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School’s OUT???

The Teen Pig has finished school. Finished. Done. Finito. I’m still reeling with the shock of it. Other than a quick drive-by for an exam or two, school has officially ended. I feel like someone came along and dumped my impending old age on my doorstep without even the courtesy of a cheery note. When did this kid get so big? How is she almost ready to face the world of work and start paying her own outrageous mobile phone bill? Time has crept up and found me hopelessly unprepared for such adulthood in the house.

To be fair, the kid is going on to college for a couple of years, so I’m not in my dotage and slippers just yet. Around our part of the country, the Year 11s have to depart school and head to specific Sixth Form Colleges. Hers happens to have spawned such famous worthies as Stella McCartney, Eddie Izzard and Jo Brand. Which is fitting as the Teen is well-dressed, a little bit camp (for a girl) and always very funny. I wish her and all the other Year 11s the very best of luck as they finish those final exams and forge ahead into a summer of utter sloth before the seriousness of A Levels begins in September. Here are a few pics of their last day in which they were actively encouraged to dress up and behave like the toddlers I clearly still think they are.

Costumes included: zombies, traffic cones, cupcakes, the entire Jamaican bobsleigh team and a whole gaggle of Where’s Wally girls – all running amok on school property. An excellent end to a defining era.

The six Avatar girls, including the Teen, took the prize for the Best Costume at the Dress Up Day. Impressive make-up and kudos for sporting lycra all day during the British summer.

Braver still however is George here, courageously rocking the Sucker Punch look and not even in an ironic way.

The Black and White Swans were out to show the others how to strut – en pointe no less! And no, that’s not camera red eye. Such was Hannah’s commitment to the theme, she wore red contact lenses for the day!

A tearful goodbye to the Form Teacher they have had for the past five years.  I’m sure his classroom will be a whole lot quieter now! I can almost feel his shoulders relaxing.

Has anyone noticed that my Teen has her mouth open in every picture? I told you she was noisy. This one……well, aaaaggghhh! to you to.

And finally….a group shot of some of the friends forever at the after party. You go guys – good luck in whatever it is you are going on to. Make Mummy proud!

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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.

 

 

Kiss Me Baby…..

 

I was on a train to London today with the 15 year-old and we somehow got to talking about kissing. This was sparked by the recent re-run of Casino Royale, in which Daniel Craig kisses his co-star in a disturbingly droopy-bottom-lipped fashion.  We have been taking the mickey out of him ever since, and have sent notes of condolence to Rachel Weisz as she now has this to look forward to every day forever or at least until they get sick of sharing LA mansions together.  It’s difficult to describe how droopy his lip is when in the kiss-zone, but if you watch him, you’ll see exactly what we mean. It’s a little bit like a thick wedge of sashimi coming straight at you. Or a huge slice of beef tomato. Ugh.

But to be fair to Daniel, he is not alone. There are other celebrity crap-kissers out there. Colin Firth – not only does he have trouble speaking the King’s English, but he cannot unpurse his lips enough to impart any passion on the pouting popsies of his co-stars. In the Bridget Jones films, he sort of pecks at Renee Zellweger like a parrot. Far more passion-killing than any big pants I’ve ever donned. Russell Crowe is another. He wetly smothers his leading ladies in a Granny-lick lather. Thanks, Russ, but I’ve already had a shower today and if I wanted that much tongue I’d buy a giraffe. Then there’s poor old Liam Neeson. Yes, he has had some personal tragedy. But this does not excuse his inability to snog on screen. Seriously.

So the girl and I decided on a new business idea: School for Kissers. Designed to help all those face-suckers, parrot-peckers, lip-biters, lick-merchants, tongue-chokers and nose-squashed-until-you-can’t-breathers. Because these boys need some serious help. The girl-child can tell this already and she’s only 15.  If memory serves, it is one of the things she should most look forward to when thinking about future potential boyfriends, meantime spending time practicing on a hand or pillow. It will be an unfortunate life lesson for her (like us all) to discover that some boys just have no kissing clue.

