Monthly Archives: May 2016

Give a little respect….

A friend of mine will be hoping that this is a homage to her favourite band, but she will be sorely disappointed. Because it’s not – sorry Mrs C. She might however, be able to help me with my dilemma as she has vast experience of this environment.

I received a text at work today advising me that T has been issued with a detention for “unacceptable behaviour” from his form tutor. My initial feeling was of disappointment. For him. He has a pretty unblemished record at secondary school and this is only the second detention he has had in almost 3 years. The first was for, in his words, “touching a tree”; in his form tutor’s (yep, them again) eyes he was “pulling a branch off a tree”. Pretty innocuous stuff whichever way you look at it. (If he’d then brandished said branch – the jury it still out on whether the branch was detached or lived to tell the tale – and taken someone’s eye out then it would be a different matter). My second thought was to wonder if he was going to be cross because he’d been accused of something “he didn’t do”. Bingo. (I didn’t get as far as a third emotion or chance to ponder as my phone then rang and the form tutor was on the other end of the line).

Let’s back pedal a little here and fill in some background details. T was really pleased in year 8 to find that he had this particular teacher as a form tutor. S(h)e was his IT teacher in Year 7 and they got on very well. However, it seems that being a form tutor was not quite as said teacher imagined and (s)he’s been pretty ambivalent towards the group to say the least. Now, we only have T’s side of the story on this, although his mates seem to be pretty much in agreement, that the teacher isn’t the greatest at dealing with conflict or issues and seems to hand out detentions like they’re going out of fashion. (S)he is allegedly pretty useless on other levels – like relaying important information, passing on messages, not turning up, not knowing students names, etc. Needless to say T is no longer so enamoured with said teacher and finds it all a bit irritating. Basically, he doesn’t have much respect for them. We have tried to explain that even teachers can mess up and that they don’t necessarily make the right decision all the time. We’re all human. Well, most of us are. We’ve done the whole “taking it on the chin” routine when something doesn’t quite go your way. But T is still very black and white about stuff and can’t always see that sometimes things can be a bit murky.

Back to today. The scenario is that the form tutor came into the room for morning registration to find 3 boys booting a football round the room, one of which was T. All 3 received an immediate detention. As I suspected, the form tutor went on to advise that T was rather aggrieved and had protested his innocence, but that they (the form tutor) had stuck by their guns and the detention still stands. Apparently, further negotiations were attempted at afternoon registration but, again, the decision still stands – despite the form tutor admitting that (s)he had undergone a moment of questioning their decision, but decided to be strong and stick with it. I thanked them for letting me know the situation and assured them that I would speak with T. I did, however, reiterate the point that T is of near-as-dammit unblemished character (which they conceded with) and that he does find it difficult to accept punishment when he feels it is unjustified. Basically, I sat on the fence.

I knew that when T came in he would be upset. He doesn’t like to be perceived as ill-behaved but I knew, above all, he would be cross that I won’t plead his case. His version of events? He was standing in the form room, his friend had a ball which was kicked at T’s face and it bounced off as the form tutor entered the room. So, from his point of view not only did he get a ball in the face, he then got a detention to go with it. Cherry on the cake. Now, I’m not saying that he’s lying or that he’s telling the truth. Again, sitting on the fence. But I wasn’t there and so I don’t know. I would like to think that my son wouldn’t like to me, but I am not naive enough to think that he doesn’t, even if it is only to downplay his involvement in a mis-demeanour.

What I had my biggest issue with was the attempts to negotiate with the form tutor and the lack of respect that this shows. I get it that he felt the punishment was unjust. I get it that he doesn’t really feel that the form tutor is up to scratch. But at the end of the day, the form tutor is in charge of a class of 30 plus teenagers and now and again they probably get a bit fed up with all the stupid behaviour that no doubt goes on. But they are in charge and their decision is final. My advice to T was that he had to take it on the chin (unfortunate choice of words bearing in mind his version of events); try and see it from the teachers point of view. I talked about snapshots – how we only see a small fragment of a moment and that sometimes as parents and teachers, and just people generally, we don’t always see what we think we are seeing. And on this occasion his form tutor saw a boy standing up in form with a ball ricocheting off him and (s)he made a decision based on that. I told him that regardless of his personal feelings, he had to accept that the teacher had made their decision and that was the end of it.

