The (politically) correct questions to ask your teenager.

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I can’t seem to get it right with my teenagers this week.

Whatever I suggest is wrong. The advice I give is outdated, the questions I am asking are ignored. Even my impression of the cat talking with a speech impediment didn’t get any laughs. Nothing. Just a sigh, a look, and then, slam.

Fortunately for my teenagers, I am not in my blubbering in the toilet fragile state this week. No. Instead, I’m in my ‘let’s research this problem and talk it through’, frame of mind.

I turned to Google.

I found a lovely little chappy who looked to me, quite frankly, as if he’d never spent twenty minutes with a teenager let alone a lifetime studying them. He couldn’t possibly have done. His hair was still brown, and he was smiling. With his teeth showing. Admittedly, it was a Jack Nicholson from ‘The Shining’ smile, but still, he didn’t look to me like a typical Dad. He showed no signs of mania. He showed no evidence of drowning, nor any of wanting to drown his teenage clients. No, I reckon he was a fake, but no matter, he was a psychologist, and surely that meant he would know the reason my kids think I’m the most antiquated, unfunny, plonker ever.

It seems that the answer lies in the questions that we ask our little bundles of hormonal loveliness. The questions. Not, the answers. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?  That’s it then. Easy.

Armed with my pen, I searched the entire house- it was under the dog blanket warming itself, I began to jot down all of Johnny the psychologists recommended questions that we should be asking our teenagers. I was determined to make this work. I only had until next Wednesday, and then my monthly hormones would insist that I turn into Bruce Banner again.

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There wasn’t much time. This was my window of opportunity.

As I got to number 5 my heart began to sink. I couldn’t help but look at the suggested questions all neatly lined up and compare them to the blurting inquisitions that spew out of my own mouth on a regular basis.

You will find below, the questions that the psychologists recommend you ask your difficult/moody/angry teenager.

Alongside are the alternatives of a psychotic Mother who gets it wrong/every/farts/end.

Please feel free to give yourself a little test (there’s a pencil in the cutlery drawer).

  • What is worse – this OR this?  Me: You can either do the dishwasher, or you can empty the bins. No, I’ll tell you what, seeing as you get more pocket money than your sister, how about you do BOTH?
  • What makes it better – this OR this?  No discussion, just do it. OK?
  • Are you feeling more angry/hurt?  You need an early night. What time did you turn your phone off last night?
  • How does that affect you?  Why don’t you just come off Facebook and Snapchat? They’re all a load of twaddle.
  • When you aren’t busy/when you are lying in bed at night – what are the things that make you most upset?  Have you finished your reading response for English? You look like death warmed up. Why aren’t you asleep yet?
  • Is there anything about this you feel embarrassed or ashamed about?  I can not BELIEVE that you posted that on Facebook. Aunty Vera reads everything you put up. What were you thinking? Delete it, NOW.
  • What do you wish you could change about yourself in all of this?  You need to find yourself a different attitude my girl, don’t you think?
  • What makes you feel a bit better about all of this? Do you want $10 for a Subway?
  • What’s the most frustrating part of it all?   You need to stop answering back and calm yourself down. Why don’t you go outside and get some fresh air?
  • What do you think people don’t understand about this?  Maybe I should text you? Maybe then you’d answer me when I ask you a question. Would you rather I text you? Is that it?
  • What do you wish you could change about yourself in all of this?  You want to be careful. Put something on You Tube, and that’s it. Forever. Everyone can see it. It doesn’t look good, does it?
  • What is coming up in your week that will be hard?  Don’t be dramatic, just get some early nights. Have you had plenty of water today? You look dehydrated.
  • Why do you think that made you so mad/upset/worried?   Can’t you see that you need to start spending more time in the real world and less time on your phone? It’s not all smiley emojis and thumbs up in this house you know. I won’t tell you again, empty the bins.
  • Is there someone else you would like to talk to about this?  Do you even remember how to hold a face to face conversation with a human being?
  • What helps you cope?  Do you want to come for a coffee? Don’t worry, they have wifi.
  • This might seem like a dumb question, but do you know why you are most upset about that?   Why do you talk to me like I’m a moron?
  • What times of day are the hardest for you?  Tired? Well maybe if you tried getting to bed earlier at night, like a normal human being, you wouldn’t be snottering in bed every morning. Get up. Now.
  • What can I do to help?  Want to hear my cat with a speech impediment voice?
  • If you had unlimited powers to change things, what would you do?  Shall I keep this Harry Potter wand and cloak? You might want to play with it again one day. I’ll put it in the spare room then. Just in case.
  • What are your options?  We love you so much. Don’t ever forget that, will you? Leave the bins today. You’re Dad’ll do them.

