Category Archives: school life

Fighting the inevitable

The start of a new school year, or a return to school/work after a break, is always hard. Part of me relishes getting back into a routine, knowing where we will all be at what times. The control freak/organiser in me likes it. But, there is another part of me that fights it. Fights against early starts and school runs and homework and nagging. (There’s always an element of nagging – empty your bin, bring down your dirty washing, wash the ten million cups up that you have in your room, to name but a few.)

Conversations are no longer about nice things: plans for long sunny days out with their friends, holidays, fun stuff. The sorts of conversations we have now are about lessons, homework, food tech ingredients that are needed the next day, clean uniform, lack of socks, text books, showers, whose turn it is to clear the table and wash up. God, its boring. I ask “how was your day” and get grunts. Before it was “good, fun, really great”.

So, I’ve been mentally fighting it. Moaning. Being grumpy. Shouting (once). This has not been productive – you can’t fight something that is inevitable. It won’t last forever. Socks will be bought, teachers will settle down, homework won’t seem so alien and difficult, I will get back into the swing of asking for the food tech list the week before so it is all purchased well in advance –  to avoid the last minute dash around Tesco’s, praying that they have some wooden skewers loitering around in a small section of leftover BBQ season stock, when in actual fact they have the Christmas stuff in already and BBQ season is long forgotten. (I did find some with the help of a kind member of staff who could see I was nearly losing the will to live).

I need to stop wishing the week days away. I find myself saying in emails to suppliers or messages to friends “nearly the weekend” or “halfway through”, wishing my days away so we can all have some time out, do something more fun than sitting at a desk or driving to and from school and work, back to school and home again. And repeat.

The danger then of course is that everything hinges on the weekend being brilliant, which is unreasonable. I hate the Sunday night regret – that we should have done more, gone somewhere nice, had more fun, made more of it, been nicer to each other. Another weekend gone, never to be revisited.

I need to stop. Stop fighting it, start making the most of it.





Home alone, again

They’ve both gone back to school. T decided to stay on at RPS in Sixth Form and started back yesterday, with A following on today going into year 9. Year 9?! How on earth did that happen? In a few short months she will be expected to choose her GCSE options for year 10 and 11. I am not sure I am ready for that yet.

I am so relieved that T finally made a decision. It was always going to have to be his decision: we talked about the options, keeping things flexible, it not being the only choice he will ever make about his future. He took his time (painfully long in my mind), he thought it all through and he decided on Sixth Form. Logistically, it has made life easier – buses to college do not run direct from our village. This way we can carry on with our car share arrangement. But more than that I think he has made the right decision. He is happy with his decision; he has no regrets – at the moment. Of course, we always wonder what it would have been like to take a different path. He has a good friend who is going on to college to do the same course that T was considering. Inevitably, they will talk about it and he may have some pangs of “what if?” but, as we have discussed, just because he has opted for one course doesn’t mean the other is closed off to him forever. He is lucky, in few respects, to be a summer baby, as he can carry on in free education until he is 19 – a year after he will finish sixth form.

A was unusually reluctant to return to school. She has always loved school. Even when things were hard for her in juniors, she still loved the process, the routine, the teachers. I think this is just a reaction to change. Like me, she likes things a certain way and is not a huge fan of things changing. She has a whole raft of new teachers this academic year and I think it’s thrown her a bit. She went off this morning slightly happier due to the prospect of receiving a MAC lipstick that her friend kindly bought for her at the weekend. New makeup makes everything feel better, apparently.

On that subject, she has not lost her love of creating new looks and posting her videos. She has made lots of new “internet” friends (carefully vetted) who also love makeup – they call themselves aspiring or “baby” MUA’s (make up artists). I don’t think she really wants to do it in any capacity when she is older but for now she loves it and seems to be pretty good at it! (this look is inspired by DC comic heroes).

So, today, I am home alone for the whole day for the first time in ages. With T finishing school early after his exams, has meant that I have rarely had to put up with just my own company for some time and it is a bit weird. I keep expecting one or both of them to appear any moment asking what there is to eat. I will have to make lunch just for me and eat it alone. Bit sad. If not for the Ocado man delivering my shopping, I wouldn’t have spoken to another person for 8 hours. Customers on emails don’t count. I don’t mind it normally, I quite like the peace and quiet, just getting on with it, but today it is a bit odd.

