Friday, 16 September 2011

I pine for the simple summer days of being bored witless (I don't)

I swear (inaccurate granny talk alert) when I was at primary school, the full extent of my mum's involvement in my school life was putting an orange Club biscuit in the pocket of my Clothkits pinafore and restocking my supply of Pullein-Thompson pony-lit at the library once a week. Now, my evenings and early mornings are spent running around in small circles trying to satisfy the gulag's stringent requirements.

It would be fine if I was comfortable with minor failure, with 'just about good enough'. But my inner joyless harridan and overachiever wants it all to be PERFECT. We control what we can, I suppose, when other things are chaos, and I like to sharpen the pencils and put the right things in the right envelope on the right day. The gulag always manages to outsmart me though, blind-siding me with a last minute demand for 17 used stamps and a 3 metre length of unpatterned oilcloth. I am very relieved the weekend is coming and we can revert to our natural state of lying around watching Steve Backshaw over-enthuse at wildlife and eating crisps and ignoring each other. Though who knows what fresh hell the homework diary may bring? A request to invade Holland, perhaps, or to construct a particle accelerator from cereal boxes and empty washing up liquid bottles.

This week:

1. Another 8 cahiers to be covered in the plastic film of parental punishment. We have run out of plastic film. I am not going near any stationery shops because the last time I tried, the queue stretched right to the back of the shop, filled with furious women searching for cahiers sans marge and farde à glissières and other esoterica. It's a film plastifiant stand-off.

2. A 7 stanza poem about a monster called Arthur for the whole family to learn, which Lashes has drawn as a sort of dumpy purple depressive, like Barney the dinosaur on Mogadon. He got 0/10 for copying the text off the board, which was an excellent start.

"Ses grandes cornes
Ses griffes pointues
Son nez crochu,
Tout lui donne un air morne".

"Do you even know what morne means, Lashes?"


"Well, it's that face you're making right now".

The poem rote learning experience is, I find, greatly enhanced by your children making fun of your accent.

3. A much shorter poem about a pelican with toothache, plainly written by someone on crack.

4. A request to draw an apple, and a rabbit, with a ruler. Why would anyone do that?

5. Request for €42 for textbooks, €15 for Tutankhamen exhibition, advance request for €250 for seaside language gulag in October for Lashes (how do you say 'second stage hypothermia' in Dutch anyway?) and twice €65 for skool dinners, chiz. This week, I note with interest that my children had Satan meatballs. Oh, alright, Seitan. Either way, I think this is culturally insensitive to children of French origin, for whom meat substitutes are indeed the work of the dark lord. Their father is horrified and heading off into the woods to kill a horse for them to gnaw on, I think.

6. Persistent anxiety about the curse of Tutankhamen, prompted by Howard Carter video. Impervious to all arguments about how far Uccle is from the tomb of the boy king.

7. Barrage of "facts" about the Nile crocodile, also gleaned from a video. The staff seem to be easing themselves gently into the school year with lots of videos, and frankly, who can blame them.

"It weighs 50 kilos! Or 500. Or 150. I might have got that wrong, the zeroes".

"I see. Anything else stick with you?"

"It has warm or cold blood".

"Good stuff".

8. Request to provide 2 swimming hats, a passport photo, three kitchen rolls and a plant pot. No further elucidation forthcoming.

9. Ninety thousand spellings to learn in two languages.

10. Some maths. I just ignore that, especially when it involves the freakish lips. "Yes, that looks right to me. Have you checked it? Good, good".

11. I can now introduce myself to someone in Dutch, and say I am pleased to meet them, but only if their name is "Angelique Dupont". This would be perfect if I only ever met characters from French textbooks.

12. On top of this, Lashes is causing me great mortification by insisting I find him someone to teach him Japanese (for manga watching/reading purposes, obviously, rather than the simple love of learning). You can't imagine what a pushy parent twat you look trying to find a Japanese tutor for your nine year old. Of course, I know that within about a week of me finally finding someone, he will go off the idea, but who wants to be the parent who refuses their child's bright eyed, lisping request to learn a language? He could probably shop me to social services or apply for his emancipation or something.

