Didsburydad's Blog

From the not so mean streets of M20, blog about being a dad, Didsbury and dealing with parental confusion

Archive for the tag “NHS”

The Night Formerly Known As Parents’ Evening¬†

30 years ago, September 1986 a revolution started in classrooms, led by 14/15 year olds. This was no Punk ethic, New Romantics had cried their eyeliner away and chances were if you had a beard you were a teacher – not a graphic designer. GCSE Electronics Multiple Choice Question.

In September 1986, inspired by General Noriega and the stormin’ Norman Shwarzkopf, the then Home Secretary was Keith Joseph. He was a man whose caricature was less scary than reality. He killed off O’Levels and unleashed GCSEs ready for 1988 (a very bad year for football). 

30 years on I inherited the garbled, evolved, underwhelming fallout; year 10 Parents’ Evening.* (the school year formerly known as 4th Year).

Didsbury Son is now in the full throes of teendom. He’s still my lovely blondini, only the blonde is now expensively applied and the adoration is squeezed in between bouts of predictable disdain, disinterest and mutual exasperation.
Parents Evenings used to be straightforward. They went out. You panicked and prepared your excuses whilst tidying your room in the hope of clemency. They came back. They unfolded a depressing tale of being sussed staring out of the window, drawing, mooching, skiving and generally being as disappointing as most teenage boys are at school. 

You could then go into school full of venom for all, which fed beautifully into teen angst. ** (apart from your one ally in either art, cookery or RE who had said what a lovely and misunderstood boy you were and you were always attentive in lessons. That is to say the one teacher you fancied and fixated upon).
This was easy. Careers advice was nil, students had no fees and could sign on and signing on itself was a career choice. 
Now it’s all wrong. The children come to talk with you. The night starts with a scare video based on the teenage brain, internet trolls and league tables. There is tea, coffee and biscuits and the tone is bizarre convention. 
Every conversation begins with handshakes and “So… Didsbury Son/Freya/Archie, how do you think it’s going?” This savage form of open questioning throws the over-sugared teens into a panic. They know the answer, we know the answer and the teacher hoping I won’t speak to them knows the answer. What follows is an excruciating dance. The teachers either gush inappropriately or hide their frustration behind anodyne comments. The teens promise to do whatever is needed; and their homework. It is an honest, heartfelt pledge that evaporates into the ether and is as likely to be done as the NHS is to get ¬£350m a day from the government. 
We troop home. Didsbury Son is relieved. With the adrenaline dripping away he reverts to teen-type and instagrams his friends as their versions of the night revert to folklore.
I get home for the last 2 minutes of Europa League football and fall into a deep sleep, safe in the knowledge that the status quo is restored and positive that the biscuits weren’t as good as last year. 

Things I Have Learned as I sail past 37 weeks

Didsbury Dad (to be)
It’s Didsbury not Stoke Newington; so I haven’t joined a Male support group. A final 30-something week scan has given me the opportunity to assess, look sniffily at and occasionally bond with the other dads. This much I have learned…

1. Getting married first is a brilliant idea. Not for moral, religious or financial reasons – it is just the training your ego needs. You are down the pecking order below baked goods and although some men will see this as some kind of virility check, you are now surplus to requirements beyond fetch, carry and handy arguing tool. Nobody is looking at you.

2. The NHS is fantastic in an emergency; sadly this is not classed as an emergency. Whilst to me this is more terrifying than relegation in 1979 and Didsbury Son keeps expecting a delivery similar to John Hurt in Alien, apparently this is normal.
That said, The League of Friends do a classy cheese on toast, microwave cuisine at its finest.

3. The scans are coded for women only. I look at the swirling dust on the screen and see clouds. Didsbury Wife and the sonographer coo over heartbeats, feet and heads. One sonogropher began talking to us in baby talk, she honestly asked if we wanted to see the baby’s bot bot. As we have all sailed past our 30s this was nauseating and surprising in equal manner.

