Obviously, I have the same 24 hours a day that everyone else has. I make choices on how to spend those 24 hours. We all make choices, just not the same choices. Recently I have been doing a lot of things outside the family bubble – more work, more socialising, more Scouting, more volunteering for LiveSimply and for CAFOD and for the Birmingham Children’s Book Group.
Right now I am choosing to focus back in on the family. This is GCSE year with all the stress that entails just in terms of keeping morale up whilst facing mocks and reports and a feeling of impending doom that official exams tend to induce.
The offspring’s situation is made more complicated in that he is being counter-cultural and not staying on at school or college. I say counter-cultural, because the school system does not support young people in choosing a non-academic route. The difference between the support offered in the apprenticeship path and that we experienced in the funding-driven university route is frankly astounding. I understand why – schools are judged on how many children go into university, so have a vested interest in keeping their pupil on to sixth form. Sixth form colleges gain funding depending on the students they attract. Where is the motivation to explore other paths with young people?
At home. That is where the motivation and the time must come. It is a long, complicated and, this week at least, traumatic experience. We have so far failed the offspring enormously by offering the wrong advice, but we have also gathered all our skills in mentoring and coaching and he is learning so much and gaining a huge amount.
We are thrilled to see some of his choices in how to spend his hours having an impact. Applying for a job is hard work, but he had practice in applying for a place on the Scout World Jamboree (he failed to get a place, so rejection will not be new). All his skills and training as a Young Leader in Scouts and the church youth group are being mentioned in applications, as are his experiences in Scouts of working in a team and being held responsible for activities with the Cubs. His Bivouac and Duke of Edinburgh awards are interesting and influential experiences.
Importantly this week he is learning to deal with things going wrong, with trying to schedule a lot of extra time to fill out 10-page applications in a packed pre-Christmas schedule in the middle of his mock exams. It’s a week of growing up, of stress, but also of precious time of us supporting each other, offering advice, a shoulder to cry on and a ton of tea (me) and hot chocolate (him) and the occasional mince pie.
I have been criticised this week for having a dirty house – an example of what I choose not to do – but right now, I am happy with the example I have set of building my tribe, getting out of the house and meeting people and learning new skills and gaining life skills wherever and whenever I can. And most of all I am proud of our ability to re-focus back on each other as a family when we need to.