Ah, modern parenting. Fill in your own anecdotes about a childhood spent sharing one copy of the Sporting Post and a clog between seven in the comments.


Lisa-Marie said...

Can you not just cover there jotters with posters/wrapping paper/ old wallpaper? That's what we did!

Also, You have to PAY for textbooks? Is that not what you pay taxes for?

I have a level 9 art teaching qualification. You can't draw a rabbit or an apple with a ruler. THEY HAVE CURVES. what sort of rulers do you have in Belgeland?

The only thing that made sense to me, in this whole list of requests, is the swimming hats. I hope they are for swimming.

Also, who takes kids to the beach in October? What does Belgium think it is, Scotland?

bbonthebrink said...

My memory of school days is that I never HAD homework until I was at least 10. The world did not come to an end, and I did quite well at Uni thank-you very much.

Oh and Lisa-Marie I think it's illegal to cover any cahier with wrapping paper. You need to be able to see through to the cover so you can fully appreciated all the blisters you've so artfully created. It's the law.

The Return of the Native ... sort of. said...

Japanese learning? Easy ... get in touch with Toyota - they are all Japanese in Belgium - sure someone will teach him. And you could give them English/French lessons.

Would pay for miles of sticky stuff to cover school books - what a waste of time that is.

Z said...

My mother may have forced me through years of twice-weekly piano lessons, but at least she lied blatantly on the homework diary about the amount of practice I'd put in. Since the alternative would have been to stand over me while I actually did it, and she couldn't be arsed, I suppose she owed me.

cruella said...

My husband's English cousin who lives in Brussels (wait! he's also a lawyer! you may even know him!) nevertheless thinks Belgian schools a bit too relaxed and therefore contemplates sending his 11-year-old to a boarding school in the old country, a concept so foreign to me that I can't begin to describe it. I'll try to convert him into our hippie Swedish ways when he comes over for a no doubt very important business meeting on Monday.

Angpang said...

My sodding school has upped each school day by 20 minutes this year, and is still sending homework for a seven year old that wipes out 20 minutes a night. 30 minutes if you count crying / pleading / finger wagging time. And I have two kids. Grrrrr.

Sarah said...

I have nothing to original to add, only that we feel your pain as we sit, night after night, at the dining table sorting through the litany of arcane requests and bizarre new ways of approaching math. This, though, might amuse you, if you haven't already seen it:

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Flipping hec! I struggle to donate the voluntary 50p at nursery... my lastest anecdote.

Sunday is swimming day. As a family we half a 45 minute swim before Little O's lesson, Then O patiently drips dry on the edge of the pool, waiting for his lesson to start. We make a dash for the changing rooms so we can watch him and 9 other 4 year olds, drift around the pool, crashing into one another for half an hour. I take my time getting changed with Fearless whilst The FH makes a swift transformation, superhero style, to watch Little O start his lesson.

Normally, I stick to a strict routine, quick shower, game of hide and seek amongst the lockers (Fearless when stood upright, fits perfectly inside the family sized lockers), then he has a drink and snack wearing hooded towel in the secure play pen whilst I get dressed, finally, I get him dressed. Simple. However, today the changing room was empty, so I decided I would enjoy the freedom of space, I thought I would use the communal changing space and let Fearless roam free, exploring the cubicles, playing in the mirror, rolling around the soggy floor etc. Whilst I was, just fastening my bra, I noticed Fearless, had made it through the first set of exit doors. "Surely the second set is too heavy for him" I thought, grabbing my towel and heading that way, just in case. When I got there, the hooded crusader had already gone. I dashed through the doors, only in underwear and a towel, which was wrapped around me barely meeting due to bump and suddenly realised I was exposed to various, fully dressed, members of the public and Fearless, looking like a little gnome, his hooded towel open to reveal all his delights, had already made it to the extremely busy canteen. I just had time to think "fuck it!" and put by best foot forward when I heard the reassuring voice of The FH behind me. “I've got him Fran, you just get back in there” .I still don't know if I was pleased or mortified that he had found me there.

Back inside, Fearless was passed through the door by a giggling FH, as I carried him to the play pen, the look of mischief still glittered in his beautiful eyes, I told him in my teacher voice: "Next week we will NOT be deviating from the routine."