How did you do? Better than me I hope.

The truth is, we do have to ask our teenagers the right questions. It’s just that we also need a little manual on how to react to the answers. Maybe an App of some sort. Nothing out there for that though, is there Johnny boy?

I’m thinking something along the lines of this:

Q: What helps you cope?

Teenager: Being left alone with plenty of food and unlimited data.

Wrong answer from us: Cheeky swine! Wouldnt we all like to while away the day doing exactly as we damn well pleased...

Right answer from us: Well there’s plenty of food in the fridge just help yourself, and I’ll phone your Dad and tell him to increase the data plan. I’ll give you a knock when I’ve finished slaving away in the kitchen making you some more food. Love you, sweetheart.

Q: What is coming up in your week that will be hard?

Teenager: Life.

Wrong answer from us: When I was your age I was humping a pig to get a free pony ride

Right answer from us: Yes. Life is hard. Even though your Dad works his ar*e off and I have given up on ever earning another penny in order to homeschool you, it’s tough. Take the week off. Relax.

Q: What do you wish you could change about yourself in all of this?

Teenager: I wish I were 21. With a billion You Tube Subscribers. I wish I were a millionaire. And, I wish I could always sit in the front.

Wrong answer from us: Well your bloody well not. You’re 16, you need to pass these exams otherwise you’ll be a dropout and people will blame me for homeschooling you. I’ll give you $30 to cut the grass.It’s not your turn.

Right answer from us: How about we treat you like a 21-year-old? You are mature enough after all. We will give you everything you need, including buying you more subscribers. And I’ll put your sister in the boot from now on.

Hhmm. How about it? Think it’d work?

Let’s all make a point of not just asking the right questions but also reacting to the answers with kindness.

I’ve got a week of niceness left. I’m going to try it. This will be the new me.

And if it fails?

I’ll be climbing into that bloody computer, running after Johnny with a knife.

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30-40. What I wish I’d known then.

wouldn't it be fantastic to look into the future and reassure yourself that everything will be fine.

I had my first child when I was 30. He started school when I was 34. You think you know it all at 30, but of course, this isn’t true. Nor at 40, and probably not 50, 60, 70 or 80 either. I suppose life would be boring if we knew it all. Sort of.  But. There are things that I do know now, things that had I known then would have made my life a damn sight easier. Or maybe just my conscience clearer. Mostly around the whole school thing.

Those hideous first few days when your child is about to start school. Feeling as though they’re  abandoning you. This little person who has been my right-hand man for 4 or 5 years is now off to school. Wearing his new shoes and uniform and looking all grown up. It’s Tuesday! We always go for our big food shop together on Tuesday and then for a fluffy afterwards…Yes, I know I swore I’d never take you back there again after you kicked over the chair and broke one of the spindles, but it’s our place. Our routine.

The First day of school. Trying your hardest to be cheerful. Upbeat. ‘It’s going to be soo exciting.’ And then the dreaded question. “Will you stay with me, Mummy?” Up the path to the classroom. All the while chattering on incessantly about how ‘those gates are a nice colour blue’ and  ‘I wonder if that tree always has those pretty flowers?’ His hand starting to grip a little bit tighter now.  Why couldn’t I have been more like that new entrant Mother? You know the one I mean? Always there,  smiling, confident, breezing in as though she’s done it a million times before. Her child biting at the bit to get into the classroom. To show the new teacher a picture that he’d drawn in the summer holidays.

