Tuesday, 8 September 2009

2009 - The summer that maketh a man of Idle Jack.

My eldest son, 'Idle Jack' turned sixteen in July.

When you’re sixteen you think you’re a grown up. You can get married, have sex and smoke. Sixteen, for some teenagers is the new ‘key to the door.’ For Idle Jack it was time to get a job. He would have happily spent the summer, post exams, exercising his thumbs on the PlayStation and lifting his legs as I hoovered around him. His dad had other ideas.
“We’re going to stop your pocket money, so you’ll need to get a job. At your age I’d had a paper round for two years and was walking whippets.”

An online application and ten days later and he had an interview at McDonalds. It’s always been a favourite of his. He was nervous it being his first interview. Then there were two more interviews, one of which was an ‘on the job’ evaluation. Finally, they handed him his uniform and advised the shifts. Idle Jack had his first job.

Six weeks on and he’s “LOVING IT!” He’s repaid what he owes us and has money in his pocket (when it’s not dropped through the hole that it burned.) But as Bridget Jones said, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” And it did when we got back from holiday last week and found his GCSE results on the doormat.

“I don’t understand, I thought I’d done enough. I’ve blown it.” His colour dripped into his Fat Face trainers along with his dreams of going on an Animal Management course.
“Too right, you’ve blown it!” declared his dad after he’d come down off the ceiling followed by World War 3 between his dad and him, his dad and me. I could have walked out. I didn’t. I’m a mother. Idle Jack needed me to shield him from his dad’s wrath. He needed me to help find him another college; to give him some words of encouragement when his plans and dreams were unravelling.

“I’m a failure. I can’t get anything right,” he cried.
This was my son crying – my son who normally wears a mask, an invisible shield with his feigned self-confidence and bravado. Aside from the fact that he left it too late to work hard, one of his failings was that he never told anyone when he was struggling. Teenage boys don’t like to open up and show any weakness or vulnerability. Perish the thought that he should ask for help. It’s difficult to know the state of mind behind the mask; what’s really going on in his head. You try to talk. Sometimes he doesn’t want to. Sometimes he can’t. Sometimes he hates the world. You try not to nag or push too much. You can’t win with a teenager.

He’s never been an academic. That’s probably because he’s never liked school much. His first day at school set the tone for the last eleven years. As I met him at the gate, flung my arms around him and asked eagerly how his first day had gone, he wiped my slobber from his cheek before he nonchalantly replied, “Oh, it was fine, but I don’t think I’ll go again.”

Personally, I think kids have so much more pressure on them these days. I hated being a teenager. Without doubt it was the darkest period of my life. I truly felt that no-one understood me. They probably didn’t. For teenagers, there is so much peer pressure - having to be ‘cool’; if you’re attractive; your weight if you eat too many Mackie D’s, or being too skinny if you don’t eat enough Mackie D’s; whether the Clearasil is working on your acne; the size of your manhood or breasts; You want to become independent. Then, on top of all that, you have to worry about grades. Even worse, for ‘Jack’ when the grades didn’t reflect the hard work he put in, even if it was too little, too late. There are demands from parents, demands from school. Is it any wonders so many teenagers face depression?

He tried his best. Or even if he didn’t try his best all of the time, he now realises that he should have worked a lot harder. It turns out that he was having second thoughts about the Animal Management course anyway. I’ve always said that things happen for a reason. He’s not a failure. He got the part-time job at McDonalds when there are so many that are unemployed. So Business Studies it is. It’s a good, general course that is very marketable and he can re-take the GCSE’s alongside. And there are worse places than Ludlow he could be travelling to. It won’t be too onerous for me to pick him up once in a while and educate him to the towns gastro-delights and delightful independent shops!

He’s not blown it. It’s not the end of the world. It’s how he copes from now on that is important. And how we support him. Who knows, it might end up being the making of him.

It’s been a tough lesson. But then as I'm always saying to him, life is tough.



So until another day

35 comments:

Ivy said...