Unknown said...

Got so excited about leaving my modern parenting anecdote, didn't even read you last paragraph properly - Oh! Our school days anecdot - no don't have one of those... duh!

frau antje said...

Please invade Holland, I will feed you crucial information from this side of the border. Such as, for starters, you will find little use for saying you are pleased to meet someone. I know what you're thinking, and no, you can't simply say it out of sheer courtesy, because this is the first thing that will brand you as a buitenlander.

As for childhood, I'm afraid I've done major damage to any connection to my brother, whose only true passion seems to be hating the advertising business, by sending him this Houser link

Monsters aside, the Germans have a chronically depressed loaf of bread that was always sort of amusing. God I miss the brooding! (it leads to, oh I don't know, great art...shhh).

Pat (in Belgium) said...

You do know that the Tutankhamun exhibition is COPIES of the original artwork, loot, etc.?
So the kids won't be seeing the real deal, not even for 6 euros!

Pat (in Belgium) said...

Whoops! Not even for 15 euros! (Highway robbery!)

Alison Cross said...

I'm with LM back up in Comment 1 - we used to use old wallpaper and sometimes, if I was feeling particularly daring at Secondary school the poster from the middle of my Jackie - which was usually Slik or David Essex. It might even have been the centre pages of the Diana....

Gulags in Scotland also require hideous random shitness which is greatly helped by Tartarus currently being at home. This week: make a wind chime (or as Tartarus said innocently' a wine chim'. They exited out to The Garage (ie a mummy no go area...which suited me fine, I just facebooked until my eyes started running) and in came a wind chime made from old nuts and bolts and sawn up bits of copper piping. Excellent. Sadly, in the excitement, we forgot to do the 'Sound Evaluation' whatever the feck that was and so the marvellous project will only net 2 pathetic house points.

I can say 'ladybird' in Dutch. I can't actually SPELL it, so you'll just have to believe me. Also 'orange circle' which makes me a fecking HOOT at a Dutch party.

Ali x

Fat Controller said...

Your kids mock your accent as well? I somehow always imagined your French to be impeccable (or are we talking about Dutch, which would be wholly understandable?). My kids have always referred to me, in awed deference of course, as 'sprogspasser' which translates as 'linguistically challenged' (or less euphemistic and PC words to that effect) at regular intervals when conversing in Danish.

livesbythewoods said...

I remember the "wallpaper on the school books" torture at the start of each new term. We didn't even have wallpaper at home so we had the whole added trauma of trying to find some. Gah.

I think one year I had to blag some from my best friend, whose family were posh and had loads of spare wallaper just lying around.

Now I come to think of it, that's one of the very few education-related memories I still have. And has it helped me in later life?

It has not.

Patience_Crabstick said...

My goodness, your gulag is particular about its students' cahiers.

Our schools are trying to do away with paper notebooks. If only the administration had a collective IQ that approached average! But no, they purchased off-brand computer tablets that cost twice as much as an ipad and are forcing parents to sign contracts accepting $1,100 fees if the tablets are stolen or damaged, and insinuating that it is now impossible to educate a child who doesn't own a tablet computer.

Xtreme English said...

sweet jebus...17 comments on this?? hats off!

Waffle said...

FC - I'm not dreadful, but they jump like rabid wolves on any slight infelicity of pronunciation. Little bastards.

Alison - I would love to see you back yourself into a conversational corner with those phrases. Excellent.

Pat - Yes, I know. It seems massively pointless to me, but I suppose it's an afternoon out, innit.

Margaret said...

We did brown-paper grocery bag book covers--wallpaper would have been considered weird and hippie. For all of you homework slaves: my mom is a retired 3rd-grade teacher (8-year-olds) who had decades of childrearing before her teaching career and her opinion on homework? It blows. She thought kids should go home at the end of their long schoolday and play, read books, watch tv, set the table, just try a bite, do the dishes after dinner, watch tv, say their prayers, brush their teeth, read until lights-out, and go to sleep goddammit (sorry, that was dad, after he'd supervised dental hygeine and read the bedtime stories because, really, enough already, go the hell to sleep).

Waffle said...

Margaret - I love your mum. I wish these bastards would listen to her.

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