It was my wedding anniversary today (23 years!) and I was very lucky to receive a lovely card and gift from the old fella. This has gone hand in hand with compliments and kindness throughout the day. I’m feeling a bit guilty though as, whilst I am fairly sure I had bought Mick a card, at some point, it was nowhere to be found this morning. I really don’t know what happened to it. The same goes for my gift for him - also missing. I can explain this; it hasn’t yet been purchased or thought about and realistically isn’t ever likely to be. Why do we have celebrations anyway?
Are Celebrations Important?
ItI'm not sure that celebrations are so important really. It's not so interesting, but actually Mick was pretty exhausted today as had only just arrived back to Bangkok from UK, incurring a 6 hour delay on the way. I think all he really wanted to do was sleep. Despite this, he made an effort and even donned a pair of long trousers, to take the hour and half trip into town, to eat at a restaurant I had wanted to try. We went for coffee and cake afterwards, but by mid-afternoon I was just a bit bored of all this togetherness. I asked him if he minded if I went for a massage with a friend which he didn’t. It wasn't a question of him not sharing as he has shown me he does in lots of ways. and is often part of my grateful reflections.
Once home we companionably watched Coronation Street and GoggleBox together. I know, living the dream right! I didn’t interact with him very much, though, as I was distracted with writing this blog post. He didn't mind being ignored too much!
Now, I’m not gushing about Mick’s easy-going nature and, should a self-defence be required, I had booked a vegetarian restaurant I thought he would really like. (I’d have preferred a steak to the mushy mushroom mix that passed as my burger.) Regardless, it does seem that just possibly I might have possibly been just a little blasé in my ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude to our anniversary. After all, I wouldn’t pretty much ignore my friend’s birthdays or my parents’ anniversary and I would have not have been happy if Mick had forgotten. I can’t decide if I’m being lazy or sexist (in assuming he won't care about cards and gifts), or both! It seems that there are some double standards at play. I won’t even get into how it is ok for me to sit quietly reading for hours on end, but then complain that Mick is too quiet the minute Leeds United start to play.
Mothering Sunday Celebrations
Anyway, it’s Mothering Sunday tomorrow in the UK. My kids are grown up, so in no way is it Mick’s job to remember and celebrate it. Will I mind if he doesn’t? You bet I will!
Tiger Parent or Alley Cat?
I was having an on-line catch up with a teacher friend the other evening and asked her what her holiday plans were. She explained that they weren’t going away as her daughter was revising for her IGCSEs, so it made sense to stay home. I know for myself the pressures of our kids studying hard and I quipped that she was being a ‘Tiger Mum’, to which she responded more like a ‘Soi Cat Mum’ (alley cat to non-Thais). A laugh out loud moment! Of course, my friend was being neither a tiger parent or an alley cat. Rather, she was being a good mum, creating a positive learning environment for her daughter, in which she could prepare well and fulfil her maximum exam potential. Oh Lordy – I sound like such a sincere teacher-y type some times!
Amy Chua’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’
The text chat got me thinking, as some years ago I had read Amy Chua’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ from which the term Tiger Mum’ is coined. I'm going to extend it to Tiger Parent. For those who don’t know the book it is a brutally honest self-reflection by a Chinese mum about her own parenting style, part of which includes her determination to make her daughters excel, particularly in music. The focus is on Sophia and Lulu who have no time for play-dates or fun, but rather are forced to put all of their energy into learning the violin to a very high standard. When the girls were not being ‘bullied’ into extensive practising, then they were being forced to excel in other areas such as learning Mandarin. It’s only gym and drama that seemed to not really matter!
