Belfast Telegraph

I'm not getting hung up on giving my daughter her first mobile phone

By Jane Graham

Watching all those beautiful babies being born on In the Club this week, my thoughts turned to my own birth experiences. (Well of course they did. If that series had any job to do, it was to make watching mums think about their own first moments. It doesn't take Leni Riefenstahl to work out that you can hook an audience of women at lightning speed if you can get them all, in unison, re-living the physical and psychological freak-out that comes with seeing and feeling a real live person come from inside you. And the druggy bliss-haze that often follows. But I digress.)

One of the lesser discussed commonalities of the days and weeks after having a baby is people making jokes about how she looks lovely now, but just wait till she's screaming at you for bringing her into a world in which mothers won't buy their daughters diamonds for the primary school disco.

I never laughed at those jokes. Partly because they aren't funny. Partly because I've never welcomed spirit-dampening sadism in times of rare joy – even when it's wrapped in 'mirth' (it reminds me of my uncle, who used to laugh while he dangled us over the staircase until we timidly explained we felt sick, when he would push us away with contempt and, disgusted at our wafer-thin six-year-old skin, send us to the cold 'back room'). But mostly because, right from the start, I feared the dawn of those times; the end of innocence, the demand for stuff, the breakdown of closeness.

Call me a silly neurotic women – it's a fair cop – but, perhaps because I was such a rotten teenager myself, I dreaded the first signs of adolescence from the first days of my kids' lives. And the happier those days were, the more I fretted about their end.

So when my 11-year-old daughter started asking for a mobile phone, I shrank in horror. She wanted a phone to arrange secret hook ups with the local lothario, a skulking greasy-haired sullen-faced chap with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles, famous for getting girls pregnant and forcing them to call their babies Scumbag or B***h. Probably. This was the beginning of the end.

I dealt with it like a mature adult. But after six months of me putting my fingers in my ears and singing Smells Like Teen Spirit whenever the subject came up, she persuaded me to talk about it. It needn't be a smartphone, she said. Just a way of communicating, not just with her friends, but with me. To let me know when netball was running late, or, if she was excited, to tell me she'd got the lead part in the school play.

I re-considered. Adults often use texts or emails to say things – awkward things or, sometimes, embarrassingly nice things – that are hard to say face to face. Teenagers find it twice as tough to have those kind of conversations in person. It might be that a daughter to mother (or vice versa) text could nip a growing bad vibe in the bud in a second with just one little typed 'sorry'. Or even a 'I love you'. Texted in 20 seconds, never ever deleted.

So I've relented. I can't freeze time. It might be okay if I trust her. I'm not naive. I know it'll help her keep secrets from me too, things she'll share with her friends and not with me. But I also know, from experience, that secrets are important to teenage girls. And I can live with that. Just.

Cameron got Scots wrong to the max

David Cameron is not a heavyweight thinker. You can tell from his silly face. One of his stupidest mistakes was to refuse to allow 'maximum' powers for the Holyrood government, aka devo-max, as a third option in the Scottish referendum. This was what most Scots, at that time, wanted – to control their own taxes, raise loans abroad, devise their own welfare system and NHS.

Cameron, arrogantly assuming an easy No victory, refused to let them express this. He's now, in a blind panic, offering it as a No sideplate.

Yet again, the coalition provides a salutary tale about the dangers of complacency and being totally out of touch.

Angelina is still her own woman

No sign of Angelina Jolie becoming a Jolie-Pitt, despite the wedding, and the fact that her and Brad Pitt's children have that double-barrelled surname.

This is interesting because Angelina appears as devoted to her kids as any celebrity mother on the planet.

She often takes all six travelling around with world with her, and encouraged them not only to help write her wedding vows, but also to doodle all over her dress.

However she's also famously independent-minded. I applaud her for being so unapologetically her own woman, and also so unapologetically, uncoolly, consumed by her own children. She represents nothing and no one but her true self.

Belfast Telegraph


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