musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Life ain’t fair…. — August 12, 2020

Life ain’t fair….

When I was a kid and I uttered that oft bemoaned phrase 

“It’s not fair!”  my mum would always reply 

”Life ain’t fair!”

How right she was. As one gets older one realises more and more the fundamentally unfair nature of life. The fairness of who gets the last home made orange lolly from the freezer, you or your slightly younger brother, or who has to clear the table after tea begin to pale into insignificance in the face of the total lack of equality between people’s life experiences. 

My kids are still at the stage where that ice lolly is the most important thing. Even though they are approaching adulthood (in a long and tedious way which seems to involve two steps forward and 20 back) they are still mostly stuck in their own small world.

And generally what a privileged world that is. However it seems that whilst teenagers are able to rationally understand the general unfairness of the experiences of minorities or refugees or those unfortunate enough to be born in countries torn by war, poverty or famine (or all three) they are simultaneously completely and utterly fixated on their own situation. 

And recently we have been playing a lot of the ‘unfairness game’; that is who has been most affected by the current pandemic. 

On the face of it none of my children have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. No one we know has even had it let alone been ill or tragically died. Both their parents still have jobs. There has been food on the table. Love and reassurance a plenty.  Birthday gifts. A staycation. On line school. 

But these things mean nothing to my teenagers. Subconsciously they are probably appreciated although outwardly one would never know. Because these are things they expect. Take for granted. And maybe that is the way it should be. 

What they focus on is what they have lost. Exams, school learning, social lives,  sport, tours, music, the summer following exams and the adventures planned. Pointing out that they have it better than a lot of others does not help. And it feels like a real loss to them. 

And actually it is. These things are not important in the scale of climate change or catastrophe in the Lebanon but they matter to millions of kids.

And I think what they have actually lost most is their sense of security. The sense of continuity. That events will follow a pattern, a time line. And their futures, which seemed mapped out to some extent, are now clouded and unsure even down to whether they will actually go back to school in September or on what basis, or even where.

And all those kids tomorrow and next Thursday getting exam results face an uncertainty no other cohort ever has and I hope (for my next child’s sake) never will. The endless debate and arguing is unsettling and treats these cohorts of children as statistics rather than human beings. 

So actually although in real terms the unfairness of their current situation is small, in relative terms it is huge. 

I/ we need to remember that. 

 

 

I’m Just a Teenage Dirt Bag Baby… — May 28, 2020

I’m Just a Teenage Dirt Bag Baby…

There’s this thing at the moment. Indignation. We are becoming (even more) of a nation of people bristling at the audacity of ‘other people’. Social media is awash with despairing posts outlining the latest transgressions of various ‘other people’. I live in a village. People here are incandescent with the outrageous behaviour of ‘other people’. Never before have I seen that little red, cross face appear so often on Facebook posts as in recent weeks.

Now some ‘other people’ are quite rightly deserving of our incandescent, bristling outrage. Dominic Cummings for instance. Spam that little red face all you like.

But before we condemn whole parts of our society of ‘other people’ to our outrage maybe we should stop and think. And to my mind a group of society which often comes up against a disproportionate amount of these outraged feelings are teenagers.

I live with 16 and 14 year old boys. As well as a nearly 13 year old daughter. I know of what I speak…. I will relay to you how many a conversation goes with my teens. It may help you understand,

About 9 weeks ago everything my teens knew and understood of the world collapsed. One can argue that it did for everyone. Old and young. But bear with me here. Overnight (literally) everything in their lives was curtailed. School, education, exams, social life, romantic life, sport, music, hobbies, holidays, clubs etc.

They got on with it. They toed the line. Mine did not leave the village for 8 weeks. Not even to shop as they were too old to be taken to supermarkets as they could be safely left at home. They settled to home schooling.

Now cast your minds back to the summer you were 16. Really try. Think about what you did and where you went. I can only speak of my own experience and maybe I was very different to the norm but I doubt it. Yes I did my O levels. And I went to school. But I also lived outside. I was at home to eat and sleep and that was about it really. I roamed the streets and countryside in a gang of mates. I went to the cinema. I went shopping. I bought illicit alcohol and drank it in the woods. I had a boyfriend and started on a road of (shall we call it) romantic discovery. I was forced on a 2 week holiday with my parents during which I was miserable and probably a complete pain in the arse.

