Archive for the ‘appearance’ Category

Coming out of her shell

Eliza

At Eliza’s first secondary school parents evening, L heard a series of compliments for her progress and good nature. Several teachers noted that she began term very quietly, but was now coming out of her shell. Another (ignorant it seems Napoleon and many other eminent people of limited size) contrasted her physical size and that of her personality. The comment about ‘coming out her shell’ recalls her early days at junior school, where, in a class with many children from the year above, Eliza grew in confidence and flourished with the academic challenge. 

Robin

Robin is still the first in the family to wake. Nowadays he will lie in bed until he hears someone else roused. But at weekends, when we might be in bed past 7am, or if he wakes in the night, perhaps from a bad dream, he’ll come looking for us. ‘Baby Putin’ we call him, as he is bare-chested. But it’s not aggressive nationalism we’re met with, but urgent requests to go downstairs for breakfast, or perhaps a hug. 

Gabe

Gabe is genuinely motivated by music GCSE. He talks seriously and keenly about the subject matter. He has begun composing a piece for the piano. He listens to classical music, alongside modern tunes on his Spotify playlist. And he has set himself the target of learning to play Beethoven’s Midnight Sonata and Für Elise on the piano. 

GCSE Astronomy

Gabe

Gabe sat his GCSE Astronomy exam, which makes up over half of the marks. Revision for the exam seemed to be a process beyond his comprehension. He did none voluntarily and when forced to do some, wanted L or I to read a section of his notes, or textbook, and ask him questions. In the week ahead of the exam, his teacher pointed the class to an on-line resource, which finally seemed to engage Gabe in some self-directed revision. In his final assessment, he achieved a ‘A’ grade, so the limited and late revision doesn’t seem likely to make much difference.

Eliza

Eliza’s hair is falling out. It may be spring moulting, or hormones at work. She’s very conscious of it, and so are we as strands are found in our cars, in the dishwasher, on the living room carpet and in clothes removed from the dryer. She has so much hair that even this degree of shedding doesn’t affect her appearance.

Robin

As a baby, Robin had allergies to egg and less severely to dairy products. The only evidence of the latter, is discomfort he sometimes gets in his throat eating ice cream. But he has grown up drinking soya milk with his breakfast cereal – by the pint. Recently, we have put a stop to him glugging sweetened soya milk with sugary cereal. He opted for dairy milk instead of unsweetened soya milk and now has that by the pint with sugary cereal.

100 sit-ups

Gabe

Starting early in the month, Gabe began doing nightly sit-ups, increasing by five each time. He reached his target of 100 sit-ups, without a break, showing a determination in the face of pain. His overall goal is to develop a six-pack.

Robin

With his target in sight, Gabe decided that he would complement his daily dose of sit-ups with a timed plank. On the evening he reached his century, all five of us gathered in the living room for a family plank. L & I were the first to break, around the one minute mark. Gabe followed, his core already thoroughly exercised by sit-ups. Eliza reached three minutes and Robin went on and on. He seemed in such little discomfort I was suspicious his knees were touching the floor – they weren’t. Finally, at seven minutes he buckled.

Eliza

Eliza’s two most recent milk teeth to come out have done so in halves. The adult teeth underneath have pushed the milk teeth up and fractured them, leaving Eliza with a sharp half-tooth stuck to her gum. It’s taken up to a week for the second half to fall out.

Hair

Gabe

Over the last year, Gabe’s consciousness of his appearance has altered from concern with not looking a certain way (not wearing a coat, not wearing certain clothes) to a more positive interest in how he looks and what he wears.

At the beginning of the year he opted to go to a barber instead of having his hair clipped at home. He wanted frequent reassurance over which of the numbered grades of the clippers he should choose. From that episodic interest in his hair has developed, not a daily, but minute-by-minute focus. On school mornings, he will stand next to Eliza in L & my room in front of the mirrored cupboards. Eliza is styling, plaiting. Gabe is patting and pushing his hair. After a few minutes he’ll head downstairs where he stands in front of the hall mirror, performing the same minor adjustments to his hair. L reports that when he gets home from school he comes in the front door and stands at the hall mirror repeating the morning patting and coaxing of his hair.

