Saturday, 27 March 2010

Mean Moms

(As the British Postal advert goes – I saw this and I thought of you!! It arrived in one of those circulated e-mails so I regret I don’t know its author.)

Someday when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a parent, I will tell them, as my Mean Mom told me:

I loved you enough to ask where you were going, with whom, and what time you would be home.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that should have taken 15 minutes.

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents aren't perfect.

I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say NO when I knew you would hate me for it. Those were the most difficult battles of all. I'm glad I won them, because in the end you won, too. And someday when your children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates parents, you will tell them.

Was your Mom mean?

I know mine was.

We had the meanest mother in the whole world!

While other kids ate candy for breakfast, we had to have cereal, toast, Yam and Plantain. When others had a Pepsi and a Twinkie for lunch, we had to eat Rice . And you can guess our mother fixed us a dinner that was different from what other kids had, too.

Mother insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You'd think we were convicts in a prison.

She had to know who our friends were and what we were doing with them. She insisted that if we said we would be gone for an hour, we would be gone for an hour or less.

We were ashamed to admit it, but she had the nerve to break the Child Labour Laws by making us work. We had to wash the dishes, make the beds, learn to cook, vacuum the floor, do laundry, and empty the trash and all sorts of cruel jobs. I think she would lie awake at night thinking of more things for us to do.

She always insisted on us telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. By the time we were teenagers; she could read our minds and had eyes in the back of her head.

Then, life was really tough!

Mother wouldn't let our friends just honk the horn when they drove up. They had to come up to the door so she could meet them.

While everyone else could date when they were 12 or 13, we had to wait until we were 16 or Over .

Because of our mother we missed out on lots of things other kids experienced.

Most of us were never kidnapped, or raped, or caught shoplifting, or vandalized other people's property or were arrested for any crime.....

And it was all her fault.

Now that we have left home, we are educated, honest, hard-working, conscientious adults. And we are doing our best to be mean parents just like Mom was.

I think that is what's wrong with the world today.
It just doesn't have enough mean moms!

(And Their Kids)

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Baby Driver...

"They call me Baby Driver
And once upon a pair of wheels
Hit the road and I`m gone ah
What`s my number
I wonder how your engine feels.
Ba ba ba ba
Scoot down the road
What`s my number
I wonder how your engine feels".

Lyrics and memories courtesy of Messrs Simon & Garfunkel

You may recall my latest mental health wobbles here concerning Grizzler passing his driving test and being road-ready, unlike his Neurotica Central Mother.

One of my friends at work advised me that I'd soon get over myself given the potential for adult nights out with an eager, home-based, designated chauffeur...

And Saturday of this week was the very first of those occasions. Grizz drove his parentals to the pub, only a mile and a half away from home, and deposited us, like landed gentry, at the very portal of The Gate.

Two hours later - on the dot, mind - he was back, this time girlfriend in tow, sitting quiescent in the back, to collect his ne'er do well mother and father from their cups in the Boozer.

And I honestly felt very proud of him and what he's achieved, (notwithstanding the fact that he needs to devote more time to his academic studies...). Sitting beside him in the passenger seat, my husband ensconced in the back with Madame, I saw how well and how calmly he was handling his new car, and I breathed out, and I chalked up yet another milestone in Motherhood, weighty with meaning.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Thoughts from the Ivory Towers...

Phew, what a wonderful dialogue we got going there around edumacation, thanks guys!

We really put ourselves through the mill over this, don't we? We only want what's best for them in life, and we beat ourselves up over their perceived short-comings and any hurdles they might encounter...

As has been previously disclosed here, I played a major walk-on role in my son's UCAS personal statement, given his severe allergic reactions to anything that involves ink...

I don't want to be one of those ambitious, pushy parents, standing and cheering on from the theatre wings as my ginger mop-haired darling launches into another ear-piercing verse of "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you're only a day awaaaaaaay!"

But I'm conscious of having to strike that balance between allowing Grizz to be a grown-up (he's now 18), and needing to somehow direct his lack of direction somewhat...

Just this week, while I was mired in paperwork in the office, playing the Fierce Momma Paper-Tiger - I was halted in my tracks by a call from his passionate and professional music tutor. Turns out this is a moment of real crisis in his study. With only months to go to his final performance and theory exams, he's choosing to procrastinate, to shirk his studying responsibilities, and is stalling for time. Time he just doesn't have.

