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Half term is over – except for the smallest person in the house who is in full Halloween mode. The sound levels have risen ever higher over the week. I think it may be affecting my hearing, particularly my left ear which is my crucial phone ear. I’ve been blaming the phone for months, but I think this is one of those rare occasions when technology is not responsible. I can more or less make out what people are saying, but there are certain tones of voice where things go a bit blurred in the middle of sentences. I’ve tried swapping to the other ear, but that makes writing difficult.
Maybe I just need a few weeks of total silence as a detox, but I doubt that is going to happen any time soon. When I’m trying to talk to members of the family, it doesn’t help that only son is screeching at his sister; in the kitchen my partner is listening intently to the latest disasters taking place in Spanish politics; and in the living room the teenagers have got some music channel or other blaring out. There is no haven of quiet to be found.
I have tried setting up activities that people can do quietly so that I can focus on phone calls. For instance, pumpkin scooping. You’d think it would be a peaceful activity, but instead it became an arms race. Only son gave a loud running commentary [“I’m WINNING, mum”] and then ran into the kitchen, where I had hidden, shouting that he had got lots of seeds and could he plant them in the garden and grow millions of pumpkins. Daughter two, who had been doing some art homework in a corner, started acting out her scary Halloween faces at only son who screamed very loudly, resulting in daughter two capturing him and hauling him up the stairs. Daughter three drew a face on her pumpkin and then, when her design did not go to plan, flounced off in a huff.
When I got off the phone, daughter two was lying on the stairs, playing dead; only son had sprinkled the pumpkin seeds on the floor “by accident” and daughter three was in bed with the covers over her head. The phone call had lasted around seven minutes.
Maybe the hearing problem is my body protecting itself from this cacophony.
We were sitting trying to watch a bit of Saturday night tv when only son burst in. “Do you think Eye Ballistic Sid or Scuba Steve should win the next challenge, mum?” he shouted enthusiastically. The other morning I caught him watching some mega-conference attended by thousands of people where most of the people who populate only son’s life, Scuba Steve, the guy with the purple hair [no idea who he is] and the Wonder Quest people were on stage like some sort of rock superstars. “Where’s Lil Carly?” I asked only son. Lil Carly is an Irish child [or possibly adult] who sounds permanently on the border of a nervous breakdown. It was all slightly surreal. There must be thousands, maybe millions, of people who sit watching other people playing computer games.
Daughter one is very worried about only son’s internet activities. “He is becoming a nerd and that is just not good for his future,” she said. Meanwhile, only son is coming out with interesting facts from his sessions with the Wonder Quest. Every time I say “just a second”, for example, he comes back with “a figurative second, mum?”. This is after a session on the difference between figurative and literal. I’m not quite sure how he is taking to education in general. At school he is doing the Great Fire of London and the other day he was learning about the Tower of London and beheadings from the Wonder Quest. This is all great, but he has no idea when these events happened. To him, the Great Fire of London is still ongoing. I mentioned going to London the other day and he was a bit worried that I would get burnt.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.