I find this issue of respect a tricky one. I was brought up to respect elders, parents, teachers, policemen, figures of authority. As an adult I know that respect is earned and that it is hard to respect someone that has let you down or who you feel is biased or inconsistent in their actions and decisions. And also that no-one is infallible, people are corrupt and people make the wrong decisions. I can’t tell T that he has to do as he is told and not question it – I don’t want him to just meekly stand by and accept what is going on if he feels strongly that something is wrong. I would always want him to question people’s actions/behaviours/decisions if he feels that they are putting someone in danger or causing harm. But, I also want him to understand that sometimes you just have to accept what has happened, as much as you dislike the decision, and put it behind you.He’s not massively impressed that I haven’t reacted as he’d clearly hoped but hopefully he respects the fact that I haven’t taken sides and that I haven’t read the riot act either.

I am sure that this will rear it’s ugly head many more times in my parenting journey and I am not sure I will be any better at dealing with it than I was today.

 

 

 

 

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Everything in moderation

I’ve read a really good article this morning about the latest trend for “clean eating” and it really struck a chord with me.

As you know I have been having tummy troubles for a while and after all the investigations and “that” procedure I was declared allergy and intolerance free – I just have a sluggish constitution which needs to be controlled with medication. Whilst I was going through the tests, I read a bit about intolerances and looked at diets to help alleviate the symptoms in case I needed to go down this road. I am glad I didn’t. As much as I would like to be able to regulate my issues without the need for medication (or not have the issue at all!), I am glad that I don’t have to remove an entire food group from my life.

Over the years I have been on numerous, varied diets. I went on my first diet aged 14 – the Rosemary Conley Hip and Thigh diet. I wasn’t fat, I have always been tall and well covered, never skinny. But at 14 I felt huge and my mum, bless her, agreed to help me lose some weight. She has always yo-yo’d and we embarked on this first foray together. It was the start of a long and never-ending journey of losing weight. Not just with Rosemary: Weight Watchers, Slimming World (both more than once), online plans with supermarkets, fad diets from books (Eat Yourself Slim, Atkins, GI, Fasting), juicing. The list goes on and on.

What I have learned from all of this is that there is no quick-fix. Yes, it’s possible to lose 7 pounds in a week from drinking green juice or from eating cabbage soup. But this is short lived and not a long-term, sustainable way of life.* (* for most people – some people are very good at long-term and I applaud them, but the majority of us mere mortals are susceptible to a piece of cake or a bacon sandwich). What I have learned is that as quickly as a person can lose 7 pounds, they can put it back on again,plus a bit more. For example, last week, I made a concerted effort to curb my eating and lost 1.5lb. Great. But then I went to a food fair and have put back on the 1.5lb plus another 1lb. I suppose I should look at it that at least I had lost the bit beforehand so the “damage” wasn’t so great as it could have been.

What I have started to become quite sick of is this idea that unless you are gluten free; sugar free; fat free; meat free; you are not healthy or “clean”. Surely it is possible to eat a bacon sandwich (brown bread thank you, fat cut off the bacon) without feeling “guilty”. Surely it is possible to have a diet (and by this I mean a way of eating day to day and not a fad) that incorporates all of the things that you love but, by eating them moderately, still be healthy. We all know that eating a slice of cake EVERY day is not a good idea; that eating a bag of Haribo every night is probably not sensible; that eating fresh fruit and veg as often as you can is good for you; and that processed meats and ready meals should be eaten only infrequently. So, why are we being told that we have to shun carbs and only eat spiralised courgette instead? Surely, if you have a small bowl of pasta with a tomato based sauce once a week it won’t kill you? Or make you the size of a small elephant? Yes, I totally advocate the campaign to reduce sugar in everyday foods, and am a bit of a sugar-Nazi where my kids are concerned, ensuring they have low-sugar cereals and drinks, etc. But they still have cake now and then. Cake that my 11 year old has baked and had great pleasure in doing so and even more pleasure in seeing us enjoy eating it. We still have s’mores every now and again when we have a fire outside. We just don’t do it every day.

