There are some things I can’t fix but I can try.

‘Your knickers are on back to front,’ I said to the Small Girl who had made a valiant attempt to start putting on her school uniform while I was in the shower.

‘How can you tell which way they go?’ She asked in earnest puzzlement.

I laid her diminutive undergarments on the bed and explained that they were bigger at the back to accommodate her, albeit tiny, posterior.

‘Aha,’ she said, understanding dawning, and then I saw the telltale pinch between her eyes as the busy cogs of her brain turned.

‘You know how your bum is really big, Mum?’ Completely serious, not even a hint that she might be only joking. If only.

‘Yeeeees?’ There was hardly any point in denying the generous proportions of my rear end, at least relative to her own. I could only hope that she wasn’t going to ask me any awkward questions. 

‘Did you ever, like, break your knickers?’

I hope you will understand if I decline to record my answer here for posterity. My aim in telling you this anecdote is to demonstrate that my girl is still small, in stature and attitude. She is innocent and honest and open in the way we all must have been once upon a time in that far away land of childhood.

I attended a meeting at her school last night. It was a short lecture promoting awareness of mental health issues. As it so happened, the meeting took place in Small Girl’s classroom and I couldn’t help scanning the walls for evidence of my own child’s brilliance. I noticed, with some bemusement, a huge poster with a massive smiley face emoji and an equally large frowning face. A small photo of each child was tacked on to the smiley face while the frowning face was devoid of company. I took this, perhaps influenced by theme of the evening’s meeting, to be some sort of mental health promoting device whereby the children were asked about their moods and, thankfully, identified themselves as happy. How sweet, I thought, how wonderfully progressive.

When I got home, Small Girl was in bed but still awake so I snuggled in beside her for a cuddle. I told her that I saw her name on the list of star writers and she wiggled with pride. I told her that I noticed she was listed as this week’s milk monitor and that it was her turn at the sand table. I told her that I saw her photo on the smiley face and said I was glad she felt happy.

‘Oh no,’ she scoffed at my ignorance,’it doesn’t mean that I am happy; it means that Teacher is happy.’

I was genuinely taken aback and even more so when my child explained to me that Teacher moves their photos to the frowning face, she called it the sad face, when they are naughty, thus indicating her dissatisfaction with their behaviour.

‘Was your photo ever on the sad face?’ I had to ask, didn’t I? I thought I had to ask.

My Small Girl turned around, put her face to the wall and refused, despite my heartbroken entreaties, to utter another word.

As I left the room I heard her sob so I went back and lay beside her until she fell asleep. I couldn’t imagine what she could possibly have done to be so upset, ashamed even.

I enquired of Teacher, a friendly and pleasant young woman, what had happened. The answer? She didn’t have a clue. She assured me that my child is well behaved and attentive and that she might only have been moved to the sad face for a short time for ‘not trying  her hardest’ although even at that she couldn’t recall an incident. I tried, without questioning her methodology, to explain that my child was incredibly upset. She tried, without acknowledging the upset, to defend her methodology.

I didn’t really feel I had achieved anything. This isn’t my first time around this particular block. I’ve come to believe that the entire school system is designed to ‘break them in’, like ponies, to prepare them for the treadmill of life, as if there were no alternative. Put your nose to the grindstone at age five, is the ethos, and keep it there. It’s all designed to make children fit into a pattern, laid down decades, if not centuries, ago. I don’t have an alternative and I don’t blame the teachers, they just train the children in exactly the way they were trained to do. They must, in fact, if their charges are not to be labelled as failures. It is all a bit depressing though. 

I got in the car and assured my daughter that her teacher thinks the world of her. 

‘We learned a new sound today,’ she told me, ‘it’s OO. Sometimes it sounds like UH, like in book, but we have to think of words where it sounds like OO in MOO. We have to bring things in for the sounds table next week.’

‘Well,’ I said,’you can’t bring in the LOO because Dad would be very upset.’ She laughed.

‘And Teacher said at the start of the year that you should avoid bringing in FOOD for the sounds table so that’s out of the question.’ I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the expectant smirk on her face. She’s very good at rhyming games.

‘MUM!’ She exclaimed in mock horror. ‘You can’t be thinking what I think you are thinking!’

‘Oh yes I am.’ I raised my eyebrows towards her delighted face in the mirror and we simultaneously yelled:


I’ll raise a rebel yet.

38 thoughts on “There are some things I can’t fix but I can try.

