Archive for the ‘disappointment’ Category

Seven, seven, seven..

Robin

In the final week of Robin’s first half-term of secondary school, L and I attend an evening meeting with his form teacher. The girls’ PE teacher fulfils too many stereotypes of that subjects’ teachers – drowning in the shallow end of education. But she’s enthusiastic about Robin: he plays in the school football team and he’s academic. She shows us a table of his progress, with scores extrapolated ‘by a machine’ for GCSEs in five years time. Sevens across the board – A’s in old money.

Robin broods when we tell him this news. He’s unhappy. Why don’t they think he’s going to get eights and nines (A* and A**s)? It’s early days, we say. To be told you’re going to get sevens already is amazing. He looks determined.

Gabe

Gabe’s acquisition of a hi-fi system to enable him to play his vinyl is proceeding slowly. Having sold the record player he received for his birthday, as well as his X-box, he bought an upgraded record player and an amp. They were not compatible and so, when he next had money, he bought a pre-amp. That came without an output cable. Soon, he will have bought that, which leaves the connection to his speakers. Until that combination is sorted he will listen with his headphones, but for the time being, his vinyl stays ensleeved.

Eliza

Eliza has visited the world war one battlefields. She left by coach late one night, returning three days later. One hundred years ago many servicemen returned shell-shocked and unable to relate their experiences in France and Belgium. Eliza had no such trauma, but other than acknowledging enjoying visiting the trenches and the chocolate shop, she’s giving little more away.

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Piano teacher

Gabe

Gabe has started giving piano lessons to the six or seven year old daughter of a local family. An initial try-out session was well-received and the young girl has 30 minutes tuition each Monday, for which Gabe is paid £5. Word has got around and an enquiry from the mother of another young primary school girl has arrived. Gabe is dismissive – “she can’t remember anything I’ve taught her” – but L assures me he is very gentle and doesn’t intimidate his pupil.

Robin

Robin’s first half-term at secondary school continues to be rocky. He received the invitation to have hot chocolate with the head teacher, but dropped his cup and spilled the drink in her office. He was picked for the school football team, but was played at left-back. He has made a couple of friends, although they only share a handful of classes. He’s more aware of the world, and terrified of what he hears about the news.

Eliza

Eliza, when not at school, is mostly ‘doing her own thing’. At home, she watches US TV series on Netflix, or pores over her phone in her room. But she’s just as likely to be out, visiting friends, going to a cafe in town, or in the park.

Sunburn

Eliza

Eliza’s final week of the school year is ‘activity week’. On Monday, she went to Chester Zoo. Her choice of clothes – very short shorts and bare-shouldered top – unsettled me, perhaps causing me to forget to insist she wore suncream. She came home with sunburnt shoulders.

On Tuesday, Eliza went on another trip. The weather was again set fair. Eliza was wearing the same outfit and asked that I put some suncream on her shoulders. I refused, requiring her to wear something that covered her shoulders. She objected, I insisted, we compromised on her wearing something over the top of her skimpy top. I wandered away, she left the house, I wondered whether she had really taken another top with her. Anyway, her shoulders didn’t seem to get burnt again.

Gabe

We gave Gabe one week of indulgence and laziness after his exams before insisting that he use his long summer break productively. Having rejected any suggestions that would mean getting outside the house – finding a job, volunteering, getting fit – he was faced with doing chores around the house.

Each day, he is given a short list of chores (e.g. cleaning up the kitchen, vacuuming rooms). Invariably, he has not done them when L or I get back from work. Any that he does do are completed hurriedly. Having received his allowance for July, it is his August allowance that is under threat. This, though, isn’t having any notable motivating effect on him, as he continues to spend his days lying about, listening to music and watching YouTube videos.

Robin

Robin’s end of year report was very complimentary. His SATs results were all well above the standard set for his age. He took a lot of pride in these results, which we hope will set him up for the new school in September.

His induction day at the High School had not gone very well. He was quiet and surly that evening. The problem was that the boy who had joined his football team last season and whose behaviour had caused problems for the rest of the team and the coaches was there as well and was in Robin’s group throughout the induction day. With Robin’s blessing, I spoke to the school. I have been assured that Robin will be kept apart from the boy in form group and lessons.

School choice

Robin

Within hours of his eleven + result, Robin had decided he wanted to go to the local High School. L & I preferred the school a little further, a bus-ride, away. We collected recommendations from parents of older children. Both schools were heavily praised, but L & I had a sense that the more distant school was closer to what we wanted for Robin.

We sat down with Robin and L made a list of advantages and disadvantages of each. He was resolute, we tried to sound open-minded. We completed the exercise and agreed to give it some more thought.

Separately, L & I came to the conclusion that we couldn’t find evidence to support our hunch; certainly not evidence that overrode a lengthy bus journey, a 30 minute earlier start to the day and difficulties collecting him from after school activities. And so, Robin will be going to the local High School next September.

