Tag Archives: school

Nice people have nice thoughts

I’m fat. I get it. I look at myself every single day. I don’t need you to tell me. More importantly, your kids don’t need to tell my kids. They know I’m fat too.

This morning, whilst driving to school in more pain than is good, my little fiery Redhead told me that her friend had called me “oomph”. I explained that as her wonderful aunt was also “oomph”, I was obviously in good company. Miss Redhead then explained “yes, but you’re still more oomph”.

That’s what you call a kick to the gut. 

This evening, my wonderful Unicorn obsessed daughter explained that she is writing a poem inspired by “Truth”. She has to write about a secret those at school won’t know. She has chosen to write about me and my Fibromyalgia. She has chosen to write about being bullied because her mum was so fat she needed a minibus instead of a normal size car.

A kick to the guts and ice cold shot to the heart.

My baby was bullied because *I* am fat. Nothing she could do would stop those children from finding me a funny one liner to hurt her with. Kids are cruel. That doesn’t just happen. Normally it is a sign that an adult they spend time with speaks with such prejudices and insults that it becomes a normal way to talk to others. I want to be angry at these little snot noses but I can’t. I feel sorry for them. To be 9/10/11 years old and already be aware of language that you know will cause mental anguish is such an unfortunate roll of the dice.

I have tried to raise our family in a way that allows them to see others in a positive way. Isn’t it brilliant that they also have a large family. How cool is it that she has Minion glasses. Perhaps we could give our old clothes to the charity shop so other families like ours can get good stuff for cheap. They give pocket money to all the charity pots they see, they offer help to anyone who needs it, they look after the local green areas, and they stand up against bullies, casual racism, slurs against a person’s shape and size or mental capacity. These kids don’t kill spiders even though they give some of them the curly whurlies. With all the good that they are, it is that very kindness and compassion to others which leaves them vulnerable to attack from kids who haven’t been taught that it is never okay to make fun of another person who is just trying to live their life.

I get it. I’m fat. I’ve always been the biggest of my siblings and I have spent my whole life learning the ever new and imaginative insults to the fat girl. Guess what? You insulting me isn’t going to make me magically drop half my body weight. I spent so much of my teen years hiding from mean girls; what insult would they use today? Are they going to aim for my weight, my second hand clothes, my intelligence, my big feet, my body odour? Maybe today would be a wonderful mixture of all of the above. I never once found their insults the key to change. Instead, I would hide inside myself, gobbling as many chocolate bars as I could afford and wiping snot on my unironed shirt, picking at threads on my washed grey black skirt and bashing the heel of my ugly clown shoes on the floor over and over. Trust me, I didn’t go running through the park home to fix up a tasty salad. 

A few years ago, I decided to improve my health. I walked for miles and miles, even completed a Race for Life 10k fun walk. I made sure I ate three meals a day, including loads of lovely veggie goodness and drinking at least 2 litres a day. I had pain but I was managing it well. I finally, for the first time ever, felt in control of my destiny. I lost 3 stone and maintained the weight loss through pregnancy to be my lightest since baby number 2, over 11 years before. Then the fibro took an evil twist.

I had a contraceptive implant, started 4 different regular medications as well as daily painkillers. I have a long list of terms to describe my condition and none of them pretty. I’m depressed, sleep deprived, in pain, and uncomfortable. Seriously, I know I’m fat. I am trying to get a hold of my physical health, to work on my mental health, to get back my fitness. My insecurities are not going to disappear with your “you certainly like your food” comments or the “now you reach for the diet drink” said under your breath and probably never meant to be heard. You can’t taunt me skinny anymore than you can tell an anorexia sufferer that they “look fine, definitely not fat”. 

Please don’t tell me what works for you or tell me what to try. If I want your help I really will ask for it, like I have done with my close friends and family. When the time is right, I will be able to get off meds that seem very much connected with weight gain, my already fairly good diet will realign itself and I will stop squirrelling chocolate bars in my bedroom, until then, try not to openly say thoughtless things in front of your children and try teaching them that we are all unique and all the more wonderful for it. Talk to your children about why we are all different and how when we assume something of a person, we may be doing them a disservice.

