I’m convinced that everyone else’s parenting skills are better than mine.
They’ve all got this motherhood malarkey down to a tee I reckon.
I chose the wrong time to go for a quiet coffee. Just the two of us, me and my husband, Brian. I thought it might be like the old days. You know. Before they came. But I didn’t think it through. It was Saturday morning. It was 11 am. I should have known that the parenting anxiety would plague me. Follow me out of the door.
“hey! don’t forget me!”
That’s all you need on a Saturday morning, isn’t it? A coffee a pastry and a hearty serving of angst, please.
The café door swung open and in bounced that teenager. If you’ve ever read a New Zealand sports magazine, I think he’s that model kid that advertises rugby boots or some coconut water sports drink.
Me, with my paper cup in one hand a croissant with jam in the other. Him, with his muddy knees and sweat lathered hair, looking the picture of teenage boy healthiness, bellowing to his mum (who had her running shorts on and was ordering a ‘trim’ and looked more like she should be his girlfriend) for food.
He was hungry. He was sporty. He’d been on the pitch since 4 am. He’d been with the team. He’d been with the ‘guys’
Bang. My, parenting barometer goes flying right down.
I knew there was something I had to worry about this weekend and here it is.
“why don’t our kids do sport?” I whisper to my husband.
Annoyingly, he refuses to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations or talk about them behind his coffee cup like me. He doesn’t believe that if you speak about the person sitting behind you like this:
They can’t hear you! Foolish fool. Needs to stay in more like me. Get some practice.
“They do karate.”
Ah, shad up Mr positive. That’s what I thought in my head. But because I’m 46 and really very mature, I refrained from verbalizing those thoughts.
Yes. I know both our kids are black belts in karate, but that’s on a Tuesday and Thursday night. That doesn’t count. It’s not on a Saturday morning, is it? There’s never anyone outside the village hall on a Thursday night when I drop off.
It needs to be a Saturday morning to have any credibility in this world.
If your kids don’t play sport on a Saturday morning? Then you are… well. I don’t know. You’re weird and so is your dog.
Every bloody time.
“No school today?”
“Hi, person that I’ve never seen before in my life, No. They’re not at school today… we homeschool.”
Wait for it… Wait for it…
“Really? But…what about the. Dun Dun Duunnnn… SPORT!”
Yes. You’re right. Let’s not worry about whether or not I can teach my children algebra (actually, umm, no). Or if I can give a plausible explanation as to why the moon is round (is it something to do with it whizzing through the air so fast?) or even, did Shakespeare write Hamlet? (I don’t know. Let’s watch Shakespeare in love, and we’ll see). No. None of that, only,
“what about the sport?”
It’s getting worse. The anxiety. Rather than ignoring this beast of a teenager, and closing my ears to how he and his mates “nailed it”, I’m thinking back to what my own two beauties are doing.
Oh god. On this beautiful Saturday morning, when it seems every other teenager worth their weight is out on some pitch doing something that involves a ball, my two?
They’re playing bloody Minecraft.
When I ran out of that door at 10 am this morning screaming the list of jobs I wanted to be done by the time I returned, one was still in her pyjamas stinking and the other? Well. I don’t know about the other because I only saw the back of his head. His face lit up by the artificial sunshine of brick man land.
Deflated and feeling familiarly inadequate, I suggested to Brian that we return home and,
“I don’t know… Maybe you could take them on a bike ride or something”.
He reminded me that he has (cough),
“a few things I want to do around the house”.
Yeah, I bet you do.
Back from the café. And they hadn’t moved. Still sat there. Staring. Glued to it. (in all fairness the dishes had been done, but I think they’d used the dog blanket to dry the wine glasses.)
Mummy’s home! Yay! All kind and tolerant and relaxed from her time alone with Daddy. Hurray!
“Turn that bloody thing off. NOW’
“I’m winning… just give me five more minutes.”
Only it wasn’t said like that. More like this.
“ H an n g on… I’ m…………w…i…n n…in…g” fingers going ten to the dozen.
I should have been a nice parent. Like in the books. You’re supposed to listen to what they say and take their opinions into consideration. After all, they’re humans too.
I contemplated this for about minus zero seconds. Reached over the hump of fleecy pyjama top and the cereal bowl. And clicked the little X.
Good job Liz. So mature. You really thought that one through.
All shouts and flinging arms and dramatics,
“I’m banning the computer” I scream “ go and get a life”.
I’m on to a winner here. I can feel it. There’s no stopping me now.
There’s the teenage scowl that would melt ice, followed by the sigh that would freeze it up again.
Me. Busy, busy, busy. Got to wash those wine glasses again in time for tonight. Far too busy polishing the hob to get into a fight. Eyes down, wiping the same spot for the past two minutes, middle-aged huff, huff, huff.
Like a gnawing little rat I proceed;
“if you put as much time into your piano as you do that bloody game you’d be Mozart by now.”
That’s an intelligent observation, Liz, seeing as Mozart is dead.
Teen flounces out.
It’s pouring down, Brian has decided that today would be the perfect day to put a pull-up bar in the garage (probably so he can escape out of the loft) and I’m left here. That’s the downside to living in the country. Beautiful yes, but no transport. 15 minutes drive from town. I hate board games as you may have heard, so there’s no way that’s happening.
