Blotted Copy Books, and Caterpillar Coats

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The 70’s is currently enjoying a revival on TV thanks to memoir sitcoms Cradle to Grave and The Kennedys.

Cradle to Grave is part written by comedian Danny Baker and is based on his own adolescence in 1970’s London. With exploding toilets and loads of ‘farkin ‘ells’, it’s hilariously funny.

The Kennedys is written by actress, writer and TV presenter Emma Kennedy and is based on her memoirs The Tent, The Bucket and Me. Narrated from 10 year old Emma’s perspective, it resonates with me the most because I too was a child in the 70’s.

The show provides a nostalgic look back at the time when Darth Vader was a scary man (but nowhere near as scary as Jimmy Savile turned out to be) and schoolgirls lives were temporarily ruined by Donny Osmond’s forthcoming nuptials.

Both shows feature cars of the decade and it brought back memories of Dad’s Hillman Hunter.

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Dad and Me in his Hillman Hunter

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Dad putting the car away in the garage while I showed Mum what I’d been doing at school all day.

Another form of transport (for kids) was the Space Hopper. I had a go on my friend’s but wasn’t much for it as the bouncing made my head ache. I preferred to spin around until I fell over on the carpet and entertainment doesn’t come much better than that!

Not forgetting the hours of fun to be had from making go carts out of an old prams and bits of wood. We were recycling way before it was fashionable!

It’s Emma’s schooldays which have evoked memories long forgotten…

~ Inky Fingers ~

I remember inky fingers, blotting paper and my brother’s leaky fountain pens which resulted in Mum having to scrub his clothes. No magical Vanish in those days – just milk, vinegar and elbow grease!

Blotting paper reminds me of one of Mum’s favourite sayings..

You’ve really blotted your copy book this time, Madam!

I never actually understood the meaning of it but could tell I was in trouble from the way her eyes narrowed as she said it just before she ordered me up to my room to ‘think about what I’d done’.

~ Technology ~

Technology at school was watching a film via a projector which invariably involved disruptions while the teacher faffed about changing the reels. The films were usually about as entertaining as tonsillitis but they gave us the opportunity to eat sweets without risk of confiscation.

~ The School Toilets ~

The school toilets (more commonly known as bogs) were damp and drippy and there was always a cubicle with an out of order notice pinned to the door.

Hygiene was soap that smelled like antiseptic (because it was) and Izal toilet roll or ‘caretakers revenge’ as I like to call it. Wiping your arse with Izal was like trying to wipe yourself with a crisp packet, not that I’ve tried but it’s the best analogy I can come up with.

~ Thatcher, Thatcher Milk Snatcher ~

Dad considered Margaret Thatcher a cow of epic proportions..

~ Healthy Eating ~

On the way home from school, my brother would take me into the sweet shop where he’d give me a few pennies for some sweets and in those days you got a lot of sweets for your money. I remember the shop being crammed to the rafters with huge bottles containing Flying Saucers, Fizzy Cola Bottles, Sweet Tobacco, Black Jacks, Space Dust, Wham Bars, Drumsticks and Space Dust. I loved them all and it’s highly likely that the sugar in this lot contributed to me having ‘blotted my copy book’ on several occasions!

~ School Fashion ~

Fashion?

*guffaws*

The 70’s was the decade that good taste missed!

The sight of Emma Kennedy and her friend with their school satchels jogged my memory of having one as a child. Things were made to last in those days and were generally worn out before being replaced. Very different from today’s throwaway society where things are changed on a whim. My satchel lasted me for years because the sodding thing was indestructible!

Mum bought my coats a size too big so that I could ‘grow into them’. She bought me one in the sales once and it’s fair to say that it was going cheap because nobody in their right mind would want to be seen dead in it. It was phlegm green, padded and made me look like a caterpillar. I put up with the piss-taking for a few weeks then it ‘mysteriously’ ripped beyond repair. *shifty face*

I also had a pair of these..

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Mum liked to get her money’s worth when it came to shoes and demanded to see actual holes before she’d fork out for a new pair. Unlike clothes, she had to buy shoes that actually fitted so my growing spurts totally pissed her off. However, being a mother myself and having spent a small fortune on children’s shoes, I now feel her pain.

~ Miss D ~

My teacher in 1978. Goddess. Looked like Deirdre off Coronation Street.  A wonderful lady who actually liked kids which made a welcome change from my previous teacher who was straight out of a Stephen King novel.

The 70’s has been tainted with the recent revelations that some of it’s biggest icons were in fact depraved monsters but Cradle to Grave and The Kennedys have injected some warmth and humour back into the era to remind us that, disagreeable decor aside, it wasn’t too bad really.

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Image Credit Star Wars J D Hancock

Image Credit Clarks Shoes Alansplodge

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Autumn Serenade

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A while ago, I posted about my time as a school caretaker.

One of the things I loved about the job was that I got to work outdoors. I was relatively young then instead of the arthritic hop-a-long I am now who seizes up at the slightest hint of damp or cold.

The early morning starts gave me the opportunity to see nature at it’s most serene, like on a snowy day when the snow was crisp and untouched except for the boots of the paper-boy (and the odd patch of dog piss). The yellow patches reminded me of Slush Puppies and that’s probably why I’ve never been a fan. *boaks*

The school had an enormous cherry blossom tree in it’s grounds. In bloom it was a sight to behold. The children used to stand under the falling blossom and pretend it was snow. Cute, eh?

