Archive for the ‘trouble’ Category

Oxford visit

Gabe

Gabe and I started the half-term holiday with a trip to Oxford. In clear, winter light we walked to and around the larger colleges – Christ Church, Magdalen, New College. Gabe was awed and, I think intimidated. We returned the next day and headed for the centre: the Bodlein, the Radcliffe Camera, and then Lincoln to meet Dr Gauci, senior fellow in his office above the porter’s lodge. Dr G chatted away, checking himself a couple of times, to ask, “But what do you want to know?” Gabe struggled to summon up a question. We toured the college and then headed to the Indoor Market. From there, to Quod for lunch with Senior Fellow Skinner, who gave us the low down on all matters relating to admissions. Again, Gabe was tongue-tied, but we obtained all the information we needed.

His response to Oxford was positive. He liked Lincoln, although said he wouldn’t want to go where I had been, perhaps another small college. We now wait to see whether the purpose of the trip will be fulfilled: to motivate him to work hard.

Eliza

Eliza received a school report – a table of numbers and letters. All was, as in with her previous reports, very positive (Her higher than expected performance in PE notable), with one exception. Her behaviour in Technology was graded as ‘requiring improvement’. She brushed it off, “Oh, he hates me. Everyone talks, but I’m the one he tells off.” But it seemed consistent with the thread of stories she has started to relate about school, which feature her being sharp-tongued, even insolent. At last, a bit of a rebel in the house.

Robin

This dates from September last year, but needs recording.

Robin accepted an invitation from his old school friend, A, to go to a Friday night youth club. It was held in a church across town. I left him and returned a couple of hours later. Robin didn’t delay leaving. He was muttering and unhappy. “Never going back.. boring.. they made us listen to them talking about religion!” He explained, affronted and almost outraged.

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Disorganised threesome

Gabe

Many school mornings become fraught around 8am when Gabe and Eliza are due to be leaving, but one or other, but usually Gabe is trying frantically to find something.. football socks… homework.. door-key. However, his most enervating practice is to state at 8pm on Monday that he needs ingredients for a food tech practical lesson the next day. His German tutor is due and so L and I are left to decide whether to send him to school without the materials for his GCSE class, or blink and go shopping for him. 

Eliza

Eliza conveys an impression of precision, yet there’s wooliness in there, too. Her violin went missing earlier this term. It had to be at home, she insisted, demanding search parties from the couch. Or it had to be in one of the cars. ‘Are you sure you’ve checked properly at school?’ L asked repeatedly. After two weeks, the instrument reappeared. It had been in a cupboard in th  music department. 

Robin

Robin’s disorganisation finds expression in a constant turnover of school PE kit and loss of letters home from school. He rarely ends a term with the same sports clothes he started with – losing, borrowing and acquiring as the terms goes on. The twenty minute walk home is enough time for important letters from school, with announcements of events and opportunities lost from (usually in the depths of) his school bag. Homework assignments also rarely make it back, meaning text appeals to other parents and a direct request to his teacher to publish the homework on the school website. 

The first dozen

Gabe

Gabe’s 12th birthday party was spent playing laser tag in the basement of an Oldham mill with 7 friends. He harvested money as gifts – at a rate of ¬£10 per present.

The afternoon before his birthday he spent in school detention after his drama teacher apparently forgot a commitment to replace a script and punished Gabe for turning up at lessons twice without it.

Robin

Robin has taken hesitant steps towards music – learning the recorder, but not enjoying it; being ready to take over Gabe’s piano lessons should he quit. But he’s joined a new choir at school with a lot of enthusiasm.

Eliza

Eliza has amused us with funny voices. She has a popular gravel-throated voice at odds with her diminutive self. She’s added a baby voice which says very little but “Noh, don’t cwy.”

Alone at home

Gabe

If L has a late meeting at work, Eliza and Robin go to after-school club. There’s no straightforward option for Gabe. There could be – he could wait at home, alone. He had a front door key, although that is now lost. But Gabe has a fear of being alone at home. In the past, he’s preferred to wait on the drive, in the dark and rain. He doesn’t wait patiently, but texts and calls L to find out where she is. She is where she told him she would be. Last week, he did let himself in, but took fright and ran outside again. L and I wait for something to click but, until it does, working late for L creates angst for mother and son.