My disability is invisible but it’s symptoms are not. I’m fat. I live with it every day. I will one day fix it. Perhaps, one day, you’ll learn to be a bit nicer to the fat girl at school, to the short man at the shop, the kid at the park who can’t help being clumsy, or the person in the town centre who you can’t work out if they are male or female, as if their gender should ever be any of your business.

I’m fat. I’m disabled. I’m a human being. I’m also kind, considerate, and polite to strangers. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and a member of the human race. 

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Shall I compare thee…to your siblings?

Everything I know about parenting I learnt by being a parent. I do have younger sisters but we are close enough in age that we didn’t take on any significant “parenting” in the true sense although my little sister (not my baby one!) and I are only 18 months apart and we have had to keep each other safe over the years, stepping in when, for whatever reason, our own parents couldn’t or wouldn’t. We’ve had each others’ back and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You’d think that would make us very similar but we actually more like our opposites. We know how to push each other’s buttons but equally, we complement and counterbalance each other which allows us to be very different and yet both very positive and, hopefully, good mothers.

Now I know all this. I can see how siblings don’t necessarily follow each other, how we all learn, interact, play up, in our own unique ways. So why do I continue to compare my own children? There are 8 of them, of course they’re all going to plough their own paths, it would be madness to think otherwise. I think I must be mad.

I find myself constantly doing it; did The Boy walk this early? Did The Prefect ever miss a joke this badly? Are the smalls even cheekier than the bigs ever were? Oddly, the only time I didn’t was the one time that it may have been most beneficial. 

When The Newstarter was about 18 months, I realised that her speech was a little less recognisable than I recalled the older children being. I then reminded myself that each was unique and that I shouldn’t judge based on my experience with the bigger ones. By the time we got to 30 months, with the babbles of The Baby coming along, it was clear that her speech was definitely being stubborn. She could say plenty, I could get what I needed out of her to make our day easier but I began to take note of the words she could and couldn’t say. 

When she started nursery, the first thing I did was raise my concerns with her new teacher. She took some time to settle her in and make an evaluation. Miss Teacher seemed to think she had quite a severe need for a SaLT referral and made noises that suggested that there may be some learning delay. 

I’m mum, I might not have rushed to the GP with concerns but I have done this a couple of times. At home, she would tell me the colours, some simple counting, she had a fantastic group of little friends who would play some crazy games and she got herself understood as well as knowing exactly what others were saying to her, she sang nursery rhymes and could puzzle away like she had the answer sheet! If anything (mummy bias & sibling comparisons) she is actually a faster learner than some of her older siblings. I am in no way worried about her progress.

Back to nursery. We took the school’s advice and went to a play & stay specifically aimed at children with SaLT needs. We arrived and were invited to play. The girls gravitated straight to the play kitchen where they made us cups of tea, cake with vegetables, and even did some ironing – that’s quite scary because only Mr Dad irons and it normally occurs when the smalls are fast asleep. I have no clue where they picked up such great ironing skills!

I spoke to an assistant therapist, we discussed a few things, bit more play, a sing song and a brief overview. In its simplest meaning; she’s doing fine, stick with what you’re doing, ask the school to continue as they are, come back if you need anything else.

It was a little frustrating. The therapist agreed that there was definitely an issue with her speech but, unfortunately, there just aren’t enough funds to justify further support at this stage beyond what we were already receiving via the nursery staff having the training to help the two children at the nursery in need of support. Mostly, I’m okay with that. 

Don’t get me wrong, if they offer us further support moving forward, that is amazing and an opportunity we would welcome but at the grand age of 4, we’re okay. She’ll meet with her new teacher soon, we’ll go through all the questions, hear the “oh gosh!” when they understand that she is 7th of 8 children, and we will eventually get to the part of her story where we discuss any additional needs she may have. It’s at this stage where I will explain her “school passport” which has a detailed account of last years progress. I’ll tell her of our wonderful holidays where we tried to engage The Newbie in conversation wherever we could, my eyes will glisten when I recall how much she impressed us with her talk of the “blue humped big whale” or how well she is doing going from her short, easy to say name, to her long, tougher to say all the syllables full name. We’ll work on a care plan, The Newbie will smash it out of the park and we will sail through Reception with as much ease as any of her siblings (see, I did it again!)

