Growing Into a Bigger Boy

The first thing my two-year-old said to me this morning was that he was a ‘Bigger Boy’.  I’d gone into his room to wake him up (usually unheard of and never at times I prefer, such as the weekend).  I had his clothes ready and his sister was already dressed for school.  In all honesty, I was bracing myself for a hard negotiation to get him into his clothes.   Dressing isn’t his favourite thing.   Following instructions is also something he could do without.  So, imagine my surprise when he jumped out of his bed, smile on face and said, “I’ll do it, I’m a Bigger Boy.”  The first thing that came into my head was obviously Pinocchio wishing to be a Real Boy.  The second was that it was awesome that my son is entering territory where he wants to try things for himself and his ‘Bigger Boy’ status is very important to him.

In the variety of things that parenting involves, I understand my daughter’s world a hell of a lot more than my son’s, because I feel like I’ve lived it.  I was a girl, I am a daughter.    I realise this shouldn’t make me complacent and her experiences will not be mine.  But on a basic level I have an understanding of what it is to be a girl, albeit a girl growing up in the Eighties and not in the social media and selfie-filled world we live in now.

My son on the other hand is new territory.  Not completely uncharted, but definitely new.   At the moment, he is a typical toddler by all intents and purposes.  He does toddler things.  He runs around, he throws his plastic cutlery on the floor, he seems to have permanently sticky hands, he laughs a lot, he cries a lot, and he finds un-silly things very silly.   So far, his upbringing has been pretty much the same as his sister.   But I know that as he grows, there will be things that are different for him, because he is a boy.  There will be hormones raging in him that are different to his sister.  He may be more physical, he may be more inclined towards rougher play, he may tackle some things such as toilet training a bit later than his sister, and he may excel at different things in school.   I may find myself relying on my husband to help with ‘boy’ things that I have no clue how to handle.   Recently I’ve started to notice his toys of choice leaning towards superheroes and ninja things.    This isn’t to say he doesn’t share interests with his sister or that his interests are all stereo-typically gender-based.  On the contrary, he has a deep affection for Frozen, The Wizard of Oz, and, when faced with a construction fancy-dress outfit and a Princess dress, he will be in that dress quicker than you can do a twirl.
But, I am well aware that my children will experience differences as they grow into adults that are there because of their gender.   Inequality being the main one.  For our part, my husband and I will teach them as much as we can about the importance of being equal but I realise this is an uphill struggle.  And I think it is one that can only be won by men and women working together, and by teaching our boys before they become men, that being a man is about taking an active part in the world alongside women as their equals.   Being a man now is very different to what it was when I was a child.   It’s ok now for a man to show emotion.   Back then, it was headline news if a footballer cried.  It’s ok now for a man to talk about his feelings and seek support.   It’s ok now for a man to share domestic and childcare responsibilities.  All of these are wonderful pieces of progress but we’re not there yet.   They’re not embedded into our acceptance.   There are still too many bubbles of inequality that need bursting and there is still much challenging of perceptions to be done.    Just this week, research has been released highlighting the importance of having fathers who are confident and emotionally involved in parenting, and how this has a significant effect on children, even more so than children seeing their fathers take part in household chores.   So, all the more reason for us to support our boys as they grow up.   And I hope that when my children are grown, there is equality all around them.
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A new Home in Manchester

I don’t normally do reviews of venues or films but today I’m making an exception on both counts.   Before I go on, please know this is entirely voluntary and I haven’t been asked to promote this venue or film.   I just enjoyed it so much I felt I wanted to let others know it’s there.

Regular readers will know that my wedding anniversary was this week and my husband and I decided to go out to the pictures for our annual ‘date night’ or whatever the kids call it these days.   We are (I am) creatures of habit and the original plan was a meal at a local steak house followed by a film at our local cinema.  Alas, Harry Potter happened.   All local cinemas were closed to anybody who did not adore the Potter.    So, we looked further afield and I remembered once visiting a lovely little arthouse cinema in Manchester called The Cornerhouse.    The website showed it was now called Home but it still showed films.  Perfect.   We were able to book food and we were on our way.

