Day 2 of our ‘Northcoast 500 in Scotland trip has started fairly well. We’ve waved off MrytleBank Guest House in FortWilliam. The staff were very friendly, with their ‘wee this’ and ‘wee that’; the view from our room was stunning; and the facilities were excellent (just as well as we were all obliged to stay inside yesterday afternoon and channel hop between the cricket and the tennis.) The tyre swing was a hit with my kids (yes, I know they are allegedly grown up), so all is well in our world. The locals keep telling us to enjoy the beautiful weather, but I did nip into the town this morning to buy a new, very reasonably priced fleece, just in case the breeze picks up. We are in Scotland after all.
My plan had been to wear my landrover t-shirt (a gift for Mick that was too small!) for a departure shot each morning in front of Lazarus, but I’ve realised that this will create a whiffy rather than cool vibe so I’m having to rethink that idea. I’m feeling a little nostalgic as I love this time with just the four of us, but wondering how much of this ‘same same’ we can have with the kids before the ‘different’ starts. I’m starting to wonder if we are quirky ‘holiday makers’ or if all families are like ours. What do you think?
Same Same - Family
Different - Family
So the results are in. Our drive to Edinburgh (on results day) for a weekend break was tinged with nerves and trepidation. We are lucky. Betsy did well so will be heading off to York University in September! I say lucky, but I don’t want to detract from how blooming hard she worked. Well done Bets!
(Just before I go on - if your child hasn’t received the grades they hoped for, take a look at my earlier blog post for helpful hints about what to do. I know it is easily said, but it really isn’t the end of the world so keep positive. I say that from some experience - I didn’t do marvellously well in my A Levels and ended up at Essex University rather than my first choice of Reading. Looking back I wouldn’t change that for a second. During my time at Essex I made great friendships, did lots of travelling and fine-tuned a life-long passion for reading. In addition, I met my future husband. Don’t get the vomit bucket out as I’m not going to gush about meeting the love of my life. Rather, I’ll draw attention to the fact that without him working in the recruitment department of British Telecommunications in Colchester I’d have never got an excellent temping job in the Pensions' Department of B.T. Consequently I wouldn’t have saved enough money to complete two round the world back-packing trips, giving me a thirst for life overseas!)
Betsy spent the final part of the journey to Edinburgh on the phone to her friends sharing exam news. I was impressed with how gracious the kids were to each other in their discussion of results. Once that was done her next self-assigned task was to share her news with her teachers and Math’s tutor. I think that her eagnerness to do this is testament to what a great educational experience she’s had. Thanks Bangkok Patana School and Mr T.
Annie's made a video of her trip. It took her all of 5 minutes! You'll easily spot the bits I'd edit out, but it's nice to have as a keepsake.
My first reaction to Betsy having acquired what she needed for university was relief rather than jubilation. Mick did better than me at feeling unadulterated joy and pride, whereas my emotions were more mixed - kind of nostalgia, pride and a sense of loss all mixed up together. I had the craziest of dreams on Wednesday night. It was something to with stars being turned off and me rushing to turn them back on. (That was along with a load of other stuff, but ‘they’ say that other people’s dreams are boring so I won’t bother sharing.) I dream a lot but they are never very subtle. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that this dream was all stuff tied up with anxiety that my baby girl is leaving home! I can imagine Saint Mick eye-rolling now – at least enjoy the results for a couple of days before fretting about next steps!
I suppose if I think about it I’m being a bit (a lot) selfish. Never mind about worrying whether Betsy will be homesick and enjoy her course, let’s make it all about me! Did I really sit in a restaurant with the family last night and insist that they help me plan out what I might do to starve off the sense of loss and make a new life for myself next year sans kids, sans job sans all… ? Yes I did.
Empty Nest Syndrome
I didn’t really come up with any answers but here are a few ideas to starve off ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’.
Travel. If you are lucky enough to afford to do this then take weekends away with your spouse and reconnect. Don’t feel guilty about this but enjoy the ‘couple time’.
More Travel. Again, if you are lucky enough to afford to do this then take weekends away with your mates. Set the world to rights, share your news and moan about your spouses to your hearts content. (I don’t mean that last bit - not really!)
Treats. To be honest I haven’t let having kids at home prevent me from lots of treats, but if you haven’t found time for massages, shopping trips, walks in the parks and curling up with a good book, now is the time.
Write down your Goals. When I was working I always wrote down my days ‘must do’ tasks and after quitting work and feeling a bit list for a while I started it again. Once both girls have left home I think to keep my sense of equilibrium this is going to be even more necessary.
Keep Perspective. The kids are going to Uni not the moon. You can text, phone, face-time, send postcards and letters (when Annie left I sent her a postcard twice a week for the first year.) During the second year I didn’t send any. Is it very bad to admit I couldn’t quite be bothered!
Hobbies. Personally I find this a little bit wishy-washy and twee. It’s going to take more than Betsy leaving home for me to hone my knitting skills sufficiently to make myself an arran jumper (you can tell I’ve just been in Edinburgh), but I think a hobby, along with a personal goal can be effective. For me I’m going to not let my swimming slip and I’m even thinking of doing that zero to five km running challenge. I need to research it more first – haha!)
Read. Best escapism in the world. Use goodreads to set a ‘reading challenge target.
