We’ve been celebrating daughter three’s 13th birthday this weekend. Daughter three has been having a bit of a horrible time at school recently and the level of everyday nastiness she has been facing is still seeping out: the endless attempts to put her down and make her feel “unpopular”, the relentless competition and comments about all aspects of her appearance and the shredding of all the confidence that she has managed to rebuild after similar incidents at primary school. So we’ve taken her out. What has shocked me is that there has been no response from the school except a form to get back her locker money and nothing from any of the students. None of the parents whose houses she has been for sleepovers in has said anything. It’s as if daughter three did not even go to the school at all.
For her birthday she wanted to go for a meal in London with her parents on Friday. Daughter one, who is currently in the doldrums over her exams and predicting total failure, agreed to babysit and watch some Dr Who with only son. We whatsapped a picture of Nando’s. “Think about those chickens,” responded daughter two who is a militant vegan. Daughter three had a great time chatting about life and her interest in fashion and art. She has been drawing endlessly in the last few weeks.
The next day she went shopping with her dad. Sometimes when you are at home in the grind of working and just getting through the week you focus on the trivial things like people not picking up their clothes or their plates. With four children there is a certain dynamic involved in family life and particular characters who tend to dominate. Sometimes you need to take time with each child individually to truly appreciate them. Daughter three may be bad at picking stuff up and washing her plates, but she is also kind, thoughtful and generally a fantastic human being. Her dad came home after a day of pounding the streets with a renewed sense of admiration for her.
I stayed home to greet the plumber and raise daughter one’s spirits. It was Eurovision for which the younger members of the family have been preparing for weeks. They had chosen their favourites and we had European-related snacks ready for the evening – a baguette for France, frankfurters for Germany, a Polish sweet, some Nando’s peri-peri rice [Portugal] and some Pringles [apparently manufactured in Belgium]. Daughters one and two made some brownies and claimed they were Swiss. The evening wore on with cheers for the favoured entries – Sweden, Cyprus [mainly for the hair], the Czech Republic and Norway. France had my vote. The biggest cheer, however, was reserved for last year’s winner Salvador. Then came the voting. Daughter two was rooting for Sweden, based mainly on what he looked like. The popular vote came in to stony silence in our house. Israel had won with a chicken clucking song. It had a bit of politics in it, but not enough to satisfy daughter one. “I hate Eurovision,” she said in disgust. “Never again.” This from the main devotee of the house ever since the era of Loic Nottet, still a revered name in our house. Daughter two couldn’t even speak. She had dissolved into hysterical sobbing. “It’s just a song contest,” I ventured.
Daughter three was fairly stoical. Her actual birthday was on Sunday and nothing was going to spoil that.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.