Blogz II Men

Over the past few months, I have become increasingly conscious that my blog entries, and my Facebook posts in particular, have become a little, well, Isaac heavy.

I think I can be excused for this, to an extent, because Isaac – as should be perfectly clear by now – is a seemingly endless source of comedic material. For example, last month alone, he:

  1. Determined that cows eat sausages;
  2. Caught a Daddy longlegs at school, gave it to a girl in his class as a gift, then ‘meditated for a while thinking about donkey poo’;
  3. Decided he wants to ‘save all the trees’, because if he doesn’t, he might run out of paper for drawing, and that would be far worse fate than any resulting lack of oxygen;
  4. Fell in love with his own toes and decided he would quite like to marry them one day;
  5. Drew the following rather unflattering portrait of me:

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  1. Walked to school with his arms inside his coat, insisting I hold his empty sleeve all the way there, only for me to discover that he was sticking a lone finger out from underneath the coat, so everyone passing us thought he had his knob out;
  2. Wrote his first ever love song, which went a little something like this:

Ah, love you

Oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah

Oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah

Yeah, oh no, oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah.

  1. Wrote an angry note to my wife and I, which he penned with such rage and fury, he then couldn’t read his own handwriting;
  2. Drew ‘Zog The Evil Rabbit’, complete with ‘male genitals mouth’, nipple tassels, and rather excessive public hair:

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  1. Punched me in the leg for no apparent reason, then apologised with the excuse ‘I thought you were Ollie’.

And that was just his top ten in September (I know, because I’ve been back through my Facebook posts for the month). In short, the kid is one unpredictable little bundle of totally fucked up.

But, every so often, he can be the sweetest child in the world. As I posted on my page last weekend, I took the boys to the cinema for the day (so that my wife could work on her MA in peace), but knowing I was feeling dreadful, he asked her to pop to the local shop while we were out to buy ‘a chocolate bar the size of his head’ to cheer me up.

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And, if that were not cute enough, who can forget the time he drew a face on his hand before leaving on the school run, and when questioned he explained to me that it was ‘Mr Hand’, who he likes to talk to at school sometimes when he gets lonely.

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*sniff*

Bugger. I was supposed to be starting this week’s entry by apologising for my blog posts and Facebook page being so Isaac-focused of late, and I’ve just – rather ironically – wasted one-third of my (self-imposed) word count writing about him. Worse, I have completely neglected to mention my first-born child, Ollie (well, I guess I referred to him once, but only in the context of Isaac twatting me in the leg thinking it was him).

Poor Ollie doesn’t get a look-in sometimes (and I mean that purely in the sense of my online persona, it’s not like we neglect him at home…. much), but that’s only because he doesn’t possess the sheer, unadulterated quirkiness of Isaac. He has his odd moments, like all kids, but he has never once pretended to be giving birth on the classroom floor at school – to our knowledge – and I doubt he would randomly start talking Spanish when asked what he did at school that day (when he hadn’t studied any Spanish at school that day – or, indeed, ever).

So, in an attempt to redress the balance (not that either of my boys give a flying fuck what I write about in these blog entries, because I tend to use phrases like ‘flying fuck’, which means they aren’t allowed to read them), this week’s entry is all about Ollie. Well, from this point onwards, anyway. He may not ever read these words, but I’ll feel better knowing I have devoted some online attention to him for a change.

Here goes, then….

Ollie is a right mardy little knobhead at the moment*

(*that may very well be the most northern thing I have ever said in my blog, so for any southern – and, indeed, foreign – readers among you, I shall translate: ‘Ollie has been something of a grumpy little nuisance of late.’)

The thing is, like any child Ollie is prone to mood swings, but my wife and I have noticed that, particularly over the last month or so, he has restricted himself to swinging purely between ‘sulky little twat’, and ‘stroppy little twat’.

In Ollie’s defence, we put some of his current vileness down to lack of sleep, because he and Isaac still share a room – and, as most of you know, Isaac is the Nocturnal Prince of Darkness, who seldom succumbs to his subconscious netherworld until he is fully satisfied that everyone’s evening has been suitably ruined. But that cannot be the only reason.

Funnily enough (and I use the term somewhat ironically, bearing in mind what follows is not funny in the slightest), a couple of weeks ago one of the mums at football training mentioned that her son is exactly the same at the moment, and there followed a general murmur of agreement among the parents gathered by the side of the pitch, to the extent  that everyone was encountering the same behavioural downturn with their own son.

At which point, the same mum explained that, in her view at least (and she is a teacher, which does lend some weight to the suggestion), our boys are going through the early stages of [gulp]… puberty.

