Well done son!

Thursday 25 August 2022

This Thursday, the gentle giant, affectionately know as Smallboy, collects his GCSE results … and they are cracking!

The entire squad bundles down to school for support, crammed into my Eldest’s 3-door car, (alas, Windsor is recovering from an encounter with a bollard in Bolton … a story for another day) because, that is what we do and because we all get it. Get the pressure of high expectation from: school, friends, family. Everyone expecting you to have done well, to have ‘sailed through‘ to have ‘smashed it’. It is a lot to bear at the age of 16 and the car journey is pretty quiet.

Our phone clocks move to 09:00. The school doors open. Off he goes and, after 3 years of blessed GCSE respite, it is ‘welcome back’ to that tortuous wait in the car for me! Smallboy later tells me that,

I kind of knew it had gone well mum because as I went through the doors one of the teachers told me to ‘wait behind at the end for a photograph’

But there is none of this reassurance for those left outside. Stomach churning, I waive aside my daughters’ suggestions of ‘music‘ or ‘playing a game‘. I try some experimental ‘positive chanting’ but soon fall back upon the familiar and am completing my fourth decade of the rosary when we see him ambling across the carpark, giving us a shy thumbs up and hopping back into the front seat.

It is simply a super set of grades! He gives a modest shrug, his face breaks into a smile, I ruffle his curly locks and we head off for a Maccies breakfast to celebrate.

And so, as a parent, my encounter with GCSE examinations, revision and results days comes to an end. Three very different experiences, not so much with the results days but with the examination period itself. This final one, without doubt, the most laid back and … let me get down with the kids and say, ‘chilled’ ever. Few dramas and a very relaxed (which I found alarming on occasion) approach to revision. Typically, I’d arrive home and open with,

Have you started revision yet? You’ve got Chemistry tomorrow

To which my son would usually reply along the lines of,

Don’t stress mother, it’s only 7pm… plenty of time!

I did put my foot down, on several occasions, about mid-week socialising but he still went out most weekends. I also supported the schools insistence on attendance and did not consent to my son’s pleas to ‘phone and ask for study leave’.

Did any of it make a jot of difference? I guess we shall never know. But, on supporting school policy, I was never going to budge. I am unspeakably grateful to our local high school for many things and this includes the knowledge, the love of learning and the encouragement to aim high that they have instilled in all three of my offspring. I cannot thank them enough for this because, as a single parent, life is a tough old trek and self-doubt always only a thought away. Their resolute input has, without question shielded my trio from my lone-mum fears of ‘daring to hope but then falling’ and contributed to them becoming just lovely young people, with amazing friends and bright futures. So rather than questioning any edicts over the years I have been happy to trust and … that has certainly paid off.

So let’s finish this post where we started with the one and only Small boy. Enrolled at sixth-form and starting an exciting new chapter. Well done son, you enjoy this moment …

Another results day…

Thursday 22 August 2019

Today is Prom-dress daughter’s results day and, if last year, results day for my eldest marked my D-Day as a single parent, then this year’s seems a great time to reflect upon how far we have come, as a family unit, in 2019.

The drive to school is still tense, and that’s not just because my eldest is at the learner-driver wheel. The GCSE exam month is a tough and relentless grind for most pupils, and for Prom-dress daughter it was no exception. The highest stakes and the highest emotion, came with subjects she really cared about, and here papers often seemed to be ‘a disaster’ or ‘just awful’. (We certainly got through a lot of emergency chocolate in May and June!) In consequence, she is on edge about some key results, and her young face is etched with worry. To my surprise however, I feel far less stressed than I did 12 months ago, for a number of reasons.

After last year, I resolved never again to assume that everyone else’s children would do better than mine. More importantly this year, I find that I haven’t given anyone else’s children a second thought – it’s just about my lovely girl and her future plans for me today. And Prom-dress daughter has a number of qualities that calm my nerves as we jolt towards the school carpark. Firstly, she has a quick and clever mind and doesn’t tend to write or burble nonsense under pressure. I feel pretty certain that in many subjects, things cannot have gone as badly as she fears. Secondly, as with my eldest, her teachers have consistently predicted good results, and this year I have the confidence to trust this. And finally, life, particularly the demands of our single parent household and coping with serious asthma, has made her tough. I know that she will not go to pieces if some grades are a little lower than she wanted. There will be a way forward. Of course there will, GCSE results don’t define us ….

However, as she disappears into school… I do suddenly really want to know what those results are and the familiar old jitters start to return. I am struggling to concentrate on anything when we get the ‘thumbs up’ emoji. And that is enough…if she’ happy then I’m happy. More than happy in fact. As she bursts from the school, her face radiant with delight, and a smile that seems to last forever, I am truly thrilled for her. Today, me and my trio of teens, feel like an unbeatable team. It’s time to celebrate …

D Day !

Wednesday 2 January 2019
This blog may be a New Years Resolution, but a notable D-Day for me actually came back in August, my first GCSE results day as a parent….

D-Day!

After very little sleep, my eldest and I set off to school. As she dived into the babbling crowd of teenagers heading inside, I was left in the carpark, with only anxiety and panic for company. I was unsettled and on edge, with scenarios to deal with delight or utter despair racing around my mind in frantic flashing images.

Children began to emerge; some waving results slips aloft and punching the air in triumph; others in tears hurrying to the anonymity of a parent’s car, results in brown envelopes, hidden from view. The contrast was shocking. I felt completely sick. Would I hold it together if my daughter, who had worked her socks off, was one of the inconsolable ones? I swiped and scrolled my phone like a lunatic. No messages. Did I dare to send one? No I did not! I turned the radio on, turned it off. I said a prayer. Then came a text


Should be out soon, sorry for the delay!

I bit my lip and risked a reply

Any news? …….. “

All good” flashed onto the screen, and I began to breathe again!

But it was moments later, as my daughter slipped back into the car, and handed me her results that I got my single-parent wake up call. A sea of top grade 9s and the occasional grade 8, swam across the page. Her results weren’t just good…they were phenomenal!! And I hadn’t expected that. I realised, with a jolt, that I really hadn’t expected it. I had assumed that the very top grades simply weren’t for us. They were for children from ‘other families’. Households, I’d probably invented in my head, where one parent seminared through Science revision, whilst the other dashed off a few French flashcards. Homes where a duo of parents balanced exam tuition with time for nutrition, nurture and well being. Simply put, children from families where day in day out, there was more adult time and input to share out than I could ever hope to manage. I had trapped myself into believing that, whilst we did ‘our best’, we would always fall a little short of where we might have been as a two-parent unit. 

Thankfully one person hadn’t done this, my amazing daughter. Determined, driven and totally focused upon her own goals, as opposed to worrying about anyone else, she had set about simply smashing those GCSEs. And she is my inspiration for 2019. No more worrying about everyone else for me. Hard work and focus, not family background, enable you aim high and chase your dreams. It’s more than time for me to forget seeing single parenthood, as the poor relation of the family unit, and start smashing it. Here goes ….