And I really can't do the work for him. I already have my A Levels. I have a degree. He has to choose to independently spend time studying himself. I can create the tranquil moments - between the hours spent on MSN and Youtube - in which the time is right to sit and work in peace. I can ensure he has the right books and equipment. I can draw his attention to a serious TV documentary about the earthquake in Haiti, because he's also having to 'gen up' on natural disasters for his Geography A Level. ...But I can't force him to do this. And yet he's still too young to understand why he ought to be doing this.

Of course, I want him to have the very best chances in life, much as we all do. ...However, my own experience being the first member of my family to make it to University, was of graduating in the Eighties, amid boom and bust, a dire period much like today, I fear.

I absotively, posilutely adored and devoured whole slices of my degree course (the English, French and Russian literature, and the first Film Studies course ever offered at my Uni), and almost suffered a nervous breakdown during my final German oral exam in my second year (my worst!), when I failed to understand the clunky, heavily-accented German of the Austrian Lehrerin...

Then I graduated and spent months trying to find a permanent job, working as a temp in a variety of mediocre offices near to London, until I found a permanent post. All of this, bien sur, is almost 30 years ago now. And Grizzler's own experiences thirty years on may be very different to mine. I hope.

So I care and cajole, I cuss and curse, I beg and occasionally I resort to bribes, I reason and, of course, I rant.

And, ignoring my pagan leanings, I pray.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Expat Teen Parenting

Life as an expat is one big learning curve, but when your mistakes start to have a direct impact on your teen, it enters a new dimension. So far I've managed to commit only venial sins, like trying to make them eat beans on toast (why don't Americans get this?) and not bothering with corn dogs and sloppy joes.  Last week however, I almost totally screwed things up for the Queenager.

I'm talking about the college application procedure, which is so totally different from my British experience I might as well be having to speak Urdu at the same time. In my day, you told the teaches which A levels you wanted to take and as long as they didn't laugh in your face, that seemed to be it. You studied like mad (-ish) for two years, turned up on the allotted day in June and took your exam. I don't remember having to book the dates myself or choose which exam board to take.

In the USA my daughter can take one of two exams to help get her into college - the ACTs or the SATs. The first "decision" was to figure out which one to take. Some kids take both but since she has a learning disability, we needed to make sure we got this decision right. Cue extra tuition fees and a little diagnostic work to settle on the ACTs. Now that we've made that decision, we had to apply for a few accommodations (ie. extra time) which she has been given at school since 2001. Despite copious reports from doctors etc. ACT decided that she didn't need them. Cue much wailing and nashing of teeth (done on this very blog too) and a huge appeal by school. I'm glad of their support, although the Queenager didn't appreciate being the "shoe-in" candidate.

Next we have to decide when she does the ACT. You can take it as many times as you want, and send in only your best score. Most kids take it about three times in our school, but the timing is very strategic and usually planned around the math(s) syllabus. Just when you think you're all done and dusted, you get a note from school reminding you that you only have 48 hours to register for the aforementioned test. What? What? Nobody told me that! What the hell are the schools doing if they don't register the kids?

Rush to ACT website, pick date, fill out registration fields, - and find credit card. I certainly don't remember my parents having to shell out for my school exams.

Next comes the college application process, which in my day was done through the UCAS system, on one sheet of paper. Here, although our school has an excellent college counseling department, the kids have to apply to each college seperately, and of course, pay an application fee. Many kids visit the colleges they're interested in before applying, which since the Q is interested in colleges thousands of miles apart, could turn out to be an expensive little exercise. (We are visiting a few in Indiana to start with - only a four hour drive.)

I need to go and lie down.
Expat Mum

Friday, 12 March 2010


One of the boys in my teenage son's class was suspended for two days today. My son just can't believe it.....

They were all messing around with one of the boys phones. It got passed around the class and finally ended up with the boy sitting next to my son. He decided to send a text to the boy's mother saying "I'm gay".

A little while later a text came back saying "OK, lets talk about it later".

