As the parent of a non-binary child, I find myself often – too often – in the position of ‘calling out’ certain behaviour online.
I used to enjoy grammar policing until someone accused me, correctly, of snobbery. I spend a lot of time trying to remember how to respond when Mr HB says, ‘Stella, that’s racist.’ (Top tip: defensiveness is not how we learn. Top tip 2: we are all racist, whether we care to admit to it or not.)
I don’t relish calling out a person for pronoun use, or transphobia, or just a not-thinking of making an online comment that is damaging/othering/offensive to the community that parent the LGBTQ community. Maybe it looks like I enjoy it.
I can assure you: I write the comment.
I worry about it.
I brace myself.
But not saying anything at all? Not an option.
I was planning my next novel the other day (as you do). As many of you know, there are apparently two types of novel-writers, the pantsers and the planners.
I’m a planner.
I use the excellent ‘Save the Cat’ for story structure, mostly so I can use phrases like ‘break into Act 3.’ Ripping up little bits of paper for the required fifteen sections, I filled in what I could, hoping the blank sections would somehow become magically completed as I worked.
Number 12 is a story beat called ‘Dark Night of the Soul.’ By my calculations it occurs in Chapter 36 of 40.
When I looked over what I’d written, it said ‘main character realises she needs to be a fucking mum and get on with it,’ I realised this was exactly. It.
It’s now written on slip number 2: ‘Thematic Premise Stated.’
I am just settling back down to work. Chapter two of Novel number 4 – a woman sits in an office, trying to work on her PhD. Her phone rings: it’s her mother in law. Her phone rings again: this time it’s her friend.
The Spotify playlist I’m ignoring stops playing, my phone rings.
It’s Mr HB. Well, it’s Mr HB’s phone. My youngest had asked if he could ring, and Mr HB thought he wanted to say hello and ‘some other nice things.’
Fat chance. He had rung to tell me how bad his day had been.
Then Mr HB told me the oldest had been in trouble again. I listened as they lost screen for the afternoon and melted down.
Mr HB apologised. I went back to work. The woman got some work done. Her phone was silent: for now.
The wee one came downstairs looking like he’d been punched in the eye, and I would usually blame his older sibling – of course! – but a) they haven’t quite graduated to actual punching yet, and b) I’d seen it before so I knew…
it was a stye.
I know he would’ve been capable of going to school. It isn’t even impacting on his vision (he is playing Minecraft next to me as I type). But he was so sad when he woke up, and school finishes at lunchtime on Fridays. It might be a stress thing, he’s had an eventful couple of weeks at a new school. Or not.
Am I a lax parent?
I’m getting a bit bored of judging myself, to be honest. He’ll be fine, and I doubt it’ll impact on his overall education. He’s only 9!
Oh it must be Spring. I’m busy!
I like to be busy, but not as much as the average … person? Person in the UK? Person of my generation? ‘Busy’ doesn’t take long to develop into ‘stressed,’ and ‘stressed’ has developed into psychosis – only twice, and a long time ago now, but… I don’t have the option to push myself like other people.
What has been particularly wonderful about this year, as opposed to other Springs, when I was busy with the kids, or busy with work, or busy writing things no one was interested in, is that this year I’m busy with paid, creative work. Sometimes. Other paid work has to fit around the writing, not the other way round.
Meanwhile, the children have to fit around creativity AND paid work, and are no doubt feeling very hard done by!
As we know, I’m not a huge fan of the binary, so you’ll forgive me when I say …
… there are two types of parents …
the ones who, when their kids say ‘I want pink hair,’ say ‘tough bananas.’
and the ones who say: ‘great! Candy pink, or hot pink?’
I’m not proud to say I’m the first kind. I would say it’s because of the potential damage in dying it so young.
But I would be lying.
It’s because I worry about being judged by other parents. Teachers. Folk at church. Complete strangers in the street.
So here’s to the parents of the pink-haired kids. They are more child-centred than I could ever hope to be. It takes a lot to say ‘yes,’ when you know some people might say ‘what was she* thinking?’
*(and yes, it is always ‘she!’)
‘When I have children, I will NEVER…’
Hands up who said this when they were young? We were so innocent, weren’t we?
My (latest) infraction has been screen. As children, we were never allowed to watch breakfast TV on a school morning, and I had maintained this rule with my kids.
That is, until they both got Gmail.
And stopped getting out of their beds and getting ready for school.
I realised that, if I offered computer as a reward, jobs would be completed, pianos practised, clothes applied, teeth brushed, and snacks would be packed into school bags. It was a mini-miracle.
My no-screen rule is gone. I won’t hold onto rules to be stubborn, or prove to myself I stick to my word. I might be embarrassed with myself but life will be easier: why wouldn’t I change?
Don’t judge me for shopping for school shoes three weeks after our term started.
OK, judge me if you like!
But I just had to share – especially after the whole dolly-babe nonsense – that we had the best surprise when we went to Clarks yesterday.
I was all for going to JD or Schuh, but it turns out my children are creatures of habit. So in we went, to the shop we’ve gone to since my oldest was getting their first walking shoe. They have gravitated to the ‘girls’ side since they could toddle.
Yesterday, I looked at the ‘girls’ side. And there was no girls side.
Clarks at Fort Kinnaird have mixed their shoes – they’ve got a trainer wall, and the smarter shoes are on the right.
To some people this would mean nothing. To me it means so much.
Sometimes taking them off the screen feels almost masochistic.
Watching TV, or playing on a tablet, they are silent, biddable (as long as they don’t argue about turn-taking!). I can read, tidy, cook, without interruption. It is also the only way my two will relax: otherwise they are kind of feral.
Now they’re back at school – away from me sometimes – well, this weekend I was stricter. And you know when your kids do something, and you think ‘HA! Rookie Error. You have just proved me right?’ No? Just me?
I went through to the living room with the hoover, and the oldest
one was playing. The. Ukulele.
This child has not played a musical instrument without nagging since they started piano lessons.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to the backlash, but I will be removing screen time more often.
On the radio, the man says
‘You’ve just had a baby,
so you’ll be in loads of coffee shops
‘I’m back at work like you!’ she says.
She’s owning him, on the radio.
motherhood is easy,
and coffee shops are full of easy woman and their babies.
the man says
‘You told me
you’d had an NCT coffee
The audience laugh.
You could’ve let her be right.
How hard it is:
having a baby, being freelance.
Women wanting to work,
men ripped from their babies,
two weeks later.
None of it is any good.
You know –
it’s no fun in a coffee shop
with a tiny baby.
Getting half a conversation. At best.
But we’re sitting about,
having lovely coffees all day.
You could’ve left it.
We get enough of all that.