Wednesday 30 August 2017

Love by a thousand cuts - parenting teens

I haven't written on this blog in many years. I don't know if anyone will see this but I felt the need to write it and needed an outlet for it. 

If you see it, thank you for taking the time to read it. xx


‘Want to go out for lunch?’ I asked my thirteen year old son, who was once again glued to the xbox. I noticed that he still hadn’t showered or washed his hair, despite me asking him repeatedly to do so for days.

Absorbed by what was happening on the screen, it took him a while to realise that I had even spoken. ‘Wha?’ he grunted without looking at me, when he realised I was there and waiting for an answer.

‘I said, would you like to go out for lunch? Your brother is out. Dad’s away. It’s just us and I could do with a break.’

‘Well if it’s out, yeah,’ as he continued to kill aliens on a screen.

‘So….do you want to get out of your pyjamas and come then,’ I said trying to quell my impatience.

‘Yeah. In a bit.’

I turned and left, breathing deeply. It’s always the same. I approach my teenager with a friendly suggestion and am greeted with indifference and disdain. I know that that’s what teens do. But it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

Forty minutes later, after an argument about when exactly he was going to shower, we finally managed to leave the house. I suggested various lunch places. He wouldn’t entertain any of them. It was his choice otherwise he wasn’t interested. It was then that I should have turned around and suggested he have the 22p pot noodle that I’d bought from Aldi instead.

But I wanted to have this lunch with him. Despite being in the same house for most of the eight weeks of summer holidays, I had barely spent any time with him. Not for lack of trying on my part, but apparently hanging out with your mother is lame. And boring.

Over the course of the holidays I’d suggested going wild camping, indoor sky diving, doing an inflatable obstacle course on water, a soapbox rally, a trip to Portugal, the skate park, a puzzle room where you have to solve riddles to get out. They were all shot down in flames or done begrudgingly. Unless he had friends to do any of these things with, he wasn’t interested. And if I suggested we invite friends, he’d shrug or complain about which friends.

Even every day things - like having a family meal - is apparently the worst thing imaginable. He skulks over his food, his mouth millimetres from the plate, as though the effort of lifting a fork from plate to mouth is a taxing ordeal. If we attempt to engage in conversation, he scowls, grunts or snarls. It takes him about two minutes to hoover down a plate of food, at which point he will push the table away from him and he’ll slope off, back down to his lair. The years of instructing him to wait until everyone has finished eating, to ask permission to leave the table, to thank his mother for his meal seem to have vanished along with his ability to smile.

However, today I felt optimistic. We could have a meal out at the place he chose. Surely it would be good. Just the two of us. A chance to connect or catch up or simply have a laugh together.


I attempted to – you know – talk. About nothing really. Just a vain attempt to have a conversation.

‘Have your friends done anything interesting over the holidays?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Are you looking forward to catching up with all of them next week at school?’


‘Have you given any thought to what activities you might like to do this term?’


Silence. I gave him the opportunity to say something. Crickets.

I then attempted to inject some enthusiasm into the conversation by talking about some of the new sports activities that may be fun and asking him if any appeal.

‘I don’t know.’

I don’t know.  This is the answer I get to most things. On the strained conversation went. Followed by long silences during which I hoped he might spark up some chat. Nothing.

Trying a new tack, I decided to talk a bit about what I’d been up to.

Bored shrug.

Eventually, I couldn’t handle it anymore.

‘Could you just say something? I’m trying to make conversation but it takes two people to chat.’

‘Well what do you want me to say?’ he snarled.

‘Anything. Tell me about your day,’ I said.

‘I’ve not done anything so what am I meant to say.’

And that right there is the nub of it. He hasn’t done anything the entire holiday other than play on the xbox or been on the few sports camps I’ve arranged for him or hung out with friends at the shops.  He has nothing to say because he won’t try anything or do anything or engage with anyone.

‘Are you alright? Is anything the matter? Because I’m worried about you,’ I said gently. It has crossed my mind that his severe apathy may in fact be depression.

‘Argh. Why does something have to be wrong? Why can’t you just be normal like other parents? Why do you always have to get on my case?’

‘I’m simply trying to talk to you. You never seem to want to talk to anyone and I am worried that maybe something is bothering you. I just want you to know that I am here should you need to talk about anything,’ I said.

‘Nothing is bothering me except you. I have conversations with other people, just not you. INTERESTING people, people I want to talk to,’ he said with a withering glare.

