Archive for the ‘socialising’ Category

Sprint champion

Robin

Sports day was held in the week before the half-term holidays. That evening, responding to my question, “How was your day?” Robin urgently informed me, “I beat L in the 60m sprint!” Beating his classmate, Man Utd junior footballer, ranked as a higher accolade than simply being year (probably school) sprint champion. 

Eliza

Eliza’s last 24 hours or so have featured: two 2-hour gymnastics sessions, a trip to a local trampolining centre and a sleepover with her gym friends which involved no sleep until they finally keeled over at 8am. She has gone to bed very weary tonight. 

Gabe

Gabe has left the house in the last two weeks solely to take exams and for two shopping trips. As previously reported, this hermit-like behaviour doesn’t mean he is revising from dawn to dusk. Revision is happening, but not in the quantities that a two week confinement would suggest. 

On his shopping trips Gabe has added to his LP collection. Unfortunately he has experienced the downside of vinyl: scratched records, so must go out again to take back a couple of discs. His other acquisition has been a blue suit, which will become his sixth form attire from September. 

Reading age of 16

Robin

L attended Robin’s parent evening, where the news was entirely positive, if tinged with regret about his eleven plus result. A computer print-out showed he exceeded some benchmark across the full range of maths and English measures. Another showed that his reading age had climbed two years in the three months to December and another two years since then, giving him a reading age of 16.

Gabe

Gabe rarely leaves the house except for school and sporting engagements – playing or spectating. He has, though, been to a couple of parties recently and at those has drunk some alcohol. He’s not concealed the fact, nor dwelt on it, or thankfully, appeared to be any the worse for wear for it. I suspect he’s not liked it particularly, given how resistant he is to consuming any new flavours.

He did ask me ahead of the most recent party, if I could give him a bottle of something to take. Cider was his preference and so, for the first time, I bought my son a drink – not one that we shared together though. At the first mention of drinking, a couple of months ago, I had said to him that if he wanted to try beer, he should ask me. Before I had finished this attempt at responsible parenting, I realised how unappealing drinking with one’s Dad would be – the whole point was to take these early steps in the company of friends.

Eliza

Eliza’s solution to a day at home without any major plans is to bake. By choice, she would always bake something sweet: cookies, cakes, millionaire shortbread. Today, with everyone else but me out at a Man City game, she decided to make pizza. We walked to the shops to buy the mozzarella and passata. She served the pizzas sequentially: L, Robin, Gabe, with her own coming last. By the time she reached her own, she had run out of mozzarella and sent me back to the shops to replenish.

Smashed it

Robin

Robin’s preparation for the 11+ exam, begun in earnest around Christmas, has not been smooth. He often resents practice sessions, slumping on the table when asked to attempt some questions, and he has shown no real breakthrough with his results. He sat a practice exam at a local tutorial college. When I picked him up he had his fixed, stony look. He walked past me and headed towards the stairs out of the college. On the stairs, he turned fist clasped, “Smashed it!” he said with great satisfaction. 

His results arrived later that week and he had indeed performed well, exceeding the average and scoring in the ‘likely to pass’ range. Since then, propelled by this confidence boost, his attitude at home has improved, but he’s still prone to sighs of complaint when summoned for a little practice and can dash off his answers to hurry back to screen or ball. 

Gabe

Gabe sat his first GCSEs – part one of his science qualification. He finally engaged in some revision activity, although only with any real commitment if he was being quizzed by L or I. He felt he did OK in the exams. Interestingly, he spoke enthusiastically of the ceremony of exams, the build-up and formality of taking a public test. He had found that exciting – which bodes well given how many times he’ll be doing it in the coming years. 

Eliza

Eliza has finally got her way: she no longer walks to school with Gabe. Her release has come about because she has come to an arrangement where her friend walks an indirect route to school, a mirror image of which Eliza follows, so they can meet outside the park and from there make their way, chatting, to school. 

