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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Daughters Doctors and Frustration. A boy's progress. January the cruelest month,

"All you actually care about MUM. is whether you are being made to worry. ITS NOT ME YOU'R WORRIED ABOUT".  "HUH"?  "Yes, that's all you SAY, you say you're tired of being made to worry about this. You SHOULD  be worried. I am your DAUGHTER". Oh dear, I feel a distinct dip in the energy  required for the fray, as I drive the impassioned one to singing class. How capable am I of Jesuitical argument right now?  "Perhaps we might take this up later", I suggest. "TYPICAL, you always say we will discuss things later and then YOU NEVER DO". "Well", I murmer, "what with my refusal to discuss anthing at all, and  my sole concern of being worried, you have a bad bad mother"(I know, I know, wrong response. I will regroup). (I do find though that adjourning things indefinately, is sometimes the way to go.)

It all started in the doctors office, where my much put upon elder daughter sat smugly stretching her legs, while the doctor assured us that she was, albeit at the lower end of the scale, in the normal range of body weight. She also had the lack of  wisdom to tell her that she was might be a model, that she was skinny as a boy, and beautifully tall.  She topped this by discovering that in fact  the model in the wings  was 5ft.9ins. on measuring her  height as opposed to the 5ft.8ins we had assumed. Now the aspirant had finally abandoned the modelling dream, on account of her height, a few monthes before. It was a consumption devoutely to be wished as far as I was concerned, as  she had lost a scary amount of weigth in pursuit of this ambition, and become preoccuiped with matters like  calorie counts, BMIs, and an alarmingly hubristic and unpleasant Model  show on TV. I may have mentioned that I am utterely opposed to this ambition. My very clever, acdemically minded, principled daughter not being fodder for an industry which does a great deal of harm, as far as I am concerned.  Also, this is  not being a pround claim I see myself making on her behalf, when basking in reflected glory, (fingering you precious rosary beads, as you do). Still,  I would hold my tongue if she persisted, were it not for the dangerous body issues which are an inevitable component ot this life. Which brough us to the doctors office (for back up). And though the loose tongued medic continued with  a discourse on the danger to diet obsessed girls having passed a line of no return, and death the only consequence; and the dangers to the immune system in not received adequate  nutrients such as allowing  cancer, depression etc (all good stuff and true); and the necessity for the first daughter to develop some womanly curves as she looks like a boy, I suspect  she is only hearing  the bits she likes.

"And, um, should I actually be eating, like,  um snacks if I'm not hungry"?she cunningly asks as the appointment comes to a close. "Not hungry?,  no, three  proper  meals per day, is enough" says the unaware medic, as the first one looks at me triumphantly. I explain,  trenchantly that she has an  agreement with me to have a couple of buttered scones, in additon to the alleged three squares, (which have a habit of being reduced, if not supervised) in order to gain some much needed body fat. (the enemy).

One of my issues with the first daughter, is that I am obliged to assume a supervisory role in her food intake, more appropriate to a young child, as long as she persists with dieting. And of course I proceed quite often  to the statement "and I have quite enough to worry about". Its a question of handing over the burden of responsibilty for self to a growing teenager, as they are  (increasingly) (hopefully) capable of assuming it. You would,nt on  the other hand,  pass on a Ferrari to an infant to wreck. My extremly clever girl knows this, but WANTS the model frame, and so is leaving basic health and safety issues to me, while she pursues the dream . Its a multilayered arguement of course, about diet, health, and responsibility for self, in addition to what may fairly and properly be required of Mother. And its not straighforward. She knows I wont let her harm the Ferrari, and I know the slope gets steep and very slippery after a certain point in dieting (obscure to a teenager) is passed.

"Something HAS to be done about the boy",  his elder sister wears a face of sorrow and outrage, where she stands beside the boss, who shakes her head long sufferingly and says " And like I could not practice piano with him, cos he pushed me hard, and took the flex from the (electronic) piano, and hid it in his bedroom. "And", she went on, "it was only because I told him to leave the X Box, and let me practice in the payroom , like you know you said.". I have returned, at seven pm  from a protracted parent teacher meeting for the boy (held every year in January, just as you are getting over christmas) (long, disorganised queues before each teacher) having left instructions about the preparation of dinner, the  emptying of dishwasher and I am tired, cold and somewhat dismayed at a glimpse of charred looking beefburgers and exhumed potatoes,  a chaotic spread of unwashed crockery, afforded to me when I come home behind the stern committee of daughters awaiting. The boss is blinking effortfully. "AND he hurt my arm".  The boy appears. "I have been LISTENING to THEM , and thats not how it happened, YOU might think she is the victim in all this, but you have not seen her in action! She swung me against the wall, and, its clear her temper is GETTING WORSE , (loud wails from the boss), and anyway I was just fininshing on the X Box like you said when she....  "ENOUGH! GET ME THE XBOX, WHICH I AM CONFISCATING, and you two, empty the dishwasher, and explain to me what dreadful  immolation occurred to  my more or less prepared dinner, (requiring heating only)."  "And ANOTHER THING, has no one bothered to feed this unfortunate dog, ( who is looking at me urgently, throughout  this exchange.)

