Archive for the ‘milestones’ Category

Driving lesson


Gabe’s number one desire for his 17th birthday was to learn to drive. L arranged for his first lesson to be the day after his birthday. A week ahead she checked he had his provisional licence. There ensued a home-wide hunt. Gabe’s view was that it had been thrown out when we made him tidy and clear his room. We searched every room. There was tension around the search of Gabe’s room: he wanted to find his licence; he wanted us to do the searching; he didn’t want us rooting through his room. We finally gained admittance, but the licence didn’t show up. L cancelled the driving lesson and went on-line to re-order the licence, where she found that the fact it had been issued should be sufficient proof for the instructor. The lesson was back on. Gabe enjoyed it greatly.


We drove Eliza to Garstang early on Saturday morning. She was to complete a practice of the two day Duke of Edinburgh award expedition, with a night of camping. She was equipped with a large and very heavy rucksack. Could she cope?

We heard nothing for the next 30 hours (mobile phone use was proscribed, other than in emergency circumstances). Sunday afternoon we drove into the Trough of Bowland and waited in a car park in a small village. Eliza’s group of seven girls had been the first to leave, but were not the first to return. Thirty minutes after their target time, they did arrive, by car. They had got lost in a field – not far from their destination – and had called the emergency number. Eliza was tired, a bit embarrassed and had a blister on a big toe, caused by wet socks. While not looking forward to the real expedition, she’s not dreading it either.


Robin’s unease through the autumn was a product of his new school and also his anxiety at world events. Early in the spring, he declared he was happy: Trump and North Korea were going to be talking to each other and scientists had discovered an enzyme that breaks down plastic. Within a couple of weeks, that contentment had been chased away – this time by Trump reneging on the Iran agreement.

Braces (at last)


“When are you 14?” asked the Greek orthodontist.

“November,” Eliza replied.

“Well, we had better get on with it,” concluded the orthodontist.

Eliza gave a look that said, ‘FINALLY!’. This is either her third or fourth orthodontist appointment in between which she has been batted back and forth, without anything being done to correct her crooked front teeth. But this time there is urgency and action. It takes under 10 seconds for the orthodontist to affirm that the wonkiness of her upper incisors qualifies for NHS care. By the time we have returned to the reception desk, a further appointment has been requested – for the following day.

Eliza is back at the surgery in not much more than 24 hours. This time, she leaves with braces across her four upper front teeth. The braces will stay for six months, re-aligning those teeth. After that, she will wear upper and lower jaw plates for up to two years.


As a cricketer Robin has shown more as a natural bowler than batsman. This season, his bowling has gone a little backwards, without, until this week, his batting compensating. In fact, despite often being requested to play twice a week – for his age group and the age group above – Robin has been a reluctant cricketer. But on Monday, he rediscovered his joy in the game, by making his first ever score of 25, which is the retirement score in under 11 cricket. He hit several fours, including one that he described as going back over the bowler and bouncing on the boundary rope.


Gabe finished his GCSE exams, but chose not to go out to celebrate. Instead he came back home and in the evening was still in his school uniform, which he’ll never need to wear again. He reported feeling no great release from finishing his exams. His thoughts have turned instead to the results, which are almost two whole months away.

Eleven (at the cinema)


Robin had his least active ever birthday party. Friday after school, with four friends, Eliza and her friend, he went to the Trafford Centre for a burger and chips tea and then to the cinema to watch ‘Sing’. There was some FIFA on his x-box at home and then the party was over. He grinned throughout.

The weekend before, we had taken Robin and his friend A into Manchester to a skateboarding shop. There, he handed over his list of components and the shop assembled the board in front of him. It took three attempts as the first two times the components were faulty. He used the board the next day and found it much lighter than the ones he borrowed at the skate centre. He keeps it in his room where he practices slow-motion manoeuvres on his thick carpet.


Gabe’s mock exams went well, with some very good scores in French, maths, history and food tech. But his results didn’t accord with how well he thought the exams had gone. English literature, for example, was several grades below his expectations. Given his reluctance to revise, it is better that he didn’t get A*’s across the board. There should be some recognition that he will have to work hard to get the results he wants this summer.

In the meantime, Gabe has been selecting A Level subjects. Music and politics were each considered, but he has opted for French, history and English literature. There is a wrinkle: in the way the options are currently configured, he cannot combine the history course he prefers with the other two subjects. This has been raised with the school, but Gabe has conceded he will take the less preferred history course if he has to.


Eliza made her school competitive debut – in netball. She has been attending netball practice for a few months. She enjoyed her first match and hopes she will be selected again. She recounted a moment in the match when she, playing goal defence, leaped and intercepted a pass. Two passes and few seconds later, her team-mates up the court had scored a goal – one of only three in the match.



