Tag Archives: food

Endurance

Today is our wedding anniversary. Thirty-three years ago, in deep snow and ice, I crunched across the road to the church with plastic bags covering my wedding shoes. A family friend cleared a path to the church, just as a few weeks later another friend dug the hole where my father’s ashes were interred behind the same village church. Today is wet and very windy but not cold. Perhaps perseverance is a more appropriate noun than endurance. To live closely with someone for thirty-three years and still be on speaking terms, even enjoy one another’s company, is certainly something to celebrate, but also a testament to a good deal of perseverance on both sides. If we choose with whom we live with and what we want to achieve in life before we are born, then the lesson Tony and I set ourselves was to learn to work together as a team in order to bring up two great but demanding children. Neither of us could have done it on our own. Nothing romantic imagesplanned for tonight I’m afraid, but we might open a bottle of wine with our Tesco Finest meal deal supper.

Tony fetched Jo from school, and she seems in good form, but insists she had a ‘shitty week’. Perhaps she did. Chatting with her in my study there is the usual list of ailments and invisible injuries (all caused by some remembered long-past incident in which Billy did something to her) and renewed pleas for box braids. Some of her schoolmates who are African or of African descent have had their hair re-braided over the holidays, and Jo still hopes that her small portion of Jamaican genes will transform her silky brown hair into something resembling that of her ‘Jamaican sister’ or Nigerian friend. Unfortunately as we live in a largely white area there is no expertise in box-braids among the numerous local hairdressers. We could venture further afield but that requires Jo getting out of bed during working hours and then having the courage to present herself in a salon. Public appearances in new places, not knowing how people will react to her, are stressful and generally avoided. If possible I tip them off that my daughter is transgendered, and have never met with anything but kindness. The last visit to the opticians was not, however, a success. The optician referred to her as ‘he’ and she wouldn’t go back to collect her glasses. I had to get special permission to fetch them without her getting a fitting, having explained the circumstances. I am willing to find a suitable hairdresser for Jo, but not prepared to make endless appointments that are never kept.

Both children had evidently forgotten that I was supposed to be in hospital today for an operation. At least they hadn’t been worrying about me but I would like to think that they were at least a little concerned! Billy made numerous phone calls and sent texts worrying about how he was supposed to be getting home. We had discussed this last Sunday; he would get a taxi or lift to the station then get the train home. I would transfer the money in good time into his account, but not so early that he would have spent it all by Friday. Some of the texts and calls involved the fact that he had asked an older friend to buy some tobacco for him as he’d run out. That was the taxi fare gone. He managed to get a lift with his landlady/host, but bought a single train ticket, which costs almost as much as a return. He evidently hopes for a lift back on Sunday night. Its not that we mind giving him a lift but it is a four-hour round trip if we have to deliver both children back to school/college, and Jo has no options other than the car. Billy seemed in good humour when I picked him up at the station. Dressed only in a T-Shirt and jeans he was not surprisingly rather chilly, as well as hungry. The weekend supply of snacks has already been devoured. Whether either child will have room for supper remains to be seen. Both complain at the habit the other has of eating all the food. It’s great to have someone else to blame; we all like to do it. Taking responsibility for oneself can also take a lifetime to learn, and is not a lesson we learn just once. Like marriage it takes perseverance and practice.

Good Enough Parenting

It is always good to get a pat on the back. Neither Billy nor Jo are programmed to say “Thank You!” or show outward gratitude. They are still operating at a much younger level than their chronological years in many respects. Most of life is self-referential. ‘How does this affect me?’ ‘Am I safe?’ ‘Can I get away with it?’ Luckily we don’t parent in order to get these rewards, although learning to say “Thank You” is a useful skill they will hopefully acquire along the way.

aeroplane-in-sunsetI was therefore very touched by Edgar’s Christmas card message, which I read this morning (having got back from Heathrow at 1am). The plane had been delayed and the baggage took an age, then Billy insisted that he and Edgar go to the smoking area before we left, overshooting our two hours of parking. Pricey, but it was very good to see Edgar again after about six months absence. The message read:

 You can’t believe how happy I am to be with you now!…

It’s been AMAZING those 2 years with you all!!

My grades have luckily gone up a bit. I hope Billy is on his right path too….

I remember the first time I came over… we had Domino’s, MacDonald’s and KFC in one weekend, haha! ­Jolly good (splendid!).

Maybe Billy could come over to [X] again sometime again?

I just want to thank you all again for everything you have done for me… you can’t believe what it means to me (honestly, those 2 years have been the best in my life yet).

So enough talking, let’s celebrate 2015!

Lots of love, kind regards, yours sincerely etc.

Edgar

 The envelope was endearingly addressed: To the most splendid family on this planet!

It is good to know we have made some difference to this young man’s life. He hasn’t had it easy either, and lacks the stable family background Billy and Jo have enjoyed. I guess we are all damaged in one way or another. Sometimes its very visible – a broken leg, a congenital disability. In others it’s hidden; a neurological and emotional handicap from a difficult start in life, even before birth. Others are damaged by dysfunctional relationships, a lack of love, or extreme poverty. Edgar was part of our family  when Jo began her public gender transition. Her first attempts to go out as a girl were a little extreme. She hadn’t had much practice and didn’t have a big choice of clothes. She had not decided on the look she wanted to achieve. The first time Edgar was sitting at breakfast and Jo came into the kitchen as a girl his spontaneous remark was “That’s disgusting!” We probably hadn’t forewarned him, which I did subsequently with all Billy’s friends. Jo was understandably upset and retreated to her room. I had a word with Edgar about gender transition and how important it was to support Jo, especially as Billy was being as unkind to her and as difficult as possible. Edgar took it on board and from then on was kind and, at least in our company, was careful not to say anything inappropriate. He made an effort to adapt his language to the change of name and gender.

I was amused to have my lack of domestic skills set out in a series of fast-food outlets. If I read that about someone else I would probably be making judgements about the sort of family who just stuff the kids with junk food rather than sit round the table eating nutritious home-cooked meals. I do try to do that too, but especially when they have friends over we are often trying to keep so many balls in the air, treading on eggshells, trying to keep the kids apart and prevent a meltdown. Giving-in to requests for over-priced Domino’s pizza, or getting a MacDonald’s after a trip to the cinema or on the way back to school, can be a small price to pay for some happily occupied and relatively compliant children.