The blossom would give way to summer leaves which would provide much needed shade for the children, not to mention menopausal teaching staff who were constantly hot-flushing.

Summer would give way to autumn and this magnificent old tree would put on it’s final show of the year by turning it’s leaves red, yellow, orange and ,occasionally, deep crimson – my favourite shade of red.

All too soon the leaves began to fall and they’d glide gracefully down to the floor. Sometimes I’d watch this performance while I had my tea before the staff started to arrive. It was like meditation, courtesy of nature.

Some of those leaves would be gathered by the children and would end up stapled to the walls inside the school. Some would be crammed into bags and pockets to take home (or be found months later) but mostly they covered the yard like a 1970’s carpet. An awesome sight.

The thing about leaves is that they become slippery when wet so I had to gather them up whenever possible for safety reasons. Break a limb? Not on my watch!

It was back-breaking work. There were no fancy smanchy blowing machines for me. Just an old yard brush and few refuse sacks!

Occasionally Mother Nature would do the job for me and a big gust of wind would blow the leaves under the privet, leaving me free to do other caretakery work, like fishing Stickle Bricks out of toilets.

Sometimes, if the forecast was good, the head teacher would ask me to postpone raking up the leaves so the children could enjoy a leaf-kicking session. Some days if the leaf fall was disappointing, I’d go round raking up as many leaves as I could from elsewhere to make it more fun. I was a nice caretaker, not at all miserable like Argus Filch, or the ones from my school days. I can’t ever imagine them going to such lengths to make children happy. Miserable gits.

It would take several weeks for the tree to shed all of its leaves but eventually it would be completely bare and there it would stand – naked yet still magnificent.

However, it’s work wasn’t quite done as the teachers would dangle old CD’s and other sensory paraphernalia from it’s boughs and it would come alive again, if only until home-time.

I loved that tree apart from the mornings when it was throwing it down with rain and then I’d whinge about having to clean those ‘sodding leaves up’.

These days I can find my autumn in the local woods where there are hundreds of magnificent old trees all competing for the best in show. I often stand there (waiting for the dog to have a crap) watching as millions of leaves dance around as they fall to the floor. I tried to take a picture of it once but couldn’t do it justice. Some things just have to be experienced, don’t they?

Autumn is my favourite season. It’s the final smile of the year before winter sets in with it’s slippery pavements and wintry winds. *groans*

Through the trees comes autumn with her serenade.
Melodies the sweetest music ever played.

~ John Coltrane – Autumn Serenade

Image Via Creative Commons

mumturnedmom

 

Shining Star

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You’re a shining star, no matter who you are
Shining bright to see what you can truly be ~ Shining Star ~ Earth Wind and Fire

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been three years since I sat on the stairs listening to my little boy trash his bedroom in rage..

I remember staring at a big dent in the wall where he’d smashed the door back with such force that it knocked the plaster out. The fact that it was a rented house only added to the stress of the situation because ,at this rate, we would be kissing goodbye to our £450 bond.

My head felt sore from where he’d yanked my hair hair out and I had absolutely no idea why my child (who had been happy and smiling one minute) was now angrily launching his toys against the bedroom wall (I’d removed anything that could cause damage to him or the house, obvs) Was it something I’d done or said? Seemingly it came out of the blue..

Similar incidents had happened before but never to this degree. I’d experienced toddler tantrums with C but this was wasn’t in the same league and C’s tantrums were spectacularly bad.

I was unable to calm S down and it was impossible to reason with him. Bribery? That failed as well. Ma had died the year before so I could no longer lean on her for support while OH was at work. Never in my 24 years of being a mother had I felt so alone or such a failure. It was a difficult day, to say the least.

Only it wasn’t a tantrum.. it was a meltdown and S was diagnosed with ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder a year and half later. Finally it all made sense. I wasn’t a shit mother. My child was autistic!

I have documented S’ journey from diagnosis in this blog. We have had nothing but love and support from the onset from the professionals and the school. Knowing that a lot of parents struggle to get the right support for their autistic children, I count ourselves fortunate.

When S started school, he had major problems with the worst being social and communication. It became obvious that the 15 hours of support (as per his statement) weren’t enough. He had support in the morning but was out of control in the afternoon, especially at playtime’s or during other unstructured activities. I was getting regular phone calls to go and calm him down. The school requested more support, which they were granted, and then things improved in the afternoons as well.

The school have concentrated on his strength, which is maths. Last year, he wowed the school by being able to recite the entire twelve times table! Not many five year old’s can do that. I’m 44 and I STILL can’t do that but then, I’m thick, innit..

When he started school, he couldn’t take turns. He couldn’t share. He lashed out. He had meltdowns throughout the day and he wouldn’t write or attend assemblies..

Two years later he is a different child. He will take turns. He will share. He doesn’t lash out as much. His meltdowns have reduced. He still doesn’t do assemblies but the teachers understand that forcing him to do something which he can’t cope with is a recipe for disaster. One meltdown generally makes him unreceptive for hours, which means he doesn’t learn anything.

There has been an improvement in his writing as well…

Half-way through this year he was doing most of his work on the computer as he was refusing to write and most attempts to encourage him would end in meltdown. One day he decided he wanted to do it. He still holds the pencil cack-handed but the important thing is that, not only is he writing, but it’s voluntary!

I watched him write his dad’s name on his birthday card a few weeks ago. I watched in amazement as he curled the letters for the first time that I’d seen. Maybe most parents of six year old children won’t understand the importance of this but for parents like me, the smallest acts are usually the ones which stop us in our tracks..The wordDaddy’ written without help, prompting or melt-down changed a fairly mundane day into a momentous day.

