It being that time of year, it felt only right to be thinking about lists. However, the one I am about to present may not be quite as tinsellicious as some of the others floating about the ether over the holiday season. It’s a list of Conversations I Do Not Want To Have (But Sometimes You Have To).
- The Father Christmas Conversation
Unlike Greg Lake, I never believed in Father Christmas. I never looked to the skies with excited eyes. That was because my dad was Father Christmas for the local Rotary Club, and everything was clearly an adult agreement to keep children happy and raise much-needed funds to take old people to the seaside in the summer.
Like Greg, I did like the Christmas Tree Smell, which is why to this day I refuse to buy a plastic, no-drop-needles so-called tree. We usually lash out on a Nordmann Fir, which doesn’t drop as much but also smells less. It’s all about compromise.
That conversation with small children may well be fraught. I know someone who is genuinely distressed still (after 30 years) at the discovery that his parents had lied to him without batting an eyelid. In a supportive fashion I tell him to get over it, but he remains traumatised. I suppose there are sometimes key moments when our parents are revealed as merely human and those moments can live on with us beyond all reason. Which I suppose takes us back to poor old Greg Lake seeing through the disguise.
I have never had this exact conversation with the Offspringses. In fact they carried on for years trying to keep Sigoth and me happy until one year we all agreed to stop messing about and just enjoy the game as part of the Spirit of the Season. I’m so glad they learned pragmatism at least.
Status: Successfully Negotiated
2. The Teenage Sex Conversation
Worst. Case. Scenario. It happened.
Offspring missed school the day of the Class Talk due to a virus. Teacher told me I would have to do the catch up instead.
How does that work? We pay taxes so some other blighter has to explain the birds and the bees to the nation’s giggling pre-adolescents. I’m not qualified for this. It wasn’t in the ante-natal classes, and you don’t get anything else in the way of advice once the sprog has popped. I’m British, for goodness’ sake. We don’t have Sex, although we do have Euphemisms aplenty, along with Carry On… films, which also involve giggling. Euphemisms are often counter-productive in this kind of situation though. So I got a book and we read it together and no more was said, quite rightly.
At least, no more was said until hormones kicked in good and proper at the mid-teen point and I found myself having the follow-up conversation about condoms and who slept where when they came to stay over and why the law was in fact based on sound biological research and that failure to observe my and Society’s rules would have Dire Consequences including in extremis an introduction to the Paedophile Register.
Status: Negotiated with a some issues on the way
- The Buggery Conversation
Of course, this all pales into insignificance when faced with explaining buggery to one’s apple-cheeked parent. As a teenager myself I was up late one night watching a biopic about Oscar Wilde. Mother heard the TV on and wandered down to see if I was watching anything good. She managed to walk in at a crucial point in the film where a judge was shouting at Oscar about buggery.
“What is buggery?” she asked.
Well, I was only 17 or 18 and it was still the 1970s, when society had a different approach. That’s my excuse.
“Look it up in the dictionary!” I hissed, going red.
She huffed at me in irritation and stomped into the next room to do so. I heard her riffling through the pages. Then it went a bit quiet and the book was gently replaced. Her tread could be described as “thoughtful” as she climbed the stairs back to bed. And that was that.
Status: Avoided like the very plague, thank goodness.
- The DNR Conversation
Today I had the DNR conversation. DNR, as the NHS likes to call it, stands for “Do Not Resuscitate.” Like buggery they prefer to avoid using words that are difficult, so they hide behind abbreviations.
Mother is still in hospital and not doing too well. She now has 9 toes and a chest infection they can’t shift. The lack of breathing is the biggest problem as far as the medics are concerned, not unreasonably I feel. However, unless they can bring the infection under control, and she has always been very resistant to anti-biotics, things do not bode well.
So we had that conversation and I agreed that yes, it would not be desirable to go to the greatest lengths to resuscitate if it would leave her in a worse state than before. She and I had discussed it merrily some years ago when it was summer and neither of us believed it would come true.
Status: Negotiated with issues.
- The Mortality Conversation
As a result of the above I now need to have a further conversation with the Offspringses to prepare them for possible bad news. In a way it’s trickier than the Actual Bad News Conversation. I need to prepare people for the worst but allow for the best and try to manage hopes and fears equally.
Wishing you happier talks this season.