The book was a good read and made me consider the difference between eastern and western approaches to learning and education. It also got me thinking about whether I am a tiger parent. As an international schoolteacher and mum, whose kids have friends from across the world, it encouraged me to reflect on what are cultural stereotypes and what are, in fact, cultural norms. At the time of reading, I was hesitant about sharing my conclusions. (Is it just me, or does anyone else spend half their lives worrying that they are being unwittingly racist or at least culturally ignorant?) The truth is, though, that I had a lot of sympathy for the Tiger Mum. She had sacrificed her own interests, money and devoted all of her time and energy to her kids, only, to some degree at least, to have her efforts thrown back in her face (eugh – cliché!) when, at the end of the day, she only wanted what was best for her children and for them to be successful (more clichés!) I think though the mum's definitions of what constituted success was flawed. The reader also questions who owns the success. Was it the girls, the mum herself, or the societal group of which they were a part?
What is Success?
The question of what success means to different cultural groups is a big one. I remember teaching an IB TOK lesson and tiptoeing around the edge of a discussion on ‘what makes success in different cultures?' I was afraid of exposing myself as an ignorant believer of stereotypes, (rather than the multi-culturally sensitive, open-minded balanced facilitator of stimulating and thought provoking discussion I had been aiming for!) I needn’t have worried; the kids were prepared and eager to discuss the extent to which their own and their parents’ family expectations and values and definition of success were derived from culture and whether this did, in fact, adhere to a cultural stereotype. If you’re wondering … yes … some Asian kids' parents did have aspirations for them to become engineers or doctors and felt anything less than an A star was a fail and yes.. some Western kids' parents were simply not bothered, or just wanted them to be ‘happy’! I think though the similarities and differences between views of what constituted success differed enough, within and between cultures, (derived from my very small sample of students) for me to be unable to draw any firm conclusions. How’s that for a bit of ‘fence sitting’ and ‘playing it safe’!?
What I do feel certain of, and I can think of a few teacher friends who will regrettably agree, is that in international school environments, there is no chance of Tiger Mums or Tiger Dads (Tiger parents) becoming extinct any time soon! It is probably fair to say that their existence is not culturally specific, transcends all nationalities and annoys most teachers!
As I was thinking about this blog post I left my eldest daughter in London a message asking her if she could think of examples of where I’d been a ‘tiger mum’. I was afraid she mightn’t have forgiven me for forcing her to attend her swimming group, ironically called Tiger Prawns, far longer than she had expressed any interest whatsoever in doing so – let no daughter of mine be a quitter, not even when they have to compete with tears in their eyes and a tummy bug about to erupt in the pool! She didn’t call back, as she was busy attending to business in her role as Social Secretary of the UCL Swimming Club she adores being part of. I rest my case! She did send a quick text though and told me that I hadn’t been too bad in the ‘Tiger Mum’ area. I haven’t yet asked about the areas I had been bad in, but for now I’m going to let myself off the hook!
What is Middle-Aged?
How you know you're Middle-Aged
IOne of the things I used to love about watching Men Behaving Badly starring Caroline Quentin, Lesley Ash, Martin Clune and Neil Morrissey was how they created humour from exploiting clichéd stereotypes. I remember an episode where the characters Gary and Tony were horrified about the idea of Dorothy moving in with them. The fear was that Dorothy would make their place too girly and fill it with cushions. Sure enough, at the end of the episode there were` Gary and and Tony sitting on the sofa, beer in one hand, and cushion in the other, begrudgingly accepting of their changed circumstances.
Humour was also derived in the sit-com from mocking old people in their cardigans and slippers, and not being able to get up from a chair without emitting something between a sigh and a grunt. (If you’re over 40 you’ll know what I mean, if you’re not then listen to the next person over 40 you know as they stand up from a chair.) I laughed along merrily, little knowing that, it would be but a blink of an eye before I became that middle-aged cliché, showing my age! For example:
Are you Middle-Aged too?
So, yes, without a doubt I'm ‘showing my age’ with a few quirky behavioural traits. Empty-nesting also reveals the same about me! Are any of them familiar?
Sal (self-outed as fifty and proud!)
The Best Airport
I am just recovering from the jet-lag of having recently found myself back on a plane, (I do seem to spend quite a lot of my time saying goodbye) This time I was flying direct to Bangkok on British Airways from the expansive and imposing Terminal 5 at Heathrow, rather than via Schiphol, with KLM from dinky little Humberside airport. It got me thinking about which is the best airport?