S continues to use numbers as comfort. He is never without one in some form or other. His blackboard is a mass of sums, a stick picture of me (with my age above my head – 44 – Ahem!) and him holding my hand with his age above his head. I’m maths phobic. I HATE maths. Algebra? What the hell is that about? But the little Numberjack can’t get enough of the ‘M’ word!

Without the wonderful support he’s had, he wouldn’t be the boy we know today. He is proof of what early intervention can achieve when it comes to autism and special needs. He is different but he’s accepted and loved. He copes with his day because those around him understand his limits. He’s getting better at understanding them himself but still has bad days, like yesterday when he had a meltdown and lashed out at his special teacher. He hid under a blanket for a while because he didn’t like how it made him feel to lose control and when he came out, he did French. He NEVER does French because he doesn’t like how the words sound. Truth be told, neither did I. I wasn’t overly enthralled with French either but mostly because the teacher used to throw his briefcase across the room to get our attention, la psycho.

The class has a ‘Star of the Day’ award system which rewards good behaviour or work with being able to take in something of their choice to ‘show and tell’ the next day. S has many of these awards with the latest one awarded for doing French.

I think that all little children are stars. Their innocence shines light into a world that can sometimes be dark. Sadly, they morph into teenagers and the innocence is replaced with gobby one word answers like ‘So!’, ‘Because!’ and ‘Whatever!’ Not forgetting the standard phrase of the teenager on not getting their own way…

‘I HATE YOU, YOU’VE TOTALLY RUINED MY ENTIRE LIFE, I WISH I’D NEVER BEEN BORN!!!!’ *slam* *bang* *wollop*

I have no idea where S’ journey will take him or what form his teenage angst will take. I’m just enjoying who he is now because he is happy, therefore, I am happy and I am never more happy than when he flings his arms out to me and showers me in kisses in full view of all the other parents at school. He’s my star of the day, everyday.

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Creative Commons Image by Neal Fowler

Confessions of a School Caretaker

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother. Call me old fashioned but I totally bought into the whole ‘homemaker’ vibe. However, fate had other ideas and when my then husband became ill. I had no choice but to work part-time to makes ends meet. One of my jobs was a school caretaker. Yes, school caretaker! Not all school caretakers look like Argus Filch!

Some are 5ft 1″, brunette and wear Reeboks..

The school was purpose built in 1939, just before the second world war broke out. The Anderson shelter wasn’t dismantled and filled in until the 1980’s. That’s one of the things I loved about the place, it’s history.

When I started working there in 1995, it had hardly changed at all since it was built. Part of my job was to maintain an ambient room temperature which is sort of impossible when you have menopausal staff who are shivering one minute and flinging off their cardies the next. Nightmare!

Although most of my work was mostly done around school hours, sometimes I’d nip down to do some gardening and it was a joy to listen to the children singing nursery rhymes. It was hard to believe that one day those little angels would become moody, acne-ridden, angst filled arse-holes, like I was.

The downside to the job was having to deal with vandalism..

Each Monday morning I’d apprehensively open the gate and hope that the local louts hadn’t been up to their usual tricks of kicking in fence panels, or worse, smashing in windows. Once, I found an old mattress and some used condoms behind the shed. The. Dirty. Bastards.

Shagging someone on a stained mattress in the grounds of a nursery school?

Classy, no?

The empty cans of Tesco Value lager gave some clue as to the level of ‘chav’ I was dealing with. That said, at least they were using condoms so I suppose there was some degree of intelligence in there.. After a minute of intense effing, I snapped on several pairs of Marigolds, scooped up the offending ‘joy bags’ with a shovel and marched across the playground in the direction of the bins. As soon as I got home, I plunged my hands in disinfectant. The council came and carted away the mattress of shame and we planted the area with prickly shrubs as a shag deterrent. Only a complete idiot would risk puncturing his clackers on that lot!

My strangest find were some photographs of a lady that I found scattered over the grass one morning. I couldn’t go around the neighbouring houses knocking on doors asking who they belonged to cus, well, they were a bit saucy, innit!

I decided to take advice from the head teacher, who almost choked on her Polo mint when she saw the lady resplendent in her suspenders and DD peep-hole bra. She concluded that it was best to deny all knowledge of them and fed them through the shredder. Sorted.

One of the cutest moments was when I was changing the paper towels in the toilets and one cute little boy held out his painting to me and said. ‘Hold this, Mrs lady, I’m going for a poo!’ Just wonderful.

Originally, the school had three intakes of forty children a year but nursery classes being opened within nearby primary schools meant that numbers started to dwindle. The council took the decision to close the school when the intake dropped to 25 saying that it was no longer financially viable. Despite a petition put forward from thousands of people, many of whom had attended the school themselves, the council pressed ahead with it’s plans to close and on a summer’s day in July 2005, after 66 happy years, the nursery closed.

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Happy memories of the nursery at Christmas circa 1940’s

During the big ‘clear out’ the head called me into her office and showed me some of the log books she’d found from during the war. Everything was written down. The nit nurse was mentioned a LOT. But one entry stood out to me the most. It simply said, ‘The children had their tea in the air raid shelter’. Imagine that?

I felt emotional as I stood looking round the empty building on that last day. A building which for so many years had been full of life and laughter. The walls, once adorned with paint (and dried pasta), were now stripped bare and there was an echo to the room that only comes with emptiness.

