Tag Archives: Parent problems

Katie Bright Keeping Mum Right! (1987)

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Published: Bunty Picture Story Library #286

Artists: David Matysiak (cover); Jaume (Jaime) Rumeu (story)

Plot
In the Bright household Dad is working overtime to save up for a washing machine. Mum decides to set about raising money to buy the family extras. The trouble is, she goes about it the wrong way. Instead of finding something she’s good at and developing it, she embarks on whatever scheme takes her fancy without proper research, thinking it through or considering if it is right for her. As a result Mum lands herself in a lot of scrapes and it’s up to her more sensible daughter Katie to sort them out.

First Mum sets up the garden shed for a mushroom farm. Katie is dubious because Mum has no experience in raising plants, but Mum expects such an abundance of mushrooms that she takes orders from greengrocers in advance. Talk about counting your chickens before they’re hatched: Mum’s mushroom crop is a complete failure, so Katie has to cover the orders with farm-bought mushrooms.

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Soon after, the washing machine finally arrives. Mum seems to be doing more washing than usual. Oh dear, is she taking in laundry for another money-making scheme? That’s what people come to think. Katie and Dad are a bit surprised when people offer them loans because they think the Brights are hard up. No, it turns out Mum was doing the extra laundry as a favour for some neighbours when their laundrette was unavailable.

However, Mum still hasn’t learned her lesson from the mushroom failure. She is now inspired to make and sell machine-knitted woollies, despite Katie’s warnings that such things are made by full-time professionals. She does not heed Katie’s advice to develop dressmaking (which she is brilliant at) as a money-making venture either. Katie can only hope Mum knew what she was doing with the machine-knitting. But of course she didn’t. She ends up giving refunds and gives up the machine knitting promptly.

A luxury lampshade company advertises for at-home people to make up lampshades they are outsourcing. Katie and Dad flash it under Mum’s nose, figuring it is foolproof. However, it is too simple and Mum grows bored with it. When she asks for more interesting work, the company’s response is teddy bear patterned lampshades – and the teddies have been printed upside-down! The Brights are not sorry when the company decides to give up its outsourcing and keep things onsite.

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Next, Mum turns to weeding gardens although she is so clueless about gardening Dad won’t let her work in the garden unsupervised. She figures anyone can weed. She does not understand you have to know the difference between a weed and a plant. So when Katie goes to check on the gardens she finds Mum has pulled out some plants by mistake. She replants them, but it turns out she planted them in the wrong garden because Mum threw them on the wrong compost pile. Fortunately the clients see the funny side, but they will be getting others to do their gardens. Still, one of the clients agrees to let Mum walk her dog instead.

So now it’s dog walking to make money. It seems straightforward this time, but Mum’s big ideas overcomplicate it. She bites off more than she can chew when she takes on other dogs as well and has to walk six at once! Not surprisingly, it’s wearing her out. Then she gets locked in the park because of all those dogs. Katie manages to find her and rouse the Parkie to let her out.

On the way back from this latest scrap they find the school drama club store on fire. Thanks to them the fire is put out in good time, but the costumes for the upcoming school play are ruined. Mums are called upon to make up replacements. Katie thinks this should suit Mum well as she is so good at dressmaking. After some persuasion Mum agrees, if Katie will take over walking the dogs. Then Katie is asked to replace one of the actresses in the play, and soon finds walking six dogs while learning her lines is too much.

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Fortunately Katie finds help in Ted Dawson, the brother of one of her classmates. Ted has no job, so he agrees to take over the dogs and receive the money while Katie learns her lines. Mum has no objections to the arrangement while she works on the costumes, but she will be taking the dogs over again eventually.

Then, just as the play is about to go on, the costumes get stolen. Mum put so much hard work into making them that the theft has her realise how much dressmaking means to her. Fortunately one of the new dogs Ted is walking is an ex-police dog. Ted uses him to sniff out the costumes, which got dumped in the old cottage at the back of the school. The costumes and play are saved.

Ted creates his own business walking dogs and Mum lets him keep walking her dogs. Word gets around about Mum’s work on the costumes and she soon finds herself with orders for more dresses. Now that Mum has finally settled upon a money-making scheme she can do right, Katie no longer needs to keep her right.

Thoughts

We now live in an age where work-from-home businesses have proliferated and work-from-home schemes are all over the Internet. So the concept of work from home in this story feels even more relevant now than it did when it was first published. Its message of exercising caution, proper research and good judgement in whatever you pursue to raise extra money is more acute now too, especially as there are so many scams out there and schemes where you earn very little money for a lot of hard work.

