Lost in translation (or what my children actually hear when I’m speaking)

All these years I thought my children were wilfully ignoring me.  Now I realise that they are listening to what I say, it’s just that they’re hearing something completely different…

What I say:  I just need to make a work call.

What they hear:  You’ve got a five minute window to take revenge on your sister for something she may or may not have done earlier.

 

What I say:  I don’t care who started it.

What they hear:  The most important thing is who started it.  We will establish this based on who can shout the loudest.  And possibly by some name-calling.

 

What I say:  Please just try the cauliflower cheese; Mummy spent ages making it and it’s delicious.

What they hear:  Under no circumstances let even the tiniest morsel of cauliflower cheese pass your lips.  Mummy has only made it because she hates you.

 

What I say:  You need to start taking responsibility for packing your own stuff.

What they hear:  Mummy’s an idiot and forgot to pack the water bottle again.

 

What I say:  Put your coats on and let’s go.  If we’re not out of the front door in 30 seconds, we’ll be late.

What they hear:  Of course you can watch the end of the TV show before we leave.  Mummy will just drive faster and swear more.

 

What I say:  NO!

What they hear: Maybe.  Try asking me again, but in a moany voice.  Mummy loves the moany voice.

 

What I say:  Please can you tidy up your room.

What they hear: Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Having the same problem?  I’m liking the phrases they suggest on KidFocused – starting with ‘Try that again because…’ as in ‘Try that again because we are always kind to mummy when she hasn’t had a cup of tea since 10 o’clock this morning and looks like she might drink your blood instead’.  Obviously that’s not the example they give on the website, but I think you know what I mean…

 

Room for improvement: my children try to turn me into wonder-mum

I really thought my children would be older before they realised that I am not the cool, fix-it-all, wonder-mum they believed me to be.  But now that they have noticed I’m not perfect, they are working tirelessly to improve me.  Obviously, this is a life’s work and something my own mother gave up on long ago, but my children are made of sturdy stuff, and they truly believe that, with sufficient effort on their part, I can do better.  Some areas for improvement they have been focusing on recently include:

My language   My children (and I can only assume this comes from their excellent schooling and not my awful parenting) are implacably opposed to all forms of swearing.  swearing2Their antennae are finely tuned to when I might be about to utter some sort of profanity, and they immediately start imploring me to stop.  To make the challenge more demanding, their definition of what counts as a swear word is much more extensive than mine. There are a number of words they object to that I didn’t even know were swear words (I mean, ‘crikey’ – that’s not a swear word, is it?)  Now that they are occupying the linguistic and moral high ground, losing my temper has become a verbal mine field.

My performance under pressure  Whilst I thought my rubbish parenting was teaching my children resilience, it turns out it is they who are teaching me.  To improve my flexibility and resourcefulness, they create a series of practical and creative challenges for me to solve on a daily basis.

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Thinking flexibly whilst remaining calm

They do it by announcing over breakfast that they are supposed to wear an Egyptian headdress, amulet and neck collar to school that day.  (Oh, how I love to scavenge round the house looking for suitable items to cannibalise into a costume whilst exhorting them to clean their teeth).  They create a sense of urgency to car journeys by accepting invitations to over-lapping parties, then shouting ‘Are we late?’ from the back seat as I desperately try to break the land-speed record getting from one part of south-east London to another.   Flexible, resourceful, able to break the laws of physics?  I fear I am falling short on every front.

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Now that’s what I call ironing

My humility.  No matter how hard I work, or what I do, my children continue to believe I am an idiot.  It is true that I don’t understand grid multiplication.  And it is also true that I have an alarming tendency to get lost when going anywhere in the car. (So in answer to the question above ‘Yes, we are probably late.’)  But I still feel that some sort of credit is due for all the swimming bags that are packed, sandwiches that are made and washing that is done (so, so much washing).  But my children shrug those things off like there’s an invisible fairy that makes it all happen.  And did you know that the fairy puts toys away, washes up after dinner and does ironing too?  What an asset to our home she is!

On the up-side, because they are of an essentially kind and generous nature, the children have started to make allowances.  Last week I took them swimming.  ‘Let’s have a race,’ said my youngest. ‘I’m better than you, so I’ll give you a head start.’  So thoughtful of her.  Now I am wondering whether I should be proud that my eight-year-old is so fair-minded, or worried that she can already swim faster than me.  Better add ‘improve my swimming’ to the list…

Thanks to Paint the ceiling page and Yoga am for the images in this post.