Robin

Halfway through his second term of piano lessons, Robin has played his first performance to an audience. Two short pieces played to his classmates and parents at the junior school’s soiree afternoon. He said his hands were trembling with anxiety. L said she could see how nervous he was waiting his turn. He played both pieces well.

Eliza

Eliza’s after school violin lesson was moved back to accommodate her violin playing partner joining the school netball practice. Eliza decided to do the same and has been going to netball for the last few weeks. They practice passing, she says, as well as those things to stop passing.. ‘Interceptions?’ I suggest. ‘Yes, them’.

Fitness app

Gabe

Tied to his tablet, gaming or in constant communication with friends. But Gabe also has an app that amongst other things, predicts how tall he will grow. It has a fitness regime that he is trying to follow. The wider motivation is his interest in his appearance, itself driven by girls and girlfriend. More narrowly, he wants a six pack like Robin. He’s asked me to join him with the regime, which I hope to do.

Robin

Robin has a verbal habit that frustrates: “Daddy [Mummy] said I could..” he will assert when arguing he should be allowed to do something. What he is invariably referring back to is a conversation where he has raised something he wants and L or I has said, ‘No’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘we’ll see’, but Robin selectively remembers it as support for him getting what he wants.

Eliza

Eliza is practising hard for a gymnastics manoeuvre that involves a handstand entered through half a cartwheel, from which she does the splits and then lowers herself into a half-lever, and then to the ground. She’s achieved it a dozen times, but attempted it hundreds. These practices take place on grass. The real thing is to be done on a beam.

Zit

Gabe

Amongst Gabe’s contemporaries, puberty is showing itself in grand growth spurts (height and foot size), yoyoing voices and deteriorating skin. Gabe remains small and slight, almost completely unsullied yet by the hormone assault – but not wholly so. A spot has erupted on his chin. It could have come and gone without mention, but he’s picked it and it sits splayed across the skin below his mouth. There’s so much more of this to come.

Eliza

The annual gymnastics club championship is the sole competitive focal point of Eliza’s year. She prepared assiduously for her floor routine, supplementing the twice weekly practice with time at home. Vault, beam and bars could only be rehearsed at the gym. On the night, a girl one year older was the outstanding gymnast in her class, but Eliza did well at bars, beam (completing a backward walkover) and vault (her least favourite discipline). And on the floor her practice paid off with a faultless display.

Yet, when the scores were read and medals awarded, she was placed for bars, vault and beam, but not for floor. She was ‘floored’ and upset, not really consoled by a third place overall.

Robin

Robin and his best friend, A, are in different classes at school this year. They play together every break and nag to be at each other’s houses after school. Being with A was part of Robin’s decision not to play with the under 9 football team, but to practise with his under 8 age group. Wherever they are, they play some variant of football, sliding, diving and shooting.

Approaching school holiday

Robin

Robin wasn’t just approaching school holiday, but leaving infant school. Amongst the calendar heavy with school events, Robin wore a judge’s wig in one assembly and read what going to junior school would mean for him in another: “I am looking forward to playing on the enormous field and seeing my sister.”

Eliza

Eliza was in performance over-drive. On one day she had a school assembly, heats for the Junior School’s got Talent show and grade 1 violin exam. Each seemed to have gone well, with her splits to end her dance group’s piece being well received and a pass achieved in her exam.

Gabe

Gabe’s last week was off-timetable, with a series of activities, the most popular of which was pizza making (although Gabe was scathing of the insufficiency of tomato paste). He was anxious with the pressure of choosing clothes to wear each day. This was most pronounced on the morning of a trip to Oulton Park. L talked him out of wearing heavy tracksuit bottoms on a baking day. But he rejected the shorts in his cupboard, opting at the last moment for football shorts, which then brought the dilemma of how to carry money and a phone.