Next month marks another milestone in my life. Another small person starting school and I’m left at home with just The Baby who seems less baby like with every passing day. She’s a huge part of us identifying The Newbies speech patterns, mainly because she never stops talking! I will have a whole year getting this little jumping bean up to speed ready for nursery but I don’t think it will take more than the first term of school, she has all the makings of being just as sponge like as her biggest siblings! Oh darn it, I just can’t help myself.

So on the last note for today’s ramblings, The Big Boy did himself proud. A couple of A*s, a B, and a lot of As. I keep telling him he can be whoever he wants to be. These results are going to make it so much easier for him. He has poured all of himself into his GCSEs and now he can “relax” as he starts his A levels. He thought he’d kick it off by joining an elite group of teenagers all trying to discover how best they can support their communities and being Advocates for those who have been or will be victims of bullying or discrimination because they dare to stand out from the crowd. 
It is my honour to be his mum. It is my honour to be a mother to each and every one of them. Any burden I carry easily, safe in the knowledge that my little people will always fight for themselves and for those who need help. They are all utterly beautiful inside and out.

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

A bit long for some but worth a read – here.     The premise is that we learn to talk *with* “problem kids” rather than *at* them.

Many of us fall into bad habits when we are looking at behaviour we consider poor or bad but perhaps it is time we tried to see things from the child’s perspective and took the time to ask them what we could do to make the situation better for them.

Our classrooms seem so full today with Miss Prim’s class sometimes having 32 kids but the other class sometimes accommodating 35 kids at any one time! (I was one of 28 and then one of 18)

It must be extremely difficult to effectively cater for the many needs of so many different personalities and learning types, it is no wonder that we are failing so many of those children who have specific needs not best handled by overstuffed and understaffed classrooms.

Our dreamer most likely has some type of learning style best met by people who have the time and passion to engage with her. One of her former teachers was so rigid in his style that she failed to make any progress in his class (good job she started ahead of her peers) and when I discussed the issue with him, on more than one occasion, he nodded and agreed to try a few different techniques. By the end of the year I had been accused of bullying him and had resigned my position on the school governors board as the school stood by the style of teaching which had hampered more than just my child. Had I needed further proof, when Miss Prim entered his class the following year, she too made no progress but was blessed by having that cushion of accelerated learning that years of fantastic teachers had encouraged. Miss Prim, definitely not “one of those” children, failed to make progress in his class and yet I couldn’t get any of the senior staff at the school to take my concerns on board. 

Perhaps schools get stuck in the patterns of behaviour that see our children being put on the path that ultimately leads them to falling short of their true potential. Who do we blame for this cycle of failure? Is it the parents who don’t press the school to seek out new and improved models to help deal with the frustrations of our children? Is it the teaching staff who fail to recognise their own limitations and also fail to see that a different approach could make the world of difference not just to the “problem” child but to their classmates and even to other individual children who are finding things tougher than they can verbalise and who would also be helped by a method which removes some of the pressure from a younger age and actually engages with them in a way that ensures each and every child has the skills and environment necessary to reach their full potential?
Are we too late? Have we failed a whole generation who we should have taken the time and care to understand and to better support? When I look at my dreamer, I wish I had done more. She lost more than that one year. It took a great deal of excellent compassion and conviction from her next teacher to not only raise her attainment to the expected level but also to surpass her expected standard. This fabulous teacher – newly qualified – took the time to get to know her and encourage her. When our daydreamer drifted off to the land of make believer to stare at unicorns and wizards, Ms S was able to bring her back to the real world and take a moment to reassure our dreamer that she was capable, she could and would succeed, and they would find the solution together if necessary. 

I’m not sure if she will continue to get top scores as her secondary life continues, I guess it depends on if any of her 12 teachers (or more if they continue to drop like flies) has the ability to see their students as individuals or if they feel like the only option in our oversubscribed schools is to teach in hopes that 80% of the class manage to get something out of the lesson.
For some it may well already be too late. My lanky nephew has already had his education restricted by being put in a class with those students they consider to be a distraction, too violent, or just too “lazy” to teach. 