And there it was. Just one of a million little cuts that sever the ties that bind child to mother. What no-one tells you is that each little cut makes your heart feel like it has been stabbed.

I know that this is what happens. It has to happen. Children need to place distance between themselves and their parents. I had expected it to hurt, I just hadn’t expected it to be so hurtful.

I wanted to cry. I looked down at the plate of food I didn’t really feel like eating but had agreed to because it was what he’d chosen, as that’s what parents do. They put their children first. They try to show them they love them in a million subtle ways, which children never notice, but parents keep doing because they can’t help themselves. They still love their children, even if their children give every signal that they in no way feel the same.

He continued his attack.

‘You don’t know anything about me or my life!’ he spat.

‘I know I don’t. That’s why I ask you about it. That’s why I try to have conversations with you. Every. Single. Day. But you never tell me anything.’

Deflecting that, he continued:
‘Other parents are normal. Why can’t you just be normal?’

I was just pleased that he was actually speaking, so asked him in what ways he wanted me to be ‘more normal’.

‘Well other parents let their kids have screens in their bedrooms. And other parents don’t ask whether there is swearing on a game. And other parents don’t check their children’s phones. And other parents don’t try to make their children do boring things like go for walks. And other parents do fun things.’

At this point I sighed.

‘And other parents don’t do that!’ he pointed at me.

I could have argued my case for each of these accusations. But there is little point. We’ve been over all of these about a million times before. I am a bad parent because I don’t give him complete freedom to do whatever he wants whenever he wants playing what he wants. I expect him to live by our pretty standard house rules and the deal for him having access to social media was that we could check up every now and then to ensure nothing untoward was going on.

It occurred to me that perhaps I should just give up. Let him do whatever he wants to do, watch what he likes including having screens in his room that he will watch until 3am and then not be able to function the next day. I should not raise the whole issue of personal hygiene or getting exercise or occasionally adding a piece of fruit or veg to his diet. I should let him have unfettered access to whatever social media he wants without any interference. I should stop trying to suggest he reads a book every now and then or remind him of his manners. I should give up asking him to do his few chores that he is required to do. I should absolutely just shut the door to his bedroom and let him live in filth. I should stop suggesting he gets involved in clubs or sports or activities or arrange to meet friends or take an interest in anything. I should let him put in zero effort in his school work. And in the name of all things holy, I should stop trying to engage in conversation.

After all, it’s his life. Me interfering is - I imagine - exceptionally boring and lame.

But that is the job of a parent. It’s a fine balancing act. Being the bad guy by forcing them to do things that are good for them. Or being the good guy and butting out. It’s about consistently giving out love even though your love is rejected multiple times a day.

We’re only at thirteen. The teens are stretching out ahead like a dark, gloomy tunnel. I fear my heart may break into a million pieces before they’re over.  But my job is to patch my heart and continue loving. And then do it all again and again, until one day he realises he loves me too.  

And even if he never does, I can know that I loved enough for both of us.


Thursday 6 June 2013

Sunday 27 May 2012

Moving on - I have a new blog. Please read

Breaking News! I have a new blog.

To all the lovely people who stop by Home Office Mum - or HOM HOM HOM as it's latterly been known, please can I ask you to all redirect your RSS feeds, blog rolls and general visits to my new blog  as that is where my new blogging home will be.

Home Office Mum will probably always be my blogging name, but it's time for me to move on. My new blog - Talk About York - will track our imminent move to the North, life in a northern city, city living vs country living, reviews of places to go and things to do in York. I hope it will be a mix of my normal ramblings coupled with actual useful content for anyone wanting to visit the city.

Starting a new blog is hard and probably stupid as it means building followers from scratch but it was time. So please, please, please can you add my new blog to your blog rolls and come visit my new home on the web. Help me spread the word. I've even created a Facebook page for it (I know, get me) so you can like me on that too if you. I am still tinkering with and tweaking the new blog, so bare with me. But it's up and ready for readers.

Thanks to everyone who has followed HOM and posted comments over these last few years. You have been lovely.

And to my first ever little blog, thanks for all the evenings you kept me and a glass of wine company. You were a thing I could open my heart to. You didn't mind if I spoke nonsense. You didn't judge. You seemed perfectly content being neglected from time to time, always waiting for me when I was ready to return. You've been a friend I could turn to at times I felt alone. I'll come back and visit often. Because you hold so much of my history.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Write to remember

Something has happened to me over the last few days. I've wanted to write again. I went off blogging for a while. I'm not sure why. I just didn't feel like I had anything to say. Or rather I did, but I could compress it all into a Facebook status or Twitter update. I'm a sharer. I have thoughts and I share them. Not everyone is like this I've come to realise. I've also come to realise that just because I am, doesn't make it wrong. But I felt for a while that perhaps blogging was wrong. And it was time consuming. So I stopped.

Anyway I started writing this month. Nothing sexy. Just work stuff. But as I started to write, I felt the dust on the writing cogs start to waft up, spiderwebs softly easing away. 

I began to reread my blog. I realised how incredibly grateful I am that I have this amazingly thorough and emotional diary of such a specific time in my life. I began wishing, as I read it, that I had written down how I felt directly after the birth of my children, their baby years (which I cannot remember any of), pregnancy, life before parenthood (I recently found some old emails written from that time - how different and selfish it was), that period in my life before I met my husband when I was lost, the heartbreak of a first love break up, my first ever travels around the world with the wonder and awe that it brought on, the joy of freedom at leaving school and all the turmoil of teenage years and childhood. How insightful and useful it would be to read now what I was going through then. 

I then went to look at my sailing blog and discovered that it was gone. It was self-hosted rather than a free bloggger site and I'd stopped paying for hosting. I don't know if there's some way to get it back. But I felt heartbroken that it was gone. It captured all I felt at a very specific time of my life. And now it's lost to the ether, leaving me with what I think I felt, rather than what I actually felt.

I realised (belatedly) that I am going through a really big thing right now. We're moving. Again. I'm leaving behind all the friendships and networks that it's taken me six years to build up. I don't know if what we're doing is right but, us being us, we're doing it. I should be capturing how I feel, what I'm doing. My life right now is blog-fodder-tastic. And yet I've shied away from writing any of it. 

I don't even know if I will keep writing as voraciously as I did. But I do know that a blog is something worth cherishing. I want to find the time to write it, even if no-one in the world reads it. I say that, but it's someone else reading it that lead me to write this post. 

I received today an email from a lady who I don't know, but who read a blog post of mine from 2010. She took the time out of her day to email me to thank me for writing the post as it helped her. How awesome is that? She didn't need to do that. She could have read my blog, taking what she needed from it and gone on her way. But she didn't. She stopped to say thank you. And even though I don't know her, nor she me, I felt a connection with a complete stranger on the other side of the world. Perhaps I'm odd, but it's little things like that which fill me with an 'everything is all right with the world' feeling.

There was one other reason for writing this blog post. I have had a glass of wine (that's not the reason although may be the lubricating factor). I had the glass of wine in honour of a man I seldom think of because I never knew him. My grandfather. He would have been 100 years old today. Except he died when he was a lot younger than that. I want to say he was 43 but I'm probably wrong. He died when my father was a young boy. I've always thought about him as my father's father, my poor father who didn't have a father when he needed one. But I've rarely thought about him as my grandfather. Much less my children's great grandfather.  But today I want him remembered. Even if it's just on this tiny corner of the internet.  I want it noted and remembered in writing. Lest we forget. Here's to Arthur Charles Collier the 1st. 

And while I'm making's to writing. 


Friday 24 February 2012

A rolling stone gathers no moss

I can't promise I'm back in the blogosphere for long but I felt an update was long overdue. If you have followed my blog for some time, you will know that in Home Office Mum world, things seldom stay settled for long.

This time last year we were making a major decision about whether to move to Seattle. We decided against. We decided to bloom where we were planted and make the most of where we lived. So we did. We got stuck into all manner of local initiatives and events and good causes, from being cricket club treasurer to PTA fundraiser to allotment sub-committee member. Then I decided that I needed a new career. So I sold my PR business and went on a (brief) journey to decide what I wanted to do next.

And I chose a new career - buying a franchise covering the area in which we live. If anything was going to keep us rooted, that was. Right?

Then on Boxing Day, my husband and I went for a walk across the fields. We looked at the beautiful countryside and I commented that I absolutely loved it but it would never be home to me, as home is in South Africa. I asked my husband where home was for him. He's from Barnsley. Hardly the most appealing town in Britain. He was quick to reply that it wasn't Barnsley. But after a few more quiet strides over the bumpy tracks, he said: 'But Yorkshire is.'

We continued walking along mulling our own thoughts quietly in our heads.

A few days later we went for another walk. This time my husband announced that he'd been thinking about the idea of Yorkshire again and felt he'd actually really quite like to return there.

Seriously? Further North? Even colder? Not even by the sea? But when my husband gets a bee in his bonnet, he doesn't rest until the problem is sorted. By the second week of January we were visiting schools, strolling around suburbs and walking the city walls of York.

After one flying visit, we agreed, we shall follow in the footsteps of that Grand Old Duke and move to York. Within a month, our eldest son had written entrance exams for his selected school (and been accepted), our house put on the market and moving plans put in place. What I shall do workwise is still a bit of a quandary.

Come summer, we will be swapping the rural countryside of West Berkshire for bustling city living in York. At the time of making the decision it seemed like a good idea. It still does in theory.

But when you have a perfectly lovely life, walking away from it for something which is completely different is terrifying. I have to start from scratch making friends. I won't be able to walk out my door and be in beautiful countryside. My children won't be one of 40 kids in a school, they'll be one of 400. I'll have to start building business contacts from scratch. We'll live in a far smaller house, probably with no garden vs our lovely house we have now. I'll be living in the North where people say ey up and ta luv!

Yet we had a our reasons. We'd be closer to my husband's elderly mum. We get to live in a beautiful city, renowned for its friendly people, a trait many southerners seem to have lost. We can afford private schooling there and the school is great. It's two hours to London, two hours to Edinburgh, 45 minutes to the North Yorkshire Moors, 45 minutes to the sea.

Most importantly, we just couldn't see ourselves growing old where we live. I don't know why, but we've been restless since we got here. Maybe we will always be restless. Maybe we'll never put down roots - which flies in the face of my wanting a sense of belonging. But part of me loves that we have a new adventure, with new places to explore and new people to meet.

I imagine as this year rolls on and the decision becomes more real and we have to say farewell to friends and our home, rich with memories of our children turning from babies to boys, it's going to get tough. Possibly involving tears.

But life for us is not about sitting comfortably in a spectator seat watching as the view very gradually changes over time. It's about taking risks, making our own motion picture, so that by the time the end credits roll up, it's been some fascinating viewing.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Going quiet

I seem to have lost my blogging mojo. Again. I've also noticed that a number of the bloggers I follow have been posting less frequently. I've been reading fewer blogs. I've been getting fewer comments. And I've had less to say.

I've been in this place before. Ironically, almost as soon as I say that I'm taking a break from blogging, I get inspired to blog about something, which is why I'm not saying: 'Farewell forever'. I'm just saying: 'I'm off for a bit'. 

My new business is now getting up and running. You can watch this video to find out more about what I'm going to be doing. I did my first bit of outreach today to a potential (big) customer and got a really positive response - getting to meet them next week! That, together with all the pre-christmas fund-raising I've been doing for the school and local village hall etc etc etc (as blogged about here), is probably what has sapped my blogging energy. 

So I'm going to go quiet for a bit. In the immortal words of that 80s Glass Tiger classic 'Don't forget me when I'm gone...'

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Black Tuesday

Pic from  TimesLive
In 2009 the Telegraph newspaper, using investigative journalism, uncovered a huge MP's expenses scandal. The results saw MPs resigning, being investigated, made to pay back money and in at least one case, imprisoned. 

Now let's imagine that instead of having the Freedom of Information Act which we have here in the UK, we have a brand new bill that has just been passed by South African MPs today - the The Protection of State Information Bill.  Under this bill, anyone possessing classified government documents can get up to 25 years in jail, with no defence of 'acting in the public interest'. 259 MPs voted in favour of the bill. Only 32 against.  As one commentator said:  'All those in favour of corruption:259. All those against:32'

Had we had this bill in the UK during the expenses scandal, the journalists uncovering the story would have been facing 25 year sentences instead of receiving journalism awards.

South Africa is the gateway to Africa, the country which, post apartheid, was meant to be a shining example to the rest of the continent on how to thrive. Yet with this single piece of legislation, the country is returning to the dark days of apartheid whereby it was illegal to speak out against the government. 

Wake up world. Wake up journalists. Take note. This is has severe implications for press freedom. Shouldn't more people outside of SA know about it?  As far as I can see, so far just the BBC have reported on this. 

Yes America might be anticipating Black Friday this week (the day after Thanksgiving when Americans begin their Christmas shopping in earnest). But personally, I think a few column inches could be given to South Africa's Black Tuesday instead.

PS - back to light-hearted flippancy shortly.