But no. There’s You. Still trying to figure out where your child is supposed to hang his coat up. “Oh look! Your peg is next to Lauras. That’s a nice name. I bet she’s a lovely little girl” you blabber.  Pease let her be a lovely little girl. You want to go to the teacher, take her to one side and say “can I just let you know…he’s a really sensitive little boy” but she’s already swarmed with all of the other pushys and you don’t want to be one of those.

I wish I’d known this.

That they’ll always be yours. No matter how many hours a day they’re away from you at school they will still be your number one and you theirs. You’ve done the groundwork. They’ll love you and miss you immensely. It’s just their new adventure.

Homework. Those first few years of school. My son was so little. I look back at the photos and literally, he was a baby.

Why then, when he’d been at school for 6 hours already and was thoroughly exhausted, did I make him sit in a car park- waiting for his swimming lessons to start and force that tired little boy to read the assigned book that had been given to him for homework?

There was an alternative woman who had a child in the same class as my son. You can read more about her here. She had quite an effect on me. I watched her float into school one morning with a letter for the headmaster stating that under no circumstances was her child to be given homework. He wouldn’t be doing it she said.  Not ever. At the time, I was too busy trying to keep in with the in-crowd and so outwardly scoffed at her hippy ideas. Deep down though, I knew that she was right. I wish I’d said the same thing. Wish I’d been brave enough to stand out from the crowd like her.

All of those wasted hours spent doing extra work with a tiny child who was already exhausted were the most unproductive, unnecessary and needless to say the most stressful waste of hours of mine and his life.

Being told he was slow in maths.

How many nights did I spend crying and worrying myself sick once I’d been told that my 6-year-old was not up to standard with his numeracy?

His teacher advised me that on our summer holiday to France, I should spend an hour a day with my slow child asking him to add up the numbers on the car number plates. And you know what? This silly cow did. There were tears every day on that holiday. Both from him and from me. The poor boy dreaded it if a car drove past. And regardless of my efforts, every time those annoying little stat test papers came back, they would bring with them that familiar ache of dread in the pit of my stomach. There it was glaring out at me. Numeracy. Still shit. Below average. Not good enough.

I wish I’d known that this would happen.

That at 15 years old, my son would  pass his maths exam (that he took a year early.) He wanted to get it out of the way as he hated maths. He passed his algebra exam and now has the required maths achievements should he want to go to university. (You can read about my thoughts on that though, here.) All of that worrying. All of those tears. What a waste.

Please.

If you are told that your child is ‘slow in anything, get the teacher to put it in writing then rip the piece of paper up and flush it down the toilet. When your child is ready, they will learn. I promise.

I promise.

Bullying. It’s every parent dread, isn’t it? Here’s your baby going happily along, believing that everyone in the world resembles the characters from children’s TV, and then it hits them. They come to learn that there are mean kids out there. Of course there are. There are also mean adults out there too.  Mean parents. But we are bigger and stronger, and we have cars that we can go and sit in and hide. Mascara that we can slap on to cover up the tears.

My son started to be bullied after about a year at school. And this was supposedly a ‘nice’ school. They had the buddy system with the older kids. Plastered all over the walls were the posters about being kind and respectful, all of those things that bullies don’t give a shit about.

Back then, stupidly, I dealt with it the PC way. The way that every school asks you to deal with it. The way that won’t bring attention to the precious school and maybe affect their stats. I went to the headmaster who said he would speak sternly to the boy in question. My boy continued to be bullied. I went back. This time the same man insisted he would have the child in question write a letter to my son, apologising for scratching his back. My boy continued to be bullied. All the while, while I’m faffing around backwards and forwards with a teacher who is more concerned with his school’s stats, my son is becoming increasingly terrified of going to school.

