Parenting 101

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks.

I’m kind of proud that I enjoy very good all-round health. But over the last two weeks, I started getting worryingly regular migraines. Then the migraines turned into just the visual disturbances bit. I was sensible and made an optician’s appointment. I haven’t had my eyes checked for about ten years anyway, so it was an all-round thing.

I had a series of eye tests, including a couple I’ve never experienced before such as the puff-in-the-eye glaucoma test. That one may not have been quite so bad if the guy administering the test had said ‘this is what will happen’ first. As it was, the scene was me sitting there innocently, followed by ‘PUFF!’, followed by me swearing very loudly and crossing perhaps half the shop.

The sight test was OK – the optician (who I think may be about twelve) said that my distance vision was beyond perfect (‘better than 20-20’, he said, although I thought demanding an exact ratio may have been too much) and he gave me the tiniest corrective prescription for reading and computer work (I kid you not: the prescription is 0.25 on each eye).

Then came the kicker.

‘I don’t want you to worry, but…’

Nobody wants to hear this. His concern was that I might have a retinal tear. He told me, without changing his expression, that he needed me to come back for an urgent dilation test. (Wait, isn’t that gynaecology?) ‘Monday, if you can manage it,’ he said. ‘You won’t be able to drive for about three hours after.’

‘Woah, woah, Doctor Eyes. It’s not that simple! I live fifteen miles out of town. The only way I can get in is to drive! The earliest I can manage is next Saturday.’

A concerned frown. ‘I’d really rather get it done quickly.’

So, no pressure.

After much flailing around, the Ex Husband said that he would bring me home. Home from work early, on the bus, have the test and he’d bring me home. Solved. Went in on Monday, had the eye drops, no problems identified… BOOSH. Sorted. Less time on the PC if you please, Mrs. Cawkwell (which brings a bunch of new problems). Stood around outside the opticians with pupils the size of Saturn, looking like I was stoned out of my brain, and couldn’t see anything properly for three hours.

But was grateful to the Ex for bringing me home. We get on fine, he and I. The Son is the key thing we have in common, of course, and whilst that ensures we stay in contact, it also sometimes causes friction. Let me explain.

The baby bit was easy.

The Son is embarking on his GCSE years, as I’ve said in the past and last night I ended up caught in the middle of an ongoing argument between him and his dad. It’s one of those areas where it’s hard to put forth an opinion because I can see both sides of the story.

Here’s the problem, in the easiest way I can put it.

The Son comes home from school. If he has homework, he always does it straight away. But as of yet, the volume of homework is tiny to non-existent. On the other hand, he’s only been back for what – four weeks? I predict that come the start of the Christmas term, the homework will start increasing. Once he’s done his homework, he plays on his computer, or watches TV or any of those other things that fourteen year old boys do.

His dad is under the impression that he should be revising. Something. Every night. And that he needs to spend less time on the computer.

Last night, I was pretty much shouted at by the Son’s dad about the problem. It wasn’t personal; he knows it’s not my fault particularly, but I think he needed to let off steam. The Son and the Ex Husband rub one another up the wrong way all the time, which results in the kind of arguments I used to have with my own dad. I find this really strange, because my relationship with the Son is completely the opposite. When we have disagreements, we talk it out.

Anyway, the Ex Husband shouted at me for a bit longer and I agreed with a number of his points, but did try to play devil’s advocate on others. I’m a great believer in compromise. Yes, I agree he should do a little more revision, but on the other hand, the school will be giving them revision tips soon. No, I don’t think he should be doing it for hours every night. Yes, he does spend a lot of time on his computer. No, I don’t think confiscating it is the way forward, but it’s certainly useful as a threat. Yes, no, no, yes.

Then the Son came downstairs and we left.

We left his dad’s to go to the gym (‘I’m glad you’re taking him to the gym, he’d never do anything otherwise’ was the parting shot) and got in the car. The Son sat there in stony silence. I said to him that I had nothing more to add as I was sure he had listened to everything that had been said. He grumbled his acknowledgement and told me that he was angry. And he was. Unfortunately for him, he’s like me. When he gets angry, he starts getting upset with himself, perhaps because he’s not yet reached an age where he can properly articulate what he wants to say. At least, not with his dad. With me, he can talk about his feelings more easily.

The best thing he said throughout the conversation was this.

‘The worst thing about when Dad gets angry at me? Is that I know he’s right.’

Bingo. Those were the words I needed to hear. Jokingly, I told him that he should never admit to his father that he knows he’s right, but we had a good, very positive conversation about ways he can change his behaviour so that everyone is happy.

Whilst at the gym last night, I was chatting to one of the trainers about various things and because I was wearing a Warhammer t-shirt, the subject came round to model building. He has this kit that his granddad has had for years and has always wanted to build, but doesn’t really have the capacity to do it. The trainer said he and his brother had had a go, but neither of them are model builders – would I know of anybody who liked building stuff?

The Son adores building things. I put the two to talking and the next thing you know, he’s earned himself a little pocket money by agreeing to do something for someone else. It’ll keep him off his computer for a little while at least and sort of counts as D&T revision. Two birds, one stone.

When we came home, he was much, much brighter about the whole thing. He did a page of questions in his GCSE Maths revision book and I put my teacher head on and marked it for him. We ate dinner and watched a film together. He put his computer on for about two hours tops. It was perfect. He knows now that the key to keeping his dad happy is to simply do what he asks. He’s going to make an effort. I appreciate that and I know how hard it is for him. He hasn’t yet connected the dots to realise how important these two years are. He’ll get there. Pushing him isn’t the key.

So yes. The baby bit was easy.

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4 thoughts on “Parenting 101

  1. So just to get this right: your son is 14 so this would put him in year 10…year 1 of 2 of his GCSE syllabus? Has it now changed that exams are done each term or each year now? He’s only 6 weeks into his first GCSE year: I can understand the merits of beginning his revision after Term 1 but right now what he is learning is current…I see no merit in beginning revision now, better that he absorbs what is current and revise it after a bit more time…surely?

  2. (Says the person who did GCSEs 15 years ago and pretends to be all down with the kids. Ha)

  3. schaferlord says:

    Whilst I believe the government is pushing against module based examination that leaves scope for resits (because heaven forbid someone puts extra work in to up their grade) there could be some exams in January. They’ll be worth somewhere between 5-15% of a full GCSE.

    I won’t comment on revision or the timing, I understand why parents can get worked up about such things. The child is the only one who can pay for care when the parent is old. It is important that they are successful enough to afford a decent care home with attractive nursing staff. Besides that the child’s well being is oft considered important so you know they come from a good place despite any ignorance of the education/examination system.

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