Tara, at Sticky Fingers, sets a photograph challenge each week. I’ve been meaning to take part for months but, well, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for months. So, to celebrate putting metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper, I’ve hunted through Windows Explorer to find something for this week’s theme: Show me the funny.
May I present two or maybe three photos which encapsulate for me Living with Teenagers.
I spotted this sculpture at Tate Modern earlier this year. It sums up for me exactly how I feel when I come home from a week’s fieldwork. Laundry basket overflowing, bedroom floors invisible beneath the mound of wet towels, on duty as Domestic Goddess (if only) the moment I step through the door…
And then there is the challenge of making teenage boys Go Out For A Walk… You can feel the happiness and excitement in this picture.
And finally, do teenage boys read? Or only when they have to?
I know that, as a responsible citizen with a fully paid up TV licence, I should have been watching the Prime Ministerial debates during the election campaign. And I did, I really did, listen to part of each of them on the kitchen radio following the Guineapig family’s various Thursday evening jumping around activities in disparate parts of East Lothian. But I only listened to part of them because on Thursday evening at 9.30pm Outnumbered came on the box. The series is now finished, sadly. Political debate v Outnumbered? Scripts v improvisation? Adults arguing like children or children arguing like adults? No competition.
Anyhow, one of the best episodes of the election campaign was the one where the family discovers that Ben’s a whizz at chess. It suits him because spear wielding knights can charge through the opposing army and lay waste in all directions while alien pawns come hurtling in from outer space. As part of the discovery process there were dicussions about the relative merits of letting your child win as opposed to playing to win yourself. Of course, when Ben trounced them all they all protested that they’d just let him win. No, they didn’t fool the viewers. It set me wondering, though, at what point I stopped playing GP2’s Scrabble hand as well as my own and started playing for my own survival. I’m just about hanging on to my winning record, but only just. And when did I start finding the crossword has been done by one of the children before I get there?
I was struck, at the school bus meeting, not by an angry parent but by the general negativity in the room. Scattered amongst the “what about your expenses” and “you’re not listening to us” comments were mutterings about the Curriculum for Excellence. Why, people were asking, was money being wasted on this scheme that people clearly didn’t want? Now, I can’t profess to knowing a huge amount about the CfE but from what I do know, I wish it had been introduced early enough to benefit my two guineapigs, now in the closing stages of their school careers. I think there’s a huge selling job still to be done.
I’ve always thought that it must be extremely difficult to introduce real change in education, change beyond tinkering around the edges. The problem is that everyone thinks that their experiences were the best. They want the system they know for their children. The popular pundits tend to bolster this view. And children are in education for such a short space of time. Yes, I know it seems forever on that first day when they walk up the road in their smart new uniform, clutching their superman lunchbox and you’re choking back the tears, but believe me, it zips by. Continue reading →
Long, long ago, in my student days, I went to a talk by David Owen at Strathclyde University. It was around the time that the Gang of Four were breaking away from the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party. It was the first time I’d been to a public lecture by someone of his stature and I remember I was quite blown away by it. He may not have been the orator of Michael Foot’s standing, but it was still very powerful stuff. At around that time I also went to a rally where Shirley Williams, always one of my favourite politicians, was speaking. I had friends who were doing Politics, you see, and they made sure I went to all the right events. Anyhow, Shirley Williams was preceded by a local Councillor who introduced her with a rambling speech. When her turn came, it was immediately clear that Williams was in another league. She may not have been glamorous but she oozed charisma. I’ve no idea now what she said, but I do remember the enormous gulf between the presentation skills of this leading politician and the local councillor. There was no mistaking which of the two had made it to the top.
This memory returns to me every time one of our local councillors makes another gaffe and I try to remind myself that they’re surely doing their best and that it must be a truly thankless job being a local politician. For instance, there was the issue over the swimming pools when my two were small. Continue reading →
“Midnight? Midnight? It’s Christmas Eve for goodness sake.” It was just as well it wasn’t me on the phone to the AA as it was at this point I suffered a sense of humour blackout. “There are a lot of people having a far worse Christmas than this” I kept muttering to myself.
“Very sorry sir, but there are some people who’ve already been waiting almost 8 hours.”
“We’ve already been waiting 8 hours. You want us to wait another 8?”
