Wednesday, 23 August 2017

T-1

Another summer, another long school summer holiday.

Usually at this point in the proceedings I'd write about how my children have driven me insane/eaten everything in the house/won't stop fighting.  Well yes, they have done all of those things, but actually? This hasn't really bothered me.  I think that after 10+ years I am finally used to all of that.  I am even a little bit sad that there are only a couple more weeks left before they go back to school.  

Either that, or they've ground me down so much that I've developed some kind of parenting Stockholm Syndrome, where I feel compelled to hang out with my small captors, watching Netflix and eating sweets for six weeks. (That actually does sound quite good, doesn't it? Hmm?)

Anyway, the holidays haven't been that bad this year.

Apart from one thing.  There is one thing that has been different this year.  

The teen boy has taken his GCSEs.

This has resulted in two things so far.  One, he has been at home for nearly twice as long as a normal school holiday, and constantly eaten the contents of my fridge (sorry, I wasn't going to mention that, was I?).  And, two?  The long and tedious wait for his results.

And here we are, finally.  T-1.  The day before results day.




And, I'll admit, I feel a bit nervous for him.  At the same time, I don't know whether I should be.  They are his results after all, and what will be, will be.

It's all new to me, this part of being a parent.  It's a bit that nobody tells you about.  There are no rules as far as I can see.  Just get them through the exams.  Hope for the best.

For me, this has been a learning curve.

I've watched as my very capable teen has just simply become so overwhelmed with everything that he doesn't seem to care anymore.

We've sat through parents evenings where his teachers have said just that.

We've encouraged, reassured and, as parents are prone to do, nagged him to get his revision done. We've also bribed him with the promise of a new games console (another parental tool).  I'm not sure any of it has had much effect on our laid back teen.

When the exams were finally finished, we tried to think about something else for a bit.  He went away on an NCS course which prevented him from lying in bed all day for four weeks brought him out of his shell for a bit.

Then, something happened that wasn't part of the typical post exam wait.

The school called.  Several students, including my boy, had been accused of plagiarising their coursework.  The examination board were asking questions about the invigilation process and could the teen boy go in and write a statement to support his/the school's case.

So he did.  More agonising waiting while the exam board decided whether to take things further. Would the teen ever even get any results or would he be disqualified completely?  Would he end up with a criminal record?  It probably couldn't get any worse than this!

They dropped their case against the school/students just a week ago.  No further action.  Results as normal.

Except it has left us with a few questions going forward into A-Levels (same school/same teacher). What if this happens again? Should he even be looking at other colleges and courses? Nothing is ever straightforward is it?

So here we are, T-1.

Would I do anything different as a parent?  After all, I've got to go through this again next year with the teen girl.

Well, no, I don't think that I would.  Apart from the fact that all kids approach their exams differently and I don't think there is any way you can predict how they'll handle the pressure until it happens.  You've just got to support them and deal with each situation as you see fit.

My take away point from this is that things can and do go wrong, whether that's before, during, or after. And I do know that whatever happens tomorrow on results day it'll all come good in the end.

I look back at my own exam results 27 several years ago, and I think they were OK, a means to an end. While they seemed important at the time, they don't define me today, just as the teen boy's results won't define him forever.

Perspective.  That's what I need.  Just like learning to walk, speak, eat, read or any of the myriad of other childhood milestones we have a hand in, exams are just another small part of it all really, aren't they?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Year 2 SATs - an alternative view

"What are SATs?" asked my 7 year old daughter recently, as I dropped them into a conversation about the state of the school hall and how I couldn't walk through it for all the exam tables that had been set up.

You see, neither she nor her twin brother have any idea that they are taking the tests this year.  That's how the school have played it with the Year 2 children and I'm rather glad.

Now I've been through SAT's many times before.  I blogged about the Year 6 tests that my middle child took last year, and how I thought that the hysteria surrounding them had mainly come from how so many schools/parents approach them.  Our own Primary School was particularly bad at this (working them hard and then promoting relaxation techniques to 11 year olds, FFS) .

