Tuesday, 3 June 2014

NetParanoia.com - fear of the net and being a parent

So you have kids. Do you let them play in the playground at school? Do they get hurt there? Fall over? Fall out with their mates? Get teased? Possibly bullied?
Being at school and playing in the playground and learning how to deal with all that that entails is part of growing up and we wouldn't want to stop that - would we?
But are we as free and easy about it on the net?
Judging by the headlines the net is a far scarier, and more deadly place, for kids to be than in the school playground, than at home...
But statistically speaking children are more likely to be harmed at home and by their parents on a physical, emotional and mental basis than they are ever likely to be anywhere else - the net included! These were the points raised at a brilliant lecture I went to last night: NetParanoia.com The Great Internet Paranoia Swindle with Euan Semple: an internet guru you could say.
He was not advocating that parents should negate their responsibilities and that everything and everyone on the net was a benign force with only the best intentions at heart; but what he was saying was that we, as parents, should be learning about the internet and using it ourselves the better to understand the opportunities it can give, they way it works so we can understand the threats, and how we can all benefit, not just as families but as a community.
Just because our children can turn on a smart phone and switch on a computer, without having to look at a manual, does not mean they are experts at working the web or indeed how to behave online. That  would be like saying that just because they can walk and talk means they know how to behave full stop - they, like all of us, have to learn.
The talk, and discussion after, jumped about a bit covering topics such as how freely should I let my children play on the internet to how do I deal with horrific and indeed sexual images on the net? How do I help my children with  on-line bullying? And what about the glare from computers? How do I deal with a child who keeps playing with computers way into the night...
The simple answer was this: be a parent and do what you always do.
If you don't want them playing the computer way into the night don't have the computer in the bedroom; if you are worried about your kids never going outside; tell them to go outside. On-line bullying is the same as bullying full stop and deal with it as you would if it was happening in the playground.
Dealing with  horrific and sexual images on the net is just the same as if  you came across them in a magazine or newspaper. Some will say they are more accessible on-line but  take a look around you  and you will probably find that  the local news on the radio is just as graphic. My kids certainly know all about Operation Yew Tree and what happened to the two girls who were hung from a tree in Pakistan as it was on the radio news on their way to school.
Most of the time they tune out: "News is boring!" Sometimes I am put on the spot and I have to explain the best I can.
We should not be fearful of the internet or indeed fearful for our children - it is an amazing place where we can learn and share and just because we are told: "Muuum! You are SO old!" does not mean that we should not learn and share too.
The use of the internet has freed me to earn money as a journalist from home; I have connected with a community that has stopped me going barking mad, I have met people  on-line who are amazing, kind, collaborative, witty, wise and I have learnt so much!
Long may it continue for me and my family!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Are you the parent of a cyberbully?

Come on hands up  do you really know what your kids are saying online? Can you honestly say you know what they are doing? What they are posting? Do you even know if your kid's online or not?
I didn't know my eldest was online.
I didn't know he was on Instagram.
I didn't know he'd got himself into a situation - one that was rapidly becoming toxic.
For heck's sake he's only 10!
I thought I was being so clever. I thought I had it all under control. I had given him an iPod what, two years ago... I had it so that it was essentially registered to me and anything he added to it would always show up on my account and on my iPad.
I had the usual buying apps without asking, sneaking face time with Granny  at 10pm on a school night, playing games when he should have been doing homework/sleeping/getting ready for school but I had not had him actually on-line for real.
But things change...
At the end of last term The Boy's two best mates left the school and while I was concerned I knew he'd be fine. He gets on with everyone.
What I had not expected was that he'd start to try too hard in an effort to fit in and be accepted. So last week  they were all off on a day trip and during the bus journey there the kid persuaded him to join Instagram. Of course he was flattered and everyone gave him their tags and he started to follow them all. He watched what they did and tried to join in. But he doesn't  really know the etiquette and made a classic blunder.
He tagged a whole load of kids when he uploaded a photo of himself with his fingers pointing like a gun at his head. He didn't realise he should have pout a witty one liner caption on the photo or that he possibly should not have tagged all and sundry.
The first response was why did you tag me, then there was another why, then a child said the photo was the most cringeworthy photo they had ever seen, the next was about perhaps The Boy wanted to kill them, there were a whole load more who kept asking why were they tagged. There were a lot of blank/angry/puzzled emoticons and The Boy was overwhelmed and did not understand. He said he came in peas and got a more grief for poor spelling.
Basically the situation started to go toxic and The Boy brooded. Kept  stealing looks at the comments trying to figure out what he had done wrong. And it was when he stole the iPod on evening that I caught him and found out what was going on. Found out that I had had no idea that he was online.
I don't think the kids he was online to really understood that they were taking things out of proportion or how much hurt they cased. It was a kind of pack mentality - but we know that it has to start somewhere. And for me this is a wake up call.
If half the parents realised what their kids were saying and doing online I very much doubt that half the children would be allowed.
I told the school to watch my son; I have taken him off Instagram until he can handle it. I am never going to get complacent again...
My approach now is three pronged.
School - when they talk about Cyberbullying and what you should do to make yourself safe online I suggested that they also talk about how to behave online.
The Boy - I am going to organise for him to be taught (along with me and his father) how to use Instgram/Twitter etc and how to behave online and what to do when faced with problems such as this, how to report bad behaviour and also how to minimise damage caused.
Parents - I am going to ask that worst question in the world that any parent can be asked: Is your Child a Cyberbully? Are they or could they be part of a pack that sends another child over the edge? Do you know what your children are saying/doing online? And the biggest of all: if you don't know why not!!!!!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Pants to 2013 - or is it?