Poor Jack poor you! Being a mother of two teenagers I know what you are talking about..... keep talking even if they pretend not to listen, they sometimes do :-) Being a mother is a life sentence, like it or not!

Arosebyanyothername said...

Yes, you are so right - it's not the end of his world. My son, now in his forties started of in the wrong course at college and had to change. He is now doing well and is happy. What is important is that you son feels that he has your support and approval and that he is not a disappointment to you.
You seem to have a good relationship with him so I am sure everything will be fine. I wish him luck.

Salle de Bain said...

How refreshing to read your blog. It so reminded me of what happened in our household a few years ago when my daughter was 16.

I flunked my 'O' Levels badly in the early seventies, and now I'm in the final year of a PhD. We all take our own individual pathways to achieve what we want don't you think? I always told my daughter that as long as she was happy, and doing what she wanted to do, I was happy too. Sounds like Jack is following his heart..and knows what he wants. I wish him good luck...

pinkfairygran said...

What a shame you don't blog more often, this was so readable and so reminiscent of my times with sons, aeons ago now thank goodness! I was the one who had to be scraped off the ceiling in arguments with son, their stepfather was always peacemaker. My youngest didn't like school, wasn't academic and seemed to think he was there just to plague the life out of the teachers and have fun annoying everyone else who was, strangely enough, trying to do their school work. A concept he never quite got the hang of. So he left with no qualifications, to his grandparents, those of his late father, a disappointment as he should have gone into banking or something. Instead, a succession of jobs which he never held down for too long, until he got a job as a warehouseman/storesperson for a small, family run firm, where he is much thought of, has been happy for eight years. True the money ain't great, and it may not be what others wanted for him. I was, am, and always will be just happy if my 'boys' (one is coming up to 40!) were healthy, and happy, able to take care of themselves and respectful of others. They are. But good for your son that MacD's saw something in him they thought they could work with... not everyone gets accepted by them so I heard. Great post, thanks, and thanks for bringing it to the attention of us via common room.

Milla said...

excellent that you've turned a perceived negative into a positive. Good for you. Life isn't signed, sealed and delivered by 16 and all that closed door / opening door stuff is true. Focus on the good stuff and the rest will follow. Lovely to see you blogging again. I must shift my own glorious little behind and get busy!

bodran... said...

I'll collect him from Ludlow anytime !!
I can give no constructive advice on teenage boys whatsoever or just boys! they are bewildering and at 21 now no longer a teenager mines still grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Withy Brook said...

Sounds as though you have a good one there, Angel. And a lovely account of a stressful time. Quite a lot of them only discover how hard they have to work by failing (or disappointing themselves) The important thing is that they learn from it - as he clearly has. Good luck to him and you and Dad.
Yes, thankyou for drawing our attention to your blog. Well worth reading.

KittyB said...

Oh, bless him. He's only 16, all the time in the world. He can go to college, retake exams, work in McDonalds for pocket money and enjoy being young. My sister's youngest went through a similar time after GCSEs and he's found a job now that he loves. For some kids academia isn't the answer, work and pay in their pocket is more meaningful.
And they are still so young at 16 - in limbo - looking like adults on the inside, still retaining vestiges of childhood within. And yes, he still needs you to shield him from the world, not just his Dad!
The word verification is antumpsy, isn't that great?

lampworkbeader said...

All four of my boys had academic disasters at sometime in their early careers. They get over it and learn from their mistakes... eventually. I admit it's a bit rough on a mum when it happens though. Love and luck to you both.

Elizabethd said...

They get there in the end, as so many have said. It's hard for mothers watching, but it really does work out. My son failed just about everything, and is now director of a large company in Sydney!!

Pipany said...

You star Angel. Well done for being so supportive despite the worry and bless Jack, poor soul. I so feel for them at this time and have been there with my own sons in the past. Good luck to him x

blackbird said...

With a 17 year old boy at home- this is so familiar. Mine does well at school, for which I am very grateful- but has been shy about getting even a summer job. There is so much to be learned from a job that isn't taught in school.

