Sunday, 25 September 2011

Moving forward

After a tense couple of weeks (which I'll be honest-had me weeping buckets), we've come to an impasse with the Finn saga.  That's not to say it's an uncomfortable deadlock, and I have hopes that the bullying will come to a complete end and it won't affect Finn or his future in the way it has.  I think and hope it was something that happened last year, but now I'm aware, I can build my son up to be able to tackle it head on and give him back the confidence he's lost.

Funnily enough, no one appears to have seen or heard any thing that may have contributed to the incidents, but I guess that's the way with insidious bullying...and because Finn put on a brave face and didn't complain no one really noticed. His new teacher is understanding (and she is fresh out of uni!) and is "up" on the ways to tackle incidents; pinpointing and recognising issues and dealing with issues without laying blame. I'm hoping subtlety will work so in the meantime BB (fantabulous rugby fiend and all round super athlete) is collecting him from school with a rugby ball tucked under his arm. They spend 15 minutes chucking the odd shaped ball around they playing field.  In the past couple of days a few more boys have joined in with this new regime (possibly because of the world cup) and Finn has shown a talent for making conversions. Apparently his kicks are high and straight. Move over Jonny!!  BB has said that Finn is better at it than he thinks he is; he may be small, but he's fast and a little bit furious.

It's still early days, and I'm hoping that it will become easier. Finn has a diary in which he writes down everything that was said or done.  I don't allow him to dwell on it. I found some terrific advice from Kidpower and it has helped give him some confidence. One thing I noticed was that Finn is unaware of what is going on around him.  He walks in his own world. I'm not sure whether this is as a result from the bullying and self preservation or whether he really does walk to his own beat. His teacher is helping and has called out the culprit a few times not specifically when he's targeting Finn. Finn knows that one day, he'll be bigger than the bully (BH is bigger than his dad so he's got to be!) and that one day they'll be shaking hands over a beer..but they've got a few years to go before this will happen.

I'm glad Finn didn't want me to smash their faces in.....I wouldn't have done, but it's made me realise that sometimes life isn't fair or just and something needs to be done about it. Fighting back with a degree of compassion and understanding is better than using your fists. My boy may not understand it all just yet, but when he does he will become a better man.

Monday, 12 September 2011

What about Bullying?

Now they're all back at school I was hoping life would be peaceful and uncomplicated. Each evening, when the kids come home from school we go through the usual.

"What did you have for lunch?"
"Something black"

"What did you do in class?"
"Something about war/drawing/got sent out."

"What do you have for homework?"

However, today it was a little bit different. I have no idea how we got onto the conversation but I think I asked Finn who he played with at break time.
"No one",  he said "I just read my comic"  He wasn't moaning just stating a fact.
"...then Tom, Robert and David came over and pulled the comic out of my hands and ripped it up."

"Ooookaaay", I said carefully, "What did you do?"

My son sat there and let some other boys take his comic and rip it up and did nothing.

"Why didn't you tell a teacher? Why would they do that and why didn't you do anything about it?" I was beginning to get a bit panicky.  I could hear the tone of my voice rising. I was holding down a rising bile in my chest...and I was afraid.

"Because no one will do anything and they say I'm weird!"

Then it all came spilling out.  For the past year my son has suffered constant torment.  Not from one boy but from 11. And I had no idea.

I sat down, with a piece of paper and wrote down everything he told me.

The torment does not come in forms of beatings but from sly nudges with bags, from shoulder bashes, from laughing and sniggering when he stands up to read or recite. They put out their feet when he passes by so that he'll trip. They pull out his chair when he's about to sit down.  He's been kicked down the stairs and suffered a bloody mouth.  He's been pushed off his bike.  He no longer plays football with the boys during games and plays rounders with the girls, because the girls leave him alone.

He's been told he's not cool.
He's been told he's thick.
He's been told he's strange because he loves skateboarding.
He's been told his weird because he loves to draw intricate, detailed sketches.
He's been told everyone hates him.

Why?  I have no idea. I think because Finn is "so nice" everyone thinks they can do what they want to him...and get away with it. And clearly they have. Finn won't complain to his teacher because  he says "she won't listen".

