Tuesday, April 30, 2013

That day the bully dropped by...

I don't like bullies, I never have - and after I left school (where bullying was rife, largely uncontrolled and always swept conveniently under the carpet by our head and deputy head - something that sounds shocking today) I thought I'd never see another day where a bully held sway over me or anyone else I was directly involved with.

Of course, you soon get to learn that bullies don't really change magically overnight like you see in the movies. In real life, Bullies usually grow up and merely sharpen their 'skills' in other ways - sometimes even at your place of work.

I lost my cool completely this morning. Something I've managed to avoid doing for the majority of the time I've been in my current role - mainly because someone in my office was being bullied (verbally, thankfully not physically) by someone else.

I flipped. I could probably blame a lack of sleep (didn't get quite enough sleep last night, one of those disturbed nights where deep sleep slips through my fingers like mercury), but it could also be because over the past 7 years or so I've seen this particular bully's modus operandii and method of exerting his bone-brained will on various people I work with. Normally I'd keep out of an argument if it didn't involve me but there was something about the language this person was using, the methods they were exerting over the person who couldn't stick up for themselves (or wouldn't), that pressed all of my 'Hulk-Out' buttons all at once.

To coin a phrase, I lost my shit, big time. It happens so infrequently that I actually felt like I'd gone into shock afterwards. I ended up in front of my boss, explaining the situation (and sounding pathetically like a kid whose opening gambit is 'he started it') and then again later apologising (though not to the bully - though a tiny voice inside me was telling me I ought to, just to prove I was somehow the better person).

I still don't like bullies. I detest the various excuses that creep out of the woodwork whenever a bully reaches the end of their reign of terror and people finally bring them to task for what they've done. I cannot stand the way that, deep down, though you'd hope the incident made them think long and hard about themselves and the way they deal with people - you secretly know that it's had the same effect on their thick skin as a flea has on a Sherman Tank. Most of all I hate the way I now feel like the lowest of the low, simply because I stood my ground and got pretty shouty (and sweary, ack) in the process.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How do you explain the death of a loved one to a five year old?

The "Heavenly Pilots" sequence in Hayao Mizayaki's sublime "Porco Rosso"
Our great uncle passed away a fortnight ago at the ripe old age of 92. Bill was much loved by the whole family, particularly Princess C who found him funny and charming, and always good to talk to (some older members of the family see children as a bit loud and a bit of a pest but he never did).

Today is his funeral and we wondered how we'd broach the subject with Princess C. She would know something was wrong as I don't usually pick her up from school today, Mummy does but Mummy is at the Funeral.

The eerie thing is that she seems to have known all along. When my wife first heard the news on the telephone, Princess C was in the office with her and as my wife put the phone down, she came over to give her a big cuddle. She could sense something was wrong.

Since then, she's mentioned death and growing old many times - despite us not officially saying anything to her. Again it's like she's picked up on something and it's played on her mind.

In the end when we did tell her about Bill, we chose to echo things she'd have been told in school about going to heaven and how our bodies are left behind but the good bits of us, our spirit, our souls, go up to heaven and we stay in here (our heads / memories) and in here (our hearts).

She sat quietly for a while and said "That makes me very sad" (at which point I really struggled not to burst into tears in front of my wife and my in-laws who were present). Though there were no more mentions of it during the rest of the evening and before bed, we flagged it with her teacher for today (who gave my wife a huge hug, bless her) and hope for the best.

The reason for the header image was because we'd watched a Studio Ghibli film called "Porco Rosso" and there's a sequence in it where Porco is describing "the mother of all dogfights" - and at one point his plane breaks above the clouds and all the phantom planes and pilots of years past are all up there, flying in the clear air, forever more. This obviously stuck in C's mind because she now thinks that con trails are those long lost pilots, and that this is 'heaven' in a sense. That's kinda cute.

I'm not religious at all. My wife probably is slightly more than I am because of her mum's influence perhaps. But I guess at our core we all want to believe that death is not the end, and perhaps we do go onto something else (something better?)

It's a tough thing to try and broach with a child and there are many children's books and many well meaning folk who have their own theories and advice on how to deal with the situation. I think we did OK. All in all,  I feel like I'd much rather Princess C had in her mind something that was reassuring, and emphasised that people live on in our memories long beyond the time of their flesh and bones - and leave their indelible mark on the world in one way or another.

Bless her heart though.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Slave to the Smartphone. A Zombie guide to bad parenting.

"Come on mum, push us, we've been here for 3 flipping hours!"
I swore I'd never do this. I swore I wouldn't. In fact I've even mocked parents mercilessly before for doing precisely this. Zombing out on their smartphones while their children look on, wondering what on earth is so flipping important that it's worth glueing your eyeballs to instead of paying attention to what your child is doing.

Part of the reason I never upgraded my phone was that I secretly knew that owning a device that could let you read email, view web pages or prat around on Twitter would be like the kiss of death to an already meandering attention span but when I got my new phone, it became all too tempting to just dive on, unlock, dive into an app and twiddle around.

Princess C deserves better than that. We both do it (my wife and I) and though there are times as a parent where you're more than a little bit fed up of playing yet another round of 'shopkeepers' or really do not want to play that horrible "Tooth Fairy" game C's grandparents bought her, diving into a virtual world of tweeters and emailers is like turning your back on your child and saying "Sorry, this is more important". It's bloody rude really isn't it. So my pledge is to ensure that the phone goes off when I get home from work every night, and does not go on again until I head off for work in the morning.

Could you do the same? Bet you couldn't...!