Recently in my home there has been change and fairly big decision making to be done. Having four children rapidly growing before my eyes and an entrepreneurial other half; I’m relatively go with the flow. Sometimes I feel like the farmer in the Zen tale of life’s ups and downs. Not getting overly excited or hysterical about what lands in our path on a weekly basis. Good or bad; it is what it is. Thankfully I didn’t inherit the worry gene from my Nan.
One child was off to secondary school. My choice of secondary school was never an issue, having been an avid supporter of our local comprehensive, even when the school was tainted with a terrible reputation and a need for demolishing. My gut told me to have faith; in my child and a school that felt right regardless of the opinions of others. Skip forward five years to a new twenty million pound state of the art building, an inspirational new head teacher and a not so great Ofsted report (BUGGER!) and I’m still as convinced. Content with my choice. Happy children as proof.
Over the years some of my mum friends have become completely stressed by the dilemma of where their child would continue their secondary education. Coming from extremely laid back parents that sent me and my siblings to the school nearest to our house (back in the 80s that’s what you did) I found it all a bit odd. But I presume they found me equally as peculiar or possibly dumb or even lazy for staying local. Pushing for something potentially better is almost mandatory in today’s parenting. The allure of being accepted by an outstanding school it seems is worth the sleepless nights. The importance of performance and results regardless of location takes precedence. Because we want the best and the best it seems is usually determined by a report and not just a feeling. Eight years and three children (lots more mum friends) later with kids going off in all sorts of directions, I’ve discovered they all find their feet and they all do well. They pass exams, they make new friends. The parents might be a bit more harassed, have earlier mornings, higher mileage or a little less cash. But it’s all good. We do what is right for us. We do it because we love.
So number 3 went off eager smart and happy with a new skill of tying a tie in a blazer that fitted. Number 1 son took over three years to grow into his! (We practice on the firstborn). The first day he lost his PE kit twice (found by his sister, twice) and a fully loaded pencil case (never to be seen again!)
Number 1 son has to move on, my turn to stress a bit. A-levels or B- tec. Sixth form or college decisions decisions. With nine A-c GCSEs under his belt (maybe a few more Cs than he’d have liked) should he study French, business and maths at a very reputable sixth form or enrol on a course specializing in business at college and take the two day a week job on offer in a finance company in the city. To me, it’s a no-brainer, because I know my beautiful son (he likes to go out out) in fact he should bypass business and go straight to hospitality and events. My gut is screaming OPTION 2! But is that me taking the easy route once more? Am I too passive, what is a helicopter mum? A-levels are considered harder and superior = best. (Right?) I don’t want to under sell him. Ultimately it has to be his decision. Like when he quit karate when he was one stripe away from black belt. Or when he stopped collecting Pokémon cards after we spent a small fortune!
I read this lovely article the other day about parents and how they should be gardeners, not carpenters. Love that. We aren’t meant to chisel and ply them into shape. We are here to cultivate and watch them flourish and bloom. Trouble is our inner control freak takes over, our love and fear and over protectiveness leads rather than steers. We have way too much information at our finger tips, every expert offering advice. Judging. High expectations and ridiculous comparisons. From day one the pressure is on; first tooth, first words, first steps. We are deciding what they should wear (my daughter had other ideas) and eat, how many times have you witnessed a friend force feed their child something they have decided they must eat (Oh dear, maybe they don’t like broccoli!). What to watch read play; even who to like, be friends with. That they must learn the piano and go to gymnastics and do yoga before school. No wonder our children are rubbish at decision making, no wonder even as adults we end up in wrong relationships and careers. Making rubbish choices. Indecisive and incomplete. No wonder we can’t just be still.
When I was five I would play with people’s hair, my love for hairdressing, became my primary focus. I couldn’t wait to leave school, exam results seemed unnecessary. My fifteen-year-old self was adamant. Combine that with very easy(divorcing) parents, the worst school in Walthamstow, the teacher strikes and an older boyfriend and miraculously (god knows how)I left education with an O level in Art, Sociology and English Language (wonder if I’m perfectly qualified to sell Yoga leggings). My teachers were probably the only ones to feel disappointment. I haven’t been hindered by my lack of qualifications. Mainly, because I have mostly worked for myself. What would I tell my fifteen-year-old self? “That you won’t always want to cut hair and that people like proof.” Sadly we are impressed with results. It validates us. Would I change anything? No. It’s led me to here. They say that life is all about the journey and not the destination, I’m enjoying the ride. Even if it gets bumpy from time to time.
Number 1 son chose option 2. He seems to have mastered the art of work/study/social life = happiness.
Number 3 son loves his new school. He has a new pencil case.
I’m just watching them blossom.