Back to School

For some it is a great sense of relief to get back to school after the long summer holidays of missing friends and routine. For others it is a sense of dread, angst and trepidation, knowing they are going back to face the bullies. So what can be done to ensure that our children are safe when they leave home to go to school?

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I remember when I was young thinking that the school summer holidays were way too long. I went to school in the UK until I was 14 and we had 6 weeks off in the summer. SIX weeks, wow that was such a long time. I loved school and I missed my friends and classmates over the holiday period. I couldn’t wait to go back to the ritual of the routine, and slot back in again to student life. It was a happy time. That was until I moved school because we moved to another country. I was made to feel unwelcome almost immediately, mainly by a particular teacher. I was different you see. I spoke with a different accent, an English one, a very unwelcome one, back in the ’70’s in rural Ireland. Even though my parents and grandparents and entire set of ancestors were Irish, I was an outcast from the offset.

I had a hard time a lot of the time. It was bad enough trying to readjust to my new surroundings, my new home, a new country, away from my friends and all that was familiar to me without the added dread of going to school to be ridiculed, ignored, picked on and verbally insulted. It was outright bullying. It gave me feelings that I didn’t care to have. It made me feel sad, bad, ostracised, unwelcome, angry. I went from loving school to dreading school. I went from thinking six weeks summer holidays was way too long to 3 months in Ireland being not nearly enough. Looking back, the only thing I am thankful for is that back then, when I got home, I was safe. Home was my sanctuary. Home was where I did not have to worry, I did not have to be on high alert, I would not be tormented there.

These days it is a different story for kids going back to school. This is the technocological age of progress and ‘all things can be done in an instant’. The sad thing is, that goes for bullying too, and there is no escape, there is no sanctuary of home anymore. Why, because these days most of the school age population (secondary school) have mobile phones, have some form of social media, whether it is snap chat, facebook, instagram and some other things I haven’t even a clue what they are! The bullying does not necessarily stop at the school gate, or the school bus stop. It follows you home. It doesn’t stop. It can be constant. It is exhausting. It is often SILENT. It is ALWAYS dangerous. It gets into the mind and can be so destructive that some victims cannot cope. They may appear to be ‘functioning’ on the outside, but what is going on, inside, inside their heads. Do they have regular tummy ache? are they distracted, quiet, forgetful, preoccupied,  depressed, hiding in their room with their phone. Are they asking for more money? are they irritable, aggressive, weepy, off their food, having sleeping problems. Do they have unexplained bruises and pass it off as, ‘it happened in P.E’. Are some of their belongings missing, pens, bag, purse, books etc.  Are they making excuses for skipping school, lessons, homework.

All to often the problem is that bullying has not gone away.  Despite everywhere having an anti bullying policy.   Despite the fact that there is more awareness and education about bullying in the education system, it is still very prevalent today.  So what can be done if your child is being bullied or if you suspect your child is being bullied?  Talk.  Talk to them, talk to the school and if possible, talk to the person doing the bullying in a safe environment.  Often a bully has issues of their own, that they are finding difficult to deal with and so take it out on someone else – a ‘kick the cat’, sort of response and misplace their anger and frustration onto someone weaker, more vulnerable, an easy target  is the perfect option.

Monitor your child’s use on their phone.  Have strict rules around the phone and do not let it go into the bedroom with them.  Talk to them about keeping them safe and protected.  They are young and have young and immature and very impressionable minds.  You are their parent, you DO KNOW best.   If they need a phone to contact you, consider buying a handset that is NOT a smartphone.  Let home become their sanctuary.  Let home be their safe place.  Work on strategies that your child can use to help them protect themselves, to help them stand up for themselves and ultimately stand up to their bully.  A bully will soon tire,  if they are not getting anywhere with a someone they perceive to be weak, and leave them alone.

