London - The phone conversation usually goes something like this: “Hello, it’s Mummy. How are you?”
“Are you missing me?”
“Horrible Histories is on.”
“OK. How was school?”
“Have you done your homework yet?”
Barely audible sigh (probably accompanied by eye rolling).
“I’m really missing you. Are you missing me?”
“What? Gracie’s taken my crisps. Can you tell her off?”
“I love you.”
“Daddy wants to talk to you.”
I’m accidentally cut off. Again.
I don’t know why I bother: after eight years of doing it I’ve discovered little maternal gratification in phoning home while working away.
The children - who dramatically proclaim they will be heartbroken the moment you leave - have about as much love to give on those calls as the people who ring during tea trying to sell you a new cellphone contract.
This week I’ve been away to report on ‘the fashions’ as a colleague’s three-year-old calls them (the catwalk shows). It’s a bi-annual separation I dread and, obviously, I miss my children.
The little fellas say they miss me but I’m greeted with a variety of demoralising responses when my husband hands them the phone and says: “Speak to Mummy.”
Of all the responses to that, the most depressing is “Who?”
“In a minute, I’m watching the telly,” annoys the hell out of me (especially as I know they can do that live pause thing with the remote that I haven’t worked out yet).
“Why?” is the most disturbing.
Obviously, I’m not expecting an emotional, joy-filled conversation (the children are, after all, only ten, nine, six and nearly two) but I do long for a small sign they at least want to speak to the woman who gave birth to them. That they haven’t forgotten me during my short “disappearances” as Gracie-in-the-middle calls them.
Often, I only have a ten-minute window in a 12-hour day to put an emotional Elastoplast on the bruise of parental homesickness.
I’m longing for a familiar giggle, an “I love you,” even.
But this week I got the following:
“What does a broad bean look like?”
“Where’s my Moshling zoo?”
“I’m keeping a diary of Daddy’s suspicious movements”
“bit bit poo poo” (quite advanced for a 22-month-old).
In three years’ time this reluctance to converse by phone will be reversed with the two eldest. Then, Mr Candy and I will be prising phones from our daughters’ ears. We are already being gently pressganged into getting Number One a cellphone.
“What’s the point?” I want to say. Why would we spend all that money for you to mumble incoherently in a distracted fashion to me or friends you’ve seen five minutes ago?
I also find it ironic and illogical that whenever I phone in, they speak so quietly on the kitchen phone that I can barely hear their little whispery words. But if I had a pound for every time I’ve said, “Stop shouting, I am standing right next you!” at home I’d be richer than David Beckham.
It makes me wonder if the best idea is not to phone at all.
Not to interrupt their daily life with Dad which, despite my overwhelming fears born out of years of control-freakery, potters along safely in my absence, Dad’s suspicious movements aside.
And why am I really phoning? To cheer them up, find out about their day or make me feel less guilty about being away? Don’t answer that.
I reckon if I offered the fearsome foursome the choice of a daily call or a big present on my return they would pick the latter. Except Mabel. She thinks the phone may be edible and that she’s talking to Santa.
When I get home they are, as always, pleased to see me (and the Smurf Haribo I bought at the airport).
Mabel is having tea in her swimming costume wearing a hat backwards and one of her brother’s socks, the eldest two are miraculously doing their homework at the kitchen table and my son is constructing a Lego house over the dog.
It’s as if I have never been away. - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is Editor In Chief of ELLE magazine.