

There is much, much more....But I feel the need to go and have a little lie down now.

So, the question is 'What's in your junk drawer?'

13 September 2009

Truly, Madly, Deeply Grateful....

My 21 year old Boy-Man Gorgeous Son, works full time in retail, at a certain High St fashion store that only seems to sell clothing for skinny size 8, 6ft giants, so obviously I don't shop there! He works hard, with 7am starts and he loves it. It's the ideal job for him really, as one of his passions is clothes. His present obsession is with cardigans....8 or 9 and and counting! And he takes every opportunity to grab bargains and uses his 'Uniform' days to get big discounts on the latest 'New in Stock' items. Possibly living his 'dream....' so to speak....

And when he wants, he can play hard too. Along with his large circle of lovely friends, some working full time the same as he, others part-time, juggling with Uni or college courses, as he also did from the age of 16. Burning the candle at both ends as we all did at the same age. You remember...oh, come on you do!...Not going out till 11pm and coming in at 6-7am still slightly drunk, it can't have just been me...Ah-ha, no, I didn't think so!

As is the norm, he has most of the 'must have' gadgets/techno material items, laptop, ipod, flat screen TV, x-box etc....Some of which have been bought for him by us, as birthday or Christmas presents, I'm not a believer in buying items willy nilly as and when they ask/demand just because all their friends have them. So they have all had to wait for, and on some occasions have even had to add any Birthday/Christmas money (mean mummy that I am!) to ensure receipt of said items. Others he has bought himself, with his hard earned pennies, just like everyone else.

When he first started full time employment, it was he who first brought up the subject of paying rent (mind you, only just before we did), asking 'How much do you want me to pay?' and after discussions, we thought 25% seemed a reasonable, realistic amount. Enough for him to be aware of his responsibilities in paying his own way, as is the way of the world. But not so much that he would decide he would rather live elsewhere for that sort of money (Erm...yes, of course I do want my kids to fly the nest, just not yet please). For that rent, he gets his laundry done, meals cooked, and most of the time sandwiches, stuck in the fridge the night before (I know, some habits die hard, sad but true!!) to take to work with him. But he does also try to do his little bit. He keeps his room tidy himself, I don't even go in there, he hoovers, changes his bed linen, brings his dirty laundry/cups/glasses down to be shoved into the washing machine/dishwasher.

So, to put it plainly, he's just your normal (!) run of the mill 21 year old still living at home.

Now, I'd guess, after everything I've just said, you're expecting me to go on some kind of rant about how ungrateful he is or some such, but you would be wrong....SO VERY, VERY wrong...

At 2am, early for him, on Sunday morning, Gorgeous Son walked into the living room, where I was lounging on the sofa, catching up on my 'Recorded' TV, carrying with him a takeaway bag of food & a can of fizzy drink. He sat on the chair opposite me and mumbled...

'...I feel like (mumble..mumble) '

'Pardon?' I replied, thinking, do I need to go and get a bucket?...'feel like throwing up' ?? I thought, maybe?? But he didn't look or sound particularly drunk.

'Feel like what?' I asked....only partly listening to him...

'I said, I feel like crying'

'What? Crying, why???' Now listening fully, frantically doing a quick visual check for any obvious injuries/black eyes or something...

At which point I patted the sofa next to me...'Come here....Why do you feel like crying?'

He moved from chair to sofa, and curled up, with his head on my shoulder, crying....real, full on shoulder heaving sobs.

Sob....'I've just watched a bunch of people, about my age,..sob...throwing chips & verbal abuse at some homeless guy, and...sob...I can't believe anyone could behave that way, it was just disgusting!' 'Why would they do that?? I don't understand how...how.. ANYONE can treat another human being that way'...sob... 'What is wrong with them??'...

'What! Oh sweetheart.. I don't know?' 'What happened, what did you do?!'

I stroked his hair, hugging him close, trying to comfort him.

