Archive for the ‘fears’ Category

Michael Lewis

Eliza

When I realised L would be away for Michael Lewis’s talk in Manchester, I offered the spare ticket to Gabe. Later it occurred to me that Eliza had expressed an interest in studying psychology, so proposed she come with me. She was never more than lukewarm about the idea and said she thought it would be “weird” for a child to go. Finally, on the day of the talk, she agreed to come with me to the Manchester University lecture hall. 

As she feared, it did seem she would be the only child in an audience of students and adults. But I spotted a girl of about her age sitting with her mother – five minutes later I turned and saw the mother pointing Eliza and me out to her daughter. 

Lewis spoke about his book on Kahneman and Tversky, two Israeli psychologists, for an hour, providing long fluent and entertaining answers to five or six questions from the presenter; and then took audience questions for 30 minutes. I found it fascinating. Even more rewarding was that Eliza was just as positive, to a degree that probably surprised her. We chatted about the talk all the way home, swapping examples and stories Lewis told that had interested or amused us. She also declared that she would definitely opt to study psychology for GCSE.

Robin

Robin seems more settled at school, but generally adrift and prone to be unhappy. News stories, or things he reads or hears about upset him. L came home early from book group when he called her distraught about an article reporting that Stephen Hawking said the world would be destroyed in 600 years. 

More prosaically he is struggling to make an impact in his football team. For the first time, he’s spending as much time off the pitch as a substitute as he is on it. He is being played in different positions – striker, central midfield – having played wide left for most of last season, but hasn’t really convinced the coaches anywhere and is convinced that he is unpopular with one of the coaches.

Gabe

Gabe is thinking about university. He has been considering which universities he might wand to apply to, studying lists of top institutions. Oxford, Durham, St Andrews and Edinburgh are in his thoughts. I pointed out that the work experience he must do next summer may become important for his application statement. We identified places he might work at that would demonstrate his interest in history: local university history departments, museums and places of historical interest. He has written a few emails, received a few refusals, but not yet got on the phone to chase up an opportunity.

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Bordeaux week 1 – sleep, eat, rest

Gabe flew with us. For two days in the run-up to the holiday he had called L and my bluff and said he’d prefer to spend two weeks with his Grandpa than fly. As L and I made ready with compromises, he backed down. His aspiration for the holiday: sleep, eat, rest.

Mornings in the gite passed quickly. The kids rose late and lazed around the lounge with headphones and devices. To those activities they would return directly from finishing lunch. But some days we enforced trips: to Saintes, Bordeaux, Royan, the beach at St-Palais-sur-mer. These risked, and usually resulted in bad tempers, with frequency related to increasing age of child. The tempers could be assuaged with pizza lunch, or ice cream.

We went kayaking up a river that flowed gently into the Gironde. Robin and I had just established a good rhythm when a kayak occupied by two grey-haired men and a young woman capsized. Hampered by language and them being too heavy to haul onto our kayak, they spent ten minutes in the water holding onto their upturned vessel before they maneuvered to the bank, tipped the water out of their kayak, climbed back in and continued their trip.

Back at the gite, the pool and table-tennis prompted the most activity, particularly from Robin. We borrowed bikes and cycled on the narrow roads bordered with vines and sunflower fields. A couple of evenings, they joined in the rounders match run by the hosts’ children, involving the kids of the other gite and the French children staying with the owner.

Mock exams

Gabe 

Gabe has finished the first week of mock GCSEs. His preparation featured some focused revision sessions, but they were neither as frequent or enduring as I would have wanted. Christmas in Scotland was a blank and he didn’t return rapidly to his books on getting home. But he does seem to have done some meaningful work targeting specific activities – like learning quotations from set tests. Testing him on his notes, his capacity to absorb, retain and reproduce information impresses. He also has a strong grasp of everything we have looked at together. 

He reports satisfaction with how the eight exams sat so far have gone, pleased that he’s completed all tasks and used all the time available. He has shown no nerves, but has taken the initiative to get to bed early and asked to be woken earlier than normal. He has also enjoyed the freedom to come home immediately his day’s exams are finished.  

Robin

Robin’s closest friend, A, has found a passion greater than football: skateboarding. Gradually Robin has been lured towards it, too. Initially, in A’s garden and then taken to the centre where A practises. Robin, in borrowed gear, started off in a beginners group, separated from A (although with some other boys he knows). After just three lessons, Robin feels that passage to that higher group is within reach. 