Fortunately Mum does not come up against any scams or underpaid work in this story. It’s just as well, because she is not exercising any serious research or thought into the various money-making schemes she tries out. Indeed, she does not give the impression she is showing much brains at all. It’s Katie who is showing the brains here. She can see the pitfalls Mum is creating for herself with her various schemes (for example, choosing ventures that she has no talent or experience for), which cause embarrassment and make her lose money instead of raising it. Katie can also see where Mum can really make money: dressmaking. It’s not just because Mum has the talent for it but also because there will be a niche for it as there are not many dressmakers in town. Yet Mum just won’t pursue dressmaking as a money-making business as she does not seem to have the interest.

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The story is not all about Mum’s money-making schemes. For example, the extra laundry Mum takes on is a favour, not a money-making scheme. And the focus of the story shifts more to Katie as she tries to walk the dogs while learning her lines. It makes the pace of the story more even, which is good. It also gives more leeway to developing other characters more, such as Ted Dawson.

Some good things do come out of Mum’s disasters. For example, if Mum and the dogs had not got locked in the park, she and Katie would not have seen the fire at school and raised the alarm in time. The damage would have been so much worse. Mum’s dog-walking also leads to the unemployed Ted Dawson to develop his own employment in walking dogs.

All the same, the consequences of Mum’s ill-conceived money-making schemes could have been worse if not for Katie helping to make everything right. It’s a relief all around when Katie no longer needs to keep her Mum right all the time.

 

 

Tara’s Treasure

  • Tara’s Treasure – Nikki: #87 (18 October 1986) – #99 (10 January 1987)
  • Art: Barrie Mitchell (?)

Plot

Tara Fleming is a shy girl, that struggles to make friends, this also isn’t helped by her strict parents insisting she comes home straight after school and concentrate on her schoolwork all the time. Her parents do reward her for doing well at school such as buying her a bike but as Tara hasn’t the courage to ask to bike with the others in her class she ends up going on her own. When she is biking one weekend and it starts to rain, she takes shelter in a old abandoned house and finds money stashed there.  At first she thinks she should take it to police, but then she decides there’s no harm in taking a little to buy some presents to make friends. She buys one of the girls in her class a cassette that she talked about and leaves it on her desk. Unfortunately she’s too shy to say it’s from her, so she decides to continue to buy gifts in secret until she has courage to tell everyone.

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Buying gifts for others doesn’t always work out, such as when she buys a teddy bear to replace the one Emma lost. The other girls tease her for such a babyish gift and Emma blames her friend Lucy, assuming she told people about her original teddy.  When Tara tries to buy a  top for Lee, she gets the last one available.  But Lee’s mother works in the shop and recognizes her so Tara knows she can’t give the top to Lee without revealing her secret. She buys Lee some trousers instead, Lee knows Tara got the top and the other girls have a laugh at her expense wondering where would a quiet, nerdy girl like her wear the top. Tara doesn’t even get to keep the top, as her own mother finds it and dumps it for something sensible (Seems a waste to go straight in the bin she could have at least tried to return it!).  It’s clear Tara’s parents really aren’t helping her, she isn’t allowed things that other girls her age like. When tries to watch pop charts, her father turns the tv off and tells her to read book instead, when she buys magazines to get fashion tips, her mother calls them rubbish and wants to bin them.  This means more topics at school she isn’t confident talking about.

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Tara still justifies her actions, spending the money as she is not spending it on herself. She fully believes when truth comes out everyone will be her friend. Although naive in this thinking, this is the first show of confidence she has had in herself. She is becoming more reliant on her secret gifts, at one point she considers talking to another quiet girl, Jenny, but instead tries to help her with a beauty contest her sister is entering. Two girls, Fern and Doreen decide to catch Ferndale fairy godmother, but ends up in a camera (that was a present) getting broken and they have a falling out. Tara then makes a mistake in trying to impress new sewing teacher getting her a gift, which leads to story of Ferndale Fairy Godmother getting out and this brings the attention of the  head. Now Tara is worried and actually begins to wonder where the money came from and whether it belongs to criminals.

