Lend Me Your Ear

Today was the first day back at school. Exciting times! DD started Year 5. Year 5, people! Never mind that she’s still wearing AGE 5 clothing. Yes, the skirts are precariously short but the waist is just right 😀

We had an interesting chat on the way to school. DD has been aggressively campaigning to get her ears pierced. Husband and I have been dragging our heels. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know why! Because we’re party poopers?

baubles

With her favourite clip-on baubles

We decided when she was a baby that we weren’t going to pierce her ears without her consent, and now that she’s asking for it, we’re baulking. I don’t know if it’s just the implication that she’s growing up, or that part of me thinks it’s mutilating her (yes, I know I’m a hypocrite with my multiple ear piercings and tattoos, but hush!).

I thought stopping by the store where they do piercings and chatting with the piercer (is that a word?) would maybe put the fear into her, but no. I thought magnifying the pain and likening it to her recent earache would throw her off, but no. Baby Girl is hell bent on getting holes in her head!

I aired my concerns at the office today, expecting some support. What I got were horror stories of ears being pierced with needles, safety pins…and even a paper clip! They couldn’t understand why I was reluctant to take her to a licensed professional in a hygienic environment. When I type it out, I’m questioning me, too.

Despite our dithering, DD has saved up her pennies & pounds and she’s prepping her case to present to her father. I wish her luck as he is a terrifying interrogator on a good day. 

But her most compelling rebuttal so far has been:

“If you say I’m in control of my body, and I get to decide, then why are you making me justify this choice?”

Aaaaaargh. I have no come back. None! Have you? Am I just making a mountain out of a rite-of-passage molehill?

Just as Long as we’re Together

Most of you know that my Breton Bestie has been re-patriated to France last week. There was a tearful farewell on four sides (BB’s daughter is DD’s bestie). But the first moment that it really sunk in was when I had to put down an emergency contact a few days later for DD, and automatically put down Breton Bestie’s name. Which I then had to cross out. Boy, that hurt. I actually had to take a moment to compose myself.

In the five days she’s been gone, we’ve had a Skype chat and I’ve drooled over her beautiful Parisian Haussmann apartment. We’ve used messaging apps. But it’s finally sinking in that she’s gone. She’s really gone.

We both know what it’s like to be expats, to raise expats, and the extra effort that goes into maintaining ties and bonds. We’re both working mothers, corporate wives, raising hormonal tweens… but you know what, I think we’re going to do it. For two years, she has been my reality check, my irreverent partner in crime and my sounding board. She was my first blog follower, my champion and the slap upside my head when I needed it. That, my friends, is gold dust.

#bestie #best #friend

So today, I am grateful for social media, and messaging apps, and Skype, and everything else that is going to keep me connected to BB. I’m so grateful I have a BB.

Who’s your BB? Send them a text. Or an email. Or an inappropriate meme. Something to make them remember that they’re loved and important.

Ageing Gracelessly

DD: “Hey, Ma, what are you going to do when I’m grown up and leave the house?”

Me: “What, like when you’re 35?”

DD: “No, silly, when I go to university! What will you do without me?”

Me: “Well, I’ll probably curl up in a ball and cry, and then I’ll figure something out. Why the worry?” (heart glowing at her concern)

DD: “Well, there was this ad on TV, and lots of old people are lonely and can go a month without talking to anyone, and I don’t want that happening to you.”

Me: “That was an ad aimed at OLD people, like seriously OLD people! I won’t even be fifty when you leave home! I’ll be young enough to take up a new hobby, start a new business, conquer the world!”

DD: “With your dodgy joints? I don’t think so. I think you crying in a ball is the more likely option, Ma.”

Me: “Yeah, you’re probably right.” (I’ll leave out the part where I plan on dancing naked, strewing beautiful wild-flower seeds all over my neighbour’s perfectly manicured lawn. Old age gives you immunity or something, right?)

old age

Raising Tweens

I had a chance to observe some interesting parenting behaviours in action the other day. We live close to the largest shopping centre in Europe, so there are many, many people-watching opportunities if you’re so inclined.

I walked past a dad eating lunch, having a full-on, animated conversation with someone in a pram. When I got close enough to check, the baby girl in question was no more than 6 months old, arms and feet waving in delight as she babbled back to her besotted father. It zoomed me straight back to the ‘conversations’ Husband used to have with DD. I hope that father continues talking to his daughter as she gets older, building her confidence and resilience.

GAP was having its summer sale, so I wandered in there, partly lured by the denim, and partly by the music. It was very catchy and I found myself singing along as I browsed the racks for some new jeans. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall, dread-locked man doing the same as me, but definitely louder and with more movement! As he swung around, braids flying, I saw a little curly-haired princess in his arms, squealing with laughter, grabbing his neck, delighted to be ‘dancing’ with her daddy. I swear, my ovaries skipped a beat. I made my purchases and headed to H&M with a bounce in my step.