I've noticed that he wasn't invited to some parties but I wasn't duly concerned...not everyone gets invited.  During the summer he hadn't invited any one over and although I noticed that he spent time alone, I was unconcerned as I believed he was a loner. A bit like me.  Happy in his own company..but he isn't.  I now wonder whether the headaches that he has suffered from are as a result of the pressure that he has been under.  He tells me that some of the boys come up to him after he's suffered at their hands and tell him "Don't take it's just the way it is!" and individually, he tells me they are really quite nice...but in a group he is their target. He hadn't told me as he had accepted it as part of his life....and I feel disgusted with myself for not realising.

How do you tell your child he's the coolest boy on the planet and that he will go on to do great things because of his innovative thinking and ideas. That he is kind and thoughtful. How do you tell your child that some boys are shits and they'll maybe grow into shitty adults. How do you tell your son that there are nasty creeps out there, that pick on others because they are so inadequate themselves. Or do I tell him to get a grip or punch their lights out, when you know they'll stamp all over him? Do you tell him to grow a pair, or do you grow a pair for him and sort it out?

As he lay on his bed not weeping, nor feeling sorry for himself, I asked him

"Do you want me to punch their lights out?"

He laughed and said

"No Mummy, you'll probably get into trouble"

I can't do anything about it, because he won't let me. I want to take each of these boys and tell them they're wrong, but they're just kids. They don't really understand the concept of insidious bullying. They don't understand how it can make life a misery as they're only children. All I can do is prepare him. To make him strong. To know that being nice isn't a crime, or even wrong. To bite back when they hurt him, either with words or with his fists. I need to make him angry enough to stop it.

I can't change what others think about him and I can't make him popular but I need to make him know that he isn't "rubbish...because he isn't!! 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

I am the Queen of Inappropriate Comments

.....and I wish I could keep my gob shut!

My nephew (BB) is currently staying with us, while sis has moved (albeit temporarily) to foreign climes. I have been charged with his development and keeping a check (as mummies do) on his eating habits. BB is 22, and an absolute delight. He has become a role model for our 2 young thugs and a big brother to Mimi.  He is sensitive, polite, respectful, funny and kind and has become my favourite house guest...ever! If my two turn out anything remotely like him I will be absolutely delighted. It is hugely unlikely though, as their mother is continues to tread the boards between inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour most times, while BB's mother appears to have done it all correct as laid down in the "Mummies Handbook" which appears I have never read...or even heard of.

I have come to this sudden realisation while sitting down with BB one evening. I am the master of quick quips and he often asks for my response for a witty comeback when replying to the many texts he receives. He received a message from a potential employer into which he had been copied. He wanted to send a witty response...and with me assisting, we did!  Wrong move!  As soon as the message was sent BB realised it wasn't a good idea, and the silence and clenched jaw sent me running to my room with my head under my pillow, damning and berating myself for my damn,big mouth. He didn't lose his job before he had started it, but possibly could have.To have this effect on someone I care about has made me understand the damage I can wreck in a few well (or badly) chosen words.

I must realise by now that I AM NOT FUNNY but potentially very dangerous. But I keep doing it. I'm very good in polite company, but when I'm "with my own" I let loose and tell it like it is...when you can see my expression, when you know me well you'd realise it's meant in humour...but when written in sounds positively evil!

Now you'd think I'd learn from my own personal experiences (very nearly lost my own job) and close shaves..but oh no...I carry on thinking I have complete autonomy when it comes to "saying what I think"...I should stop and listen to my inner voice which tells me "No...don't do it...remember last time?" but I don't. I just carry on regardless.

Ma told me of an incident with an ex sister in law, who I wasn't too fond of. She was in hospital and was recovering from an operation. My response was
 "Oh she didn't die then?"...see..not funny!

Another occasion involved a baby...a beautiful bouncing, chubby baby.  A baby that had caused no harm (yet) to anyone. As it sat gurgling on it's mothers knee, I noted it resemblance to another baby I knew.  I wasn't derogatory about the baby I knew but I couldn't remember it's name. "Ohh look," I said to Ma, "that baby looks like that blah, blahs baby".  The comments reached the ears of the person I was referring to and I have been banned from contacting said baby as it was believed I had said "Look at that fat baby...looks like blah blah's mother"  I didn't say that, but hearsay has a way of changing to suit a particular purpose.

I once commented on a particular persons blog with what I thought was a witty ditty in response to a post.  The said person sent me a private email, asking why I thought it was necessary to comment in such a manner! I attempted to placate said person, admitting to inappropriate comments at all times, it was made in jest and I promised to take it seriously in the future and was sorry for offending them, blah, blah, blah. I wasn't really, but I said it anyway. Said person has now deleted me as a friend from twitter, along with several of her other friends and now my dwindling "friend list" means I'm losing friends and making enemies.

