I thought my days of sharing a home with inconsiderate flat-mates were long gone. But three months out of school and our teenagers are displaying some pretty anti-social tendencies.
I’d become fairly used to washing-up piled in the sink and late-night frivolity waking me in the early hours; but now there is a new development and it crosses the line of tolerance: one of them is drinking my booze!
Inspired by my old friend Jane, I’d bought a bottle of vodka to make flavoured liqueurs. The elderflower is already brewing nicely in a dark cupboard and there were more plans to do something with rhubarb from the garden. So about a third of a bottle was in the fridge when I went to bed. When I looked for it this morning there was only an inch of vodka left.
I shouldn’t really complain. Back in the 80s when I was a teen, drinking was quite normal from about the age of 15. I remember how clever we felt when we drank a bottle of a friend’s parent’s port – and topped it up with plonk from the local off licence. I must remember not to tell our boys that trick.
In fact, when I think about it I was a hideous flat-mate myself. I remember in my first year at Newcastle University thinking the builders outside my window were SO inconsiderate starting their noisy work at 8am – when I’d only just got to bed a few hours earlier. Later, in my 20s, I’d play (badly) my out-of-tune piano when I came home from the pub. And I definitely left more than my fair share of dirty dishes in sinks.
So I suppose I’m in no place to criticise our eldest. At least he’s doing his own washing and cooking a family meal once a week. He seems to have given up completely on his A-Levels though.
His school have only recently started providing any live teaching online – and getting Google Meets to work on his laptop has taken us over a week. For most of the last three months, emails have been piling up in his inbox suggesting articles to read and essays to write. But he’s a 16-year-old boy not yet mature enough to realise how little he knows or how to organise his time to study effectively on his own. And of course anything I suggest is automatically wrong.
Today the government announced a £1bn Covid catch-up plan for schools. I’m glad they realise there’s a problem, but I don’t envy teachers and schools working out who needs help and how to offer it. Socio-economic factors will play a part, but so will children’s different personalities and peer-groups. For example, my youngest has friends who are largely keeping going with the school work set and that makes him want to do the same. For our eldest, the opposite is true. Our boys have the same parents, the same home environment, the same access to computers, but a very different experience of their schooling during lockdown.
Our boys are in years 10 and 12 and are due to take GCSEs and A-Levels next year, but they will have missed, in effect, about half a school year. I’m beginning to think the fairest thing would be for this whole cohort of children to re-do this academic year. Just forget 2020 ever happened. That might work for all of us.