This is where all my happy bubbles were burst. I was looking through some athletic gear for DD when I overheard a young girl, about the same age as DD, on the other side of the rack, talking to her mother:

Girl: Oh, look, mum, this would work well.

Mum: Don’t be stupid, don’t look at the age. You need to look at the size. LOOK AT YOUR SIZE. Just look at it.

(At this stage, I’m shocked mute and wincing at the venom in the mother’s voice)

Girl: Mum, it’s cut bigger, I think I could fit into this.

Mum: I highly doubt it, I don’t know why you think you can. Have you looked at your size?

(I got bolder a took a peek over the rack. The girl in question had beautiful caramel skin, glossy hair, and a LITTLE bit of puppy fat…the bane of most pre-pubescent girls. Not that anything should warrant the mother speaking to her like that. EVER.)

Girl: Well, I’m going to take a chance and try it on.

Mum: Don’t come crying to me when you look ridiculous.

At this stage, I wanted to cry. I wanted to attack the mother. I wanted to cuddle the girl. Clearly, she had a backbone and tried on the clothes, but how much longer can she bear this verbal abuse without it having some awful effect on her?

#tween #girls #teenager #growingupDD and I are carefully negotiating the tween years together, which includes me reminding her of boundaries when she snaps at me and rolls her eyes (like she’s just done!). But my refrain has and will always be, “I’m on your side. I’m always on your side.” Which means that I may want to have strong words with you when I get home, but I will use all my superpowers to ensure there will NEVER be a public humiliation. She knows that both her parents will back her up. She will never face from us what that poor girl faced from her mother. Almost a day later, I’m still cringing as I type this.

Am I over-reacting? Do parents have a divine right to speak to their children like that? Are parents not responsible for a dependant child’s diet, and therefore, the child’s size? Does that mother not think her words are going to leave long-term scars?

I’d like to point out I have a daughter, so all my experience relates to raising females, but I think this is relevant for any child. 

Caffeine-Free Coffee Share #5

Happy Fourth of July, peeps across the pond!

I’ve just spent the day on set (with no pie!) chaperoning my daughter as she was filmed and photographed from 70,000 different angles. She took instructions in English, Spanish and Italian. She didn’t whine once that she was in autumn gear for 7 hours in the sweltering heat. She sucked it up, chugged water, and didn’t falter. Even when the sweat was singeing her eyeballs. She chose this path; we’ve just supported her as best we can. She’s taken rejections on the chin, asked for feedback, and she brings her game face to every audition, casting and shoot. Her work ethic today humbled me. She didn’t get to eat until 2pm, and she didn’t moan (I complained enough for the both of us!). Her face lit up when one of the crew got her an ice-cream cone, and her thanks were profuse. I sincerely hope she carries this attitude with her forever. No matter what she does, no matter what her position in life. Because today, I really felt it in my bones – we’ve done a good job. She’s solid. She knows what ‘work’ means. She doesn’t expect things to be easy because she’s pretty or talented. I’ve had/still have reservations about letting her get involved with the industry because I don’t want her internalising crazy messages or having a weird world view. I wonder if the mother of the Sousse shooter wonders where she went wrong?

I can’t get away from the shootings. Not more than two football pitches from my house, the bodies of the British slain are being autopsied day and night, to be returned to their grieving families as soon as possible. There is round-the-clock security and flowers all along the pavement, including the wreaths from the caskets when they were repatriated to the UK. We passed there in the car home this evening, and in my head, I just picture the families waiting. Waiting to say goodbye properly. Wondering how a holiday could have gone so wrong? Wondering why they drew the short straw? I highly doubt the autopsy report can bring any comfort to families who had loved ones gunned down on a beach, on a sunny day.

As a city, London is creeping up to the tenth anniversary of 7/7. I was on the Tube in front of the bombed King’s Cross train. I was evacuated and survived. My friend didn’t. I remember her twin sister’s nightmare journey to find and identify her remains. The total chaos, grief and shock. Returning to work on public transport was a show of defiance. The Sousse shooting and the impending 7/7 anniversary reminds me again that there are people who would harm me and mine, not for anything I believe or do, but for what THEY believe. It’s a sad reality that someone could not know me, yet hate me, and my daughter, and the life we live, enough to kill themselves and others to make a point. What point? What is the point? What did my friend die for? What did the holiday-makers in Sousse die for?

Heavy thoughts, indeed, for a sunny weekend. My apologies. Eat some pie, cuddle your loved ones. Watch some fireworks. Tell people you love them. And let’s think about how we can make this world a slightly better place.

