Tag Archives: #school

Insignificant

Apparently this is the new way of saying that someone is not “popular”. You know how much I hate the use of the word “popular” – who decides? who cares? popular with who? – so this new one has me grumbling.

I do remember being a teenager and knowing that I was never going to be cool enough (or ambitious enough) to be in the “in crowd” and it was harsh and it was not easy and I didn’t enjoy my teenage years from that respect, but this is a whole new level of harshness.

The definition of “insignificant” according to the Oxford English Dictionary – The quality of being too small or unimportant to be worth consideration. 

Does that mean that someone who is “popular” is now classed as “significant”. I haven’t asked. I don’t want to be subjected to the eye-rolling. The only reason I know about the adoption of “insignificant” is because A has been invited to a party by a relatively new friend who used to be “popular”. The friend, L, had an unpleasant time earlier in the year with her old friends and sought shelter with A and her small group of lovely friends. She has fitted in well and makes no bones about how awful her old group were and how much easier it is to be friends with nice people. She’s having a Christmas party and has invited most of their form. A has heard that some people are complaining and suggesting that they probably won’t go because A and her friend AK are going. A and AK are hard working, conscientious students and, naturally, this makes them “insignificant” from the point of view of other students from the more “popular” groups – mostly people that don’t even know her.

In sharp contrast to how I would have reacted if faced with the same situation when I was her age (and even at the age I am now, come to think of it!) she has told them where to go – explained that she has been invited by her friend and has no intention of not going just because they don’t like her. I admire her greatly, but I have reservations – I don’t want her to have an awful time; I want her to go – but I want her to enjoy it; I want her to go and I want her to show all the haters that she is fun and lovely and likes to enjoy herself as much as the next person – but I want it all to work out OK.

I often say that I wouldn’t return to my teenage years even if you offered me a million pounds. But I do wonder if I would make a better stab at it if I went back to the 80’s with all that I know now? One thing I do know for absolute certain – I would NOT want to be a teenager now. It’s no wonder there is such a prevalence of lack of self-confidence, depression and mental health issues when kids are faced with all this stuff that they throw at each other. Insignificant? Unbelievable.

 

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Talking to my younger self

Last week I saw Rob Lowe being interviewed on The One Show. I love Rob Lowe, have done ever since St Elmo’s Fire and even more in recent years. He is doing a tour, talking about his life and anecdotes from film sets, etc. He was funny and I think it would be an interesting evening. However, that is not the reason for writing about him. (We all know I won’t bother to look for tickets!) In the course of his touring he asks the audience for questions and responds accordingly. One question that he said he gets asked a lot is “what advice would you give your younger self?”. Not a very inspired question but one that could probably open up a lot of anecdotal material. But he said that he doesn’t answer the question that way. He said that he already talks to his younger self all the time, because he has children – boys. He said that the advice he gives his boys and the way in which he has raised them is what he would have told his younger self if he had the chance. It’s his way of, hopefully, ensuring that they don’t make the mistakes he did, that they live as happy as life as he has and that they grow up to be fine young men.

I love this. I have never though of it that way before. But the more I think about it the more true I think it is. I definitely try to instil in A (and to some extent T, although from a different perspective) a much more positive attitude than I had; more confidence; more sense of who she is; more belief of trusting her instinct, being true to herself. I wasn’t an unhappy child/teenager but I do wish I had worn the skirt, kissed the boy, taken more chances; I would tell myself to be more bold, be less inhibited, be more true to myself. Of course, we can’t change our personalities and some of this stuff can’t be learnt, it’s inherent to who we are. But we can nudge, and encourage and I can see that A is already a much more self-assured teen than I was. Equally, she is lovely, kind, thoughtful (not always to her mum, but I am not here to be her friend) and she is clearly loved by her little squad of friends. She asked a while back for people to send her a comment on her Instagram – something she could write on a piece of paper and put in a jar to open on New Years Day, something funny or a bit of advice or a hope/wish for her. The comments made me cry. The overwhelming theme was one of how caring and supportive she is and how glad they are to have her in their lives. She doesn’t really need my advice or nudging. She’s getting there just fine.

 

Seeking approval

I had an interesting conversation over dinner the other night with the teenagers. K wasn’t there, which has no bearing on the conversation – we chat even if there is only 2 of us eating –  I am just setting the scene.

A started it off when she complained that a couple of boys in her form are always doing polls on Instagram asking if they should buy X expensive jumper or Y expensive jumper. “They’re just showing off that they have loads of money”, was her main gripe. I asked if they thought that their generation are more concerned with money and belongings than perhaps my generation (of old fogeys). They thought that perhaps they were more materialistic, but only because they have it rammed down their throats by social media, the press, companies aiming their products at the youth/teen market.

We talked about their own motives for buying, say, an item of clothing. T is into designer labels but is happy to buy replica/fake/unbranded stuff that looks like the real deal. A is happy with a bag full of cheap stuff from Primark (something that I had no issue with until I saw Stacey Dooley’s documentary about the pollution caused by companies like this) rather than spending the same amount on one item from a higher end shop.

