No Internal Dialogue…

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

This is a “thought bubble”. It is an illustration depicting thought. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know where you are with your children.  Yesterday, I went to the hairdresser and had my hair coloured and cut.  My new appearance generated a favourable response from the mothers at school, from my friends and from my husband (once I had pointed out that I had done something to my hair – I couldn’t expect him to notice without prompting).  My youngest child just stared at my head as if I had suddenly grown an extra ear or nose, no comment made but I felt the disapproval.  My middle child didn’t notice any change at all, he was much more concerned with some never-ending explanation of why he had got one thing wrong in his maths test.  My eldest child was more observant and didn’t hold back.  “Don’t like it” he said, “preferred it as it was”. I suppose I should be grateful that he a) noticed and b) didn’t use one of his incomprehensible descriptors like “sick” (although would have quite liked “epic” as I have noticed everything is “epic” for him except me).

It got me thinking about filters.  Children are largely devoid of filters.  Thinking before speaking is a skill which is mostly definitely learned and not inherent. One of the delights of being a stay-at-home mother (let’s face it there have be to some bonuses to a grossly under-appreciated job) is never quite knowing what your child is going to say next and just how inappropriate it can be at the most inopportune moment.   This ranges from the excruciatingly embarrassing – “Mummy, why has that woman got a moustache?”whilst standing approximately three feet away and pointing directly,to the downright bizarre such as when my son asked me in a crowded supermarket whether babies were born out of a mother’s mouth…I didn’t really know where to go with that one except to comment that he was on the right lines with orifices but wrong location!

Generally speaking, however, we can laugh off whatever our children say – admittedly when my daughter asks me whether I want a glass of wine with my breakfast in front of a whole hotel dining room it can be hard (have to resort to the ‘I’m a mother = functioning alcoholic’ line). For adults without filters, there is less excuse but it seems to be a remarkably common condition – I call it “no internal dialogue”. We all know people like that and somehow when an adult tells you how it is – especially with regard to personal appearance – it is not quite as endearing as a five year old child.

Not that long ago, I turned up to meet someone for the first time wearing my gym kit – (for regular readers, I had actually been exercising as opposed to just wearing…) – this person on introduction to me said “who’s been eating all the chocolates then?” (frankly, gob-smackingly awful on its own and BTW before you picture me as morbidly obese, I think my friends would agree that this was not really a fair description).  He followed up this little gem, when realising that perhaps he had said something at best inappropriate at worst downright rude, with the immortal line, “I’m so sorry, I thought you were pregnant” (which I most definitely am not). As you can imagine the meeting was nothing short of excruciating after that – although I have to admit to enjoying watching him squirm.

So let’s enjoy all the wonderful, bizarre, sometimes inappropriate things our children come out with and for those of you without any “internal dialogue”, engage brain before mouth.

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A lament for reading…

Florence Nightingale, also known as the Lady w...

Florence Nightingale, also known as the Lady with the Lamp, providing care to wounded and ill soldiers during the Crimean War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am currently residing in a sick household ( I mean “sick” in its true sense rather than that often used by the” yoof” of today to describe how amazing something is).  Two out of my three children are ill, my other child presumably will succumb in the not too distant future to the same as her brothers and my husband is doing his tax return. The last week in January is the only week in the year when I feel a semblance of pity for accountants because they have to deal with people like my husband who treats preparing and filling in his tax return as some sort of extreme sport – an adrenaline-filled search for paperwork, an exhilarating surge for the finish line up against the clock.  I have, over the years, learnt to ignore the frantic paper chase and while he panics I sit back and take the opportunity to watch all the programmes I have sky +ed that he wouldn’t ever want to watch (One Born Every Minute”,”Big Fat Gypsy Weddings”, “Don’t tell the Bride” – you get the picture).

However, this usually calm (and frankly smug – tax return, tick) time of year for me has been rather less relaxing than I might hope for as I have been forced into that role which is such a natural fit for me (not) – Florence Nightingale.  They say patience is a virtue but as those who know me well will attest, it is not a virtue which I possess in abundance.  That said, this week I have really tried and I think Flo would be proud of my efforts.

Now, when I was a child and I was ill enough to be off school, I spent the day in bed.  I would lie there all day feeling sorry for myself, eating a meagre lunch from a tray and perhaps attempt a little light reading in the late afternoon (violins, please…).  To this generation of children, this would be tantamount to parental neglect.  Being ill seems to be a ticket to an entire day in front of the TV with turning the channels over using the remote control as the only activity indulged in.  So many people have said to me that since they’re ill, it’s guilt-free TV.  I don’t agree and actually it has really been bothering me.  It’s not the TV itself – although after almost a week of one child being off, I would happily hurl it out the window now – it’s the lack of reading that’s bothering me.

To be fair, this is not something that only bothers me when the kids are ill, but it is something that bothers me full stop. I have no idea at this point whether my youngest – a girl – will be the same but the boys are totally disinterested in reading for pleasure. Is this a boy thing?  Is this a generational thing?  I just don’t know. When I was their age I practically inhaled “The Magic Faraway Tree”, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and its ilk.  I loved getting totally lost in those fictional worlds and felt bereft without a book of some sort in my hands or beside my bed.  Not so for the boys.  They are both extremely good readers but they would never choose to read for pleasure.  I have, in fact, in the past endured the agony of my elder son reading “The Magic Faraway Tree” to me, chapter by chapter, over a period of 4 months showing no desire to read more than the minimum he can get away with.  It saddens me that they do not seem interested – I feel they are missing out on something which gave (and continues to give) me so much pleasure.

Before you get the impression that my boys read so little that the only book they’ve ever read cover to cover is “The Gruffalo”, I should say that they do read (of a sort) – largely football annuals and football and cricket statistics books. They are extremely knowledgeable on the intricacies of these sports – they have an admirable recall of every league match, score, penalties etc.  When it comes to their football team, Arsenal, there is literally nothing they don’t know.  Actually, there is very little I don’t know either as every sentence my middle child utters begins, “Mummy, did you know that…?”. In fact, I do believe I could go on Mastermind, specialist subject “The history of Arsenal Football Club” and score 15 points and no passes.

I just wish that they would discover reading for pleasure – by this, I mean fiction.  I feel they are missing out on such a wonderful world and one which I loved so much at their age.  Maybe this lament is just a sign of the times – there was very little competition for reading in my childhood – now there is so much TV, Xbox, DS etc etc.  Maybe reading at this age is less of a “boy” thing – I don’t know, I grew up as one of three girls.

Time for my lament to stop – I must pick up my lamp and attend to my medical duties as I have been summoned (to the TV room) to administer medicine and provide sustenance for those suffering.