Atypical teen

Gabe

Two colleagues have season tickets for City in the family stand. They qualify for tickets there because they take their nephew. This 14 year old is in a full-on teen awkward spell, which includes not wanting to go to football matches. Hence, I was asked if Gabe would like to go with them. Gabe accepted.

And so there have been rave reviews of what a fine chap Gabe is. He was great company, happy to chat, a pleasure to be with, would he like to come again?

Indeed Gabe has been very good company in recent weeks, all through Christmas and into the New Year. Much has changed and will be changing for him at this time. But one factor was that he broke his mobile phone before Christmas by knocking it into the toilet. He had to wait for Christmas to accumulate the funds to replace it, which he did by upgrading to an iPhone. I shared this observation with him. He agreed that he would spend less time on his phone. That would make him an atypical teen.

Eliza

Eliza has a cause: the French spelling bee. The paper on which the words she must learn are printed is crumpled with use. ‘Test me!’ she implores and delights in remembering the French words, and even more in spelling them with the letters in French: double-vay; y-grec, etc.

Robin

Our sodden winter turned cold for a weekend. On a walk by a canal the kids bounced stones along the iced surface, listening to the ethereal plimp noise made by the skimming, skidding stones. Then tried to hurl stones through the ice.

Even better, it snowed the following night. Robin was awake at 7am and by 7.30 had sized up the conditions. ‘Come to my room’ he begged, wanting us to open the curtains and behold a snowy garden. He woke Eliza, dressed, gulped some breakfast and then was out in the garden. For 45 minutes, there were snowballs and a snowman. He came in for more breakfast and soon after that the melt was happening.

 

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.

 

Sleepover in the living room

Eliza

Eliza and four friends occupied our living room as her birthday treat – after a meal at an Italian restaurant. Mattresses, duvets and pillows stretched across the room’s floor. The girls watched a film or two, a bit of TV, and then settled down to a long night of chatting. That was continuing when L and I fell asleep around midnight. The party, Eliza confirmed, was a great success.

Gabe

Gifted and talented in five or six different subjects, according to a letter from school. Gabe was dismissive of maths and science and pleased that music had been added to his list this year. But history is his favourite subject.

Sitting on a table across the restaurant from Eliza and her friends at her party, Gabe engaged in passionate discussion about the origins and military tactics of the First and Second World Wars. It’s conduct I feel I should, but can’t quite, recall from my youth. He has confidence in his opinions – the sort of confidence that precedes an understanding of the historiography, let alone the original texts, of an era. And in between his declarations, he’s probing for more information, aware there’s material out there he doesn’t know.

Robin

Daddy blah, blah, blah. Daddy burble, burble, burble. Daddy, waah, waah, waah. Daddy rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. Daddy…

This is what Robin’s company sounds like to me. Urgent, frequent repetition of my name, followed by a mumble of questions or statements. Humbling to be forever on the tip of his tongue.

Girlfriend

Gabe

Gabe has a girlfriend. This was vouchsafed to L by text, while they sat across the room from each other. And the ‘going out’ status, it appears, was also secured by text. But details are thin. She has been spotted when picking Gabe up from her house. When I asked him some deliberately unthreatening questions, like “What’s she into?”, he said “Normal stuff”. L has encouraged him to ask her to visit us. Gabe declined as we’re too embarrassing.

Robin

Robin is put out by Gabe and I going to Test cricket together. He made me promise to take him to a cricket match and so we went, as a whole family, to a T20 match at Old Trafford. Everyone found it pleasant, helped by a beautiful warm July evening, if lacking in drama and, to Gabe, inferior to Test cricket. We spend the second innings at the top of the upper stand at the Statham End, looking down on the ground. Robin was uncomfortable with the height and the steepness of the stand’s pitch, but settled as much as an excitable 8 year old can.

Eliza

Eliza has found some reward for her dedication to music. She practices willingly – not just pieces, but scales, too. At the year 6 leavers assembly, she was appointed leader of the recorder group for next year. It is perhaps not the grandest of the musical jobs (orchestra leader?), but one she will fulfill conscientiously.