As I walked through each room, I could hear children’s voices (not literally, I’m not that bonkers, yet) I could hear their squeals of joy as they sped around on the trikes and the ear-piercing shrieks as they shoved each other over on the playground. I heard the rumble of the prams and the shrill sound of the teacher’s whistle. I saw C running with his egg and spoon on sports day looking as camp as a row of tents with his floppy wrist. I saw K, sat there with a tea-towel on his head, picking his nose through the ENTIRE nativity play!

Good memories..

I was a good caretaker. I was proud of what I’d achieved and having a touch of OCD came in especially handy when it came to locking up. There were no unlocked doors or windows on MY watch, ever!

However, it did take me about an hour to do my checks and re-checks…

With a heavy heart, I closed the gate for the last time and I allowed myself one last look before another chapter in my life closed.

I doubt that I will ever find a job like that. I loved every second of it. Going to work in the morning was never a chore. I loved the building. I loved the people I worked with. I loved how I ended up on the annual school tea-towel, standing there with my tiny broom and enormous arms poking out of my head..

The building sat empty for quite a while. The privets became overgrown and the cherry blossom leaves blew around because I wasn’t there to pick them up. It was sad to see. Then one day I noticed that the privets had been cut and a shiny new sign was in place of our old one. It had been bought as a private day nursery! I TOTALLY love that the building still knows the sound of children’s laughter. A new chapter in it’s life and long may it continue…I am proud to be part of it’s history.

A pity they let the old punishments die. Was a time detention would find you hanging by your thumbs in the dungeons. God, I miss the screaming ~ Argus Filch ~ Miserable git caretaker in Harry Potter

mumturnedmom

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now..

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I was crap at PE. Not only was I crap at it but I hated it as well. I hated everything about it down to those horrible scratchy pants we had to wear. Having been blessed with the coordination of Frank Gallagher after a few hours in the Jockey, it’s safe to say that sports were NOT my forte!

This post sums up my sporting achievements and woes (mostly woes) throughout my school life.

~ Infants ~

Lets face it, It’s OK to be crap at PE when you’re five.

Gymnastics – Once a week we went down the local drill hall to do gymnastics. The smell of feet was overwhelming along with the whiff of sick where someone had vommed up their Spam fritter after doing a forward roll. Ma bought me a black leotard, which I spent a lot of time extracting from up my bum! My one and only BAGA award was for a near perfect bridge. Er, go me!

~ Juniors ~

The ante was upped in the juniors. Suddenly sport got serious and we were placed into houses, like in Harry Potter, only, shit. I was in yellow house, so in Potter world that would be Hufflepuff..

Rounders – The rounders kit came out and we were picked in teams. Fully expecting to be crap at it, I amazed myself by not being totally crap.

For every few miss-hits, the bat would connect with the ball and I would wallop it across the road. I even managed to win my team a game or two which ensured me being picked by choice the following week instead of being picked last, which was the norm for me.

Things were relatively bearable until we moved across the other side of the city. It was a new house, new school, new people and I was a walking mood, having just started my periods. The new school was big on sports. It had a massive brag cabinet chock-a-block with trophies and row upon row of team photographs (with some hilarious hairstyles) taken over the years.

Dance – All legwarmers and leotards with a really annoying teacher who fancied herself as Lydia (the dance teacher) from Fame. We didn’t pay ‘with sweat’, we paid with detention! She soon realised that I looked shite in a leotard and was about as coordinated as a fly after it’s been blasted with Raid.

Hockey – I knocked a girl’s tooth out the first time I played.

Javelin – I gave myself a nasty clout round the back of the head first throw and nearly impaled one of the teachers with the second.

High Jump – Spent more time face-planting the safety mat than I did in the air.

Long Jump –  First (and only) attempt required first aid.

Hurdles – After knocking them all down (and bleeding all over the PE instructor) it was decided that my talents did not lie in hurdling.

Shot-putt – Hand to eye coordination issues nearly rendered a fellow pupil unconscious.

100 Metre Sprint  –  Feeling thoroughly dejected by this point, I found myself back on the track (plasters on both knees) with the PE teacher (lets call him Teach for simplicity) shouting ‘For crying out loud, just run when you hear the bang, OK?!!’

Teach fired the starter gun and I ran like Ma had just caught me with one of her fags. Seconds later I was rolling around on the ground trying to get my breath back (I genuinely thought I was dying) when he sprinted over in his obscenely tight tracksuit bottoms and slapped me on the back saying. ‘1st place! You’re in the athletics team!’

I momentarily basked in the glory of actually winning something. But as Mozzer from The Smiths so eloquently puts it…

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I’m miserable now

Because within a short time, I found myself racked with anxiety as I was loaded onto a bus on route to the local athletics stadium to run for my town and county.

I didn’t want to be in the athletics team, truth be told. I was agoraphobic even then and the thought of running in front of hundreds of people had me dry heaving for weeks before the events. In his infinite wisdom, Teach put me down for the 4 times 100 metre relay race as well as the 100 metre sprint because, well, he was a bit of a twat. I was still having baton issues in the practice runs before the race. Hadn’t I already proved that I was rubbish at relay?

In the event, it was a fumbled baton exchange. On seeing my team-mate sprinting towards me (all red faced and jowly) I assumed the position, stuck my arse out and prayed that I wouldn’t drop the sodding thing. Somehow I managed to keep hold of it and pass it on to my teammate. I think we came fourth and I can’t remember where I came in the 100 metre but it’s safe to say I didn’t win or even come a close second. Teach (NOT a happy bunny) was sulking away in his X rated track suit.

