An excerpt from

Lifeshambles

Liz Fraser

These extracts were supposed to be short.

Turns out I’m really bad at short extracts. So here are some long ones, to give you a flavour of the book. No really, it’s my pleasure.

If you like it, and want more, all you have to do is pledge.

It’s like shopping, only…IN THE FUTURE.

With added fun.

BIGGER KIDS; BIGGER PROBLEMS

There’s an oft-used phrase about children getting older, which people like to use…oftly. This is how it became oft-used. Before that it was just a phrase.

No, it’s not “Jesus, how much do these children EAT now??” although that’s exclaimed a lot in our house.

It’s the other one. The one that goes:

as children grow up, their problems don’t go away; they just get bigger.

This, my friend, is SO true. Where ‘so’ is approximately 177,492. That’s lots of so.

To simplify this oft-used phrase, possibly in a way that makes it more complicated, I give you:

Fraser’s Second Law of Problems With Children:

The frequency (F) of children’s problems is inversely proportional to their magnitude (M). And M is directly proportional to the child’s age (A).

Or, if space is tight, as it often seems to be in maths because maths pencils have really expensive lead in them,

M = 1/F x A

There are some extra little factors to be taken into account, such as the number of hours of sleep you had the night before the problem arose, how fat you are feeling at the time, and whether you think your partner is having an affair or not, but other than that the equation is near-perfect.

[Fraser’s First Law, in case you wondered, is

Degree of insanity and irrationality = number of children x 2 billion.

Bear this in mind next time you try to negotiate a parking space with someone driving a car containing four of their own progeny…]

I AM A TEENAGER’S WORST PARENT

There are 87 million Great Ironies of parenting. And that’s just the letter A.

Number 7398 of the Great Ironies is that the worst people to parent teenagers are the parents of teenagers.

Someone really should have thought that one through when designing the whole Life Arc thing. It’s inexcusably poor.

[…]

We can’t possibly be of any use to our children at this stage of their lives, because our own are in such a bloody mess we can barely get dressed without having a major existential crisis.

As a result, we make a god-awful pig’s ear of the whole thing.

It’s OK. It’s how it’s supposed to be. it’s just important to know this. It’s not you, it’s…..you.

And them. And all of it.

Cheers.

Sibling Civil War

Rivalry is defined as,

“Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.”

Sibling Rivalry is defined as,

“OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE WILL YOU TWO STOP WINDING EACH OTHER UP?? JUST GIVE HER THE SODDING BALL, WILL YOU?! JESUS!”

Move forward into the teenage years, and early sibling rivalries seem like child’s play.

(Mainly because they are, but let’s gloss over that embarrassingly weak choice of simile).

Teenagers don’t have quick-fix spats. They have serious long-term hostilities and painful, silent stand-offs.

They have Great Wars, and harboured resentments.

They have jealousy, rage, hatred, sadness and unwanted tagging on Facebook.

Forget, ‘She took my pencil!’ Now it’s, ‘she looked at me in a really shitty, condescending way, and I hate her forever, she is a bitch.’

It not only drives me mad much of the time, it tires me.

Silent warring is heavy. It lumbers along, dragging the issue out and infecting the whole house until the air is weighed down with its hate-laden pauses and unspoken bloodbaths.

It tires me also, because it saddens me to watch it happening. These children who once used to play together so well and be best friends, now attempting to kill each other with Death-sighs.

But happen it will. It’s normal. Sometimes they still get along beautifully. I am assured by those who have much older children that they will grow out of it, and be friends again one day.

Just hope the door hinges survive that long.

Not Going Out

Going out in the Middle Years is almost as difficult as it was in the Early Years, except that instead of needing a babysitter, 3 weeks of notice and a Masters in Logistics, you now have to be back home on time to make sure your children haven’t invited half of Facebook round to empty your booze cupboard, and remain sober enough to drive them 15 miles home, with occasional chunder-stops.

It also requires having friends who are not a) exhausted b) exhausted c) booked up for 3 months with marriage counselling sessions and d) exhausted.

BUT…

Once every three billion years, the stars all align: Venus goes retrograde and grows sideburns, Saturn does something special with Uranus, usually only reserved for birthdays, and

YOU. GO. OUT. FOR. A. DRINK. WITH. YOUR. FRIENDS.