With the Year 2 SATs I'm not so sure this is the case.  My children have been to two different Primary Schools between them and none of them have ever been aware that the tests are even taking place.  The school my eldest son went to did refer to them as "clever testing" which rather appealed to my son as he liked the idea of potentially beating a clever test.  Shame that he doesn't see his upcoming GCSEs in the same light but you can't have it all.

My twins have been given some practise books for English and Maths, but with the strict instruction that completing them is optional.  This means that my eager to please, rule loving daughter has finished them while my very laid back, homework hating son has just said he doesn't need to do them because he knows it all already.  I see shades of the teen boy in him which is a slight worry.



But none of this matters.  The tests are testing the school, not the children as I understand it, and why wouldn't you want to know how well your school is teaching your children?  I know I do.

And the results?  I can't actually remember how well any of my older children did in their SATs*.  The results were buried somewhere on the back page of their report along with an explanation of the grading system which resembled a light novel in size.  I'll confess, I got really bored and stuffed the whole lot in a drawer never to see the light of day again.  The kids didn't even ask how well they'd done.

In a couple of week's time nobody will remember anything about them anyway.  We'll all be talking about the end of year concert and how we can get out of being volunteered for the face painting stall at the PTA Summer Fair.

As for after SATs parties, we won't be going to one of those either.  They aren't finals for god's sake. Either that or I've missed the memo about what a life defining point the Year two tests are?  Don't even get me started on High School Proms - a blog for another day.

So, another year, another bunch of tests.  That's how I'm looking at it.

I just wish everybody else did too.


*  You can pop my 'Mother of the Year' award in the post now if you like.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Training for a marathon, it's just like having a baby?

I can't say that a marathon is something I've ever aspired to completing. Until recently.

The ballot for next year's London Marathon opened this week and my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram quickly became swamped with people declaring their entry.  Added to that, every weekend for the past month or more I've seen pictures of other people completing marathons of their own.  Ordinary people, just like me. Accomplishing something brilliant.

The feeling that I might want to do this myself, and soon, is becoming unshakable.

You see, when you take up running, distance and times all seem fairly irrelevant at first.  Then, as you start to improve you think, well, maybe I could.  I could run a marathon.  After all, last year I ran a half marathon and its just two of those.

Back to back. On the same day.  Just eight and a bit parkruns.

How hard could it be?

There is just one thing that worries me.  All that training.

Well, not so much the training as how much it takes over your life.  Rather like having children in fact (and I have plenty of experience of having children...).

Training for a long distance race for the very first time is a lot like having a baby.  A lot.

Maybe not exactly.  It's not as if you get a small human to take home when you run 13.1 or 26.2 miles, but bear with me here while I try to explain my thoughts.

1.  Fear and utter disbelief (aka submitting your race entry)

I can still remember the feeling I had when those two little lines appeared on the pregnancy test stick as if it were yesterday.  "What have I done?", "I don't think I can do this!"

Too late.

When I completed my first half marathon application, it took a week to be confirmed with my chosen charity and during this time I watched my emails with the same thoughts bubbling up inside my brain.

When the email finally came I realised that it really was too late to change my mind on that too.

2.  Buying all the things

When you are expecting a baby a whole world of retail opens up to you, as you discover shops that you previously had no interest in.  The latest baby monitor, moses basket, buggy and toys.  You decide you will need them all. In colours matching your nursery decor.

It's much the same when you start training for a race.  I'm afraid to say that the Nike outlet holds as much excitement for me now as Mothercare did back then.  What do you mean, I don't need another pair of running shoes? I don't have any that match my charity vest yet.

3.  Special underwear

You know the sort.  Sexless non underwired bras, reminiscent of something you imagine an elderly aunt to wear, coupled with Bridget Jones style knickers.  Sadly, while you may think I'm talking about maternity wear here, the same rules apply for comfortable running underwear. #chafefree

Oh, have you ever had those funny sock things in hospital after a c-section?  Well, runners have their own version of those too, specifically for after really long runs.  Luckily they come in funky colours (obviously this makes them loads better).