The euphoria of my sports day win had turned to a misery worthy of a Smiths song. Here was something that I was genuinely good at but my useless brain wouldn’t allow me to take it further without sending my anxiety levels through the roof. So I gave up.

It isn’t just about confidence. It’s about having a brain that doesn’t cope well under pressure. All my life, this is how it’s been. Maybe if I’d have persevered I would have found a way to cope? But the truth is that I didn’t even enjoy running because I was self-conscious of my Brad Pitts and the fact that I wasn’t allowed to run in my cardi.

High School

My sports life consisted of a series of excuse me notes (thanks to Ma), a near drowning incident, a nervous twitch every time I heard a starter pistol and a phobia of batons for life.

Nuff said?

Creative Commons Photo Credit ~ ‘Pete’

mumturnedmom

Not All School Bullies Are Children.

Jim Henson

Dear Miss,

No doubt you have taught so many children in your years as a teacher that you have forgotten us individually. I wish I could say that I have forgotten you but you are unforgettable in the worst possible way.

Allow me to refresh your memory..

‘STAND ON YOUR CHAIR!’, your voice boomed across the room.

The classroom fell silent (as was the case when some poor kid was in for a telling off) and on this occasion the kid was me.

You were my primary school teacher but I could never take to you. It was dislike at first sight.

I remember you as a tall, thin woman with slate grey hair which hung limply either side of your face. You never wore make-up and and your piercing eyes were magnified by those unflattering glasses you wore. I recall you wearing Jesus sandals which drew attention to your man-size feet and unsightly toe hair but most of all it was your unsmiling face which unnerved me.

Why, what’s the matter, that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness? ~ William Shakespeare

Some teachers are charismatic but you and your ‘February face’ had the charisma of a wheelie bin. Truth be told, I was scared of you.

I don’t remember any of what you taught me, I just remember you and an incident which stuck in my memory like a thorn sticks in the flesh.

I didn’t like school – it was too loud, smelled of feet and my being there meant that I missed Pipkins. School was all about surviving and my survival was avoidance. It was my safety valve in any situation that I wasn’t comfortable with. However, my strategy would prove to be my undoing on that particular day.

That Day

So, we did craft lessons, and this one was sewing. Our task was to stitch two sides of felt together using a blanket stitch in a shape of our choice. I chose a fish. We were supposed to take our work to you if we made any mistakes. I’d made a mistake fairly early on (I was crap at sewing) but the thought of walking up to your desk made my stomach want to part ways with my lunch. So I stayed put and prayed that the fire bell would go off.

It didn’t.

You decided to walk around the classroom to check on our progress. I knew you were behind me without having to look. It suddenly felt cold despite it being a warm day, though this was probably due to your six foot frame blocking out the sunlight. I froze up from the inside, except for my cheeks, which were crimson. After what seemed like ages, your large hand reached down and snatched my work away from me. Seconds passed, then your voice boomed out..

“STAND ON YOUR CHAIR!!”

The classroom fell deathly silent. You could have heard a mouse fart, it was that quiet!

Every child was looking at me. Me, the child who tried so hard to be invisible. Of course, the problem with trying to be invisible is that sometimes it backfires and you find yourself becoming totally the opposite.

You bellowed, “THIS IS WHAT WE DO TO RUBBISH!!” and in front of the class – you ripped my work to shreds. The wobbly stitching gave zero resistance and with one final act of malice, you threw it at me.

You made me stand on my chair, hands on head, for the rest of the lesson and into playtime.

I was eight years old.

I wanted the ground to open up beneath me. Tears stung my eyes but I refused them permission to fall. There was no way that I was going to give you the satisfaction of seeing me cry! So I just stood there looking at my shoes through blurry eyes wishing to be anywhere but there.

I certainly know of a few children who would have stood on that chair smirking at you and I have been that child when re-enacting it out in my mind. In reality, I was a sensitive girl whose behaviour at school was misinterpreted as shyness or disobedience. My sensitivity made me a target for bullies for my entire school life but that day, I learned that not all bullies are children.

You humiliated me in front of the entire class.

Your lasting impression on me, Miss, was one of fear.

Humiliation damages young children – it undermines their self-esteem.

A good teacher doesn’t intimidate their students. Humiliation isn’t character building – it’s abuse. Humiliation is rooted in power and some teachers need to humiliate children in order to control them. What you did was wrong. It was an abuse of power – I just didn’t know it then because grown ups had to be obeyed. We are hardwired to obey those in control, especially as children, so I didn’t question it. I just did as I was told and tried as best I could to deal with the hurt in order to be able to walk into the classroom the next day.

You were a bully. You probably had reasons why you acted the way you did but it doesn’t excuse you. There is no excuse for bullying. Ever.

As Jim Henson said,

Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them, they remember what you are.

I’ve remembered you for being a bully and the monster of my nightmares.

However, being older and somewhat wiser, I am able to see you for the imperfect human being that you were and the monster fades away into insignificance.

You most likely graduated up into the big school in the sky a long time ago and perhaps after being such a miserable cow to little children, you found a sense of peace?

Maybe one day I’ll find mine.

Regards,

T

Scan5a

Reality Bites

Frankl

Reality = The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

Conceived by choice or mistake, we are dispatched into the world whether we like it or not. The first few months are spent spontaneously pooing, weeing and draining every ounce of energy from our parents, not that we have any memories of this. We get to find out for ourselves when we have children of our own. This is the real reason why grandparents can’t stop smiling.