Out of all of the children I have had and looked after 2 were bullied at school and after school waiting for their bus.  Two children separated by  12 years in age, but both were 16 at the time of their bullying and assaults.  At the time of the first one, there was no such thing as social media, so she would come home and tell us what was happening and we dealt with it the best way we could and it was soon nipped in the bud.   Home was her safe place.     The second child that was bullied did have a phone at the time, but it was not a smart phone, so there was no social media bullying for her either.   We chatted about what happened.  We spoke about strategies and ways in dealing and coping with  the bullying and how to build up my child’s strength and resilience.  Not only to challenge herself but also to challenge her bully.  To stand up to her bully, no matter how scared she felt,  and let the bully know, in no uncertain terms,  that  the bullying behaviour was not acceptable and that there would be serious repercussions if it continued.  We were lucky,  in that it worked and the bullying stopped and my child’s confidence, resilience  and resolve grew stronger.

There are however, cases of bullying which have dire circumstances and ultimately very tragic ones.   I particularly remember the case of Phoebe Prince, the Irish girl who moved to America and was bullied so much she took her own life.    The only positive to come out of that tragic case is that the people who bullied her were held accountable and were charged and convicted of harassment and civil rights violations.  Stricter bullying laws were introduced also as a result.  Many more children, home and abroad, are victims of bullying and have also attempted or committed suicide.  Isn’t it time, we took stock, isn’t it time we did something more, especially as far as social media is concerned, to keep our children protected and safe.  They may look fine on the outside.  You may think they are just sullen, cranky teenagers, but maybe, there is something more going on.

It is very frustrating for parents who know something is going on but feel that they or their child is not being listened to or heard.  We have a crumbling and almost broken mental health service.  People are being left crippled with fear and anxiety over what can they do next.  They say it takes a whole village to raise a child, so we need to come together, as a community to help and support each other.  To help and support our vulnerable children.  To talk and keep talking to our children.  To reassure them, to empower them, to help them, even if it is they who are doing the bullying, understand why, get to the bottom of it.  Lets stop treating the symptoms of bullying, lets try to get to the root of it and eradicate it ….. for everyone’s sake.

 

 

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/victims-of-bullying/

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/school-in-the-us-was-like-something-from-a-film-all-the-little-cliques-were-there-sister-of-bullying-victim-phoebe-prince-36068953.html

Two sides ?

Never judge a book by it’s cover is what they say and there are always two sides to a story, right? Or is it that it only begins with two sides ?

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‘You don’t look old enough’ is generally what people say when I tell them I have 4 grand children.  People are kind or say what they think you would like to hear.  We do it all the time, it just trips off the tongue, usually to make the receiver feel good, flattered and the giver feel appreciated, liked.  Sometimes, its just true!

I am certainly not too young to be a grandmother, being a 53 year old, but I do try to keep myself looking as well as possible.  I was married at 23 and had my first child at 24.  That was considerably old, if you compare it to when my own mother got married or indeed my grand mother.  In their day, 18 was a general ‘good age’ to be married by,  and have a baby within the first year.

These days lots of women are having careers before marriage and babies and lots are having babies from age 18, but without the marriage part.  My eldest was almost 19 having her first, not far off my mother’s age, when she had her first.  My mother was married, my daughter was not.  My daughter since married her childhood sweetheart and went on to have two further children with him and they are happy……. most of the time.

Can we be happy all of the time?  I think not.  I am married to my second husband for  23 years, love him dearly but at times could  quite happily commit murder.  We have, however, endured our ups and downs, swam rivers, climbed mountains and gotten over every bump in the road to arrive at a happy place together having raised our children.

Why couldn’t I have ‘endured’  my first marriage too? Met him aged 21, married him at 23, baby at 24, separated at 26.  We didn’t even get to a 7  year itch stage.  We had a grand total of 5 years, and did it all the right way round…. Met, bought house, got married, had baby and it all went wrong and no, no one else was involved, we just grew apart.  There was no real good cop bad cop, it just wasn’t ‘right’ and I guess I knew it never would be, so it was best all round, to walk away.

He will have his side, I will have my side, but then my daughter will have her side.  There can not be just two sides, can there?   What we do, as adults, will of course impact on the child, right?  It has to, it can’t but not impact, one way or another.  It will however, be up to the adults on whether that will be a good or bad impact, or a somewhere in between.