Fancy socks (its lucky for you that I didn't choose a picture of my underwear)


4.  The plan

What to eat, what to drink, how long to run for.  My running plan seemed OK to begin with.  Until I began getting emails telling me what phase I was in that week and how I should be progressing.  It's a bit like one of those baby development books that I bought when I was first pregnant, the sort that turn you into a complete obsessive over every detail.  What if I hadn't run the required number of miles?  What if I was 17% too fast? What if I didn't have any morning sickness?  What if my baby wasn't the size of a grapefruit?  FFS, it's all bonkers and none of it really matters anyway.  Except it did to me.  Both times.

5.  Two weeks before the big day

This is when most women start maternity leave, a blissful period of endless waiting and eating cake.

Runners have their own version of this called tapering, where they do very little milage, wait for an age for race day and then do something called "carb loading" which is basically eating lots of cake too.

6.  Labour and birth/Race day

I can confirm that for me both of these things started with a very early morning, nerves and excitement and intense self doubt.

Oh, and pain and exhaustion.  There was lots of that.

In pain, at least the photographer framed the shot nicely.


Also, some very unflattering photographs afterwards.

7.  Hanging out with your own kind

In pregnancy I had NHS Antenatal classes, in which we'd hang out at coffee shops and talk about stretch marks, piles and leaky nipples.  All morning.

Runners on the other hand have parkrun, where we hang out at the park and discuss appropriate training surfaces, running shoes and compare injuries (some of which include bleeding nipples and missing toenails *boak*).

There are genuinely no taboo subjects where both these groups of people are concerned.  Fact.

8.  Other people

From the moment that you announce that you are having a baby other people just love to pass on their helpful advice.  This ranges from how painful and difficult it's all going to be to how easy they found it to give birth themselves and how big their baby was/long their labour was.  People are obsessed with statistics I've found.

Runners are another good example of this.  So many people asked me what time I was hoping for in the lead up to my half marathon.  If not that then they told me how easy my target time would be to achieve.  Also, whenever you announce that you are planning to run a half or full marathon for the first time then there's always someone who replies that they've already run two (there's always one, eh?).  Or worse, the ones who ask you if you're going to stop running now, once you've completed it. Err, no.  I'm not.

9.  Post birth/race blues

You've had the baby and everyone's making a fuss of you both.  Things should be pretty great.  Except you can't stop crying or feeling sad that things maybe didn't go as planned or you are just overwhelmed with the whole experience and how exhausted you feel.  The three day weepy, as a friend of mine called it, is a very uncontrollable and real thing after you've had a baby.  But the good thing is that it passes pretty quickly.

Apparently feeling sad after your first race is also a real thing too.  Although you can't really attribute it to hormones, although I think all the post race adrenaline may have something to do with it.  From obsessing over the bad miles in your race where you know you could have improved, to wondering what to do with yourself now that it's all over and your charity has received their cash.  I even cried because I didn't get a photo of myself crossing the finish line.  I look like a state in all of my running pictures but I still wanted one *sulks*.  Thankfully this passed quickly too.

10.  I want to do it all again

When you suddenly realise that it's nowhere near as bad as you were told/thought and that maybe you are quite good at this and actually enjoy it.  In fact you wonder why you ever doubted yourself at all.  You've got this.  And, you feel an enormous sense of pride and achievement.  Your whole body may feel a wreck but you know you'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

Yes, on reflection, for me completing my first race was pretty similar to that too.




To marathon, or not to marathon?  The training may be as bad as pregnancy but I've survived that not once, but four times.

So, watch this space...

Thursday, 9 March 2017

GCSEs - a revision guide for parents

So, here we are, knee deep in mock exam results and wondering how things are going to pan out over the next few months with the teen boy.

Having been to the parents evenings and the multiple revision/careers/sixth form open days, I somehow feel like there's as much pressure on me to make him get the right grades as there is on him.

There's nothing else for it, it's time for some revision and so I have put together a helpful guide for all parents of teens to enable you get through this highly stressful period.

Repetition

Prince once said that there is joy in repetition, but quite obviously he never had to do GCSE revision with a teenager. It's pretty standard practice to repeat the question "have you done any revision today?" at least 78 times a day for about six months.  Intersperse this with "where are the revision sheets your teacher gave you?" and occasionally switch it up for "have you finished your Art coursework yet?" for good measure. See? Joy... (maybe Prince was being ironic?)