They both agreed that their motives were the same: wearing something that they liked and had spent their own money on made them feel good. I asked T if the designer brand thing was due to wanting others to say “oh nice jumper” or if he just liked the clothes. He said that it was because he liked the clothes, but it was a bonus if someone commented on it. A was the same, saying that she liked to wear a new t shirt or top, for example on Non- uniform days, whereas some people wore the same thing every time “just because it’s a designer brand. I would rather wear something new that cost a fiver than wear the same £50 top all the time”.

We talked about the pitfalls of buying something to make you feel better or to improve your mood, because that’s only temporary and will wear off. Better to be happy with yourself and wear clothes as an extension of who you are. T said that he likes to wear stuff that other lads his age wear, as a kind of way to fit in, but that it wasn’t the main factor. He has a friend who bucks the trend and wears quite retro stuff that most lads his age wouldn’t look at. But no-one gives him a hard time, they respect his choices.

A said she likes to wear what she feels comfortable in and won’t bow to trends. She was very anti the crop top fashion when she was in Year 6 and still tends to wear slightly more conservative clothes compared to some of her peers. I have to say I am not upset about this at all!

We were just clearing the plates away when T hit the nail on the head for me and made me have a glimmer of hope that they are not lost in the sea of consumerism. “I’m not looking for approval from anyone when I buy or wear clothes. I may follow a trend but I don’t care what anyone else thinks. If someone doesn’t like my trainers or my jumper I am not going to stop wearing it. It’s their opinion and they are welcome to it but I will wear what I want to wear.” A wholeheartedly agreed. And this makes me happy.

In the same sort of vein, I’ve had a gripe myself this week. I normally listen to Radio 2 in the morning until lunchtime, but today I had to switch off. In the run up to Children In Need (a fantastic thing, which is to be hugely applauded) Chris Evans runs a series of Auctions for various events and, again, this is to be applauded. But, the bidding on these auctions reaches far beyond anything that the Average Joe could afford and I get a little bit frustrated by it. I know that making money is the aim of this, and I know that the more money they make then all the better for all the charities supported by Children In Need and it is fantastic that there are so many incredibly generous wealthy people out there.

But, the notion that someone could scrape together £10, £20, £30 and call through to bid on one of these “lots” only to hear that the top bidder is in excess of £10,000 must be terribly disheartening. To know that you don’t stand any chance of getting tickets because you do not have the kind of money that is being pledged is quite sad. And that’s not what it is meant to be about. One comment that made me particularly cross was that people should not “try and get tickets on the cheap” and that being tight would come back and bite you on the bum. Is it being tight to pledge an amount that is affordable to you, and that you are willing to give up other things for in order to pledge it, just because your amount is nothing like the huge amounts of the highest bidders? No, it’s just being normal, average and giving what you can. Rant over.

 

 

Likeable Teens

Teens often get a bad press. I have to admit that I have a tendency to feel slightly nervous if faced with a group of lads hanging around by our local shop or walking in town.

But if the lads that come in and out of our house; that we give lifts to and from parties, events etc are anything to go by then I shouldn’t be so quick to scare.

These lads, my son included, are a polite, considerate, friendly lot. They ALWAYS say thanks – sometimes four or five times – for having them over, for the lift. They can be loud, silly, annoying, but they look out for each other, they say hello to me and ask me how I am. They clear up after themselves (not necessarily to my standard but they are 16 year old boys) and generally behave themselves.

T has had a couple of friends round this afternoon. They ordered pizza, they put the box in the recycling. I didn’t really know they were here. They made a point of coming out to the kitchen to say goodbye and thanks for having me.

I’m sure that they all have their moments and their parents probably despair at them as we sometimes do with our two. I’m sure they’re grumpy and grunty and smelly sometimes too (most of the time) but I like them. They’re good lads.

Perseverance finally pays off

For at least the last year or so we have been trying to get A referred back to our local Orthodontist practice from the care of the hospital. We were finally told by the consultant on the 12th September that she would support the transfer.

It should have been simple.

It wasn’t.

I have made phone call after phone call to the hospital, the orthodontists, our dentists; sent email after email; cried tears of frustration*; wondered whether I should just stop bothering.

Until – finally, I have had an email today to say that she has an appointment on the 28th November at the local practice.

No more 3 hour trips to the hospital. No more time off school. No more dealing with an egotistical consultant who wanted to shave bits off of her teeth to make her smile “perfect”. She is perfect to me in every way (apart from the stubbornness –  when it is directed at me) and one millimetre difference does not matter if it means no more procedures.

Finally, I can put the numerous letters away and not have them taunting me, saying “you still haven’t sorted it”.

One massive tick off my to-do-list.

*I am not ashamed to say that I had a little weep when I received the email. It may not sound like a big deal but after 4 years of hospital appointments it is a huge relief.

Getting it wrong, sometimes.

