Last week I was walking down the road with a friend of mine who’s daughter is at the same school as TBK Â we were talking about how they were getting on with them both being Â in year 7 Â when she announced and went into great details about her daughter starting her periods.
I’m not bothered that she told me, dammit I felt sorry for the girl by the sounds of it was hardly a gentle introduction into the monthly merry-go-round of PMS and stomach cramps but it did make me stop and think – I would have been mortified as an early teen if I’d have found out my Mom was walking down the street casually discussing what was going on in my pants with her friends – So what exactly compels us to share so much intimate information about our children with other parents?
As babies we’d discuss sleep patterns and the consistencyÂ and texture of poo, in mother and toddler classes it would be first words and and first steps. In nursery and then into school every milestone would be celebrated with clucking and cooing on the playground, the moreÂ competitiveÂ parents (mothers usually)Â exaggeratingÂ theirÂ children’sÂ achievements, theÂ quieterÂ ones ducking the playground politics by discreetly bowing out of my child’s better than yours conversations and now here we are,me and my parent friends in the brink of those dreaded teenage years discussing puberty, periods and mood swings.
So why do we share so much? Are we telling each other all these things to gain reassurance from each other that were doing it right? To get an opinion on things we feel were doing wrong? Are we showing off? Living vicariously through out children, bragging about there progress and achievements, Or are we pre programmed as humans to share things and as parents our children are one of the biggest things in our lives so it’s only natural that these details get shared.
Or is it at as feel some of all of the above?
Today TBK had an unexpected day off school (long story), and as ever when he is off school not through illness or inset day we set him some work to do at home, Maths, Art and some Literacy. TBK wanted to just make up a story, but James wanted something factual. and more structured. So he got thinking.
Anyone who follows us on twitter (or read my previous post) would know a large part of our time has been taken up recently keeping up with events the other side of the world. More specifically the Christchurch earthquake. Not only do I have family in Christchurch we are also due to fly out to see them in just over 5 weeks time. We’ve discussed the earthquake with Jordan and what that means to our trip and our family out there but we wanted to see how much he had taken in. James wanted to set him the task of writing about it. After some discussion a compromise was reached and it was decided that TBK would, using his knowledge of the earthquake, write a fictional first person account from someone caught in the quake.
He’s only 11 – this is what he wrote:
The Christchurch Earthquake: My Experience
I was minding my own business walking through the park when all of a sudden the ground started shaking, buildings started collapsing and liquefaction started coming up out of the ground. Every where felt like jelly, I was being tossed and turned, I couldn’t move, I knew straight away we were having another earthquake.
It stopped.. Everything had been destroyed. Car alarms were going off, buildings were on fire, I didn’t know what to do! Of course, the first thing that crossed my mind was to run home but there was no one at home, my wife was at work, my children were at school and my mom and dad passed away three years ago.
I quickly ran to my children’s school and they were both luckily fine, I picked them up and ran with them to my wife’s work, it had been completely demolished.
My phone rang, I answered it, it was fuzzy and I couldn’t hear properly, it was MY WIFE I was filled with joy, she had left work for her lunch break thirty minutes ago, she was fine but then everything went silent and I could no longer hear my wife.
I walked with my children to my house, it had not been demolished, only a few tiles were cracked and several chimneys were on the floor in pieces. All the power had gone, I went into the garden to find my wife clearing up the liquefaction, we were all relived to see each other again. We set up our tents in the back garden, as all water supplies were disabled we had to use portaloos, a fire and all the water we could get to ration out between us.
Its been almost a week and we have now got electricity, phone signal and internet connection. The toilets and water supplies are back in business and things are slowly returning to normal, although due to the mess we have still got a lot of work to do.
Being a parent is sometimes quite hard, balancing your own wants and needs as an individual with that of a this small thing who wants independence but relies of you for so much. I’m lucky – I absolutely love being a Mom and TBK makes it easy. We have bumps in the road which we have to deal with, sometimes emotional sometimes physical but I always know we can get through it because long term there are no issues and these are only bumps, but what happens when that bump turns into a mountain?
I’ve been thinking a lot this last week about how hard some other parents have it,Â hard because life jumped up and smacked them in the mouth at the same time as hitting their child over the head with a sledge hammer. I am a fairly prolific twitter user and stay in touch with friends (both real and virtual) via that medium and I’ve been quite humbled this week by the journeys some of the parents I follow are having to take.
I’ve only met one of these parents I’m going to outline belowÂ in real life but if hasn’t stopped me from empathising with any of them, because as a parent I just don’t know how I’d be able to cope if I was faced with the same.
The one follower keeps her twitter stream private so I wont out her here but after having a daughter who wasÂ born with Downs Syndrome, a subsequent diagnoses of Cerebral Palsy and in the last week a further diagnosis of severe arthritis all over her body she’s a lot going on but with 2 more children at home and a charity to run which she set up to support other parents in understanding Downs and going it alone as a single parent I just don’t know sometimes how she carries on.
