Caution: Parental Guidance Advised

Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a lurid tale of my sexploits (such as they are) or put up photos that nobody needs to see. No, this is a post about the start of secondary school and working out how on earth to impart self-motivation and responsibility into the average 11-year old.

My boy has been at his new school for over four weeks now. He has a time-table and the threat of detention which, you would think, would be motivation enough to bring some sort of order into his life and get him started on the path to self-responsibility. 

No.  In four weeks, the Man-Hog has already had to embark on several mercy dashes to school with emergency dinner money, forgotten PE kits and missing bits of homework.  Not a day goes by that the boy doesn’t leave the house to get the school coach (thankfully holed up just across the road from the house) only to return again 10 minutes later when he realises he has forgotten a vital piece of kit. It is like watching the worst case of short-term memory loss in action that I have ever seen. It’s Super-Tween-Dementia and it’s getting worse.

I’ll admit the boy has led a very cushy existence to date. He is terribly cute and I am an incredibly guilty working mum, so having to remind him to clean his teeth, tidy his room and not leave his skateboard at the bottom of the stairs has never seemed a burden. Doing these things for him when he’s forgotten has also been my way, perhaps, of making up for only seeing him an hour a day. And it’s not that he is unwilling or stroppy about doing any of it. He just has to be constantly reminded. In the end, it’s often quicker to do it ourselves.

Aside from all that, I  just thought that at 11 years old there would be signs of him taking some things on board for himself, at least the school stuff. But that is not happening.

I don’t understand it at all. In school he is learning new subjects, taking on new languages and creating plastic key fobs with joy and gusto. All of this new information is being retained and subsequently regurgitated at the dinner table, so I know it is not a learning issue. At weekends, he can remember everything he needs for football training including what time to be there, where the matches are  and the scores for the previous 27 games down to the names of who scored. So it is not some rare form of childhood memory loss per se. What I think we are dealing with here is “selective responsibility” – similar to only hearing what he wants to hear, my boy chooses to take control of only those things that interest and have meaning to him. School bags, uniform, PE kits, homework and feeding himself clearly do not. 

So, do I seek medical advice? Drill a hole directly into his brain and pump it full of omega-soaked fish oils for intelligence? Or discover the best way to apply electrodes to his head? How do I instill some sort of sense of responsibility into this boy? And where do I start? We are talking about an ability to retain certain information shorter than a millisecond. On occasion, our goldfish himself has had to lift the tank-lid to remind the boy what he should be doing.

It’s the most frustrating situation. I veer wildly between gentle lovely Mumminess: subtle clues and invention of clever codes, tick-charts and a plethora of colourful post-it notes dotted around the place;  to very unlovely non-Mumminess: absolute screaming foot-stamping hissy fits when despite all of the preceding help, he still doesn’t get it. Is this payback for treating him like the precious last baby that he is? Is it my own paranoia having dealt with a parent who actually had dementia and my inate fear that it is, somehow, genetic? Or is he, in fact, a Scientologist? Outwardly human but with an alien inside his head being controlled by a higher force? Is Tom Cruise, a vocal proponent of the philosophy, also as disorganised at home? I would like to get Katy Holmes on speakerphone and grill her on her domestic arrangements. If she’s allowed to speak that is – hasn’t she been silent since the birth of Suri or was that only during it?

So here we are on Monday of week five. I deliberately left for work early this morning so I did not end up sinking my teeth into the doorjamb as the bumbling, fumbling forgetfulness started another week’s domination. So far, however, no phone calls home the Man-Hog reports. That could mean one of two things: success at last (please, God, Jesus and all the archangels of domestic bliss let it be so!) or….he’s missed the coach, forgotten where school is and now even where he lives and is still sitting slumped in a fit of befuddlement in the bus shelter opposite.

I don’t think I can stand to know which, in all honesty.