He finds skateboarding thrilling, describing to me (as I’ve not yet seen him in action) the tricks and manoeuvres, lapsing into skateboard slang, which leaves me guessing. With A and he headed to different schools in September, and A’s commitment to the football team wavering, it may become their shared passion that keeps the friendship running. 

Eliza

Eliza has declared a commitment to environmental issues. Why, she wonders, won’t people cut down on environmentally damaging activity? I score well with her for changing our energy supplier to a renewable-only provider. School – geography, I think – has planted these ideas. She’s also considering vegetarianism, but acknowledges there are meats she likes to eat. She thinks she may want a career doing something promoting the environment – “if it’s not too late by then” she worries. 

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. 

Sights of Tuscany

The children might have settled for two whole weeks at the villa, but L & I led us away every second or third day to a Tuscan sight.

In Pisa and Florence we scaled tall buildings: the leaning tower and the domo. Robin was enthralled by the climbs and the sense of height. Eliza was anxious and needed a hand to be held (almost as much as I did) as we walked around the summit of both climbs. Gabe made it to the top of the Leaning Tower, briefly, but pulled out of the ascent of the domo before the section that took you up stairs cut into the arc of the lower level of the dome.

The children were more reluctant to appreciate the architecture from street-level – apart from in Pisa where the tower offered photographic opportunities. We managed an hour and a half in the Uffizi: Eliza most focused on the art; Gabe on historical and cultural facts; Robin under intense strain.

More popular was a day at a crowded water park. As a threesome, they queued for trips down slides, not demanding L or I participate.

But every trip out was tolerated knowing that it would bring a reward in the form of ice cream, coke and pizza.

Servitude

Eliza

Frequently, Eliza will make her way from the kitchen to the dining table, sit down and then ask, “Can you get me some water?” Less often, she’ll climb the stairs to her bedroom, get into bed and ask, “Can you get my book from the living room?” This doesn’t feel like absentmindedness but a preference for having other people (L and I) do things for her. She likes to be waited upon; she gives the impression it is her entitlement. I try to give the impression that she’d be lucky; although that doesn’t deter her trying.

Gabe

Gabe is a little more self-sufficient than Eliza, except when it comes to getting around. Such is his antipathy towards walking anywhere that he asked to be woken early on Saturday morning so that I could give him a lift to the barbers on the way to Robin’s football match. I pulled the car up around the corner from his destination. “Can’t you park closer?” he asked. Then this morning, he was forced to walk to his own football match as L and I were elsewhere. “That’s not fair,” he declared, reduced to making the kind of complaint that was commonly heard from him 8 years ago by the injustice of having to make a short journey under his own steam.

Robin

Robin sent L and me to Coventry after school this week. We had erred, he believed, and he was furious, nearly in tears, but settling for a deep sulk and no communication. L sent me a text asking if I had paid the deposit for his school residential trip. ‘Can’t remember’, I answered honestly. It seemed that the rest of the class had received paperwork about the trip, but not Robin. I was sent to the school office the next morning to find out if the situation was recoverable, confident in the knowledge that the school had cashed a cheque that I had written.

In seconds the predicament was resolved: the paperwork was a receipt card for the payment and there was an innocent explanation for Robin not receiving his. “You must have been worrying all night,” the school secretary said to Robin, who nodded gravely.

Big school

Eliza

Eliza has started at secondary school. She has settled quickly, showing no particular anxiety, other than one: getting lost. She walks to school with Gabe, less for safety and company, than just to make sure she knew the way in her early weeks. She was concerned about finding her way around the school with its oddment of buildings and long corridors. Gabe says he has seen her looking lost, studying the map given to new girls and boys. He has even helped her find the classroom she sought. 

On a day L was working late, Eliza gladly accepted the task of meeting Robin out of school. “Ok” we said, “describe your route from your new school to your old school.”

“Well, to start with, I’d turn right.”

“No! It’s the other way!”

Gabe

Gabe has started his GCSE courses and with that has come a novelty: homework. This staple of schools is referred to at the grammar school as ‘extension studies’, as it doesn’t have to be done at home. And Gabe has always taken advantage of this, finishing extension studies in class or in breaks so his home time remains free of schoolwork. But something has changed this year and now we see him regularly at the computer with his books out. 

Robin

Robin has chosen to move from packed lunch to school dinners. From the security of ham sandwich nearly every school day for three or four years, he has put himself at the mercy of the lunch menu. So far, two days into this trial, he has eaten a baked potato with cheese and chicken in a sauce. They sound like modest choices but actually represent dramatic broadening of his dietary palette.