The Parent Teacher Interviews

Why are parent-teacher interviews so nerve-wracking? I panic every time I have to go to one but especially this week as I would be talking to Middle’s preschool teacher for the very first time. What could possibly go wrong?

But before that it was Eldest’s. In advance of the meeting, his teacher had sent home all his school workbooks. I sat with a cup of tea and dutifully poured over them. In the writing one, there was a note from her stating that Eldest was ‘struggling with letter formation and fine motor skills’. I called him into the kitchen. ”Are you finding writing difficult?” I asked. He looked to the ground, hands in his pockets, then responded ”yes mum. I really don’t like how they are making me hold my pencil”. This is the very first time he has said anything like this to me. In fact, I can’t glean any information from him each day about how he’s fared at school. ”That’s ok son” I replied, ”I will raise that with your teacher when I meet her”.

Whilst waiting for the interview to begin I surveyed all the written work adorning the wall outside his classroom. It became quite clear to me there and then that he has some issues with his handwriting. I braced myself for what lay ahead. His teacher explained that she has added something to his pencil to try and enforce the correct manner of which he should hold it. She also advised that he is self-conscious about this and tries to sneak a normal pencil when she’s not looking. I felt my heart sink. That’s what he was trying to tell me all week. Trying not to burst into tears, I asked was he the only one struggling in this way. She advised that there are others but, she is having to spend one to one time with him to try and get him up to speed. I have never felt more grateful to someone in my life! Having got the main issue out of the way, she went on to say that his maths is excellent and that he is well behaved and quiet in class (what??). She then handed me a booklet of work to complete with him at home. As I strolled out of the school, I began to sob. I just felt so sorry for him. He is obviously so embarrassed that he has to use that pencil when others don’t. I also felt like I had failed him as his mum. I do his homework with him after all and I’ve just been hoping that his effort reflects that of his classmates. You never know if it does until these things and he’s my first one at school. Now the hard work begins. I’ve every intention of doing all within my power to get this resolved. But I know he is trying so hard every day to master it and this makes me beyond proud.

Now onto Middle’s which was an entirely different affair. This one I was dreading for obvious reasons. I haven’t been overly worried about how he is settling in as he bounds in every morning yelling his now customary ”hi guys!” to anyone who will listen. But, I had arrived early to collect him the day before and had watched from the window whilst he ate some ice cream at a table. He wasn’t just eating it but making all these funny faces whilst doing so. There was a little girl beside him who he was seemingly trying to impress with this impromptu show (even though he hates girls). ”Which one is yours?” a fellow mum enquired. ”Um, that one” I sheepishly responded whilst pointing at him. He was also fuming all this week due to falling out with a boy in his class because he ‘hadn’t known what a Yo-Kai is and that’s stupid’ (a Netflix tv show).

His teacher began by informing me that his learning level is excellent and that she isn’t having to help him with anything. He moves freely from one table to another trying different activities and interacting with others. “Even girls?” I enquired. “Oh yes” she responded “he plays with anyone”. So Middle doth protest too much then, as I assumed. She then went on to say that he is very easily led. “There are a few boys who play up and, the second Middle gets around them, he is playing up too” she informed. Well, this was no surprise as that is precisely what happens at home with Eldest. “But the second I voice my displeasure, he swiftly takes himself away and plays with someone else” she added. Thank god he is smart enough to sense the warning signals! She then said something that took me totally by surprise. “Have you had issues with his speech?” she asked. Now, this child, from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed, does not shut up! “Um no” I responded. “He was very delayed when it came to talking but now we can’t get him to stop!” I added. She then went on to explain that when she asks him a question he just stares at her blankly and refuses to answer. Odd I thought as I was leaving. Upon returning home, I sought out Middle. “Your teacher says you are amazing and doing really well! I am so proud!” I advised him. He looked completely disinterested. “But, she said that when she asks you questions, you don’t answer even when you know how to” I repeated. He stopped what he was doing and turned to me looking sternly. “It’s just coz I playing and I don’t care. She asks me when I’m busy and that’s a stupid thing to do. So I just not answer Mr T”. Arrgghh give me strength someone!

May the force be with you all for the half-term break. May we stay strong and survive it with all of us still alive and somewhat sane! We can but hope…..