Maybe you did some of these things. Maybe you worked. Or did more wholesome activities. But I can absolutely guarantee you did not spend 8 weeks with your immediate family and only your immediate family. It is not natural. Teenagers need to push against the rules. Explore the world. Expand their horizons.

Is it any surprise, then, that when we release lock down a little these same teenagers want to meet up?

Mine have stuck by the rules. All of them have met one mate at a time outside. Eldest’s friends want to meet up as a four. He asked our opinion on he and his one mate ‘accidentally’ bumping into his two other mates (well not bumping obviously as they would be 2 meters apart) whilst in the park.

And the easy answer is ‘ it is against the rules so not a good idea’. But, and it is a big but, as he said others are also breaking the rules.

This weekend I spent a lot of time in my front garden. Within one day I saw 2 grandparents walking with 2 grand kids. I saw 2 families with at least 2 young kids each walking together. I also know of people meeting in their gardens. I saw three elderly ladies all sitting on a bench together. All of these things are not ‘allowed’. (Unless they all live together in households. They might. It is unlikely but they might. Even so these sorts of things are happening).

And although ‘allowed’ the media pictures of beaches and beauty spots over the bank holiday do not send a message that many are taking their responsibilities particularly seriously. And do not get me started on Cummings again.

Moreover these things are being done by ‘other people’ who should know better. Who are more at risk than my 16 year old. They are in the parts of society he is being asked to protect by drastically altering his life. ‘Other people’ who should be setting an example to the younger elements.

And actually, yes, I do think teenagers and young people are sacrificing the most. My teens are certainly sacrificing more than me. I had my summers in the sun free of responsibility and with my future laid out before me like a glittering prize. Most of us did. They aren’t and may never. Currently they do not even have the basic developed world right to their education. I would happily sacrifice more to allow them a bit more freedom. Because at the end of the day I am at more risk.

So yes there are ‘gangs’ of teenagers out there. There are also daily transgressions by a whole host of ‘other people’. People who should know better. I doubt many are entirely without sin. If you are please feel free to polish your halo. But be honest.

In the end we all agreed that hanging on a bit longer is the way forward. Trying to stick to the rules helps everyone in the long run. However hard and unfair that may feel. But I am not going to condemn others who feel they cannot tolerate it.

Before we cast stones maybe we should actually stop to think and praise our youth for perhaps one of the most altruistic acts of recent memory.

After all they will be paying for it for the rest of their lives.

Sunday — May 24, 2020

Sunday

Some days are just shit aren’t they. Today I had to deal with my disconsolate daughter who crawled in bed beside me and sobbed for half an hour.

She has been doing ok. Like all of us she is sometimes able to settle into the new routine and deal with the day to day of our new reality.

In fact yesterday was a relatively good day. I drove her to a public park to meet up one on one with a school friend whilst I went to the nearby supermarket. They walked 2m apart round the park. She said they talked about the virus and school and the new age and it seemed to have helped. She hasn’t seen her friends for over 2 months. She is 12.

But today she is again struggling. She is struggling with intrusive thoughts. She is struggling with grief. She is struggling with a sick feeling in her stomach. She is struggling with hours of empty time. She is struggling with loneliness.

She is not alone. There are millions of children out there who feel hopeless even if that’s only some of the time. They are impotent. They cannot help. They are the subject of intense debate. They are carriers and spreaders. They are unwanted; at school, in shops, on the streets, sometimes at home. They cause issues. And don’t think for one minute that they don’t know this.

They are children.

It worries me intensely what all this is doing to our youth and their futures which are all our futures.

And apparently children are resilient. Quite often that is not how it seems.

There is no answer. I have no answers for her. I cannot wave a magic wand. I can’t help make it right.

This virus has stripped me of my ability to do that.

Voracious Hoards..* and ** — April 11, 2020

Voracious Hoards..* and **

* I wanted to entitle this blog Plagues of Locusts but thought that might be a little…off. And although what we are facing globally at the moment does feel, well, biblical my Covid 19 PC alarm went off…Voracious Hoards it is…

**This blog is shamelessly middle class. It is intended as a light hearted read. And in no way detracts from the very real hardships that I know are faced by many, many people at the moment.

