The interview

Last week I went to my local library to return some books that I
borrowed a few weeks back for me and some books for my son.  As I was
waiting for my son to pick up another book to take home, I was having
a good look around the free leaflets and magazines and I picked up a
tiny magazine called “The Parent Directory” for the spring/summer
period (yes, old issue) and it brings information about education,
local services, activities, etc. I picked up one so I could have a
quick read at home since at that very moment I would have to proceed
to  operation “let’s pick two books instead of 20”  with my son.

That afternoon as I was looking for something that would distract me,
I decided to have a proper look to “The Parent Directory”. First
impressions? Quite useful if it was the right time of the year to look
at it – that means “Spring/Summer” as advertised on the front cover,
not middle of October! – it provided me with a healthy jealous feeling
of all the things I could have done if only I knew. Then it was full
of advertisements of different schools, nurseries, entertainment and
many ballet academies.

There were a couple of advertisements that caught my attention – not
only the ones for ballet – but one who advertised tutoring for early
latin (never crossed my mind there was a “late latin”?), verbal, non
verbal reasoning, advice and interview techniques. Sounds mad? Well,
all this aimed for children between the ages of 7 and 13. Later on
that day I recall discussing this with somebody who went to several
schools, private ones and all this person had to say was “well, I was
tutored for interviews, because every school I went to had
interviews”.

In my life I never been – for as far as I can remember in my school
life – into an interview for a placement in a school. The one time I
remember going to a “meeting” (perhaps that was an “interview”?)  was
when I got my scholarship to see me through the last two years of my
primary education, with lunch included (yay!). All I can remember from
that occasion was the headmaster agreeing with my mother that she
would not have to pay and that my exercise books, notes and homework
would be under severe scrutiny from the teachers’ board once a month,
to keep my scholarship going. If the board finds some lack, then I
could kiss goodbye to my scholarship (and my lunch).

What I remember most clearly from that day is that I was given full
access to the school library so I could borrow the books I needed for
my course (yes, no money for books either, looking back I should have
been pleased I had money for exercise books and ink for the fountain
pen along with some other few school utensils). I was so happy! I
almost forgot all about the scholarship and what it involved. But I
was constantly reminded about my responsibility by my mother who with
all her patience would sit with me when she came back from work to
check my exercises , my notes, my drawings, make sure everything was
tip top on paper. After that first inspection, she would check with me
if my uniform was clean, shirts ironed, socks clean and shoes
polished. That is how my day ended from Monday to Friday.

After that and no interviews whatsoever – just application form and a
“this is going to be your next school” phrase from my mother –  I went
to another 2 schools, 2 universities (the entry to the last one
involved an interview, just so you know, but I was in my late 20’s and
it was a British University). Job wise I have had in my working life
(almost 30 years) 4 interviews (+ 2 inside the same company). And
guess what? I never ever had any tutoring.

I am wondering if my son will have to be prepared for interviews when
he comes to that age. Or perhaps interviews are just for the upper
crusts who are going to get into upper class (and beyond) schools? If
the interview is a way to know the child and the parents (providing
the observation of the law with regards of child protection) should
the interview be done with the family/next of kin/guardian?

Perhaps my ignorance/lack-of-interviews-when-a-child prompts me to
think that this interview thing is just bonkers. On the other hand,
perhaps interviews are the future, because in this society all is
competition and only who could sell him/herself properly will get the
most chances. If the latter is the case I am deeply saddened because
slowly but surely children are stopping being children, without being
“interviewed”.

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Christmas is gone….

 

It was Christmas day (finally!!). It was my little one’s second Christmas, but I feel it was the first one.

Why?

Because this Christmas he was more “aware” of what was going on. I don’t think he can fully understand what was going on, particularly me going mental from one corner of the kitchen to the other and moving him away from the oven every time I wanted to check on the turkey.

We started the day “as usual as possible” giving him his usual breakfast. And then, the opening of the presents left under the tree. That was a marvel on its own for him I think. I could see on his face the wonder of ripping paper off to discover a wood train or a puzzle (it was a very conscious decision not to buy thousands of presents, just be ruthless with ourselves and go for a few things we knew he would like).

I think the present’s session did exhaust him, because after that he went straight for a nap, a long nap of an hour and a half. Enough time for me to tidy up the front room, set up the table and start cooking. Ah, and get changed into something more civilised and suitable for the occasion. I have to confess, this last thing – getting changed – was a whole challenge for me. Normally used to go around in casual clothes to go to work, then with my uniform at work and then when I get home get changed again into tracksuits and t-shirts, you know when you just get so used to do something and be a certain way, sometimes you forget and continue on the same routine despite the date and the occasion. But somehow I thought to do the effort, as my mother would say “for the picture”.

My little one woke up from his nap – just in time for the cooking – timing – frenzy kick off – and somehow everything went so smooth I can hardly believe. As I was cooking/peeling/chopping he brought some toys and played happily; no need to mention I ended up with all of his toys in the kitchen in less than an hour. But that is a blessing in disguise considering he did not try to help me to cook on this particular occasion.