As a young child, I was spared the harsher realities of life. I existed on a need to know basis. I was happy. Then one morning, Ma took me to a place called school (later referred to as ‘that shithole’) and after numbing her backside on one of those miniscule chairs for a while, she quietly walked out without so much as a backward glance. I wanted to run after her but for some reason my legs wouldn’t move.

My tiny heart broke. I cried and my bottom lip quivered for the rest of the day, if not life. I wanted to be home watching Play School and eating beans on toast. What was happening? Was I being punished? Is it because I crayoned on my bedroom wall? After five years of relative bliss being at home with Ma, school life had started and my childhood idyll fell apart.

On the first day, I remember standing on the school yard staring at the bruise which was forming on my arm from where an older girl had pinched me, for no apparent reason. Cow. My reality took a direct poo-hit and would remain so for my entire school life.

Children, teachers, they all had it in for me. I attracted bullies like shit attracts flies. Or light-bulbs attract moths. Sounds nicer.

When I was little, I thought that monsters only existed in books and films but that’s not true. As well as certain little monsters, there were some bigger ones roaming around school calling themselves ‘Miss’ and ‘Sir’.

Me & Nev

My opinion of school aged about 6. Was too young to say “It’s shit”. FYI that’s not a rainbow, it’s just typical of 1970’s processing and that privet needed trimming.

I went through many phases where I wished I was someone else. Not a famous person or a character from a book, just someone else. I thought that maybe if I was someone else, I wouldn’t be bullied. When I was at home I read stories where bullied children triumphed and bullies got what they deserved – a damn good thrashing – if Enid Blyton had anything to do with it. Reading as escapism was healthy but wanting to be someone else wasn’t. However, it might give you, dear reader, some idea of the level of anxiety I was experiencing at school.

At some point we all have to face reality and mine is that I am overly sensitive to most things including people. I don’t fit as easily into the world as most do and that’s why I’ve been bullied. That’s my theory anyway. Escapism has been my saving grace. A book, a film, music and sleep.

In my dreams, I was popular, gorgeous (and spot free). In my dreams, I wasn’t the awkward girl with sweaty pits anymore. In my dreams, Nick Rhodes was waiting for me outside the school gate, leaning up against a massive limo with his lippy on and Le Bon as his chauffeur.

I daydreamed whenever possible. While the biology teacher was droning on about plant reproduction, I daydreamed. When the balled up pieces of paper hit the back of my head and brought me back to reality, I imagined stabbing the perpetrator’s zit ridden face with my compass. I doodled their initials on my notebook, then drew a fancy bracket with the word DIE at the point. {

I didn’t really want them to die – I’m not a psycho! It was just my teenage angst finding an outlet, innit.

Alright, maybe I did want them to die a bit but only because they were being really mean.

So that was school. Eleven years of misery and dreaming of the day I could legally leave it all behind. Then my life would surely change?

Nope. No matter where I went or what I did, I was still a misfit. Only difference was, I got slightly better at hiding it.

At almost 45 years of age, I’m still a misfit, only I quite like it now. And I don’t give a toss, which helps.

Normal? It’s overrated.

I’ve learned that, while reality is what is real, people’s attitudes are very different. My reality is that I am socially awkward. So what? I’m also a caring person and I can speed read. Go me! I have OCD, agoraphobia, anxiety, sensory issues and a list of flaws as long as an orangutan’s arm. Could be much worse, eh!

Oh, and I’m menopausal. Have I mentioned that I’m menopausal? I do like to get that in most of my posts, just incase I forget myself.

Sometimes I get tired of having to put so much effort into existing and find myself sinking into a supermassive black-hole (not a euphemism) but then I hear a voice or read a text saying ‘I love you, Mum’ and I re-boot, as it were. I might have given my children life but they’ve given mine it’s meaning and I would go through every shitty day again to have them in my life.

Life can be hard and some people’s realities are tougher than others but as Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, says…

The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.

I choose to accept who I am and acknowledge my experiences with an element of humour because it gives me some control back over my life and the only real control I have over reality is my attitude towards it.

mumturnedmom

 

The Impossible Dream

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From the day a child is born, it’s our job as parents to teach them the skills they need to survive in the world. Those first weeks of total reliance fly by and before long, they are taking their first shaky steps towards independence. This isn’t the case for all children because many are born with disabilities which make independence a more difficult, if not impossible, goal to achieve.

There are different disabilities. Some are evident and some are not. My youngest son has autism – the invisible disability.

I knew that S was very different to his brothers quite early on. He was late with his milestones, i.e still crawling when all of his peers at playgroup were walking. His challenging behaviour went way beyond the ‘terrible twos’. His ‘tantrums’ were unlike anything I’d experienced before. They were extreme and as bewildering for him as they were for me. Then there were his ‘quirks’ and obsessions..

My fear turned to relief when, at four years old, he was diagnosed with ASD and SPD (autistic spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder). It made perfect sense and I was relieved that there was a medical explanation for his behaviour. However, an element of fear crept back in as I realised what the implications of his diagnosis could be.

Two years on, S has received the best support we could ask for. He has a statement in place at school and a support teacher who works closely with him for the majority of the school day. He’s also been approved a place at the local autistic children’s group. This is so he can spend a few hours on a weekend with other autistic children. While it’s primarily for him to spend time in an environment where he can comfortably be himself, it’s also to give OH and myself some needed time to ourselves. Parenting any child is hard work but parenting a child with special needs is exhausting and can test even the strongest of relationships. This is why we’ve taken the necessary steps to get support for us as a family, not just for S.