But, as others have said, they do find their way and they have to do it for themselves. Keep encouraging him along the way.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Everything happens for a reason and even if it is not clear now it will become so - he will love Ludlow 6th Form - have you seen them all wandering around town - all as happy as Larry. He will be fine Angel and there's a lot worse !things than Business Studies! He's OK - give him a hug from me

Inthemud said...

Loved your blog, Angel. Poor Jack, life is hard but it's not the end of the world. He can have another go. Glad he's Loving Mcdonalds though.
Life is full of set backs, but hopefully make a stronger person. Good Luck Jack!

Colette said...

Oh teenage boys. Trust me Angel I know EXACTLY what you are going through and it's not easy.
Big hug to you and Idle jack who is probably feeling like the dogs doodahs right now but isn't allowed to show it. It's a bloke thing.

Faith said...

Oh dear poor Jack, but plenty of time for all things. It makes me sad to hear of such young kids - only 16 years on this planet for goodness sake, thinking they are failures - well who says?! My youngest is 21 and has only really now 'grown up'. I wish you and Jack all the best and hope your hubby calms down!

ChrisH said...

Hmm, reminds me of a row I had on AL results day with one of mine. I don't know about home thoughts but some home truths were exchanged. Fortunately both are doing splendidly so no lasting harm done so I'm sure Jack will be fine (of course he will, you're both supporting him).(Oo-er the word thing is buggra!)

ChrisH said...

Oh dear, now it's 'sucks' - what's going on here?!

Really Rachel said...

Hey! Great blog :o) And thanks for the follow!

Antonia said...

You're right, it's not the end of the world, and he's lucky to have you behind him.

JJ Beattie said...

I just found you through your comment at the Novel Racers...

I cannot tell you how serendipitous this post is for me. My very own 'Idle Jack' is 15 and taking GCSEs in May 2010... getting him to talk about school, work and what he wants for his future is really hard. Helping him to find motivation when he'd rather play Guitar Hero is tough, but you are right... it's never too late. Lessons are learned through all experiences, good and bad. Thanks for the post. I'll come back again...

Annieye said...

Hi Angel. What a brilliant post and what a fantastic mum you are to be so supportive of your lovely son for just being himself.

I hate the pressure society puts on our normal, average but oh-so-lovable children. They can't all be child prodigies and gifted. They can't all go to university (contrary to what some parents would have you believe). My three chldren have all grown up now. None of them were brilliant academically. Only one made it to uni, and just managed to cling on by her fingertips for three years and get a degree (she is now a teacher). But the thing I am proud of most is that ALL of my children have been successful in their own fields and my middle son, who ended up as an electrician, now has his own business, has bought his own house and is actually quite well off - and he's only 27. My youngest son (who is 21) left school at 16 with fair-to-middling GCSE results, went to college to study Electrical Engineering and has just got his HNC this year after a four year apprenticeship with day release facilities. He now has a well-paid job with Anglian Water as an Electrical Engineer maintaining water pumping stations at several reservoirs. He absolutely loves it.

Tell your son that both my sons' GCSE results were not great! I can remember results day well, and as I recall, with both of them I sat at my desk at work and just held my head in my hands, shaking it from side to side in despair.

Jack's life is only just beginning. Bad GCSE results are not the end of the world. There will be plenty more opportunities for him and I have a sneaking suspicion he will probably end up being more successful than some of today's kids who are pushed by parents down the road of A levels, university and then a stonking, huge student debt round their necks and no job anyway at the end of it all.

I really do wish your Jack all the very best of luck for the future.

Amanda said...

What a great post, Angel. As a mother of three sons - I empathised all the way through reading it!

Debs said...

Poor Jack, my heart goes out to him, and to you too. Being a teenager is difficult, living with one is rarely easy.

So many highly successful people did dreadfully in their GCSE's, so I'm sure Jack will be fine.

dulwich divorcee said...

He's got so much time - to do retakes, or to end up running his own McDonald's! Good luck to you both and love your blog. I like your word counter for novel 2 - I am on 44ish,000 so you're beating me!

Kate said...

