Thursday, January 31, 2008

One I Won't Win

As I progress through this divorce business there are many things that I'd like to share with people who read this blog. Predominantly things about the way I feel, the way I'm dealing with things and the way those around me are doing the same.

But, I don't think it would be right. I don't want to write anything that one of my daughters would find at some point and feel upset about, and obviously it's much better to portray myself as one of these emotionless and rugged carved from steel types in order to impress my army of female readers.

This story is one that I reckon I can chuck in without fear of upsetting the apple cart, or rambutan cart if I can have one of those.

Last Friday I went over to collect the girls from their Mother's, where they live. It was the Friday of their fortnightly overnight stay with me and that's always exciting for me, mixed for them. It is funny how the relationships change and how I have to alter my behavour in so many ways with them. I treasure the time I get with them and look forward to it like I never used to, I took for granted the fact that I'd be able to kiss them goodnight and have an argument with one or both of them every other evening.

Often now I feel like one of those chaps who's been wandering around a desert for a few hours and hasn't had any water. Once he gets some, perhaps at a Cargill's Food City or something, he savours every mouthful and tastes each little droplet.

As soon as I arrived at the house the eleven year old, whom you know as a bit of a handful at the best of times, came towards me with the look on her face. I mean that look that every parent knows, a mixture of fear and grovelling, the feeble attempt that kids make to look scared but also angelic. The look that tells a parent that a confession is on its way.


"Yes K" said I, the Dad.

"I've got something to tell you" she said. I knew this, as you know that I knew it.

"What K?"

All this had been done quite sweetly, with that angelic look and voice that these eleven year olds are quite good at. I wasn't taken in but a lesser man would have been, if I hadn't faced all this from her elder sister a couple of years ago then I might have been too.

Then, as she launched into her story, she changed, or rather her voice changed, into that runaway steam train mode. The one where they talk and talk with no full stops and no commas and no pauses for breath and the words just come at you like tennis balls from one of those serving machines or like the words in a blogger's blog. It doesn't have to be a steam train either, it might be a normal one, but steam is that much more evocative.

"Well this morning before we left for school I couldn't find my mobile (that's a cellphone to you lot)."

"Ok" I said.

"So I called my mobile number from the home phone to try and find it."

"Ok" I said again, somewhat superfluously.

"And it rang and my voicemail answered the call and then when we (her and her sister) came back from school this afternoon it was still on."

Her Mother was standing behind her laughing at me and this wasn't even good humoured laughter, it was cruel sort of "you pay the phone bill" laughter. I was left in a state of mild and foggy confusion but the fog was clearing at a fairly advanced rate and I didn't like what I thought I could see through the patchiness.

"Hang on, let me just get this straight. You called your mobile in the morning before school and the message thing answered the call."

"Yes Dad"

"And when you got back from school the line was still open?"

"Urh huh"

"So you made a call from the home phone to your mobile and it lasted about 8 hours?"

"Well no Dad, about 10 hours actually."

She was nervous, but on balance I think I was more nervous as I contemplated the bill, the fact I pay it and the fact that it could be the equivalent of four years' of full entry to the Galle Literary Festival.

As I write this, some five days after the event, I'm coming to terms with the potential loss to my wallet. The bill has yet to arrive and the eleven year old is still living in a mixed state of fear and bravado. I've threatened her with the sale of her laptop, which accompanies her everywhere from bed to toilet. She's resisted that threat but offerred to sell everything from her sister to her mobile phone on ebay to contribute to the costs.

I got a text from her the earlier in the week, it said:

"I have 162 pounds in my savings account which should cover most of the bill"

I replied with that standard parents' statement "we'll see". Yet I know that kids are smart, particularly these days. A few years ago I overheard my girls talking in excited tones. It was just after they had asked me if they could do or have something and I'd given "we'll see " as a response. To me it was always a response that should have meant, well what it meant; that I'll think about it and perhaps let them have their request.