During a social event at the school I mistook the wine for Ribena and drank copious amounts to quell the nervousness. It was the "Race Night" and our table against all odds...won!  I don't normally drink  but this occasion was new and I felt a little bit out of my depth as most of the parents were  musicians, fabulous actors dahling (sic), or amazingly accomplished CEO's  Our table tried to out do the "fabulist" group by being loud and raucous! No excuse for my behaviour though.

On winning, I was sent up to receive the prize. As the headmaster handed over the Vouchers for a Spa day, I asked if it were possible to "take the massages en mass?". The headmaster raised his eyebrow and replied, "As you wish!" whilst twirling his moustache .  Every now and then the headmaster gives me a wink and I run for cover, quivering in fear. My  appearance on stage has now ensured that any appearances are fleeting and I wonder if I have damaged any chances I may have had in trying to get on the parents committee, along with damaging the prospects of my children. Thankfully BH laughs at my episodes.  They amuse him.  He tells me I'm a "good" person and that's why he adores me!

What have you ever said that has landed in you in big doo doos? Have you inadvertently offended someone with your more than frank comments...or am I all alone here?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

How to prepare them for university....

My friend Marion has three boys.  Marion is organised, practical and runs her own business so she needs to be. Nick, her eldest son is 18, and off to uni this year.  She won't allow him to take a "gap year" this year, knowing that his fees will treble if he went gallivanting. It only seems like yesterday when he was in his short trousers holding the hand of his younger brother on his first day at school and telling him not to cry because he would be there for him.

The thing I admire about Marion is her ability to look to the future and be prepared, although she wasn't as foresighted when it came to her husbands infidelity. The thing with Marion is that she is tenacious. She sticks with it....and she stuck with him.  I have to admire her.  I personally, would have kicked him into touch...or kicked him out.  When I asked her why she allowed him to treat her so appallingly she replied "But I love him!"...I really can't argue with that, now can I?  Love it seems can conquer all, and I'm glad.  I'm glad that she doesn't see marriage as a throwaway; I'm glad that she has had the courage to "stand" by her man despite the horrible blip that he made her endure.  Having spoken to her man, I can only conclude that he truly is sorry for the mess that he created, their subsequent financial ruin, and the role model he has provided for his boys. But he finished our conversation with "you know how Marion is.."

Marion is a stalwart, and although I can only assume she weeps behind closed doors she is ever the "loyal and reliable" wife and mother.  It's behind her now. "Onwards and upwards" she cheers.

So this brings me onto her new idea.  Marion is full of great ideas and actually gets to put them into practice.  Because Marion is a doer, her boys have never really had free reign in the kitchen.  She is Mother earth. Their clothes are neatly placed in their wardrobe after being painstakingly ironed.  Their lunches are prepared with on eye on their nutritional content and lovingly packed into their airtight containers.  Their suppers are freshly cooked (no microwave meals for them), with organically grown veg straight from their own garden.  BH wonders at her abilities and holds her up as a paragon. I know he secretly wishes for a "Marion", and when he mentions a particular dinner party of hers he "wonders" how she does it all and runs a successful business to which I counter

" know how Marion is!"

With Nick off to Uni, she fears for his life.  Forget about the liquid diet, the aftermath of a debauched night out, no doubt with kebabs or an artery killing curry.  She's worried that he won't eat properly...and she's damned right.  It's highly unlikely that he'll worry enough about whether he will have enough money for food, and worry more that he'll have enough for his booze.  But anyway, she is equipping him to be a veritable whizz in the kitchen.

Marion is spending the next 6 weeks preparing him and a group of his friends to whip up gourmet meals on a shoe string. One evening each week, Nick and 5 of his friends (who are all off to uni too) trot off to the supermarket armed with a  shopping list and a fiver which will enable them to cook the "meal of the week" for four. Nick says that this could last him four days leaving him three days in which he will be able to eat utter crap. She says that if they can master only one signature dish, then her work will be done. 

She is also teaching them to look for the bargains, learn about money management and to shop around, so she takes them to a different supermarket each week.  The boys have learnt that the more they save, the more they have left ...enough to pool for a bottle of wine to enjoy with their feast!!! She says it's like a mad supermarket sweep; these hulking young men with their floppy hair, rushing around with their baskets, asking each other for advice, grabbing and fighting over the "sale" items and all done in no more than 10 minutes. 

