Parenting, profundities and humour

Sock it to them! — October 17, 2019

Sock it to them!

So for those of you not in the know my house is full of hormones. A swirling maelstrom of hormones. A tornado of ‘-ones’ and ‘-ens’ rampaging through our lives for the most part unchecked blundering into feelings and harmony and those envisaged moments of blissful family life such as a quiet board game by the fire or a bracing walk in the countryside with disastrous consequences.

An awful lot of it is testosterone, two thirds of which is emergent and not totally under control or assimilated into shocked bodies. And a third of which is newly prompted into action by the other two thirds. There is a lot of posturing, chest beating, banging of heads and egos and territory marking going on.

There is also some gradually rising oestrogen and some gradually reducing oestrogen as if there is only so much available for our family and Youngest is stealing mine.

It’s a melting pot. On some days I swear the hormones are tangible like some sort of ominous, heavy Victorian smog where beasts lurk around every corner.

I have developed a maxim in order to help me navigate this swirling maelstrom. And that maxim is ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’…

And this basically entails ‘picking my battles’…

So yes it is infuriating that Eldest leaves a bowl every morning in the front room recently bereft of cereal but unable to find its way into the dishwasher. And yes on some days I take a picture of that bowl and Whatsapp it to him at school. With an ironic Smilie. But most days I don’t. For instance if Eldest has a particularly difficult Biology test in period 1 or is recovering from being pummeled physically and metaphorically in a rugby match the previous evening.

I have some non negotiables such as physical violence. I never let that slide. Disrespect to adults. Again a non negotiable. Kindness to siblings and friends. Again important, although not always achieved in the case of siblings- but I pick that battle I go into war over it. Using fingers to eat chips? Yep annoying. But not the end of the world. Not a battle to fight if Youngest is screamingly nervous about a football trial.

I have 3 teenagers/ pre teens. School has, well, several hundred. The melting pot has metamorphosed into a huge crucible on the smelting yard floor. And yet school seems to sweat the small stuff.

Maybe there is a thought process that says small stuff under control means big stuff follows. And they are afraid of anarchy. Or maybe they are all control freaks…

Here is my pet ‘small stuff’ hate. Socks. School is cracking down on socks. Socks must be black under black trousers. All mine wear black trousers including Youngest who will no longer wear a skirt after being told off in Year 7 for wearing a Junior School skirt to Senior school. Another ‘small stuff’ rant I am quite willing and able to have if you have the time? You do? Excellent.

In Junior school skirts are elasticated and flared. They make moving around the playground easy. Especially if one has a penchant for playing football. Youngest had such a skirt. It still fitted (and was within the regulation one inch of her knees). I am eco friendly. And tight. So I did not buy her a new Senior school skirt. Which are straight, have no waist adjustments and prevent ease of movement until they are a darn site higher than the regulation one inch maximum above the knee.

She got into trouble. Which if you know Youngest at all you will know throws her off for days.

I am not sure why Junior school skirts are so frowned upon. It has been suggested it is because they are easier to ‘look up’. Which in turn suggests to me a stern word about the ‘big stuff’ is required with all males in school. But I think it is probably just a ‘small stuff’ battle again. So Youngest is in trousers.

Any way back to socks. The school has a thing about ‘business attire’. I think black socks come under this. I believe this is wrong on a number of levels.

One: not all children (and lets face it we are dealing with children here) aspire to ‘go into business’. What does that even mean? Investment banking? Are we saying that to make it in the world one needs to conform? Really? In an era where employers are crying out for creativity and original, critical and higher level thinking?

Two: business attire is not what it was. My husband works in a traditional business. He now has to hot desk. People wear shorts. He, the epitome of respectability and up tightness, has started wearing chinos and an open collared shirt to work. To be honest it shocked me. But this is how the world is changing. For the better. Otherwise we would all still be wearing bowler hats.

Three: I often see teachers at the school not in ‘business attire’. For instance tie and jacket less in the heat. And before the ‘summer uniform’ rule has been invoked. Shock. If you are going to enforce a banal rule all those in that institution need to up hold that rule. Or it isn’t a rule.

