Mother angst...

posted on: Thursday, 28 November 2013

It turns out that after being a parent for twelve and a half years, what I have learnt has not prepared me for this phase. I have talked before about how parenthood has phases and as soon as you recognise that fact, you're half way to relaxing into the mother role. Whether it's sleepless nights or unwillingness to eat vegetables to the more weighty topics of academics or being 'in' or 'out' with friends. The last few weeks there has been an undercurrent; a steady flow of changes when it has come to my daughter and I am at a loss as to how to respond. She is a cool kid; no doubt. She has my deep-thinking, analytical capacity, but spookily it's shared from a genetic perspective with my husband's unfailing confidence and front. The result: a force to be reckoned with. And quite crucially and unlike me - she says she doesn't care what people think of her. On the one hand I applaud her gumption, on the other I fear for her being publicly berated.

via un amore per sempre
Conversations in our house this week have led to sharply raised eyebrows and intakes of breath (me), to frustrated tears (her), to the delivery of parental ultimatums (him). I am curious of my own reactions and I feel unsure of my footing with this new pre-teen version of my daughter. Before me I have beautiful, confident, clever young girl who is making a few interesting (reckless?) choices and my instinct is to intervene. That instinct is so strong that it makes my heart ache. But I realise I can't stop this. I can't hold her back, I can't prescribe my version of how things should be.

Despite being a mere 26 years old when I had her, putting an abrupt end to my glittering post-graduate career (hah!) I now feel like an old head atop weary shoulders. When did I become the moralistic one? And where does one draw the line? I am her friend, but I am also her parent and I think the latter must always win out. It's hard in a way that I wasn't expecting.

And the irony is - I find myself thinking gratefully that I am not working now and I can devote myself to stepping along these treacherous paths, but then I think maybe it's the other way round. Maybe these paths are treacherous because I am not working and have the time to get so involved?! Would I be better off not knowing? I also wonder quite how far I can go in the vortex of day to day parenting; isn't I time they weaned off me?!

So all in all a challenging time. And there I was worrying about my hairstyle! Life has a way of reminding you what matters at opportune times. Deep breath - tomorrow is another day, maybe she's right and I need to chill out; it wouldn't be the first time that has been the case!

Hair (and a rant ensues)...

posted on: Monday, 25 November 2013

Can I just talk about hair?! As in hairstyles? I am obsessed! So the story of my hair goes like this: throughout my teens and early twenties I tried everything. Perms (I had many; a disaster), swinging between redhead and blonde, fringe/no fringe. I changed and sadly damaged my hair so much that it did once start to break off at the root after too many chemicals and I had to treat it with hot oil every time I washed it, just to get it to lie flat. Naturally, it's brunette, generally normal, fine hair, it used to be stick straight but after children now has a slight curl. So as a result of the abuse I put it through I became rather conservative and had - are you ready for this - the same hairdresser for fifteen years! Whaaa? I know - I am beyond loyal. I loved my hairdresser, she was/is a good friend, but eventually she decided to follow another calling and is retraining to become a midwife! So I am now out on my own after a decade and a half of hairstyling trust.

Olivia she fretting because she misses her long hair?!
You know that feeling when you get a fabulous new haircut and it looks fresh and new and when you run your hands through it, it's healthy and blunt cut and just feels amazing? Happy-making? I want that. I want a restyle. I have had the same hair for so long or variations of a very limited theme.

But here is the issue - in Pinterest pictures of hair styles I covet; the beautiful hair sits atop the face of a model. YES! This is why their hair looks so stunning. I fall over myself pining pictures of 'choppy' bobs and 'mid-length' wonders; I am seduced by the faces, the whole package, not just the hair. It strikes me this is a wider issue to do with how we are in normal life (let's put everyone in the 'normal' bracket; as far as I know I don't have a celebrity/off-duty model readership). I walk around noting that most women's hair looks...dare I say...pretty average. Very few (lucky) women have naturally 'good' hair which is thick (but not too thick), luxuriant (not frizzy), healthy (no split ends), richly hued (not grey or with roots). It's the modern elixir of life - along of course with a positive body image, but don't get me started on that!