I buy more coffee and some peanuts, the only gluten-free food available. Despite the fact that we’ve been almost the only customers all day, the lady in the cafe still doesn’t acknowledge us. Meanwhile GPD phones our best hope of rescue, but they’re already in Blackpool for Christmas. Or Bolton or somewhere starting with a B off the M6. We knew it was a long shot.
We debate trying to get the car back onto the motorway, to bump ourselves back up the priority list. Unfortunately, though, we figure that might result in a priority ride to A&E so abandon that plan.
This morning, at 9am, I found myself online with my finger hovering over the Buy This Instant button as T in the Park tickets came on sale. Apparently I agreed to buy GP1 a ticket in return for his fantastic exam results this year. That must have been during one of my more maternal “Let’s be positive and look on the bright side” moments, as my understanding of fantastic exam results doesn’t entirely coincide with my son’s. In fact, I don’t think our opinions even approximately match. Still, not being one to go back on my word, even if I can’t quite remember the conversation, I did the deed and bought the ticket.
So I’m now the proud owner of a ticket for the 2010 T in the Park. It’s my ticket. Mine. Not his. If he wants it, there will be conditions attached. And if he doesn’t get respectable marks in his prelims in February, I will be offering the ticket to the highest bidder. Or any bidder. Perhaps I’ll give it away. I’m sure there are some very deserving cousins who’d appreciate it. Who knows, I could even go myself.
If I were my son, I wouldn’t be calling my bluff. You have been warned, GP1.
Please form an orderly queue now. You can camp overnight if you want to be first in line. And no pushing at the back!
Things were easy when the boys were small. Birthday parties maybe involved booking the swimming pool or local bouncy castle for an hour or so, a few sandwiches and crispie cakes, grapes for the health conscious and a party bag or two. We went through taking a few friends to the pictures and then it all went quiet for a while before we got to paintballing.
So, this year… “Mu-um?” “Yes?” (note the nervous upward inflexion).
“Can we have a few friends in? And will you go out for the evening? Maybe you could stay out overnight?”
“How many friends? Who? And there’s no way we’re staying out overnight.”
So, 10am I dropped off a jittery, jumpy, couldn’t-sit-still GP2 for his first exam. “I’m not nervous” he said. Hmm. By the time we got to the school he had my stomach turning somersaults. Maths.
It started yesterday, 3pm. “Mum! My calculator’s broken”. “It’ll be the battery” she said sagely and spent the next 20 minutes extricating one of those tiny silver buttons, the sort you never have spares of in the house, from an impossibly tight casing. Dashed up to town for spares. Dashed home to insert. It still didn’t work. Emergency phone call to GPD to purchase new calculator on his way home.
“I can’t do this question! How do I work this out? We’ve not done this.”
One hitherto unforeseen advantage of trundling round the house with the vacuum cleaner is that it gives you space to compose blog posts in your head. One disadvantage is that the instant you switch the machine off, those wonderfully crafted words disappear, sucked up as far as I can tell into the Dyson.
Anyway, there I was, mulling over the apparent impossibility of getting GP1 to even think about doing any revision for the forthcoming prelims or perhaps even making a list of what he needs to do. I don’t ask for much. His younger brother, on the other hand, also faced with exams, comes out with such gems as “Mum, if I do this past paper could you mark it so that I don’t cheat?” You’d throw up wouldn’t you, if he wasn’t your own son. So I just laugh, lavish praise, agree and wonder why the application genes couldn’t have been divided equally.
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to auction tickets for someone to accompany me to Parents’ Evening tonight. Continue reading →
I’m sure you all know how it is that, despite all outward evidence to the contrary, you feel exactly the same inside as you did when you were 20. The only difference, as far as I can tell from the inside, is that I’m not asked for identification any longer when I try to buy a drink in a pub. I was well into my twenties before I was able to buy alcohol without being challenged. Not that I get much opportunity to buy drinks in pubs these days, of course.
How times change. There I was the other day, idly browsing in a phone shop with GP2 (my mobile has packed up) whilst his older brother was next door in the Disney shop (yes, really) looking to spend money he didn’t have on a present for the girl who isn’t his girlfriend. Continue reading →
It was the Swimming Club AGM on Monday. And yes, I’ve finally managed to get myself off the committee. We bludgeoned and battered and locked the door. There was no escape. We have a new, EU-style committee. No one wanted to be big chief – no one ever does – so they’re going to take turns, a well-oiled chair rolling around the room. Once we’d agreed that we could manage without a President, Chairman, figurehead, whatever you want to call it, there were plenty of willing volunteers. I think it will spread the work load much better, without everything defaulting to one individual and without any one person feeling responsible for everything. Here’s hoping, in any case. And enough people have stood for the committee that, even if a few fall by the wayside as their children get bored of swimming, we should get by.