So here I sit on Day, actually I do not know what day, of lockdown; pondering. All the days currently merge into one. It is a bit like that time between Christmas and New Year but not as fun and with less twinkly lights. It is especially difficult to tell what day it is as my husband has not stopped working 12 hour plus days for about 3 weeks. Yes he is an essential worker. But you won’t be clapping for him on Thursdays because he is (whispers) a banker and so will probably at some point be blamed for the pandemic. So far it is bats, pangolins, the entirety of China. I am sure banks, some of whom are mostly owned by the tax payer (every article you read about banks says that…journalists have it on auto type…they click their £ symbol to type it automatically), will finally be found to blame. As he has hardly left our spare room for 3 weeks (once I had assembled the hastily ordered desk and chair and removed the double bed which now sits on our drive way in pieces, unsold due to lockdown, making us look like weirdos to the not inconsiderable number of people now walking by daily) the days are bleeding into each other. I actually do know it is Friday today because it is Good Friday. And therefore a bank holiday although this year it ain’t.

Anyway as I was saying we are on Day unknown of the lockdown. And mostly during these few weeks I have been focussed on food.

I own 2 teenage boys. Quite what I thought I was doing having 2 sons 18 months apart is beyond me now. And then I thought I would throw in a daughter too.

I can also tell you that teenage boys are basically eating machines. They open the fridge, inhale and £150 of food disappears.

In normal circumstances I can cope. School picks up a meal a day. They take snacks in that resemble complete packed lunches for break time. They eat a cooked meal at school (although the portions are apparently scandalous) . Then I do another cooked meal for tea and then they shovel cereal down until bed time.

When the food shortages hit and were coupled with the request to shop only infrequently I turned into a complete food control freak.

I can now hear the opening of a fridge from 3 rooms away. The rustle of a chocolate bar from the back garden. The clinking of milk bottle on cereal bowl from half way through my walk round the village. I can be heard shouting repeatedly,

“Please take some grapes off the bunch instead of standing at the fridge shovelling in a whole punnet almost absent mindedly”.

“Let that meal register before you eat anything else”.

“What happened to the 18 chocolate bars I bought yesterday?”

“How can you be hungry again.”

“Put your hands up and back away from the biscuit tin, slowly…I said slowly…no sudden moves”

Etc, etc, etc.

I now pack up the snacks they would have taken to school and ban all other snacks from being consumed. In case you think this is unfair Eldest has the following ‘snack’ daily at break time:

Apple, banana, 4 mini sausage rolls, bag of crisps, dried apricots, chocolate bar…I eat less for a pack up.

Yesterday for breakfast he ate; a fried egg and slice of toast, a huge bowl full of fruit with yogurt, a bowl of porridge and a bowl of granola.

He was back in the snack bag in an hour.

I currently spend my life planning, queuing, shopping, cooking and clearing up food. Making other food out of any food leftovers (and here I mean carcasses and bones not actual food). Scouring recipe books for new ideas. Stopping people eating the wrong food on the wrong day. Carrying out fridge patrol. Cooking meals from scratch twice a day which linger on plates for around 5 minutes (except the butter nut squash and quinoa chilli that lingered on plates a lot longer…). Trying to find eggs. Trying to find flour. Trying to find flour and eggs together.

And to make matters worse I detest cooking. I know a lot of you out there are relishing the time to experiment in the kitchen whipping up all sorts of gourmet meals. I am not. Cooking is more of a large scale and unwelcome logistical exercise here. No fun is had I can tell you.

I do like to bake and had vague ideas of working my way through the Mary Berry book I got at Christmas. But I refer you to my earlier comment viz lack of flour. Or eggs. Or both.

To start with I couldn’t even buy my normal weekly food shop due to restrictions. I buy 4 packs of 6 yogurts a week to last a few days. Every time we have beans on toast for lunch we use 4 cans. I am not stock piling buying these amounts of food. But I was not allowed to buy such vast quantities.

Now with restrictions mostly lifted I struggle to physicslly wheel such amounts round the supermarket. I no longer shop on line saving those slots for self isolaters and the vulnerable. I cannot shop weekly, dear government, as I literally cannot fit the amount of food in a trolley or push it whilst maintaining a safe distance in the aisles. If only I could take a teenager to help. But I cant

My food bill has almost doubled. Luckily I am not paying for school meals and my husband is not spending his daily coffee, porridge & sandwich money at London prices so we are probably no worse off.

So if you want to know why supermarket supply cannot keep up with demand that will be all the teenage boys at home eating their way through the stock.

