Monday, 14 January 2008

Shout, shout, let it all out

14th January and the New Year's resolution not to shout is holding firm. When I say 'holding firm' I mean I have raised my voice, maybe twice, possibly three times. I have not screamed once though and my neighbours are now reconsidering their decision to call social services.

Exercising such control over my wayward vocal chords has been less of a challenge than I imagined. Shouting-I can now see with the benefit of hindsight-is something of vicious circle. You get stressed, you shout, you get more stressed, you shout even more, stress levels hit the roof-as does your voice. Once you break this cycle you are free to issue your threats through gritted teeth a-go-go.

Note that ceasing parental shouting though does not stop arguments. Or normal teenage behaviour.

This week, I briefly feared that our home had been burgled. Strangley though, there were no forced locks and the perpetraitors just attacked The Teenager's room. And they didn't actually steal anything. The intruders must have been looking for Top Secret documents.

At least that's the only explanation I could fathom for the state of The Teenager's room which looked like something between Sarajevo and a drug dealer's lair-post raid. Apparently it was simply her inability to find a pair of jeans that did not make her size 8 legs look fat that spawned the 'thief chic'.

The Teenager says she prefers it that way. I pondered how this was possible as I swept though the detritus feeling like one of those industrial cleaners from Life of Grime.
''A tidy room is a tidy mind'
''Not really.'' she grunts
''Yes it is.''
''Uhhhh, whatever. Can you get out of my room please?''

I do so just as I feel the desire to shout. I pick up the copy of The seven highly effective habits of teenagers I bought her and wave it in her face. By the looks of the coffee stains it seems to have been used as a drink's coaster.

On my return from work The Teenager is wearing my new top as a dress, my vintage clutch bag, my new gold heels and my headband. I dig my nails into my palms to stop the shouting.

She is also wearing the smile that indicates she wants something. What else? I think wearily. She is already wearing half my wadrobe. Can I assist her in any other way? Maybe she would like to make another withdrawal from Bank of Single Mum?

''A lift would be lovely Mum''
She does a sweet lopsided grin that I cannot resist
I borrow from her vocab. ''Uggh. I'm tired. Do I have to?''

Then she hits me with an irresistable plea.

''Please Mum? I can't walk in these heels''

She's her mother's daughter. I am powerless to resist.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Christmas point breaking

''It's going to be weird having a man in the house on Christmas Day.'' says The Teenager.

She is not an extremly late developer and talking about Father Christmas. She gave that one up at the age of 8 as soon as she was sure it wouldn't affect the present tally. The teenager is referring to my American boyfriend, who is staying with us for what the Yanks call 'the holidays'.

I had tried to discuss this in a nice civilised manner over sushi way back in October and the response was a series of grunts. Now on the eve of his arrival it seems- as I am simultaneously trying to turn my house into something it is not (i.e -clean) and having an outfit crisis-now, now she wants to talk about it. Or just make me feel guilty. Being as I don't have time for the former, I settle for the latter and make a mental note to buy her another 10 presents to get over it.

I needn't have worried. The American resumes his previous tactic of buying The Teenager off at a cost of £20 a time and disagreeing with most of what I say and agreeing with most of what she says. It works wonderfully and they get on like the proverbial house on fire. I am left wondering if stomping around, sulking and becoming monosyllabic will encourage my parents to start handing me crisp notes.

"You already do. They already do." says The American.

On the big day The American unashamedly continues his tribute to good old Yankee capitalism by showering me and The Teenager with presents. With the exception of an argument between The Teenager and I over an untagged Urban Decay glitter eyeliner (that I am forced to concede) all is well. So we're all in a good mood before heading off to my parents for the annual Smith dysfunctional family Christmas.

Despite asking my mother to make The Teenager's stocking bigger than mine this year, she has ignored my wishes and drags out a sack with a cheery Santa printed on it that is literally breaking at the seams.

"It's tradition! We've been doing this for 33 years!'' my Dad tells The American as Mum drops the sack at my feet.

The Teenager's sack is notably smaller, although still big enough to impress. She makes a point of finishing unwrapping hers first and eyeballing me as I self conciously unwrap a pair of pink Marigold with fluffy trim and a fake diamond ring on them.

Smack bang in the middle of Christmas and New Year I turn 33. The Teenager comes into the bedroom in the morning and does a good job of hiding her disgust that The American and I are in the same bed together.

She nods at one of her gifts to me, that is wrapped in gold paper 'That wasn't cheap you know'.

I unwrap it last and am thrilled to find a chiffon bell sleeved blouse with diamante buttons. I also get a necklace and The Desperate Housewives book (after I bemoaned my only Christmas reading matter was a Nigella cookbook. I was thinking of something a little more challenging, but it's the thought that counts.) I feel a warm glow, that I know from the pre teenage days is something called affection for your child. I throw my arms around and am delighted to not receive the usual 'What the hell is wrong with you?'

By lunchtime the warm glow has faded and we are trying to do some sale shopping but instead are arguing like sisters over an umbrella in the pissing rain while I try to get money out of the hole in the wall. The American rushes up to see what the problem is. He later tells me he assumed by all the shouting that we were getting '...robbed at the ATM'.

''No one gets robbed, this is Wales''
I tell him.
''And it's called a cashpoint round here mate''

The row then continues at the cafe bar where Mum is buying us lunch. Mum does not help matters by moaning the lack of duck in my duck salad.

''It's duck Mum. You don't get volume with Duck.''
''But £10 for that? It's just duck and a bit of rocket'.'
''Do you want me to give you £10 Mum?''
''No darling. It's not about the money. But £10? For a bit of rocket and some duck?''
''So do you want a tenner?''
''No! Of course not... it's not about the money...but £10! honestly.''

New Year and The Teenager wants to go out with her friends to the city centre for the fireworks display, funfair and music fest that Cardiff council is paying for with my tax money. Being as someone should benefit from this spectacle I agree, only realising afterwards that it will mean being out till a least 12.30 p.m-hours later than she ever has been. I issue strict instructions on how she is to return; via the main, well lit street with the crowds walking home or on the late night bus and with all her friends in accompaniment and no dilly dallying on the way etc etc.

With grim predictability 12.30 p.m. comes and goes and no sign of The Teenager. Cue numerous phone calls in which I get a series of lame excuses about the late night buses running late.

At 1.45 a.m. she tumbles into the hallway with her two friends, shouting apologies and judging by their glassy eyes looking like they may have sampled the wonders of a festive WKD or two. I don't know whether it is the New Year champagne, my resolution not to shout anymore or just sheer fury but I say nothing other than:

''Go upstairs. I'll deal with you in the morning.''

1.46 a.m. January 1st 2008 and Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze fill my TV screen. The BBC has somehow decided Point Break is the best they can offer us to start the New Year. A film made in 1991. Round about the time when I was staggering into my parent's hall way, glassy eyed with a series of lame excuses about late night buses running late.

Happy New Year.