My main colleague – the cat – has not been well. He’s got an abscess on his leg and various other injuries. He’s been to the vet’s and is on medication which, naturally, he hates. He has been banned from going out until he has a check-up. It would be fair to say that the cat does not understand the ban at all. He sits by the door and miaows all day long with a pained expression on his face. I have tried long conversations. I have tried miaowing back at him. I may, though, be saying something completely confusing like ‘of course you can go out’.
I have tried to distract him by engaging him in a detailed discussion of shared parental leave, which he appears to be fairly undecided about. In any event, nothing works so I have tried to drown him out with other noise in order to focus on work. The good thing is that I work on a laptop so I can move room and get my work done. If necessary I could move into the garden and work on the trampoline, but I fear this would just be rubbing salt into his wounds.
My partner came home the first evening and lasted around 15 minutes before he asked if it would really be that bad to let him out. In any event I got to go out this week and escape the miaowing. Daughter two’s parents evening was on Thursday and in our house parents evenings count as a social life, even if I am barred from speaking about anything remotely interesting with the teachers.
“Don’t under any circumstances mention anything about me,” were daughter two’s final words as we headed into school. First up was citizenship, mainly because there was no queue. I obeyed instructions and merely nodded and smiled until the citizenship teacher mentioned that daughter two was down for some charity challenge selling oreo milkshakes. “I’m not sure how good she’ll be at that since she doesn’t get within five yards of an oreo,” I started, sensing a stiffening of daughter two’s body at my side. “Daughter two is more of a lentils and nuts kind of person,” I continued by means of explanation. I could feel her whole body wondering where this was going to end, fearing a mention of the Argos catalogue being her main reading material some time soon. I stuck to the lentils, though, and we moved onto PE where I managed to resist the urge to talk about the latest gymnastic incident.
I managed to restrain myself with the other teachers as daughter two chaperoned me around the room. I had the slight feeling that she was avoiding certain teachers [“I don’t think the science teachers are here, mum”] and as I have no idea who they are this was relatively easy. The maths teacher asked her if she was doing any maths on top of her homework at home. Daughter two looked slightly taken aback. Why would anyone do more maths than was specifically asked of them?
We decided to end on a high and went for drama and English. The drama teacher asked how daughter two felt she was doing. “I think ok,” came the hesitant reply as daughter two took the self-effacing path of daughter one who is very academic and when asked how she is doing always starts with ‘well, I think I could do better at xxx’. The idea is that you get in there before the teachers have a chance to, but the effect from a parental point of view is that you feel your kids don’t feel they can ever celebrate their success, that they believe they are always one bad day away from total failure. But for drama the teacher was not having any modesty. She said daughter two was a great character actress and gave her some constructive tips on how she could improve. I almost cried and I could feel daughter two glowing.
We returned home victorious. The cat was still at the door. Even daughter one, his greatest fan, had distanced herself. Normal working relations – me typing furiously and sleep deprived; him snoozing spreadeagled across the sofa – should be resumed some time later this week.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk. Picture credit: Wikicommons.