Unfortunately, if your child is in the least bit different, stands out from the crowd, doesn’t fit neatly into the box, there’s a fair chance that some bullying will come their way during the school years.I’m sorry but its highly likely. My son is an actor, he sings at any given opportunity. He doesn’t like rugby. He used to wear coloured contacts so people would think he was a vampire (I know, don’t.)

I wish I’d known back then just to kick up the most almighty fuss imaginable. Fight for him. I know that people say that by doing this you make it worse for the child but believe me, that’s crap. His life at school was hell anyway. It couldn’t have been any worse. I wish I’d fought his corner so hard so that he knew that no matter what, his mum would never stop fighting for him.

Friends.Yours, not theirs.

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Standing outside the school gates and making gossipy chit chat with a load of women whom you normally wouldn’t ask the time of day from. They were the times that when I think of them now, send shivers down my spine.

You try so hard. You want to be accepted. Be part of the mummy club.  But what is it with these parents? Why the hell is it, that all they want to do is mouth off about how their child can recite her nine times tables while playing the flute, or brag about how their little Johnny is going to skip an academic year next year because he is soo intelligent.

You. Wanting the playground to open up and swallow you. Even considering going over to the caretaker and asking him if he needs some help sweeping up the leaves. Anything to get away from this bunch of seagulls.

What you long for is a friend. A real friend. You want to talk about how much wine you needed to get through last week or how your jeans are too tight as a result of it. But unless you are really, really lucky you won’t find that friend hovering at the school gate. You have to look in the car park. She’s there look! Sitting in her car pretending to read something important on her phone. Secretly waiting for 10 seconds before the bell rings so that she can rush over, grab her child and make her getaway.

I wish I’d looked for her straight away. I found her eventually, but it took me 4 years. She too, rushed into the classroom late, flustered. I knew then that I’d found my partner in crime (Hi Anjie). 4 Years. 4 Years wasted on dead end acquaintances. Pushy parents whose goal in life is to make other parents feel inadequate.

There are many more ‘wish I’d known then what I know nows’ but I think this post is long enough. Anyway, it’s 10 am, and the grass needs cutting. It’s forecast to rain at midday.

Maybe, when I’m 70 I’ll say “I wish I’d known to get a ride on mower.”

I’d love to hear of your wish I’d knowns. Jot some down in the comment box below. Let me know your wisdom. Right. To the grass.

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How to be a middle aged parent and still relate to your teenager (ish).

Teenage Slang

It’s bad enough that I’m a middle-aged parent. The wrong side of 45. That I homeschool my kids and so therefore only get to speak to another adult when the farmer needs help shifting the cows.

It’s hard enough that  I emigrated from a trendy, city chic lifestyle in the heart of Bath a decision that I  have to justify to my kids every time I get the HP sauce out. An hour from the city lights by train. Yes. There were trains. Real ones. With buffet cars and everything.

I moved myself and my family to the furthest region that sits at the furthest tip of the country that sits at the furthest end of the entire world. And from there, built a house in the shadow of a volcano, up along a really long road that takes ages to get to.

All of these factors regardless that they were definitely the best decisions of my life can leave a particular woman feeling isolated. Remote. Secluded. Cut off. Not with it.

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Can you help to move me please you middle aged cow.

It’s a tragic feeling to be 46, and to not understand a single word of what your teenagers are going on about. That is where I found myself yesterday. My daughter laughing away with her skypey ghosty, not real world friend. “HaHaHa! You’re suuuch a noob” she hooted. Even though, ten minutes earlier she had asked if she could skip karate as her stomach was cramping and she was probably going to need surgery.

Not just feeling like a silly old bag now, but making myself look even more like one, I stopped the wiping down of the kitchen worktop, mopped my brow and questioned: “did you just say boob?

I was given ‘the look’.

I remember when it was me that used to give those looks. When my mum asked me why I kept referring to everything as, ‘Rad!’

“Because it’s rad to say rad that’s why”. Duh.