When my stepdad died when Lanky was 10, it hit him hard. He had lost his own father to a “new family” a few years previous and Pops was the only male role model he had (because my Mr is basically a big kid ;-] ). He really didn’t cope with the destruction he saw within his home life and with a diagnosis of Aspergus, education seemed to be unimportant and fairly useless. An outburst after he was mocked put him into special measures and he was left there to rot. This isn’t for dramatic effect. He was put into a class with all the other disruptive elements, many of which also had an ASD diagnosis with learning and/or behavioural concerns. They only had to be at school for 3 hours each weekday and they were assisted in their learning by an unqualified teaching assistant. They weren’t encouraged, they weren’t listened to, their parents were left with no answers and no way to make school life worthwhile for their sons. No one knew to try a different direction, no one knew to take each student as an individual with his own needs, his own learning methods, and his own future to help shape. It is unlikely that Lanky will ever be able to reach his full potential now. He has reached the age where he is now an adult and has been labelled as vulnerable. He is going to need additional support and assistance for the foreseeable. He had the ability to go far and do very well for himself. Now he feels like he isn’t capable of doing more than existing. He felt so low that he turned to the streets, began stealing from family and using “legal highs” to escape his existence. 

We’ve made progress with him, we might yet be able to find a way to move forward so that he can find a job, support himself in time. We had to go through months of hell first, we had to witness *him* hit his rock bottom and there was very little we could do but wait to help him get up. My darling nephew, once this happy, lively, sensitive, passionate, and creative young boy is now barely a shell. He has abused alcohol to the point of damage which might not be repairable, his heart is being closely monitored because his valves are no longer functioning as normal, he is finally getting help for his depression and, oh, he just turned 18. 

Is he the lucky one? We’re all here to support him in any way we can and it looks like we can keep him out of prison. Some of his classmates have already found their way in front of a judge.
I don’t yet know what the best way forward is but we have to do something soon. It isn’t just the lives of the children who are being labelled that is at risk. The entire lifetime of those yet 

to be educated is at risk and with it, our society as we know it. We have ignored the needs of our education system for too long. 

Our teachers need better pay and smaller workloads, our TAs need continued training and support to best aid the teacher and the student body, our schools need fresh equipment and more adequate learning spaces and our class sizes need to be reduced. 

Do we not want the best for those yet to come? Why are so many happy to sell out our children and grandchildren and what are they gaining in return? This isn’t a party political issue, this is a national travesty! There is so much to be gained if we only invest our time and our funds in the next generation. 
It looks more likely that we will leave not only “those children” who present as an issue in the classroom to flail in the system but the majority of the population which some are banking on to pay for their retirement. 
http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/what-if-everything-you-knew-about-disciplining-kids-was-wrong/

Sweeping it under the carpet

With our size family, we often have to deal with issues of self esteem. There are 3 gingerlings, some bean poles, some belly woes, a few geeklings and a couple of nerds, a bookworm and a sports enthusiast. We have been exceptionally lucky because none of these things have led to any sustained bullying or upset. The issues we have had is because of the sense of justice, the choice to follow the rules, the lack of “tell-tale” mentality at home which allows for a greater sense of needing others to do their best and the reporting of poor behaviour or rule breaking.

My children get pulled apart for doing the right thing. It is absolutely frustrating that they have to deal with back handed name calling, pinching, pushing, isolation tactics etc. and when I try to discuss the issue at school, it is *my* child who is told to ignore poor behaviour in others, to walk away from troublesome 10 year olds, to find a new place to play, to stop taking things so personally. 

This doesn’t wash with us nor does it mean that the school get to deny they have a problem with bullying. As a parent, it is my job to protect my children, to encourage a positive attitude and install a compass to help steer them clear from trouble. When I drop them off at the class door I expect the staff to put the same effort in and 10 years ago, mostly, they did. As I now approach our youngest two entering the system I can see definite flaws in how things are being handled and the way the schools mark down incidents.

At a recent meeting with one of the Heads, it was mentioned that the mother of the boy who *slapped my child around the face* was not keen on the school’s behaviour policy so although it would have been mentioned the school had not given the child any sanctions beyond asking him to say sorry. So, as an adult, I can go into the playground and smack a member of staff and all I’ll have to do is say sorry….. No. I can’t see that assault being let go quite so easily and this is what children face everyday at school.