And I really really want to know where all that food that should have gone to schools and works canteens and hotels and bars and restaurants has gone? I don’t care if the beans are in 2kg tins. That would do around one meal here. Send a few dozen my way. Please.

Sock it to them! — October 17, 2019

Sock it to them!

So for those of you not in the know my house is full of hormones. A swirling maelstrom of hormones. A tornado of ‘-ones’ and ‘-ens’ rampaging through our lives for the most part unchecked blundering into feelings and harmony and those envisaged moments of blissful family life such as a quiet board game by the fire or a bracing walk in the countryside with disastrous consequences.

An awful lot of it is testosterone, two thirds of which is emergent and not totally under control or assimilated into shocked bodies. And a third of which is newly prompted into action by the other two thirds. There is a lot of posturing, chest beating, banging of heads and egos and territory marking going on.

There is also some gradually rising oestrogen and some gradually reducing oestrogen as if there is only so much available for our family and Youngest is stealing mine.

It’s a melting pot. On some days I swear the hormones are tangible like some sort of ominous, heavy Victorian smog where beasts lurk around every corner.

I have developed a maxim in order to help me navigate this swirling maelstrom. And that maxim is ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’…

And this basically entails ‘picking my battles’…

So yes it is infuriating that Eldest leaves a bowl every morning in the front room recently bereft of cereal but unable to find its way into the dishwasher. And yes on some days I take a picture of that bowl and Whatsapp it to him at school. With an ironic Smilie. But most days I don’t. For instance if Eldest has a particularly difficult Biology test in period 1 or is recovering from being pummeled physically and metaphorically in a rugby match the previous evening.

I have some non negotiables such as physical violence. I never let that slide. Disrespect to adults. Again a non negotiable. Kindness to siblings and friends. Again important, although not always achieved in the case of siblings- but I pick that battle I go into war over it. Using fingers to eat chips? Yep annoying. But not the end of the world. Not a battle to fight if Youngest is screamingly nervous about a football trial.

I have 3 teenagers/ pre teens. School has, well, several hundred. The melting pot has metamorphosed into a huge crucible on the smelting yard floor. And yet school seems to sweat the small stuff.

Maybe there is a thought process that says small stuff under control means big stuff follows. And they are afraid of anarchy. Or maybe they are all control freaks…

Here is my pet ‘small stuff’ hate. Socks. School is cracking down on socks. Socks must be black under black trousers. All mine wear black trousers including Youngest who will no longer wear a skirt after being told off in Year 7 for wearing a Junior School skirt to Senior school. Another ‘small stuff’ rant I am quite willing and able to have if you have the time? You do? Excellent.

In Junior school skirts are elasticated and flared. They make moving around the playground easy. Especially if one has a penchant for playing football. Youngest had such a skirt. It still fitted (and was within the regulation one inch of her knees). I am eco friendly. And tight. So I did not buy her a new Senior school skirt. Which are straight, have no waist adjustments and prevent ease of movement until they are a darn site higher than the regulation one inch maximum above the knee.

She got into trouble. Which if you know Youngest at all you will know throws her off for days.

I am not sure why Junior school skirts are so frowned upon. It has been suggested it is because they are easier to ‘look up’. Which in turn suggests to me a stern word about the ‘big stuff’ is required with all males in school. But I think it is probably just a ‘small stuff’ battle again. So Youngest is in trousers.

Any way back to socks. The school has a thing about ‘business attire’. I think black socks come under this. I believe this is wrong on a number of levels.

One: not all children (and lets face it we are dealing with children here) aspire to ‘go into business’. What does that even mean? Investment banking? Are we saying that to make it in the world one needs to conform? Really? In an era where employers are crying out for creativity and original, critical and higher level thinking?

Two: business attire is not what it was. My husband works in a traditional business. He now has to hot desk. People wear shorts. He, the epitome of respectability and up tightness, has started wearing chinos and an open collared shirt to work. To be honest it shocked me. But this is how the world is changing. For the better. Otherwise we would all still be wearing bowler hats.

Three: I often see teachers at the school not in ‘business attire’. For instance tie and jacket less in the heat. And before the ‘summer uniform’ rule has been invoked. Shock. If you are going to enforce a banal rule all those in that institution need to up hold that rule. Or it isn’t a rule.