Words like rad, ace, wicked and busted were commonplace in my vocabulary (in fact they still are, Christ Liz what a saddo) and no doubt they bugged the hell out of my Mother, but I didn’t pepper every single sodding sentence with them.

To be hip and cool and gain the trust and respect from our teenagers, maybe even become, you know, their friends (think Madonna and Lourdes, Vic and Cruz) we have to get down, hang loose, speak their lang.

Here are some wicked words or phrases that’ll take you to the party and I’m not talking the Tupperware one, my babes. So sit back, take a chill pill and read on.

  • Same. Here you go. Here’s one to drive you mental. Same literally means ‘I feel the same or I understand how you feel’. Being lazy arsed teenagers though, they do not say the full sentence. Instead, they just say the last word of it. “I think I’ll go to the gym today” “Same”.”My mums being a total cow” “same”. Or, the one that totally confuses the bejeezus out of me is: teen falls over and twists their ankle. Friend, looking on, doesn’t think to ask if the poor sod needs any help. No. Just shakes their head and says “Same”. What the hell is THAT all about??
  •  Streaks. When I first heard my boy say this, I was impressed. I thought he’d been doing a bit of 1980s history. Looking back at the dangerous life that I led as a teenager when to see two boobies running across Twickenham was the highlight of the year. But no. ‘Streaks’. A set of snappy, crappy, snap chat thingys that you keep sending to the same person. If you want a bit of a laugh, switch off the wifi before midnight and hear your teenager wail “Noooo! I’m gonna lose my streaks now!” Ah, Shaddap streaker.
  • Bro*. Friend/mate/pal . Regardless of the fact that my 16-year-old son was born and raised for the first 8 years of his life in Bath, probably the poshest city IN THE WORLD, he insists on calling everyone he meets, ‘Bro”. Being the open minded and respectful Mother that I am, I like to remind him, a lot,  that he is not actually a gangster in New Jersey, rather a homeschooled British laddy living up a long road under a volcano.*After doing my research, I found that the term ‘Bro’ has been in use since the 60s. Hmmph. I was obviously hanging with the wrong dudes.
  • Fam. (Short for family) Mates/ friends. Like an extension of the bro but this time referring to the plural. “I’m missing my fam”, “I’m with my Fam tonight.” Er, no, Sonny Jim. Actually, you’re not, are you? Were you with your family, those dishes would be done, you’d be practising your piano, and we’d all be in a mood. Like a real damn Fam.
  • Chur. Thank you/ hello/ok/yes/nice/goodbye. Confused? Not as much as I  am when every single friggin thing I ask my son, he answers with “Chur”. “Here’s your dinner.” “Chur”. “I’ll pick you up at 6.” “Chur”. Grrr. Chur off I say.
  • Beef. Issue/an argument/confrontation. I sort of get this one. I think. I sometimes describe people who are muscley as being ‘beefy’, so maybe it’s similar. “She’d better watch out, I’ve got beef with her” or “he is gonna be in such beef”. Do I get it? Nah, actually I don’t. Knowing me I’d get it wrong and say pork. Doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it? “Oi, porky! I’ve got a pork wich yooz”.
  • Lit. Amazing/good/cool. I’m guessing but am probably wrong, that this is an abbreviation of literally. Again, they just can’t be bovered to  say the whole word. Too much effort is not cool. I’ve heard it used in “This party is lit” “Do you want to come round to my place?” “lit!”.Excuse me if I sound like a divvy but I don’t get it.  Lit what?? A fire? A ciggy? English Lit? Lit, tit, fit, sh*t to that I say.

So there they are then. Learn those, and you’re on the road to a Maddy and cruisey relationship. No more will your teenagers look at you as though you are the oldest, slowest, most boring dinosaur that crossed their dirty sock studded path.

You’ll be rockin’ and rolling. You’ll be Fan dabee dozie. Trust me. I know these things. There’s no one cooler than me. Yooz are my fam now, yooz are lit. I got no beef with yooz. Chur fam.

Kind regards, Liz.

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Hiding in my bedroom so the fam can’t find me…