There’s a frightening amount of organisation required for children’s clubs these days, much more than was ever required on my days on adult sub-aqua club committees. The only bit most people see in swimming is Continue reading →
Mother at Large is becoming a book! As an older mother myself, I’m well impressed. And on that note (the older mother one) I’m contemplating running a sweepstake on the number of people who comment on my grandchildren when the boys come to visit me in hospital this week. Always assuming they come to visit, of course!
I’ve just dropped by Ollie Bray’s blog and read his post about a family-oriented internet safety training evening that Musselburgh Grammar School held this week. I would have liked to have gone along but there’s been too much going on this week, so here’s hoping Ross High will run a similar evening in the near future. (Just nicked your picture, Ollie – thanks!)
I am very aware that my eldest son spends all his spare time at home on the computer – games, BeBo, MSN, Hotmail, Skype and who knows what else. His cousin in Manchester Continue reading →
Just to continue a theme that seems to have developed over the past few posts. It is simply not fair that your older brother has his birthday six days before yours. Particularly when you’re the one who gets really excited about these things, and you’ve been counting down the days for weeks. Those six days of anticipation are sheer torture and it becomes so difficult to sit still and concentrate on anything! It’s the same every year of course and I do hope that the excitement continues for a few more years.
Once the birthday and its inevitable anticlimax is over we’ll be counting the days to Halloween and planning guising costumes, then the days until Christmas. It’s a good thing there’s always something to look forward to!
“Come up with a plan and we’ll think about it” replied those of us who could see yet another thing to organise looming. “A proper business plan” said our very sensible coach.
So huddles formed in the cafe for the next week or so – is there a word for a gaggle of teenagers? An MP3ggle perhaps? Or maybe a grunting if it’s boys, a squealing if it’s girls – and occasionally one member would peel off with a question for their elders. The criteria for membership of the organising committee seemed to be age-related: 12 and over if you were a girl, 14 and over for boys, with the two oldest and noisiest girls as ringleaders. We weren’t presented with a plan so much as a fait accompli. They would organise a sponsored swim Continue reading →
I’m off into the wilds of Perthshire for a week or so, looking for Slender Naiads – no, not water nymphs but a rare species of plant that grows in some of the freshwater lochs up there. After that, I’m off to Wales, weather and engineers permitting, to dive on the only Welsh maerl bed, conveniently located right in the centre of a major engineering project. It should therefore be very quiet in this corner for the next couple of weeks. I have a list of things to do as long as my arm and really should not be sitting here blogging. Must go. But first…
GP2 said the other day, in a very accusing tone of voice, “You are going to be here for my birthday this year, aren’t you?” “Well yes, but it looks like I’ll miss GP1’s.” “You’ve missed mine for the past two years.” I’m not sure that’s strictly true, personally, as I think I only missed last year’s, but the guilt strings have been suitably twanged. Poor neglected children. There’s a post over on Mother at Large all about the evils of leaving your child with a minder (she’s reporting the opinion of others, I must point out). What would they say about missing your child’s birthday? Will I be struck down by a bolt from the heavens? And what age are children when they stop minding that you’re not there for their birthday? When do they stop counting down the days? I’ve a feeling I’ve got some way to go on that front.
I’m back! Well, OK, I haven’t in fact been any further than the utility room at the other end of the house, which doubles as a lab and houses my microscopes in a truly microscopic corner. As Andy from Wales remarked, when he called in to collect some of the buckets of pickled seabed I’ve been working on, “You really don’t have much room, do you?” Anyhow, I’ve been shackled to the microscope and, as it’s holiday time, have relinquished the computer to the children. On top of that, a neighbour’s tree took out our phone line and I had to have daily arguments with BT for a week before they would come and fix it. “Our checks show it is not a fault with the line. Please turn off your modem and check your handsets”. “We’ve done that. Several times”. “Our checks show it is not a fault with the line…” Deep breath and much gnashing of teeth. “It is a fault with the line. Please come and fix it!” So I haven’t blogged for a while. Or read anyone else’s blog.
In the last few days I have resumed my duties as Chief Chauffeur, my plaster having been removed a week or so ago. I can drive, but can’t walk. In fact that’s not strictly true; Continue reading →