Four: artists should be artists, dramatists should be dramatists, musicians should be musicians. Athletes should be sweaty. Engineers should be oily. Etc. My son is an artist and a musician and a sports player and a biologist and a historian. Only some of those work well in a suit and tie.

Leaving all that aside I can get my head around school uniform. It levels people. It prevents clothing shaming. It is cheaper if you have boys and do not have to fork out £25 per blouse and can bulk buy from Primark.

But I cannot get my head round the plain black socks. It is so not up there in the ‘battles we should be having’ stakes. Socks are an easy way to express ones personality without being too ‘out there’. Socks allow one’s hormonal teenagers a frisson of rebellion without hurting a soul. (Ha ha). Socks are fun. Socks pose no danger to anyone, not in a lab or a workshop or on a pitch. They make excellent stocking fillers. I need those.

So I turn a blind eye to my children’s sock choices. I may go so far as to say something to school if they get into trouble over their socks. I actually buy them fun socks. It’s a thing we have.

So there you have it. I think school should pick its battles. And not sweat those socks. There is enough sweat in all those socks already. And any way have you ever tried matching 3 pairs of almost identical black socks that only vary, slightly but crucially, in size once they have been through the washer? Thought not.

A Thoughtful One(sie)… — March 21, 2017

A Thoughtful One(sie)…


Currently I am wearing my most unflattering garment. I do not say this lightly.

Like every other lady I have a selection of unflattering garments. Period pants. A pair of pyjamas that were bought in a large supermarket chain by my husband when I was stuck without warning in hospital with pneumonia. Swimsuits with the bottoms nearly worn through from over enthusiastic aquapark participation. Sexy lingerie that  once fitted and now, doesn’t. But which I have kept in hopeful anticipation of returning at some point to my previous svelte like self. My ABBA fancy dress all in one electric blue cat suit. Fleeces without form in dubious colours. Baggy thermals for camping and pitch side viewing. And my very favourite trackie bottoms which belonged to a previous partner and which he reluctantly allowed me to take when we split (along with my bedside alarm clock, I left him a bright blue lounge and a yellow sofa still on tick) which now have paint on the bum from a decorating job early on in my marriage.

But all these garments look Dior-like next to this garment. I am referring to my onesie. My Piglet onesie.

I am not a fan of onesies. Don’t get me wrong I think my children look adorable in theirs. We replace them every Christmas. Currently Eldest is bedecked as Chewie from Star Wars, Middlest is the cutest dinosaur I have ever seen and Youngest is a tiger which anyone who knows her will know is better than apt.

So onesies on kids I like. But I am not a fan of onesies on adults. I guess in late tennagerhood or one’s early twenties the wearing of a onesie might be seen as post ironic or some other such twaddle. I vaguely get the idea of cavorting as a dalamation  at Glastonbury, or my local railway station as I saw a few years ago, when one is 22. But only just.

There is certainly an age when onesies are no longer appropriate. Whether one is on a campsite or not. I have lost track of the amount of times I have stood next to a white rabbit (really on a camp site? what were you thinking?) whilst cleaning my teeth in a communal campsite washroom. And realising the person was my age or older. And then seeing them returning to a caravan thus divesting them of the only possible excuse for adult onesie wearing- the cold.

So you may ask why I am sporting my AA Milne inspired outfit. Although to be pedantic about it the onesie has been Disneyfied and as such is not a true A A Milne Piglet which I know annoys some purists. I personally don’t mind a Disney piglet, I once shared a buffet with him in Florida and he was more than adorable.

Sorry I digress. That was it, why am I wearing this heinous pieces of clothing? That doesn’t fit. That hangs below my crotch area in an intensely unflattering way. That is so hot to wear I break out in a sweat merely looking at it. That is not in any way ‘breathable’ being woven entirely of man made fibres. That has poppers, surely only suitable for babygrows and throw back bodies that have returned inexplicably from the eighties to haunt a new round of young women. That causes all sorts of toileting issues. That is essentially hideous.

I wear it because last Christmas my children clubbed together financially and organised with my mother in law the ordering and wrapping of said onesie as my Christmas present. They got Piglet because they know I love him as a character. They got a onesie so we could all wear them as a family.