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She decides to get rid of rest of money by returning it to the house. But after seeing Mary’s bike being run over by a car, she decides one more gift when she sees a second hand bike for sale. Although the person selling the bike looks familiar to her she doesn’t realize it’s the postman and he recognizes her.  Mary convinces the postman to tell her who paid for the bike and she goes to confronts Tara. Mary turns out to be a good friend to Tara after she breaks down and tells her everything. The money belonged to an old woman who didn’t trust banks. Although Mary would keep her secret, Tara knows its time to own up to everything. Her parents help pay back the money and also take responsibility for Tara’s desperate actions, as they acknowledge they have been too strict with her. Tara becomes sick with worry about going back to school, but Mary rallies the class around her and they also admit they could have made more effort to be friends.

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Thoughts

This has a similar lesson to recent post I Wish… in that money doesn’t solve all problems. Each episode show Tara picking a new classmate to buy a gift for, sometimes these work out sometimes they don’t, but what is more interesting is the development of why she is doing these things. Her parents are not intentionally unkind, but we see how overbearing they are for Tara. She hasn’t the confidence to speak up to her parents. When her father turns off tv and tells her to read a book, when her mother insists she will pick out what clothes she can buy, and that she will throw out rubbish magazines she doesn’t really argue back. She is grateful when they buy her bike for her hard work and she does love them and know they want the best for her, which again makes it more difficult for her to rebel.

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Tara does shows she has a good heart, although her intention is to make friends she is happy when the gifts work out and she makes people happy (equally she is upset when things go wrong for people). When she sees an old man get mugged she doesn’t hesitate to help him, which ends up with her losing the concert ticket she bought for a gift (she does get a new ticket from owner who saw what happened).  When she finds out the money belongs to an old lady that is in a home, she does the right thing and owns up.

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Tara can be misguided, naive and lacking confidence but is still a good person, she just needs the right support  She is a sympathetic character and we want things to work out for her in the end.

 

 

Hard Times for Helen (1984-85)

Logo Hard Times for Helen

Artist: Bert Hill

Published: Judy: #1302 (22 December 1984) to #1312 (2 March 1985)

Plot

Helen Shaw’s widowed mother is awarded the Superworker Award for her charity work and becomes a local celebrity. But from the moment Mum wins the award, nothing seems to go right for Helen. Her life changes for the worse, both at home and at school, not least of which is because she becomes “the girl who suffers from being compared to Mum”.

First, being Superworker means increased workloads on Mrs Shaw, which leave her constantly overworked, exhausted, and having no time for other things, such as household chores or devoting time to Helen. Also, Helen finds herself constantly lumbered with the things her mother hasn’t time for (chores, housework, errands, meal preparation, shopping, favours etc), or can’t do because she has been called away to some other task. This begins to interfere with schoolwork, social life, friends, and even makes Helen frequently late for school. Mum takes it for granted that Helen will help out all the time, and never stops think that Helen has other commitments or may not be able to help. For example, she tries to force Helen to miss a rehearsal to help her out, although Helen is playing the lead. As a result, the teacher kicks Helen out of the production (and Helen arrives home too late to help her mother in any case).

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Helen is also feeling neglected and lonely because her mother is scarcely home, and even when she is, she has no time for Helen. Helen had begun to feel this way even before charity-busy Mum became Superworker, but following Superworker it becomes a whole lot worse. Mum is frequently overtired, still encumbered with heavy workloads that she expects Helen to help out with, and dashing out yet again to help someone else. Worse, a lot of the work comes from people who take advantage of Mum’s kindness and never refusing anyone’s request (in other words, unable to say “no”).

Finances also suffer because Mum is becoming over-generous. But she does nothing to curb her over-generosity, although she is keeps saying that she is terribly short of money and she must know the reason for it. Sometimes Helen even goes hungry because Mum is too busy to remember to replenish the larder and doesn’t leave money for it.

And there is a jinx that seems to dog Helen at every turn. It lands her in constant trouble with Mum and giving other people false impressions that she is jealous, lazy, badly behaved, and “not at all like her mother”. Sometimes it’s not able to help because other things get in the way, like people popping in with more favours to dump on Helen when she has other work to do already. Or it’s not able to get other things done, such as homework, because Mum lumbers her with other things to do. Other times, things just seem to go wrong whenever Helen tries to help out her mother. Helen frequently thinks that everything has gone wrong since her mother won the award and wishes she had never won it. Meanwhile, the constant trouble has Mum thinking her daughter is being “awkward” and unhelpful, and their relationship deteriorates.