Eliza

Eliza was the co-accused in a case of cyber-bullying. Closer inspection of the evidence showed an innocuous email, misconstrued by a headstrong schoolmate who had been ‘being mean’ to Eliza and her closest friend. Apologies have been said and we’ve had our first brush with the difficulties of children and digital communication.

Robin

A long run of football birthday parties was broken by a climbing wall party. Robin revisited his heroics of many years ago and was one of only two of the boys at the party to climb to the top of the wall.

Christmas countdown

School breaking up on 15 December has given plenty of time for anticipating Christmas. Useful distractions have come with play dates, games and the gerbils but wet weather through the long week has also strained fraternal and sisterly relations.

    Robin

Robin has been overcome by the pending excitement more than once. Australia having Christmas a day early, he believed, was one cause of a strop and sobs.

    Eliza

Eliza lay on the kitchen floor wailing while L and Robin made egg-free pancakes – a special treat for him. He defended this treat by forbidding her to help out.

    Gabe

Gabe’s meltdown had nothing to do with Christmas. L got an electric shock from the sandwich toaster that left her on her backside and shaken. Gabe’s terror took over, imploring her not to turn the switch at the socket off, refusing to touch her or to eat anything at all for fear of getting a shock himself.

Fear and courage on the Cote d’Azur

We were woken by a shock and awe thunderstorm at 1.45am in our stationary caravan in the South of France. Eliza came to find L and I. I went to see the boys in their room. Eliza followed as L’s wedding ring was too great a threat to her amidst the electric storm. All three kids were terrified. Eliza was shaking. Gabe wanted to know things we couldn’t answer – like when the onslaught would end. Robin alternated between peering captivated by the lightening flashes at the window, to cowering in his bed. Without stopping, the storm quietened enough for us to return to our beds after an hour. We woke before 8am, with it still rumbling around, and it continued until after lunchtime.

Gabe

Gabe ‘s greatest fear may be embarassment. He walked off the pitch, away from the game and disappeared after I upbraided in poor French a big lad, who had joined our game of football, for not passing to the little ones. Gabe walked across the campsite to L, complaining that I had humiliated him.

Eliza

Eliza squealed with fear when we announced our plan to take a boat trip. She was coaxed aboard and clung to L. All this changed when the boat cut its motors at the edge of the Agay Bay and we were invited downstairs to the glass bottom viewing area. There, with fish swimming on either side, Eliza and her brothers chased around to get the best views, particularly when a barracuda came spearing through the fish.

Sea legs

Robin

Robin was the first down the biggest slide in the pools. He skipped across rocks at the seaside. He played football amongst big boys and men, getting stuck in and at one point putting in a block tackle to stop a man’s shot, drawing gasps from players and the crowd, who may like me have expected to see a small, fractured ankle. But the first sight of the Grand Canyon of Verdun was too much and he needed a lot of consoling as we set out on the 25 mile drive along its southern rim.

Long shorts

Robin

Robin has started school. He’s three days in – two short days and today his first full day. All has been smooth, but he was subdued after day one. L couldn’t get an explanation, but we wondered whether it had felt an anti-climax: no great change from nursery.

Robin is refusing to wear the school sweatshirt. He hates jumpers, he told me, having asked me to help him take it off, seconds after the teacher had made him wear it on leaving school on day 2. So he wears a polo shirt and traditional grey shorts that stretch down over his calves. They’re very eye-catching.

Ready for school

showing some calf

Eliza

Eliza has been moved to a new gym class. She’s the smallest, slightest and palest of a group of 20 girls aged up to 15. She holds her own in this company. On Saturday I saw her doing floor exercises and vaulting. She did a forward flip over the vaulting horse with straight arms and straight legs. It had been the first time she had been asked to do one.

Gabe

Two swimming pool visits in two weeks and two angst-ridden melt-downs over swimming trunks. The first over whether new trunks would be ‘acceptable swimwear’ – they were. The second over the state of his other pair of trunks which were spotted with tissue paper residue from the washing machine.