Sally McLaughlin took a 10-year break from a career in sales and has gradually built her...read more
I’m not doing very well in the mum stakes this week. I’ve got a big work project on and I think I need a lifetime course in child psychology to ensure I don’t put my foot in it with the highly complex middle section of the family. For some reason, against all the stereotypes, the teenager seems to be the easiest child to deal with. We had a long chat about drugs the other night, which I think went well from a parental perspective. She seems very together. She had a day off for a bad migraine attack so I told her to catch up on her history by ringing her uncle who is living at the foot of the Andes in Argentina. Her uncle used to teach history to students and has written a book, forthcoming, on the Spanish anarchist movement. He is also fairly good at putting over any point in an entertaining manner, possibly with reference to at least a couple of 80s indie bands and Hong Kong Phooey.
I listened into the talk. “So, yeah, that appeasement thing I just don’t get it, like, what was it all about,” started daughter one. She proceeded, in her own laconic style, to give an impressively detailed critique of the lead-up to World War Two. My brother, who is usually fairly distracted when I call him, given that he has two small children and a menagerie of animals plus an invading army of giant caterpillars, was very focused and sent her a link to further information. Daughter one said it all proved her point about virtual school being better than real school.
Daughter three is angling for virtual school. She is currently, psychologically speaking, my greatest challenge. If she has a bad day she just doesn’t talk. “I don’t want to go to school ever,” she announced this week and threw herself on the floor so she was impossible to move. I have tried various tactics, but none work. I have tried to explain that she needs to learn to deal with difficult situations, that making best friends when you switch schools takes time, that she needs to start each day anew, that she is amazing and unique, but nothing works. I have appealed to her passion for social justice. “What would Mandela have done?” I think I asked at one point. On the one hand, I think I may be talking to her too much and blowing things out of proportion and, on the other, that maybe I am not spending enough time talking to her. She just looks deep into my eyes with a steely stare and says nothing when I ask her what she thinks of what I have said. When she does speak it is to say: “I want to stay with you. You can be my teacher.” “I am very, very boring,” I say. “All I do all day is stare at a computer and hit it occasionally. And I’m not very good at geometry.” I have tried the financial argument and it doesn’t work. She thinks I can work and teach her at the same time.
Daughter two is a psychological minefield. She is both very dramatic, a bit of a risk taker and yet highly anxious. An extrovert who, in an ideal world, would never step foot outside her house. She spends all her time creating the perfect bedroom, although on a budget. She would prefer to have new stuff from Argos or somewhere even more expensive, but has had to make do with charity shop things and bits and pieces she has surreptitiously moved into her room from other parts of the house. I reluctantly agreed to get her some cushions the other day, thinking I could find a bargain on eBay. I did in fact. Six cushions for the price of one in the shops. I joked, after previous eBay mishaps [we got a photo of a bag instead of the actual bag once], that it would probably be cushions for a dolls house or some such, but I had checked the measurements with an actual ruler so I was pretty confident. When the parcel arrived, however, it was very flat. It turned out to be six cushion covers. I am now looking around the house for things I can stuff into the covers to plump them up a bit.
Only son’s teddy bears are on the list. He has had a quiet uncomplicated week, focusing on long and short sounds – uh as in cook and oooo as in soon. He said something fairly scientific about the differences which went way over my head so I’m thinking he knows what he’s doing. As far as I know he has no psychological issues going on, but he does seem quite fixated on a Youtube video of Duplo Batman [Batman made out of Duplo bricks]. It’s got a voiceover by some man who sounds possibly in his 40s. I’ve listened in in case it’s some sort of X-rated porn version of Batman, but so far it seems that it is just a 40-year-old Batman obsessive. It seems to have got an impressive number of hits, probably from the Disney collector crowd who have moved on to Duplo. Maybe there’s a career in this kind of thing. I’ve started looking at the toys which litter every part of the floor in a whole new light.