Saturday, 18 July 2015

Saying goodbye to primary school

As usual it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. It seems that while the early years of babies
and toddlers are rich in anecdote, as children grow up they become less ripe picking grounds for funny stories.

But one thing I have noticed, that appears to be a constant with children, is the aching wrench I feel when we reach a period of transition – at least with my firstborn.

I can still remember driving away from his first nursery, my eyes blurred with tears as I sobbed, filled with nostalgia. I remembered his first day when he clung to me as the nursery staff attempted to interest him in water play or the sandpit, but all he wanted was mummy.

I remember his best girlfriend with whom he would share the rich pickings of the dressing up box. I still have a picture of him holding hands with her, resplendent in a beautiful fairy dress (him, not her). We still see this precious friend, but she too has long outgrown dressing up and is fast becoming a beautiful and clever young woman.

You see almost a decade separates these pictures of my blonde haired, blue eyed, pink and squidgy toddler from the boy who is my son now. Rather than leaving nursery he is on the brink of leaving primary school, and like generations of mothers before I wonder ‘Where did that time go?’

What was I doing that the years have whizzed past like the blur seen from the window of a speeding car? Was it really not yesterday that I had to pluck him from neighbours’ driveways as he dashed into explore their front gardens on our walk up to the shops? Since he perched on top of the bump that would become his baby brother?

How is it that the memory of walking up to school, his sticky little hand in mine, his head not even reaching as far as my hip, begging to stop every five minutes to look at some fascinating piece of debris on the street seems as fresh as the Year 6 Leavers Disco that happened just yesterday.

It is a piercing pain, the ache of nostalgia. Most of the time we just carry on, living life, doing the shopping, the school run, nagging about homework and hardly stopping to drink a moment of it in, but sometimes life stops us in our tracks and forces us to see how fast our children are becoming adults, how little time is really spent enmeshed in the experience of childhood.

As you will have gathered my firstborn is just about to leave primary school and everyday activities have taken on a sharp poignancy in the face of this step. He has come home with a bag stuffed full of schoolbooks that will never be written in again, he has acted in his last play, danced the Macarena at his last disco, had photos taken with friends who may or may not last the distance once they no longer spend every school day together.

Next week we will do our last school run with him and eventually close the door on his first school forever.

I feel the tears begin to flow as I write of these final moments. It has been such a journey for both of us, from him clinging to me outside the Reception classroom, in tears because he so hated to leave mummy, to the tears shed at the end of every year as he would miss the teachers he had come to love.

There have been school trips that have taken him away from home for the first time, tests and exams that have begun to set him on the path towards his future, friendships forged through shared experiences. I have made friends amongst the mothers of his contemporaries and will miss their smiling faces at the school gate.

There have been ups of great achievements, and downs when friendships have gone sour or mistakes have been made. It has not been a perfect experience, but it has irrevocably changed both our lives, and for the most part for the better.

I try to feel happy that my precious boy has had such a positive experience during his early school years, but I am just so sad to say goodbye to them. I think it is all part of not wanting to see him grow up and inevitably grow away from me.

In my head I know he needs to learn to become independent, but in my heart I long for the little boy who clung to me for security. It’s the classic dilemma for any mother – do I let go and let him grow or do I cling on because the letting go just hurts so damn much?

Of course I know the answer and, as I bought him his first blazer for big school, I felt my heart swell with pride as I caught a glimpse of the gorgeous young man he is fast becoming. I know he needs to leave behind the beginning of his childhood and move on to discovering who he will be as an adult, but as a mummy I know sometimes I miss my little boy so very much.

So next week when the door finally closes on primary school forever, I shall equip myself with hankies, a phone with plenty of memory free for pictures and I will make that last walk, holding my little boy’s hand as we exit the gates of primary school together for the very last time.  

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Ten things I hate about youth

You know you are getting old when you start tutting about the behaviour of the 'youth of today', that and thinking policemen and teachers look younger every day, oh and and believing that young people never had it so good.

This is how I know that I am categorically getting old, as I recently found myself listing all the things I hated about young people. Perhaps it is because I am afraid that my sons are on the brink of turning into young people, as opposed to children, who at least have cuteness on their side and I am deeply afraid they will start aping some of these dispicable characteristics.

As a guide of just what I am looking out for here is my definitive list of the 10 things I hate about youth:

1. Tattoos 
When I was growing up these were the preserve of criminals, sailors and the worse kind of chavs. An indigo smudged LOVE and HATE emblazoned across the knuckles was a sign to steer clear, ditto the blue bird flying up the neck of an ex-con or a dodgy anchor hooked across a paunchy shoulder. Now the young can't wait to get inked, and all over. I could deal with a discreet star or heart in an unobtrusive place, but a whole multicoloured universe splattered across the backside is beyond the pale. I am simply hoping and praying that by the time my boys are old enough to get inside a tattoo parlour this fad has gone out of fashion.