So far I think it's been a success. The boys have made lasagna and shepherds pie, all with a healthy salad and a pudding with none of it from a packet! She's also preparing each of them a little parcel to take with them when they all shoot off to "freshers".  Each parcel will contain salt, pepper, spices, garlic...along with some of the more obscure spices...and a packet of Berrocca! 

I hope that Marion continues with her project. It's something that all children/young adults need to know about when starting off on their own.  Too many resort to the pre-packaged disasters that line our supermarket chillers. I can see Bart and Finn with their plates full of sweets and icecream and shopping for packet mix cakes. Mimi will no doubt be making cornflake crispies. I pray that Marion will still be around to offer them the chance to "cook", and I pray that she will still be my friend.

Maybe this should be something that schools offer all school leavers?  Giving them the ability to fend for themselves if only with a couple basic meals. It's pracitcal and obvious. I think Marion could be onto a winner here!  How did you prepare your child for their next adventure?  Would this be something you'd encourage your child to do? Or is your child a whizz in the kitchen already?

I think I'd teach them to use the washing machine!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Why have they changed the school uniform?

Like many, it's time for the kids to go back to school.  Like many, for some very obscure reason, the uniform has changed.  The kids, it seems are happy...they just like buying new things...but FFS I have three of the little darlings!  And I have to start all over again.  No more "hand-me-downs". I can't off load the stuff to friends; I can't give it to the school for re-cycling and it's all still in such good nick! The socks alone cost me £9 a pair (yes, it's a little excessive but they are at a private school and I get a BOGOF!). Finn will be leaving next year to go to "Big School" too, so his hand me downs won't go onto Mimi (and I really can't see her in his shorts!) so it looks like they're going to be relegated to the bin! Bart is starting at "Big School" so he now has a completely new wardrobe.

Jude (school gate mum), tells me that the smart new image is to encourage potential parents to send their offspring to the school.  To instill pride and glory. Apparently, the uniform hasn't changed much since the bygone era, where the girls wore boaters and the boys, caps.  They still wore their shorts until they were men (12 actually), then wore long trousers into their final year. Now, all boys will wear long trousers so I will now have to get out the darning kit as I can see the potential for damage!

The school itself basis it's values on the "old fashioned" approach due to it's long history.  It used to be a boarding school and if you go to the top of "Boarders Hall" where the main administration office is kept one you can see the old dormitories which are now stacked full of old music stands, tiny desks and chairs complete with inkwells, and dusty books. The headmasters office is grand and opulent, redolent of the days gone by. I believe he still has the original, highly polished desk which he sits behind twiddling with his moustache. I can tell he gets nervous around me as the twiddling gets faster and more manic...what can I say? I don't mean to make him feel ill at ease, and I worry what the staff say and does he think I'm going to pounce on him...not bleedin' likely!! 

Over the past few years I've collected an abundance of uniform items, from ties, to shorts and shirts all outgrown (not the ties of course...who outgrows a tie?) and they are all neatly stacked in the chest at the top of the case of an emergency.  As I work away a lot of the time, each of them need a replacement uniform, gym and sports kit and all manner of accompaniments. Miriam (au-pair), doesn't "do" washing...I've banned her as the boys shirts turned a lovely shade of grey. Bart refuses to wear pink underpants, although Mimi would be happy to wear them, but they keep slipping off.

But why have they chosen this year to change the uniform from maroon to green?  I really don't get it!  Particularly in this economic down turn.  The school is only a tiny one and they can ill afford any loss of children.  Many have left, this year to start at the local state schools so instead of 15 to a class there will be on average 10. Great for us, but not so good for the school coffers and not so good for the competitive environment that children need.

Yesterday, I popped along to the local uniform suppliers, and just like me, Mums and Dads were desperately trying to kit their children out with their new uniforms.  Seeing the queue getting into their car park, made me realise it was a wrong move and perhaps I should have started earlier in the summer (what summer?). So I turned the car around and drove the the bowling alley, where we had a lovely time and saved myself an absolute fortune, although I guess I will be spending it all on Monday.

So, have your school changed their uniform?  And just how expensive is it?  I haven't told BH how much it's going to cost's not coming out of my pocket, I have special things to buy...for me!


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