Friday, 30 August 2013

How I miss my boys.....

Driving away from dropping the boys off at their annual 'Band of Brothers' weekend, I smiled to myself as I heard Max and Jonah, already up a tree, resounding a 'Tarzan' call into the woods.  They are going to have a weekend to fill up their memory tanks as they are allowed to eat Yorkie bars for breakfast, climb trees, play football with their mates and sit around the campfire.  Of course, I am not supposed to know about what goes on at Band of Brothers, so keep that information to yourself.  Anticipated with excitement each year, it is one of those special times which provides great memories and builds fantastic relationships.

The trouble is, I am left all alone for the weekend. 

Mourning their departure, I will, of course, spend the whole time counting down the hours and minutes until their return. 

How will I be able to wake up in the morning without a little voice asking me to show him which films are on Sky Movies (ok, don't tell anyone that bit either - yes, that IS how I keep Jonah quiet in the mornings)?

What will I do in the evenings without bedtime arguments and re-runs of 'River Monsters'?

I should think the withdrawal symptoms of the skate park will be pretty nasty.  Will I seriously be able to survive a whole weekend without a visit?  Not even once?

Surely there will be someone else who can provide me with a running commentary on the different methods of fishing.

How will my viewing of the television be complete without arguments over who is sitting on which seat?

And will I, dare I say it, be able to actually have a whole shower without someone interrupting to tell me about the intricacies of their injury inflicted by a brother?

Is it even possible that I might be able to enter the bathroom without having to check the floor before stepping inside?

I'm not sure I will be able to cope with the responsibility of having the remote control to myself all weekend.  Are there really other programmes out there?

No, this weekend is going to be dreadful for me.  I think I shall curl up in a ball and await their return, with tissues at hand for the occasional weeping.  After all, I have nothing better to do.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Results of Results

Having spent the last two years getting to know some pretty inspiring teenagers, I have discovered that the world they live in is so very different to the one I grew up in (some would wonder if I have, actually, grown up yet...).  

Believe it or not, we didn't have the Internet, mobile phones or tablets.  Information had to be found in dusty old books instead of Wikipedia.  Bullying was to our face not over a social networking site.  We loved New Kids on the Block and Wet Wet Wet (and in my case, Philip Schofield - yes, go on, have a good chuckle and get it all out of your system) instead of One Direction.  We weren't bombarded with images of the 'perfect body' although there was still some pressure to look the part.  We didn't suspect that every older man was a paedophile and being gay was not commonplace.  Boys were fascinating, but we didn't want to have sex with them all and the phrase 'friends with benefits' was non-existent.

It's into this new world that our teens receive their results today.  This world where they must be, say and do the right thing or they will not be accepted.  Their identities are so bound up with whether they fit the mould or not that, results included, they must not fail.  'Failure', in the eyes of the world around them, leads to rejection and a doomed life.  Their GCSE results define their identities - they are an 'A student' or not.  

And so they battle against one of the biggest lies in our culture.  The lie that, if they do not succeed in exams at the ages of 16 or 18, their life is already one big failure and they are placed in the compost bin (not a landfill - that's not pc).

What exams don't take into account is the character of the young person.  They may be the kindest, most caring, passionate and determined people.  They might have ideas and inventions that cannot be tested by exams.  They might be selfless and sacrificially servant-hearted.  The person whose friends approach them for a listening ear might not get an 'A' in Maths but would definitely achieve one in being a good friend.

If we sell identity to our kids based on their exam successes or failures, we sell them a lie.  In a society where our young people are constantly under pressure to be someone they may struggle to be, we need to accept them for who they are and encourage them in the gifts and skills they already have.  
Let's be proud of who they are, and not what they achieve.

Of course, being in love with Philip Schofield isn't something to be proud of....

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Holiday Lesson #1

When the big boys went off for their more extreme versions of fun, I always had a little one to look after. Secretly, I was quite relieved about that. It meant that I didn't have to do the scary bits. It became a habit and so I was never expected to join in.