There are a myriad of dating websites out there that hook men and women together based on compatibility, attraction etc. But not one that teaches these men how to kiss once they have hooked up that soul-match. THAT’s why their relationships don’t work! It’s not incompatibility, but unabletokissability. A problem that’s been swept under the carpet for too many years, and now we at Piglet World have decided to bring it out into the open, approach Duncan Bannatyne for some dragon funding for classroom space and lip balm (£50,000 for 10% of the business and free lessons because he looks like a prime candidate) so we can help these chaps out.

There are men out there to be admired, of course. Mel Gibson, whether you like his politics or not, can deliver a good smooch. As can Hugh Grant – although I have it on reliable authority that he is in fact a right grumpy sod. Keanu Reeves is a perfect gentleman with a kiss to match. He just needs a quick back, sack and crack and he’d be heaven in a human.

So taking these as our role models, we will be planning our lessons, making YouTube video demonstrations and searching for suitable teachers to impart our wisdom. Bad kissers need not apply. Nor anyone with fag or coffee breath.

Anyone got a particularly bad kisser in their midst? Either leave him, or send him along. Because, Men of the World, it’s neither clever or funny to commit Grevious Bodily Lip.

We’ve Only Just Begun…

With only just over a week to go until the Teen-Tween Two start back to school, I have been musing on what we will miss about having children at primary school now that this phase of their development has ended. At the end of term back in July, my boy was so happy simply to be leaving that we didn’t dwell on what we might all miss about this institution we have been a part of for 8 years or more.

So I asked him. Here are his answers:

1. Friends that would be going to other schools and not joining him at his new school. This is an interesting one: kids have an uncanny ability to compartmentalise to a much higher degree than we mere adults. I never understood gang mentality until I applied it to this type of situation: quite baldly, if a friend is not going to my son’s school, then he’s no longer much of a friend and is not in his new “gang” which now becomes those at his new school. Despite modern technology and easy access via social networking etc., there is not a cat in hell’s chance that he will stay in touch with people he doesn’t see every day. Harsh, but true. If I applied that basis to my own life, I might never see my far-flung scattered family ever again!

2. Some of the teachers. He will miss his class teacher from Year 6, whom he loved despite the odd clash of personalities, and one or two others. Interestingly not all the teachers and, in particular, not his head teacher or one of the teaching assistant’s in his class. His aversion to some of the most influential adults in his life cannot be undone. He is adamant that he does not like them, they are not very nice people and in the case of the teaching assistant (aka “Monster”), should be kept as far away from children as is humanly possible. She, along with strange and repugnant school lunches, are high on his list of things NOT to miss about school.

3. Playtimes. Even before he has started, my boy has already garnered that playtimes at secondary school will not be the rough and tumble, football playing mayhem of his former schooldays. He manages an impressive lip-curl when he says: “S’pose we’ll be, like, talking and stuff.” Clearly talking is up there with being smeared with Bovril and licked by French poodles in terms of interesting things to do with his playtime. He will miss the greater emphasis on play at primary as much as anything: secondary school being focused on academic endeavour rather than whether you can get seven boys to fall backward in domino fashion for a full 15 minutes without a trip to A&E.

At this point, the boy’s attention span was exhausted and he needed to rest and recuperate from such a looooooong intense discussion with a grown-up. Bless him. So I turned my attention to what we, the parentals, might miss about not darkening the doors of primary school any more. Here’s our, rather more sarcastic, version:

1. Newsletters from the school. Yes, we will miss those informative missives delivered in a crumpled heap via the primary book bag each week. How will we function if not being reminded 52 weeks of the year about head-lice, the benefits of walking to school (which we do already) and the importance of reading 3 times a week (which we do much more than)? The answer is absolutely bloody fine, thanks. We have not yet felt the beginnings of early on-set Alzheimer’s nor do we have attention-deficit syndrome. So why the need to tell us the same thing week in, week out? Sometimes, when there is a different heading on the page, my husband and I clutch each other in excitement at this new world opening up in front of our eyes. Sadly, it is usually to announce that not only are there head-lice but also measles, chicken-pox and bubonic plague in the school. The let-down is immense.