Note:

After years of dedicated research I can reveal that the formula for how long it takes a hangover to go away when you are in the Middle Years, is this:

T = x (v+g+4w) - 5s + c^9

where

T is time in hours
x is your age
v is vodka
g is gin
w is embarrassingly cheap wine, best consumed through a straw
s is number of hours of sleep you got the night before
c is the number of your children who woke you up during the night to tell you that their football kit needs to be washed BY TOMORROW, and by the way Mum I have a VERY IMPORTANT Maths test tomorrow which counts for half of my marks this year and will go on my University application form, and I need a new calculator for it. NOW.

Accordingly, if you go out on a Saturday night you should be starting to feel a little better some time towards the end of Wednesday, two weeks later.


ROCK. ON. You crazy lovely Middle Years superstars.

The Authority Drain

I have no clout in my family whatsoever, any more.

Nobody listens to a thing I say now, unless it’s, ‘Cash! Over here! Come and get it!’

The hamster has more authority than me, and he’s dead.

To my children I’m just background white noise; a kind of low-level whining yadayadayadayadaDishwasherYadaHomeworkYadayadaPICKUPYOURMESSblahblahblahOHPLEASEGOTOBEDNOW!! while I get on with the very minor and unimportant task of keeping the entire family from falling apart, and providing clean underwear, new lever-arch files and vaguely edible food.

This ‘losing all power and authority’ happens to all of us when our children grow up a little until they’ve grown above their station and start developing something bloody inconvenient called Their Own Identity and Opinions – HELLO? How selfish is that? – and it’s an adjustment I don’t mind admitting that I find Not Very Easy At All.

When they were babies, I was right. Always.

This is because anyone who can’t tell the difference between night and day and spends most of their awake time trying to locate their fingers in order to shove them into their mouth, especially if they’ve just been removed from their bottom (I’m talking about my children here, not me. I think…) can’t make decisions about anything.

This is because anyone who can’t tell the difference between night and day and spends most of their awake time trying to locate their fingers in order to shove them into their mouth, especially if they’ve just been removed from their bottom (I’m talking about my children here, not me. I think…) can’t make decisions about anything.

I loved this stage. I was like Chairman Mao on nappy duty.

But as children get older and morph into teenagers, the power-balance changes.

By which I mean…we eventually have none.

At all.

Teflon has nothing on the parent-proof, non-stick layer of ‘Not Giving A Shit’ that children develop around their thirteenth birthday. (They also, very selfishly, tend to grow taller than us at this stage, which makes waggling a chastising finger in their direction a tad farcical.)

The only thing you can do is to ignore, relent and wait for it all to pass.

About twenty years usually does it.

This may sound defeatist and weak, but it is not; it is sensible and necessary.

They still love us.

They just won’t realise it until their own children reject them too, and our persistent chesty cough suggests they might be getting closer to getting their hands on some of their inheritance.


Living in Limbo

Limbo was originally a place, not a back-breaking dance made popular by the unexpectedly bendy Chubby Checker in 1962, and best performed at a party after 12 tequila slammers and a bet.

This place, ‘Limbo’, derived from the Latin 'limbus', meaning either ‘no, I’m fine thank you, I’ll just sit here and watch you all collapse under a low stick’, or ‘edge’, was situated on the highly sought-after border regions of Hell.

The Limbo Years, where we find ourselves the moment our children head off to school to collect other people’s bad habits and nits, are exactly like living on the borders of Hell, only without the perks.

On the home front I find I’m no longer wanted or needed on a minute-to-minute ‘Help, Mummy, I have glitter in my nose’ level, because my children have selfishly taken over my Primary Duties such as putting food into their mouths and making sure they don’t drink bleach or moon out of the front window when the postman comes.

I’ve tried the ‘well in that case, darlings, since you seem to have things so well taken care of…I’m off’ line, and I even bought myself a ticket to the French Riviera so I could drive around in an open-topped car smoking Gitanes with two hot young lovers in the back.

But no. But despite the fact that my children ignore me 90% of the time I’m still not free to go off and do my own thing because for some reason I’m still responsible for their wellbeing, and Life continues to throw children’s dental emergencies, mysterious 24-hr vomiting bugs and the school-run at me.

And thus it is;

Nobody wants us, but everyone wants us to stick around just in case they do, and especially to do their sweaty laundry and pick them up from parties at 3am.