'Hic...Well, I was just getting some food, and couldn't..sob.. really see what was going on, but there was some sort of....commotion going on outside, lots of noise, you know whoops & hollas and so on...by the time I'd paid for my food and gone outside...sob.... I only caught the last of it, there was this poor homeless guy, huddled on the floor, covered in chips, with a crowd, 'my age' running away, still flinging chips & abuse at him'..SOB

'Oh honey...what did you do?....by this point I was trying my hardest not to cry along with him. If I cried now we would both be blubbering wrecks, absolutely no help at all....

'Well..sob... I helped him up and asked if he was OK..and then I asked him if he wanted something to eat, and he said 'Yes please'..sob...'he said please!'...'He was so polite, Yes please,'... 'then I took him back into the takeaway & bought him a sandwich & a drink...HOW could they behave that way? they were like animals!!!...it was all I could do, it wasn't enough, he was SO grateful....but there wasn't anything else I could do, I felt SO, so awful for him, just a sandwich..hic...& a fricking drink!'...'I felt awful'

By now of course, I was silently crying with him, my hugs & hair stroking had gone up in proportion to his distress.

He'd bought a homeless guy a sandwich & a 'fricking' drink, yet felt guilt that it wasn't enough to make up for the disgraceful treatment he'd received.
He felt shame that people his 'own' age, didn't have the compassion or decency to treat another human as they themselves would wish to be treated.

...And I felt a wave of emotions fill my heart. Anger at some peoples lack of respect for others less fortunate than themselves, I wonder where are they learning these morals & values?!! Shock, that people, even if not wishing to help those same people, would actively ridicule & belittle them.

Yes, I do realise, some of this behaviour could be put down to 'youthful drunken' hi-jinks , but I don't remember behaving that way at that age, sober or drunk...nor do I believe Gorgeous Son or any of his friends would either....

I also felt sadness for the unfortunate, but, inevitable, erosion of my Gorgeous Sons belief & trust in human nature. Its one thing to read & see it all in the media, and to be aware of all the crappy stuff that goes on in the world (His Home page is BBC NEWS...he's a bit of an info junkie) and homelessness is an ongoing problem in Brighton, so he is more than used to seeing people sleeping in doorways, wrapped in newspaper & old blankets for warmth. But it's quite another to be confronted, face-to-face, with this type of callous, unthinking behaviour.

But, and I will admit (am I allowed to admit to this..??!?) another feeling was one of pride. ...I felt a HUGE amount of pride in the fact that my 6'2, Boy-Man Gorgeous Son (baby in my heart...as they always are) has grown up to be a most wonderful human being, and that I had some small part in it. I am proud of the fact that he felt that it was his responsibility, as one human to another to take part and at least do something to ease someone else's suffering..however small he felt his contribution was.

I told him, that I thought, although he felt 'it wasn't enough', that possibly his one small act of kindness may have gone a little way to restoring the 'homeless guys' faith in human kindness.
As no one person can 'do it all', we can only do what we can, when we can.

So, for all his funny 'obsession' with cardigans (He-he!). His enjoyment of his 'must-have' items, and quite rightly so, some of them he 'earned' himself with his hard worked for cash, this MAN (sob!) has a BIG heart. With a depth of compassion & kindness, which I always knew anyway, that he is not afraid to show, honestly, openly & painfully.

*This was his 'Status' on Facebook, 10 minutes after he left me....an emotional wreck on the sofa!

'Saw how Inhumane people can be tonight. Some people are awful.'

He is grateful for all he has......and for that I am truly, madly, deeply grateful...

7 September 2009

Back to School...But check the messages!

For anyone with children between 4 and 16, you are already aware that school is now back...Hurrah!..Woo-hoo!
Not for me though, no more 'school', instead college. TD is starting college on Thursday.

So, with no more schools to deal with, I thought I'd share an email that OH sent me, for which I take NO credit, and have no idea where it originated. This is particularly apt for anyone with Teenagers...well, it made me smile anyway! And if you haven't done any of this yet...believe me, you probably will!


'Hello...you have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting to the right staff member, please listen to all the options before making your selection.

