Books. And their covers.

The daily school run used to be a rather sombre affair – two thirds of the journey being completed in a deeply resentful silence born initially out of sibling conflict, and then cemented by maternal rebuke!

Having first barged passed each other on their way out to the car (often accompanied by some strategic ‘following through’ of the elbows and / or feet) the incessant verbal needling would then begin, serving as a brief prelude to one (or both) of them dealing a meaningful blow – and all of this before my key had even turned on the ignition! No amount of adjustment to the morning routine seemed to dilute the intensity of their testosterone charged rivalry and I used to arrive at work wondering quite where it had all gone so horribly wrong!

Now that my eldest is responsible for making his own way to school, however, the school run has changed beyond recognition. It has become a conversation rich environment in which my brain is frequently left scrambling for answers that are (almost) equal in quality to the myriad of questions posed by my youngest son. Being someone who deals in facts (rather than opinions) and takes things literally, he used to struggle to understand the meaning behind commonly used figures of speech. However, dogged determination on his part (no doubt bolstered by an unrelentingly competitive streak) has meant that he is now able to casually toss one or two examples into sentences of his own – delivered, I might add, with a generous helping of conceit!

One early example of the kind of confusion that can easily arise from speaking figuratively, was when (in response to a damning assessment of one of his classmates) I cautioned him not to ‘judge a book by its cover’. No sooner had the phrase left my lips than I was met with a plethora of reasons as to why the cover of a book was, in fact, a useful tool for deciding whether to read it…

Conceding that he had a point, I have since dropped that particular phrase from my ‘repertoire’. However, I was reminded of it again today when I saw a friend’s post on Facebook and very nearly fell foul of my own cautionary advice…

My friend had uploaded a photo of a chocolate bar and the accompanying caption was along the lines of being excited about eating it later. I’ll admit that I was about to scroll on when (sensing that there might be ‘more to it’) I realised that, far from being a frivolous post about harbouring a penchant for a particular brand of confectionary, this was a touching and well-written explanation about something (or rather someone) close to her heart. In this case, that chocolate bar had been given to her daughter as a birthday gift but instead of keeping it for herself, the little girl had chosen to give it to her mum.

Further explanation is needed, however, because this is a young girl for whom life did not begin favourably. Having suffered untold sadness and neglect, she had eventually been removed from her birth mother before embarking upon the long and painful road to adoption. With the continuing love, patience and support of her adoptive parents, the healing process has evidently begun in earnest and (no longer fearful of going hungry) this little girl was happy to part with the entire chocolate bar.  

Parenting can be hard – even when your relationship with your little one began with a totally clean slate. One can only imagine how much harder it must be, when a veritable cocktail of emotional and physical trauma, deep-seated fear, and an almost blanket distrust of adults stands in the way of that crucial relationship building process. Only by having read the post in full, was I able to begin to comprehend its significance.

By all means then, use the cover as a guide – but don’t forget to read the ‘book’ in its entirety before you attempt to form a judgement of any kind.

And even then, it’s probably wise to tread carefully.      

A matter of perspective

Developing the ability to shift between different perspectives is an incredibly valuable skill and when this approach is embraced by a leadership team, it can have a profound effect upon both the productivity and wellbeing of an organisation and its employees.

It’s fascinating that the same word is used to describe the method by which an artist is able to successfully represent a 3D object on a 2D surface. By carefully considering the proportions and positioning of their subject, a skilled craftsman can alert his or her audience to the relationship between the component parts of that picture or scene.

If only it worked for stick men too – alas, the (frankly) rather pitiful extent of my own artistic capabilities…

Parents often lament the fact that their pre-schooler (or teenager, for that matter!) simply cannot see a situation from any viewpoint other than their own. But is it really any wonder, when many adults seem to be permanently engaged in the very same struggle? At least the truculent teenager is able to cite raging hormones as a mitigating factor!

Having been a teacher for a good deal longer than I have been a parent, I have always approached the boys’ Parents’ Evenings with generous helpings of diplomacy – and a determination to consider ‘both sides of the story’ before reaching a final judgement on any potentially contentious issues. After all, angry exchanges are not pleasant for either party and tend to remain etched upon the teacher’s memory long after that particular pupil has moved on.

From the mother who turned up inebriated, to the father who berated me for not awarding his son the Maths Prize (despite being a teacher of Music and English) I’ve probably ‘seen it all’. However, a former colleague once shared a story that rendered (even) me speechless, and it sums up the matter of ‘perspective’ (or a lack thereof) rather well.