Autistic people are capable of amazing things. Many if the world’s greats, past and present, are considered to be on the autistic spectrum. I don’t see autism as a curse, I see it as a blessing, albeit a mixed one. The autistic person can see beauty where others cannot. They can feel music deeply and when they read a book, they become part of the story. Their obsessive nature means that when they like doing something, like art or music, they excell at it. S loves numbers and by the age of four, knew, off by heart, the entire twelve times table. This is classic autism.

In my heart, I dream that S remains as happy as he is now but in my head, I know it’s an impossible dream because the statistics speak for themselves.

Children with autism are four times (or more) likely to be bullied (at school or via the internet) because of the way they communicate and interact with their peers. Autistic children are generally more trusting, have a poor sense of danger and can be manipulated very easily. The differences between them and their peers become more apparent with age.

I’ve already witnessed incidents in parks and on the playground with children laughing at S instead of laughing with him, as he thinks they are. To him there’s no difference between playing with someone much younger than himself, or older. He has no social boundaries. He thinks it’s perfectly OK to barge in to a group of tweens (or older) and expect them to play with him. I can’t control what other children do or think,  all I can do is help my son to develop the coping skills he needs in order to function. I want him to live, not just exist or be someone that he isn’t in order to fit in. The problem is with society, not him.

The challenging behaviour is a problem but it’s his reaction to an overwhelming world. It’s important to understand that. The behaviour has a function – there is always a reason. When my child displays challenging behaviour in front of other parents, it’s understanding that I need, not judgement.

In a perfect world, S wouldn’t have to learn how to ‘fit in’. He would be free to be himself and his quirks would be embraced instead of mocked. For instance, he came out of school last week and it was raining. He doesn’t like rain so he shouted at it. Parents stared. His peers stared. Wouldn’t they like to have the freedom of mind to be able to shout at the rain?

I wish the world was more empathetic to children like my son. But the truth is that people are selfish and cruel, choosing to boost their own self-esteem by demolishing someone else’s. They knowingly target the vulnerable with no regard of the long-term damage that they are inflicting on another human being. There is a lot of ignorance towards autism and I’m hoping, by spreading awareness, we can change this.

I can’t stop children being unkind to my son but I can intervene and give him strategies to cope. It’s because I was bullied by children and teachers, that I am extra vigilant. I am watching and ready to defend him. Education is the key to giving children an understanding of what it’s like to be different. How S’ autism is approached within the classroom, is something I will be addressing with the school, although I’ve had no real problems with them so far.

Like any mother, I just want my child to be happy.

My problem isn’t with my son, it’s with the people who don’t see him as I do – beautifully imperfect.

CC Image Credit Frankieleon via Flickr

mumturnedmom

 

Don’t Look Back in Anger

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Four years of being bullied at high school came to an abrupt end one day in 1986.

My first day there was the most memorable because an older girl (a younger version of Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull) introduced herself by smacking me hard across the face.

“What was that for?” I asked.

“I don’t like your face!”, she replied.

I told a teacher..

BIG mistake!

The girl was made to apologise to me – publically.

Her eyes narrowed to a couple of slits as she spat out, “I’M SORRY!”.

I knew then that I’d made things worse for myself.

But it wasn’t just her..

I was bullied in the classroom too.

When you try to make yourself invisible – the opposite happens.

Name calling, kicking the back of my chair (and legs) having things thrown at my head happened on a daily basis.

Some teachers were aware of it but when faced with the dilemma of doing their duty as a teacher or having a quiet life – they opted for the latter and turned a blind eye.

Despite the unpleasantness, I had mates and we were close until we fell out over a lad.

Being bullied is one thing but being bullied by your friends cuts deep.

This is where I developed Bulimia.

I had no control over my life.

Every day was a kind of hell.

I woke with a sick feeling in my stomach and I went to bed with the same sense of dread.

English lit was fun (not) because it provided the school knob-heads with entertainment as I blushed and sweated my way through the ordeal of class reading.

At home time, I either had to get out before everyone else or hang back until they’d all gone.

I’d get back home and for a few short hours I was safe.

In those days, we had no internet or mobile phones so at least home was a safe haven.

But the anxiety was always there.

I’d comfort eat, then stick my fingers down my throat or take laxatives to purge the hatred that I felt.

Hatred of myself for being weak.

Hatred of them for being the reason.

I’d cry myself to sleep and dream of them all drowning in a freak accident in the school pool or choking to fucking death on their school dinners.

We all have our limits and that day, I reached mine.

We were coming in from afternoon break and as usual it was a seething mass of acne ridden teenagers all trying to squeeze through the doors at the same time.

Suddenly, I felt myself being shoved forward into the person in front who was not best pleased and shoved me back.

I turned around and there was one of my so called ‘mates’ with a smirk on her face.

My stack – I well and truly blew!

Fight obliterated flight.

All I could think of was battering her face into the floor.

The next few minutes were a blur of scratching, punching and hair pulling –  a proper bitch fight the likes of which I deplored.

I could hear the morons egging her on to ‘smash my face in’ but I was too busy trying to get a punch in to care.

We both gave as good as we got.

One of my least dignified moments…

Before long, we were unceremoniously dragged apart.

The crowd dispersed – the show was over.

