And so the world of style blogging is hitting its summer lull. As the sales are in full swing and the storybook sunshine goes on, I can feel my mind turning away from its usual fascination with retail towards the things that matter more. I’m very aware that for our family, this will be our last calm summer for a while. We have no important exam results to anticipate and when autumn comes, our status quo will continue with everyone returning to their current paths. The summers that lie beyond this one will be completely different, each bringing a significant change so I’m making a point of enjoying the ‘now’.
Of course this focus on family has been kickstarted by my mum-in-law’s visit. More than ever I’m thinking about the position of older females in families. As is so often the case, my mother-in-law and I are very different people and we come from very different worlds. Despite that, we have a good relationship and over the years we’ve grown to understand each other. Whenever we spend time together though, we realise that it’s a meeting of cultures.
I admire her utterly, she’s a very stoical woman and she’s had a tough life. In fact I often wonder how she’s got through it and still managed to retain her ever present sense of humour. She had seven children but lost one a few days after birth and two others tragically as adults. She and my father-in-law had a very loving marriage but he died at the early age of 60 so her grief is never far away and yet somehow she still carries on.
I marvel at her life and she marvels at mine. A confirmed city dweller, she likes coming to see us for a holiday but can’t imagine living here. She often asks how I coped growing up – forgive me for my pidgin Geordie accent here but I can’t resist (Mr MC will be rolling his eyes).
“Eee wor Nikki whatever did ye dee as a teen oot ere like?”
The hills, fields and trees are as alien to her as the concrete, bricks and traffic of her city are to me. I try to show her just how beautiful it is and she does see it but finds it hard to compute. As we were driving on Saturday she chatted away in the back of the car, exclaiming at everything she saw…
“there’s nee hooses oot ‘ere – there’s just nothin”
…and she was particularly alarmed by the sight of the freshly sheared sheep.
As I’ve mentioned before, she “doesn’t believe in the internet” so the concept of Midlifechic and what a big part of my life it has become is hard for her to entertain. She’s perpetually perplexed when she comes to stay – by our gadgets, our lifestyle and our surroundings. She was convinced that her grandsons were wandering around talking to themselves, not understanding that wherever they go, they’re in perpetual conversation with friends via the bluetooth headsets that are forever connected to either a phone or a games console. It’s always interesting to step back and see things through her eyes and there’s never a dull moment when she’s here. Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve taken you out and about with me so I thought I’d show you a little of what we did.
Friday night was beautiful and so when Mr MC arrived home from karate, we went for a walk along the shore to watch the sun set. There was a sea mist as you can see. I love the magic of these long summer evenings that stretch on until after 11pm.
And just in case you’re more interested in the outfit than the scenery, everything I’m wearing is now in the sale.
On Saturday both boys had early starts as they had to be at school all day, one for an open day the other for a rehearsal. So we dropped them off and took mum-in-law out for breakfast and a spot of shopping. She soon decided that everything ‘doon sooth’ (because this is the south to her) is a rip off – apparently prices are far higher than in Newcastle…
I’ve been a sheep and succumbed to the sandals that everyone’s wearing this summer because they’re such good Hermes dupes. They’re incredibly comfortable and I love the tan although they’re available in lots of different colours. They’ve been sold out everywhere for ages but I’ve found a restock.
Sandals (also available in black, white, yellow, orange, pink or turquoise)
This was Mr MC tickling his mum in an attempt to get her to smile for the camera – not something she does willingly!
After a while she was tired so we went home for a relaxing afternoon and a barbecue when the boys returned. I discovered that Finding Your Feet has just been released on Amazon Prime and she really enjoyed watching it – in fact we all did, even Mr MC who insisted he wouldn’t because “there’s no point in a film without fighting in it.”
Sunday didn’t go as planned. You see my mum-in-law has a reputation for being a disaster zone. The very first time they came to stay with us, my father-in-law forewarned me that he had good reason for calling her Calamity Kate. She proved him right that time by standing on a box of matches and starting a fire and she has done ever since. Last time she stayed with us, she managed to break our supposedly indestructible KitchenAid kettle “because it’s too complicated”. On Sunday morning, Mr MC and I were sitting outside enjoying a cup of coffee when the youngest came running out saying that water was pouring through the dining room ceiling. Sure enough it was but we couldn’t understand why.
We then realised that mum-in-law had decided to have a bath and had pulled herself out using the freestanding tap that is mounted in the floor. Of course it isn’t designed to withstand someone’s full bodyweight and so it had severed, causing water to gush underneath the membrane to the heated floor and then down into the dining room via the bar chandelier (that I spent eighteen months saving for – stifled sob). The biggest problem was that it just wouldn’t stop. Even after we’d turned the water off at the mains it took more than an hour before the pipes had finally emptied their load. We were anticipating having to remove the bath, the slate floor in the bathroom and the dining room ceiling to fix everything but fortunately Mr MC knows his way round a toolbox and eventually he managed to solve it. We still have to wait a few days for everything to dry out before we can assess the damage to furniture and electricals.