As Head of Sport at an independent school, it was the unenviable task of my colleague to select a team for the weekly fixtures. Having agreed a policy of ‘Sport for All’ within her department, she was mindful of the need to give every child a chance to represent the school at some point during the term – even if this meant that the ‘more able’ had to sit the odd game out too.

Well, this was met with utter condemnation one Wednesday morning – an irate parent ‘lying in wait’ for my colleague as she drew up in the car park shortly before 7.30am. Before she had even had time to get out of her vehicle, she found this particular parent towering over her – demanding an explanation.

Drawing herself up to her full height (sadly only about 5ft 4 at best!) my colleague calmly attempted to re-iterate the school’s policy, whilst also pointing out that the child in question had in fact already played more games than any other pupil that term.

This, however, did little to appease the woman (who insisted that her child should feature in the match) and she continued her tirade for the duration of the 850m walk from the lower car park to the main entrance.

Upon arrival (and feeling suitably browbeaten) my colleague reached into her bag and produced the (offending) team sheet with a flourish. As something akin to a last resort, she thrust the piece of paper in front of the angry parent and asked her which child should be removed from the team, in order that her own daughter might play instead?

Her thinking, of course, was that this would bring the parent to her senses, realising at once just how arbitrary she was being.

The fact that this woman didn’t even flinch before making her ‘selection’ spoke volumes.     

C.S. Lewis once stated that “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing” before adding that, “It also depends on what sort of person you are”.

Once again, Mr Lewis seems to have ‘hit the nail (very firmly) on the head’!

Monsters need not apply

I’m willing to bet that most of us would admit to having been overwhelmed by the (seemingly relentless) demands of our line managers at one time or another. There may well have been periods where that (much eulogised about) work / life balance has been virtually impossible to achieve, with feelings of anxiety (laced with resentment!) having risen to near-seismic proportions.

All things are relative, of course, and so (understandably) opinion would seem to be divided as to which careers generate the most stress, present the biggest challenges or carry the greatest responsibility.

Fulfilling the role of a parent though, must arguably be one of the toughest ‘occupations’ that there is – because the stakes are so incredibly high. Granted, there is no lengthy application or interview process to undergo – and there are very few other roles where ‘no previous experience needed’ might reasonably feature in the advertisement – and yet most of us would probably question just how well we might fare in a routine performance management review! After all, children frequently test their parents’ patience to the limit – typically at a time where they have found that their logistical, problem-solving and diplomacy skills are already ruthlessly under assault – and sometimes, when our head eventually hits the pillow, we simply have to be satisfied with a judgement of ‘good enough’.

The reality, of course, is that very few job descriptions actually give a potential employee a reliable insight into what will be expected of them (once they take up that post) and, by the same token, a number of employers would probably argue that the person who seemed to be such a strong applicant on paper, has not always turned out to be the wisest of appointments.

Returning to the (unadvertised) post of ‘Parent’ though, it is important to realise that ‘one size’ most definitely does not ‘fit all’. Just as each child is very much an individual, parenting styles will inevitably vary too and as long as the best interests of our children are at the heart of our decision making, then I see no reason to be too hard on ourselves. After all, most children simply crave an environment in which they can feel safe, loved, and valued – this being, of course, the very least that they deserve.

Regrettably though, this is not always the case – the abhorrent actions of a reprehensible minority often defying belief.

The devastating story of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (so widely reported in the media this week) is a powerful (and sickening) example.

Failed by the very people who were meant to protect him, that poor little boy endured unimaginable suffering and his premature, cruel, and senseless death will be on the conscience of a great many people – for a very long time to come.

And rightly so. Because we (as a society) let Arthur down. Badly.

May you finally rest in peace, little man.

To label, or not to label, that is the question

Over the years I have met a great many parents whom, at one time or another, have faced this particular dilemma. They have come to realise that their child is struggling at school, and they have begun to take those first tentative (but necessary) steps towards seeking some kind of help and support.

In my experience, when a group of parents get together over a coffee, the conversation usually adheres to a common theme – that of parental self-deprecation (after all, how many people honestly think that they are ‘acing’ this particular role?!) interwoven with the fundamental reality that most of us just want our children to ‘fit in’, be happy and to achieve their true potential. And it’s incredibly difficult to accept when something ‘isn’t quite right’. Feelings of inadequacy and anxiety begin to surface, and it can take a while for us to work through our own emotions, let alone ready ourselves for the inevitable challenges that we will need to help our children to overcome.