Two big, lanky, bored teenagers, circling me in the kitchen like hyenas.
“What’s there to do if we can’t play on the computer?”
I kid you not. Those were the exact words.
“Ermmm. Shit, shit, shit, think, think, think. Why don’t you read a book?”
The raised eyebrow.
I ask myself am I being unrealistic. Are there any teenagers, anywhere, who get up on a wet Saturday morning and think, ‘I know. Sod Facebook and my memes. I think I’ll read a book.”
Don’t lie. You’re just saying that to make me feel better.
I know the answer is yes.
I just know it. I can see it in my head.
In my mind movie.
It’s fantastic actually. If ever I get bored, I’ve got this film that runs 24/7 in my mind. No joke. It stars a fabricated family that looks a little like mine. There’s always a perfect husband. Cool and chilled.
A calm and beautiful wife, calm. Not frantic. Calm.
And these two wonderfully intelligent, funny, adorable teenagers. These teenagers do things like stand in the kitchen with their mother. Talking. Sharing funny tales of stuff that have happened throughout the day. They make smoothies with lots of green stuff in them, and they’re chatting, chatting, chatting. Laughing, Laughing, Laughing.
Drinking their green smoothies. Together. Liking their mum.
And do you know what? I can never see a phone with a picture of a girl with doggy ears, ANYWHERE!! Nope. No computer, no YouTube, nothing. Only books. Glorious books.
And the mother? She’s smiling away and nodding in agreement with the child. She never EVER says;
“is anyone going to empty these bloody bins or shall I just do it again?’.
No. She never says that. She never rubs between her eyebrows with her fingers, trying to erase those two lines that are being etched deeper and deeper into her face. No. She just opens the door to the bin cupboard, takes the milk carton from the non-recycle bin, that hasn’t been washed out properly and stinks of cheese, and calmly places it into its proper place. All the while, keeping eye contact with the smoothy drinking book worm youth standing next to her. Oh, and I think he’s got a rugby shirt on too.
I want to be in that film
I could watch it all day. It’s rated a U. There’s never any bad language or violence. And the rude bits? They all take place in candlelight, and there’s this ever-present wispy fog surrounding the husband and wife. Oh and look! She’s laughing again. Never yawning and saying,
“where’s my Nurofen my stomach’s friggin killing me”
No. never that. Just smiling. Wanting to join her fun-loving husband. In all things fun.
I wonder what rugby boy is doing now? Probably practising some fancy rugby throws with his dad. Getting Ready for next Saturday’s game. Out with ‘the guys’. Making his parents feel as though they’ve done a bloody good job.
I’m desperate. I don’t know what to suggest to them. They’re both just hanging around. Sighing.
I know. I’ll do what I always do when I feel like I can’t cope. Go to my office and have a little cry.
I think back to my own childhood. To my brother. To my sister. We weren’t homeschooled. We went to school. But we never played any sports on a Saturday. In fact, we were lazy little sods who given half the chance, would stay in and watch Swap Shop.
Sometimes, if my mum and dad went out to the shops, we’d have a farting contest on the landing upstairs, but that was about as sporty as it got. No netball or hockey for Lizzie.
Come to think of it, the only sport me and my friends actively participated in on a Saturday was ‘knock a door run’. Either that or phoning the operator from the phone box and asking her if we could speak to E.T.
No computers back in my childhood.
I love this toilet. And it loves me. It has a way of showing me that everything is going to be alright. I swear, if it was big enough, I’d put a day bed in here and never come out.
Tap tap tap. You’re nearly through Brian. I imagine I’ll come home tomorrow to find him camped on the roof by the chimney. Like that nutter grandad in chitty chitty bang bang.
My time in the office has both calmed and educated me. While here, I’ve been informed, by courtesy of mindfood magazine, that gaming is actually beneficial for the youth of today. It teaches them code.
There. Thank you very much, gifted journalist, who wrote that. That’s all I needed to hear. You’ve saved my Saturday. And my kids would lick your shoes if they could find you on Facebook.
So what if my kids never play team sports. So what? Neither did I and I’m alright. Ok, ignore the fact that I find solace in a two metre by three-metre room with a toilet in it, but that aside, I’m pretty normal.
I admire from afar those parents who drive their kids to all of these sports at the weekend and stand and watch on the freezing cold sidelines, I really do. But face it, Liz. It ain’t you. And that’s ok.
My positive thinking brings me out of the office a new woman (I think I, may have schizophrenic tendencies but we won’t go into that today ’cause I’m in a good mood now).
I tell them they can put the screens on.
Knock themselves out on musically. Put dog ears on their photos and send them to the world. Get on snap chat and send streaks. Smiley face, heart eyes, unicorn. Rainbow.
Kill square block man with your hammer that won’t move sideways. Learn some more code.
And when they get bored of that? They can go and play ‘knock a door run’.
There are approximately 100 metres between each house on our road. That’d keep them fit. Keep my lovelies occupied.
I could get them to wear that old rugby shirt that my mum got me from the charity shop. Someone might drive past and notice, and then I would no longer feel inadequate. Perfect. Sorted. I’m happy.