  1. Lovely post as always. It’s wonderful that you can record these things. And I love the broken knickers thing (we’ve got a few favourite underwear-based stories too – rebels all round)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately, our mishap occurred when it was “Take your stuffy to school day”. My husband, having recently returned from a trip to the CDC, had brought home a stuffed Chlamydia toy. While everyone else was squeezing their bunny and teddy, we were getting The Call from the shocked and horrified preschool teacher. You know, you can get some really great toys from the Giant Microbes website …. just saying …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, that is too funny. I wouldn’t like to have been trying to explain that one. My going-away present from my lab-mates (previous life) included a cuddly E. coli. I wish I knew where he’s got to!


      1. I had a previous life in the lab too – Human Genome Project – until I started my own experiments in duplicating part of my genome, now labelled Thing 1 and Thing 2. Can’t wait until the feline in the hat boxes them up, or perhaps college.


  3. Well done you brilliant mummy! POO! POO! POO! and again I say POO! Mostly to a system that in educating and illuminating our children has them silently cowed before the first year is out. I know, I know, it’s hard for teachers and the system has to fit all but there is something so awful about squishering the temperament of an individual. Happy weekend to and say POO to the small girl from her ardent admirer in France (after all any one who ponders busted knickers is a superstar in my book)

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That is the loveliest of compliments which I will snug close to my heart. I think your small girl has an excellent role model in her mummy and if she turns out to fall close to the tree she will be a credit to humankind.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha! Good post. Sorry she was upset, my son told me he had to sit outside the headteachers office because she told him off. I called school and they said the head wasn’t even in that day, and that he’d not been in trouble! Little monkey, I felt pretty silly!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brilliant, love it. Our school behaved appallingly the other week, reducing many children to tears over something trivial. The teachers really should now better, it was totally unnecessary. Incredibly disappointing. Occasionally school is something to be survived it seems. CJ xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In general, I like our school but every so often something rotten has happened and ,as you describe, the overwhelming emotion is disappointment. the best we can hope is that it toughens them up but that’s hardly an ideal standard!


  6. Hilarious- thank goodness she has you to counteract the institutional nonsense. She does sound adorable. I have mixed feelings about my kids’ school (they’re all at the same one). I want them to achieve their potential but keep their brains alert for nonsense. Questioning everything does not go down well with a stressed teacher who has to meet targets and tick boxes… I love the knicker question! I had a similar big knicker observation from my youngest when she was small and helping me sort laundry 😊 X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why on Earth are they so obsessed with the size our our knickers?! I kind of understand that teachers are under pressure to tick the boxes. It’s the boxes that need to change. We should not be raising sheep. Hope you have had a lovely day treasuring your daughter.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly what I was thinking. I think people who continue to push limits and fight back are much more likely to achieve something extraordinary. I was never much of a rebel in my youth but I am learning how to stand my ground as I get older.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful post. School can do a lot of damage to kids, especially kids whose brilliance lies somewhere other than the standard academic subjects. Kudos to you for being an ally for your daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah my heart broke for her….to feel that she had done her best and be moved to the frowny face side….BOOOOO to the teacher….rhymes with poooo….LOL my son was in 4th grade and came home to announce he was done with school….after begging and bribery, I found out the teacher was blaming him for all the issues in the class…he was a class clown but he didn’t cause all the disruptions…it was just easier to single him out time after time…after we shared she broke my sons desire to ever come back to school, she started taking the time and actually search out for the right students….she was a singe gal, never had children…so I could understand, I just think that the teachers that teach young grades have to have some experience with kids….kinda felt sorry for her….hope our little one is understanding its not always about them….its obvious the teaches way of grading the kdis is a little off….hummmm I love the poo poo poo….made me smile….LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for the laugh!
    This chart thing happens in my son’s school. Not sure it does now actually. A load of the parents found out about it and went mental! I’m not sure what it accomplishes, other than sad kids. Or smug kids?…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It makes me so sad sometimes thinking back to realise that I often had no idea what was going on in my sons’ school days. It’s not that we didn’t talk, but that they often couldn’t have explained their teacher’s ‘methodology’, and the teachers probably had no idea of the harm they were inflicting.
    Later some quite serious things did emerge and made me very angry. They just weren’t accountable behind those closed doors and high walls day in, day out. And if you did ever question or query an event, it was very likely to have repercussions for the child later on with a snide retaliation from the teacher.
    Perhaps things are more transparent now. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for commenting Lucille. The lack of transparency is the very worst part of sending kids off to school. It took me a few years to learn that I should probably take my child’s side by default rather than trusting everything the school told me.


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