Society as a whole, of course, offers very little encouragement here.

As demonstrated by some of the abhorrent behaviour surrounding England’s defeat at Euro 2020, prejudice is evidently still very much alive and well. Whether pertaining to race, sexuality, age, or religion it would seem that ‘equality’ is the luxury of the few and there needs to be a concerted effort to change this. And like it or not, with every educational / behavioural diagnosis comes a certain amount of stigma too and (whilst progress is undoubtedly being made to address this) one can understand why a parent might be reluctant to authorise a comprehensive assessment for their child, for fear of them being ‘labelled’ and therefore viewed differently from their peers.

I remember taking part in an INSET session some eight or nine years ago that was looking at the common signs of, and useful strategies to help, those children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Being a subject that genuinely interested me, I had (rather uncharacteristically) listened intently – and made copious notes too! And just as I was beginning to wonder if my child might actually be ‘on the spectrum’ too, the presenter explained that most children under the age of five would exhibit a number of the behaviours outlined and that the mean age for ASD diagnosis ranged between 38 and 120 months. My relief was palpable (the proverbial weight having been lifted from my shoulders) and I settled down gratefully to the paediatric first aid course that followed.

All these years later, I have come to realise that my reaction was ‘normal’ (but also incredibly short-sighted) and this has made me much more empathetic towards those awaiting the diagnosis of a specific educational need for their child. The very notion that one’s treasured offspring might not be able to access education (or understand social convention) in the ‘usual’ way can be difficult to accept, and it is not uncommon for parents to feel a degree of culpability either – unwarranted or otherwise.

However, I wonder if an analogy with the labelling found on an item of clothing might be worth some consideration here? After all, without such a label there is a real chance that a particular item of clothing might become damaged or (in the event of it being dramatically reduced in size) rendered utterly worthless to the wearer. By attaching a ‘care’ label to a child then (rather than simply viewing that label as a set of arbitrary instructions) there’s a strong chance that this might help to alleviate some of their feelings of confusion and inadequacy. And better still, you might just be furnishing your child with an enduring sense of self-worth too.

Moving on

Life is rather like a novel, consisting of a series of different chapters that vary in both length and intensity. Of course, some chapters are more compelling than others, but each one has its part to play in the ‘novel’ as a whole, either endorsing what went before or striking out in an entirely new direction.

Yesterday afternoon, my eldest son’s primary school ‘chapter’ drew to a close and it won’t be long before he finds himself embarking upon the next one. He is by no means unique in having reached this particular milestone, and the wide range of emotions that he has been exhibiting over the past few weeks will have been typified by countless children around the globe. Nevertheless, he is the first of my children to have reached this stage and (quite apart from having made me feel incredibly old!) it has spurred me on to record my own feelings on the matter. After all, in a vain attempt to ‘keep all the balls in the air’ we sometimes neglect to give our children the resounding endorsement that they so desperately need.   

‘Moving on’ by Gaynor Hall

You’ve learnt so much already, achieved things great and small,
Managed each disappointment, risen bravely from every fall.
You’ve nurtured each tendril of friendship, and shown that you understand
That laughter and humour don’t always suffice, so instead you’ve offered your hand.

You’ve laid the best of foundations, established healthy routines,
You know your strengths (and your weaknesses) and appreciate the value of dreams.
You’ve experienced the shame of wrongdoing, and faced your punishment well,
Each one an important learning curve, not something upon which to dwell.

Step boldly forth on your journey then, and embrace the next new phase,
(You’ll be shocked to learn just how fast it goes, that 7-year ‘secondary’ haze!)
Embrace every opportunity with courage, good humour, and joy
But don’t forget to have some fun – after all you’re still a young boy!

Believe in yourself, be honest and true, stand firm in all your endeavours,
Success is by no means guaranteed, there’ll be plenty of storms to weather.
But know that whatever befalls you – be it fortune, or perhaps a low tide –
We’ll always be right there beside you, ‘midst a surfeit of devotion and pride.

Trailblazing (of sorts!)

We’ve all come across them. Those individuals who demonstrate an enviable flair for coming up with ingenious ideas. Or those for whom pushing the boundaries to the absolute extreme, is nothing more than idle sport.

For most of us mere mortals, however, we learn to content ourselves with exhibiting professional competency, and a good day at the office tends to equate to the conquering of one’s inbox (albeit only fleetingly) whilst perhaps managing to snaffle the last Dairy Milk Chunk from that rapidly depleting tin of ‘Heroes’!