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Now, bearing in mind I was cradling baby Ollie in my arms what feels like a few months ago, I am NOT ready for puberty just yet (and I refer solely to Ollie going through ‘the change’ here, as I have been fully developed myself for at least two-and-a-half decades now, with everything dangling and hairy as it should be), but if Ollie is developing into a man early – or, at least, earlier than I recall it happening to me – I can only hope he will emerge the other side equally early, and we’re not looking at suffering these mood swings until he is about fifteen. If that happens, then by the time Ollie is a fully-formed bloke, Isaac should be well into puberty himself, and I’m not going to get any respite until around 2030 (the year, rather than 8:30pm).

Worse, puberty not only means all the uncomfortable conversations I will have to have with Ollie over the next few years (because my wife and I agreed, prior to becoming parents, that she would have ‘the chat’ with any daughters we might produce, but I was responsible for the boys – and then she knocked out two sons just to fucking spite me), but if he is anything like me – and just look at him, he is exactly like me – then it could very well be a miserable period in his life. A terrible thought, bearing in mind he’s a grumpy little shit already.

If nature takes its course with him, as it did with me during most of the 1990s, he has chronic acne and his voice breaking to look forward to (not that it took a decade for my voice to break, you understand), and this will all happen at precisely the same time he suddenly decides girls are actually pretty awesome, rather than ‘disgusting’ and to be avoided at all costs (I’ve always thought it unfair that we humans become sexualised when we are at our least attractive stage of life).

I only hope he doesn’t face the endless bitter rejection that I faced throughout my latter teens (although, if any of the girls who rejected me at school / work / university are reading this – and there are plenty of them out there, so the odds of at least a few stumbling across these words are pretty high – then consider this: you could be married to the sixth most popular blogger in the whole of Sandbach now, so there).

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It’s not all bad news though, because if Ollie’s development does take a similar path to my own, then it is simply a waiting game. If he perseveres, one day the acne will fade, the facial hair will become less sporadic, and he should be blessed with a monstrous ‘middle-wicket’ for the remainder of his life – winky face*.

(*I should clarify here, I haven’t worked out how to insert emojis into my blog entries yet, just in case anyone assumes I call my penis ‘winky face’, or, worse, that I occasionally draw an eyes, nose and mouth on it…. which I only did once. It’s actually called ‘Monty Bojangles’, and isn’t that impressive if I’m honest.)

Anyway, when that day comes, Ollie will hopefully find a girl who loves him for who he is (assuming he hasn’t bored her to death with football talk in the meantime), and he will ultimately be far happier as a result, with puberty a distant – yet harrowing – memory.

I just hope all of this happens quickly, though, as I can’t take much more of his fucking sulking.

Thanks for reading x

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Nobody Puts Bloggy In A Corner

You may be aware that last week was national ‘anti-bullying week’ (frankly, every week should be anti-bullying week, but I do understand the rationale behind selecting one particular seven-day period to focus everyone’s attention on the issue).

Naturally, head teachers up and down the country dealt with this in different ways; but our boys’ primary school participated in ‘odd socks day’, inviting all the pupils to wear mismatched (and brightly-coloured) socks, as a symbol of unity against bullying, and to celebrate everyone’s individuality.

If you don’t follow my Facebook page (although I suspect the vast majority of those reading this do), you may not be aware that, on ‘odd socks day’, I posted a photograph of my two boys from the knees down, displaying their chosen footwear for the day. Here’s the photo:

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Yes, in true Isaac fashion, he refused to take part; and whilst my wife and I obviously accepted his choice, we were still concerned that he might change his mind once he arrived at school to be greeted by all the other pupils in colourful socks – or, worse (and rather ironically), that he might be teased for being the odd-one-out – so we shoved a spare (mismatched) pair in his bag just in case.

Bullying is an important issue, and whilst the focus tends to be on children during anti-bullying week, this is usually because:

  1. It is best raised early, before any adverse behavioural patterns are formed which might be harder to change in later life;
  2. Children are often less aware of the devastating effects that bullying can have (whether they happen to be the ‘bully’ or the ‘victim’);
  3. Children may be unaware of the various forms bullying can take, and that it needn’t be physical – or even in person – to still have terrible consequences;
  4. If adults think bullying is acceptable, then they are most likely beyond help, and should be sent away to live in a far-off land.

So, in a rare turn of events, the remainder of this week’s entry is aimed towards children, and whilst you adults are naturally invited to read on, I would appreciate it if you could share what follows with your own kids, or any that you happen to know.

Thanks.

***

Hi.

You probably don’t know me, or ever get to read what I write about, but that’s because I tend to be a bit rude and swear a lot. Hopefully, your Mum or Dad (or whichever grown-up has asked you to read this) likes my blog, and finds it funny.

I wanted to talk to you about bullying because, statistically, you will experience bullying at some point in your life (whether directly or indirectly), and it’s an issue which needs addressing. I am by no means an expert, but I have amassed a few readers over the years, and if the message gets through to just a few people, it was worth it. Besides, I was bullied at school, so I know what it’s like, and that’s a pretty good starting point.