Sitting here freezing cold because HE is on an economy drive (I forgot to fill up the oil tank before Christmas) and all I can think is it’s been a PANTS 2013.
Blogging wise I may as well have  got a monkey to do it for all the sense I have made or actually not done anything at all – it’s not been a stellar undertaking.
I had such high hopes!
It was meant to be my year and… actually it wasn’t. Things just sort of got on top of me and then I decided to do something about it and then things REALLY got on top of me and yet there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel as long as I keep digging, as long as I keep on going - perhaps 2014 could be better.
It’s not as if 2013 was ALL bad. It was just a bit like a curates egg; bad in parts which tends to make the whole thing rather off putting.
Bad in parts: well I had several visitations from the Black Dog cumulating with a massive appearance over Christmas coupled with mountains of work, too little time and a 10 year old boy with teenage attitude problems.
Hey – what can I say
All of that was over shadowed by the fact that HIS  company came up for sale at the beginning of the year and it was rather touch and go for the rest of it as to whether he would A) keep his job; B) like his new bosses; C) stay in  his job…
We are still out on C but at least he HAS a job and so do I – for the moment and that cannot be a bad thing.
But with all the uncertainty comes stress; a low lying thrumming stress and that has lead too many Black Dog visitations and hence my belief that 2013 was PANTS.
So as an exercise I will catalogue the good and bthe bad and if I am right then 2013 WAS pants and if I am wrong…well I’ll get my arse into gear and prove 2014 is  going to be even better…

Sassy Whippet aka wickedest whippet gets pregnant on purpose - good
Hubbie’s work up for sale. Will he still have a job at the end of all this?– bad
Boy passes LAMDA exam – good
I take back the reins and go horse riding after 20 years – good
Hubbie celebrates one year of weekly commuting: I miss him – bad
Boy gives up piano: no battles as I try forcing him to practice - good
Bog Boy (youngest)  takes up piano: now have to FORCE him to practice - bad

Got invited out for Valentines night – good
Drowned car – bad
Missed Valentines night  out – bad
Got new car – good
Used up all holiday money to buy new car – bad

Had puppies – good
Good mate had massive heartattack – bad

But survived – good

Boy off epilepsy drugs – good
Sold puppies - good
But fell in love with one puppy and still had to sell it - bad

Mums 70th she is still alive and kicking! - good
I get amazing article to do – good
Having written article get amazing opportunity – good

Boy wins school prize - good
College mate dies of cursed cancer – bad

Had staycation – surprisingly good!
Article published and everyone thinks it’s – good!

Boy takes up trombone: WHAT more practice battles!!!!– bad
Bog Boy takes up recorder – bugger…
Boy gets girlfriend – good
Boy gets dumped – bad
Mate tries to kill themself – very bad

Keep getting work opportunities – good
Had amazing birthday party – good!
Boy gets girlfriend back – good
Boy gets dumped again – bad
Boy gets cool haircut – good
Boy gets girlfriend back again - good

Have amazing trip for work – good
Meet extraordinary people – good

Best friend gets annoyed with Boys flicky fringe and cuts it while I am away – bad
Get back from trip too close to Christmas – bad
Boy gets dumped by girlfriend yet again as not cool with dodgy fringe - bad
Boy pisses off mother on virtually daily basis with severe teenage attitude problems - bad
Fail to write Christmas cards – bad
Major major major crisis of confidence (I can’t do all this! I am going to fail!!) – bad
Manage to meet work deadlines so far – good
Plucking up courage to write all about trip – good
Feeling fragile but hopeful – bad and good

Good: 27  Bad:  20

Roll on 2014….