It was only on the day itself that we realised The Cornerhouse was no more and Home was actually a brand spanking new venue complete with an independent theatre, three cinema screens, a café bar, a restaurant, and some crafty, eventy spaces too.    Now, regular readers will also know I am afflicted by a certain tendency towards shyness and big complex-type places are not always the ones I find myself drawn towards.   Indeed, I was a little apprehensive when I learned I would not be sitting in the cosy little arthouse theatre.  But, I’m a big girl and I put on my bravest face as we headed for somewhere in Manchester.

I’m not from Manchester.  My mum is, but I’m not.  Over the last few years we’ve spent a lot of time in the city as we both had family living there and we don’t live far away.    I like to think that, had I been a city bird in my younger days and been all Carrie Bradshaw-esq, I would have chosen Manchester as my city of choice.  But even in cities you know, there are always hidden gems and Home is certainly a gem although when its upon you, not quite so hidden.

We were late arriving due to ‘all the traffic’ and had to run from our car in the not very nice rain but when we arrived, it felt like we had stepped into a genuine arthouse movie.  There were people everywhere, milling around, being very busy but not in an intimidating way.   There was a buzz of general excitement about what was to come.  I realised later the crowd before us in the lobby were mostly awaiting a much-anticipated theatre show starring Niamh Cusack.   The box office was like no other cinema box office and it felt more like we were approaching front desk at a beautiful hotel.   Up a flight of stairs we found the restaurant and although again very busy, this was actually one of the most comfortable restaurants I’d ever been in.  The restaurant was surrounded on two sides by floor to ceiling windows, giving the impression of a very grand space.  The waiting staff were kind and welcoming and, although we didn’t have much time before our film, the food came quickly and was just gorgeous.

Our film was in Cinema 3.   Unlike mainstream cinemas, there was no popcorn shop here. No.  This was arthouse, baby.   We were able to buy a nice coffee, an alcoholic beverage (in plastic cups), posh crisps or a posh bags of sweets.   I would imagine this is a pretty easy cinema to clean.

Everybody looked trendy but not in any planned way.  They were a bohemian set, older and younger.  Lots of beards, long cardigans, and nice kitten-heel boots.  Sometimes worn together.

So, off we went to Cinema 3.  The usher outside warned us it was a sell-out performance.   We took this to mean it might be a bit of a crush to get a seat inside.   We were wrong.    Quickly learning that there was nothing average, expected or mainstream about Home, entering Cinema 3 felt a bit like how I imagine it might be entering a private screening of a film, in the home cinema of somebody very wealthy with a cinema in their home.  It was small, intimate, cosy and quaint.  And although it was, as the usher correctly said, a sell-out, we had no trouble finding a seat.

And then the film began.  Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals.  I will leave the professional reviewing for the professional reviewers but let’s just say it was a very beautiful, disturbing, complicated, strange and moving film.   If you get a chance to see a film that isn’t Potter this Winter, make it this one.   It is the tale of a wealthy Art Gallery owner and what happens when her ex-husband sends her a manuscript for a disturbing novel he has written and dedicated to her.   See it, please.

All good things must come to an end and eventually the film finished, we ran back to our car in the rain, put on the radio and drove back to suburbia.

Suffice to say, I fell in love with a new place last night and will certainly be going back.   If you live in Manchester and you haven’t been there yet, what’s wrong with you? Get over there.  If you don’t live in Manchester, go.  You won’t regret it.    It felt like we were in another world just for one night.  I realise this sounds dramatic and gushy but I can’t praise this place enough.

For just a few hours, we stepped out of real life and into our very own arthouse movie.   Perfect.