On our holiday this year though, the little one wanted to do what the big ones were doing.

The first day, I breathed a sigh of relief as I watched them, nets and buckets in hand, sauntering down the beach for some rock-pooling. I savoured the peace as I read my book and people-watched in the sunshine.

After a couple of days, the ants began to arrive in my pants and I started to feel as though I was missing out on the holiday fun. We'd arrive at the beach and they'd be off. I could hear their squeals and screams but, like the proverbial old lady, I was left looking after the bags. I realised that I had spent the last 10 years avoiding the fun (sometimes out of necessity) and that family dynamics had changed. Now, I could join in if I wanted to.

And so, when mackerel fishing was decided upon, I didn't wait on the shore with all the belongings. I clambered on the boat and, to the amazement of the boys, I actually caught a fish. I'm not entirely sure if I enjoyed it. A whole hour of rocking with the swell of the waves did not do my stomach much good, and I was terrified the boys were going to fall in (no life-jackets - apparently the fisherman had been doing it for 29 years and not lost anyone yet...).

And while I was sat on the uncomfortable pebbles snapping bodyboarding photographs, I realised that I could actually go in the sea too. I peeled myself into Jared's already wet wetsuit (not to be advised - it was almost impossible and the boys sniggered as they snapped a photograph of my bottom) and ventured into the ocean. It was so liberating as I laughed, whooped and shouted with my boys. They loved teaching me how to bodyboard and were more than shocked that I'd joined them.

That spark of adventure had always been there, fluttering away inside, but having babies and little ones had dulled it. Not anymore. I don't want to be the mum who always sits on the side. I want to join in the fun too.

Now to look on eBay for a wetsuit.....

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Wisdom of Friends

I love spending time with parents who have already walked the path we are plodding through. Their advice is priceless. Last week, I watched with a small amount of envy as a 13 year old son gave his mum an enormous hug and I asked 'how do you get them to still do that?'.

And the answer?

'Don't let them stop'.

What a fantastic piece of advice.

Toby, almost as tall as me now, still hugs me but Max will only let me cuddle him from behind, and he rarely circles me in his arms. And Jonah? Well, that is a source of sadness to me as my lovely little five year old would prefer not to touch me at all. He is full of affection for his adored Daddy, but not for me. Not ever. And I've allowed this to happen. I have just given up because I thought it was normal. But my heart droops a little more each time I attempt to hold them in my arms only to be rebuffed.

And so, this summer, I am making it my mission to restore physical affection between me and my boys. I've explained love languages to them and said that mine is hugs, and today Max actually cuddled me twice. I'm not going to give up. I want to be enveloped by them in a big bear hug when they tower over me. This mum will always need hugs.

Friends are vital. We weren't designed to bring our children up on our own. We were supposed to do it in community; sharing with one another and speaking truth into each other's lives. Thank you, my friends, for your wisdom in parenting. I couldn't do it without you.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

How much will your uniform cost?

It doesn't come naturally to me, but I do try to be organised.

So the week before school broke up for the summer holidays I began buying school uniform for September. And it's rather a good job because the cost needs to be spread.

Max starts Middle School next term and so for the last two years I have been squirrelling away Toby's almost pristine school uniform, ready to pass on.

And then, in true 'we don't realise / care about all the ramifications of our decisions' style, the school decide to change the uniform. Jumpers alone will cost £18 each (only to be lost in the first week of term).

How can schools actually get away with these expectations? I know it's an age old issue, but surely in these days of 'austerity' parents should be let off the hook. Pupils can be smartly dressed for school without having the logo emblazoned on everything from socks to underwear. What on earth is this logo obsession for? They'll be branding the children's foreheads with it next (and we'll have to pay for the privilege too).

And so, by the time September arrives our family will have spent well over £250 on uniform for three children (including the exorbitantly priced shoes, which I am still umming and aahing over). The summer holidays, in which we are now forced to take our holidays instead of cheaper times of year, are expensive enough without adding on the school uniform craziness.

What are your uniform horror stories?