My daughter’s father

Image032I wrote this post about fathers during the A-Z challenge in April. I’ve been lucky to have a great dad, someone who set the bar very high, so anyone that chose to be with me forever was going to have to be pretty amazing, too. When I met my handsome fella, I knew two things in my bones: I was never going to break up with him, and he was going to be a fantastic father.

Skiing

“I’ve only got eyes for you!”

He spent the entire afternoon today, helping our daughter craft her comic book characters, then load them into Inkscape, and then help her load them onto her blog. All because this was important to her. She is important to him, and she knows it.

IMG_20140531_175644_editI once asked him if he was sad not to have a son to do things with, and he looked at me, totally perplexed: “What on earth could I do with a son that I can’t do with a daughter?” 

They have mini-adventures, often gone for hours at a time, usually returning covered in dust & dirt. They hang out in museums, sketching. They rough & tumble at the park. They love each other endlessly, with all the happiness & conflict that entails. 

They drive each other crazy, with heated cries of “He started it” and “She started it”….

but honestly, I wonder if my two loves realise how similar they really are?!

IMG_20150530_174537

On Purpose

The end of Joey’s post stated: Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to share the purpose of your own life and what you’ll take home with you when you leave. ALL OF YOU ARE NOMINATED.

I accept the mission.

I’m starting a job tomorrow which everyone seems to think is ‘made for me’, but which is a total tectonic shift from my very corporate life of the last, well, for ever. Sure, I’ve worked in a few industries, most consistently finance, but this role feels like a step off a cliff. And there may or may not be a safety harness tethered to my ankle. That’s not strictly true, of course. I’m married to my bestie, and as much as he drives me crazy, he’s got my back. My daughter, my beautiful daughter, she’s got my back.

We’ve had a girly week together, because the husband is away on work. My entire universe has been brought down to her level. My life took on a new rhythm. Sleeping earlier, waking rested, giggling, laughing, going tech-free, talking about books, taking mad selfies, making root beer floats, dancing out to Stromae… and it made me wonder why we don’t do this more? I’ve been relaxed, and happy, and my husband has noticed this growing trend over the last few weeks. I’m coming to terms with the restrictions coeliac disease imposes on me, and trying to have some fun with it. So maybe I’m excavating my mission slowly. My aim for the next six months is to contribute and support this family without sacrificing my sanity (or morals).

No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities.

Long term, I’d like to be whole. Being healthy, or having some hold on it, makes me happy. Living a smaller life in terms of my footprint. Living a larger life in terms of moments and memories. Being able to help people when I can.

If you’re reading this, what’s your purpose, your mission? Will you share it?

Adjusting Focus

If you’ve been following the blog recently, you’ll be aware that I got the job! Most regular humans take to celebration when they get a job that they would LOVE to have and really, honestly, are not qualified to do. I, however, go completely, madly, utterly panic-stricken. I may be smiling and nodding at you, but inside, I’m performing my OMG-hand-flapping-90-miles-an-hour-how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-manage-what-was-I-thinking dance. Even moreso because my husband, a recognised ninja at weeding out all dodgy / skanky / untrustworthy folk, is on the OTHER SIDE of the Atlantic, and I have to interview people to care for our child after school, alone!

Thankfully, our daughter also has the ability to keep me grounded and focused on the things that truly matter. She is delighted I got the job. “Mum, it’s one of your favourite magazines, and you get to work there!” I am truly glad that she thinks this is cool, and something to aspire to, rather than the insane directorship and corner office which kept me prisoner 18 hours a day.

Yesterday was another seminal moment on my path to adjusting my sails: instead of continuing the panicked dance, because hey, I’m GREAT at it, I stepped outside my ‘comfort’ zone and zoned out. We had a picnic in our patio garden. We made a tent, and read our books in the shade when the sun got too hot. We chatted. We watched the clouds drift by. We made root beer floats. We watched TV. We read our books and went to sleep in my big white bed. I threw my concerns to the bright blue sky, and let them get burned away.

I woke up refreshed today. Genuinely refreshed, and ready to face the week. I’m still mildly stressed about the nanny interviews this afternoon, but I’m going to take a leaf out of my daughter’s book and blithely expect the best. 

Stay tuned for more adventures…

Precious mornings

cuddlesI’m taking the chance in the quiet of this morning to admire my newest wrinkles, when a freshly-woken, rumpled little person tugs my hand and pulls me back to my bedroom. Wordlessly, she motions I should return to bed. I am quickly joined by her warmth, which curves itself into my body, nuzzling her way under my chin. I am chronically aware that these moments with her, just breathing, although a daily occurrence, can be rescinded at any moment now.

“Are you always going to want to cuddle?”

“Yes.”

“Even when you’re 14 and possibly taller than me?”

“Will you still be my mother?”

“Yes!”

“Well, then, yes, I’ll still want to cuddle.”

Please let these words be true.