Friday, 27 September 2013

Parenting and the ‘antisocials’ at the conferences

This time around we headed all family to a conference at Cambridge. Having a child with us meant that we did look for outside accommodation, since Cambridge colleges are not really meant for families with children. And I do understand, if the people preparing their conference papers at the last minute or trying to get a good night’s sleep before their big day would feel short-changed with the happy shouts of our early bird Number One Son at six o'clock in the morning...

Our life has been so busy with me dislocating to Sweden for a year and Archaeologist Husband keeping the everyday in England running with the school runs, hot evening meals and such like – not to mentioning trying to sort out his work space in the new house – that we had not even remembered to sort out the babysitter we had considered, when we first discussed being in this conference together. Even if it would have been nice to discuss with our colleagues during the candlelit dinner in the college, we had been thinking more about a dinner for two in the city, but in the end we were happy just to oversee that Number One Son got to sleep properly and ate sandwiches and sipped wine while whispering in our hotel room.

Naturally, the socials in the pubs and discussions at the dinner table are part of the conference experience and networking, but as a parent you have to balance all aspects of your life and sometimes prioritising family moments to the networking opportunities. This does not mean that you do not network. No, it just means that you network quicker and in a more decisive and planned manner than previously. Pauses between the papers and the coffee breaks, they become the prime moment for a parent to network. You stop lingering around the edges and walk directly to the people one needs to meet and discuss with. You cannot any more wait until the wine loosens up the inhibitions of your inner wallflower during any of the evening dos, but you have to use your time effectively and speak and act up during the daytime.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Guilt buys

Now I know how those parents working long hours and concentrating single-mindedly on their careers in fancy international firms feel like. After a couple of weeks in Sweden I was heading for home for a brief visit and felt I have to bring a present. I saw this marvellous red knight’s shirt with a golden lion and silvery netting across the sleeves. I could have bought something simpler – like a T-shirt from Gamla Stan, but I wanted to buy something special, something that shows that I care, even if I am away for weeks in one go.

Suddenly I realised that I was trying to give some shiny wonderful thing in lieu of my presence and buy myself a better conscious. And I felt really guilty. However, the guilt was replaced by disappointment when Number One Son showed zero interest to the shiny wonderful thing I thought he would love because of his interest in castles and knights and dragons. But no. And otherwise the reception of mummy back home could be called somewhat lukewarm. At least it was less dramatic than I had imagined. No tears, no shouts nor cries. Just a couple of hugs. He may survive.

Friday, 13 September 2013

My son the Whovian

It is clear that Number One Son is growing, since his ultimate hero has changed from Lightning McQueen to Dr Who. It is clear that he does not worry about the fact that from one Dalek-themed DVD to another the actor playing Dr Who changes and the personality of Dr Who moves from between an oldish dandy to a funnily clad loof. Not to mention the various assistants and sidekicks that range from a man with red hair to the lady who provides nowadays the voice of Tree Fu Tom.

The floting dalek from the Remembrance of the Daleks

Nevertheless, one Dr Who character is above the others: the Daleks. Instead of the many Lightning McQueens our little Whovian is playing with his father's big golden Dalek, with the medium black Dalek and the small red 'baby' Daleks. He has a lego Tardis and a small model Tardis to add to this imaginative play with the Daleks. It is still quite unclear, if he has properly cottoned on that the Daleks are the baddies and Dr Who is really saving the Earth time after time. It really doen't matter as long as he can run around shouting 'Obey! Obey!' or 'Exterminate!'. I think he really would like us the parents to obey...

I even watched with Number One Sonthe special programme on BBC when they revealed the latest, the coming Dr Who. Number One Son jumped up and down with joy when Capaldi was presented as the new Dr Who. Archaeologist Husband did miss that sight, but he is proud of his son and knows that our little Dr Who fan can only be his son. A Whovian from one generation to another!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Skype mom

Now I have entered the select group of parents who are working away from their families and trying to keep up with their children with Skype. It is amazing how a laptop, a tablet and one free service allow families keep contact across the world. It would have been so different in the late 1980s when there were no mobile phones, no Internet and no video link from your table corner.

Using tablet computer to read a bedtime story does not work in practice as well as I imagined it to do. I did not consider that the camera in the front of the tablet is actually quite high up and Number One Son will be lying down in his bed. Thus, when the tablet is beside him, I alternatively see a ceiling or a wall and, if I am particularly lucky, I may catch some of his hair or one eye at the base of my view.

In order to celebrate the country I am visiting, I have chosen Astrid Lingren’s Emil as the reading of my choice. We did not quite finish the Moomin book I had started earlier during the late summer, but I will finish it during my next visit home. Emil is a good choice, since one of my memories from my childhood is to watch it on TV. When in England, the stories in the books remind me of the Nordic summer and winter and different customs and manners we have in the north.

The most horrible part of this new status is the lack of hugs and kisses. You can always say ‘I love you’ and ‘Good night’, but there is no happy ‘smuck’ before the lights go off...

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Parents: a clear fail!

The anticipated day came and Number One Son’s first school day was due. We had all required for the school uniform and we checked the start time from my notes. The morning was sunny, so it was going to be a nice walk to the school for all the family. But Number One Son did not want to have any of it. He really fought against putting any piece of the uniform on and he did not want to come out of the door. We tried to take photos for the greatgrandmother who had asked for them, but he was truly miserable in the one’s took outside the house.

Somehow we were under the misconception that the school day would be six hours from the start. On the way to the school we saw one of Number One Son’s nursery friends with her big brother who was smartly in his uniform, but our son’s friend was in her ‘civil. Clothes and her mother explained how it is a pain that she will only attend that day in the afternoon. Suddenly we were wondering, if Number One Son should even be at the school. But we went ahead.

When we approached the school those people we knew were going to the reception class had parents with nice decorated boxes with Peppa Pig and other figures in a colourful wrapping papers with glitter or photos on top. I started to dread that we had missed not only one thing, but something else, too. When we entered the class room, most adults were carrying decorated boxes. I had to ask Number One Son’s teacher “But what are these boxes”. She told us that there had been a letter that had asked us to make a box with things that told about Number One Son. Archaeologist Husband was totally clueless and I had only faint memory that the word ‘box’ may have been uttered in the induction evening for the parents, but that had been forgotten during our house move.

Still under the impression that Number One Son would be at school until 3 pm, we went to pay for the school lunch. After the payment we walked home and by chance saw the lady who is responsible for the SEN support. She said that the school will finish at 3 pm, if Number One Son is ‘full-timer’. This did not mean anything to us, so we thought all was fine.

At home I found the letter posted to us sometime in late May. It stated that those children born after New Year did only half day the first seven days. Suddenly our plans were drawn anew – and I felt really stupid.

The only consolation was that we could find no sheet with any instructions of a memory box among the folder of papers the school had sent us early in summer. I also heard from another mother that she had given her instructions to a third mother who had not had them. A fourth mother who came later to the park had turned up at school empty handed as well.

I and Number One Son did do a box that afternoon. It was covered with golden wrapping paper and has all the Doctor Whos on one side. The next day - when Number One Son wanted to put the uniform on willingly and was bursting to go to school too early - we noticed that it was the biggest of them all. It was our only box of the approximately right size with a lid. We did not compensate...