Four: artists should be artists, dramatists should be dramatists, musicians should be musicians. Athletes should be sweaty. Engineers should be oily. Etc. My son is an artist and a musician and a sports player and a biologist and a historian. Only some of those work well in a suit and tie.

Leaving all that aside I can get my head around school uniform. It levels people. It prevents clothing shaming. It is cheaper if you have boys and do not have to fork out £25 per blouse and can bulk buy from Primark.

But I cannot get my head round the plain black socks. It is so not up there in the ‘battles we should be having’ stakes. Socks are an easy way to express ones personality without being too ‘out there’. Socks allow one’s hormonal teenagers a frisson of rebellion without hurting a soul. (Ha ha). Socks are fun. Socks pose no danger to anyone, not in a lab or a workshop or on a pitch. They make excellent stocking fillers. I need those.

So I turn a blind eye to my children’s sock choices. I may go so far as to say something to school if they get into trouble over their socks. I actually buy them fun socks. It’s a thing we have.

So there you have it. I think school should pick its battles. And not sweat those socks. There is enough sweat in all those socks already. And any way have you ever tried matching 3 pairs of almost identical black socks that only vary, slightly but crucially, in size once they have been through the washer? Thought not.

It Drives Me Crazy… — January 27, 2019

It Drives Me Crazy…

 

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I have wanted to write this post for a while but never really knew how to start. I still don’t really so I guess I am going to have to hold my nose and just jump in…

Bringing up three kids was never going to be easy. Parenting isn’t easy full stop however many you have. Over the last few years parenting mine has been particularly difficult. They are growing up, hormonal, teenage. All those cliches.

But in addition to that 2 of them have suffered from and still do suffer from mental health issues.

I am not unusual. The statistics surrounding the numbers of children and teenagers suffering in this way is frankly frightening. Regardless of the reasons (and they are no doubt multidudinous) we are, in this country, in the midst of an epidemic of youth mental illness. Statistics published recently state that 10% of 5 to 16 year olds suffer from mental health issues. That is three children in every average sized school classroom.

And yet the help out there is woeful. Totally woeful.

The NHS can’t or won’t provide anywhere near sufficient resources to tackle the issue. 75% of those suffering have not had any help at all and on average it takes 10 years to get the treatment young people need, when usually their issues have brought them to a crisis point.

Over stretched NHS resources send children away because their self harm isn’t bad enough, or they haven’t yet attempted suicide enough times, or they are not painfully thin enough. That is the reality of mental illness provision in England today. That is real. That happens to young people every day.

I struggle to understand how, as a society, we find it acceptable to not provide proper NHS support for the around 22% of fourteen year old girls who self harm for instance. Whether that’s better research into causes, treating people with the issue or providing preventative care.

I wonder how many headlines there would be if 22% of 14 year old girls suffered from cancer and nothing was done? Or indeed they were turned away by the NHS until their cancer was ‘bad enough’ as so often happens to those with mental illness.

The spotlight on mental health has got a little brighter in recent years with the input of royalty and sufferers speaking out but funding for the area is shockingly poor. Not only in the NHS but also in the charity sector. Research is pitiful. Suicide is the single biggest cause of death in both males and females between that ages of 20 and 34 and three quarters of those people will have started with mental ill health in childhood. Research into mental health currently runs at 6% of the UK’s health research funding and is around £8 per sufferer per year as opposed to £178 per cancer sufferer and £110 per dementia sufferer…not even in the same league. Of this pitiful amount less than 30% goes into children’s mental health research despite 75% of cases starting in childhood.

We donate and run and walk and put on national events on a huge scale for other types of disease. But mental illness seems not to have gathered such a following. It isn’t well publicised. It isn’t high profile. It isn’t big business. It is just a canker in our society which is still brushed under the carpet. Or worse not believed in.

I can tell you categorically that mental illness is real. It ruins lives. In an on going way. Not only for the sufferer but also for their families.

Who wants to hear their teenage son decide he would be better off dead than deal with the noise in his head a moment longer? Who would not believe that? Or want to help?

We were lucky. In our area there is a charity, CHUMS, which provided both my children with 4 hours of counselling (all they can afford to provide per child) and helped me learn to help them myself. Without them there would have been no way to get my children help; they were simply not ‘ill enough’ to get NHS treatment. Those 4 hours were precious. It hardly felt like we touched the surface. But still they were four hours that got us from the edge of cliff and back to a path we could manage, albeit a precarious one.