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Anxiety, in-laws and too much chocolate...

Do you have those days when it just does not kick start? It fails to ignite and try as you might basically it should be skipped.
Today was one of those days.
I should have just skipped it.
I am getting increasingly  anxious about an imminent visit from my in-laws, which is in fact more than six weeks away, but I am not really looking forward to it.
Suffice to say like a lot of people I find my in-laws are problem. Not that they are bad people or anything; they are not - it's just we don't get on. I rub them up the wrong way and they do the same to me.
I feel not quite good enough and approaching 50 and after 15 years marriage I really should be far more gown up about it. But you can take away the childhood but you may never take away the child and I am that child.
Nervous, anxious and then just badly behaved because I don't want to be nervous or anxious.
I have managed to avoid my in-laws for the past couple of years and personally I think this is a good thing for all of us. I am happy not to see them and truth be known I very much doubt they are anxious to see me. But there comes a point when we must all meet and at least pretend to get along for appearances sake.
So that my children can be free to love them as grandparents and my husband not find himself in a bind  pulled between his love and desire to protect me and his love and desire to be with his family.
Possibly my failure to see my in-laws  has given rise to comment, and this of course must be rectified. I cannot believe they are in any hurry to see me at all. But I think they feel that they ought to be more involved with their sons and grandsons and I am obviously the problem.
So in an effort NOT to be the problem I am hosting a Birthday weekend for my mother in law. I fear it is going to be disastrous and just another excuse for them to say how awful I am and I probably won't let them down - behaving as usual  in a manner  unbefitting.
I have never ever been rude to them bar the once when I told my MIL to foxtrot oscar - though I did have post natal expression at the time. And in general I am very accommodating allowing them to bring their dogs, invite their friends over etc etc but after such a long time away from their company I fear they are now bogeymen so my chocolate intake is increasing as I try to stay calm and days like this drift by  without me getting much done…
Wish I could wave a magic wand and be the perfect daughter in law

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

What would you do if you were given an extra day?

An unexpected day.
An extra day.
And the thing is, what would you do?
I was given an extra day the other day. It was absolutely glorious.
Guess what I did?
Did I indulge myself with a pampering experience? Did I go for a slap up meal? Was I surrounded by family and friends?
Nope to all of that.
And more than that I loved it.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself - and I usually hate housework. I avoid it at all costs. I am brilliant at breeding dust bunnies, and expert on the finer points of sweeping stuff under the carpet. I excel at creating more mess without even trying.
I resent housework, I resent its endless monotony. I resent that it's always me that has to do it.
But on my extra day, my bonus day I had the time of my life.
I think I finally got it.
On my extra day I was not doing housework really. I was thinking of all my boys. I was thinking how they would come home and find that I had cleaned their rooms and made their beds, done their laundry, cleaned the bathroom and left everything perfect just for them.
Would that it was always this easy!
Perhaps it could be, if I knew that I would not be doing it again for a couple of weeks. Maybe it's one of those "this is the last time I am having to do this moments", even though I will probably come home to a complete tip after my trip away and be straight back to major groaning and griping about it.
Maybe I felt happy because it's the knowledge that if I leave it perfect they will be obliged to keep it that way and realise during the course of the couple of weeks that I am away that housework is not as easy as it seems and thus on my return I will be all the more welcomed. More appreciated because of my absence.
It doesn't really matter why I was happy about it I am just hugging the thought that for a brief moment in time I was happy doing it.
I'm not going to knock those moments.
What would you do if you had an extra day?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Being Middle Class - Getting the wind up....

There's nothing like an impending emergency to get the old heart thumping or indeed in the case of us Brits to start talking to one another. Even better the impending emergency is all about the weather.
Normally on a Sunday I see the mummies and daddies standing in splendid isolation on the edge of the hockey pitch whiling away the hour or so until their children's training is over.
Every week they come and every week they stand alone together. Occasionally one may break ranks and try to start up a conversation. Usually it is a case of crash and burn not due to meanness or even being unfriendly just a case of chronic social ineptitude and acute embarrassment. I applaud the bravery but would of course never actually say out loud that I did, I mean that would just be embarrassing for all concerned!
But give us an excuse to talk, on a non personal level naturally, and then there is no stopping us. All sorts of secrets come out: like the fact that so and so's husband has run off with the local vicar's wife or that the reason why that nice couple are always up for meeting new people is that they are swingers...the mind boggles, really it does.
While this is all well and lovely but the startling nature of these Bon motes can of course render one speechless, so thank heavens for being able to move the conversation swiftly on with talk of the impending storm. Concern about ones' trees and the question of the probability that one may or indeed  may not get into work on Monday morning covering for the fact that you are now in a serious social dilemma regarding how you are going to gracefully decline the invitation for a cosy soiree next week from the nice couple you have just heard are swingers.
Maybe I'll be too busy clearing up after the storm...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Getting back in the Groove

