Thursday, 22 May 2008

Drinking under age

Over at Frenemy's last night for a barbecue. Our children, who have been friends since toddlerhood or even earlier, are now becoming teen-agers. And some interesting issues are cropping up. Like alcohol.

One friend allows her 14-year-old son to have a beer and to sit in with the grown-ups. The rest of us might allow the odd sip of champagne on New Year's Eve in our homes. In the UK there is no law against allowing your children to drink alcohol in your home, according to Frenemy's brother-in-law who is a policeman.

I started having sips of my dad's Saturday afternoon after cutting the grass beer when I was quite young. I started drinking shots with my brother when my parents were out when I was (gasp!!) 9. I had my first proper hangover when I was 11.

I'm not an alcoholic but I probably fall into the binge drinker category. I'm not a great role model. But I don't want my kids drinking. Not yet. A lot of problems begin with alcohol. Violence, pregnancy, unwise sex. I suppose in the safety of our own home it wouldn't be a problem. But if they start at home at 14, they'll be in clubs and bars soon enough.

Another friend's daughter is 15 and looks much older. She frequents the bars of our town, according to my daughter. I don't know if my friend knows and I don't know if I should tell her. It was told to me in confidence. It was told to my daughter by the girl's sister in confidence. Would I want to know if I were in her shoes? That's a tricky one because 15 is a vulnerable age for girls. You can lose their respect, their confidence. You can ground them, keep them from their friends, and they'll hate you. Here's where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's a small place around here. Everybody knows everybody or is friends of friends of friends. It will get back to my friend at some point. Should she have allowed her daughter to drink at home? Would that keep her out of the bars? Actually, she did allow her to drink at home and at social functions. Going to the bars is not about the alcohol. Even I know that.

My kids ask for the odd sip of wine or beer, which is what I drink mostly anyway. I let them have one. Am I being irresponsible?

Maybe it's time to have a talk with my kids.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ah, Sweet Youth! How I (Don't) Miss Thee

At what age do we begin to doubt our parents, question their authority, hate their little habits?

In my son's case it is 11 years, 11 months. Take tonight. He is to go on a three-day school trip tomorrow. The school has sent home a comprehensive list of what to take. I asked my son for two weeks if he had it. He said he hadn't received it yet. So, in a panic, I phoned the school on Thursday. The head of year phone me back and kindly explained that the list had been handed out some time ago, my son should have received one, and should have a very good idea of what to take because it was discussed at length at school. Hubby and I went upstairs to his reeking tip of a bedroom and found it. When son came home, he was instructed to read the list thoroughly and we would start to put it all together over the weekend. Which we did.

Which he later undid. No, he wasn't going to take the pink towels. They're PINK, for chrissake! (I figured that one out on my own; hubby is still confounded.) Yes, he brought home his waterproof jacket from school (which shouldn't have been taken into school, being that it's somewhat expensive). No, wait, he didn't bring it home. He left it on the bus. I blew a gasket at that point. He is grounded when he gets back, and will be in his room finishing his homework and studying for his upcoming exams. Then I counted out five pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, five T-shirts, two fleeces, three tracksuit bottoms, one heavy jacket and counted them all back in again. I found some non-pink towels. I asked about sun cream, toothpaste, shampoo. I packed the bag. Son sat on his bed, sniffling. I had gone too far in my criticism. I apologised for losing my temper.

"I didn't lose it," he replied. What? No, he didn't lose his temper; I did.

"I didn't lose the jacket," he said.

"Where is it? Is it still in your locker?"


"Did you think it would be better to say you lost it rather than forgot it?"


He slammed some doors and threw some papers and muttered "I hate you" under his breath afterwards.

You must understand something. This is not my son. My son is a very sweet, affectionate child. This is some alien being that has invaded my son's body. My daughter, on the other hand, first told me she hated me when she was four.

"You're not supposed to say that until you're 13," I told her.

Now she is 13. I'm sure she says she hates me a lot, but not to my face. To her friends, to her cat, to Jake, to her brother. But not to me.

Adolescence, I have realised, is the time when all the hangups of a parent's childhood and teen-age years come back to haunt them. Our critical parents' voices are heard once more. Coming out of our mouths.

My children are lucky, I think. They have a privileged life and two parents who love them very much and try not to inflict their insecurities too much on them. They don't have mother who threatens to divorce their father every five minutes and then has a mental breakdown when he leaves her. They don't have a father who decides to have a midlife crisis at 49 and grows a ridiculous mustache to go with the ridiculously young new wife. We are squares because we've decided that's the best way to be to bring up children properly. We weren't always this way.

At one time we hates our parents and questioned their authority.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Oh My God

The Baker Act: aka the Florida Mental Health Act 1971; can be invoked by judge, mental health practitioner or law enforcement officer to put someone in a psychiatric facility for 72 hours for observation.

Also used, according to my mother, by my sister on one or more of her children and used as a subtle threat against my mother.