Without it I would have been left in the same boat as most families in the UK with children with mental health issues. Not being able to help my child out of their pain and anguish. Not knowing what to say. Feeling powerless to help my teenager deal with his totally crippling stress, anxiety and rituals which were literally ruining his life. The impotence I felt at times would have continued to overwhelm me.

Thanks to CHUMS he and I have some idea how to deal with his issues. It is still a daily and on going battle which shouldn’t be underestimated. And we are not alone.

To say ‘Thank you’ that same son is cycling a Coast to Coast 140 mile route over 3 days at Easter to raise money for that charity which I can honestly say saved his life.

He is trying to raise £1000. Which is a relatively a small amount but it’s a struggle. We are hoping to get there.

If you are reading this and can help with a donation, however small, please go to his Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Matthew-Harrison21 where you can read his story in his own words.

He and I and other families will be very grateful.

Thanks.

The Beginning of the End… — December 3, 2018

The Beginning of the End…

 

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And so the inevitable has happened. Eldest has acquired a girlfriend.

I really don’t know how I feel about it. At all.

On the one hand I am pleased for him. I have always maintained that he would benefit hugely from a close relationship which isn’t founded on taking the mickey or benching or rolling around in mud… and that’s just his siblings. His friendships with his male peers are even weirder…

Eldest is a deep thinker. Immensely caring. Thoughtful. He has a lot to offer and a lot to gain from a close friendship with a girl.

But on the otherhand it feels like the beginning of the end.

My time as the main female in his life is in its death throws. I know it happens to us all. I just wasn’t ready yet to have a rival for all that love and affection.

Being the mother of boys is an immense privilege. They learn how to treat women from you. They learn to understand how we tick. They worship you. When they are little they run to you in a way daughters don’t. It seems odd but that is how it has always been with mine.

And letting go even ever so slightly hurts. Just a little bit, but it hurts.

So make the most of those hugs and kisses and special times when warm fuzzy heads nestle in your arms and sticky hands clasp at yours for before you know it they are  6 feet tall and you have to stand on tiptoe to steal an occasional kiss.

My beautiful boy. Let’s hope I have equipped you to be the best boyfriend you can be. You are certainly a wonderful son.

Love Mum x

Inspirational… — March 19, 2018

Inspirational…

 

Four years ago (when she was a tiny seven year old in Year 3) Youngest achieved a surprise victory in the Year 3 and 4 House Cross Country race at her school.

Well it was a surprise to us, maybe not to her.

We had no idea she could run. She has always been fit by dint of the amount of team sport she plays but we had not seen her run in a competitive race before.  At her previous school Sport’s Day races had involved bean bags and hoops.

The House Cross Country race is an annual mass start affair with the younger Years 3 & 4 racing over about 2k and the older Years 5 and 6 running around 3k. The whole school running together. From the best runners to those that struggle. All take part and give it a shot. Quite impressive.

Following her victory and liking the weight of the gold medal Youngest decided to set out to win all four of the races that she would take part in during her time in the Junior school. I distinctly remember her telling me as much on our way home in the car.

This seemed to me like difficult personal goal for a 7 year old. Leaving out the actual running even the time frame was daunting. Four years. And the fact that she didn’t actually ‘know’ how to run.

So I told her it would be tough. I told her that in Year 5 especially when she would have to race against the older and bigger children in Year 6 and over the longer 3k distance, it would be a tall order.

I tried to manage her expectations.

I shouldn’t have.

Today she achieved her goal with a fourth marvellous win in her last race in the Junior school. Not only winning the girls’ race but coming 5th overall against all the Year 5 and 6 boys too.

Mission accomplished.

My daughter never fails to amaze me with her grit and determination.

She doesn’t like running. She doesn’t like the time in her own head. Which can be a scary place. And yet she has dragged herself off to Park runs when time allowed between her other sport to hone her running skills.

Since that first year the weight of expectation has been heavy. Her own fear of failure huge. She is sick with nerves beforehand.

She puts everything out there on the field.

Runs against bigger and older children.

Trains. Tries. Visualises.

This is why I believe she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Talent is a small part of the picture.

Desire is a some of the battle.

Hard work is everything else.

My daughter is quite simply inspirational.

Eldest… — January 28, 2018

Eldest…

So there is likely to follow an unashamedly schmaltzy and over the top piece about my son. I am allowed. Just this once.