What I heard one of them saying to the other was:

"Yesss, we got a "we'll see""

I asked why they were happy and got the answer.

"Because a "we'll see" means yes" Clearly I'd been outwitted by my kids. Again.

Now the eleven year old and myself have reached a stalemate in this daring game of bluff. The £162 that she possesses is all of her savings, she knows that I won't take it. She knows that I won't sell her laptop and that I won't even sell her sister. She also knows that it will be almost impossible for me to punish her, these things are hard to do when you don't get that much time with them.

And I know that I face a whopper of a phone bill, that I'll show it to her and feign anger, that she'll smile sweetly and say all the right things and neither of us will be being honest.

And life will go on.


the1truecoolguy said...

Ah...the joys of parenting! At least it's nice to see you take it all in stride!

I know phone plans are different in the UK, but I don't understand this...if the voicemail answers the call you're charged for it? Or is it that she left the landline off the hook for several hours? I'd still assume the vm system would hang up...?

I hope for your sake you're not charged for 10 hours of talk time, but I'd be surprised and would probably try to take it up w/ the phone company...

Darwin said...

Hehee..K sounds like she's sussed out the situation entirely to her advantage. It's really strange reading about this sort of thing from a parent's point of view, I've always been the kid that manipulated (and still sometimes do!) her parents. Nice post.

T said...

LOL. I wish my dad was like you.

Abracadabra said...

Now that is a bummer. thats going to be one hellova bill.

as you said. she will put her sweet angel face that you really cant do anything about and life goes on :)

Lets just hope that the voice mail box filled up after a while and the call ended on the server side or something..

Ravana said...


P.S. Thanks for the award, by the way.

David Blacker said...

My son's almost five years old; he's not that machiavellian yet, but he's getting there.

I don't see much of him either, so I know how you feel.

L said...

How about negotiating a partial contribution from her, more as a symbolic act.

Even a small contribution from her will give her a sense of self worth I think. And when she has her own kids she has something harp on about..."see when I was only 11 years old, times were hard, my parents were divorced and I had to help my dad pay for part of the phone kids have it easy these days"!!!!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Ian - Yes, it's not the mobile bill but the home one that I'm dreading. I'm hoping that there would have been an automatic hang up too, but they said that the landline was off the hook when they got in from school.

Darwin - Thanks, I can fully believe what you say about yourself!

T - I'll take that as a compliment!

Abracadabra - I liv in hope, I think I'll have to do a post once I get the bill, just to keep people informed.

Ravana - Ta, no probs.

David - I think it's a girl thing rather than age related. You may be safe.

I said - Yes, I'll have to do something to make her contribute, perhaps a month's allowance or similar.

Tanya J. said...

RD - I don't think it's really a 'girl thing' I know quite a few boys who've got away with far worse with their parents!

Scrumpulicious said...

I don't think the bill will be too much. Voicemails only usually last for about 4 minutes and then it cuts off. Oh, but then it says "To listen to your message press 1, or hang up" It might have carried on saying this for 10 hours - you're screwed!

Let us know what happens!

Parthi said...

oh well..leave the poor thing alone! shes a kid anyway! without these kidna things they arent kids and life isnt as exciting and fun!! hehe had a good read! thanks for sharing it with us!!!

Six & Out said...

Haha! Lets hope for your sake the line got cut off. Strange that the line wouldn't get cut off. Even the home line would get cut off if the mobile line gets cut wont it. Even though its off the hook.

When ever I have kids Im gonna be prepared. No mobiles till their 18!

Indyana said...

My eleven year old has lost several pairs of shoes,her wallet(with money ,Id ,octopus card etc),a mobile,several school books and a lot more since the beginning of the year...I'm wondering whether I should make a list of the stuff and get reimbursed later, when she grows up to be that rich jewellery designer(that she claims she will turn into)...what do you think?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indyana - I think it's a great idea, but if all of us parents did it, we'd get very, very depressed.

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