It’s glorious.

I’ll just have to have my cruise round the Riviera when I’m 80. Jean-Pierre and Francesco had better be ready…



Who Has Nicked My Eye-Liner??

You know you have teenaged girls in your house, when;

· All your leggings have disappeared.

· Ditto eye make-up remover, nail varnish, hair bands, black ankle socks, and hairspray.

· There are no landline phones to be found. Anywhere.

· When you actually do manage to find one, the call is never for you. Unless it’s an insurance scam.

· There is a permanent trail of crumbs from the cereal cupboard to the kitchen door.

· You can’t get into the bathroom before 8.30am, or between 8 and 10.30pm. Or all weekend.

· Even though you went shopping yesterday, there is no food in the house, except for half-empty packets of Oreos and something that promises to make your thighs smaller.

· There are five razors on the side of the bath, none of them either blunt or sharp, or claimed by anyone.

· There is face-pack residue all over the bathroom taps.

· You could build a hang-glider from all the sanitary towel wrappers that are gathering dust behind the toilet door.

· All your carpets are covered in an inch of brushed-out hair.

· At certain times of the month it is best to move out for a few days to avoid Oestrogen Death.

· At any given moment somebody in your house is shouting ‘OH GOD I AM SO FAT!’

· Your purse develops an invisible cash-portal, through which the five-pound notes you KNOW you just put there, vanish inexplicably. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in reverse.

· When you call your children down for dinner you get a snapchat photo of their bum in return.

· Hard cash is the only currency that works. For everything. Including cuddles.

Missing: JOY. Reward offered.

When my children were young it was hellish in all the expected, sleepless, chaotic, exhausting, snot-wiping, vomitty, hellish ways.

So many times I wished those years were over. Over and over.

And over again, as I crawled from cot to high chair to ball pit to gallows.

But what we Humans don’t appreciate, because Humans never do about anything until it’s too late and it’s gone (most love songs are all about this, by the way) is what we have, while it’s there.

We don’t know how lovely the early years are until they are replaced by lonely silence, teenage attitude and an empty hallway.

And what every parent of older children I know misses, is JOY.

The joy you can only get when your three-year-old giggles helplessly and throws their squishy arms around your neck.

When this joy - and with it the feeling of being truly needed, and wanted, and loved - goes, it feels like a bereavement. It really does.

We don’t really wish the early years all back, of course; not being woken up with a nappy on one’s face every day or by being whacked in the eye with the corner of a baby’s board-book is actually rather nice.

But it doesn’t mean we don’t miss aspects of it. A lot.

It can take years to realise what this new, exhausting heaviness is that can descend at the very time we were expecting NOT to feel exhausted and heavy, for the first time in a decade.

It’s a difficult stage. A lot of things that were, just…aren’t any more.

And part of it is just extreme, unspoken grief at the slow, drawn-out loss of something so magical and beautiful, pure, unashamedly, freely HAPPY, as our children when they were young and giggling and had chubby knees.

And we’ll never really get it back again.

It’s just different, from here on.

But it’s useful to know what it is.

And to cry sometimes.

And then to get a grip, talk about it, and LAUGH.

**We interrupt this page to bring you Very Important Information!**

In the Middle Years it’s no longer good enough to look at your face
straight on in the mirror.

No. You need mirrors and lights on all sides, including underneath.

Terrifying things lurk, fester and grow in places you’d never have looked before, but must now monitor with Eagle Eyes, and possibly a helicopter search light.

One such place is just under your chin.

For there, sprouting like an antenna sending distress signals to the mother witch-beacon, you will find your first chin hair.

Thick. Black. Devastating.

When you’ve stopped screaming and ordering broomsticks on Amazon, do this:

get tweezers; pull it out; do not look at it; throw it away;

never tell anyone about it.

EVER.

Do not even tell your bestest Best Best Friend when you’re having one of those special ‘spill-entire-contents-of-brain-onto-table’ moments over a bottle of wine, and you really REALLY feel you can say anything to her because LOOK! her head is on that Special Angle that says she will TOTALLY UNDERSTAND, and not laugh in your face or bring it up six months later at a dinner party with all of your mutual friends when she suddenly forgets that she promised not to tell anyone ever, because she has had drunk most of a bottle of Prosecco.

She WILL tell.

So you must not.

And now let us never speak of this again.