Gabe joined 90% of his school year on a five day camping trip that rounded off his term. We heard nothing from him for the whole week and didn’t know what to expect when he came back from his first ever experience of camping. 

He was tired, but generally positive about the camp when he got back. The worst point had been sleeping one night, not under canvas, but shelters that they had made themselves. Gabe said he didn’t sleep at all. He was also unimpressed at his friends’ lack of cleanliness. Unlike them, he had changed his socks and pants daily. The food was also disappointing. Still, though, he had enjoyed the week. Would he like to go camping again, I wondered. “No”, was the clear answer. 


Eliza’s final weeks of junior school were occupied by play rehearsals, shows, a school disco, talent show, spelling bee and various other activities that are part of the rounding up of a pupil’s education before they head to secondary school. 

Come the day of the talent show, Eliza turned to L at the school gate and said, “I’ve forgotten my costume.” 

“What costume?”

But before, L needed to rush home to find this costume, Eliza’s best friend appeared: “Don’t worry. I brought a spare costume, in case Eliza forgot hers.” 

Eliza sat and passed her grade 3 violin exam and at the leavers’ assembly, she was awarded the school music prize for her contribution to the school orchestra and recorder Group. 


Robin was awarded the coaches’ player of the season award at his football team’s presentation evening. He tried to look nonchalant, jaw jutting and unsmiling, but L was aware that he was nervous beforehand, betraying a hope or expectation that he might be a trophy winner. The coaches gave each player marks out of ten for various skills and likened each player to a professional footballer. Robin, they said, is like Edin Hazard for his ability to “tear opposing defenders to bits.”


Over the years, L & I have called on friends (other Mums), teenage girls and visiting family members to babysit the kids while we have an evening out. The teenage girls have now either gone to university or have busy lives of their own to lead on a Friday or Saturday night. But when they have been available, it has begun to seem inappropriate and embarrassing for Gabe to be babysat by someone he may see in the school yard. 

We have just started a new era, where Gabe is in charge. For the first evening, L & I were having dinner five minutes drive away. A few weeks later, we had an anniversary meal in a restaurant 15 minutes taxi ride away. Our concerns were two-fold: 1) what if Gabe were spooked by a noise, or someone knocking at the door? 2) what would happen if Eliza and Robin defied his authority, or needled him as they often do. Neither of those situations occurred. When we got home, Eliza and Robin were in bed asleep and Gabe untroubled watching TV. 

We asked Eliza the next morning how things had been. “Fine” she said. Gabe had stayed in his room on his X-box while she and Robin watched TV. He had come downstairs once to ask if they were ok, then went back upstairs again. A very relaxed babysitter. 

Summer term


Gabe had a late birthday party, go-karting. Each of his five friends was at least as tall as I am. They filled the dining room and garden. At the race track they were installed in adult karts, unlike the birthday boy, who had a relatively under-powered junior vehicle.

Gabe has been doing food technology this term and it is one of his GCSE choices. Each Sunday evening, he announces that he must find his ingredients. Each Sunday evening, he is told it is too late and that he has had all week to sort out his shopping. We seem stuck in this cycle. I hope his GCSE lesson won’t take place on a Monday.


Eliza had her induction day at the Grammar School. It went well. She liked her teacher; the same teacher as Gabe had in his first year at the school. She was also pleased to note that she wasn’t the shortest in her class.

Eliza’s year six play is a musical spoof of Robin Hood. She plays a village-idiot type character, with lots of jokey lines. But she knows almost the entire play, having a real facility for memorising dialogue. She has also taken to the catchy tunes which she has been singing around the house for weeks. The first performance went very well and she carried of her role successfully, speaking clearly and winning lots of laughs.


Robin has been doing swimming lessons at school, which he has been very keen on. He has learnt new strokes, had to swim in pyjamas and finished by completing a distance swim, although he couldn’t remember how many lengths were involved.



Gabe celebrated his 13th birthday with pizza, with us his family and two days later, with five friends, who were assembled for a FIFA14 party. They played football in the garden and sat around the dining table laughing, although L and I couldn’t tell at what. Gabe was very satisfied with his birthday.


Robin played football in the morning of his brother’s party. At lunch he said he couldn’t see properly with one eye and went to bed with a migraine. He woke as Gabe’s friends arrived. Although not part of the FIFA contest, he remained in their midst, played football in the garden with them all and laughed along at tea (perhaps as clueless as L & I about what was funny).


Eliza’s build-up to the 11+ began in earnest with a practice test at a local secondary school on the morning of Gabe’s party. She thought she coped ok with two papers, but less well with the third as she was waiting to have a query answered for a long time. She kept in the background during the afternoon and claimed her right to a reward stating that for not annoying the boys at the party she should have a treat on Sunday. I took her swimming.