The entire class were in hysterics, including the boy who's phone it was apparently. They just thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Today however, was a different matter. The boy who sent the text was called in to see the Headmaster and told that the mother had found the text deeply distressing and as a result not only had she had to leave work early, but she had a panic attack. The school consequently saw no alternative but to suspend him.

Not good, but a bit extreme don't you think?

My son and his friends are thinking about starting a petition to say just that they think that attitude is verging on the homophobic.


It's only words, and words are all I have, to give my heart away...

Since Saz and I installed statcounter here at Mad Manic Mamas, some strange things have come to our notice...

Did you know, for example, that the majority of our readers and listeners are British?

Which is weird to me, for most of my own darling readers are from the Good Old US of A...

I think Sazzie's are likely to be British too... Blogging is amazing like that, we veer and vire all over the world, and I still don't understand how others find
us or are attracted to our blogs...

Except statcounter gives you some answers..

I tried to insert the table here, with no luck, so I'll just ad-lib, if that's okay with you?

Readers looking for us here at madmanicmamas.blogspot in the last week have keyed in the following key words:

"bedtime for teenagers" ...I live in hope.

You're kidding right?

'Bedtime for parents of teenagers' would be closer to the point, and probably more accurate... Formal bedtimes went out for Grizz a couple of years ago at least...

Since then, I'm likely to be in bed hours before him...

Hey, I'm making up for all those sleepless nights and long months of burping and colic-horror...

Similarly, "...calming mad pregnant woman".

Try getting them to chew on coal...

Seriously, when I was carrying my man-child, I recall being drawn to ice-cream and Maltesers... No kidding... I've never lost all that post-baby weight!

And what else do they type?

Try, " of bad dressing by teenagers."

That's true - Have you seen Lady Ga Ga?

And I see more of Grizz's underpants these days, peeking above his jeans waistband, than I do my husband's!

Then, "...reasons why teenagers laugh".

What, you're kidding, right? ...You don't know?

They laugh at their parents, that's who...

We're shadows of our former selves.

Wraiths and Demons all... Shattered, knackered, battered, bruised, beaten, brawled-with and beleaguered...

We're 'owned' by our children, are we not..? We don't stand a chance!

And finally, "I'm in love with my daughter's boyfriend"...

Oops, maybe you've got the wrong blog there!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

I've been driving in my car.. It's not quite a Jaguar...

Well, it's over.

The hassling, the haranguing, the heckling, the harrassing, the hooting of derision, the horrors...

We've given in and bought a car for him...

And how do I feel? As if a great dark wing has been lifted from around my shoulders.

I had wanted to put this moment off... And we have, at least until most of the bad weather has subsided... but he needs a car to be able to travel to local sports centres, if he's going to work his way through College, starting this summer as a lifeguard. And we have no public transport chez nous.

De nada. Zilch. Postman Pat's Postbus, in fact.

Grizz passed his driving licence last year with flying colours... You might remember.

And I feared, as only a dramatic mad, manic, mama can, that only disaster lay ahead...

I've seen the car written off, (like our neighbour's son's - James was a passenger that day, remember - A year ago?!)

I've seen twisted and mangled metal, steri-strips and bandages...

And I worried, and worrited, and wondered, and wibbled, and whined, and wittered, and I might even have 'wined.'

But no more. The deed is done and dusted. We pick the car up on Wednesday. A 'Y' Reg Ford Focus Zetec previously owned by a non-smoking, tee-total elderly widower-man from Sunderland -- A gentleman who only drove the car to Church to teach Sunday School and never, not ever, crashed the car...


My man-child has wheels.

Gird your loins, and mind you lock up any loose animals.

Especially if you're a Postman called Pat, owner of a black and white cat, name of Jess!

Monday, 8 March 2010

auntiegwen's top 10 of things that make me feel old.

I did actually write the whole top 10 but then I figured who wants to be that depressed first thing on a Monday morning? So, selfless to the core wee soul that your auntie is, cut it down to the top 5.

My youngest daughter is now taller than me. That makes me the smallest person in the house. It is hard to be authoratative and tell them off when I have to look up to do it.

Nothing like a fresh faced daughter or 2 to highlight the ageing process. In photographs I have to make sure there's someone in between us as the contrast in the skin tone is too shocking.

My eldest daughter has a boyfriend. This boyfriend has a car, a job and a mortgage.