2. Good Work Assemblies. Tragic will be the mornings every 10 weeks when we do not have to attend school to watch our children shuffle recalcitrantly to the front of the hall and mumble a few pre-prepared words from a card about a topic in which they have not had the slightest interest. One particularly memorable one was when the then 9 year-old boys had to explain how they had put together a country dancing sequence. They would honestly rather have had their pants pulled down in the front of the school, it could not have been more embarrassing. Fire-red cheeks and woeful tones of voice will haunt me forever having watched those poor lads hop about Munchkin-stylie in front of all the parents: definitely one to forget. While the girls probably relished such a topic, I fear it may have damaged the chaps for life. Oh – and the heat. I will miss the heat of being packed snugly next to 30 other sets of parents on chairs designed to accommodate buttocks much smaller than mine. I’m practically engaged to one or two of the other parents having shared such sweaty, intense intimacy.

3. Money. Yes, we are wondering what to do with all the extra money we will now have at our disposal as we are not gleefully filling the school coffers with cash. Without exception, not a week went by in 8 years when we weren’t asked to contribute towards, sponsor, give generously or just plain get your cash out for something that damn school needed. It was money with menaces. Not to mention the looks we got if we deigned to put a couple of tins of tomato soup in the basket for Harvest Festival. Clearly, I was supposed to make something organic with produce from the local farm shop at great expense to myself. Well, that didn’t happen. Like EVER.

Most interesting of all, perhaps, were the things the boy is looking forward to at the new school:

  • Learning new subjects: he is EXCITED about learning German, has looked up fab new swear words in his dictionary already. I have started announcing “Gott in Himmel!” at the state of his room in the mornings, just to practice;
  • New friends and joining up with friends he already has through football club that will be at his new, much larger school;
  • Exotic school trips: he is already talking about going to Kenya although seems to have an irrational belief that he will not only contract malaria, but will in fact die from it. In Africa. Alone.

This is heartening stuff giving me hope that the transition will not be too traumatic. As for us, the thing we will really miss most about primary school is the primary school age children themselves. For better or worse, what we have here now are young adults in the making. Which begs the real question du jour: when are my husband and I planning to grow up?

Photo credit: irvinehousingblog.com

“It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it…”

Life is rushing by me far too fast. I want the journey to slow down a bit so I can enjoy every minute and not miss a thing.

This headlong dash through the years has been thrown into panicky relief today as my boy went off to his secondary school for the first of three “taster” days to get him used to that brave new world.

Having managed to avoid running screaming through the village yelling “No! No! Leave him be! For Pete’s sake, he’s only a baby!” and other such embarrassments, I tried to understand why I was feeling so – well – bereft is the only word I can think of.

Don’t get me wrong – I think the taster days are a great idea but I’m also hoping they don’t take the excitement away from his September start. Butterfly tummies are de rigeur along with the ill-fitting new blazer aren’t they? He’ll hit the ground running in September and that’s a good thing. So the school he is going to is not the problem.

No, I have a confession to make. Simply put – I don’t want him to grow up. Is that a terrible thing to say? Maybe, but it’s true.

It’s very strange because I didn’t, and don’t, feel that way about my girl. She is almost at womanhood now and I’ve loved watching her blossom from a skinny, gap-toothed stick insect to the lovely young almost-woman she is now. I didn’t panic at puberty with her – I embraced it alongside her and have marvelled at this she-being we have created.

Why, then, do I feel this hideous anxiety over the same lurch towards adulthood in my boy? Is it because he IS a boy? Do I fear what he will become; what he will get up to? I don’t think it’s that. I have always believed he will be far less of a worry to me than the girlchild will ever be. So, no – it’s not that.

There’s certainly some sadness, that “end of an era” feeling that he is leaving primary school and – despite moaning copiously, loudly and long about the actual school itself – it will be odd not to have any reason left to darken the doors of that establishment. I’ve been summarily crap at anything to do with school or PTA events in the past couple of years – am I now regretting not getting more involved?

There is also, for absolute sure, the feeling that I have no more “babies” left at home. He’ll kill me for writing this, being an 11 year-old and nowhere near a baby, but he is my last, my precious youngest and there can be no more. Is it too soon to already feel “empty nest”-ish?

