Sunday, 25 September 2011


I’ve been vindicated. At last, after all these years of selfless mothering, the worry, the nagging, the curfews and the tantrums – mine not theirs. The insistence that the 16 year old was to only read books with any literary merit; the lofty disapproval of the viewing of chavvy t.v programmes, the expensive theatre trips, the traipsing around museums when I’d have far preferred the shops. It all paid off. It was a good investment. Her GCSE results were outstanding. So outstanding in fact that the press wanted to take ‘one of those pictures’ of her. The one where grinning girls jump into the air, holding their stellar results aloft.
I did in fact, tap the press photographer on the shoulder and say, “Oi, take one of me. Us mothers should be recognised for our children’s success and not just given a hard time when they riot”. I was serious. Unless he has teenagers himself then he has no idea what these last 18 years have been like. Most of my friends are now breathing a well deserved sigh of relief and patting themselves on the back. Their eldest are off to university, the youngest having passed GSCEs and so the future looks bright. They are off the hook. They can at last take up golf or watercolour lessons, or darts.
As I stood in my daughter’s school hall as she read her results and beamed, I wept. Not only because I was so very proud of her, but because I still have to live through this again. Twice. And not only the GSCEs but the journey there too. The 11+ coaching, the 11+ mock, the 11+ itself, the results, the studying thereafter, further GCSEs etc, etc. Hubby is 50 and his son and he can still enjoy shared enthusiasms: music, football, beer. Normal young man, middle aged dad stuff.
When the youngest receives her A levels though, her father will be an OAP and her brother in his 30s. What were we thinking? Will we still have the energy to enforce the sanctions that were imposed on their elder siblings or will we, exhausted by our previous efforts, give up the ghost and allow our youngest, second set of children a more lax childhood? I fear the latter. Already the youngest are a lot more lippy than either of the previous two. They have a precocious attitude which makes me wince and they whole-heartedly believe that models and pop-stars are to be revered. Books are used to pose with, high heels to impress. Hello! Magazine is the new Michael Morpurgo and even Harry Potter is a film star; a celebrity and not a school boy wizard who lives in a thick book and thus one’s imagination.
I despair for the next generation. My eldest two, looking back on it, enjoyed the last of the age of innocence. Admittedly they rarely went out to play on their bikes and almost never got dirty, neither did they spend incalculable hours watching trash TV and looking up to people who are the living incarnation of Ken and Barbie. They like to Facebook regularly enough so that they are not social pariahs, but the 16 year old is just as likely to be creating something on Photoshop or writing a story, whereas her elder brother is most often found, if he is home at all, in his room either writing lyrics or organising a gig for his band. Their imagination has already been fired. Me and Hubby must have had something to do with that surely? Just as we have as much to do with two younger children, who, although quite active, have yet to demonstrate any lingering interest in a novel or gold standard BBC programme which is why they think that Daniel Radcliffe genuinely is Harry Potter and that Britain’s Next Top Model is as fascinating as anything that David Attenborough had to say. So, as much as I can feel a certain vindication for my eldest children’s academic accomplishments, must I not equally share the ignominy of my youngest’ liking nothing better than dressing up as baby sluts and regarding academe with scorn and derision, the realm of geeks and nerds?
How do I put the brakes on this mind-set? They have excellent role models in their sister and her equally high achieving friends, who are as beautiful as they are brainy; the two lost boys are absolutely no trouble whatsoever and their brother, whilst hardly flying the flag for an university education, is enviably dedicated and loyal to his band and their music.
I can only deduce therefore that their rather defiant attitude is the fault of their mother and father, who having been parents for so long are knackered with the whole process and, instead of reading hours of endless bedtime stories and trying to inspire their young minds are just as likely to go sleep before them.
Watching them cavort around the sitting room to some god awful pop-music, dressed in wholly inappropriate apparel, I saw Hubby’s face twitch nervously. I read his mind.
“You know that empty nest syndrome? The one where people learn golf and painting and go on cruises and such like?”
His eyes had that far way look of an unattainable fantasy.
“Well, it’s also when couples start to have affairs, because their raison d’etre, i.e their kids, are no longer there to keep them together”. Hubby considered this analysis for a moment.
“That would be too cruel to bear Alice; the idea of putting up with this… this shenanigans” and he gestured at the posturing progenies, “only for you to bugger off with the milkman the minute I get my bus pass”.
I squeezed his hand reassuringly, “I’ll be past my sell by date by then as well love” and we drank our wine together, contended in our entrapment.

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