Being a parent is a conundrum yo. This worries me because I’m whack at conundrums. I live my life with the Countdown theme tune bouncing around my square noggin. Panicking against the clock that I’M NOT GOING TO ABLE TO WORK IT ALL OUT IN TIME. Fighting the urge to snap my pencil, flick Nick the v’s and turn the table over. Take three from the top and three from the bottom and STICK ‘EM UP YOUR JACKSY!
In short: I do not know what I am doing.
How I will I be judged in history?
It’s much the same with parenting. I’m a worrier. How do you know if you’re getting it right? How can you be sure you’re not twisting your kids melon? Answer: you can not. I fear Larkin was a prophet not a poet.
It is impossible to determine how my actions will interact on the pyshce of my children. Not that I haven’t tried my bananas off. But to no avail. It’s a bit of an issue. I’m a bit of an issue. I spend much of my therapy sessions frantically anticipating the content of my children’s future therapy sessions. S’up with THAT!
I should like to get off the Circle of Life please. I feel a bit travel sick.
This morning I had an argument with my two year old daughter. TWO YEARS OLD. Cheese and crackers. I foolishly asked her to wear a t-shirt and jeans, and she went life-endingly ballistic. We came to a compromise when I pathetically backed-the-truck-up and allowed her to wear what she wanted. A Superman costume.
I have nothing against Superman please don’t misunderstand, I’d just prefer not to loose an argument to a person not yet in charge of their own bowels. I mean COME ON, she can’t even pronounce her own name yet, and YET her battle tactics significantly out class mine.
Silly Daddy, NO *smack to the forehead*.
And this got me thinking…. Do I let her wear what she wants now and risk her leaving the house in 15 years time dressed in a way that requires I shoot myself in the face? Or, do I assert some parental force in the here and now, set up some boundaries, but risk quashing who she is?
They say that we parent in the style we were parented. We replicate our circumstances finding a comfort in the old-familiar. Or, alternatively, we avoid the past like the plague, remembering all too well the impact it had on our fragile little selves.
This got me thinking……
A rainy day in history
I have a very significant memory of being in the playground when I was five. It was raining. Boys ran and jumped and splashed and shouted, all wearing their coats by the hoods. Girls played hopscotch and skipped with the old-fashioned skipping ropes, the kind with the wooden handles. Dinner ladies stood in huddles drinking tea and ignoring the paedophiles leering through the railings. It was the 70’s, everything was a generalisation back then.
I was not playing with the boys. Or the girls. I was otherwise engaged. I was modelling my new ‘rainy day’ outfit. Brace yourselves. Matching blue PVC rain trousers, coat and hat, with yellow wellies, AND, to top it all off, a yellow umbrella.
(I am wincing as I type this)
As I catwalked out into a wet playground in Leeds I felt like the BOMB yo. I swaggered in those yellow wellies let me tell you. Swaggered like a play-ER. Swaggered with my socks bunched around my toes and my plastic blue trousers nipping at my vacant boy-sack. And even though the chin strap of my rain hat was cutting into my underdeveloped Adam’s apple (I suspect it wasn’t designed to interact with the throats of boys) I bore the pain for my fashion. I strutted around that playground like Shirley Temple with a hard on.
On my 2nd or 3rd circuit of the ENTIRE playground, I was shocked out of my little world as the umbrella I was twirling above my head, shot upwards and out of my grasp. I looked up expecting to see the hand of God (?) but instead saw the face of a grumpy old dinner lady.
With the jolted wobble of a bingo wing, she garotted me, hoicking the plastic hat off my shoebox head. The elastic strap nearly removed my facial features as it dragged up and over my wet little face. Momentarily it lodged in my eye-sockets, forcing my head to fold backwards and heavenward, as the final tug exposed my flat, sweaty PVC hair. I felt naked. I felt vunerable.
She didn’t say anything, the miserable dinner lady, she just frowned at me and marched my paraphernalia back inside. The other dinner ladies stared at me. None of the children seemed to notice. I leaned casually on the railings and vowed to pay a bit more heed to the clothes I wore. And to be significantly more insecure.
You should know, I was entirely complicit in my wardrobe choice, but never-the-less, I am assuming my mother had smoked some bad acid that morning?
WHAT WAS SHE THINKING LETTING ME LEAVE THE HOUSE DRESSED LIKE THAT?
Should she have stepped in? Would I have stepped in?