The Sandwich Generation and Fear of Change

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary.  I know this because it is eight years from the date I got married, but, just in case I forgot, Facebook told me with a notification on my newsfeed and a series of pictures reminding me what my husband looks like.   It made me chuckle at this most basic of reminders.   Something is amiss if you need a computer programme to remind you of your own wedding anniversary.   Now, don’t get me wrong, I do quite enjoy being on the social networks.  I like scrolling through people’s cat pictures and funny memes, and it is handy sometimes being reminded of a birthday.  But sometimes I have an internal conflict with myself about my reliance on social media, as if there is a part of me trying to resist being modern and wanting to hark back to times gone by.

Let’s rewind for a moment, shall we?  The year is 1992, it’s Christmas and I’m an eleven-year-old girl, listening to my Take That & Party CD and eating fudge.    The only computer in the house is a huge thing with a giant screen (the back, not the front) and keys that take a while to come back up.   Computer games are pretty basic and with no real prize at the end other than the gratification of completing them.  I organise my life, as much as one can for such a young age, with a diary for my thoughts, an address book and a birthday book.   I read lots of stories and I watch Home and Away and Neighbours every day.   Awesome.  Now let’s think how different things are now.  Take That are still around, but obviously not as the band of choice for youngsters.   Technology is everywhere and there is no denying it is amazing.  Everybody has a mobile phone and our young people are leading the way when it comes to being fluent in using all that technology has to offer.   I heard some catch-phrase this week, I forget where, which said if you want to get ahead in technology, you should ask a 12-year-old.    So, we are only 24 years on but things are so, so different.

I’ve been reading a lot recently about just how different things are for Millennials than they were for Generation Xers and the Baby Boomers.  Just today there were reports about how people born in the 1980s are the first generation not to earn more in their first jobs than the generation before us.  Coupled with difficulties in getting on and staying on the housing ladder, after being brought up in a time when we believed it was our right to own a house, it feels a bit like we are a sandwich generation.   We’re between a time gone by and a time not yet in its stride.   We experienced the early days of modern technology.  We grew up with TV sets in every house but not quite every room and they certainly were not mobile.  Our household telephones were attached to their handsets by windy cords and a mobile phone often meant just having a longer cord.  We learnt what a ‘mouse’ was at school when the teachers taught us, whilst still probably learning themselves, how to use computers.  And we consumed our gossip and news by buying weekly magazines complete with fold-out posters to cover our walls, song lyrics, and tips on finding a boyfriend/girlfriend.

So, what happens to our generation when we’re in this no-mans land?  We remember all of these lovely and nostalgic things, and, most likely, we show our age more and more by sometimes resisting technology and new developments or, worse, by liking them so much that they lose their appeal to younger folk.

Perhaps we are at a junction in our time where things are shifting dramatically and, rather than staying on the course we were on over decades, that model can no longer hold and it is the Millennials who will feel this change the most.   I know there is no ‘solution’ to this and nor should there be, I suppose, but every once in a while I want to be free to indulge in my nostalgia and go all wistful and doe-eyed at the olden days, before I log back on and make sure to check my timeline for the next reminder of how long I’ve been friends with my sister.

Take a Letter, Mummy

This week I’m feeling very much like my daughter’s PA.   This is a feeling I only really noticed today in a kind of energy-saving lightbulb moment.

In my day job, I am an Executive Assistant, which means I’m pretty au fait with managing people’s administration and generally looking after them.  It’s what I do and I’m very good at it.   But, I always assume that when I turn the key in the door at home to begin my evening, I can take that coat off.   Wrong.   Big wrong.  Now that my daughter is at school, I’m learning that with school comes a new role of School Parent Assistant, or something equally catchy.    Now this isn’t all bad and this is where I show my true colours and my love for ‘all the admin’.  I actually look forward to the Friday night school newsletter.  It’s true, I do.   I enjoy reading it.   I enjoy the anticipation of looking in my daughter’s book bag to see what paperwork treats lie inside and then sticking them on the fridge.  I enjoy it, but I also find it a little bit stressful trying to remember all the things I need to put into the new drawer in my brain marked ‘Important School Admin’.