Why I Agree With NI Entering A New Era (finally)

On Tuesday something amazing happened. Northern Ireland entered a new era. An era that others have been experiencing for quite some time now. An era of equal rights! I debated posting this as I am aware that it’s such an emotive topic but, I have to adhere to my mantra of being honest in terms of the blog. I share my opinions weekly so, why not with this too?

Love is love, irrespective of what guise or form it takes. I spent most of my teenage years in the Kremlin (not with Putin for outside readers but, a gay club in Belfast) and I can tell you, these were the best nights ever (despite the horrendous hangovers). Watching my friends feel comfortable and free to be themselves, when they felt they couldn’t in any other establishment, was part of this. I realised pretty swiftly that I took it for granted, as a heterosexual, that I didn’t have to hide my identity everywhere I went. We have a same-sex marriage in my family also and I am in awe of these two individuals daily. They are a shining example of what a marriage should consist of. They support each other, are loving and share equal responsibility when it comes to their children. All whilst facing scrutiny that I never did. I am a firm believer in live and let live. If it’s not affecting you, why are you bothered? Many have an issue with this but didn’t kick up a fuss when some woman married the Berlin wall. I would rather someone be their authentic self than feel pressured to marry someone of the opposite sex and have children because ‘it’s the right thing to do’. It’s not what’s right, it’s what’s been wrong all along.

Now the second contentious issue- abortion rights. I believe a woman has a right to choose and strongly so. I also believe that more education in schools is essential with regards to contraception and what an abortion entails. Being fully informed is half the battle. Shying away from even discussing it just exasperates something that many find difficult to decipher here. Having an unwanted pregnancy, no money, having to inform your family because of this and then travel to England is a horrendous experience. Knowing that it is illegal here only makes the decision even more difficult. Because it’s all you’ve grown up knowing. To say that it is being used as a ‘form of contraception’ shows nothing but ignorance. Any woman from Northern Ireland, who has traveled for a procedure, has spent more time than anyone else thinking about their decision. They’ve had to have multiple consultations over the phone, arrange travel and navigate their way there. It’s not just an ‘ok, we’ll book you in tomorrow then’. There is also the cost of paying for the procedure itself which is highly expensive. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I will always respect others but, I think it’s essential that people are made aware of the actual process when making such a monumental decision. Maybe you are struggling with mental health issues, maybe you have nothing to offer a child at all and maybe you are in a relationship that is just downright dangerous to bring a child into. As I type, there are 3,019 children in care in Northern Ireland. 85,000 children live in poverty and 2,431 are actually classed as homeless. Why don’t we focus the same energy on fostering and adoption? Because, in certain cases, when you have no choice and essentially no voice, this is what tends to happen.

Not everyone will agree with my stance and I fully respect that. The world would be a very boring place if we all had the same opinion right? I mean, mum shamers wouldn’t exist for one thing! Debates are a great thing. Hearing other’s opinions is a great thing. It challenges us to think differently. At the end of the day, we agree or disagree. It’s all good……

F You Eczema!

I have had eczema for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories involve eczema. It has been the bane of my life for so long now. The only hope I ever harbored was that the kids wouldn’t get it. Mainly because I know how much of a detrimental effect it has had on my life.

Then something happened last year. Middle got sick. During his illness, I started to notice sporadic patches of dry skin all over him. No need to panic I thought. It’s just related to his viral infection. It will disappear the second he gets better. Flash forward to today and his eczema is more severe than mine ever was.

Like I said, some of my earliest memories revolve around eczema. The fact that my siblings could just get out of the bath and put their pj’s on whilst I had to stand for a further twenty minutes getting smothered in various creams is one of them. Another is being plied with Piriton most nights just to enable me to get some sleep and stop tearing shreds off myself. My parents tried everything to make it better for me. At one stage they even paid a fortune for some Chinese herbal pill that promised to cure me immediately. That’s how desperate they had become. But it was to no avail (unsurprisingly) and it continued to worsen. As I became a teenager it made me highly self-conscious and upset. Whilst all the other girls would discuss what dresses or skirts they would be wearing to the school disco, I knew I’d be wearing my usual- trousers. Because my legs were so utterly covered. I dreaded PE every Wednesday due to the fact we had to wear skirts. It filled me with so much fear that I used to just dander home before the lesson started as it was the last class. It took them forever to cotton on to this fact too! I guess they didn’t figure that someone would be so brazen as to do that. Never underestimate me! This brings me to Middle….