Here's the story as relayed to me by my mother: A few days ago my mother had an experience of "blacking out" at the wheel of the car. At least that's what she and I think happened. One minute she was waiting to turn left into a road, the next she's made the turn and put the car into reverse. She doesn't remember making the turn and doesn't know how the car was put into reverse. She possibly fainted. She is on medication that, when combined with a beta blocker that she's also on, can cause dangerously low blood pressure and fainting. My mother told my sister about this at the same time that she told her about a conversation she had with my stepfather's carers in the nursing home. They want him to come home and want to check the house for safety features for him. They, according to my mother, weren't concerned with whether she can care for him, which she can't. So she told them about her blacking out episode, her swollen legs, her heart condition.

My sister said my mother should be careful who she tells about the blacking out episode because she might be put in the nursing home too. "By whom?" my mother asked. The only ones who could put her there are myself and my sister, she said. My sister, according to my mother, said the Baker Act could be invoked.

My mother got very upset at this point and hung up on my sister. She then called me. I told her the Baker Act is a law in Florida, not Wyoming, that it is used for mentally ill people, not old people, that my sister doesn't appear to know what she's talking about. My mother said that under no circumstances is she ever going to move to Florida near my sister and that if she has to live out the rest of her days looking after her husband, she will.

I didn't bother communicating with my sister about this. She will deny saying it or say my mother misunderstood what she said. And maybe my mother did. My sister has a lot of her own pressures. All four of her adult children and four of her grandchildren are living in her home. Her business is doing very poorly. I have since received an email from my sister saying she knows she upset our mother and that she told our mother she should be telling her doctor about the blacking out, not the caseworker. She didn't mention the Baker Act.

Well, I know my mother wouldn't have made up the Baker Act bit. That does sound like it came from my sister. I'm not sure how or if I'm going to respond to my sister's email. I don't think she has the patience to deal with our mother right now (or ever).

I think I will urge my mother to discuss with her husband his care needs and how they can be managed. He says he can do everything himself now. And maybe he can. But I think the two of them need to come up with a solution and not wait for someone else to do it for them.

My mother was supposed to have gone back to the doctor yesterday to ask to be put on different medication. She is a lonely, frightened woman who needs a lot of understanding and patience. I think that is what I'm going to tell my sister. I won't mention the Baker Act.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Weather's Been Too Good To Be Indoors Blogging

So I've taken a rest. Well, not really a rest. I've been working in the garden, taking Jake on ever longer walks, getting pissed off at hubby, and running interference between hubby and children. Oh, and talking to my mother every single day about not much of anything.

At this point in time, I'd like to say RIP to a few of my favourite bloggers: Chantay, Debio, Pixie, and Vi. All have retired from the blogging world, and my world is the sadder for it.

But meantime I must go to the vet's (not the one Jake bit) and pick up his glucosamine chondroit.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Update on Jake

I took him to the veterinary surgeon yesterday. What a disaster! When the vet tried to examine his leg, Jake turned into a growling, biting monster, first going for me (but not biting into skin), then turning on the vet and going for his crotch! I yanked him back but not before he apparently made contact with skin (I'm not sure where and I sure didn't examine the vet). I was horrified, embarrassed, and oddly amused.

Anyway, after that, the vet decided Jake needed his other hip operated on. So in four weeks' time, Jake will be back again and we'll have another four weeks of him wearing a cone. I'm going to try to get him a Bitenot collar beforehand, and something to wear over his mouth so he doesn't bite the vet again.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Enough About Me. What About Jake?

Well, Jakey boy is a changed dog. He no longer has to wear the cone, can walk (or run) off the lead and loves going to the park again. He acts like a puppy again instead of a sore old man. This means, of course, that he needs more obedience training. He took to biting and growling at hubby when he was in pain after his operation. He tried it on me once or twice, and I let him know that I'm the leader of the pack and he's not allowed to do that to me.

Bizarrely, he has developed an aversion to his food bowl and won't eat from it. This happened while I was away, so I don't know what caused it. Anyway, the chopping board works just as well, and we don't have to put cheese and pork pies in to tempt him to eat anymore. Don't worry, the chopping board gets washed and sterilized afterwards.

We have a new routine. Hubby takes him on a morning jaunt on the lead. I take him to the park in the afternoon for a longer walk. He seems to behave better for me. For example, I bought a ramp to help him get in the car (and save my back and shoulder). Before his surgery, he was a real champ at walking up it, then seemed to go off it a bit. But now he's back on form. Hubby, mouth agape, watched him do this the other day. How did you get him to do that? he asked. I just shrugged my shoulders.

Jake has gotten very strong too. And he's back to his old habit of pulling on the lead, only he pulls that much harder. All that obedience training was basically a waste of time and money since he wasn't well and we didn't get to see the true Jake. I'll have a go at doing it myself, I think.

I expect the veterinary surgeon will be impressed tomorrow when we take him for his second checkup. There's a chance he might not need the second operation. That's something to be happy about.