I’m by no means a health guru. I am an expert on failed diets. I am at my lowest weight since having my kids, but am by no means slim or, heaven forbid, skinny. I am in a healthy weight range for my height (thank god for being 5ft 9 – I have been told all my life “you’re lucky you’re tall, it’s easier to carry a few extra pounds”) but I am never going to be knocking on the door of the “underweight” range. I like a piece of cake. I like a bag of chips. But I also love a huge slice of watermelon or a bowl of strawberries. I don’t like vast amounts of sweets as they do tend to make me feel a bit crappy. But I love a square of two of dark chocolate. I am just trying to eat good stuff with the odd bit of “crap” (not necessarily stuff that’s really that bad, but that has been deemed as “evil” by the various “clean-eaters” out there) thrown in every now and again. Surely, that’s got to be OK?

 

food

The article I was reading can be seen here http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ruby-tandoh-eat-clean-wellness

 

 

 

 

 

The last Showcase

A’s school have a Showcase Assembly most Fridays when various certificates are handed out and two children from each class are selected to sit on the “praise bench” for special recognition. The sceptic in me decided quite some time ago that this is probably a rota thing and suspect that all of the children get a go on the bench at some point each school year. I could be wrong but I don’t think so. Anyway, A was selected for this weeks assembly  and so K and I dutifully went along. 

We’ve been to quite a few assemblies over the years. Both of the children have been on the bench each school year (proving my theory) and we are familiar with the patter. My children are bright but not stellar students and they have normally always come away with certificates pronouncing what kind, thoughtful classmates they are rather than praising them for their mathematical prowess. I don’t have a problem with this. I am incredibly proud that my daughter was told she was a wonderful learning partner (where do they get these names?) who supported a less able child with real compassion. And that my son was a true example of a caring classmate and a role model to others. What’s not to be proud of? But I guess, a bit like being told you’re the “funny one who’s always good for a laugh” when you’re a twenty-something desperate to be classed as sexy, it can be a bit of a let down for a child when they probably don’t yet fully appreciate that kindness wins over genius every bloody time. 

So this morning I had my fingers crossed for my lovely girl, on her last ever turn on the bench, that she would maybe get praise for something a bit more tangible. And I was proud of and pleased for her in equal measure when she was told that she had shown an “excellent attitude in her SATS revision and tests”. She may not get the highest marks in the class but by god she tried her hardest and never stopped being positive the whole time. Good on her. 

As I sat there for the last time (apart from the upcoming leavers assembly at the end of the school year) I have to admit to a little pang. Yes, I used to moan about how long the assemblies last; how many certificates?; how fair it is(n’t) that certain children get a certificate for not being a little s**t that week; or why that child is allowed to help out with the music when they were darn near expelled the week before? but all scepticism aside its really quite lovely that they recognise that some kids are just “nice kids” and that not everything is about highest scores and league tables. My kids have mostly been very happy there and they were appreciated for the lovely beings that they are. I will miss that. 

First of the lasts

It is A’s last few months at primary school. I have fluctuating emotions about this. For some reasons I am relieved and cannot wait for this chapter to close. For other reasons I feel a bit sad.

I am relieved that she will be moving on to pastures new with (hopefully) new friends to make and new things to learn. I am relieved that she will be able to see that there is life outside of our village and her very limited circle of friends. I am excited for her and for the next part of her life and all that it will bring – some of it will no doubt be difficult but hopefully it will mostly be good.

But I found myself watching her do the May Pole dancing at the May Fair on Monday and was a bit sad that it is the last time that she will do it. I won’t be sad not to have to stand in the freezing cold watching her, but it is the last time. It is the last time that she will be in the procession. I have pictures of her in various costumes over the years and this last year she was an attendant to the May Queen so was dressed in a pretty dress and had her hair and makeup done looking all lovely. It is sad that it was the last time.

There will be many more lasts as the months go on. Last assembly, last sports day, last report, to name a few. I stopped walking to and from school with her a few months ago as you know, but I even have mixed emotions about never having to go there again. Part of me wants to fist-pump the air and another part of me is just a little bit wistful about all the years that I have spent in the playground, with some happy and not so happy memories for both of the children. The school was a good fit for my kids – and for me to some extent, managing to keep that fine line between knowing enough people to feel happy waiting in the playground and not knowing too many people that everyone knows your business (not that I do anything of any interest to be spoken of). But I won’t miss certain things: hour-long assemblies with a never ending stream of certificates to be handed out; sports day; waiting in the playground in the rain for them to emerge from their classrooms, wondering what sort of day they have had.