So, as you can imagine that took some time and we had to change our plans for a day at the seaside. Instead we went for a bit of a walk to calm everyone’s slightly frayed nerves. I can’t quite believe that I’m breaking into the dresses that I’ve bought for our holiday – this weather is unbelievable isn’t it?
And so that was our weekend with mum-in-law. It felt different because for so many years when she’s come to stay, it’s been to look after the boys either in the school holidays or because we were going away. Of course they can fend for themselves now so we call on her less often. We spent more time on our own with her than we have done for over 20 years and I realised that the pendulum has swung. It’s really made me think about how time is moving on. We noticed her increasing fragility and absent mindedness (I’m not speaking out of turn, she would be the first to agree).
We need to consider the years ahead because sadly, Mr MC’s eldest brother and his wife have recently separated. They always seemed to be such an unshakeable couple that it’s been a shock and it means that the chief daughter-in-law is no longer on call, leaving the rest of us with big shoes to fill. I’m a big believer in paying things forward and of course one day I may also be dependent on my daughters-in-law – my sons too of course but females of the family seem to pick up on the small things that males miss. So I need to do more to look after my mum-in-law. It will be complicated by the distance (the others live close by) so I’ll have to work out a role.
The turning of the generations
I can feel the generations turning at the moment as my boys are increasingly busy with lives of their own. I’ve been really looking forward to this summer and the eldest’s internship at Nike finishing on 20th July. I’ve been aware that it’s most likely the last time that I’ll have all three of them at home for an extended period and so since Easter, I’ve been quietly counting the weeks. At least I was until last month when I had an ebullient phone call from my firstborn. “Mum guess what – the best thing’s happened. Nike have extended my contract until 31st August!”
I’m usually really good at swallowing my feelings when I need to but I couldn’t conceal the slump in my “oh!” as I calculated that the seven weeks of having them all at home together that I’d been so looking forward to had now been reduced to three days. But it’s good. Of course it’s good. It’s a compliment to him and how hard he’s worked (and he can at least still join us in Turkey). As far as I’m aware he has only had about five weekends off since he started last July and he rarely leaves the office before 9pm. He has absolutely given it his all and in return, the project opportunities and responsibility that Nike have given him have been unbeatable. As a fellow marketer I’ve often held my breath at the launches he’s been working on because I know just how much goes into them.
Of course there have been huge perks too. Last month one of the directors invited him to play for his team in the annual inter-company football tournament. As you can imagine at Nike, it isn’t a kickabout at a local sports centre. They played on Chelsea’s pitch at Stamford Bridge and the boy sent us his videos of joy as he ran out through the players’ tunnel. Being a rugby boy he hadn’t played football since he was at primary school and so they put him in goal – the stakes were high but fortunately he only let two goals in throughout the event.
The sports legends that he’s met are legion but unfortunately they mostly go over his mum’s head. His favourite project this month was organising groups of children from challenging backgrounds to spend a day playing football at Wembley. He went down there and worked with them for the day – so he can say he’s played at Wembley too! His last two weekends have been taken up with entertaining clients, first at the Ed Sheeran concert and then at Taylor Swift’s. I could go on but I’d be here all day.
It hasn’t all been glitzy though and he’s learned some of the hard stuff too – how to face up to the mistakes you make when you’ve been working late for weeks and knowing that you can’t use tiredness as an excuse. How to navigate office politics and how to work with people who are senior but have minimal understanding of digital and social media. That’s something that I can see being a huge challenge for our children as they enter the workplace.
If by any chance you have an undergraduate heading for an internship year, I can’t recommend Nike enough. It’s tough to get in and the pay is the lowest of all the big internship schemes but it’s a sacrifice worth making because if they can see that an intern is going to work hard, they really do give them the opportunity to fly.
He always complains that I never wear Nike on Midlifechic so here you are my son, just for you – a tribute to all your hard work. One very overheated mum, straight from a kettles class this morning and head to toe in Nike – I’m sending this message ‘back atcha’ with all of my love and admiration!
And so once again I find myself in one of those bittersweet situations where I’m utterly proud of my son’s success but just a little disappointed that it takes away our limited time together. That thought has come full circle this weekend as I’ve watched my mum-in-law with Mr MC. She too is pleased that he’s happy but I saw how she seized on to our mentions of future visits and noted them down. I think I’ve said before on here that I have a strong memory of a Sunday evening when I was leaving to go back to London after a weekend at home. My dad said “I just wish you were a hairdresser living around the corner.” At the time I felt that he wasn’t proud of how hard I was working to make something of myself. It’s taken a while but the generations have turned and I understand what you were trying to say now Dad… I really do.
Disclosure: ‘Midlife and the turning of the generations’ is not a sponsored post
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