Parental Pride

Sign of my domestic times: Lewis the Lad is speaking longingly of home furnishings, hankering after comfy furniture and salivating over an armchair he can call his own. Ikea profits are about to rise in wake of his declaration that he ‘loves’ the Braehead store.

Lewis and Carrie – at T in the Park 2013

What has triggered this obvious very bad bout of nesting instinct?

The Lad has just landed himself a new job…

I really have tried to restrain myself. Honest. Because I really do know how tedious it can be, listening to other parents rave about their wains… But – unlucky for you – I have no self-control. I need to spill this parental pride before it kills me.

I was anxious about the Lad’s refusal to go study at Uni. With 9 Higher Grades he’d breezed into the course he’d originally applied for. Then his head was turned by what began as an 8 hr a week job with the big retailer Homebase. He loved the job. He began to thrive in the adult environment. He instinctively understood how to manage people and how to sell. He rejected the Uni offers and took up the Homebase offer of f/t training. Last year – at the age of 18 and within a year of starting – he was managing 15-20 people. This year he’s managing 46. His deft management skill – which comes from his belief in a respectful, largely democratic and listening workplace; the power of role-modelling ‘good behaviours’ and his commitment to ensuring that all that he does consistently demonstrates that he values others – have won him the respect of his staff and business success… His store consistently out-performs. He says this is because staff are valued and understand that their service is what drives profit and growth…

Ok ok the ‘business and profit and growth’ stuff – well, that’s strange medicine for this capitalist-suspicious household. But… parental pride has taken Robert and I on a bit of a journey…

His new job? After a 6-stage interview process he’s secured a management position with Waitrose. This – I now understand – is the Holy Grail, the Golden Fleece of the retail trade. The John Lewis Partnership test prospective employees vigorously and comprehensively – ensuring that the people they employ are a ‘good fit’ for their partnership structure; that their own personal values are congruent with the business model and its values. His position gives him significant staff benefits (including a non-contributory pension scheme – something he just doesn’t quite yet appreciate the rarity and value of) and a pay rise together with annual bonus (amounting to 20% of his already good salary).

His current employers have offered him another promotion, a store manager’s post within 24 months and a significant pay rise – taking him above the Waitrose offer and well above his current salary.

He has managed to turn this down with a grace that has allowed the Divisional and Regional Managers to state that any time he wants to come back he’s just to call them…

I am genuinely proud of him. Robert is genuinely proud of him. I know what that old expression means: our hearts have  swollen with pride.

He is stubborn and driven but such fun to be around. He’s a BIG party and clubbing animal (ironically someone I’d have steered clear off at school) and will be off to Ibiza for the last 2 weeks in September. He enjoys his booze. He likes a laugh and is a prankster. But he is caring; thoughtful; insightful; mindful.

Just one last anecdote about my Lad:

Lewis suffered a slight stammer (over ‘d’ and ‘s’ words) whilst a toddler which disappeared for a few years only to return when he was 12. I took him to our family doctor who referred him to the Speech Therapist. The Therapist took him on his own for a few sessions. At the end of his 5th session she called me in to speak to me. By way of background – I was very ill at this time and had been gravely ill on many occasions. The kids were traumatised by ambulances and morphine and me writhing in pain and in hospital. The Therapist wanted to discuss ‘nest steps’ with me. She explained that there was a question that she asked every child referred to her: If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
She had just asked Lewis that question. His response had brought tears to her eyes she explained. He had said after a short pause to gather his thoughts: I’d wish that my Mum would get better and never need to feel pain or need medicine again.

She didn’t think he needed any more sessions with her. And she wanted me to know that I had a precious boy.

I knew that then and I know it now.

This is a blog for Lewis. And now I’m off to shout at him for blowing his nose on my tea towel.



Saturday! My life-raft day. 

The kids have plans – which don’t involve me (thankfully). 
Baby A has settled after her shower-hysteria. That girl does not like cleanliness. I gave up on gentle cajouling and platitudes many moons ago. It’s a in, scrub, out, affair. Probably brutal – but it minimises the caterwauling – never welcome anytime but especially not on life-raft day.
J has spent the morning wheezing and coughing. Had to resort to the old spacer arrangement with his inhaler because that new ‘snail’ inhaler just doesn’t hit the spot. He takes it like some patient but much- beleaguered old man – all he needs is the cap and slippers (no pipe for an asthmatic); the lumbago and the plate of tripe. He has even taken to reading the sports pages and the betting tips. Gave T a dead cert last Saturday apparently – and it came in at 8/1. 
E has gone for the village hall key. He has fretted about badminton all week and was mightily unchuffed that he was forced to wait til a decent hour this morning before chapping Mrs McG (terrifying keeper of the key) up out of her bed.
L is working. His dreams of Rockness are almost realised. He should have the readies for the ticket by the end of tomorrow’s shift.
He and I had a peculiar end to the night last night, with him telephoning from mid-road home at 11pm to ask me what he should do, there was a drunk woman with a buggy and a toddler weaving off and on the pavement in front of him. He had apparently asked if she needed any help and she’d given him a mouthful of garbled abuse. I could hear the blood dripping from his soft heart. His distress crystallised by a repeated ‘that poor baby; that poor wee boy, Mum’.
I jumped in the car and went up to get him and to assess the situation.
She was staggering towards the Terrace – I didn’t recognise her at all and hadn’t a clue what her address would be. Now that I was there and given my day job I simply could not drive away. So, I phoned the local police station… She was intoxicated and in no fit state to provide care for children. Schedule One offence. L thought he knew the woman’s name – so I gave garbled and vague details to the operator who then told me that there was a car in the area.
I waited in the stationary car. Watching as she disappeared into the gloom of the Terrace. Less than 5 minutes after I called, the police car arrived. I flagged them down and explained. But it was too late. There was no trace of her – and short of the police chapping on every door, she would remain unknown.
I’ll look for her. Over the coming days and weeks I’ll look. And I know that L will too.
It may have been a one-off. She may be a completely wonderful mum the other 364 days of the year.
When we got home we sat and talked about the realities facing other children. L’s no innocent. A fully comprehensive state-provided education and a working-class family working (or claiming benefits) in the state sector saw to that. But there is a gulf between theory and reality. He can know the possibility of x – but the reality of x is something quite different. Following from last week’s ‘collapsed man in the street’ incident, he seems to be learning fast.
Parental desire to protect and to shield is intense in situations like that. But perhaps there is a more powerful comfort to be derived. L’s response was one of active compassion. He offered help on the last two occasions. He did not pass by, averting his eyes. 
I have (maybe self-indulgently and selfishly) worried long and loud about my parenting capacity over the last two weeks (M’s going’s-ons have triggered a wave of self-doubt and recriminations). Maybe comfort can be found in L’s responses?
And now E is back with the hall key… oh, who knows what’s ahead for the other three?