My son has started shaving.

My eldest daughter will be 18 on Thursday. Legally an adult, officially no longer a child. My beautiful baby girl, my practice child, growing up, about to leave home and go off to university. The thought of not seeing you, joking with you, hugging you and just living with you makes me weep every time I think of it. I hope you feel you've had a happy childhood and a good start. It has been the greatest priviledge to be your Mummy and the pleasure has been all mine. I've given you life so go and live it to the full. May all your wildest dreams come true.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Worst In Them Is Really The Worst In Us

Word To Mother
(Photo courtesy of Paola )

Teenagers, if we let ourselves see it, are the best mirrors into our own personalities. That is not a pleasant thought is it? Especially when your kids are acting like typical sometimes obnoxious teenagers.

Although I have been privy to this little tidbit for quite a while, yesterday it kind of struck me in the face at full force. My second child (out of 5) is 18. He is a great kid with a kind heart, a great work ethic and I love him dearly. His biggest problem, he has a temper. It is a problem that has been an issue for quite a few years. Too often when he is around there is a lot of yelling, ordering around of the younger kids and him just losing it.

It's even gotten to the point that his 11 and 12 year old siblings don't want to stay home alone with him because it is just unpleasant for them. He also sometimes (okay many times) has a less than pleasant manner of talking, asking and replying. The tone of his comments sometimes come out nasty even if they are not nasty comments.

I have been fighting a losing battle with him lately about the manner in which he talks to me. I refuse to be spoken to in a fresh tone of voice or with an attitude. I don't feel I should let him get away with it and I don't feel I deserve it. Again-we don't see eye to eye and not much progress has been made. Yesterday, we had a family day.

We went to visit friends and family. The biggest problem was during the drive. My son is impatient and he feels cramped. We all do, but sometimes you just have to suck it up. Not much you can do about it. By the time we got home things were just worse, and within 5 minutes of getting home he already had the 11 year old in tears. Just to qualify that, it is not really that hard of a thing to do because he does tend to cry quite a bit, but still it was not warranted.

My husband lost it. I don't think I have heard him yell at any of the kids like that in a very very long time. After having had numerous issues on the drive home, this incident was the straw that broke the camel's back. That ended up leading to a disagreement between my husband and myself. I get upset and a few minutes later I am over it. My husband on the other hand has the memory of an elephant and he doesn't let go easily. Even this morning he was still upset and it was clouding his mood.

Last night when I had sat down to talk about the issue with my husband, it just really hit me that the things we are having the most issues about with my son are the things we ourselves need to work on most. It was not a very flattering mirror to be looking into. Both my husband and I have been "blessed" with tempers, but I will make this more about myself than my husband. He will have to come to his own conclusions about himself, because from my experience trying to tell someone something is not as powerful as taking your own look at yourself.

dirty mirror, ceiling fan, driftwood glass wind chime, and me.

(Photo courtesy of Jillallyn)

So what did I see about myself yesterday? Well maybe I don't treat and talk to my kids with enough respect. Yes, that might sound odd, but I do believe in treating people, any person, the way you yourself want to be treated.

Easier said than done of course. I often fail at it. I am after all only human and unlearning a behavior and replacing it with a new one takes a long time. It may be weeks or months until the new behavior actually turns into habit. I also realized that I am impatient and many times I tend to answer my kids impatiently, abruptly or sarcastically. I don't always do that of course, but it tends to slip out of me in that manner more often when I am stressed or tired. So, it happens a lot I guess.

Sadly, I have also at times found myself yelling at my children to stop yelling at each other. Funny eh? Nope, quite pathetic really. That is really not being a good role model! The other thing I realized is that kids know when their parents disagree about something. It seems too often lately that after I say something to one of the kids, my husband will tell me (in a low voice), that I should let it go, or I shouldn't say that or my favorite comment these days (not), that I am piling on.

Our kids have very good hearing. Low voice or not, and even if they didn't hear the words, they know that their father thinks their mother is wrong. Somehow, we are going to have to find a way to stop that. I have no issue being told, not in the presence of the kids that he disagrees with me and to discuss it.