There’s one of those urban legends about a young lad who twangs a girl’s bra strap multiple times and when he doesn’t back off the female turns around and punches him in the face. Parents are called to the school and the girl looks to be excluded for a day or three for violence when the mother, quite rightly, steps in and explains that if the young adult isn’t punished she will be forced to press charges for sexual assault. It is almost certainly a lesson based on some truth but also one that doesn’t seem to be being heard by those in a position of power and responsibility.

My beautiful niece, only 12 years old, was having trouble with the snidey kids at her secondary school. It started with giggling as she passed, whispers in the class line, notes being passed around reminding others that she wasn’t to be talked to. Her mum tried to do right by our little Smiler, explained to not let these kids get the better of her, remind her that she isn’t any of those things being talked about, to be “the better person” and walk away. That worked for a short while but when these bullies saw it wasn’t working they stepped it up a notch and eventually became physical. One day she finally had enough. Smiler had done everything she was supposed to; walk away, tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell head of year. Now she had nowhere else to go and felt that she wasn’t worth as much as these other delightful tweenagers because no one had her back at school, a place where she spends the majority of her time, where she is supposed to be as safe as, or better safer than, home. She stood up for herself and when the leader tried to trip her up, again, she told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to pack it in right now. The other girl laughed before grabbing a handful of Smiler’s hair. She defended herself brilliantly and matched her enemy pull for pull, scratch for scratch. She was put in isolation for the rest of the week and made to apologise to the other girl.

What does that teach the next generation? Do the right thing but you might get hurt in the process but stand up for yourself and you will be punished and probably more harshly than your bully..? Why are we allowing the bullys and their bullying parents to dictate how we handle these situations? Why should our children be putting up with hurtful behaviour, attitudes, and violence, the consequences of which stay with a person for a lifetime? Accidental headlocks, recommending the wearing of shorts under skirts to prevent bullies from showing your knickers to the rest of the school, ignoring others blatently breaking school rules, holding back the tears for fear you give the bully more ammunition. Our children shouldn’t have to feel scared at school, they shouldn’t have nightmares or breakdowns as you insist that they attend classes. 

I urge all parents to stand up to bullies. Speak to the teacher, the Head, explain that you will not stand by and allow your child to be subjected to poor behaviour because the school fail to see it, or worse, see it and do not appropriately handle the situation. Our children have the right to an education free from harm and harrassment, lessons that don’t involve being kicked under the table, lunchtimes free from people ruining food, and also to walk home without a group of kids following or crowding around them.

School isn’t always fun, we all know how far the government have gone to make tests the most important part of the learning process, but as adults, we have the capability and responsibility to keep our children free from physical AND mental harm. 

Apple for Teacher

Once upon a school class, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I felt a compelling sense that I needed to help people especially the young. Little by little I grew as an individual and decided that my path had led away from medicine. I could not stand to be in school and the idea that I had to spend another 10 years of life not being able to help children whilst I studied and amounted a vast debt just didn’t seem right.

The Mr and I met at college. He is the reason I absolutely believe in love at first sight. He came out of a meeting in the hall and swaggered down towards the common area and I knew with every fibre of my being that I was going to have children with him. Fourteen months later our first child was delivered by caesarean section, a more than healthy 9lb 15oz and a beautifully fuzzy ginger top. Looking at this tiny (!) human being I knew that I had found my path. I wanted to be a mother, a really good mother. 

Mothering is so much more than making sure you meet the 4 Bs. – bottle/boob, bottom, burping, bundling. Bundling is my favourite part. The mini human gets laid in a lovingly made blanket from a nanna, aunt, bestfriend, and you tuck the edges around them almost too tightly. Some like their arms tucked too whilst others have one arm out, a thumb in their mouth, and then you hold them. Just hold them. 

In the late hours, when the world seems quiet and it is just you two, that’s when the lessons are learnt. You teach your child about love, acceptance, joy and laughter, even fear. In return your child shows you compassion, independence, loyalty, faith and trust.

Oddly, that isn’t exactly what I had planned on exploring but it is a good start to where our family finds itself right now.