He is covered from head to toe with it. This is not even an exaggeration. His eyelids, his neck, wrists, arms, legs, and even his ankles. I now have to do to him what my parents did to me. It breaks my heart every day to see him itching away and getting so frustrated. I can’t even tell him not to as half the time I’m doing the same thing! It wakes him up numerous times during the night and by morning, his bedding is covered in blood. We have tried various creams, with little to no success. It’s got to the stage where I’m going to have to prepare for a fight to get him referred. I didn’t get anywhere with my doctors until I was sent to a private dermatologist, at six months pregnant with Middle (this was due to the hospital list being too full). So appalled was the derma who saw me, she offered to see me again for free. I walked away from her practice with a prescription for eleven different items, one of which was bandages. Now I am free from eczema everywhere, bar my hands. It started on all my fingers whilst working for Calvin Kline spraying perfume. A year later it transpired that I was allergic to perfume (and hydrocortisone oddly). Now, it has calmed down on them and moved onto my palms. Nothing I do will shift it- nothing. I’ve switched to nonperfumed products with everything and it is not for f ing off. It gets so bad on occasions that I can barely lift things. I can’t tell you how many plates and cups I’ve accidentally broken. It’s like a bar mitzvah in this house weekly.

If you or your little one are suffering from this and, nothing is working, please push to get them referred. I’m a firm believer that doctors just don’t know enough about it and prescribe the same old creams in the hope that one of them eventually works. I even had one prescribe me a mixture of two hydrocortisone creams mixed together when it was all over my notes that I was allergic to it. Sometimes you need a specialist. I intend to push for this with Middle. If they refuse, I will have no option but to take him private. Maybe we will get a two for one deal? A mother and son discount? Eczema can F right off.

Pre School Peeves, Homework Hell and Hair Disasters!

Middle is STILL settling in at his preschool. We are coming up to week five and he is only in until 11:30am as opposed to the 1:30pm he should be. It doesn’t seem to be solely him either but, lots of them! I’m finding myself getting envious of other mums whose kids have settled in and all. Not only this but, I think their process is just drawing things out when there is no need. He is used to being in nursery for longer than their standard day (at his private one). In saying that I have no idea how he, as an individual, is getting on each day. The app I check daily never seems to be updated. Is anyone else having the same issues?

Upon picking him up on Monday he bounded into my arms and gave me the biggest cuddle. We then went to change his shoes (they wear pe shoes when in class). Upon getting to his peg, he was enraged that a little girl was sitting under it getting her shoes on. “That girl is at MY peg!” he bellowed. “Aw it’s ok, she is just getting her shoes on then you can sit there” I placated. “No, it’s mine and she is a girl so, she move now!”. What a way to ingratiate yourself to other parents son. The girl having vacated ‘his spot’, off we went to the car. I quickly glanced back at the snack menu to see what he had eaten that day. It informed me that he had had peppers, apple and muffins.

When we got to the car, I enquired as to what he had eaten that morning. He looked positively fuming. “We had some orange thing mum. It was disgusting (yelled). I don’t like it at all” he said whilst gesticulating wildly with his hands. “Aw, well, at least you tried something new. I guess we all like different things. Did anyone else try it and like it?” I ventured. He rolled his eyes then started mimicking his teacher. “Mr T (he is point blank refusing to call any of his teachers Mrs) said ohhhhh it’s sooooo yummy”. With this he mimicked her putting it into her mouth. “But, it so wasn’t mum. She tells lies” he added with annoyance. You can’t win them all I guess ‘Mr T’.

In other news, Eldest is finally receiving homework again. Although I dreaded it starting back up again, I have been impressed with how easy he is finding it. I can totally see a difference between his work in P1 and now. The amount has definately ramped up however and it is hard to get him to sit down and focus on it no matter what time I attempt to do it.  His behaviour the last few weeks, when at home, is also driving me to distraction. I’ve had to introduce strict new rules and be rigidly firm with him. I’ve began to notice that when he is bored, all chaos breaks out. Middle is crying and Baby too. He invades their space and begins to lash out for no discernable reason. This continues until one of them obliges him and stops what they are doing to muck around with him.  Arrgghhh!