I’m certainly experiencing the strangest bittersweet feeling of getting exactly what I wished for. All those times when, as toddlers, I used to think: “Ooh, one day you’ll stop forcing peas into your ears and grow up!” or “When you’re older, the thought of bending over so far you can look up your own butt will not occur to you!” (although boy-man + beer at some point in the not too distant future may cause a relapse of that one, I suspect).

Whatever happens next, I am totally excited for them both and enthralled to watch as they work their way forward in life. I just hope in all that growing up, the kids that I adore in them both won’t go missing. Its why we – the father figure and I – had them after all. I don’t know anyone who plans to give birth to grown-ups!

Anyone else out there struck by this same malaise?

A pox on you!

A rash has descended on the household, and on my poor son specifically. Having been “lucky” to have missed the usual toddler round of spot-inducing illnesses, he has now been caught well and truly by the bug and is looking very similar to a dot-to-dot puzzle – we’re watching in wonder to see what the final picture might be.

I have to confess to more than a touch of guilty panic when the first spots began to appear. OK, I admit it – I was cr*pping myself.

I have been a conscientious objector to the MMR vaccination program – fuelled almost entirely by the passionate conviction of at least three sets of very normal, sane parents (both family and friends) whose boys are diagnosed in various degrees on the autism spectrum, and who each assert that their boy was perfectly well, healthy and without issues – for want of a better word – prior to receiving the second MMR jab. Having read with trepidation arguments for and against vaccination, we went ahead – with crossed fingers – with the second jab for our daughter and decided against it in our son.

We felt all very comfortable, confident and noble until the recent measles epidemic – or at least the warnings of such – became public in our locale; and, of course, the first crop of suspicious “Koplik-stylie” spots appeared on darling boy’s face a few days later.

Guilt (with a capital G, if you please) in my parenting is an almost constant niggling companion. Am I feeding them the right things? Does anyone else give them their 5-a-day in tablet form? Should they be wearing organic hemp and/or be vegetarian?

As a working mum, Guilt then likes to introduce me to its sinister evil twin -Tinie-Timepoor (geddit? I’m sooo down with the kids) wearing suitable hoodie and bling. Tinie wants me to consider: Am I spending enough time with the kids? Am I engaging correctly? Should I give up money and job satisfaction for parental presence and availability? And the killer punch – was I/am I still selfish to have them and not be at home to look after them?

It’s a nowhere road leading to potential clinical depression and insomnia. I refuse to go there.

Well, this weekend Guilt brought along another friend to deliver the first crop of my son’s spots. This one we shall call Marg-regret. Good old Marge likes to bustle in and question whether I should have had those jabs after all, rather than risk the unpleasant side-effects of measles etc Should I have followed the herd and just gone along with it? Tinie then joins in and suggests that maybe I didn’t give the whole issue enough thought and just took the easy option. Then Guilt sits in my lap, strokes my weeping eyes and says it’s all too late now anyway.

Great – it’s like having the Bee Gees in the room. Barry, Robin and Maurice, all singing their poison into my brain in a strident falsetto and frankly sounding not unlike the cat stuck in the pea-netting again.

Luckily for me, I have been given a convenient volume knob with which to silence them. 24 hours on and we are clearly looking at chickenpox, not measles. Against which we could not have vaccinated him anyway. Which does not cause potential deafness or other such nasties (to my knowledge and a quick Google search). Which is unpleasant, certainly, but not life-threatening.

Thank you, chickens of the world for your innocuous spots and mild fever. A pox on you Guilt, Tinie and Marge! Go back to the deep recesses of my psyche and leave me alone. If measles does come along, no doubt you’ll be back once again to screech “Tragedy” at me in gloating triumph once again. And I will accept it. After all, decisions in parenting are made with the consequences in mind – usually!

Now, the next task is to explain to darling boy that Sports Day next week (his last Sports Day, his last chance to shine in the sprint before leaving primary school this summer) is – er – cancelled due to spots. Now, where did Guilt go? I think I feel a tune coming on…..