With all the best intentions in the world, there were times it was difficult.  Some of the times it was amicable, others, it was a battle of the wills.  I tried to never let it get in the way of her relationship with her father, no matter what I thought about him.  I always encouraged her to have a good relationship with him.     He loved her, as I did,  and she loved him and she loved me.  She was entitled to that.  I reasoned I wished her to grow up with two happy parents living apart, rather than two miserable parents living together.

The worst thing I could ever have said to him was that I was taking her away, to live, in another country.  I knew it would cut him in pieces as it would me if the shoe was on the other foot.    I cried at the thoughts of telling him, knowing how he would feel.  When I actually told him, I cried even more, after he had left my house.  She was 7 years old.  She wanted to ‘move’.  Did she know her mind well enough to know this, you might ask.  I asked myself the same question over and over again.

Of course, he took me to Court to try to stop it, as I knew he would and of course I couldn’t blame him. I would  have done the same if it were the other way round.    The funny thing about that was when I first ‘thought’ about moving to Ireland, I didn’t actually think I would, but because it was a thought,  I felt he ought to know.

Things of course turned fairly nasty, he was understandably upset, hurt and bitter.  I knew and understood that, but that all had an impact on our child and for the first time we found ourselves needing the courts to  ‘intervene’ .  I wanted to have the ‘choice’ to go back to my family in Ireland if I so chose in the future, even if it meant taking my child away from her father, as she too had expressed a wish live in Ireland.

She was 8 and a half when we moved and right up to the day of moving I asked her if she wanted to stay in the UK, so she could see her dad, as always,  I would unpack all the boxes and we would stay.   She said she loved him but wanted to move.

She is 29 now and though it was a very difficult time for her father, and of course I did feel a certain amount of guilt, I knew ultimately,  it was the right thing to do for us as a family.  What further made my mind up to actually move, was the amount of conflict between us that was generated from my first telling him of the ‘thought’ to go to finally being granted consent to go.    I was not trying to stop their relationship, indeed I still encouraged it and did so from the time we came,  in that she saw her father for half of all the holidays, and he could come see her whenever he wished,and ring her whenever he wished, which he did on a daily basis.

The distance between us turned out to be a good thing because the impact on our child was a positive one, in that she did not have to be caught between any crossfire.  She has loved living in Ireland and has had a nice life here.  She has continued to love her father and has never regretted moving here.    We will never know how things would have been had we stayed in the UK, but for our family, this had a positive impact.

The thing is with separation and family break down, even with the best will in the world, it is a very difficult road to navigate and know if you  are doing the right thing.  A child, however, must always be at the center of the situation.  If one or both of the  parents cannot reasonably  agree then of course, the courts will have to decide and in the meantime be very mindful of any impact and upset you are putting on the child in the middle of it all.

The Grand Kids

A Grandchild ….always in your heart and a reason to smile, every day!

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Currently I have 4 grand children aged 1, 2, 3 and almost 10 years old.  I love them all to pieces and would do anything for them.  The only thing I don’t really want to do is to be their #childminder…….  I can hear all the sighs, tut tuts and even cheers of agreement and understanding.   Not wanting to be their childminder does not equal ‘I don’t love them or have fun with them.  It just means I want to hold on to my sanity and waining energy levels a little bit longer.  It means I want to keep my house in one piece, a little bit longer (I have just spent a fortune redecorating)!  It also means if I want to spend time pursuing things for myself, like spending a fortune redecorating the house or painting (art not walls) or just sitting on my arse enjoying some peace and quiet, I think that is my prerogative.    After all, I have already been to that mad crazy world before, raising their mothers.  I know what is involved…… the mess, the winging,the shitty nappies, the ‘no I don’t like that’ and the ‘no I don’t need to use the potty’, then two minutes later proceed to pee themselves.  And what about when I need to use the toilet and they want to come with you, really, I just want to pee in peace and in private.  ‘No darling, nanny won’t be long, now you stay there and don’t move’!    Try as you might to force that wee out as fast as you can, it’s seems never ending, especially when you suddenly hear a ‘thud’ or their footsteps on the stairs.    You are of course, thinking all kinds of craziness like they are going to/have fallen and have broken their arm or worse their neck and how do you explain that to their mother!  So no I can live without that kind of drama on a daily basis thank you.  I am already at risk of heart attack, having moved into that time of my life and crossed into  menopausal territory.