There is @beast76uk (Phillip) whose son Harry recently lost an eye to Retinoblastoma, whose tweets “”Ok #cancer, this war is WON! Fuck you. Yes, you took his eye, small price to pay in the long run. but we’ve stopped you. You’re fuckin GONE!” and “Got Harry’s #histology results back 2day. No spread of the cancer. absolutely #chuffedtobits ! Left eye is in remission. #couldntbehappier” made me ridiculously happy for a man I’d never met and left me in awe of his resilience as a parent, I don’t know, and I hope I never have to find out how I would reactÂ if faced with the same.
Now there is @junction10 (Jason) someone I have never met but started following a while back because his sense of humour and sarcastic updates made me laugh (and he’sÂ a bloody fine photographer to boot), Another twitter user who is currently going through hell as a parent. Just as I was reading that @beast76uk son was winning their battle with the dreaded C word,Â Jason’s son Joel was just starting his own, a diagnosis of a brain tumour, subsequent surgery and the prospect of 12 months of radio and chemotherapy is a terrible way to start the year.
I don’t know why but Jason and Joel’s story seems to have affected me more than the others (and maybe more than it should for someone I don’t know), maybe it’s because the sarcastic, humorous tone of his stream as been overtaken with heart wrenching updates of his son’s progress where the others didn’t change in such a dramatic way, and that it has laid bare the fundamental fear as parent that when something is going on with your child that is completely out of your control and with the stakes so high just how hard it can be but whatever the reason it has upset me.
Last night I read Jason’s blog “A Sense of Tumour” documenting the journey of diagnosis and tests and surgery (and hospital parking) and then went to bed. At 1:30 I was woken by TBK and his 2 friends who were here for a sleepover. They were banging around and making such a racket I’m surprised the neighbours hadn’t been to knock the door,Â I was just about to get out of bed to read them the riot act when an image from the blog came to mind and I remembered how lucky I was to be at home with my son safe, healthy and happy waking me up. A quiet word with the boys and peace resumed and returned to bed with the lasting impression of how lucky I really am!
Sometimes out of the blue while doing something completely unrelated a long forgottenÂ memory surfaces. Sometimes these are about something TBK said or did. I’ve written before about how I regret not documenting more his younger years so I’ve decided as they come to me I’m going to try and blog them, they wont mean anything to anyone but me, but I just don’t want to lose them again. Here are the first of two remembered this week.
When TBK was really little, when his language skills were less developed and he wasn’t as self sufficient as he is now he had some plastic toy zoo animals, and one day playing in my parents back garden he was trying to ask for one of them….
“Can IÂ have the hit-mut-hos” he asked, repeatedly, with both me and my mom trying to figure out what he wanted “THE HIT-MUT-HOS HIT-MOT-HOS” he demanded getting increasingly frustrated at our lack of understanding.
This went on a short while until he stopped dead, looked at the floor and finally looked up at us and asked
“Can I have the purple fat one”
His lateral thinking as he was getting increasingly frustrated made my parents and my day and for a while afterwards every Hippopotomus was know as “The Purple Fat One”
This evening I came home to find TBK once again beating the crap out of his alien friends on Halo3. Since having had the xBox for Christmas he’s spent more time than I’ve ever let him before seated in front of his computer playing games.
I’ve alieviated myself of some the guilt of being one of ‘those’ parents who sits their children in front of the box to entertain themselves by a. Convincing myself that with xBox live at least it’s social, as in he might be by himself but he’s not playing alone and b. Once the evenings are lighter and the weather warmer he’ll be back out on his bike and in and out the front door like a yoyo just like the last few summers.
I say some of the guilt as I’d still had doubts, I was still worried of the ‘mind numbing effects of playing pointless video games’ and didn’t wish him to become a statistic of the illiterate generation we hear so much about in the media.
I know I’ve been worrying unnecessarily as my mis-spent youth visiting friends houses and setting up our own LAN parties for weekend long games of Quake hardly set my development back at all – and you’ve only got to have a conversation with TBK to see he’s a well rounded 10year old, but as a parent you can’t help but worry.
I discovered needn’t have!
This evening TBK showed me in style why I have no need to worry about computer games stunting his academic development.
Whilst in the virtual world of Halo he was running across a sandtrap and jumping to strike a competitor, gravity hammer in hand, In the real world he’s sitting in the arm chair screaming “Onomatopoeia” at the screen and the following exchange took place ..
Me: why did you say that? Do you know what Onomatopoeia means?
Me: explain then….
TBK: it’s when a word sounds like its spelt, like bang, and the gravity hammer goes bang when you hit something, so….Onomatopoeia!
I don’t mind admitting that I think I was a whole lot older than 10 before I grasped the concept of onomatopoeia, in fact I can still remember learning about it in secondary school, which definitely made me older than 10, and I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where I’ve had a discussion that included the word onomatopoeia or used it outside of that classroom before this evening.