Last night, I had my lovely book club here – as K was away overnight we all convened at my house. I am normally a bit averse to having more than a couple of people round. Dinner for more than four is scary and I am not a natural hostess with the mostest. Book Club doesn’t need hosting. It doesn’t need looking after or keeping the conversation flowing. It just happens and someone will get up and grab another bottle and some more snacks and top up glasses. I popped out during the evening (I was on the tap water up to that point) to collect T from cadets and it wasn’t weird leaving them all there chatting. It was lovely to come back to them, a glass of Prosecco waiting for me. It was another fab evening with 50th birthday presents for C and lots of laughs and a few tears. I love these women. Locking up after them and switching off the lights was the only down point of the evening. Thankfully K is home tonight.

The results are in

The day has finally arrived and T has passed all of his GCSE’s. I am proud, pleased, relieved, thankful. It was always going to be touch and go. He wasn’t confident – his mock results didn’t inspire a huge amount of positivity. But he did it. He bloody did it. He worked hard, went to every study session going and he tried his best. To pass them all exceeds all of our hopes. We would have been happy with “enough”, enough to get him to do what he wanted to do, but he has exceeded that, he has passed them all and now he gets to choose what he does next. He’s still undecided, wavering from one option to the other almost hourly. It seems like a huge decision to him – despite our assurances that what he chooses now won’t dictate what he does for the rest of his life – and he’s weighing it all up. All we can do is ask questions, make him think about the pros and cons, because, ultimately, it has to be his decision.


*this is not a boast post. T hasn’t achieved 7’s, 8’s, 9’s like a lot of his friends, but for HIM, compared to his previous results, he has done incredibly well and I am proud of him, for him.

Ready for the off

We’ve got to the 12 day mark now and as per usual I’m ready to go home. I know I sound like an ungrateful hag. I know I should be enjoying the last 2 days and NOT thinking about the packing, the return journey, the unpacking, the washing, the return to work. But I am – I’m a planner and an over-thinker and I can’t help it.

I don’t like being like this, I try to keep it hidden from the others so that they CAN enjoy the last two days but I keep finding myself wanting to talk about what we need to do when we get back.

The main topic at the forefront of my mind is Results Day on Thursday. I can’t really get my head much further than that and it’s really frustrating me. I keep thinking about Back To School things: shoes, clothes, bags, pencil cases – you know the drill. But we DON’T KNOW if T is going to sixth form or college. He’s been talking (unconsciously – not that he was unconscious but rather that he seemed to not be aware that he was saying it) about being “back at school” and “in sixth form” which makes me think he’s made his mind up about his preferred route, but it may not be his choice. On A level results day last Thursday the reality hit me that “this time next week we’ll know”. And I’ve not really been able to stop thinking about it since.

The rational part of me knows that thinking about it won’t change anything. Worrying isn’t going to make the results that have already been recorded (I would imagine?) change for the better (or worse!) and really all we can do is deal with whatever situation is thrown at us. But we all know that my head and the rational part of my brain don’t always communicate too well and so, inevitably, I’ve been worrying.

T and his friends have made a pact – no one asks what the others grades are. It will, they believe, be enough to know if they get on their preferred courses or not. It doesn’t need to be spelled out, mulled over, analysed, discussed at length. If they get to stay on (if that’s what they want) then they’ll know they’ve done enough. All very mature and all very sensible. He’s said that there’s one weak link in this chain and “if anyone tries to break the pact it will be W”. Or his mum, by asking me how T got on. It goes without saying that I will be proud whatever grades he gets. I just want them to be enough for him to do what he wants to do. He’s not headed for A level Maths followed by an unconditional offer to Cambridge University. He hadn’t put himself under so much pressure that his life will be over if he doesn’t get straight 9’s (I had to re-type that as I’d gone old school A*’s). He can resit any that he needs to. Life won’t be over, it just may take a bit longer to get started on what he wants to do next. We will deal with it together. I just wish we knew now.

I know on Wednesday morning when I am back at work and with piles of washing around me, I will kick myself for not staying relaxed, not enjoying these last few days, for wishing them away. But, hey, that’s me. And I’ve only got myself to blame!

In the meantime, there’s stuff to think about. Food for the journey home – does the airport have any where decent to eat? Will I remember how I packed the cases so that they’re not over the weight limit? Do we need more money to see us through to Tuesday? Have I nearly run out of gin?

And trying to relax…..

Repeat performance with some new additions

We’ve been away for 4 days. We’ve come back to the same villas we stayed in 2 years ago, in Fuerteventura.