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To make things even worse for Helen, everyone, from strangers in the street to the next-door neighbour, always compares her unfavourably and unfairly with her mother with the relentless criticism, “You’re not at all like your mother!” or variations thereof. By far the worst culprits are the staff at Helen’s school, with headmistress Miss Pringle being the leader of the pack. Some of the criticisms arise from misunderstandings and affected schoolwork caused by Superworker (for example, Helen being frequently late for school because of the jobs she gets lumbered with in the mornings). But in other cases Miss Pringle and the teachers seem to pounce on even the slightest thing to attack Helen with the criticism. Often these are things that have little to do with Helen’s mother or Superworker. Their conduct becomes more and more like bullying. Examples include:

  • (Helen is eating in the street) “I don’t care much for finding one of my pupils in the street like this! Really, Helen, you’re a disgrace to your mother!”
  • (Helen fails to deliver a message in time) “You stupid girl. You’re not at all like your mother!”
  • (Helen is distracted with worry while teacher is setting homework) “You’re not making a note of the homework I’m setting! Perhaps you have no intention of doing it? Really, Helen! You’re not at all like your mother!”
  • (Helen says she was trying to help her mother) “Your mother couldn’t possibly need help from you! You’ll never be like her!”
  • (Helen asks to be excused from a swimming match to look after her mother) “Helen objecting to something again, is she? It’s all she does. She’s not hardworking like her mother.”
  • (Ignoring that Helen would have homework to do, and she never asked Helen to help in the first place) “Your mother’s giving up this evening to help my dramatic society, Helen. I suppose it would be too much to expect you’d be helping?” At this, Helen realises she cannot win with Miss Pringle.

And on top of the constant criticism there is the notion that Helen is jealous of her mother. This starts as a nasty rumour among Helen’s classmates, but soon spreads and is taken on board by the harsh school staff. And when Miss Pringle misinforms Mum about it and Helen’s so-called bad behaviour, Mum thinks it is the reason for Helen being so “awkward” and their strained relationship is poisoned further.

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Finally, when Mum wrongly blames Helen for a disturbance that wrecks a public demonstration, Helen reaches her limit. She snaps at Mum that she is fed up of everyone saying “You’re not at all like your mother!”. It doesn’t do Helen any good though – Mum still thinks Helen is behaving badly and just says it’s her own fault. But Helen’s outburst indicates that this is the penultimate episode and the final episode will be next.

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Sure enough, in the next episode everything comes to a head. Mum has gone to help Miss Pringle at her drama society. But while Mum is out, the electricity is cut off because she had neglected the bill too. This leaves Helen in a quandary over how to complete her homework, and is so distracted that she stumbles into the road and gets hit by a car. While in a semi-conscious state, she starts rambling about all the problems Superworker has caused for her. The medical personnel are listening and then have a word with Mum. Mum apologises to Helen and promises that things will now be different. She also informs Helen that at the drama society meeting she wised up to Miss Pringle’s conduct.

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Thoughts

This story certainly belongs in the long-established formula of the “jinxed girl” – where events always seem to conspire against the protagonist and everything goes wrong in every episode for her. So at the end of each episode she always ends up in deep trouble and people think she’s jealous, spiteful or whatever, and she becomes more and more unpopular. The formula makes for a story that is more episodic in structure than having a single story arc and the advantage is that it can be spun out as long as necessary. The disadvantage is a risk of stretching credibility too far and readers may begin to think, “Oh come on, nobody can be that unlucky!”

However, Helen suffers a lot more than many protagonists who just have things that keep going wrong for them. She is suffering from bullying too, mostly from people who keep comparing her to her mother and putting her down with unfair and unwarranted criticisms. The conduct of Miss Pringle fits exactly into the bully who uses unreasonable criticism to bully someone: constant put-downs and sarcasms, often using a supposed kernel of truth to justify their comments; making big mountains out of molehills in criticizing even trivial things; blowing things all out of proportion; and there is no pleasing or reasoning with Miss Pringle, regardless of what Helen does. And it’s not just Miss Pringle but all the teachers. Helen can’t seem to be in class for five minutes without some teacher humiliating her in front of the classmates with the criticism, “You’re not at all like your mother!” Helen hears it so much that she feels like screaming.

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No doubt this conduct from the teachers would have fuelled the bullying from Helen’s own classmates, who started the rumour that she was jealous of her mother. It began with their misreading Helen’s unhappy expressions, but there must have been some schoolgirl cattiness as well. Perhaps they were the jealous ones and projecting their jealousy onto Helen.