So if TBK wants to spend his down time plugged into his xBox talking to the voices of his disembodied friends hunting aliens in “pointless video games” then so be it because it’s at times like this evening that I realise it’s not doing any harm at all!
Iâ€™m going on Holiday in October Term time AND taking my 9 year old son with me. I take him out of school every year for a holiday and for other activity days, as was agreed with his school that I be allowed to do so in advance of enrolling him.
Flexi Schooling is the correct term for it.
I take my responsibility as a parent very seriously and TBK consistently scores in the top percentile in his classÂ and receives glowing praise every year from his teachers, he has friends in school who come home to play (please read create havoc), and is fully integrated into society, he is bright and articulate, and as bias as I may be as his mother I do have the school reports to back this up, His education and social skills are not suffering because of it, if anything they are prospering.
YET the local paper is yet again reporting on an increase of “Truancy Fines” and while the article itself didn’t really rub me up the wrong way.Â As, I will never have to pay a truancy fine for my sonÂ as we’ve the proper protocol in place for our educational choices, But taking out holiday leave from the debate,Â it still leaves the question unanswered of WHY these young people feel the need to play truant in the first place?*,Â What really wound me up was the ignorance of some of the commentators who posted both before and after me.
These trips or in some peoples eyes “absenses” provide an education kids just can’t get when in school and also teaching shouldn’t just happen, and in our life DOESN’T, just happen from 9am – 3pm in the classroom!
On our holiday, just like last year, we will be teaching TBK Maths (currency conversion), Geography (he knows where we are going and surrounding countries) History, (we often like to visit cultural and historical monuments while away and actively encourage TBK to involve himself in the culture). R.E. (Turkey (this years destination)Â is a predominantly a Muslim country) and much more, all on a one to one basis for periods of time he would never get in the classroom.
Previously he’s also been out of school to have the opportunity to attend HESFES, (the home educators seaside festival) where he has taken part in wood work and metal work excersizes,Â fabric painting and labyrinth building amongst other things, using skills he’d have never developed sat behind a desk.
We’ve taken him out of school to have a hands on learning experienceÂ as a zoo keeper for the day.Â He’s had time off to go to an archery day, and to attend other exhibitions and events. Once, when he was in reception class, I even kept him off school on a Monday JUST so he could have a day off, As over the weekend he had participated in clay building with us, visited a monkey sanctuary, spent an afternoon playing drums and for a child of only 6 this was a lot, he needed the rest!
So how about we stop stereotyping parents who take their kids out of the classroom for any period of time as losers (as one commentator metioned) or selfish (as another did) and look at the beneifts these extra curricular activities can and do provide!
The real time and effort should be concentrated on dealing with the parents whoâ€™s children arenâ€™t getting any education through truancy because the parents just don’t care!
* Yes I played truant as a teen, and I was duely punished for it by my mother, But I know why I did it. I hated my English teacher and she hated me, proven fact as she marked all my work down and told me , and my mom, I woudln’t get higher than a D,Â myc oursework was sent to the invigulator and came back marked higher and I left school with a B (lit) and a C(lan)Â Take that Mrs Smith!
Maybe if I’d have been listened to as a teen and moved to another class I’d have attended those sessions I missed and maybe that tis the answer now, listening to what our young people want!
(oops this has been sitting in my drafts, I thought I’d posted it)
Not Christmas gone, but the one before “Nanny Penny” bought TBK a voucher to become a zoo keeper for the day at Dudley Zoo.
It was going to be awesome we were going to book it and we were going to spend a lovely day meandering around and watch TBK play with the animals all day, but then the rain came, and last summer it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained and just to be helpful, as the deadline grew nearer for the voucher to be usedÂ it rained some more. So, being the diligent parents we are we promptly called the zoo and brought an extension with the hope that a time would come when the rain stopped and we could go.
Finally it did, things started looking brighter and more importantly dryerÂ so we made the booking, set the date and forged ahead; But wouldn’t you know it as the date came aroundÂ it bloody poured down again, but, we thought FUCK IT and went anyway.
TBK got up close and personal with with some animals,Â Some he was a lot happier around than others:
He met a rat ( he only wanted to hold it to upset Mom, who doesn’t really like Rats)…
…a chinchilla (his favourite)…
…Mr Lizard …
…a tapir (who is famous, apparently she’s from Longleat and was featured on Animal Park)…
…The Red Panda AKA The Firefox (the geek in me liked this)…
…and the penguins (his all time favourite part of the day).
All the animals had names but I’m damned if I can remember them now.
It was (despite the rain and me getting ill) a lovely day and TBK had a wonderful experience, made all the nicer for him (and us) by the lovely staff he accompanied. They were very informative and answered any questions he (or we) had about breeding programs, conservation etc. and the zoo in general, for instance; Did you know that most the buildings and animal enclosures are listed buildings, hence the desperate need for renovation but lack of planning permission! I didn’t, I feel slightly guilty for judging them over the state of the place now.Â Even better though, while there even I made some new friends.