I do have an issue with anything contradictory being said in front of the kids, whether it is done discreetly or not. What is the hardest thing about dealing with your children and especially teenagers? I think that it is the fact that if you are honest with yourself, the behaviors you like the least in them, are really just a reflection of the mistakes you yourself are making in your life.

Not a very flattering mirror to be looking into is it?

by Susie.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Mother bear is angry

We've been lucky so far; no real medical issues, although a few close shaves; no real behavio(u)r issues (although I do realise it's early days); so I don't have to become a roaring mother bear very often on behalf of my cubs. But this week I'm raging. Aploplectic even.

The Queenager has been diagnosed with a fairly significant learning disability since 2001. A bit like dyslexia only it affects math(s) and spelling, plus some spatial and processing issues thrown in. In short, she sometimes has a hard time of it and has to work really hard to stay on top of it. Like many kids with these challenges however, she scores very highly in some subjects and really low in others so the average numbers look, well, average.

Anyway, she's a junior in high school (Lower 6th) and is about to start taking the exams she'll need to get into most colleges. (American kids apply by the end of the calendar year and generally know where they're going before leaving school.) If she were to take the SAT test, she is allowed extra time, a quiet room, stop-the-clock breaks and a computer instead of writing by hand. She needs all of this to finish the test on time. Like many kids however, the ACT test (just another board of similar exams) is better for her. The questions are easier to understand and the math component is less advanced. Unbelievably, ACT have turned down all her requests for accommodations (ie. extra time etc.)

Despite the fact that we have professional diagnostic reports dating back to 2001, and a letter from her neurologist advising the breaks to prevent migraines, they are saying that she's average, and further more, they don't have to rely on advice and/or reports from a third party. It's as if they haven't read the reports at all. And BTW, given that we probably wouldn't be allowed to self-diagnose her problems, what's the point of asking for reports if you're going to turn round and say they don't mean anything?

There is a lot of tension in the house at the moment, and it's hard for me to "behave normally" because I'm so upset for her. It is inconceivable that some of her peers are getting extra time because of "text anxiety" that has just been diagnosed this past year, and yet we are being told there's not enough of a paper trail, and not enough proof of  impairment for my daughter. It is hard enough for these children in school and in life without having to put up with this kind of idiocy. It's like giving a colo(u)r blind child a multi-toned bar chart to read.

Anyhoo, I am learning to breathe again, and we are appealing the decision. I dread to think what will happen if they turn down our appeal though.


Expat Mum

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Motherhood Giveaway

Mad Manic Mamas (and Dads!) is a far from commercial blog, so I swear that no money has changed hands for this giveaway...

If there are 10 of you who'd like to leave a comment by tomorrow, then we will ensure that you receive a copy of this DVD.

Motherhood was penned and directed by Katherine Dieckmann, based upon her own, obviously hectic and harried, experiences of motherhood in somewhat flakey Greenwich Village -- You might enjoy the film, and we've 10 copies to give away.

Good luck! Ciao!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Playing Nursey

Last week my son Rory, 13, was poorly with a virus. A high temperature, bit of a cough and no energy at all. The "no energy at all" bit was difficult to distinguish from the usual bone idle apathy that we have to contend with, but as he couldn't be bothered to turn his mobile on I sensed this was genuine illness.

Two days off school and he barely moved from the sofa. He regressed, hour by hour, into the little boy I could fuss over without him grunting 'GERROFF" when I ruffle his hair. He lay there watching children's telly: Spongebob Squarepants rather than repeats of The Inbetweeners on his laptop.

I brought him his pillow and duvet, served him drinks on a tray, fetched books, adminstered paracetamol and even nipped out to the corner shop to buy rubbishy sweets like sour lollipops and sherbet dib-dabs.

We both loved every minute of it. He slept on and off during the day while I cooked, put washings in and got through a big pile of ironing. Later in the afternoon we watched Countdown together, gaining extra time for the numbers and conundrums by pausing with Sky+.

By Wednesday he was begrudgingly back at school, the transition being made a little easier with a lift there and back rather than taking the bus. He was still weary in the evenings so was easily persuaded to have a relaxing bath and an early night.

By Friday the brave little soldier was back to normal: grunting, criticising our television choices then retreating to his room to talk to his mates on MSN.

I tried to ruffle his hair this morning....

Trish @ Mum's Gone to...