It was perhaps the most thoughtful thing they had done to date.

And it could have been so much worse.

As it was for my husband who is forever consigned to being a Minion with a dungaree pocket in a deeply unhelpful place.


Sonny Long Legs… — September 4, 2016

Sonny Long Legs…

skinny jeans
This isn’t Eldest- he banned me from using his picture and I guess I have to respect that…don’t I?

Sorry for the radio silence. School holidays an’ all you know?

So here is a thing about Eldest. Well here are several things.

  1. He is 12. A fact I find more startling than all the others. Somehow, somewhere, sometime he has morphed from my little baby to, well, nearly a teenager, and that brings me to…
  2. His feet are bigger than mine.
  3. He is taller than me. Already.

Well actually to be pedantic he is taller than me when we stand up. But shorter than me when we sit down. To preserve my own sense of pride I would therefore prefer to remain forever seated in his presence, this, however, is not really all that practical.

We are made differently. I have always been what my mother describes as long waisted. My top half (which clearly isn’t a half, again being pedantic) is longer than my bottom half. In other words I have stumpy legs. Luckily all the men I have been with haven’t been leg men. Although come to think of it they wouldn’t have been would they?  Trousers are always too long. Tops conversely are often too short and ride up in a way that was probably faintly attractive (she muses hopefully) when I was young but is probably now erring towards faintly disturbing.

Eldest on the other hand is all leg. He has amazing legs. He dressed in drag for a murder mystery role play event at Scouts a few months back and wore wedge heels and I was actually jealous. Of his legs.

So when we sit my long body wins the day but when standing his legs that go on forever hold the sway.

And they do not appear to be slowing down any. At the beginning of this year he had three pairs of jeans that fitted. He is now down to one as the others have risen dangerously above ankle height, giving him a distinctly French appearance.

It doesn’t much matter in the summer when he lives in slobby shorts, length less critical as anywhere from above knee to mid thigh will suffice. But Autumn is approaching. The nights are drawing in. Soon school will be starting with the onset of mufti days. And so more jeans are required.

Today Youngest and daddy are at Cub camp together enjoying such delights as pizza making and inflatable obstacle courses (from what I can gather not simultaneously but you never know) and so Eldest, Middlest and I decided to go clothes shopping.

To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to it. For many reasons. Firstly Eldest has a pathological fear of me asking shop assistants for help. In fact if a shop assistant comes near him he will just leave. Which is slightly problematic. I blame his father who also has a pathological fear of impinging in any way on another human being he is not related or married to. Despite the fact it is their job. It is an extreme version of that ‘men will not stop to ask for directions’ thing. It is a little…annoying.

He also takes ages to get dressed and undressed and is paranoid someone will see him naked (well in underpants and a t shirt which is considerably more than he wears swimming a fact which appears to make no difference to him) through the closed changing room door. And so loathes trying things on.

He is long legged. As I may have mentioned. They are at least 31 inches long but he is also very, very slim. The sort of pre teenage look that some lads get. His waist is 26 inches. Max. Most men would dream of a figure like his. Unfortunately clothes shops do not.

He is too big for children’s clothes. And too small for men’s clothes. Last time we went looking, which was scarily only a few months ago (I am going to have to stop feeding him), I even ventured into those dark, intimidating looking clothes shops in the hope they would come up trumps for my adolescent. But despite appearances they too did not cater for his size.

Next do jeans up to age 16 but only on line. That’s helpful. Not. Once you get above their size ‘age 12’ you can no longer try stuff on in their stores without ordering it first. Really. Why is that? Stupid stupid stupid. I could have brought a three year old Eldest in any day to try on clothes. Getting my 12 year old to do it is more difficult. And he has less time. And less inclination. And is more fussy. And is less biddable. (Yes any mums of toddlers out there reading this, toddler years are hard but here’s a note to the wise it don’t get any easier, they just get taller and less amenable (yes less) and stay up later so you cannot sigh with relief over a glass of wine/ cup of tea until it is nearly your own bed time). So it would actually be more useful if they didn’t stock hundreds of baby grows with cute slogans on them such as ‘Worlds Best Dribbler’ which all babies regardless of size fit into and used those precious racks for size ‘age 15’ jeans.  Order your baby grows on line people. I beg you.