Soon my first born son turns 14. In fact next Tuesday.

So what can I say about Eldest?

That he is becoming a lovely young man. Standing nearly six feet tall. Strong and handsome. And that this is hard to believe. It seems like yesterday that he was a babe in my arms. A 14 month old learning to walk with a sock in his mouth. A toddler with a sturdy, determined gait caring for his new brother. A pre schooler quiet and shy. A small boy learning to ride a bike and play football, playing his first notes on the piano, making friends, learning to read and write. A ten year old struck down by appendicitis. A young man changing schools and bravely starting over.

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That he is empathic and friendly, unhappy when anyone is left out, able to get along with different ‘sets’ of friends.

That despite the onslaught of hormones and puberty he has on the whole remained respectful and kind and fun to spend time with.

That he is still a mummy’s boy. Happy to have a kiss goodbye (surreptitiously) in the school car park. Snuggle on the sofa and accept bedtime hugs.

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That he likes Vera. And Batman. And Arrow. And will bore to death anyone who happens to be in ear shot about Marvel films.

That he is a fiercely loyal sibling. Despite the usual fracas and bickering underneath he ‘gets’ his brother and sister. He coaches his sister in football. Wrestles with his brother. Bosses them around far too much. Loves them.

That he loves history. Has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the World Wars. Likes museums and art galleries.

That he is a dedicated and talented musician. Playing the cello with feeling and passion. Practising every day to meet his own very high standards. Playing in groups and performing in shows despite crippling nerves.

That he is his own worst critic. Nothing is ever ‘good enough’.

That he has always been the inventor of games and the ringleader in playtime. From home made trebuchets, to duvet surfing, to extreme hot wheels.

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That he reminds me of me.

That he likes to cook. Although time does not allow this as much as it should. That we still laugh about the carrot and orange soup and the lemon ‘flop’ meringue pie.

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That he has an amazing work ethic. In every area of life. Always tries his best. Listens and learns.

That he is an artist. With creative ideas and talent to match. Taking himself upstairs to draw and producing art to be proud of.

That he takes perceived criticism much too much to heart and forgets all the praise and accolades and prizes.

That he is a team player. Loving his rugby and hockey. Working hard to get onto and stay in the team. Not a monopoliser of the limelight. But quietly doing his bit. A vital team member.

That he always notices. My new hair cut. New clothes. That he will call and chat to his grandma with love and affection. That he makes you feel appreciated. That he buys thoughtful gifts (except for that sabre toothed tiger).

That, although serious and on occasion earnest, he can be silly and loud and exuberant. Not as much as I would like. That when he smiles the sun comes out.

That he has always been an eating machine. And that recently he has found the turbo button.

That he loves the outdoors. Camping and cycling and Scouting and mud. Can map read (ish), start fires, hike, orienteer, climb. That he is adventurous; facing his fears after a thorough risk assessment of course.

That he worries too much. About making the grade. Being good enough. Hitting some ‘ideal’ of what achievement is about. Driving himself to extremes.

When really he has always been better than good enough. He has always been amazing. And always will be.

Love you son. Just as you are.

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Happy Birthday!

Mummy

x

And…. — October 6, 2017

And….

grammar

So today I found myself doing this.

Sitting in the car on my driveway pretending that dropping my daughter at football had taken longer than it had. Why? I hear you ask. Well I will tell you.

I was avoiding homework. Not mine you understand. My son’s. Middlest’s to be precise.

I find myself mystified at his English homework. As does he. To be honest I understand more about his Spanish homework than I do about his English and I do not speak a word of Spanish.

Facebook friends will know that yesterday Middlest prepared for his upcoming Spanish speaking test which requires him to discuss someone else and then himself. He shared what he had written and I actually understood a fair proportion of it just because I have absorbed a fair amount of Spanish via a process of osmosis (interestingly Eldest has been studying osmosis in Biology so now he gets the metaphor) during the 3 years one or other of my children (at the moment two of them but soon all three) have been learning the language.

For instance I understood the following:-

Se llama Homer y es amarillo y gordo. A Homer le gusta la hamburgessas y porjo. En su tiempo libre Homer baila con su amigo Mo, tambien Homer le gusta bebe cerveza.