Small victories, and all that…

Imagine my surprise then, when almost 12 years ago I unwittingly found myself poised to become something of a trailblazer amongst the ranks of my burgeoning NCT friendship group.

We’d all met during the summer months of 2009 and our babies were due to make an appearance in the autumn. Our group was an impressive mix of professionals, all eager to excel at the next assignment – Parenting. We’d sat through sessions on birth plans, pain relief, relaxation techniques and feeding and we were all now raring to go.

One by one the various bundles of joy arrived (delivered, I seem to remember, with wildly varying degrees of grace and composure!) and the journey began in earnest.

Many an afternoon was spent exchanging tips, sharing concerns, and I don’t mind admitting that a wealth of delicious biscuits and cakes were consumed along the way too. And very quickly, each new mum assumed their vital role within the group. It was almost as if we’d been cherry-picked to provide as broad a skill set as possible because (rather conveniently) we had two teachers, a surveyor, a designer, two amazing creators of ‘all things delicious’ and even a readymade parent in our midst. Surely, we were collectively ‘holding all the aces’…

Now as any new mum will know, the value of having a support network (particularly of friends who are going through similar experiences) should not be underestimated. After all, there is no postpartum handbook (and each ‘model’ seems to throw up sometimes quite literally its own unique challenges!) so being able to talk things through, surrounded by sympathetic company, was an absolute blessing.

Any chance of losing those post pregnancy pounds was looking pretty slim though, my little man being only too content to sleep soundly in my arms whilst I chatted away happily – and indulged (utterly unstintingly) in a wide assortment of pastries!

In the weeks and months that followed, there was plenty of laughter, a few tears and much soul searching over what would be best for our little ones and it was an unexpected honour when I began to sense that my friends might be starting to look to me as a sort of ‘benchmark’ for parenting. My baby had been the last to arrive, and yet it seemed that all eyes were on me when it came to feeding, nappy changing etc.

Was this my chance to shine? Was I to become a much-revered model of motherhood?

Of course not! For when the cake-induced vanity eventually wore off I realised that, far from setting the gold standard for parenting, it was more a case of “Well, Gaynor’s already done that (and her baby is still alive) so it can’t be all that bad”! And so, the gradual shift from breast to bottle, cotton wool to wipes (and oh so many other guilt-ridden adjustments) began.

Trailblazer?
No.
Source of reassurance – albeit tinged with mild dismay?
Let’s hope so!

Like it or not, life’s a competition!

When I think back to my school days, a multitude of memories come flooding back. From uniform quirks to school trips, inspirational teachers to lasting friendships, special events to unforgettable sporting fixtures. And I consider myself extremely fortunate that most of these memories are happy ones.  After all, ‘school days are (meant to be) the best days of your life’, right?

Anyone who knows me can probably guess that my behaviour (whilst at school) was not always entirely exemplary… However, I’d like to think that I managed to strike a balance between hard work and harmless mischief, and that I didn’t over-step the boundaries too often. (Being able to change one’s name as a result of being ‘joined in holy matrimony’ definitely has its advantages though!)

Have you ever noticed how certain subject teachers tend to follow a particular stereotype though? Being a teacher myself, I feel qualified to say this – and I apologise unreservedly to colleagues both past and present, for the heinous generalisations that are about to follow…

You’ve obviously got your ‘arty’ types, for whom a ‘grip on reality’ has been unwittingly traded for a ‘vivid imagination’ and vast quantities of creative flair. Then there are the IT and Mathematical experts for whom a sense of humour is not (unlike the world of teaching in general) seemingly a pre-requisite. And finally, you have your PE / Sports teachers who, it seems to me, take a slightly sadistic pleasure in ‘pushing you to your physical limit’ whilst casually observing your many anatomical shortcomings. (I mean, who doesn’t try to take a short cut during the termly cross-country run? It’s just a pity that my attempt was so poorly timed as to make me look momentarily like an Olympic prospect.) However, it is the words of one such PE teacher that have remained with me all these years later, and for whom I now have a (grudging) respect.

I remember the incident well. My friend had just come last in the house cross-country competition and she was bemoaning the fact that the effort expended was hardly worth the paltry house point that she had been awarded. The teacher looked rather disparagingly at her puce complexion and, noting her laboured breathing, declared that “Life is a competition. The sooner you get used to that fact, the better.” Of course (at that precise moment) my friend was in no fit state to be receptive to such advice, but I remember thinking (even then) that this ‘Nike-clad, no-nonsense nutter’ possibly had a point!

