Wednesday 1 May 2013

From full-time Carer to Don't-Carer

Yes! Am new fabulous guest blogger for! My passport to fame and fortune! Hmmm. Had better check what is. Ah. The world's largest online destination for care. As in babysitters, nannies, childminders, carers for the elderly... Which is all marvellous. (Carer for the elderly! Just what I need. Only ten years to go....) Childcare, though? The thing is, at 13 years old, my daughter apparently no longer needs Care. 

Let us wind back the clock to the beginning of term...  Lily returns to The Manor with great excitement (our Easter holiday in Nepal was clearly purgatory for her, given that she slept all morning, Facebooked or Garage Banded all afternoon, and only spoke to order lasagne from the menu in the evening). She and her pals are milling around their dorm, where Violet Winkworth is acting Lady Bountiful and doling out Weetos. But what's this? Tallulah Barker is sitting on a mattress with a Tesco's bag over her head.

My maternal carer instincts spring into action. 'Take that plastic bag off your head!' I cry. 'It's dangerous! You could suffocate.'

Neither Tallulah nor her friends appear to hear me, and so I do as any mother would, snatch off the bag, whereupon Weetos spray around the dormitory.

There's a stunned silence. Tallulah looks at me in sullen incredulity. I turn to see a pink-cheeked Lily staring at me. I pan around the dorm, taking in the newly teenaged faces gazing at me with open jaws or giggling nervously behind their hands. I look at the plastic bag and the scattered Weetos, and it occurs to me that Tallulah was innocently pretending to be a horse, eating from her nosebag. Possibly. 

Feeling like the butt of a Bateman cartoon (The Woman Who Snatched the Tesco's Bag from the Teenager's Head), I mutter an excuse and hasten from their midst. 

So, it has happened. My daughter is Officially Embarrassed. Of me. By me. And I have played into her hands, persisting in my role as Carer instead of Don't-Carer.

The thing is, the transition from hands-on to hands-off is hard to make when you have been the sole carer for 13 years, devoted to your child's every need and move. Aside from the early years when Lily genuinely did need me (at least I think she did, though it's hard to remember a time when she wasn't more resilient and independent than I), I have spent days and weeks researching and booking activities, arranging sleepovers and playdates and parties, helping her with homework, deliberating which school would be the best for her, coaching her for exams, driving her to and fro.... For all these years, Lily came first. As any child should.  

But now, not only does she apparently not need me, I am an embarrassing blot on her horizon. How do other mothers do it? Step back and stop running and ruling their children's lives? While a) not feeling personally wounded and b) retaining a modicum of influence and, dare I venture, respect? Or is such a notion laughably old-fashioned?

'It gets worse,' say my friends of 14- and 15-year-old daughters. 'They're 100% focused on their peer group. And boys.'

Oh God. And this is precisely the time that Lily is due to return to live at home in London. 

Actually, I've done rather marvellously since I moved back to London last summer. I used to be driven demented by her lack of communication. Now I don't email her much any more, given that she rarely reads or responds to my missives. Nor does she phone home. Our last email exchange, over the course of three days, went like this:

Me: Lils darling, try calling me ... wd be nice to have a chat.

Lily:  But with what??

Me:  A phone? Using your phone card? 

Lily: Phone cards too confusing plus none of the phones actually work properly…
I don’t wanna use other peeps mob…
Can a get a phone this term???
Then I can keep in touch my friends and I can talk to after school…
Its wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy easier!!!! 

Yes. Well, given that she's supposed to be concentrating on her Common Entrance, 'keep in touch my friends' is precisely the thing I've been trying to avoid.

But once she's back at home full-time, will I be able to reinvent my Carer role? What will we be? Flatmates? Landlady-lodger? (Is that Lily's tinkling laughter I hear? 'Yes, you'll be the lodger, I'll be the landlady! Ha ha ha.'). I shall be beyond doormatting. I shall shrivel up and slide between the gaps in the floorboards and be found years later, when somebody buys the house.

'Y'wha?' Lily will say. 'Oh, yeah. I wondered where Mum'd got to.'

Ah. Mr Postman! A letter from my darling! It’s marvellous the way The Manor makes them write home on Sundays.

'MISS YOU AND DOLLY!!' she signs off. 'Lots of love from your doted daughter,' which I take to be an amalgam of 'doting' and 'devoted'. And then, in the small print, 'Can you send me a letter instead of an email sometimes??'

Aw. My baby. I rush to my office, grab a biro and pull out a sheet of A4 from the printer. 'Darling Lilykins...'

1 comment:

  1. Sounds great to me. I am still very definitely CARER with three very dependent males (or should that be four including the husband?). And all three of them ill and off school today. Joy. E x