Eliza

Bumble suffered a stroke and did not recover. Gabe asked if ‘the curse’ had struck again. It did feel a little like it had: three gerbils, three hamsters and two guinea pigs under Eliza’s affectionate care have perished. The pet cemetery in the front garden gets (a little) bigger.

Gabe

Gabe was shocked at Trump’s victory. ‘Why doesn’t the rest of the world refuse to trade with America?’ he wanted to know, forgetting that the UK will soon be desperate for a trading partner. He is genuinely interested in politics and well-read for his age. As he reflected on the succession of dispiriting election results in the last 18 months,  assured him the 1980s had been similar with defeat after defeat for the progressive, left-leaning causes and candidates.

Pass mark missed 

Robin

The postman arrived minutes before Robin and I were due to leave for his football match. L gathered the letters and took them into the study. She opened them, “He’s not passed. Shall we tell him now?” We did. He nodded, seemed to expect and accept it. 

He was quiet in the car. From across the pitch he looked preoccupied as the team warmed up. With the match underway, he had a distraction. “He seems ok,” I whispered back at home. 

But that afternoon, he sobbed and sobbed with L. Upset, embarrassed not to be following in his brother and sister’s wake to the Grammar school. 

Monday, back to school and facing his classmates, some who had achieved the pass mark, most hadn’t. He stayed close to L in the playground. Vulnerable, as he hasn’t been seen for years. Late in the afternoon, his teacher called. He had been crying at lunchtime: Gabe & Eliza said he was stupid (what he imagined or feared, rather than what was actually said, I believe). 

Within a few days, he’s steadier. We’re thinking about which school to opt for. His priorities are existing friends, ease of getting to school, the layout of the dinner hall and the look of the uniform. L & I are looking more at which school will engage and stretch him, but not discounting travel to school. We decide this week. 

Gabe & Eliza

Both are on notice to treat Robin gently; not to make off-hand remarks about the schools we must consider, which could easily sway him. They seem to be managing this. “I gave him a hug when the programme got scarey for him,” Eliza explained when I made my case to her for being kind to him. 

Chocolate party

Eliza

Eliza had agonised over how to celebrate her 12th birthday. She couldn’t figure out how to balance her new school friends with her old. The solution came with a joint party with a new school friend and a sleepover with her best friend.

The joint party, in a local church hall, featured Oliver the chocolatier teaching ten attentive girls how to make truffles and other chocolate goodies. The group sat for an hour, chatting quietly and engrossed in the activity. When it was finished they picked from a buffet eating a fraction of the quantity of pizza our kids eat (and so a fraction of the pizza bought for the occasion). After tea they arranged their own games. Both sets of parents observed, praised, offered food but had very little to do with a group of self-possessed youngsters.

Robin

Robin was in a bad mood leading up to Eliza’s party. He had wanted to watch either the City match or El Classico, but both clashed with the chocolate party. Worse was to come when I offered Gabe the chance to go to the City match with friends, without extending the offer to Robin. City were one down before we left home. Robin was unimpressed and lapsed into exaggerated Manchester footy-speak as we listened to his team go further behind in the car on the way to the party.

Gabe

Monday nights, Gabe spends an hour with a German tutor. Prevented by school from studying more than one modern language, L & I arranged private tuition (the school has agreed to enter him in the exam) to enable Gabe to work towards a GCSE in German. He seems to enjoy the 1-1 lessons in our kitchen and, each week, L supplements this by working with him on vocabulary.

 

Distinction

Eliza

Eliza’s autumn of faultless examinations continues. She achieved a distinction in her grade 2 piano. We met her music teacher outside school. She was more excited than Eliza and went through each of her marks, repeating that Eliza had scored 30/30 for her first piece.

Gabe

Gabe dropped out of county advanced cricket nets. He went to two of the first three weeks, both times needing persuasion. After a long chat, I accepted that if he wasn’t enjoying it he need not go. Gabe had disliked being so young and small in a group of 13-18 year olds and not having anyone he knew in his net. I spoke to one of the county coaches, who confirmed it was a very advanced group with several county under 18s and one on the elite pathway. He agreed it was better to quit than continue unhappily and hoped Gabe would return at some point on a future course.

Robin

Robin has played two evenings of indoor cricket matches in recent weeks. I cannot account for the sudden development in his batting. As recently as September, I was under-arming balls to him in the club nets; he would swipe, miss or edge, and end up on the ground. Gentle prompts to swing with a straight bat were not well received and so I left him to thrust and mow.

Now, though, suddenly, he is playing drives with a clean straight swing and transfer of weight to his front foot. The explanations he’s offered are that he has concentrated on batting as his bowling hasn’t been as good as before and that he’s watched cricket on TV. Neither convince me, but whatever the influence, it has worked.