Thursday 21 September 2017

Lessons from Queen Victoria

Hermaphrodite Mum 
Three kids and a single mum

I read in The Times newspaper that a quarter of 14-year old girls are depressed. Good grief. The reasons cited for this dip in teenage mental health are familiar - a preoccupation with body image, as well as the pressures of social media and achieving academic success.

The lure of the mobile phone
 | Dreamstime
Helpfully, the newspaper provides a little quiz to test your daughter's own mental resilience. So when Quiet One gets home from school, she's barely had time to reach for the biscuit tin before I start firing questions at her.

"In the past two weeks, can you tell me if this statement is true, untrue or sometimes true..."


"But I haven't told you the statement yet!"

"I can just tell it's going to be untrue," she says, sniffing.

"I felt miserable or unhappy."

"Oh dear, Mum, perhaps you should get help."

"No! That's the statement!"

"You mean, have I felt miserable or unhappy?"

"In the past two weeks," I prompt, waiting for her reply.

"Not in the past two weeks, but I was a bit upset when you refused to pre-order the iPhone 8 for my birthday."

My eye runs down 12 other statements and I decide to try again when she's in a more compliant mood.

"I felt miserable last week," pipes up Middle Child. "Why don't you ask me?"

"Because you're not a 14-year old girl," I tell him.

"That's sexist," he says.

I am confused for a moment. "No, it's not."

He pulls a face. "All that pressure you put me under last weekend to do my homework - that made me feel miserable."

"Yes, but darling you have to do your homework."

"I don't have to get every single thing right."

"I am not saying that you do, but you should always try to do your best."

Tiger mother?

Quiet One replaces the lid on the biscuit tin. "You see, Mum, you're putting him under pressure to succeed academically."

I look carefully at each of them. Are they winding me up or do they genuinely believe I am some sort of tiger mother

"Is this really how you feel? That I put you under too much pressure?" I ask Middle Child.

"Yup. And you won't let me have an Instagram account when everyone else in the class has one."

"Ah," I cry triumphantly. "That's because I am a good mother who's trying to shield you from the pressures of social media."

"It's quite simple," Middle Child says, exiting the kitchen so that he can have the last word. "I'd be a lot happier if you didn't look after me so well."

The door closes and I am left with my newspaper, while Quiet One flips one-thumbed through the messages on her mobile phone.

"Just let him have an Instagram account," she says, her eyes glued to the tiny, glowing screen.

"Look what happened to your cousin!" I shout. "Auntie Leslie had no idea what he was up to half the time on that phone."

Quiet One rewards me with a quick glance. "But he turned out alright in the end, didn't he? Anyhow, I'm off to do my homework before you start nagging."

The door closes and I am left with my newspaper. Sitting there, gazing out of the window, I happen to recall something Queen Victoria once said on the subject of her own rebellious brood: 
"Often when children have been less watched and less taken care of, the better they turn out! This is inexplicable and very annoying."
I look at my watch. There's just time if I hurry. On my way upstairs to change, I poke my head around the door of the living room. My youngest girl is absorbed in her Lego castle while Middle Child lies slumped in front of Nikelodeon.

As I run out of the front door, I yell at the kids: "Change of plan! I'm just off to Pilates. Supper's in the fridge. See you later!" 

I don't wait to hear their reply.

Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam

Previous posts by Hermaphrodite Mum:

Drama in the night
At the zoo
Drama in the night

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