We ultimately found ourselves in the deputy head mistress’s office looking like something out of St Trinian’s.

My nails were scattered all over the corridor and I’d still got clumps of her hair in my fist.

My mullet was totally wrecked and I looked like I’d been savaged by a cat!

I struggled to look the deputy head in the eyes.

She looked at the girl and said “I’m not surprised to see you here!”

My former friend was a bit of a gobshite and made regular appearances in the deputy head’s office.

Then the deputy head looked at me.

” I am surprised to see you here!”

When asked how we came to be brawling in the corridor, the girl answered, “We don’t get on anymore, Miss”.

I looked at her.

We’d stayed at each others houses.

We’d shared fags watching Brat Pack movies at the cinema.

We’d both stood and shrieked our heads off at Spandau Ballet in Birmingham.

We were supposed to be friends

But that day we were far from it.

Anger is a part of being human.

It is a natural emotion and anger itself isn’t the problem – it’s how it’s expressed.

I TOTALLY lost the plot and as a consequence, my school record was blemished within a few months of me leaving the shithole.

Worse than that- I had lowered myself to their level.

I should have bit my lip and walked on as I had a hundred times before.

Had I have done so – my dignity (and mullet) would have remained intact.

I will never forget the look of disappointment on the deputy head’s face.

I will never forget the look of bewilderment on my parent’s faces as they read the letter that informed them of their daughter’s unacceptable conduct.

They didn’t know about the bullying and were saddened that I hadn’t confided in them.

But Ma would have gone barreling in there – unleashing a can of whoop-ass the likes of which the school would never recover.

It was my battle.

As it was, the fight marked the end of the bullying.

It seems that violence brings respect but I respect myself more for all the times I walked away.

It took more strength to do that.

Given the circumstances, I would most likely react the same way if I had that time again because it’s about primeval instinct.

Fight or flight.

Thanks for reading.

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
~ Michael J Fox

mumturnedmom

Photograph by K J W Photography

This post is linked up to Sara over at mumturnedmom

Everything is Changing

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Some people get bored with routine, others struggle to function without it. S fits into the latter. As do I.

On Tuesday, S’s headmaster informed me that they have appointed a Special Support Assistant for him. The good thing is that the lady, Mrs H, already works at the school in Year 2 and S is familiar with her.

Mrs H will start on Monday of next week so from now on it’s about easing S through the transition of Mrs C, whom he loves and has bonded with, to Mrs H.

I met Mrs H for the first time this morning. We’re due to have a formal meeting RE Statement on Wednesday but she wanted to introduce herself. Because I wasn’t expecting it (and I was having a menopausal morning from hell) I found myself waffling on in-between hot flushes and was on repeat mode. She was smiling but it looked a little forced as if she was thinking, “Fruitcake alert, someone remove this madwoman!”. Of course, I’m not mad, not really – well maybe a bit. It’s genetic…

Truth is that routine is as important to me as it is to S and any changes, good or bad, upset me. I don’t have meltdowns like S but I do get upset and my brain won’t hold onto information. For this reason, I always like to have OH with me during such meetings so that important information isn’t missed or misinterpreted by me. OH wasn’t there this morning so I was lone wolfing.

I will be honest, it’s not only S who has formed an attachment to Mrs C, I have as well and I didn’t realise how much until this morning…

I have described Mrs C in previous posts. She’s bubbly and caring. Children adore her and it’s easy to see why. She gets down to their level. She thinks absolutely nothing of running around a playground with a child, just so he can “let the silly words out”. Or lying on a cold, hard floor to have a conversation with a child who refuses to get up. She understands autism and sensitivity. She understands my son and his needs. She understands me as a Mother with a child who has learning difficulties.

She understands my difficulties. I told her how I struggle with crowds and she understood, telling me that she finds it hard to sit in the staffroom when it’s full. She doesn’t just see S as needing support, she sees us as a family needing support. I know she’ll be there in the background but it’s really upsetting me that we have to move on. I know we do because ultimately this is about S and his future.

Mrs H told me that although he acknowledged her this morning, he ran to Mrs C as he always does. She knows that it isn’t going to be easy.

My heart also goes out to Mrs C. It must be so rewarding when a child like S forms a bond with a teacher. S “loves” Mrs C. She is his “best friend” and I know that it will be hard for her to go through this transition as well.

For months, S has been going into school via the main entrance, being buzzed in by Mrs N, the receptionist. He loves that, it’s become routine. Off he goes through the door into the hall, swinging his bags – in search of his friend, Mrs C.

From Monday, we are to start going in via the playground. This was my suggestion but on thinking about it, it might be too much for S to cope with as well as another change to his routine so I will ask to postpone that for a week or two. In fact, I’ve just phoned school to ask to speak to Mrs H about it.

I came home this morning and cried. Actually, I started to fill up while I was with Mrs H. Just the thoughts of the transition made me emotional. I was so relived to get home, close the door and cry.

I feel for Mrs H. This won’t be easy for her. Mrs C is a hard act to follow and she will have to work hard to gain S’s trust but if she manages it, she will find her way to my son’s heart.

Meanwhile I have to try and cope with my own difficulties with routine. It’s not easy. Sometimes my life feels almost normal but it only takes the slightest change to send me spiralling into the land of confusion. But all this comes second to S. It’s his life, his future and I, despite my problems (or maybe because of them) am determined to make sure that he reaches his potential.

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. ~ Arnold Bennett

Photo Credit~ Ed Dale