To lie about why your child is absent, press 1

To make excuses for why your child did not do his/her homework, press 2

To complain about what we do, press 3

To swear at staff members, press 4

To ask why you didn't get information, that has already been enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers that have been mailed to you, press 5

To request another teacher, for the 3rd time this year, press 6

To complain about bus transportation, press 7

To complain about school lunches, press 8

If you want us to raise your child, press 9

If you realise that this is the real world, and your child must be accountable and responsible for his or her own behaviour, classwork and homework and it's not the teachers fault for your child's lack of effort, hang up and have a nice day.

Thank you for your interest in Public Education'

Ooops....erm...I must admit I have actually done a couple of those. But TDs school message definitely never had the option to press 9, for those occasions that made me want to pull my hair out with frustration! You know, maybe at 10.30pm, on a school night, with a moody, un-cooperative Teenager..GOD how I wish I'd known about that one!

Now, I must just go & check TDs new college answer phone message.......

3 September 2009

16th Birthday... plus EXAM results!

Thank god the waiting for GCSE results is over!

TD got her results on her 16th birthday. A birthday lunch for TD and a friend was planned, to which I was invited (Erm... of course...I was paying!!) at a lovely little cafe in Brighton known for its 'Grunge' appeal & the music played, but with a wonderful selection of food. Followed by a 'smallish' gathering of her friends at home in the evening. I was a little concerned in the run up, that it was either going to be a wonderful day, full of celebration, fun & good cheer, as any birthday should be, or a day spent consoling upset/angry Teenagers about grades just missed/not achieved

A feeling not helped by the fact that TD had originally stated at the end of her exams, that they had 'gone quite well', which as summer wore on, changed to 'Well, I think Music/Media/Drama went OK, but think I screwed up Science/Maths...' and by the day before the results, had morphed into 'I think I failed all of them!'. So I was a little confused about what to expect. But I did know that I was determined not to let any 'results' spoil her birthday.

So with TDs presents/card opening in the morning all done, we set off to TDs school to get her results. Picking up a friend on the way, who was also nervously saying 'I think I did OK at...but...Oh GOD!!'.... so on. I did my best to chat merrily(!) away, to try and keep their nerves at bay (or maybe mine..?!).

I parked up, and off they trooped. And it struck me, sitting in the car park, watching TD walking in, to get her 'achievements' of 11 years worth of schooling, that this was the END as I know it! My last child to leave compulsory education! I did have a 'flashback' moment, to her first day of school, a definite 'gooey mummy'' moment. A tiny, only just 4 year old, clutching my hand & skipping beside me. In her little school uniform, new school shoes, her hair in bunches with blue ribbons and a gap toothed grin, and a new, 'big' school adventure in front of her. Such a huge difference. And thought 'I really don't mind what grades you get'

Then, there they were, standing on the steps with their little brown envelopes and slips of paper. I was trying to read TDs face, to gauge her reaction, but with so many teenagers milling about, I couldn't see her properly. With that, my brand new (1 day old) phone warbled at me, so I'm sitting in the car trying to watch TD, also trying to figure out how the hell to open/read the text that someone has sent me at such a crucial moment. Realising I'm never going to be able to read the text
(I really must change the font size, its far too small, nothing to do with my eyesight! ha) , I finally figure out its from TD! I phone her. 'I got 4 Cs, 5 Ds and an unfortunate G'. I'm still sitting in the car, she's still standing on the steps, we're talking on the phone!

So off to lunch. All happy, me mainly relieved for TD, no unhappy moments on a 16th Birthday. TDs friend calculating how much money she'd made by getting her grades (alot I might add...in the £500s(!?)). We had a lovely, giggly lunch, then home to get ready for a houseful of Teenagers.

TD had a great evening, all her friends were, and I'm not sure you will believe this, extremely well behaved, even with the small amount of alcohol we allowed them. Lots of dancing around the kitchen, VERY loud music(!), and loads of silly photos taken.

So, all in all a very good day...oh and by the way, TD got her 'septum' pierced on the same day...there's nothing quite like seeing your 'baby' girl, with what looks like a staple stuck through her nose to put any concerns of 'Exam Results' in their proper place!!!