Well I understood it once I remembered amarillo was ‘yellow’ (and not a destination in a song about Marie) and had googled ‘cerveza’. If you don’t have rudimentary Spanish there is a translation below. Apologies to any Spanish speaking readers- this is my son’s second full year of Spanish so I can not vouch for the accuracy of the passage but I think he gets the general gist across although his grammar may be a bit off.

And that, my friends, is where our problems really begin. Middlest has been told today of a certain number of English grammar tasks that he needs to complete on a program called ‘Doddle’.

I cannot begin to explain to you how misnamed this program is. There is literally nothing we have come across on Doddle that is in any way a doddle. Last year it was some incomprehensible biology. I didn’t do biology beyond year 9. When I was at school one could drop a science and spend one’s time doing more fun and interesting lessons like Art. This was not considered a ‘bad thing’. Dropping science is now considered a ‘bad thing’. It is no longer possible in the English school system to avoid biology and all its  difficult spellings.

I could rant on for hours about how wrong I think this is. And I speak here as a degree level chemist offered PhD placements (I didn’t take one, I was sick of being poor and smelling like a combination of a morgue and a dodgy, unemptied waste bin) who didn’t get beyond human reproduction in biology. I did Art and Music instead and had a lovely little break in my timetable when I could indulge my creativity. But, no, now biology is compulsory and I don’t even think they get to cut anything up.

Earlier Eldest wanted to run past me what a palisade cell does. It was all I could do not to bolt for the hills screaming silently. Instead I just mashed the potatoes a bit harder and tried to look vaguely intelligent. I understand what osmosis is but I don’t want a detailed account. I don’t need it for my metaphor.

Anyway where was I. Ah yes English grammar. Doddle.

So before leaving to take Youngest to football Middlest had stumbled his way through a section on apostrophes (not apostrophe’s people just not).

Now I get apostrophes. I was taught that at school. Although I have to say that I was only actually sure about it’s and its last year when I finally made myself learn the difference. Now I write a bit for public consumption it seemed important. It’s really not OK to spell its/ it’s wrong by getting its apostrophe in the wrong place is it?

But still generally I understand apostrophes and I see the relevance of teaching a new generation that it isn’t OK to tell someone on Facebook ‘your OK, chin up’ really it isn’t.

He managed the 90% pass mark but only because I taught him the rules as he went along. That’s the thing about this Doddle. It’s not very good as a teaching method as it doesn’t actually teach anything unless you get the question wrong. Faced with a 90% pass mark and not wishing to spend an hour on the uses of one punctuation mark it seemed easier to teach it to him myself rather than him having to take the test again.

Then he decided to look at Connectives and Conjunctions.

Oh my actual god.

I was lost on the first page. The difference between them anyone? No anyone? I mean it shout if you know. I didn’t and I still don’t.

The test then went on to ask about some other sorts of connectives/ conjunctions which involved words like sub-ordinate and co-ordinate and adverbial and something else-ial and blah blah blah-ial and the punctuation associated with each.

Suffice to say I have not in all my 47 years absorbed any such information by osmosis.

The test did not enlighten us much. He did not achieve the pass mark. And if he sat it again I am not sure he would next time. I certainly wouldn’t have passed it. I got that same glazed over feeling I got when I was faced with that palisade cell earlier.

Also I am not sure that there is a point in this knowledge. I write a lot and I may not be the best writer in the world (for I am overly fond of ellipses (and indeed subordinate clauses)) but I can certainly use at least three connectives/ conjunctions, whether adverbial or of time and place, in a sentence without being able to name them.

I believe I just have.

It is possible that there are grammar nerds and English teachers out there who gleefully spend their spare time underlining the different sorts of connectives/ conjunctions in their favourite work of literature with different coloured Sharpies. But I doubt it. The grammar nerds would no doubt prefer to trawl Facebook calling out abusers of the apostrophe. And those English teachers would probably prefer to spend their allotted curriculum time discussing those works of literature with their students. Which is most likely why this drivel has been set as homework.

So cheers English department. I told Middlest to leave his score as it was. And to explain to anyone who has a problem with that that he still does not understand it. But that he can use connectives/ conjunctions in his own writing. Quite adequately.

Like Middlest said, “It’s just the word ‘and’ at the end of the day!”

Spanish translation

His name is Homer and he’s yellow and fat. Homer likes hamburgers and pork. In his spare time Homer dances with his friend Mo, Homer also likes to drink beer.

 

 

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