Archive for the ‘odd behaviour’ Category

University visits

Gabe

In the space of two weeks, Gabe visited Oxford, Durham and Cambridge. The second he disliked. At Oxford and Cambridge, he attended sessions on applying for history and took in as many small, central and traditional colleges as his patience would allow. Oxford is his preferred destination. I asked if he could explain why. “No,” he said – he couldn’t put it into words. He seems both realistic about his chances and motivated to give it his best effort.

Amongst all the sights of academic excellence and ancient architecture, my strongest memory of the visits was from the very start of our journey to Oxford. To Gabe’s annoyance, I said we would take the tram to Piccadilly Station. As the tram pulled in, he baulked and like a nervous horse, refused the ‘obstacle’. I spoke quietly, but urgently to him and when the next tram came, he put aside his fears and stepped on board. 45 minutes later, we took our seats on the train to Oxford. A teenage girl sat on the seat to our right. She was being fussed over by her Mother, prior to travelling alone. My phone buzzed. There was a text from Gabe, stating just ‘Home schooled’. The swing from highly anxious to contemptuous had taken less than one hour.

Eliza

Eliza’s Duke of Edinburgh expedition took place on one of the hottest weekends of this hot summer. The supervisors made a humane concession, relaxing the requirement that the participants carry everything they will need with them, by providing supplies of water at their check-points.

Eliza’s group didn’t repeat the navigational mistakes that saw them fail their practice expedition. On Sunday they rose early, left camp an hour ahead of schedule, made good time and arrived hours before they were expected. Eliza was lying on the ground, tired and bored when we pulled up, almost three hours after the expedition ended.

Robin

Robin won two awards at his school presentation event. One for being part of the league-winning football team and the other for being the best cricketer. He was unimpressed that they were not ‘proper’ awards. More to his liking was the day he spent at the Chill Factor skiing, snowboarding and tobaganning as part of a select group of students rewarded for their achievements during the academic year.

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Dust

Gabe

Dust is Gabe’s enemy. Not the dust that L vacuums in large quantities from his bedroom floor when it is finally cleared of clothes and schoolwork. Not the dust that accumulates on his desk and shelves. It’s the dust that he sees on his records and despite diligent brushing (technique checked against a YouTube video) he can’t quite remove. It frustrates him, can make him angry with L or me for failing to show him how to remove it and even stops him playing his records.. for a while.

And then there’s the static electricity..

Eliza

Eliza returned home after seven days in hospital with appendicitis. Two days later she was back at school and then quickly into the Easter holiday. Today, ten days after leaving hospital, she did tentative, yet perfect cartwheels in the garden. She hasn’t re-started gymnastics, although she did attend her session as volunteer coach, but is beginning to test her body to decide when.

Robin

City fell three goals behind at Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final. Robin gurned and complained, then snapped at L when she tried to offer consolation. He held on until injury time, willing a goal from City that could give them a foothold in the tie. It didn’t come and he stormed out. He sat behind the mirror in L & my room, refusing to go to bed and saying he was humiliated by City’s performance. The next morning the mood had lifted.

Appendicitis

Eliza

After several days of stomach pain, forcing herself to school so she could go to a friend’s birthday cinema trip, a mis-diagnosis of a urinary infection, Eliza was admitted to hospital and a day later had appendicitis confirmed. Her initial goal was to be out within three days to go to a concert, but that proved impossible. After the diagnosis and being told to expect seven days IV medication (but not surgery), the surgeon asked if she had any questions. “Yes, what’s the wifi code?”

Now, four nights into her stay, she exists, quietly amongst the bustle of a four bed ward. Children and infants, admitted at night, shrieking and sobbing with pain and fear. Regular IV infusions, each emitting piercing beeps with an urgency not matched by the nurses’ response. Pain relief, still needed to remain comfortable, but usually offered an hour or two behind schedule. Eliza watches TV, Friends (series 8) on her iPhone, does puzzles, and often dozes. She has L with her 18 hours each day and night and me a lot less often. Despite the pain, the discomfort, the lack of privacy and the boredom, Eliza has stayed firm and even-tempered. She has a discharge date – three more nights,

Robin

Robin has missed Eliza and L. It feels like weeks, he says, since he’s seen L. He makes hospital visits, sitting next to Eliza, talking a little and happy to be in a larger family group.

Gabe

Gabe has barely mentioned Eliza, hardly enquiringly how well she is and turning down the offer to visit her. He attended a university entrance event hosted within 1/2 mile of the hospital, but didn’t follow my suggestion to combine it with a trip to see Eliza. Finally, on her fourth day in hospital he visited. He made exaggerated attempts to clean the germs from his hands with the soap dispenser at the ward’s door and again when leaving the “nest of germs.” After barely acknowledging Eliza and not asking her how she is, he picks a crossword from her puzzle book to occupy himself. It is all, I conclude, his way of dealing with her illness and absence.

Fourteen

Eliza

A teacher training day fell on the day after Eliza’s birthday giving her the perfect opportunity for an evening birthday party at home. Seven or eight friends arrived – one girl as tall as I am. They sat and chatted in high-pitched voices, laughed, ate pizza, played with their phones, occasionally bust into song, accompanying something being played on someone’s phone. It was a great success.

Gabe

Gabe attended GCSE awards evening where he and his classmates collected their exam certificates. A local MP and school alumna gave the address. Gabe received a faculty award. It could only have been more unlikely had it been Food Tech. It turned out that the boy who lies around for hour after hour, shirks exercise and has left his GCSE courses much less fit than he started, won the PE award.

Robin

Robin, following Gabe’s lead, returns from school and keeps wearing his school uniform through the evening. Even when we’re going out, as we did tonight to Eliza’s gymnastics competition, he chooses to keep on his blazer, tie and trousers. When finally, it’s time to get ready for bed, the blazer comes off and is tossed to the floor. L & I are trying, without much impact, to instil in him the habit of removing his blazer and hanging it up.

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.

100 great goals

Robin 

Every night, for months, Robin has chosen, before sleep and after L or I have read to him, to read from a book that describes 100 great goals. A short description of the action is leavened with some information about the scorer or the occasion. There’s also a diagram of the movement of players and ball on its way into the net.

When sleep is about to smother him, Robin tosses the book from his bed. In the morning, it lies on the floor, crumpled. Its hardback cover fell off weeks ago. Its binding can’t hold for long. But even if it does disintegrate it has lodged itself in Robin’s memory. He knows the goals and scorers by number (1 to 100). He can even recite some of the reports if given a scorer’s name or goal number. 

Eliza

‘My palm has five layers of skin left,’ Eliza explained on the way home from gymnastics. Intensive work on the bars in recent weeks has worn a tear in the skin of her hand. She has been practising a manoeuvre that involves a complete rotation on the higher bar. To achieve this safely while in the learning phase, her hands are bound to the bar. It’s from that friction that the skin on her palms is torn away.

Gabe 

The election result has been welcomed by Gabe. At school, Corbyn is a hero. Gabe is dissatisfied by my position that neither major party leader is a fit PM. ‘What have I got against Corbyn?’ I was asked often during the campaign, as well as, who are you going to vote for and why? On election night, he sat with Lou and I as the TV guests and presenters toyed with the unlikely exit poll. Around midnight, with four GCSE exams the next day, he conceded that is was time for bed. 


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.