Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Challenge of Being A Cool Mum

Granny I'd Like To.... What?
The teen turned fourteen last week and all was well.  She abandoned the idea of a beach/Southsea common party in favour of a very modest little gathering round at our house.  It was just lovely, as I got to keep an eye on them, but didn't have to be involved in everything as they  all stayed in the front room and I hid in the dining room with the food (no pig bone gelatine silver balls this time, bleurgh) and the baby.  Once the baby went to bed, I was able to let my hair down.  Mutton dressed as spam territory or what? Well, they were playing Just Dance on the new Wii and it looked like a lot of fun.

I was an embarrassing fool, shimmying like a geriatric hamster on speed, but luckily the teen has got passed her "Mum, stop it will you?" stage and now encourages me to let out my inner goof ball.  The teen, she is a goof ball too. Is it wrong to "shake it like a Polaroid picture" together?  Or to try (and fail) to do the "running man?"

 What's wrong with attempting to robot dance with a fourteen year old?  Is it bad that my favourite dance move is stolen from Johnny Bravo? Stick your butt out and pump those arms! I have sprung that move on the whole of Southsea, from Little Johnny Russells to The Wedgewood Rooms and everyone finds it funny.  But I can't help feeling that I am getting to the point in my life where it is just a little bit "sad."  I don't want to be a muttony mother and so I have abandoned band t-shirts - because the teen has started wearing them, but I still love fashion.

I spent my younger years trying to look older (damn those youth preserving Asian genes) as I really did feel quite ashamed when people would say, "You don't look old enough to have two children."  Even though, back in Sarawak, twenty one is not such a young age to have been settled down.  A generation ago, it wouldn't have been a problem either, but the other mother's I was networking with when the older two were born were at least a decade older than me.  People made judgements, I know they did, because I did and still do too.  So, I've always had to work really extra hard to bring the children up nicely even though I just wanted to let them run wild.  It worked, they both remember to say "please and thank you " most of the time.  And they are both recipients of academic scholarships.  The teen recently received an honorary Arthur NockScholarship in recognition of her outstanding academic progress during Years 7 and 8 of senior school.  I just hope she keeps it up and  that I don't embarrass her.

I'm a moody Scene kiddddd

But now when people say "Oh, you don't look old enough to have such grown up children," the paranoia has crept in.  I am sure they are saying it out of politeness because they think I am dressed like a wannabe wacky "scene" kid and am sporting more make up than Jodie Marsh's dressing table in an attempt to look younger.

Molecular structures really get me going
The eleven year old is mildly autistic, but he was always just treated as a naughty child. I know that teachers and other parents would look at my son's behaviour and then look at me, and presume that I was young, lower class, uneducated and dare I say it?  Foreign looking, so they presumed that that was why he was the way that he was.  But stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, I knew it couldn't be down to nurture because my daughter was continually top of the class and attending one of the finest academic schools in the country.  I knew it was down to nature and I had a fight to prove it.  We've got there, but it's hard to stay true to yourself.  It's hard to prove yourself in a world where people are expected to conform and judgements are made based on looks and class.  To top it off, I write like an adult and I am well spoken, but I talk like an American teenager with a British accent, "You know like, I was walking down the street and I saw this like car, and in it was my Mum like and she was like, "How are you?"  And I was like, "I'm fine, like, how are you?"  Like, like, like, like, what?  I wish the like habit would just like off! Aaargh.  I am trying very hard not to talk like that any more, but it's very hard, when did it creep so readily into our language?

There is a very fine line between cool mum and sad mum.  I don't want to be either, I just want to be a good Mum, who has a good relationship with all my children. That is the hardest challenge of all, to be a friend, but to be firm and fair.  The best way to do that is to surround your children in love, give them plenty of encouragement and try to help them to empathise with other people.  Actually, no, that is not the hardest challenge of all, the hardest challenge of all is trying to get a kid with Asperger's to show some empathy!


  1. The start of this post made me laugh, just the images of mutton dressed as spam!! Love it. The situaiton you found yourself in with your son and other people judging and thinking they know, without taking the time to look at your daughter, but just assuming he was naugthy and you were to blame, is very close to home having a mildly aspergers son myself. we are leaving the school behind where we have come up against this as we are moving areas, but I cant say I will miss many of the parents for this very reaosn.

  2. Mutton dressed as spam - too funny! We also had the problems you mention in getting our son diagnosed. Even though we were following all the disciplinary advice given to us by the health visitors they still said that Nipper was just awkward and stubborn. It was only when they realised that he was about to go to school that they decided to get him 'checked out'. It makes me so cross. We had a real breakthrough on the empathy front yesterday. Normally Nipper thinks it's just funny when other people get upset but yesterday he comforted one of the boys at school when he fell over. I was truly amazed.

  3. Hello,

    thank you for the lovely messages! It is so hard having an Aspie child. They are so blessed in so many ways, but because their neurological needs are not obvious, people just don't understand and everyone is so quick to judge.

    Keep in touch - and I will follow you both xx

  4. Hi there. Great post. I completely identify with that whole experience of every other mother being older than you. Now my son who has ASD is 11 and his peer groups parents are all in their fifties! I still think I'm cool and that my moves are awesome. My son does break dancing twice a week and I always take credit for his natural rhythm, lol!

    Like your son, mine was always treated as if he was some bad kid and I feel the same stigmas that you do. The stress of raising a child with autism is magnified by peoples perceptions and I've gone from wild chick to paranoid pansy. I analyse everything I say and do and although I still dress like a mutton most days, I find myself edging towards Joules and Boden and Barbour in an attempt to blend in (and I hate myself for it too!)

    I spent so many years fighting against conformity both socially, intellectually and materially that all I want now is to conform as I seem to be convinced that they'll accept my son if I cut the mustard. I know all this is bull but I can't seem to help it.

    We're all struggling a bit with his ASD at the moment as it seems to be coupled with pre-pubescent hormones! Have you found this age difficult too?


  5. Ha ha! It's so good to hear from other people that identify with me! Sorry for my slow reply, I read your comment on my mobile and haven't remembered to write back till now, although the thoughts of you have been in my head when I am away from the PC.

    It is funny how now you want to conform. I did conform years ago, I went through the Stepford wife life and came out the other side deciding I would just be me. I've spent my whole life being misjudged and it's pants. The only time I do try and get sensible is when I go the children's schools. I still end up looking like one of the pupils though.

    After all my ramblings I actually got asked for ID buying wine the other day. I was never ID'd when I was younger, it's very weird. I was a little bit offended seeing as I had a baby in a pram with me. Plus I was buying quite posh wine, surely if I was underaged I'd have had a rubbish palate and I wouldn't be shopping in Waitrose? I will put it down to my wrinkle hiding fringe, good lighting and lashings of touche eclat.

    I will be following your blogs, hope you would like to follow mine! xx

  6. I love this post! I think that the mums at the baby class I go to won't make friends with me because I am in my 20s, like to wear eyeliner, heels above an inch high and am not wearing Trinny and Susannah-wear (Stoke Newington's idea of style). Also I haven't learnt 'buggie-speak' yet. Is it a case of adapt and survive? I think I'd prefer to keep my individuality- I think your kids will be proud that you are clearly your own 'person' and a 'cool mum', not just a 'mummy maid', fading into the background ;)


Please leave a comment - I love to hear from everyone and follow other people's blogs back!