Prince never had to revise with a recalcitrant teen, the lucky sod


Applying revision to everyday life

Examples might be:

Maths - "If I ask you 78 times a day if you've done your revision yet, how many total times will I ask you over the period of the full Spring term (including half term)?"

English - "Give examples, including relevant quotations, of how the battles in this house over Playstation time with your brother accurately reflect the struggles encountered between Ralph and Jack in Lord of the Flies".

Science - "what is the boiling point of a mother's blood upon reading the latest in a very long series of emails from their son's Head of Year detailing what still needs to be done in order for her son to pass his exams?"

Philosophy - "It's not fair.  Discuss".

Downtime

It is important to relax and get away from the daily grind and stresses of GCSE revision.  The teens like to "hang out" and play Call of Duty or whatever, but it's good for us parents to switch off occasionally too.   I like to go running.  I am considering entering at least three half marathons currently, as the resulting training I would need to do to complete them would mean many hours away from constantly having to remind people to get on with their revision the cut and thrust of the revision timetable.  Which would be very relaxing indeed.

Incentivise

Much in the same way that parents incentivise their children to pass exams (apparently the going rate is about £100 for every A*) I like to give myself little incentives too.  Just think that as soon as this is all over there will be less money needed for expensive revision guides (seriously, are they printed on butterfly wings or something?) and yet another copy of Romeo and Juliet (he may be losing these on purpose, I really am not sure) which in turn means that I can spend it on handbags or running shoes instead.  Much better.

Panic

If all else fails, panic!  He'll get it eventually, won't he?  His Maths teacher said not to worry?  He doesn't seem all that worried about it so why should I be?  But what if he has underestimated how hard the exam papers will be? Maybe he could use his bedroom as his final art project?  After all it looks exactly like a Tracey Emin installation**.  And breathe.

Not that I ever do this you understand.  *throws revision guides at teen and rifles through a billion school emails for revision tips*

*realises I have to go through this all again next year*

FML.


**  I could provide pictures but they would be way too horrific.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Hey, Jay Z...

You've got 99 problems and twins?  Are definitely going to be two of them (also your wife as well, if my own behaviour post twins is anything to go by).

Anyway, firstly, Congratulations!  You are about to join quite an elite club - J Lo, Mariah, Celine, Brad and Ange, H from Steps and myself of course.  We're all in the twin parent posse.

So with that in mind I thought I'd give you a heads up on the joys life might hold for you in a few months' time.  It can be quite a learning curve.

1.  Forget ever going anywhere in a hurry again.  You and Bey may think that you are the celebrities now but when those twins come along every outing becomes at least three times as long as you get stopped by everyone, and I mean everyone. The only difference is that they aren't interested in you at all. Imagine that!  No, they really just want to ask all about the twins and squidge their little cheeks (which trust me, gets a bit annoying).  Sometimes you might think its just easier to stay at home instead.  It is.

2.  Forget ever getting through the doors of your favourite shops ever (or anywhere, even doing Blue Ivy's school run is going to be tricky).  I'll be honest here, double buggies these days are very cool, but the one thing that has never really changed about them is that they are all flipping massive.  The instructions may say that it fits through a standard single doorway but basically that's a lie.  Get used to a lifetime of ramming the bastard thing through every doorway you encounter taking plaster off walls, paint off door frames and possibly flesh off other people's ankles as you go.  It's like the manufacturers have inflicted them on us twin parents as the yang to the yin that is the ultimate cuteness that sits inside them.  The good news?  You'll only have to manage this for around three years.  After that you'll be chasing two children in opposite directions instead.  Yeah I know, fun right?!

3.  Get down the gym now and lift some weights.  Not only will you look HOT but it will make the task of lifting the giant baby changing bag that you need for carrying the twins' belongings everywhere you go a whole lot easier.  Twins need loads of gear and I'm betting baby Gucci doesn't exactly pack light.

