This past week I have been reflecting on my school days and the impending stages of adolescence my half sister faces.On Tuesday I listened to her arguing with her dad, she is fourteen years old and much more feisty than I was at that age. The problem is - she doesn’t know when to stop. She bites so quickly at remarks that are said in jest to madden her and shouts at everything before storming out the room in a ’Kevin’ strop. The argument was about how lazy she is, how she spends her day in bed and what a waste her life is. It moves onto the paper round she has quit because she doesn’t want to get up at six in the morning every day for the rest of her life. ( I know that feeling!) My younger brother is laughing, he has reaped the benefits and now earning £20 a week for a paper round consisting of a few papers. When I was fifteen, I had a paper round for the local news which always had to be stuffed with the freebies, making the weight of my round double. I got paid £7 tops for delivering to two big caravan parks. Unlike Louise and Sam, who don’t talk or help each other out, I frequently enlisted the help of my brother Adam to share the load. I remember the day we discovered that one of the caravans, the one furthest away, down the gravel track was inhabited by a witch. We watched her from behind a bush and noted that she had two big pointed ears and always wore black. We didn’t deliver her papers for a couple of weeks until we were told he had to. We dared each other to be the one to put it through the door, sneaking around the caravan so she wouldn’t see us. She did though and she opened the door to accept the paper. I remember being so scared, that was until, we realised that she wasn’t a witch, nor did she have big pointy ears. What she did have, was two large hearing aids that were tapped to her head. Needless to say we ran away laughing and we still chuckle about it now.
On Wednesday, I watched Louise's GCSE dance performance and the rest of the school delivering ‘House Dance’ where groups of friends put together dance routines in aid of their team house. I watched twenty dance routines over two hours and all I thought about, was how glad I am not to be at secondary school again and how, no matter the money, I would never take the opportunity to be twelve to sixteen again. It was interesting to watch and be able to identify the quiet ones, the bullies, the ‘popular’ girls who all the boys fancied, the small geeky girls and the stud of the year.
The actual routines were monotonous, they were all to songs in the Pussycat Doll genre (not sure what that is) with a lot of body popping and jolty movements. A breath of fresh air came with the girl who tap danced to a classic Chicago song unlike the twelve year old that truly believed she was part of the Pussycat Dolls and throughout her routine pouted and provocatively twisted her hair through her fingers whilst bumping and grinding. She got the biggest cheer. I felt sorry for her and what the next few years will have in store.
I have been trying to encourage Louise to find her own identity and install some faith in her that it is ok to be different, but all I get is raised eyebrow and a ‘yeah right’. I see her conforming to what her best friend tells her is right. Last week they went to Thorpe Park and had been given a strict dress code - totally impractical for a theme park and the wet cold weather. I could see the panic in her eyes that she didn’t have the ‘uniform’ to which I told her to be bold - wear red tights not black, shorts instead of a skirt, but my job at convincing her that it would be ok was poor. But on reflection, I don’t think that I would have listened to a peer telling me to be different and stand out, when the rules of the social circle brand you as odd or un-cool.
Now , I couldn’t care less about conforming. If I like something - I wear it, I only hope that I can lead by example and that she will find her identity and be comfortable and confident with who she is. I think we have a long way to go yet and a lot more ‘Kevin’ strops.