The Advantages of a Local Airport
The advantages of travelling from a local airport such as Humberside are many. For example:
The Advantages of an International Airport
Equally though a large airport also has its positives. For instance:
Heathrow Airport Wins
Swings and roundabouts eh! The reality is that, for me, the small airport beats a larger one every time, although the advantage of non-stop does lure me back to Heathrow from time to time, along with the chance to catch up with eldest student daughter in London. This trip Annie and I had a lovely catch up together without me being too annoying (I think!) and even managed to go watch #Matilda in the West End. Being afforded the opportunity to be spend time is something that I am very grateful for. For this reason, Heathrow airport, always wins. So in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator Heathrow, “I’ll be back!”
Ways to Say Goodbye
Nowadays I seem to spend half of my life saying cheerio, either to friends and family in Bangkok and Broughton, or witnessing others say goodbye at train stations and airports. In fact I’m starting to feel like I am living that scene in the credits at the end of Love Actually, an array of touching and heart –warming reunions amongst family and friends. The difference is I’m doing it in reverse and focusing on the goodbye, rather than the re-union part, which makes it a bit sad and lacking the feel good factor of the film! On the plus side, I feel I have become quite the expert on the different types of farewells that exist.
THE AVOIDANCE. The avoidance farewell consists of statements such “I’ll be off then,” or “see you in a bit,” delivered in a nonchalant tone which may suggest that a trip to the local co-op is the order of the day, rather than a lengthy separation. If THE AVOIDANCE is not entirely successful it can be supplemented by claims of there being a high pollen-count, to account for otherwise inexplicable watery eyes.
THE DRAWN OUT. These consist of frequent repetition over a long stretch of time of, largely unnecessary directions, instructions and reminders, such as the “what time is your bus leaving?” and “don’t forget your passport” type phrases.
THE GREEN EYED MONSTER. These consist of carefully crafted questions covering thinly guised criticisms of details of departure times, travel routes and transportation methods, of those who have some resentment about your departure.
THE BACK SLAP. This is a recent farewell having largely replaced THE HANDSHAKE. It is reserved for use my men of 40 plus years. This technique is sometimes used alongside or replaced by the shoulder bump. It’s like how high fives have been replaced by fist bumps!
THE SOB. It is fear of THE SOB that leads to the frequent use of THE AVOIDANCE. It is though, far more frequently used by those in a ‘break-up scenario’ or those with a weakness for watching weepy movies.
THE PDA. The use of this is for exclusive use by ‘love’s young dream’. It may be activated for farewells as short as popping to make a cup of tea.
THE DENIAL, also known as the Paul DANIEL(S). This is the easiest of farewells. An advanced form of the AVOIDANCE, it involves simply disappearing, like magic, without any mention of leaving.
THE AFTER EFFECT. This can often be used with either the AVOIDANCE or the Paul DANIEL or even the BACK SLAP. It can be delivered through any form of social media from voice message to Facebook to share emotion. It does come with a health warning that it should be used with caution after alcohol consumption as it can lead to an outpouring of too much emotion.
THE SELF-ABSORBED. This is a farewell to be wary of receiving. It involves loud exclamation of “how much you will be missed”, a show of tears and much noise in public places. In this respect it is not dissimilar to the self-absorbed. The person delivering the SELF ABSORBED usually makes a quick recovery, shows no long term ill effects from missing the departed, and can be found in the bathroom touching up their makeup.
THE PACKAGE. This is a loving and well-organized farewell by the non-traveller for the traveller, with a similar psyche to those likely to participate in the AVOIDANCE. It is non-vocal and consists of providing enough sandwiches, cakes, and drinks to feed the traveller, not only for the duration of their journey but several weeks after their arrival. It is often, but not exclusively, afforded to student offspring and has been known to go hand-in-hand with twenty-pound notes.
The type of goodbye you use will, of course, depend on personal circumstances and situation. Anyone who knows me will easily guess that my own preferred ‘goodbye’ is probably the AVOIDANCE. What about you?