Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Human Rights.

My daughter mumbled something utterly incoherent from behind zipped up lips, stamped her foot and flounced out of the kitchen.
As is often my wont, I slumped onto a kitchen bar stool and sighed deeply. Having been around teenagers for many years, whether rearing them or teaching them, their behaviour rarely shocks or surprises, but boy does it wear me out. I thank God, or indeed my innate mothering skills for having raised young people who are, on the whole, socially acceptable darlings in whose company I am very fond. There are times however, that I find the causes young people take to heart, whilst terribly worthy, are also be terribly irking.
There are moments for instance, in the past, when my eldest daughter has flown the flag for any number of organisations and charities, which, as a family we have been pressganged into supporting. I have an extra large Leprosy t-shirt which is hauled from my knicker draw every time I need to bleach my hair; a very colourful Gay Pride one, which I wear to festivals (I’ve been to one) and a very small Greenpeace one that I shrank once and now use as a duster. As a family we have been more than generous. From my dad to my brother to various aunts and uncles, we have unanimously opened our purses or wallets; signed sponsor forms or cheered from the side-lines, whatever in fact it was that was desired of us to demonstrate solidarity for this child’s selfless and unstinting act of charity.
This last campaign though has found me, and I quote my 15 year old, “demonstrating a profound lack of patience”. In turn I can only nod my head because for 120 hours, she has taken a vow of silence.
Undoubtedly to most, the idea of a silent teenager is most appealing and I cannot argue that when she is out of sight and mind, it poses me no problems at all until I attempt to communicate with her. Then, for instance, calling up the stairs to inform her that dinner is ready and being met with silence drives me to distraction as there is nothing for it but to huff and puff up the stairs to make sure she is there. I am not overjoyed on being confronted by an extremely cross young woman, murmuring something along the lines of, “I heard you the first time: there is no need for you to barge in here”. I assume that’s what she’s saying anyway. It could be worse.
It’s a bloody long 120 hours, we are only half way through it and I have lost all empathy for the work of Amnesty International.
“Just tell me what you mean?” I demand as she tries to write a sentence in the air, “I don’t read oxygen”.
“Hmm-um-mm”, she replies, eyes flaring, voice deep and growly.
“For God’s sake, you sound like there’s something mentally wrong with you. JUST SPEAK! I won’t tell anyone. You can still have your sponsor money.” Once again she shakes her head emphatically and furiously scribbles, ‘I have moral integrity’ on a scrap of sticky paper.
“Suggesting I don’t, I suppose?”. With that infuriating insouciance of the young, she just shrugs her shoulders.
“Can you not understand how maddening this is?” I shout after her as, once again, she stamps her foot in fury and flees. I continue to shout:
“I’m telling you now young lady that I cannot tolerate one more bloody mumble, mutter or Post It note”.
That is where I slumped onto the kitchen chair.
My son walked in on me as I sat, there, heart pounding, tearing the lilac Post-It into itsy-bitsy shreds.
“What’s occurring ma?”, he asked, helping himself to some very expensive, Fox’s biscuits, “You’re looking stressed”. As he had no real interest in my health or well being, but instead needed an excuse to walk into the kitchen and pilfer chocolate biscuits, I was less tolerant that I would normally be of his between meals snacking, especially as he had no intention of eating one or two but secreting the whole box to his room for me find in a few weeks time and ultimately clear away.
“Given your level of involvement with your sister this week, you may or may not have noticed that she is mute; that muteness is causing me some consternation”.
“Rave on ma. Don’t sweat it. She gave me a cool badge and a groovy sticker and this”, he removed from his school blazer a bright pink pamphlet and handed it over to me. It was a passport, only not just any passport; this was a, My Rights Passport. I guffawed at the irony. Apparently all human beings are born free and equal.
“Until they start having kids”, I yelled. Alone, I flicked through the booklet. It contained the universal declaration of human rights. Of the 30 articles one or two seemed particularly pertinent. I sighed again.
I filled the dishwasher, scrubbed the pans that wouldn’t fit in, swept the floor; heaved an overflowing bin-liner out of the bin, tied it together, put it outside, Dettoxed the floor where baked beans had escaped from a hole in the bin liner into a gooey, cold, lumpy puddle on the kitchen floor. Then, with pen poised and Post-It notes at the ready, I opened my Human Rights Passport and wrote: ‘Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. Nobody has the right to treat anyone as their slave. Not even teenagers’.
Evidently I added the final caveat before climbing the stairs and adhering both Post-its to the very surprised foreheads of my teenage children.

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