I realise you may be thinking that now would be an appropriate time to pull out my ‘L is for Loser’ t-shirt but I bet I’m not alone in my love of adminny, papery things.  I know there are more of us out there.  Go on, admit it.  It’s you isn’t it.   And your favourite shop is Paperchase.

I digress.  All of this paper-loving doesn’t explain why I feel like I actually work for my daughter.   This feeling comes from her new-found confidence, which brings her to say funny things in a funny manner, which come across very much like a miniature boss/matron. Example, when her dad asks her anything about her day, her friends, what she has done etc., she starts to answer him and then, when she is bored of talking, she turns to me and says, without a click of her fingers but one wouldn’t look out of place, “Tell him, Mummy.”  Wow.  Just wow.   My husband thinks it’s hilarious.   It’s happened twice in two days.   I suspect it will happen more.   She also says things like, “You do it”, if I ask her to do something that will benefit her much more than me.   I may as well look at the floor, shoulders hunched and slope away.  I know my place now.

So, in this world where I work from my daughter, I think I should receive the same benefits as any employee.  It’s only fair, right?   I should have my own office, which I accept will double up as the kitchen and may also be the staging area for the teddy bear pantomimes.    That’s okay.    I will also need remunerating for my efforts.  I accept all forms of plastic cash and leftover Easter chocolate.  And I would like membership to a private gym, which will probably be in the form of the weird outdoor gym at the local park.   I should have an annual appraisal.   This could be conducted in the circus tent in the lounge; I’m not fussy.   We can have chocolate brownies instead of digestives and I’ll settle for a cold drink.   School Parent Assistant.  It’s the future so I’d better get in some CIPD too.

Sigh.

On a serious note though, it is great that my daughter’s school very much encourages parental involvement and it’s even more great to see my daughter grow in her confidence so I guess I can take a bit of matronly behaviour for a while whilst she grows into her new self.

All Hallows’ Eve

It’s about this time of year that people start to notice (and moan, in my case) the creep of Christmas-ness in shops.   September and October are far too early for this, but I get why the retailers do it.  They’re no fools.    So, this is no surprise.  But what I’ve also noticed is that the introduction of Hallowe’en has started a hell of a lot earlier than ever before.   The night itself was only yesterday but it’s been in our lives for at least 2-3 weeks leading up to that.  It was probably the same last year but I feel like I’m noticing it much more this year.    In the weeks leading up to it, there was dress-up at my daughter’s school, we bought outfits, we went pumpkin-picking (if everybody donated a pound for every pumpkin-picking photo they post on Facebook, some charities would be very, very pleased), we made decorations, scary movies started playing on a loop on TV, and some peculiar folk even started setting off fireworks.   

I do like Hallowe’en, but in an old-fashioned, nostalgic way.  I remember doing ‘trick or treating’ when there was a genuine risk you may be tricked and you may not actually come away with treats.  I remember innocent costumes that you made yourself (or your parents helped you).   I know we still have witch and skeleton costumes but there are some really disturbing costumes around now.   Not just macabre, but full-on disturbing.  When did it go from spooky fun to sinister fun?

We took the kids out ‘trick or treating’ in the neighbourhood for the evening itself.    I love the fact that an estate of houses can be transformed from a place where you may speak only to your immediate neighbours during the day and that might be just to say hello, to one where it seems a foggy mist has descended and you’re all on some sort of strange film set.    Everybody is walking around dressed up.   You’re all talking to people you don’t know; everybody is very nice.   Pumpkins are glowing and there is an air of non-routine, ‘something different’ about the evening.     I realise that marking Hallowe’en isn’t for everybody and we made sure the kids only went to houses that had pumpkins lit and decorations outside  We didn’t bother anybody else.   

In the cold light of day this morning, the neighbourhood was back to normal.   The mist had lifted.  Strangers were strangers again.   The only clue to last night was the sweet wrappers on the floor and the odd smattering of fake cob webs.   Hallowe’en over for another year (or at least for 9 and a half months anyway).

Next stop – Bonfire Night…..

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