Refusing to stick my head in the ground!
It's been a long time.
A very long time and no it's not about the blog, even thoughit has been so long since I posted that my rankings are now totally off the scale and I am in danger of being forgotten.
It's about work.
And I am in danger of being forgotten there too.
Not only forgotten - which may imply that I once was remembered - but there is also the realisation that for some I have actually never existed.
And now I am trying to get back.
Get into the groove.
I feel as if I have been in some kind of stasis - frozen in time like Austin Powers and totally without any mojo.
I haven't been doing nothing for the past 12 years. I have managed to keep my foot wedged in the door so to speak- while renovating our home and birthing and bringing up two boys - but the foot has been so long wedged that I think it has mortified.
I do have some work but lately it has been squeezed and I fear that because I am not in the office on a daily basis I am fading fast in everyone's collective memory.
Hence the need to rejuvenate myself; be reborn - faster, stronger, better than before.
And I feel an utter fraud.
I fear I may never work properly again.
Why on earth would anyone want to give me gainful employment?
I have forgotten how to do it.
Not that I have forgotten how to write, I can do that OK. I write 1,000 words a week and get paid for it. But I am beginning to fear that all my eggs are in one basket and if that magazine were to decide to close down my column - then what?
No one knows who I am!
I wasn't widely known when I was working full time but at least all the PRs knew where to send the press releases and would ring me up with useful bon mots and stuff. I'd get invited to functions and press days and the like.
Now I find I am having to scrabble about on line searching for stuff more and more and increasingly I am having to telephone PR Execs, begging them to put me on their mailing lists. They invariably mispronounce my name, get confused and then ask me again just who I am and why I am calling.
It's so scary.
Scary that I am going to have to risk rejection, ridicule and condescension from editors and publishers young enough to be my kids as I start all over again at the bottom.
I am going to have to prove, not just to them, but to myself that I can do it
I am terrified.
Can I make it?
Can I do this?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Being Middle Class: Acting like a fishwife

Today is a day NOT to mess with me....

If I were terribly, terribly, middle class and frightfully, frightfully proper I wouldn’t have done wot I did in the Tesco Car Park at lunchtime.
I think my father would have described me as acting like a fishwife. At least that would be the polite version.
Mea Culpa
I hold up my hands.
Guilty as charged
But  I did have an excuse.
Come on have you ever had to work from home AND get your kids to do holiday work?
It’s a recipe for disaster and there is a lot to be said for just giving up and giving in and letting them kick back in front of the TV all day eating crisps. It would be so much easier if I did and I’d get a heck of a lot more work done.
But I know better of course.
I get my kids to do their holiday work come hell or high water and it’s usually both.
They whine, I rumble.
They whine some more and muck about, I growl loudly
They stubbornly refuse to get on with it and I start to shout
They shout back and I explode and there are lots of tears.
After about two hours they settle down for five minutes to get on with it and are then distracted and start to whine all over again about how unfair it is that they have to do holiday work when surely none of their friends have to do any…at this point I go into melt down and basically everything all goes horribly wrong.
I storm out of the house leaving a rather shell shocked family behind. I jump in the car and slew my way down the gravel drive before hurtling into town and Tesco where I intend to pick up sandwiches for lunch and grab some cash – any excuse to get me out of the house so I won't actually carry out my threat of murdering my two boys.
So there I am wondering around the Tesco car park and I see a space; I drive into it then notice there is a space in front that I can drive into allowing me a quick forward getaway when I have finished my chore. But there are two, I’ll call them ladies, gossipping in the space. I nudge my car forward to get them to move so I can park.They stop talking and glare at me momentarily before carrying on.
I wait for them to move.
They don’t.
I rev the engine a little more in case they don't realise that I wish to park where they are standing. I expect them to raise their hands in apology and move away.
They don't instead older woman barks out: “What’s your problem.” Before turning her back on me to carry on talking to her friend.
Normally I would have got all embarrassed and apologised for trying to park and all that but today I have had enough.
Today I am NOT going to be polite.
Today no one had better get in my way.
I flip.
Today I am a real witch.
I rev the car more and hit the horn LONG and LOUD as I drive forward.
"What do you think you are playing at!!" she hollers at me.
"I am parking my car..."
"You could park anywhere!"
"But I don’t want to park anywhere," I say sweetly through gritted teeth."I wish to park here..."
"Well am talking to my friend and I can talk to my friend wherever I like!"
"Great next time try doing it in the middle of the motorway. In the meantime I am parking my car right where your standing - so shift…"
I am not sure if I would have driven right over them but I am glad that they thought I might have driven straight over them.
They even backed right off when I got out of the car still hurtling insults as they walked away.
I should have left it like that.
But as I said: NOT today.
I stalk after them with murder plainly written across my face.
"You want to take this further? Do you? Come on then…"
I honestly believe that I would have got into a full on scrap there and then in the middle of the Tesco car park – talk about anger transference!
They scarpered and I felt…
It was a total relief.
No shaking, no guilt, no shame.
Went into Tesco and was utterly charming to everyone.
Frightfully Middle Class….