In all honesty, my feelings on the subject haven’t really changed. After all, there can be only one winner in a competition, and only one candidate will ultimately ‘get the job’ at an interview. So, why do we have such a problem with celebrating supremacy? Shouldn’t we be preparing our children for failure as well as success? Isn’t that how we become more resilient, and learn to work that little bit harder to reach our goals?

I am, of course, frequently outvoted on this particular issue and have (regrettably) had to succumb to the ‘sticker for all’ mentality on more than one occasion. It will come as no real surprise then, to hear how secretly delighted I was to discover that my youngest seems to share my (seemingly antiquated) view on the matter. He recently refused to display a certificate that proudly stated that he ‘had taken part’, on the grounds that another one declared him the ‘winner’.

Sportsmanship (and learning to be gracious in defeat) is evidently still a ‘work in progress’!

The digital abyss

Is it really only a month since Christmas? Just four meagre weeks of ‘blended learning’ are starting to feel like a lifetime, and the extra workload is beginning to take its toll on teachers up and down the country. But before you cast your phone aside (consigning the self-pitying words of yet another ‘whinging education professional’ to the ignominy of your trash folder) I don’t mind conceding that this much eulogised, ‘blended learning utopia’, is not exactly a barrel of laughs for parents either.

Courtesy of the snow, I had the grave misfortune of spending a (mere) day and a half ‘overseeing’ my children’s home learning. Quite apart from achieving absolutely nothing myself, the sheer logistics of accessing resources, supplying the necessary stationery, finding additional reference material, and sharing the bandwidth amicably (amongst a family of four) left ‘Team Hall’ feeling more than a little jaded! The very notion that children (of primary school age) will be able to seamlessly access hours of online lessons whilst other members of their household calmly hold down a job would be highly amusing, if it weren’t for the fact that this gargantuan struggle is now a daily reality for many. And there are definitely no winners, as far as I can see!

‘Living the Dream’ was inspired by the stories of countless colleagues, desperately trying to navigate their way through the trials and tribulations of online teaching. Do let me know if it strikes a chord!   

Living the Dream

Hi everybody, I hope you’re all well.
As we enter week 4 of this virtual hell…
Did you finish your work from yesterday’s session?
Wait for it, cue a whole host of confessions!

“I couldn’t find any paper to write on”.
“My printer’s broken; there’s simply no light on”.
“I didn’t hear what you asked us to do”.
“Miss, I’ve got COVID, well that or the flu”.

Ok, not to worry, I think we’ll move on.
This is clearly a battle they think that they’ve won…
Today we’ll consider the use of apostrophes,
No doubt the signal for some new catastrophe.

Can you name both types; explain how to use them?
Contraction, possession – one mustn’t confuse them!
“Miss, my screen’s frozen, I can’t hear a word”
That’s the fourth time this week, Jimmy, don’t be absurd!

Try leaving the meeting, then joining again,
I’ll send you the PowerPoint, questions and then
You can finish the work just as soon as you’re able,
Return it via TEAMS when your broadband’s more stable.

Jimmy doesn’t answer, he’s eating his lunch –
Or playing on his Xbox, just call it a hunch!
But Edie’s on fire, answering question after question,
Completely oblivious of my hands-up ‘suggestion’.

Remember to use your virtual hands,
I’ll be with you shortly, or as soon as I can.
I do need to help all the pupils in school,
They cause far less grief, as a general rule!

Anne, can you tell me what you have just written?
It’s blatantly obvious you simply don’t listen.
We’re on question four, the one with the plurals…
Which you’d know full well if you’d viewed my tutorials!

James, please stop eating and sit on your chair.
He’s sprawled on his bed again, legs in the air…
How far have you got? Have you reached question six?
“Not yet, Miss, I thought I’d just stop for a Twix!”

Please do remember to check through your work,
The sheer lack of accuracy, drives me berserk!
I’ll mark it this evening and upload your score,
No rest for the wicked no, not anymore!

I’ll ‘see’ you all later, be ready for Science,
I’m hoping for something resembling compliance…
We’ll be looking at some foods which can cause tooth decay,
Not a moment too soon from what I’ve seen today!

“Miss, are you coming? I think you’re on duty”.
“Ben’s fallen over; his cut is a beauty!”
“I’m coming”, I call – through teeth tightly gritted,
If only I’d been just a bit more quick-witted…

I head to the playground, in search of poor Ben,
Only to discover it’s raining again.
The wound, now self-cleaning, is far from severe,
In no time at all, he’s been given the ‘all clear’.