And then even his current Next jeans which still vaguely fit are not a great fit. The length is fine. But the waist is miles too big. My kids all have this issue. Because they are what I consider normal. And by that I mean not fat. Which is apparently the new normal.  In order to get a trouser length to fit them I have to pull on those adjustable waist straps until the buttons are straining. And until there is about half a meter of denim bunched up uncomfortably about the child’s waist. Not a great look.

Historically BHS has also come up with the goods clothes wise. But since Philip Green drove it into the ground (allegedly) my one fail safe store is now closed. And incidentally we also really loved their cafe which had flock wallpaper and cheap yet tasty meals. Sad.

So anyway after a long lie in (which was more harmonious than usual as the boys could have a TV each) during which I metaphorically girded my loins we ventured to our local shopping emporium. Heart in mouth. First we tried H&M. Someone had mentioned that they did teenage clothes. And they do do up to a size 14. So we tried on a few pairs of jeans that didn’t immediately make Eldest want to vomit. They were all too short and too big round the waist.

We then stopped off in Schuh as he also needed some more trainers for home use. During our mammoth school shoe/ trainer/ boot/ Astros expedition of a few weeks earlier I had run out of the will to live in Sports Direct and told Eldest he was just going to have to wear his (size 10 extremely expensive Nike) Astros for home use as well as hockey.  So we could leave with some of my sanity still in tact. This was a mistake. He has worn them for rugby pre season training a couple of times (the ground being too parched for studs) and so they already smell like, well, a teenager’s sport shoes. Not good.

He had his eyes on some Vans. Which are apparently a type of shoe which someone my age would never have heard of. He was right. I hadn’t. Anyway the assistant in Schuh seemed initially helpful and fetched both a black and white pair of size 8s, the 9s on display making his feet look like flippers. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noted the discrepancy between the size of these shoes and those very expensive Nike Astros. Size 10. I would like to say the difference is all sock choice. But it isn’t. Some brands come up small. Some don’t. For the love of god could we not all just standardise?

We tried on the black pair. I felt around his feet, my summer holiday job in John Lewis c 1989 fitting kids shoes kicking in on some sub conscious level, for the quality of fit. The right shoe seemed snug. But then his right foot is a half size bigger than his left. The assistant confirmed that the 8 1/2 would be a better fit and allow some growing room. If only they came in half sizes. Which they don’t. But the nine, as we already knew, was too big. He had his heart set on them. And was offering to pay over half the cost. So I relented. We paid. And left.

Just outside the shop that sub conscious shoe fitter’s training kicked in again and I stopped to double check the sizes of both shoes. Which was mandatory for any trained shoe fitter before allowing a customer to leave the store. Sure enough the right shoe was actually a size 7. It all made sense now. We returned and swapped the shoe. The assistant didn’t bat an eyelid or apologise. Almost as if this happened all the time. Which taking into account their lax fitting technique it probably does.

Shoes purchased there was no putting it off any longer. We had to go into some more clothes shops. A few more men’s shops failed to come up trumps. As expected.

I then persuaded Eldest to try the Levi store. Surely of all their myriad, confusing style and size combos one would fit sonny long legs. The boys maintain that I only like Levi’s because of that ad with the man stripping down to his under crackers next to a washing machine, and I cannot deny that that advert did leave a lasting impression on my younger impressionable brain, but it isn’t the only reason. (Nick Kamen if I remember correctly which I probably do…photographically…)

As soon as we entered the store an assistant asked if he could help. With one arm restraining Eldest from bolting I used the other to point out his longer than life legs and slim waist and basically said ‘I need jeans for that’.

He was a great help. We ended up with two pairs of ‘extreme skinny’ jeans size 28/32 in black and stonewashed denim. I have to resist the urge to shudder gently at the stone wash which has far too many 80s connotations for me. But apparently they are back. The price was eye watering. But I was happy to pay it to avoid anymore traipsing.

The whole process had only taken an hour and a half. Remarkably. We rewarded ourselves with stuffed crust pizza. And decided it was a good idea he had gone for the 28s rather than the 27s. To allow for such excess.






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