Protagonists who suffer because their parents are too busy/famous to pay them serious attention is a well-established formula in girls’ comics too. But in this case it’s even more heart-breaking in that the misery comes from charity, of all things. This is because of Mrs. Shaw’s personality as much as the demands of Superworker itself. She is always ready to help and never refuses anyone – but the flip side of that is that she cannot say “no”. So in addition to all the increasing demands of Superworker, Mum gets more and more people who take advantage of her: food, money, free favours, or using her as a dumping ground. All too often we have seen this type of thing in real life: good-natured people who are too nice for their own good, get lumbered and taken advantage of, and don’t stand up for themselves and say “no”.

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Mum in turn starts taking Helen for granted. She uses Helen as a dumping ground for things she hasn’t time for, or expects her to help all the time and doesn’t stop to think that sometimes Helen may not be able to help. Never once does she say, “All right, I’ll get someone else to help.” To others, she never says things like “Sorry, I’ve got too much to do right now, please ask someone else” or “Sorry, I can’t loan you any money, I need my money for other things.” And so she leaves herself open for people to walk all over her. And there certainly never is “I’m giving up Superworker – it’s too much for me and I’m turning into a nervous wreck,” although it is so hectic that it constantly wears Mum out with exhaustion. More than once we see her collapsed in a chair or laid up in bed because of it.

This story certainly is a cut above an average “jinxed girl” story because it draws so much on real life: Bully teachers who constantly put pupils down with nasty, uncalled-for remarks. People who use criticism to bully others. People who can’t say “no” and get turned into doormats because they are not assertive enough. People who overwork themselves, causing their family to suffer as well as themselves. Nasty schoolkids who bully others, very likely because they are jealous. Parents who get so busy with new commitments that they lose sight of other things in life that matter too, including their family. People who take others for granted and make selfish demands on them – even ones who do not see themselves as selfish.

It’s all brought to life with the artwork of Bert Hill. Hill has a very clean style that can produce a lot of panels on one page without it looking cluttered. His style has become linked with several Judy classics, including “The Fish Twins” and “The Girl with the Golden Smile”. Just one thing about the artwork – why does Mrs Shaw’s hair suddenly switch from blond to dark in the final episode, with no explanation possible?

And there is one thing about the story that is really puzzling: throughout the course of this entire story, we never see the Superworker Award itself. What the heck does it look like? Is it a trophy? Is it a medal? Or is it something else? We never know because it never appears. Not once are we shown Mrs Shaw with it, nor does she ever show it to Helen.

True Love

Plot

Polly True has always been a model schoolgirl, but things get awkward when her mother starts a teaching job at her school. It gets even more awkward when romance begins to bloom between Mum and the principal, Mr Love. Polly’s classmates start teasing her over it and accuse her of getting preferential treatment because of it. Polly starts deliberately misbehaving in the hope it will stop the romance and the teasing. But of course it backfires; Polly gets suspended and causes her mother a lot of heartbreak. Polly now realises her mistake, but can she put it right?

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • True Love –  Bunty: #2068 (30 August 1997) – #2078 (8 November 1997)

My School Chum Mum

Plot

Before he goes on an Antarctic trip, Rachel Todd’s father invents an anti-ageing cream. But the cream works too well – when Mum tries it, she reverts to looking like a schoolgirl. She is forced to pass herself off as Rachel’s cousin Emily and attend Rachel’s school – and struggles there because school has changed a lot since her day. Things get even more difficult when social welfare start interfering as they think there is no adult in charge.

Notes

  • Artist: Andy Tew

Appeared

  • My School Chum Mum –  Bunty:  #1897 (21 May 1994) – #1910 (20 August 1994)

The Truth about Mum

Plot

Following an accident, Lucy Morris’s mother starts acting strangely. She is telling tall stories and then has no memory of doing so. Lucy does not want anyone to find out because she fears her mother returning to hospital and their being separated again. But covering up for her mother is causing Lucy problems.

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Notes

Appeared

  • The Truth about Mum –  Mandy: #972 (31 August 1985) – #984 (23 November 1985)

 

The Farmer Wants a Wife

Plot

Sue (renamed Ann in the reprint) and Helen Harrow feel their widower father needs a new wife to help look after the family and farm. So they set out to find a suitable woman, without telling him, but are not having much success.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Farmer Wants a Wife – Mandy: circa #318 (17 February 1973) – (?)
  • Reprinted –  Mandy: #639 (14 April 1979) – #652 (14 July 1979)