The scene descended into mutinous mutterings by  the boy  "Heres the X Box.  But this punishment is not acceptable unless she is being punished too" pointing at a reproachfull boss who in turn  tells me that, if I had only allowed her to explain, she would have told me the dishwasher was  full of dirty dishes,  whilst the eldest utters icily, "Well really, I did my best, and I mean, you expect too much, I mean OK we forgot about the dog, and OK , the food was burnt, and OK, .... ."  " NOT OK," I blast with the kind of parental ferocity that closes the matter. I dispense the burnt offerings to each silenced child and remove myself to the living room to sip on  reviving tea and brood darkly on what was expected of myself and my sisters, at their age. The preparation of food and most forms of housework were regarded as being within our area of competency, and at the very least, you did not argue with your parents, when you knew your failure to carry out household tasks had caused disruption. Also,  you knew when a parent was dismayed, not being so absorbed by your own interior universe, or never having been encouraged to think only of this, I decided crossly.

"Uh, what did they say in the meeting?" the boy has put his head round the living room door, his forehead creased anxiously. The tea  (with  honey,) has worked its magic, and I am beginning to take a more optimistic view of matters. "Pretty much good things, darling" I  assure him.   His seeming nonchalance, earlier on about the meeting clearly having, it seems,  been a front. I was a little surprised my self by his teachers up beat account of him, and in particular, the mentiion  his pleasant and helpful demeanour in school. Its an all boys establishement, with (mostly) male teachers and its a fact that the non nonsense, no fuss approach suits him. Restored,  I resolve on a strict domestic rota of tasks for the future, dispatch the overwrought boss to bed with  a brisk hug, and give the elder one a more level talking to about the proper execution of chores. She  listens reluctantly, and with a distinct air of wistfull long suffering and regret,  ( at the sort of people she is obliged to live with, I daresay).  She  announces that I expect too much, the cremation of dinner was entirly down to the boss's imput, and that there's no point in talking to me (as my chest begins to swell all over again) before swinging on her heel and flouncing upstairs. I have become harsh unreasonable mother again , it seems. And I   had redeemed myself in recent months  in recent months,  having met and become involved with a man, of  whom she approved, having decided we were "Quaint" (being busted holding hands on the sofa on one red faced occasion) and "cute" as she told an outraged boy (who was not  so impressed,)   on another,(when , allegedly, we had been looking in a  moony eyed  fashion at one another).  However, being a decent parent is not to engage in a popularity contest, I re assure myself, as I climb the stairs to the blessed peace of the bedroom, where I will read, may indeed dispatch a sappy text to the said man, before succumbing to the sleep of the just (exhausted). I see, on my wall callander that  January, (the cruelest)  month is out; the boy is good (cooperative, helpful and mannerly in demeanour even) the boss and her sister will  (probably)  pardon us both by tomorrow; and really things might be worse.

                              MEDITATION IN JOHN MORRISEY'S FIELD

                                            This field, spare, stubbled in Autumn,
                                               bound by the fog wrapped river,
                                                holds my child enthralled.
                                                It's silent banks empty, at last,
                                                  of all but solitary boy.
                                                   And he, silent, intent,
                                                   armed with net and jamjar,
                                                   framed, against  red stained evening,
                                                   by   stark  naked  trees, the reaching branches
                                                   pulling down a leaden sky.

                                                         My call unanswered,
                                                           he is taken,
                                                          in this prayer   to  coming  winter.
                                                           City boy, his farmer's bones
                                                            were formed from muck
                                                           and set by chill raw air
                                                          til iron forged, in blood red skies,

                                                            now claimed again.
                                                         As I patrol the rim of field and vision
                                                          made by season's end,
                                                         that coming night and winter will desperse,
                                                         and farmers's seed lay scattered,
                                                         with no purchase in this earth.