Apart from: the 48 hours of stressing about luggage weight allowances and hand luggage size – which was all pointless as the check in staff could not have cared less, “chuck another one in there if you like, makes no odds to me”!; the ungodly hour that we had to leave home for the airport; and the slight panic when our transfer driver wasn’t there to meet us (he arrived 30 minutes later looking very harassed and dashed off for a wee before taking us to our final destination) it all went quite well.

Did I mention the flight? I hate flying, mainly the take off and landing but also the cramped space, small (often screaming) children and the smell. But, it’s a means to an end and I had downloaded some brilliant podcasts to keep me going.

Anyway, as I said, we’ve been here for 4 days. We know where the local, big, supermarket is. We know our way around the town and the best time to go to the beach. It feels like we’ve been here weeks. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing as we seem to lack the excitement of being in a new place, but one thing I can tell you is that we are all very relaxed. I’ve already read two books and K is on his second – he only ever reads on a foreign holiday, never in the UK.

The kids are, well, teenagers. They lie in, they sit around listening to music, they eat a lot and they seem happy enough. We’ve had some nice meals in the villa and played some cards and chatted. We’ve floated in the pool – I’m new to the whole concept of pool floaties and I feel I have been missing out. I’ve always been too self conscious to attempt to get on one and I hate being dunked under water so I just never tried. This holiday I have thrown caution to the wind – we have our own pool so it’s only going to be any of the other 3 that see my ungainly manoeuvring of my arse onto my lovely yellow floaty ring. And then I float. I love it.

Another thing I’ve finally got my head around this year is the feeling of guilt and embarrassment when the pool man or the cleaner comes. I’ve always felt awkward, I hate other people cleaning up after me and feel like they might resent me sitting here reading my book while they clean. But it dawned on me this year that I have a job which I get paid for doing and between K and I we save up to go on holiday. The pool man has his job and he probably saves up and goes on holiday when he gets two weeks off. I’m not going to feel guilty or awkward about his job being to clean the pool that we’ve rented for two weeks and more than I do about the person that scans our shopping in the supermarket.

Today, our lovely neighbours arrived at the same villas. We’re planning to meet up for dinner tonight. Because they’re so fab and because we have this sort of mutual respect for space we are looking forward to seeing them on and off over the next 10 days. It will give a different element to the holiday. We’ve all already agreed that we won’t come back a third time. Nothing has changed since we were last here and as we’re not inclined to hire a car we are a bit restricted to hoe much we will see if the island. Last year we made a horrendous bus trip and won’t be repeating that this time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s bliss to be away, it’s sunny and breezy and relaxing and lovely. What’s not to love?

Boy friends

When I was a teenager I had a number of unrequited crushes. Some on pop-stars, some on real people – mainly my (older) brother’s friends, rarely on boys in my year group who were mostly all idiots. I wasn’t popular with boys. Whether it was the very short haircut; being taller than most of them; being quite shy; not knowing what to say to them – I just wasn’t in demand as girlfriend material until I got a bit older and even then I wasn’t exactly run off my feet with offers.

A is decidedly disinterested in boys, even famous ones. She has a couple of friends who are boys but,  in her words, they aren’t really like other boys, they are happier hanging out with girls and they play cards in the library and talk about books and films and music. This sounds ideal to me. Boys keep girls grounded and don’t stand for any nonsense.Other boys in her year are according to her “complete idiots”. Sounds familiar?

She mentioned another boy the other day after they had been for their sponsored walk at school. The two friends she was walking with had to take some time out due to blisters and tiredness. She wanted to carry on as she was “on a roll” so caught up with two of the boys. She ended up walking just with M as the other boy wanted to walk with a girl that he “likes”. (They don’t say “fancies” as in our day – something I am not unhappy about, it’s an awful expression.) While she was walking with M, another boy that she has known since she was a toddler walked past and said the standard immature, teenage boy thing of “ooh, A are you going out with M?”. She quickly shut him down with a “no, it is possible for girls and boys to just be friends, you know?” Fair play to her. She apparently then said to M that she is sick of people assuming that just because you are friends then you must “like” each other. M has had issues with boys in his year giving him hassle so has a very small pool of friends, most of which are girls. He must be pretty used to this sort of nonsense, so he agreed. Nothing more was said of the incident or M.