4.  Be extra nice to your bestest friends/mother.  You and Bey are going to need a night out eventually.  And, to be honest, there aren't a lot of people who willingly babysit three kids at once, especially when two of them are in some kind of crying, puking tag team.  So be nice to your mates and your mother and they'll only feel guilty if they don't be too happy to oblige when you two want to have a night off.  OK, so you'll probably spend that night asleep or eating things without having to share or well, asleep (Ahhh sleep...) but at least you know that the babies will be in good hands with Rihanna or Mrs C Senior.  Give them good Christmas presents and they may even babysit more than once! OK they won't.

Two of my 99 problems.  No idea what they were up to here - but it was probably no good.

5.  Get used to being a referee.  Pretty much as soon as they learn to speak.  The "I am older than him" row is my favourite (especially when you bear in mine that it is only by two minutes).  Everything you give them has to be equal, everything they do has to be the same.  Once I had to split a sweet in two.  A sweet!  If I'm totally honest, this gets quite exhausting eventually.  Earplugs may be the answer actually.

And finally, I know I'm painting a bit of a bleak picture of twin parenting here, but I've asked my husband what it's like being a twin dad and he said he wouldn't change it for the world.  He also really likes going to work now.  So I'm expecting an awful lot of new albums from you over the next year (and probably a tour).

Love to you, Beyonce, and Blue Ivy during this exciting time.

Peace out (or whatever it is you musician types say).

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Very Hungry Teenager*

By the light of an iPhone, a large seemingly immovable lump lay on a bed.

On Sunday morning the curtains were opened by a mother (she had successfully used a head torch to navigate from one side of the room to the other to avoid the piles of clothing and rubbish in her quest for daylight) and POP! - out of the bed lurched a grumpy and very hungry teenager.





"Oh My God!  We never have anything good to eat in this house" he bellowed.  He mother told him she was fed up of always doing the shopping just so that he could eat it all, and so she gave him the cash and dispatched him to the supermarket.

He started to look for some food.

On Monday he ate through one box of breakfast cereal.

But he was still hungry.

On Tuesday he ate through two pot noodles.

But he was still hungry.

On Wednesday he ate through three share sized bags of crisps.

But he was still hungry.

On Thursday he ate through four bacon sandwiches.

But he was still hungry.

On Friday he ate through five custard filled doughnuts.

But he was still hungry.

On Saturday he ate through one freshly baked homemade cake (which was for the school fair),
one tub of Ben and Jerry's (his mother was saving that for eating while watching Sherlock *tuts*),
the last packed of pickled onion flavoured Monster Munch (which he was welcome to),
a whole packet of swiss cheese (for packed lunches!),
a packet of italian salami (seriously, I was looking forward to that),
a lollipop (nicked from his seven year old sister's party bag),
the last of the christmas mince pies from the freezer (well, someone had to have them),
a sausage (I can't leave anything in the fridge for a minute - cold sausages are my favourite),
a cupcake (nothing is sacred),
and one slice of watermelon flavoured bubblegum (no fruit or vegetables may pass his lips).

Unsurprisingly that night he had a stomach ache!

The next day was Sunday again and so he stayed in his pit and got everyone to wait on him hand and foot. That night he felt much better.

And for a brief period at least, he wasn't hungry anymore, and he wasn't little anymore.

He was at least six inches taller than last week.

His mother said that maybe they should go shopping for some new clothes for him.

"But I don't want to go shopping!" he said, "Shopping is sooooo boooooring!" *does eyeroll*

So instead he climbed back into bed, wrapping the covers around himself in a cocoon-like fashion, leaving his mother to work out what size leg he was in jeans now so that she could order them on the internet.  And he pretended to do some GCSE Maths revision for a bit.

Eventually he realised that he needed a shower, otherwise he would likely never get a girl to go to prom with him and so he left his bed and...

demanded that his mother buy him some head and shoulders, some clearasil and a pricey pot of hair wax (oh, and some more breakfast cereal, because someone keeps eating it all?).

The End.

(except it never really is the end is it?  It goes on and on, or is that just me? FFS.)


*  With apologies to Eric Carle (or as the teenagers say, #sorrynotsorry).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...