Eleven years ago when I discovered that I was pregnant, I really didn't know what to expect. At 29 years of age, I wasn't the most responsible of people, and I was well-known for extorting my loathing of babies and anything children-related, while swigging from my glass of wine and taking a drag of my cigarette. It was quite a shock to everyone I knew, including myself, when that extra line appeared on the hastily bought pregnancy test (£1.99 from Home Bargains!) How would I cope with a "screaming brat", constantly demanding my attention? Who would change those dirty nappies and make sure he was fed on time? I wasn't sure myself. But I never anticipated that the hardest thing about parenthood was watching that precious little child grow up TOO FAST!
Now 10 years-old (nearly 11!), that precious bundle of joy has grown into a proper little man, with his own opinions, a stubborn streak like his mum, and the ability to wipe his own backside, although he still demands to be fed. He has even had a string of girlfriends, although I don't think this amounts to anything at his age apart from a boost to his reputation with his mates. He still calls me Mummy every now and again, wants the odd cuddle, and can't tie his own shoelaces. I cling on to these facts with desperation, only too aware of those ominous teenage years lurking on the horizon, when I will be a constant embarrassment to him and he won't want to be seen dead with me in public.
This past week, his teenage years loomed closer than usual as we attended Open Evening at the local high school. High school?! I hear you cry! That is exactly what I thought. He is only 3 weeks into Year 6, his final year at primary school, and already they are trying to palm him and his peers off on high school. Why not just let them enjoy their final year in peace without scaring them from the off! Okay, so high school isn't exactly scary stuff for many. In fact, some kids enjoy their time at high school and it molds them into the person they will become. Not me. I hated every second of it and couldn't wait to leave. Which has perhaps coloured my opinion a little..
I can't even pinpoint what exactly I hated about high school. I wasn't particularly bullied, but I definitely wasn't popular. I was one of those extremely awkward kids, painfully shy but with too much pride to show it, which made for probably quite an difficult child to interact with, if you weren't one of my close friends. I wasn't unintelligent, not by any means. I just didn't want to be anywhere near school, and refused to apply myself. As I got older, I became one of those odd, sullen girls with stringy hair and an unnerving habit of failing to meet your eye. I bet I was a delight to teach. In reality though, I was deeply misunderstood and totally unable to communicate how I felt. Still am really, although I have developed a few people skills nowadays and am better at hiding it. Maybe if I had been able to express myself better, then my school years would have been easier. But then what teenager is adept at expressing themselves properly? I'm sure I'm not the only person who felt that way back then.
I despised PE most of all, and was so happy in my final years when they allowed us to sit in the library and revise instead. Physical Education, whether it was hockey or basketball or tennis, was a form of torture to a girl like me, who preferred to fly under the radar and avoid drawing attention to myself. I refused to put any effort into these types of games, and lurked around on the outskirts of the game, wishing I was somewhere else. Running was the only sport I was any good at, but this was overlooked as my reputation had already preceded me. One incident I do recall in some detail is being chosen for a relay team, by default. There were two teams and both team leaders were trying their hardest to avoid picking me, until I was the only one left. The leader of the losing team, one of the 'popular' kids, was furious and stomped about angrily, certain that we would lose. And of course it would be all my fault. Quietly, I grew determined to prove him wrong, and ran as fast as I could. We won, and afterwards all of the popular girls commented on how fast I could run. The leader of my team eventually shuffled over and grudgingly thanked me – I shrugged it off. I hadn't done it to impress him, or anybody else. I just wanted to prove them wrong.
Thinking back now, even though I would never even consider reliving those years again, I do wish that I had done things differently and made a success out of my high school years instead of them being a memory I would rather forget. By Third Year (Year 9 these days) I had completely given up any pretense of making an effort, and choosing my GCSE options was a disaster. When presented with the choice between French and Spanish, even though I would have liked to have learnt Spanish, I chose French. When it came to Geography and History, despite the fact that I was extremely interested in the events of yesteryear, I chose Geography. And the biggest travesty – Art, Music, Drama, and Food Studies. I had actually shown a real talent for Art, Music, and Drama, despite my innate shyness, and quietly thought to myself that Art was the perfect direction to take. So I went ahead and chose Food Studies. Really.A subject that I was, at best, mediocre at.
Every single GCSE option I chose to study was a subject I just wasn't that interested in. So why did I choose them? The answer to that is ridiculously simple and incredibly pathetic.. Because my friends did. Yes, I discarded my own talents, ignored my own yearnings, and followed my friends and stayed firmly in my comfort zone. That is my biggest disappointment when it comes to my high school years.
So I do hope that my son has a better time at high school than I did, and that he makes the most of the options presented to him. Although part of me wishes he would stay at primary school age for a few more years at least, I have to resign myself to the fact that he is growing up and try to encourage him to be a better student than I was. I don't want him to look back on his school years with regret, or waste those important exams because he is too shy to step outside of his comfort box.