4. Women study, work through and monitor weight gain. With Bio Oil and vitamins they look after themselves and progeny seemingly seamlessly. 9 months of running to Co-Op, Didsbury Village Farm Shop, Fusion Deli and Aldi for a glittering array of high fat, sugar and carb cravings takes it toll.
The waiting room is littered with sweet wrappers and men whose sympathy pains have stretched beyond mood swings, backache and sleeplessness to having Haribo induced bumps of their (my) own.

5. This reminds me of my O’Levels (GCSEs for children with an attention span). My head is full of dilation, epidurals, electives and milking that will soon be redundant, yet is currently my greatest stress. I woke up in a sweat last night trying to remember if Braxton Hicks was bass player in The Fall or the prime minister during The Suez Crisis.

6. My Spending at Boots and on eBay has gone through the roof.

7 Having watched them grow and felt them kick the idea that they are actually real still seems bizarre. I was trying to talk Didsbury Son through the mechanics of the miracle of birth with the help of my finger puppets Colonel Snortly the SuperPig and The Cow Who Moo. After 3 minutes we gave up, switched on Futurama and decided that we should do what we always do; what we are told.

Ante-natal scans and the football season

At some point in the next few weeks Didsbury Son will become a big brother twice over. I cannot guide him. I am the youngest in my family. He has taken the endless procession and pram talk with an openness that has been a joy to share. After an initial lip-trembling and leg-clasping reaction he is now a full member of team twins and makes plans, asks questions, gulps and cheers with the rest of us. We have practiced changing nappies on the toys and can now pick out the minutest detail on a scan picture.

It’s the pram I’m staring at, not you

Waiting for an ante-natal scan is a great leveler. All, well almost all strata of society comes through here. The really rich may have clinics with carpets and a choice of water but within the NHS it’s a sociological dream.

We had been waiting for a scan for about an hour and a half. Excited planning had descended into small talk , then sniping and eventually looking for an excuse for a row whilst redesigning the NHS.
The conversation around us ranged from the benefits of a Bugaboo over a Mountain Duet, to who’ll do the feed if it’s time for a spliff. This is where organic grocer meets Netto; where the great melting pot that is a modern city shares space, scanning gel and key stages – but looks down magnificently on the differences around them.
I notice I look at everyone in a new way. When out and about I have progressed from eying up women, through looking broodingly at their dogs, to my new hobby – checking out the pram. I know very little about cars but can talk about the wheelbase, handling and flexibility of “travel systems”. Do you know your donkey from your city jogger? I do, doh.
Travel System is the 2012 name for the Rubik’s Cube on wheels that now stands in for a pram. When Didsbury Son was a baby he had a pram and a car seat. He was safe, mobile and easy to wheel about. Nowadays, If your buggy does not have James Bond ejector seats, can swivel the baby like The Exorcist or make Fair Trade espresso whilst you perambulate your little (insert recycled Victorian name) then you will be the pariah of the support group; cast out before you have a chance to re-blow it in the school playground.The non eBay-won travel system costs an obscene amount; similar to a week with Mark Warner, a large popcorn and hot dog at Cineworld or a family trip to a Premier League – without the instant gratification or the tan / sugar-rush hangover
Last night we attended a twin induction tour which was lovely – except the midwife threw terms like catheter, snipped perineum and dilation around as though, as though, as though the men in the room were not squeamish cowards desperate to stay at the head end and receive a cordless and clean baby in a blanket.
The last time I considered the term dilation in detail was in a club toilet on a stag night, trying to work out if we could leave a friend there or should call an ambulance.

It will be downstairs at Costa once the twins arrive

I can now discuss nose-to-breast without cheap gags and I understand that gas and air is not for sharing. I have handheld, wept and beamed as the scans move from shrimp to alien to recognisable baby and, most importantly for any man – I have worked out the birthing playlist for the iPod and even decided to throw in a few tracks that Didsbury Wife likes.
This weekend the hypno-birthing partners class clashes with the first game of the season. When I took Didsbury Son to a cup final in May I joked that it would probably be the last time I would be able to do such a thing. Silly me.
In through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose…..

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: