Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Go Away, Give Me a Chance To Miss You

My partner has gone away for a few days. So has my daughter. I love them both very much, but I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to a few days peace and quiet. 

It makes me feel guilty. I’m lucky enough to have this amazing family; loads of people would do anything for that. So why do I find myself desperate to escape from them once in a while?

With my daughter, I guess it’s time. There are never enough hours in the day to do everything. I get up extra early so I can spend some time with her before work. I rush home from work totally shattered, dying for a chance to put my feet up, and she’s there as soon as I get in: “Mummy, will you play with me? Mummy, I want to go to the park. Mummy, I’m hungry.” When it’s bedtime, I put her to bed, and it’s “Mummy, can I have another story? A drink? Another cuddle? I’m not tired. I can’t sleep.”  And my personal favourite: “Mummy, my dolly can’t sleep because she hasn’t got a dressing gown!” Just the thought of being able to get up when I want, being able to sit down for a few minutes without being used as a trampoline, watching a film in the evening without pressing pause every few minutes, the very thought is bliss. 

With my partner, it’s those things that get to you whenever you spend lots of time with the same person. Usually the things that at first, you find cute. Then after you’ve been together for a while, they become little traits you put up with. Eventually, usually after a bad week at work, they become irritating habits that make you want to rip off your head. I don’t feel too bad saying that, because we all have them. I know that my habit of leaving things in carrier bags dotted around the house drives my partner round the twist, and he could definitely live without me leaving veggies in the fridge still wrapped in plastic to slowly turn to mush. And it’s not just partners is it? When anyone stays with me for a while, in the end their idiosyncrasies drive me to distraction. I have a relative I adore, but who insists on picking her nails when she watches TV. I may have to attack her with a blunt object if she keeps it up.

So when they are going away like this, I look forward to it. I plan my evenings; instead of coming home and just fielding the madness, I know exactly what I’m going to do every night. Tonight it’s writing my blog, watching Michael McIntyre, and eating Ben and Jerry’s straight out of the tub. 

Despite the irritations, I know just how much I’ll miss them. They’ve been away oh, about seven hours so far, and I’m starting to get that little tug in my heart. I rang my daughter to say goodnight, and hearing her voice made me want to drive the 300 mile trip and cuddle her. I spoke to my partner, and got quite teary just knowing he is so far away.

P!nk does a great song about it, that feeling of being desperate to have some time on your own but the crippling loneliness that comes with it. (Leave me alone [I’m lonely] if you fancy a listen.)

The one huge advantage of people you care about being away for a bit, is it makes you realise just how much you really do care about them. I tell you, if your kids are turning you into a screaming banshee, send them to stay with friends for a few days. They’ll have a great time and you will be desperate to get them home. Suddenly, being woken up by a little wriggling girl at 6am will be something you’ll be counting down the minutes to. And that habit of your partners that made you want to commit homicide? It’ll be back to being cute in no time.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Little White Lies

I recently read something suggesting you don’t allow your kids to have pets. Now, in some ways I agree. Jess wants a dog, but I know that it’ll be me that ends up walking it, cleaning up after it and feeding it, so she’s not getting one – at least not until she’s old enough to take responsibility for it. I did however allow her to have a small fishtank for her birthday and she has half a dozen fish now. Sometimes she likes feeding them but more often than not, I do it; I don’t mind putting a pinch of food into a tank though.

However, one of the main reasons for not allowing pets (according to this particular piece) was because it meant you would have to lie to your kids. One submitter talked about how they’ve had three identical budgies; each time a bird dies, she slips out and buys another one to replace it so that her child doesn’t know it’s dead. Another talked about doing the same with fish, replacing one particular goldfish no less than 12 times!

I don’t understand. Why lie to your kids about that? We all tell lies sometimes, I can’t deny that; “Father Christmas comes down the chimney,” “eating your crusts will give you curly hair”, “eating carrots will make you see in the dark”. But why lie about a dead fish?

We are so protective of our children. We are so scared of upsetting them that we do everything we can to keep them happy. In some ways, that’s great: when a cuddle can fix a grazed knee or a child wants a bedtime story, there’s no harm in fulfilling their wishes. We all like to make our children smile. But we can’t protect them from everything, and we shouldn’t be trying to.

Sadly, at some point in their lives, our kids are going to have some experience of death. Whether that’s an elderly relative, a friend, or a neighbour’s dog, it’s going to happen. And although we want to put that experience off as long as possible, I’d much rather Jess’s first experience of death is a fish that she’s not too attached to than, say, a grandparent.

A friend’s mother died recently, and she had to explain to her three girls. They seemed to grasp it, but three months on, the youngest (aged 4) is still asking daily when grandma is coming back. When reminded that grandma had died, she just asks “yes, but when will she wake up again?” She also talks about ‘digging her back up’ so she can play. Even the eldest (aged 10) seems confused.

I don’t suggest for a second that dealing with a dead fish will make handling the death of a person any easier. But personally I’d rather be handling questions about the fish than the person. At least when the worst happens, hopefully Jess will understand that when someone goes, that’s it – they aren’t going to come home and play with them. She’ll be devastated, but she can grieve properly and hopefully when we do talk about the person, we can talk about the happier times we had with them rather than going around in the ‘when are they coming back?’ loop.

Inevitably, some of Jess’s fish died. She’s had them for three months and lost three in that time. Two of them went quickly, the third got stressed when we had to clean the tank. We’ve had a conversation about them each time, given them a ‘burial’ of sorts, and she’s asked questions. She hasn’t been particularly upset although she has had a couple of ‘Where’s fishy gone?’ moments. She has obviously taken it in though as pre-school informs me she spent an hour last week telling her key worker about her dead fish!

It never occurred to me to replace the fish before Jess realised. Pets die sometimes and if you have a pet, you have to deal with that whether you are forty or four.

I know that it will be much more traumatic when it’s something like a dog, an animal they have built up some sort of relationship with. But of course with an animal like that, you couldn’t secretly replace it anyway.

If you are animal lovers, get whatever pets you want. If you don’t want animals, then don’t. But don’t refuse to get them because it’ll mean lying to your kids when they die. We tell our kids not to lie, although we know that sometimes it’ll be necessary – but lying about the death of a pet isn’t necessary. It’s not protecting our kids in the long run. Our job as parents is to get our kids ready for ‘life’, and teaching them that everything in the world is perfect and bad things don’t happen is doing them a disservice. It’s lying just for the sake of it – and that’s never good.

I'm in!

Sorry things have been so quiet, I got locked out of my account! Stupid thing to do I know. Trouble is, I use so many different email address for different things, sometimes I forget which is which. I own a web domain so I have loads of blahblah@xxx.org.uk addresses. Great for knowing where emails have come from and filtering stuff I actually want, not so great for remembering which one I used. Don't know why I bother with email actually, yesterday I had 347 emails, all of which were spam. Does anyone actually read those? 'Lose 147 lbs in 5 days without dieting!' Hmm.

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me. Normal service should now be resumed.