Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Après Facebook and stuff kids say

Recently my daughter chose a rather inopportune moment to tell some of her girlfriends that she was getting a new kitten. They were at a children's party, and the parents were just about to bring out the cake. Children are always extremely excited by cake, the same way I am about shoes. They don't necessarily eat it, but they like to see what it looks like, touch it, and admire the design or colours the birthday child has chosen. So my daughter was animatedly mid sentence about her new kitten when her friends rushed off to look at the cake, and she burst into tears. "No one is interested in my news, they wouldn't even let me finish telling them about my kitten." She was genuinely distraught.

I had to explain that this was more a case of timing than anything else, and she should perhaps wait until she had their undivided attention to share her news again.  Later that evening I also thought it might be an opportune moment to impart another bit of advice; namely that sometimes people are not always going to be as happy for you as you are for yourself, even people that you consider close friends or family. She looked at me like I was crazy. And in reality it does seem crazy, sad, and unfair but alas, it is true. In fact, you will find as you go through life that there are quite literally a handful of people, which usually but not always include the person that gave birth to you, that you can call with good news and they are genuinely happy and excited for you. More often than not people are not that interested because they are busy with their own lives, or some may feel a twinge of sadness or resentment or jealousy because by an often random dealing of the cards, things are not as good in their own lives. We've all had it happen to us and we've also at one time or another all been the person thinking: "Well bully for you, you're getting a kitten, my parents have told me there is no way in hell we are getting a pet, because my mother is allergic or my father doesn't want cat hair all over his angora sweater." Although I doubt my daughter's friends are saying 'there's no way in hell' - writer's license and all that.

On this subject, a few weeks ago I received an email from someone saying that like me they had also effectively 'quit' using Facebook because they have fallen on hard times and find all the updates about other people's accomplishments, holidays, new cars, the opportunities their children are getting, painful to observe. Unfortunately, as I've observed before, FB can be the veritable salt in the wound in instances like this, albeit not always intentionally.

Separately in answer to some people's questions, life post Facebook has been very productive for me. In the week following me 'quitting' FB, I read three books. Admittedly I was on holiday at the time, but it's still quite an achievement because those precious couple of hours while my husband minds the children would usually consist of being on FB and getting sun burnt. I've also written three blog posts, finished two paintings and am actually on top of my admin. I haven't yet addressed some of my unpacked boxes - let's not push it.

Did I have withdrawal? Initially yes, a bit. More so that I was missing out on something important, but I repeatedly assured myself that if someone really needed me they had the ability to inbox me or better still email or call me. And it was only by chance that I saw my name mentioned in a thread (I was uploading a photo to my page 'School Run Mum' that still has the general FB feed) and I followed it to see there was a reunion party for the advertising agency I used to work at. Dammit, don't these people know I am no longer on FB? That was a very near miss.

At the reunion I had a good time catching up with old colleagues I hadn't seen in 12 years, which involved at least one apology to someone for being an arse to them back in the day. She accepted and apologised for being an arse too. It was a good moment followed by quite a bit of wine and an attempt to smoke a Russian cigarillo. I haven't smoked in 10 years since I decided to have children, and here I was outside in the cold with my old tribe puffing on something quite disgusting. It was a reminder that those days were not very good for my health and also how easy it is to fall back into the old dynamics.

This week I overhead a mother and her son (who was 4 or 5) having the following conversation on the school steps:

Mother: So, tell me again, what do you do if the toilet seat is full of wee?
Boy: Incomprehensible muttering
Mother: No, no no, you go and find another toilet!!! OK? Promise me OK???
Boy: Incomprehensible muttering

My six-year-old daughter went to the toilets by herself for the first time at the London Zoo this weekend. My husband and son waited directly outside for her. When she came out he asked her: "Everything OK?"And she responded with: "No, it was very unhygienic in there and one of the toilets was full of poo." My husband told me the toilet attendant, who was standing outside, looked shocked by what he was hearing. I can only assume he doesn't have children because in my experience they certainly don't hold any punches. 

Last week my almost four-year-old son asked my mother, at the breakfast table, if she had a penis. She responded in the negative and he went on to discuss his and then my husbands' matter of factly. I assured my mother that my husband doesn't actually use the toilet or in fact shower in front of the children any more. My son knows how to use the toilet now so he doesn't need his dad to show him how, and my husband showers early in the morning before the children are awake. But I think my son is getting to an age where he is distinguishing his masculinity from my mine and my daughter's femininity and having a kind of male kinship and sameness with my husband is an important part of this. While I appreciate and respect this I would prefer it if he didn't feel the need to detail my husband's anatomy to my mother at the breakfast table. Having kids is like having your life, and I mean things you wouldn't even discuss with a close friend, publicly broadcast every minute of the day. In a strange and inadvertent twist I appear to have switched one kind of FB for another and it also might explain the occasional inexplicable grin I receive from the teachers when collecting my children in the afternoons. 

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