History repeating itself
I bought my first born, my lovely son, a PVC fireman coat from a charity shop at the seaside. On his slight 3-year old frame it reached down past his knees. A bright red and orange monstrosity with flames licking up the sides like a chavvy hell-fire. It had a Fireman’s helmet drawn on a massive hat; a hat attached on to the collar. A bit like mittens on strings. (I had mittens on strings – round and round we go). Add to that some inconspicuous black buckles and billowing sleeves long enough to house Mr Tickle and BOOM, one pimped up toddler.
NOW LISTEN CAREFULLY LIKE MY WIFE DIDN’T.
I bought this coat for role-play. For messing around in the privacy of the garden or his bedroom. It was not supposed to leave the house. If I’d have known that my son was going to emotionally bond with it , render it his second skin, and wear it whenever he left the house what-ever-the-weather, I’d have smothered him at birth, or at the very least I’d never have bought the ****** coat.
I tried my UTMOST not to judge my little boy as he skipped around like a chip-off-the-old-nobhead in 30 degree heat wearing effectively a PVC dress and hood. He looked like Aunt Sally in bondage attire. As boys his age scooted by on their scooters with trendy trainers and shorts, my little boy ran around in circles, in public, fighting imaginary fires. Dragging behind him half a twirly hose-pipe that he INSISTED on taking EVERYWHERE, whilst wearing the bloody coat that I BOUGHT HIM. What was I thinking?
They say we parent in the style that we were parented. DAMN YOU LARKIN…
History – in short
I was 12 years old and I was stood in my bedroom looking into a cracked full length mirror. I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Looking back at me was a boy who’s parents obviously intended him to be socially obliterated on sight.
I was wearing a t-shirt, pale blue shorts, socks and open-toed Jesus sandals. I had tears in my eyes. I was about 30 minutes into a tantrum that would end up lasting well into my 30’s. I had tried every trick in the persuasive book just to be allowed to wear jeans and trainers like a real boy, but to no avail. It was a hot day and my mother was concerned I would overheat, so to cool me down, she dressed me up like a wanker.
On arrival to the Cricket Club, all of my pals were wearing trainers and jeans. Trainers, jeans and BIG ASS smiles as I skipped on up dressed like a male Heidi, with shorts so short that my testicles (had they not retracted into my neck) would surely have made a guest appearance.
I developed a thick skin that afternoon. As the boys derided not only my very short shorts, but also my skinny white legs and Messiah footwear, I took it on the chin. I learned to blush internally. I learned to laugh outwardly while internally plotting genocide. I did all this while standing up as I feared that sitting down risked a impromptu testicular puppet show.
They soon got over it though and all was forgotten as we attempted to chat up the attendee girls, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that girls could see my mister through the material of my hot pants. And although this was never confirmed and the day went without further incident, I was a changed lady boy.
History in the making
A couple of years ago, I recounted this instance to my mother in search of some higher meaning, an explanation to appease my pain, but for her the memory is hazy. Special Brew can do that to a person. She tells me that ‘sometimes children just have to do as they are told’.
With this I agree, wholeheartedly. It’s a conundrum being a parent yo. Which decisions are the right ones and which are the far right ones?
My mother could not possibly have known when she made that seemingly inconsequential decision, that 28 years later I would be writing about it in a blog. That’ll learn her. She did what she thought was best. My only comfort is that when she’s infirm, I can dress her up like Adolf Hitler and leave her in Asda for the day with a sign saying ‘ Excuse me I farted’.
The result of all this is that I will NOT wear what you want me to wear, OR what you expect me to wear, EVER. If you die, I will not wear a black suit, if you get married I will not wear a suit at all. I will never EVER wear a tie. I will dress down when I am supposed to dress up. In my last interview, I didn’t even tuck my shirt in. I still got the job. I will not dance for you m’kay?
In short I am a total nobhead about clothing. I am still making a stand 28 years later. Clothing is a personal thing. It is who we are. How we want to be perceived by the world. Our mask, our costume. Over the years I have worn some utterly ridiculous outfits and haircuts, but they were my ridiculous outfits and haircuts. I have sported cowboy boots and shoulder pads. High collars and quiffs. Piercings and blonde flashes. Deal with it. I haven’t.
So from this day forth, my son can wear whatever he wants if it makes him happy. Furthermore, I will never argue with my daughter about clothes. She can be Superman everyday of her life if she wants. I’m gonna be cool with it. I just PRAY TO GOD that she still wants to be a fully covered super hero when she’s a teenager……
N.B – No mother’s were harmed during the writing of this blog.
By-the -by, I have been nominated for Best Writing in this years Mad Blog awards. If you enjoyed this and other posts and would like to vote, you can do so here. Love you.x
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