The afternoon passes without too much trauma,
As numerous facts are presented with humour.
Jimmy returns, fresh from battles Royale,
There’s clearly ‘nowt wrong’ with his internet now!

Homework is issued, the kids have all left,
Teachers pack up, feeling strangely bereft.
Time to reflect on this changing profession,
Fuelled by drinks sipped in rapid succession!

‘Snow Day’

Since it was first published in 2014, ‘Snow Day’ by Richard Curtis has been a firm favourite within the Hall household. For those of you who haven’t read it, the blurb states that: ‘When Danny arrives at school, the last thing he expects to find is a deserted school and his LEAST favourite teacher. But that’s exactly what he does find. And what starts as the worst day imaginable ends as the most magical day of the year’. In essence, it’s a tremendously heart-warming story about finding friendship in the most unlikely of places – and my boys (and I) absolutely love it!

Over the past few days, much of Derbyshire has (once again) been shrouded in snow, and this inevitably brought back many happy childhood memories. However, as my husband and I regaled each other with various snow-related anecdotes, we were both suddenly struck by the harsh realisation that ‘Snow Days’ (complete with days off school) have effectively become a ‘thing of the past’. Courtesy of COVID (and the associated national lockdowns) the chances of a child being allowed to simply enjoy the snow are becoming increasingly slim. Remote learning is fast becoming the ‘norm’ and the teacher who finds himself unable to travel to work (owing to hazardous driving conditions) is now simply expected to calmly trade their ‘Toyota’ for ‘TEAMS’ and continue with their teaching. And so, it seemed only right and proper to pay tribute to that much hallowed (albeit largely obsolete) institution – ‘The Great British Snow Day’.  

Ode to a Snow Day

That shroud of white that doth appear
Forsaken by children, once held so dear.
Nor from the garden beckoning,
Her icy fingers languishing.

‘Tis time to draw a veil o’er thee
And venture towards technology.
The snowman spurned, the sledge bereft,
With hours upon hours of tuition left!

Those halcyon days, so free and guileless,
(Listening for school closures on the wireless)
So cruelly displaced by video lessons
And daily commutes that last mere seconds!

Oh, how we pine for those simplest of pleasures,
(Instead of fractions, or other measures)
The crunch of snow beneath one’s feet,
A well-aimed snowball yielding victory sweet!

My wintry companion! My childhood friend!
You afforded such joy for hours on end,
But now those adventures have drawn to a close,
Just another sad symptom of COVID, I suppose.

Who’d be a parent?

I woke up just this morning, determined to be bright,

And headed for the shower before the morning light

Had fully cast its splendour, on all things great and small,

But then I heard a rumpus, beyond the bedroom wall.

The sound of toys being flung about – with large amounts of force,

Doors being slammed and insults yelled until their throats were hoarse.

You’d think a nation’s army had just been redeployed,

Rather than a ‘fall out’ between two headstrong boys!

And so, I ventured forward, much wisdom to impart,

My plan to help them rationalise, polite exchange a start,

And yet the scene unfolding was enough to make you faint –

A room in utter disarray, both children mid-complaint.

I tried to be the grown-up, all calm and in control,

But as the volume rose again my eyes began to roll.

With every accusation, a counterattack ensued –

My blood began to boil and yet the cause I still pursued.

I tried asking questions, to establish facts or fault,

But every time that someone spoke, it led to fresh onslaughts!

I prised my youngest’s fingers from around my eldest’s neck,

Yet still they were connected, but where? I’d have to check.

A punch was thrown, their nails dug in – it really wasn’t pretty,

And still the insults flew about, all moist and terribly ‘spitty’!

I used my strength to separate the writhing angry bodies,

All the while making futile threats to do with cancelling hobbies.

I sent them to their bedrooms for some quiet self-reflection,

And set off, once again, a calming shower my intention.

I let the water shroud me as the tension ebbed away,

There was still a tiny chance that we could salvage our day.

Once dressed and dry (with breakfast served) I spoke of the morning’s folly,

They ate and drank (half listening) no sign of guilt or worry!

I expected some reaction, some words, a gentle nod,

But all I got were sideways glances, a silent path they trod.

They left the table demurely as I tidied their things away,

And headed out to the garden, on scooters and bikes to play.

But before any time had passed at all their ‘friendship’ (recently mended)

Hit further subtle obstacles and the ceasefire promptly ended!