Hi,

I really enjoyed reading this although partially I have to admit I feel like i relate slightly to Jack. I remember when I got my GCSE results it was terrifying and it is damn hard work. I was supposed to be studying at the time when I was sudden;y comsumed with thoughts of boys - felt like enough of a grown up to want to ne responsible for my own revision plan and ultimately sucess and failure. Plus school was so focussed on fitting in and what others thought of you exams and studying seemed a lot less important that they should have. I hope it all works out for Jack.

Kate xx

Suzanne Jones said...

It is hard being a teenager - even harder being the mum of a teenager... Your boy will be fine. He sounds like a decent lad and he has two loving and caring parents in his corner.

Hugs.

seashell cosmos said...

Oh-how I can relate to you!! I have a son the same age, who also just started working at McDonald's and who also faces such similar pressures. I sympathize with this age group and the parents more than I can put into words or say that hasn't been said here already in the comments. Poor Jack and you. But ya know? He is a lucky fellow,you are a terrific supportive/understanding Mum which will make a HUGE difference. Thank you for posting this. Really helped me this first week of school here and reading the comments too. Thanks xo :)

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog and for you comments. I really understand your posts too, I haven't quite been there yet as my teen does the bulk of her GCSE's next year but have neices and nephews going through this and I think you are so right...they are learning and they have to learn to go on when things have messed up...it can work out and it's a life long skill. Not one perhaps you'd have wished on him right now but there is only one way to go - and that's up..attitude is everything. Good luck to Idle Jack. See you again.

Worrieddaughter said...

Hi - just wanted to pop over and thank you for commenting so very fully and thoughtfully on my post at www.gotyourhandsfull.com.
I agree with you about there being so much pressure on teenagers, sounds to me like IJ will be okay though. I am dreading the teenage years to the point I wonder whether I may be overdoing it a bit!

The Prodigal Tourist said...

Our daughter's 12, can't wait...

Woozle1967 said...

No it's NOT the end of the world - you are so right. He will learn from this and now it's time to move forward; build on this.

After several years working in HR/recruitment, (and hating my school years,leaving as soon as I could and doing on the job training plus night school), I can honestly say he will find what's right for him and get there his way.

We used to have over 3000 applicants for just 9 trainee solicitor places - all with fairly identical academic qualifications. It's awful to admit that the shortlisting process had to start somewhere and that somewhere was "which uni did they go to: Oxford or Cambridge?" There were so many, that we had the pick of the so-called best.

I hated the fact that someone from Birmingham Uni, who may have been better than the Oxford grad, but had to stay in the Midlands for personal reasons, was passed over for attending another university. But that was life for this firm of solicitors.

Fortunately, my next employer had the insight to recruit the person, and not just the university. Their other interests were taken into account and then, when they made interview, their personality could shine through.

As long as he gets a good all round education, he will be fine. Both you and I worked in the travel industry, you went in to banking, and I went in to the legal industry. Many of us change our career paths along the way - he is still so young to really know what he wants to do.

Gosh, this wasn't meant to be an essay! I just wanted to say that there are so many kids out there with degrees who are "just" working in shops now, that employers are going to have to recognise that not everyone NEEDS a degree, unless they want to be a doctor/solcitor/dentist/vet etc., like the good old days. I am a strong advocate of on-the-job skills and qualifications and once "Jack" has found his path, he will know what he has to do.xx

her at home said...

Its a good age to learn you can change a negative thing into something good and that sometimes even the best plans may fall apart. There is no failure, its just having the courage to be able to act when confronted with change.

dulwich divorcee said...

Hi Angel B, there's a tag for you over at my place x

Fred said...

So many of us can recognise so many different parts of this blog, just goes to show how universal the issues are.
Youngest had dire GCSE and AS results. He has gone back for U6 for no other reason than to play first team rugby, hockey and cricket. He's never been an academic, never will be, but at least he does feel valued for his sport.

Idle Jack is a lovely chap, he has you to support him, he will find his path. A very wise friend once said to me 'Children are like water, they all find their own level' He will, just hang in there.x