You see I looked after my first Grandchild when he came along.   His mother was still in college and of course, she needed to finish her studies and I was happy to oblige, he being the first and such a sweetie.  When she was pregnant with grandchild number 2, some years later, it dawned on me then, that if I mind this child too, my other daughters, would in the future, when they started to produce, say ‘you looked after hers, so why won’t you look after mine’ if I said no to them.  It could be a disaster as I have FIVE daughters.  I could see my life going from rearing children, to rearing more children.  when would i get to have a life????

I do, however, help out, you know whenever they need it, which at this moment in time is every time their mothers go to work  !……. Thank God they are only part time workers.

The fab thing about being a Nanny is there is a huge plus side.  Like going to places where it’s really just for kids but you like to participate too.  The park for instance.    My eldest grandson loves the swings, funnily enough, so do I.  He can swing himself now which means I no longer have to push him, at his squeals and request of ‘higher higher’.  I can hop on the swing next to him and have a competition to see who can go the highest.  Now, if I went there on my own, without a grandchild, swinging away to my hearts content, people would be ringing for the men in white coats.

My other favourite thing to do in the park is to go on the roundabout.  The faster the better.  Just before Christmas we had a family day out, which ended at the park.  Not only did I get a whip lash from the zip wire, I almost dropped my grand daughter in the process, who was clinging onto me for dear life as I was also clutching her as tightly as I could with one arm, the other holding on to said zip wire.  Next stop was the round about.  All four grandchildren, me and the son in law hopped on, while my husband gently turned us.  ‘Faster faster’, I squeeled, as he turned and turned some more.  Thoroughly enjoying the fun of it, I look down and see the children getting paler and paler with a look of utter ‘ what the fuck is going on’.  You know, the same look you have when you catch your children or grand children covered in sudocrem, or paint or poo cos you left them on their own for two minutes while you nipped to the toilet!

I love the fact that I can play silly games with them and make up silly songs and stories.  One grand child I have just loves saying things like, Mr poo poo head, or farty pants and even Mr bum crack.  I have NO IDEA where he gets it from 🙂

One thing I have always done is sang to my own children and my grand children.  Especially at nap or bed time.  They all love it and they all have a special song.  Yesterday whilst looking after my granddaughter I decided to walk around the garden with her, to sing her to sleep and get some fresh air.  The sun was shining but it was a cold, fresh day.  She was suitably wrapped up as was I with my nipple hat (my daughter calls it that because it has a pom pom), my pj’s and my fleece.    I start to feel a slight bit of frostbite nipping at my toes as I go around the yard, due to the fact that my slippers have holes in the soles.  I was kind of hoping for new ones at Christmas, but alas, they did not arrive.

My little dog follows me everywhere, and as it was still early (ish), his poop had not yet been scooped from the yard.   So navigating, successfully, the wheels to avoid going through the said poop, and being so engrossed in performing ‘you are my sunshine’ I accidentally stood in it just before turning the corner!

My mother used to always say ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’.  She would say this because I was always moving or trying new things.  I would tell her ‘I don’t want to gather any moss, it is yucky, green and fuzzy.  Well as you can see from the photo, my wall has gathered the disgusting yucky, green fuzzy moss as it has not been painted for 2 years.  Also just on the ground by the wall is said yucky moss.  On this occasion however, I was especially pleased that we did, in fact ,have such an unpleasant looking growth, as it did serve a purpose in enabling me to wipe off the equally disgusting dog shit from my slipper with a hole in!

Note to self…… buy new slippers