We had lunch all together and the brussels sprouts where a hit for him. He loved them, and the carrots and the parsnips. No turkey for him – he gave it a miss – but the rest was a whole feast in itself, and that is not mentioning his devotion to Yorkshire puddings. As we ended completely stuffed, he was ready to carry on playing and running around the flat.

Time for the Queen’s speech! And that was the only time I turned the TV on. He was absolutely besotted for 2 minutes. Then he started to try to turn it off, either by using his fake remote control (yes, an old remote control saved countless discussions!) or the on/off button. I have to say I found it hilarious to say the least!! The Queen’s speech gone, TV off, so we carry on playing for the rest of the afternoon.

The day ended as it normally ends, with his dinner, some quiet play, bath and bed. He was – I want to think – a happy boy for the day.

As for me, I am happy, contented. If I look back a year ago, I remember myself being lost, confused, trying to get into terms of this thing of being a mum, trying to understand my son, who at the time was so small and fragile. I can see now that my son was not the only one who was fragile; I can see now I was fragile as well, trying to stand up – or at least trying to hold my head up whilst holding the most precious gift life could ever give me.

It is fair to say that as my little one grows in strength I do so as well. I think we are both growing and learning from each other, following the natural flow of life, I think trying to understand less and starting to enjoy each moment more.

And that can only be a good thing.

Travelling…

Are you travelling soon? Are you going through Heathrow T 5? Are you travelling with your little one? Are you travelling on your own?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, carry on reading!

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Recently – say  a week  ago – I went through Heathrow T 5 on my own with my little one (6 months) to South America.  No need to explain that I was extremely anxious about the whole experience, the whole idea of a 14 hour flight was giving me the creeps, and for the two days prior to departure I was daunted by the task at hand and several times I thought about pulling out and changing the dates to a later stage when my partner could come with us.

Since I was travelling on my own with my little one, I decided to make my life easier, so I had  thought about  everything from the minute I arrived at the airport to the minute I sat on the plane.

So.

I prepared the bag for my little one, with nappies, wipes, bottles, muslins, spoons (for his breakfast) and a change of clothing. And some toys for the journey, a blanket from home and another of his blankets. You may wonder why a blanket from home? Simple, because the cradles the airline provide are a bit flimsy and not very warm. Also my concerns were that on planes, normally they lower the temperature, and also I wanted my little one to have something that smelled like home.

Then, I prepared my bag: Laptop, camera, passports, a book, reading glasses, hairbrush, toothbrush, and a warm pair of socks, tissues and purse. Finito.

On a separate bag (a third bag) I put all the liquids that have less than a 100 ml (make-up, hand gel, hand cream, the small 90 ml milk bottle for my little one and a small bottle of baby lotion) all in a transparent bag, so when I got through security everything was ready to go, without the hassle of taking everything out of the bag, messing around with the stuff, you know how it goes.

You may wonder, on a 14 hour flight, will a 90 ml bottle of milk be enough?  Nah, I’m not that careless. Thing is, you can buy (it is called reserve and collect) all the baby stuff you may need for your journey online via Boots,  and pay and collect all the stuff once you went through security at the airport. Isn’t it wonderful? So, one worry less, I bought the 200 ml. milk cartons and a jar of fruit.

Well, the day came, all set to go, we arrived at the airport, after doing the check in (boarding passes were printed at home, so I only had to drop off the luggage and that’s it)  and after enjoying my last decent cup of tea until my return, I started my journey. Rivers of tears when I had to leave my other half, my little one was completely asleep so he didn’t realise what was going on.

Went through customs. Passports were handy, together with boarding passes. Check.

Went through security. Pulled the transparent bags from the bag, and the laptop. Check.

Went to Boots, to collect and pay for the stuff. The milk and the baby food were ready, paid for the stuff. Check.

My little one was asleep. I had a wander through the Duty Free Shop, then a quick stop at Smiths to buy something light for me to read. Or at least to distract me for a while.

Finally the gate was announced. We got on the plane; I gathered up all the stuff and slowly, gently woke up my little one. I prepared everything so that when the plane takes off, my little one would be having some milk and would “forget” about the annoyance of the ears going “pop”.

He was so distracted by the lights that I would love to think he never realised what was going on. As soon as the plane got to a certain altitude, the cabin crew gave me the moses basket for my little one, I put the blanket from home inside and he sat there, until slowly but surely he fell asleep.  Believe it or not he slept for 6 hours and then I woke him up for a change and a feed; he fell asleep again for another 5 hours, until the first rays of sun appeared.

It was then when he became a bit agitated. I think he realised something was not  “normal” and that same thought probably left him exhausted, because he fell asleep whilst landing, and was asleep through the ordeal of customs and luggage collection.

Conclusion:

The people at T5 were very kind and understanding. The people from security was very patient, I have to say the whole T5 was helpful through and through.

It *did* help big time that I prepared the bags and separated everything beforehand at home.

It *did* help to use the “reserve and collect” system at Boots.

I want to think that the blanket from home did the trick for my little one to sleep more comfortably.

As for me…well, exhausted.