Until the weekend. M had been messaging her about her plans for the holidays and if she is going away, etc. Just standard chat. He then went on to ask her if she would like to meet up. I didn’t see any issue with this, as she clearly likes him AS A FRIEND. It’s no different to meeting any of her other friends. It was settled that they would meet today. He asked if she wanted to ask any of her other friends along. No-one was free. This was fine, until one of the friends mentioned that she thinks M “likes” A. Not just as a friend. A then lost confidence, thinking it would be awkward, because she DOESN’T LIKE HIM THAT WAY. I persuaded her to go anyway. He sounds like a nice boy. She can make it clear that they are just friends. She insists that she is far too young for a boyfriend and I agree. Could I pick her up an hour later, any longer would just be “too awkward”. OK.

I dropped her off and he was dutifully waiting for her in the designated spot. He looked thrilled to see her. He looks like a nice boy. We had agreed that she would call me when she was ready – there was no point me going home to turn round and go out again so I sat outside a cafe. Lovely. She rang an hour later to say she was ready, I told her which cafe I was in, and lo and behold she appeared shortly after. With M. He was beaming from ear to ear, stuck his hand out and said “hi, I’m M” (he said his full name, it would have been weird if he’d said his initial). A nearly choked. I said I was pleased to meet him and then he said goodbye and was off. What a nice boy.

It hadn’t been awkward at all. They’d had a nice time. She will meet up with him again. They’re just friends.

A boy friend, who thinks she’s fab and “likes” her but is happy just to be around her. I think it is rather lovely. The stuff of (my) teenage dreams. Just not hers!



P.S. I was told later that he thinks her makeup tutorials are brilliant and that she is talented. His mum “does people’s eyebrows”. He knows the right things to say!



A Letter To My Boy

When, in October 2001, I became pregnant with you, I started on a path to knowing what it truly means to love. Of course, I loved G & G, Uncle P, my nans and other family, and subsequently your dad, but I wasn’t responsible for any of them. I loved them and cared for them (and still do) but their well-being and happiness wasn’t my sole responsibility. The feeling of having a baby growing inside you, nurturing them with your body, leads to a whole different level of love.

The responsibility was both thrilling and terrifying. And, to be honest, it still is. When you were born I wasn’t able to be with you straight away. I had to go into theatre to be stitched up. Yours was a horrible, difficult, worrying, traumatic birth and I believe that the initial separation had an effect on both of us that lasts to this day. When we brought you home after days of waiting in the hospital for me to feel better and for your jaundice to clear, it was thrilling and terrifying. We were on our own. We had to look after you, just us. Grandma was brilliant and helped far more than she should have had to, but she couldn’t be here all the time and you were our responsibility. Ours. Terrifying.

Wanting to keep you safe and allow nothing to hurt you has always been my priority; wanting you to be happy and loved and cared for. Until you were 2 you wouldn’t be happy sleeping anywhere other than in my arms, or dads. You wrapped yourself around me like a koala bear and slept. I sometimes couldn’t move for hours at a time; wanting you to sleep; knowing you were safe and happy. Now, you are so tall that when we hug you engulf me, like I am the koala bear and you are keeping me safe. It’s a strange feeling!

You were not an easy baby; you had colic and reflux and you wouldn’t sleep (see above!); but once we got over that, you were a happy boy. Always laughing and being funny. I said “no” a lot when you were little. I didn’t want you climbing too high or running ahead too far or fast. I didn’t want you to get hurt. You were my responsibility and it was my job to keep you safe. And other than the usual childhood ailments and the odd scrape here and there, you were. Until the leg. When you broke your leg two years ago, I realised that it wasn’t possible to stop you from getting hurt. I couldn’t stop you going too fast or far. I couldn’t be with you every second. It had a big impact on me – I know you were the one who was hurt but I felt your pain as if it was my own. And the unbearable reality that I hadn’t stopped it was excruciating. But you recovered. And I have learnt to accept that I am not superhuman.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I hope you can fulfil your dreams and that you love what you choose to do. I will worry about you. I still say “no” (take Penrith for example – any readers of Too Much, Too Young please note that the trip didn’t happen, no-one went) to some things. I always give you a reason and I always take my time to think it over, more than when you were little and circumstances required a quicker answer, and my reasoning always comes from a place of love.

Today, you are sixteen, and I love you more than ever. I am prouder than I ever imagined I could be. You make me smile every single day and I thank my lucky stars that you are mine. Love you.

(P.S. you drive me crazy too. I mean, you’re not perfect!)