The youngest gingerling has just finished doing some “fun” quizzes and as a reward she will be going to the seaside. Miss Diva didn’t find them so fun. You had to sit in boring seats and you weren’t allowed to even laugh! But she got to write a really good story only she didn’t have enough time to finish it and that isn’t fair.

Year 2 SATs suck. I have always had a passionate dislike of them. They tell us nothing about what truly matters when we look at our 6 and 7 year olds. It doesn’t state their favourite colour or toy, whether they prefer Science or Art, how high they climb on the bars or how much their handwriting has improved this year. My wonderful 6 (and a half! Very important to Miss Diva) year old has spent the last 6 months learning how to pass a test. She was told how to write with a start, a middle, and an end – like those are the only options available when writing a story. She knows how to work out a word problem in maths, which is useful in the long run but not so helpful in encouraging her how to remember her times table and then how to use that to work out division. The last time she worked on a beautiful piece of artwork was Christmas and they haven’t had a music lesson since the class assembly in January. She has had afterschool booster sessions and even a couple of days of extra mini quizzes during the holidays. My beautiful prancing, dancing, singing, smiling, giggling 6 and a half year old wasn’t even alloed to laugh.

Yay. I’m sure that tells the government lots about my child.

My not so little anymore CEO is just about to start her “fun quizzes” except without the sugar coating. She knows exactly what is expected of her by her teachers and is not sleeping because of it. Her SATs prep started last school year. As soon as My Daydreamer went off on her school leavers journey the lines were laid down to start teaching the year 5 class how to “do well” in their SATs. For the whole of the last 12 months they have had it drummed into them just how important these tests are and they have worked for nothing else. I have every faith in my rule enforcer, my little teacher’s pet, my stressed and anxious nearly nearly 11 year old. She has the most awe inspiring spirit, her mind is so enquisitive, always asking questions, always fighting for the World to be a better place to grow. I know she is intelligent, probably top 10 at her school, I have no desire for her to do these exams which leave her despondent and fearful. To see the light ebb from her as her shoulders slump and her wrists need rubbing from cramp. 

The tests don’t show that though. They aren’t interested in my child’s personality, her strengths and weaknesses, they only care about how well she can decipher the maths word puzzle, how her teachers have taught her the difference between clauses, how to use adverbs correctly, the humble comma, and when to use there, their, and they’re. She must also resist the use of emoticons because they’re not appropriate. 

>.>

My no longer little but my almost fully grown red head has been stuck in his bedroom for the last two years. The once vivid green walls are now adorned with a revision timetable covered by an exam timetable, post it notes in various shapes and sizes, thought maps, English quotes, and words of hope that soon this month long stressfest will soon be over. 

The GCSEs are the ones that terrify me. The teachers have high hopes for my biggest boy. Meeting after meeting, email after email, each one telling us if he just studies a little longer, revises just a little harder, pushes himself just a little further…. He has bitten each and every fingernail, you can see the little patch of fringe where he has been tugging and twisting, he is mainlining chocolate and his light hasn’t been out before 2am in a ridiculously long length of time. 

We have spent so much of the last five years battling the anxiety and handling the stress so that he can explore his identity and then embrace his transition. My boy doesn’t need this extra burden. He would have put himself under enough pressure to do well. He desperately wants to do well, he wants to get the qualifications he needs to move forward on his career path and help children in a way I absolutely understand. He is determined to make a difference in this world and he sees the educational route as his future journey. 

His GCSEs won’t show that about him. They won’t show off his absolutely enchanting voice, his delicate style of drawing that he has no faith in, his dark sense of humour which he shares with his father, his passion for politics causing voices to shake and hands to clench. They won’t count the tears he has shed because he doesn’t think he is good enough, the notes screwed up because they need to be just so.

The numbers at the end of the day won’t matter to me, they won’t change how much I love and cherish them, I am not concerned about competing with the other mums in the playground or stealing the Best Mum award of 2017. 

My children have been, otherwise, fabulously educated and by some of the best teachers – when they leave compulsory education at 18 they will be articulate, well-rounded, informed young adults but a good chunk of it will come from us, as parents, family & friends, who have all worked just as hard as the professionals to ensure that the next generation are ready for what comes next.

They are going to be awesome adults. 

Jus’ Sayin’

😉