I don’t like it when people have problems. I want to solve them. In that respect I probably have quite a male outlook. When you tell a man a problem, mostly he wants to solve it. When you tell a woman, she is more likely to empathise/sympathise and offer words of support. Or, so I am led to believe in articles I have read.

My daughter is an incredibly self-sufficient, level headed, sensible, thoughtful young woman. She has had her ups and downs with other members of her gender in the past and although she now has an amazing small group of friends (not needy, not jealous, not bitchy) she still has the odd bit of grief (or beef as the kids call it these days) from some other students. The source of a lot of this is her “make-up account” on Instagram. I’ve talked about this before – she likes to film herself doing demo’s of makeup looks and, on the whole, it is well received amongst her peers. She’s not showing off, she’s not saying that she thinks she is a perfect specimen (if such a being exists), and she doesn’t force anyone to follow her account.

She gets mocked now and then, for whatever reason. Friends that I have talked to about it, some of whom work in schools and live this stuff, say it is likely to be jealousy – that she has the confidence to film herself with no make up on, to put herself out there, to do something that she loves. I don’t understand it, but then I have never really understood what goes on in other females minds. I support her and talk to her about the possible reasons behind the mocking – see above – but I struggle to not want to resolve it.

She tells me when she is having grief, for which I am eternally grateful, and mostly I seem to handle it OK. I try to empathise without telling her what to do. I ask her what she thinks she should do, if anything. (Lets face it, some people will find a reason to mock others regardless of their actions.) But today, for whatever reason, I didn’t. I didn’t handle it well AT ALL. So badly in fact that she uttered the dreaded words “I just won’t bother telling you anything in future”.

This worries me more than anything else she could say to me. When your child is telling you about grief they are getting, as much as it hurts you and you want to do something, at least you can be reassured by the fact that they are TALKING TO YOU ABOUT IT. When they go quiet, it’s time to worry.

Somehow, I need to find a way to sort this with her. At the moment, ten minutes after it has happened, I am at a loss. I am upset, worried and want to turn the clock back 15 minutes and handle it differently. Not try and solve it. Not tell her to ignore them. Not tell her that she has had this all before and she knows it will blow over. It’s all true but it wasn’t (this time) what she needed to hear. I don’t know what she needed to hear – I asked her, but she couldn’t tell me.

Maybe she just needed a hug and no words, no solutions, no advice.

So, that’s where I will start. With a hug.

Ups and Downs

On Friday the kids had an inset day from school. We went to Thorpe Park. I haven’t set foot in a Theme Park (not counting Legoland when T was 5) since circa. 1997 when K and I went to Alton Towers. He made me go on the Nemesis ride and when we disembarked I punched him. I hated it and vowed never to return, EVER. But, when you’re a parent you do things for your kids that you wouldn’t ever choose to do in your other life. T has never been to a Theme Park. We were due to go with friends two summers ago but the leg got broken and we couldn’t go. A went last year for a friends birthday and loved it. So we agreed that we should Do It For The Kids. Reluctant to pay full price I looked into the best deal and having purchased 2 tiny Pepperami sticks for around £2 we were able to pre-book tickets for all of us, including parking for under £70. This is around half the price of full price so I felt very smug.

The smugness did not outweigh the fear and trepidation of actually going. Fear is wrong. I am not scared of the rides. I simply DON’T ENJOY THEM. I am not a scaredy-cat, I just don’t like the sensation of being thrown around, upside down and at speed. I was nervous that T would hate it. A seems to not have inherited the scaredy-cat hating it gene from me so maybe he would?

He loved it. They all loved it. I still hated it. I went on what is classed as the baby ride with A and that was enough for me. Luckily both K and T were happy to go on everything else with her so happy days. I was happy to sit looking after the rucksack, people watching, while they queued and queued and queued some more. I love people watching, especially in the sunshine, so I was in my element. I love trying to work out people’s relationships, back stories. Sounds a bit weird but it’s fun. I don’t follow them or listen to their conversations (unless I absolutely can’t help it) – I’m not a stalker.

But what a rip off these places are. Not just from the entrance fee point of view  – they should have a “bag holder only” option where you pay a nominal fee to be able to go in but not go on any rides – but from all the other stuff that they bombard you with: fast passes; refillable drink bottles; fairground type stalls with massive teddy bears to try and win via near-impossible games; food; ice cream made using nitrogen at £4.50 at pot (three mouthfuls worth it looked like). The list goes on. Just shocking. Seeing people who look as if they don’t have two pennies to rub together (as my Nan would say) paying fiver after fiver to throw three balls into a tub, which they inevitably bounce straight back out of, in a bid to win a hideous soft toy is heartbreaking and infuriating.

Thankfully, we had taken a packed lunch and only splashed out on a couple of ice creams (not the nitrogen ones I hasten to add) and a coffee. So all in all a pretty reasonable (in the grand scheme of things) day. Sometimes it’s not all about the money, money, money though. The kids faces when we finally admitted where we were going (after stringing them along that we were off out to some woods for a LONG walk) was priceless and the adrenaline-induced smiles on their faces when they came off the rides was equally so.

And even better – I didn’t punch K.