Some of you may have saw that I decided to home bleach my hair last week (I know, I shouldn’t have done that). I lasted a grand total of a few months dark! Obviously it went very badly, very badly indeed. I drove to the local chemist and all they had was a silver hair dye so, I reluctantly purchased it. I mean it couldn’t have gotten any worse could it? Well, it actually turned out ok in the end. I am loving it and may now become a professional colourist (just kidding). I find that the level of  depression I am dealing with makes me quite impulsive and do things without thinking them through. Normally I would weigh up the pros and cons whereas now I just go for it. I guess I’ve went from being Eldest to being Middle. In some ways this is a good thing as I’m not worrying as much but, it has it’s downsides. Mainly with hair decisions……..

Clip Climbing And Sliding At High Rise NI!

Yesterday the three boys were invited to test out a new indoor activity centre in Lisburn. A venue that boasts a whole clip n climb section, a soft play area, cafe, and the piece de resistance- sensory rooms!

When we arrived, Middle and Baby set off with my mum to the soft play area whilst myself and Eldest got ready to do some climbing. I hadn’t expected to have an active role in this part but, it looked like too much fun to say no to. We were provided with a safety briefing first and foremost. Eldest was chomping at the bit by this stage but, it’s so important that they know what they are doing (as I later established). We got adorned in our harnesses and off we ventured. I cannot tell you how huge these climbing walls were! They were literally to the roof! Before they can just speed off attempting everything, they must first complete a practice run. Once this is done, they are free to roam and climb their little hearts out. There were so many options that Eldest was running manically from one to the other, completely unable to make a decision. When he finally made one, there was always an attendant on hand to strap him in and supervise him at all times. This placated me and I felt confident that he would be safe at all times.

Then, this mama decided to have a go! Not wanting to be outdone by my firstborn, I decided to climb nearly to the top of one at breakneck speed, glance down and totally panic as to how high up I actually was. I hate heights, why did I even do that? In my moment of sheer terror, I totally forgot the protocol of getting back down. So, I just kind of flung myself down and hoped for the best. I imagine it was not dissimilar to Bridget Jones when she does that piece to camera from the fire station. Entirely ungraceful and highly embarrassing to all who witnessed it. See why the safety briefing is so essential? I would say I have learned a lesson but, there’s no point at all.

Middle and Baby loved the soft play area whilst I was nearly breaking bones. I don’t think my mum knew if she should be watching them or me by this stage as I was being so reckless. There was a baby/toddler area that Baby thoroughly enjoyed dandering around and twirling things and building foam blocks. Middle was running about like a mad man going up and down the different tiers, crawling through tubes and flinging himself down the slide. He didn’t shut up about the slide the whole way home infact.

Just before leaving, I asked to be shown the sensory room. I know that a lot of my followers have children who are autistic and this was important to me before writing any review. They led me to a sensory stimulation room. It was dark to begin with then, gradually made more colorful. This is essential to avoid kids becoming overstimulated. There were things on the floor that children could stand on or touch that looked like paint was splodging, items on the wall that they could play and interact with, a projector, a vibrating plate and lights that they could feel and touch. There is also a separate quiet room. You can pay to use the rooms for an hour or if you would prefer your child/children to be fully alone, you can hire the rooms for the hour too. I think this is such a great approach and shows the level of thought and understanding that has been put into all aspects of this place.

I walked away feeling very impressed. Even more so as it is a social enterprise. So, 100% of their profits go back into helping working families. I think this made me feel much better about buying them a load of drinks and snacks afterward. Because, whatever you spend, you are ultimately helping others. All whilst having fun and, hopefully, some peace and quiet whilst they play!

High Rise NI is based in Blaris Industrial Estate Lisburn. Prices are as follows:

Clip ‘N’ Climb– Adult £12 and Child (under 18) £10, Soft Play– Baby (under 2) £2 and child (up to 8) £5, Sensory Room– Baby (under 2) £2, Child (under 18) £4, Adult £4, Parent or carer £1. Check their website out here: https://highriseni.org/

Yes, this 34 year old scaled one of these!
Always know the price of tea and coffee before you go anywhere….