Next week, A will sit her SAT’s. She is nervous but I think I have done a good enough job on the encouragement front. The old “you can only do your best” favourite line has made a few appearances along with the “it’s not you they’re testing really, it’s more about the school” b******t.

And then it will start. The start of the end of primary school life.

 

Irritable

We’re not talking bowels again, don’t worry. We’re talking me. We all get irritable at times don’t we? It’s not just me? I can be irritable when I am tired, hungry, cold, being wound up….the list goes on. When I was a kid (and still now if I’m honest) we had a word for being irritable – “ratty”. Not exactly sure where this came from. I would like to think it was from Wind in the Willows, as I seem to recall from the depths of my very poor memory that it started out as Ratty Mole-r. I’m starting to make us sound weird so I will stop. Back to me being irritable/ratty.

Another thing that makes me ratty is not having control. Possibly explains why I was ratty a lot when the kids were small. Having PND didn’t help and the overriding feeling for me when I was having a bad time of it was being so irritable that I wanted to scratch my skin off. I still get this feeling now and again but I know that it is only a temporary thing and it will wear off. Luckily, I am in control most of the time – I don’t mean this in a Sergeant Major banging out orders way, just that I am master of my very small universe. But sometimes I have to let go of control and let things just be and this doesn’t sit well with me. I have made a conscious decision to not interfere with T’s school work. He gets on with it and if he doesn’t put the work in he knows it will reflect in his grades and he knows I won’t be impressed. I think that’s how it works anyway and his last report was pretty decent so I don’t think I am wrong – yet. But I do find it hard not to nag. For me nagging is more a way of keeping things at the front of people’s minds. People forget stuff, they need reminding. But then I get annoyed at myself for being irritated that he hasn’t had a shower. Or that A hasn’t made her bed. Or that K hasn’t remembered to clean the school shoes (yes it is HIS job. He has very few “jobs” but bins and shoes are two of them).Silly things to get ratty about really but there we are.

And then there are times when I just feel ratty for no reason. I don’t like these times. They sneak up on me and make me mean. If I can tell myself that I am ratty because of other peoples failings or because I’m cold, then that’s OK. But just being ratty for no reason? Uh-uh. Not acceptable. Can I shake it off? No, I can’t and that makes me even rattier. And then EVERYTHING annoys the hell out of me. For example, if anyone asks me a question my ratty old mind will tell me that it’s a stupid question and it will want to know why they are asking me that, when the answer is so bleeding obvious that they shouldn’t need to ask, and then I will snap at them and then I will feel bad. When I feel like this, I normally sneak away into a book. Luckily, I normally have a decent supply of good reading material thanks to my lovely not-a-real-book-club-but-the-best-book-club-ever ladies. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a really good book when the most recent ratty spell began. Why unfortunately? Well, it was so good that I didn’t want to have to put it down to do mundane things like work, cooking for the family, or sleeping. So those tasks became even more irritating! Vicious circle. And then when I finished it I had that “just finished a great book, the next book has no chance of coming even close, so what the hell am I going to do now” feeling. Nightmare. Luckily, the next book is pretty good, but not too good that I want the world to go away until I have read it. Thank you to Mrs C for that one.

Thankfully, I think I am starting to move out of the latest ratty phase, like a little mole emerging from his dark dusty hole. In fact, I think the fact that the sun is shining; that the May Fair is over and done with; that I am starting to eat better again; that I am starting to get outside more are all helping to blow away the ratty-ness. Or maybe, they were the reason for it in the first place and I just didn’t realise?

 Postscript 

I have been to see Julian Clary at the Alban Arena this evening. Nothing irritating about that except….the man sitting behind me kept clicking his key fob for the entire duration of the second half of the show. I nearly turned around to slap his hand. Instead I confined my irritation and just gave him the odd “look”. He didn’t stop but I was proud of myself for not telling at him to “stop clicking!!!!!”. Me, irritable? Never.