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(Too) great expectations

20 Feb

the-view-from-dover-castleLast week was half term but this made little difference to my economic circumstances, so through a cunning (and winning) combination of kind friends, family, childcare and a 12-yr-old fired up to find her own entertainment, I managed to fit five days into four and take Friday off.

We would, I decided, have a proper day out, something which weekend commitments and work often put paid to.

I was really excited about it. I love hanging with my kids and in an ideal world – one where people funded me just to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do’, and one where school-years education was absorbed by osmosis rather than in-school attendance, that kind of ideal world – I would do it all the time. We had never been to Dover Castle and Friday, I decided, represented the moment all that would change.

However, lurking darkly in the back of my mind is the knowledge that the optimism generated from anticipation prior to a day’s adventure is rarely matched by the actual experience. Someone – usually more than one someone – is not in the right frame of mind to enjoy, and I am left trying to work out why actuality doesn’t always reach the heights of expectation. 

I think that word, ‘expectation’, turns out to be to blame. I want it to be great, not just Facebook-photo great, but actually in-real-life great. And because we’re all in the same boat, looking forward to being in the same place at the same time with no other demands, we all have the same aspirations.

No surprises, it’s impossible to match reality to these over-high expectations. It’s why in our household the impromptu (which I am absolutely rubbish at) tends to be the most successful, because no-one has anything to anticipate; but being impromptu when any attempt at it needs to be scheduled to the n-th degree, to fit in with everything else, contradicts the term and as a result doesn’t work.

Looking at it rationally, with sky-high expectations filed firmly under ‘give yourself a break’, it was a great day, when viewed upon a normal plane of greatness. We saw some fascinating exhibits – the Dover Castle War Tunnels and hospital are highly recommended – and spent the day together mostly out in the almost-sunshine without interruption. Yes, L2 became hangry on the way home, and had a ‘moment’; yes, L1 was overtired and started the very early morning off with a little bit of weeping, but why should it be those incidents that I allow to loom large in my memory when the rest of the day was what long-term memories are made of?

A perfect day is one in which we are together, and one where we can be honest and genuine with each other, without any grudges or long-term repercussions; we take the rough with the smooth because there’s no need to paper over the cracks with family.


The one about unhelpful behaviour

31 May

I’m finishing my three-week ‘easing back gently’ routine and returning to work ‘properly’ from next week.  Not that next week, in all its brevity, can be referred to as a ‘proper’ working pattern, but you get my drift.  I have been doing some days in the office and some working from home, climaxing in yesterday’s first full day – hardcore, tiring, but another milestone reached so reached with a smile.

The Ls have enjoyed having me at home since I ceased wafting round the house announcing ‘I just need a little lie-down’ at regular intervals.  Before that they thought they’d swapped the semi-functional parent of five years standing for an almost entirely unfunctional one, and it is very difficult to explain, particularly to a four year old, why it’s worth hanging in there – even for the six months it’ll be till things truly stabilise.  They don’t really get the concept of ‘speculate to accumulate’, which is how I have chosen to view this period of life, although L1 is a fan of my exciting spinal scar.

Now I’m going back, L2 in particular is finding ways to express his dissatisfaction with the return to the usual.  I shan’t say the norm, as such a concept is alien in our household, but we have a standard operating system, of course.

He knows I can’t use any kind of leverage to shift him around and about; I certainly can’t tuck him under my arm to take him from desired ‘A’ to undesired ‘B’.  So his latest method of protest against an unwanted outcome is to lie straight as a die in the centre of our kingsize bed, where I simply can’t access him, and refuse.  There’s nothing I can do, and he knows it.  Managing recalcitrant determined and immobile children is one of the counter-indications of my op not walked through in the otherwise very thorough lumbar spinal surgery booklet.  On my next visit, I think I’ll suggest its inclusion, but for now, it’s a recourse to bribery.

The one about a new weapon of mass destruction

26 May
A new weapon of mass destruction

Parents – beware

Stop the press! This one’ll be of interest to COBRA, I swear. The Ls have discovered a new deadly weapon of mass destruction: the non-stop whinge (Whinge – acronym for What the Hell Is Not Good Enough).

Its power to destroy the will to live amongst the adult population of our house is second-to-none.  Within minutes of Whinge deployment, M and I are cowering, ruined, wanting only the end, in whatever form it may arrive, with all speed.


Before now I have found comfort in the fact that Whinge is not just an active warfare agent in our household, but universally in those of my parenting friends.  We huddle together in bunkers (dining rooms) of a night, clutching Whinge’s only known antidote (booze), sharing stories of war, destruction and some hopeful, probably apocryphal, tales of survival, and praying for a respite from the Whinge assault at least until the morning, when we will be stronger through sharing and sleep, and better able to deal with the next Whinge attack.

However, today, I have been struck by a sinister thought.  What if the fact we share the Whinge experience, a fact previously of such support to me, is actually a truly sinister sign of an impending coup by the under-10s.  Let’s look at the evidence.

1) They all do it
2) We are all unmanned / unwomanned by its occurrence

Therefore, parents of the world, we must unite.  If we all collapse before a concentrated simultaneous attack of Whinge, they will be mainlining Red Bull, subsisting on chewing gum, outlawing broccoli, sleeping with the dog and spending all night on the DS before the year is out.