2. Piercings
See above. Earrings yes, a bolt through your nethers, no. Self mutilation is never a good look, but while a 20-year-old may be able to just about carry it off, what happens when they are 40-odd and that hole just won't seal over?

3. Beards (to include ridiculous facial hair of any kind)
I will admit that as a child raised wasting her Saturday afternoons watching old movies from the 40s, I once had a bit of a thing for pencil moustaches - blame Rhett Butler. But essentially I hold a deep and intractable belief that a man looks best clean shaven. I cannot bear the fact that while women have grown noticeably more bald all over, and I mean all over to a Brazilian degree, men appear to have sprouted that excess pubic hair all over their faces. Huge, bushy, lumberjack beards are de-rigeur amongst the hipster crowd and I just hate to think what kind of ecosystems are emerging within the deep pile on the chins of trendy young men.

4. Queueing
Now this one really does mark me out as a fogey. When I go out to eat I want to book a table and know that I will be able to sit down at it at the allotted time. I do not want to be told that I will have to wait two hours in a dismal queue before being granted the dubious pleasure of scoffing down a mediocre 'gourmet' burger from a novelty plate, while perched on a rickety second hand chair at a scuffed communal table. All this done while watching the crumbs from my hipster neighbour's meal work their way deep within the dense foliage of his facial fur. This is definitely dining young person style.

5. Socialising (or not)
I am not a total Luddite, though I am sure that by even writing a blog, I would be marked out as one by anyone under the age of 25. But I detest with a passion that youth culture seems to exist entirely through the lens of social media. That is not actually seeing or talking to friends, but contacting them via some sharing site that I won't even attempt to guess at as the platforms change far too fast for my ancient brain to keep up. I guess it is just a mirror of my own teen telephone addiction, but it is just so deeply anti social to be endlessly staring into the abyss of the internet rather than interacting with anyone. I am sure it is what lies at the heart of the growth of teen anxiety and suicide. I know I couldn't have got through my teens without seeing my friends, and I don't think that swapping pictures of our privates would have had quite the same frisson as an illicit fumble.

6. Sexism
I am a child of the 80s and I thought that sexism would soon become a thing of the past. Now I laugh at my own naivety. With boys introduction to girls and sex no longer being made through a quick flick through a dirty magazine, but through an internet that gives them a hotline into the most deviant and perverse expressions of human sexuality, the idea of sexual violence seems to be as everyday as French kissing. Men troll women they don't like, not with blunt insults like 'Fat cow' or 'Stupid bitch', but with threats of rape, mutilation and murder. It's a scary world out there when you have prepubescent boys who you rather hope won't grow up into misogynistic fools.

8. Confidence
OK I admit it, I am bitter. When I was  young the last thing I had was confidence. My peers and I were a shuffling herd of insecurities, embarrassment and self doubt. Now young people seem to be like mini adults, shining with inner confidence. Perhaps it is essential now that you need to be a ridiculous overachiever in order to have any hope of owning a home of your own before retirement age, but it's terrifying. When I was 16 my main achievement was having found a concealer that hid my zits effectively, now teenagers seem to have built a CV to rival my own before they even leave school.

9. Over confidence
The flip side of my previous point is that the most unprepossessing specimens appear to believe that the world owes them a living. I still remember my first job, which consisted mainly of making tea and photocopying, for which I was eternally grateful. It gave me a step up on the ladder, without taxing my very insignificant skill set. I could watch, learn and hopefully make a good impression with my expert wielding of milk and two sugars. I expected to be the bottom of the pile, to get the shit jobs that no one else wanted and to work my way painfully up the ladder. Today's breed of young adults appear to be under the impression that thanks to their zillions of qualifications, often gained in Mickey Mouse subjects and overpriced colleges mean they deserve to shoot right to the top without even a nod at making the tea.

10. Youth
I don't long to be young again, but like every parent who has ever lived I wish I could inject a bit of my wisdom back down the line so that youth wasn't always wasted on the young. My sons count every moment until they can get older and do more. I remember that suffocating feeling, that the adults had the keys to some magic kingdom of licentiousness and they were keeping us out of it just to be mean. Now I understand that they were trying to preserve our innocence and not let us in on the secret that being grown up is, in general, pretty rubbish. When you are kid you have no power, but equally no responsibility and I know I am not alone in feeling quite happy to swap watching 18 rated movies and staying up late, for not having to pay a mortgage or worry about how to pay the bills.