So come on, you wonderful supportive people, what suggestions do you have for correcting a responsibility-starved 11 year-old? Am I being unrealistic expecting it this soon? Do you advocate the carrot or the stick approach? Have I, regardless, child-pampered my way to my own private Hell? Would love to hear any and all advice.




About pigletinapoke

I am a forty-something married mum of two, working in London and commuting a crazy amount of hours so I can enjoy living at the coast at weekends! I'm into netball, jointly coaching and running a successful ladies club. I also sail whenever I get the chance and took part in the Trans-Atlantic leg of the Clipper Round The World yacht race in 2009. I like movies, particularly stuff by Nancy Meyers in whose set designs I want to spend my life. I devour novels, biographies and anything to do with self-improvement. I like to drive fast and live slightly dangerously, attempting to experience everything and everywhere before my time is up. That's me in a nutshell - I hope you enjoy my blog. If you would like to use any of my articles or the pics, I would appreciate very much if you could ask me first. Never known to refuse to date. Thanks!

Posted on October 3, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Bless you…I have absolutely nothing to offer but commiseration! I imagine half of it is down to him being A BOY. Which is again, of no help as you certainly can’t change that. Maybe, if he has a mobile phone, you could find a “Don’t forget it” app??

    Thanks so much for taking part in the BritMums Blogging Prompt. Lovely to be finding new blogs this way. Be sure to come back next week for more inspiration! 😉

    Karin @ BritMums

  2. My y8 boy is still fairly random, his school makes it harder by running 2 timetables, week A and week B. Never build up a memory there. But only 5 lessons a day cf 8 for older, sussed boy. Trouble is the leap, in state educ at least, from y6-y7, is just enormous. Sad thing is you need to be cruel to be kind. If you’re always plugging the gap, or husband rushing in with stuff he’ll never learn. Has to suffer consequences of forgetting…but full marks for leaving in time to rush home ten mins later. F gets bus with micro seconds to spare. Stressy. He’ll get there.

  3. well in my experience, so long as you keep rescuing them, then they will keep abdicating responsibility for self. Mine are 22 and 23 now, both graduated, but a useful word I discovered in their teens was ‘No’.

    They wont mess up too often once they know you mean business – consistancy is the key.

  4. The jump to secondary school is a big one and suddenly the children are expected to be more responsible in almost everything they do. I do agree that he won’t be inclined to try and remember what he needs or when if there’ll always be someone there to jump in. Maybe you could try making a daily check-list for him? Laminate it so you can re-use it and then he can tick things off as he’s packed/done them?
    Please know I offer this advice as a teacher, not a parent and I’ll probably face the same difficulties with my boy as he grows!
    Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I have tried the tick-list approach but he just forgets to tick! Not sure what to do, but inspiration will strike or detention will happen, one or the other!

  5. My daughter in law puts the blame for a (slightly!) lazy husband straight at my door :(. Be firm and say no…………… By the way he’s 37 now!! Lol

  6. He’s a boy – nuff said. I have a 16-yr old girl who is ‘oh so organised’ and a 15-yr old boy who also cannot get out the front door without having to come back for something. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve asked him if he’s got everything ready to go. And homework? ha ha ha ha ha. But he’s an intelligent boy and I know he’s learning – just wish he’s prove it to his teachers…

    Wish I could give you advice, but I haven’t found anything that works yet. Probably not the response you’d like – but at least you know you’re not alone 😀

  7. My Child Two is an organisational Bermuda Triangle but I find it’s only with things like recorder practice which are very low on her list of fun activities. She can memorise the screening times of every episode of 90210 for an entire series with no trouble at all and will turn up early on the sofa for every viewing. Have you tried the dreaded ‘chat’ to see whether he’s having any particular travails at school? I have very limited success with these but I feel it’s always worth a go just in case ….

    • Same! Have never had to chase girl, only boy! Would home tutoring be an extreme reaction to the situation? If only so that we know everything is here – cannot be lost as we haven’t actually left the house? Thx for reading x

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