Firstly, let’s get one common error out of the way. Bullying is not always physical, and can just as easily (perhaps even more easily) take the form of words rather than punches. You may even have bullied someone yourself in the past – even if you don’t want to admit it – because if you have ever teased someone, and taken the joke too far, that’s bullying.

Look, I like to make people laugh, and sometimes I do that at the expense of others, but I would like to think I know when to stop, and if the person who is the subject of the joke doesn’t find it funny, then that’s not right. I’ve made this mistake myself over the years, and hate to think I might have upset people, but I now try to find humour in other situations – preferably at my own expense, to be on the safe side. Fortunately, I embarrass myself quite a lot, so I’ve usually got plenty of material.

Bullying doesn’t even need to be in person, and that’s the really scary thing, because the internet (which, believe it or not, didn’t exist when I was your age), now makes it so much easier for bullies and – even worse – makes it much harder to detect and stop.

If a child comes home from school with a black eye, or a bloody nose, or a bruised arm, this is a visible sign that hopefully their parent(s) or teacher(s) will ask them about. Ok, it might be down to a simple accident (and my kids are always having accidents), but it could equally be the result of bullying. However, if that same person is being bullied online, or via their phone, it’s not as easy to spot, and that child’s misery may go undetected – or could be mistaken for something else.

I want you to take a second and think about your friends, classmates, siblings, and anyone else you are in contact with each day, and really think if you might have crossed that line at some point. If, like me, you have ever taken a joke too far at someone else’s expense, ridiculed them, or even physically hurt them, there’s still time to apologise and change.

Alternatively, maybe you are the one who has been bullied in the past, or you might even be the victim of bullying right now, and it’s you that I really want to talk to, because you can – and must – do something about it.

I am pleased to say I have never physically bullied anyone, but that is for one very simple reason, and it’s this:

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Just look at me. I’m not exactly physically threatening, am I? And that’s me now. Believe or not, I’m a lot more appealing as an adult than I was as a child/teenager. When I was at primary school, I had over-sized glasses and the hair of a fifty-year-old woman. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

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Then, when puberty hit, I developed even worse hair and terrible skin. Being skinny, wearing glasses, having acne, or being socially-awkward, is usually enough for any bully to work with, and I had all four going on at once.

I was an easy target, for most of my teenage years, and I’m just glad I was mentally strong enough to cope, because some days I was utterly miserable at school. It frightens me that not everyone has that inner-strength, and some victims of bullying fail to see a way out. Believe me, there is always a way out, because there is always someone out there willing to listen and help.

My escape was being funny (or, at least, trying to be).

I realised, when I was growing up, that I had a knack for making people laugh, and it gave me a buzz when others found me amusing. I slowly managed to alter people’s perception, so that rather than laughing at me, they laughed with me. Not everyone, obviously, and there were still some of the bigger kids who picked on me, but it only ever resulted in physical violence on a few occasions, so I suppose some people might see that as fortunate, even though psychological bullying can have longer-lasting effects.

Because I wasn’t ever blessed with good looks – some would say I’m still not – not to mention the fact I needed glasses from a young age (and, back then, wearing specs wasn’t as cool as it is today), I never had the distractions of going out lots, or girls, and so I worked hard at school instead.

I didn’t know it at the time, and if you’re in the same situation you may not appreciate it either, but being ‘geeky’ was one of the best things to happen to me. I got really good grades in my GCSEs, and even though I didn’t do as well in my A-levels (thanks, in no small part, to the fact I had been rejected by several girls in my year, and it started to get me down), I still went to a good university, then law school, and now I have a decent job.

Better still, when I was at university, I met a girl who was able to look past the crap hair and glasses (even though she later persuaded me to change both), and she fell in love with me for who I am. We got married in 2004, had our first son in 2010, and our second son in 2014. I still wish my school life had been happier, and perhaps filled with more female attention in the later years (ok, any female attention), but my point is this: everything worked out.

Popularity, sporting achievements, and having a boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t everything, I promise you. If you try to be a good, kind person, things will work out. You will be popular. You will find love. If I can get married, have kids, and enjoy a relatively successful career (I added the word ‘relatively’, because I’m typing this on my lunch break, and it ended about twenty minutes ago), then there is hope for us all.

Each and every one of us is amazing in our own way, and that includes you. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel worthless, or inferior, because it usually only means they are compensating for something missing from their own life.

And, if anyone does make you feel that way, whether their actions take a physical or psychological form, it is absolutely ok to tell someone, and get help. You never need to suffer on your own, and even if you don’t think you can speak to your parents, or teachers, or friends, there are charities like Childline. Their number, if you or anyone you know needs it, is 0800 1111.

Basically, just be you, because you are bloody brilliant.

Thanks for reading x

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