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Being shamelessly middle class – and apologising for it…

You go away for 24 hours and you come back fully aware that you need to shout it loud and proud.
My kids go to private school because it never entered my head that there was an alternative. Or words to that effect.
My name’s Tattie Weasle and I AM Middle Class.
If there’s one thing I learnt during my brief sojourn in Town (London for the uninitiated) at the glorious Britmums Live event, is that to have an authentic voice you need to be true to yourself.
For years I have been apologising for being Middle Class. In fact that is one of the traits of being Middle Class (pronounced “Clarse” as in arse) – forever saying that you’re sorry for being so.
That being so, I now humbly beg forgiveness.
If I were Working Class I’d tell everyone to “Foxtrot Oscar” and “What You LOOKIN at” and if I were Upper Class – well I wouldn’t speak to you anyway, or if I deigned, I might raise an eyebrow in askance.
I think being Middle Class is very confusing as you vacillate between being very proud for being so and worrying what others may think of you.
There’s a lot of guilt being Middle Class.
In fact there are 9.63 million Google hits about it and I think that is a lot.
Secretly though it’s not so much guilt as fear; fear of being laughed and derided by the Upper Classes or else beaten up by the lower orders and having everything taken away.
Thus you land up trying very hard to be invisible by seamlessly blending in to one and frantically claiming solidarity with the other. One requires expensive shopping trips and claiming that you know who won this year at Burghley and that yes you do know your chukka from your bump; and the other renders you incomprehensible to English speaking nations as you reclaim your Working Class roots (Class now pronounced as in ass) along with dropping you aitches and hastily adopting a mockney accent even though your antecedents hailed from Wales.
So it is with a great deal of trepidation and frantic crossing of fingers that I promise to speak with my own voice – possibly for the very first time in my life.
And I won’t be apologising…well, not all the time!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Bringing up boys - one dog at a time!

One boy and his dog...
"If that little bugger goes anywhere near my new boots!!"
I'll what? - Sell it after all?
Of course not.
They are as bad as each other. No blooming respect for anything.
Out the kitchen door, straight up the stairs and into the bedrooms. Slippers, socks, biros, teddies - nothing is sacred. He's been up on the table, in the dishwasher. He's stolen from the fridge and piddled on the carpet. Chewed two baskets and nearly given me a heart attack appearing from the laundry room with my knickers in his mouth
That puppy is worse than his mother, and I thought she was the ultimate Wicked Whippet. This one! Well, he is the devil incarnate, a diablo and not helped one iota by his new master.
Thick as thieves. One forever in search of the other.
I don't know whether to congratulate or kick myself.
You might have guessed but I finally gave in - he's got his dog.
I suppose it was kind of inevitable that I'd let him but I hope he never really knew that. I hope he felt that he has really earned his dog. It was certainly hard going.
I cannot count the times he 'lost' the dog for continually answering back, showing attitude. For lack of respect and thumping his brother.
But for all of those mistakes there were a thousand good ones in their place. Being kind to others, laying up the table, clearing up the dog mess without asking, and more than that for keeping on trying at school even though it never seemed as if there was any progress at all.
There he'd be struggling away with no reward; being knocked back countless times but still trying.
He's won the ultimate challenge. He kept his end of the bargain - just.
So I am keeping mine.
Another wicked whippet enters the annals - welcome to the pack - Jet Bag!

Go on you know you want to...

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