It’s day four since daughter one went on exchange and things are going a bit haywire. We’ve been communicating via whatsapp. Daughter two keeps posting artistic pictures of her eyebrows. Only son is heavily into emojis. I have been doing audio messages, but there tends to be a lot of background noise of people shouting to contend with. I was in the middle of one the other night when only son suddenly asked “what is sexy?” I had a short talk with him afterwards, but in the morning found a message from daughter one. “Sexting???? Where did he learn that from?” Followed by: “Get that under control.”
Daughter one is parenting even from abroad. My talk with only son segued into a discussion of mobile phones [mainly his use of mine] and why he needed to cut down on playing games on it and watching Just Dance 2015. I confiscated his phone and, while I was on a roll, I took daughter three’s too. She is quite expert at disguising looking at her phone while appearing to be doing homework. Apparently her friends spend their whole lives facetiming and she doesn’t want to miss anything.
I hid both phones in a drawer in the kitchen and went to run a bath. Two minutes later a piece of paper came under the door. “To butt face,” it said. Only son’s normal messages to me are full of hearts and flowers and usually include around three snowflakes he has cut meticulously from A4, leaving a trail of debris. I opened the door. “Is this for me?” I asked. Only son suddenly looked a little bit sheepish. “I didn’t mean it,” he said. “I do love you, but you probably don’t love me any more.”
I assured him that, even if he called me butt face all day long, I would still love him very much indeed, but he needed to consider his words a little more and spend less time on screens. I suggested he read the encyclopaedia. “Does it have stuff about Spikezilla in it?” he asked. “Encyclopaedias are based on fact,” said I, launching into a short talk about post-truth and why facts about whales and dinosaurs and China are very, very interesting indeed. “I’m only interested in jaguars,” said only son, who has written a poem about jaguars making their way to Canada. “Stop talking about politics, mum,” said daughter three. “And give me back my phone.”
Daughter two poked her head round the door. “Still alive?” I asked. Daughter two has a whole week of exams and has been taking them so seriously that I have had to tell her to stop studying. This is the girl who, when asked what she planned to take for GCSEs, replied “the easy subjects”. Daughter two has turned over a new leaf and become ever so slightly intellectual. She was scouring the house the other week looking for books to put in her room to “make me look smart”. The only small problem is that I installed the bookshelf in her room now referred to as the Leaning Shelf of Pisa.
Daughter two said she was having a short break from studying and whipped out a bottle of talcum powder from behind her back. She has been brainwashing daughter three into dousing herself with the stuff every night to “make her face soft”. Daughter two squirted the powder over daughter three. A talcum powder fight ensued. In school uniform. On a Tuesday. Memories of the day daughter two emerged from her room caked head to foot in Sudocream came flooding back. I flung some sponges at the crew and returned to texting daughter one. “Everything’s very dull here. Just the usual,” I wrote.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.