I noticed as I sat in the hair salon recently, with sweaty palms, getting my first new cut and colour, there were a lot of women around me gesticulating about wanting this or that - showing pictures from their phones. Using a language not applied anywhere else in life, about hair. 'It's too heavy'; 'Let's take the weight out' when referring to the scourge of the layer. What is it with layers?! I am so cross as I now have more layers in my hair than I wanted and the result: limp, thin hair. Hairdressers - why the layers?! What is it with this mystical 'weight' in hair that needs removing, like some sort of affliction?! Drives me nuts. The number of times I have grown out over-zealous layers in my life...

Then there is the colour. Now I am going grey - it pains me to write that - I have many contemporaries who are not and I wonder at the injustice of getting my first grey hair at 30. I have been dying my hair for a decade and for the record: there is no way I am going to go properly grey. My Danish Grandmother was in her nineties and still had brunette hair. This is my role model. So there you are - I will be locked into the hair dying extravaganza forever. I may as well take out a second mortgage! And here is my theory on colouring: only one in five colouring appointments turn out right. Some too dark, some too light, some went to far, some not far enough. This is an enigma to me. Why the variation?

So - I am frustrated. I now have mid length hair - it is completely 'meh'. I see these short funky bob cuts. I want that. I want cool, easy hair. I get up at 6.30am every morning; I don't have time for styling. But I also absolutely lust for lovely, long hair. Like Olivia P. Arrgghh and then I go back to my original point, which is: Olivia could shave her head and still look amazing. It's because she is model beautiful.

I live in fear of 'housewife' hair - that is hair which just hangs. Un-styled. Un-stylish. It's a minefield ;-)

So please - what to do? What is recommended for mere mortals? I need a hairstyle that works, and that I love and that I don't look in the mirror and immediately want to pull it into a pony tail. Cut or grow??'s OK; it grows back...

Nobody said it was easy...

posted on: Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Without meaning to be, there are still testing times. I have a life that on paper looks perfect - and it is - but the fact is, trials still present themselves; they are just dressed differently than before. As I have given up the defined area of stress in my life (my job) I feel like I should therefore no longer have stress. I am finding though that stress lurks in expected places.

via observando
Having a twelve year old daughter can be tricky; you have to be resilient. If you read any article on the perils of social media you'll want to lock your child away and never let them see an iPhone again. But this is the world we live in and we have to embrace it. As she grows up, boundaries are being pushed every day. Things she should try and challenges she should face. I try to bring up my kids to be sensible and independent, but when they are out of their comfort zone, you wonder whether as a parent, you've gone too far in pushing them out of the nest. They are so young. There is so much time, isn't there? But what I would say about these modern times is that it's actually hard to know if you're making the right decision. When they are babies or toddlers you eventually decide to ditch the baby manual once and for all and trust your instincts. Well - when they grow older, there are no manuals and your instinct feels out of date. I mean let's be honest; I was 12 years old nearly twenty years ago. Times have changed and I start to feel like an episode of the 'The Wonder Years' if I am not careful! Is there a different playing field now?

via observando
I keep telling myself: I do my best. Things aren't bad. There are always those who are worse off. These are first world problems. So in this spiral of parental self doubt I snap out of it and start a new day.

Did you know that Christmas Eve is only six weeks away? Whaaaa?! This seems like an unfeasibly short amount of time for me to get my s**t together. Mental note: time runs away from you.

I enter now the final months of my 39th year. This feels significant; 40 is looming and I so want to feel full of positivity about it. All is I know I spent three hours in a hairdresser's chair yesterday getting my grey covered in what seemed like a ridiculously elaborate process! Hmmm. Then I went to Jack Wills to buy a shirt and felt, as a paid for it, that I ought to explain (apologise for?) the fact that it was for me rather than my daughter! I accept these are my own neuroses; I have developed them over time and I am sure they will pass. But in the spirit of honesty to you this is what goes through the mind of me.

It's Wednesday and that means circuit training so I am off for the endorphin fix and the hope that calm will descend on my house and quiet the parental worry/noise that seems to drown all else out right now. The sun is shining, it's a crisp day.

painting by jessica cooper