Although I haven’t mentioned it much, please don’t think that the Big Party Talk by M hasn’t been a constant background noise in my life. All through the house move, through Mock exams and interspersed between GCSE revision has been the BPT (J’s name for the Big Party Talk). If you’re a regular blog reader you might remember the saga of M’s 15th birthday party last July, including the lead up budget bargaining, last minute dramas and my horror at what turning 16 will bring! After weeks, no months, of listening to the fantasies and minute details of her party last year, even J was sick of it and he’s normally great at tuning out ‘teenage speak’. His walk away comment ‘just wait till the full on drama of her 16th birthday!’ on the night of her party last year proved to be very intuitive.
So my life is now dominated by two major dress crises: the BPT (themes, venues and budget on a perpetual 24 hour loop) and Prom. What it should be dominated by is revision and planning ahead for college, but we live in the world of reality, not make believe. I’ve had to sit down with M and have a serious talk about money. She spends every penny in her pocket almost on the same day as she gets it and can’t help the flutter of excitement if she gets birthday money or extra cash and spends it immediately, without much thought. She’s also very generous and I worry about how much she gives away in order to cement friendships.
Revision has increased, which I’m grateful for, and so has the excitement about Prom which is next week. M’s friendship with Claire has developed enough for them to include others into the inner circle, and where as M would have been jealous of any time Claire spent with anyone else from school, she now not only accepts them, but they have become a little unit of 4. Abbey, one of the group is an aspiring fashion vlogger (someone who blogs by video updates) and is trying to increase her status and followers on YouTube. With Claire and M’s love of fashion along with Amber who is quieter, they have camped in my living room or M’s bedroom every weekend planning every aspect of the upcoming Prom.
I’ve been trying to plan ahead for the Prom for nearly two months, as my life is busy and full of appointments for one child or another. Last week I had a training day, a LAC (Looked After Children 6 monthly meeting) review, a supervising social worker visit, a dentist appointment for J and a health visitor appointment. I had to say no to a Legal Guardian’s visit (arranged for this week), a vet’s appointment for Luke and various other appointments which are now weighing on my mind. I’ve been asking M to narrow down her search for the perfect dress since the end of February and we’ve been to 3 different shops but she is not happy with the dresses in my generous budget. Unfortunately, M goes to a school with a small but very exclusive area in its catchment circle. The area is well known locally for the expensive properties and gated community and Abbey is lucky enough to live in one of them. Abbey’s Prom dress is fabulous and I must admit a bite of envy when I saw a photo so I can only image the inadequacies the rest of the girls in their group must be feeling.
The sit down money talk with M was difficult. I know she feels her differences to the other girls and wants the complex mix of standing out and looking fab but also blending in perfectly and not drawing attention to herself but there is a price limit. I’ve had to explain to her that the two dresses have to have a budget and whilst she understands and accepts this in principle and expresses thanks, when it comes to reality, her insecurities rear their head and take over.
So in spite of all my planning, we are going last minute Prom shopping on Saturday and M is consumed by it. I’ve decided to take a chill pill and leave Hubby at home with J and Baby S and maintain a mantra of calm. I’ve told her we can spend the whole day shopping and I’ve booked her a manicure and pedicure for later in the day which she was thrilled at. I’ve had to put off a visit to my Grandma’s, who finds all this Prom and party dress talk a bit bemusing. She tries to understand but I know it goes over her head, especially as she felt lucky when she had a second hand twin tub washing machine after two years of washing towelling nappies by hands. She was married at 16 and had 2 children by 18.
I look back at my last few weeks of school and can’t help compare them to M’s. I didn’t have a Prom and would I have wanted one, thinking back at how insecure I was? The older generation complain that the younger generation have it all. They are right: they live their lives in a goldfish bowl of social media instant updates, constantly compared to each other and to countless celebrities touched up by the latest photo editing technology to look flawless. So along with the tablets, latest mobiles, watch gadgets and £400 trainers comes a deep level of insecurity that I’m not sure the older generation had time to feel.