How to be a great friend

Behind every great woman is… a great best friend, helping her negotiate life’s ups and downs.  Best friends are the people who make the good times sparkle and the bad times bearable.  They’re an Ant to your Dec, a Mel to your Sue, they might even be a Thelma to your Louise if you’re old enough.  Because there’s something incredibly wonderful about what great friends can achieve together.

img_3875Last week something happened that made me feel really stressed and upset.  I even had a bit of a cry (unfortunately I am big on crying and small on being stoic).  And then I texted my friend Sarah, and somehow she made everything seem maybe not perfect, but not so bad.  So this is a bit of a love song to Sarah, but it’s also about everything great friends do for each other…

  • She makes everything an adventure – We can be lost, late, and have no lunch, but it’s all part of the joy, because whatever we do she brings an attitude that says ‘we’re going to have FUN!’.
  • She makes my world bigger – Not by travelling vast distances, but by stretching my thinking, by showing me different perspectives, by doing things together it would never occur to me to do on my own, and by sharing her knowledge and her life.
  • She makes me a better person – Not by criticising or denigrating me, but by inspiring me with her values, how she behaves, and the things she does.
  • She is always on my team – I’m not always right, sometimes I’m not even close to right, but she never judges me or makes me feel bad, she just helps me find a better way.
  • She is always there for me – I know that if I needed her, my best friend would turn the world upside down to support me, and just knowing she would do that means all it takes is a text from her to make me feel better.

eybn-julie-sarahEveryone needs a Sarah on their team, and, even if you don’t know it, you are probably someone else’s Sarah.

In fact, reading down the list, I realise that it isn’t just Sarah, these are qualities that all my friends have.  So now I need to stop typing, and start emailing, texting and telling them all how fabulous they are…

Glitz, glamour and good work

I work with the NHS and the voluntary sector, so whilst my job is big on satisfaction and full of lovely people, it is very low on perks.  Unless, of course, you like to gorge on hospital food in the deluxe surroundings of the staff canteen in between meetings (I don’t).  So you can imagine how excited I was when my very lovely client the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust invited me to a ball.

Keen readers will recall from my blog about dinner with the ambassador, that I will happily sell my children into slavery to spend the night wearing a fancy frock and scoffing canapes.  In fact, I love canapes so much, I sometimes think I should eat them at home, and perhaps start a ‘Canape Thursday’ tradition, the same way some couples have ‘date night’.  But I digress…

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Arnold Oceng and Colin Jackson

On Friday night, I glammed up to the eyeballs and set out for the swanky Waldorf Hilton hotel in central London to attend the EYBN Black Tie Ball.  The ball is hosted by EY’s (previously known as Ernst & Young) Black Network as part of their celebration of Black History Month, but it’s theme was very much future-focused: aspire and inspire.

It’s always a thrill to eat something I haven’t cooked myself (because my cooking is rubbish), but the real highlight was the guest speakers, who each gave a personal insight into how to build success.

Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson, who hasn’t aged a day since about 1990, talked about learning from the people you admire to become the best you can be, and of building a team of people around you who share your dream.

Scientist and the BBC’s ‘face of space’ Maggie Aderin-Pocock described how, despite her dyslexia, she changed from being ‘the dumb kid at the back of the class’ to sitting at the front when she discovered her passion for science.

Actor Arnold Oceng, who escaped from Uganda with his mother after his father and most of his family were killed in the civil war, reminded people that you don’t go from being a refugee to a film star, you have to start small and work hard.

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Richard Blackwood & June Sarpong

Finally, broadcaster June Sarpong, who is now full-on and active in a range of charities, told the audience that you only need two things to succeed: equal access to opportunity and self-belief.

So how can I summarise the messages?  Have a dream, believe in your own ability to achieve that dream, and then work hard to make it a reality.

All that wisdom AND dancing afterwards?  You just can’t top it.  Suddenly my job seems awesome, not just because I went on a great night out, but because I get to work with organisations like the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust who are helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their dreams and build their own success, like Colin, Maggie, Arnold and June before them.  How lucky am I?

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Neil & Chelsea from the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

And as if all that glitz, glamour and good work weren’t enough, over £4,000 was raised for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and when the dancefloor was heaving with a mix of glamour and cool, I was dancing ’80s-style and wondering if the DJ would play anything by Take That.  I think that’s how every great evening should end, don’t you?