Last Times. When Annie left home I thought it would be the last time we did lots of things together – last summer holiday together, last road trip, last time she ‘still belonged to me’, last picking up after her, last … Not so. Talk about blooming melodramatic! My mum said to me “Let her go and she’ll come back.” Did I tell you that my mum is a very wise lady!
Diary Writing. Even though I still had Betsy at home I really was gutted when Annie left. Specifically, my anxiety about her safety was through the roof. One way I managed these negative emotions was keeping a diary devoted specifically to exploring them. I call it my ‘Annie book’. I didn’t really come up with strategies there and then for handling the feelings, but found that writing them down helped counter the worry and enabled me to focus on what a bloody brilliant independent young woman she is. I think this time round I am more aware that it is ok to be sad.
In a similar vein, I’m feeling a little more together now I’ve thought through this. I might even give the kids and Mick a bit of attention instead of solely focusing on me! The drive home from Edinburgh is saturated in anticipation and pride at what they’ve all achieved and what is yet to come. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but I think I’ve, at least, made a step in that direction.
It’s time to dump Tim. Mick picks out Sexy Serena as our new SAT Nav Guide. I object and choose the more straitlaced Jane, she has a direct, no-nonsense, trust me voice. I think she sounds reliable until I hear her lilting and teasing ‘roundabout’ inflection. Can we really count on her to get us to our destination? Our first family trip for a while and our first road trip in the UK for absolutely ages. We’re in Mick's new Landrover. No comment!
We’re leaving Broughton in Lincolnshire and heading to 'Broughton Place' in Edinburgh for two nights. Home from home perhaps, perhaps not. Mick announces that he is unimpressed with the bed and breakfast we are going to. I agree. The reception staff’s clipped English pronunciation phone voices and ‘the computer says no’ approach to changing the date of our trip was not the Scottish welcome we were hoping for. Our stoicism, or is it stubbornness, is admirable. Fine - if we can’t change the booking we’ll bloody use it, even if it means listening to Mick’s Scottish accent all the way there.
Jane claims it is only a four and a half hour drive to Broughton from Broughton, but the AA Breakdown Insurance, prudently joined prior to departure, claims it is six. Time will tell.
It is, of course, peeing it down with rain.
We’re four minutes into the journey. I have eaten a bag of prawn cocktail flavoured Walkers crisps and I’m halfway through my first cheese and cucumber sandwich. Delicious, though already a little squashed. I’m not greedy, it’s just that whilst the rest of the family lingered over coffee, muesli and yoghurt, I was forced to frantically tidy the house. Everyone knows that towels need to be straightened and the toilet bleached just in case burglars pop by. We do have standards. I wish we had some wholenut chocolate to munch on. How far is it to the first ‘pit stop?’
Eight minutes into the journey. We’re greeted by a flurry of traffic cones closing off two lanes of traffic and get stuck behind a big yellow van driving in the remaining single lane. It’s driving slowly, very slowly. Time for another sandwich.
The kids are bickering: “She’s lying to you.” High-pitched squeaks and giggles.
I’m making factual observations about the new (23 years old) car.
“It’s steamed up in here.”
“Well open the window.”
“Surely it has a de-steamer thingy.”
Annie announces she will take music requests later but she is starting us with a ‘chill’ playlist. I’m not sure what a playlist is, but it is soothing. So far we’ve listened to Stop This Train by John Mayer, Beyond by Leon Bridges and Top of My List by Lime Cordial (I’d never even heard of them before!).
Twelve minutes into the trip and Mick asks for a can of diet coke. He has to shout above the engine noise, though he denies this. Perhaps it will settle down into a purr soon - the car, not Mick, though the idea of a purring Mick amuses me. The request for the can of coke is relayed to the back and the can is retrieved and passed forward from the big green eski-bag. It is refreshingly cold. I silently reflect that even the ’50s perfectly coiffured housewives, unlike me, probably didn’t always remember the eski-freezer packs. A fleeting sense of smugness coarses through my veins. Mick delights in having found a little spot in the dashboard to keep his can of diet coke in. And he raves, “as it is in front of the vent, my drink will stay cold as well as upright!”
He loves his car. I almost smile.
Jane tells us to take the exit and meet the motorway. Delay signs flash aggressively at us in orange text.
As a family of four we’ve had hundreds of road trips. Our first ones were also in a landrover back when we lived in Tanzania twenty odd years ago. We gave it a name – Larry. This isn’t like us, we’re not the car naming types, but in memory of Larry, it seems only right that we give our new landrover a name too. Lazarus fits.
I remember distinctly breaking down in Larry, near Morogoro National Park. I was left with my parents and a six month old baby as Mick headed off into the unknown seeking help. His final action before he left was to pass my dad an extremely large, heavy spanner, “just in case”- in case of what? Eventually, we were towed home in the dark on a busy motorway. The car lights gave up the ghost and my poor mum waved a flag out the back window of the car alerting other traffic of our presence for the duration of the journey. My parents didn’t visit Tanzania after that. This trip down memory lane makes me worry a little bit about Lazarus’ reliability, though to be fair, so far we are bombing along.
We have now got things ‘off to a tee’, so whether you’re travelling with a seven month old or a seventy year old, if you follow these tips you will be guaranteed a good journey, even in a landrover as old as time itself.
I just asked Mick for more tips about how to make journeys smooth and enjoyable. From his sarcasm soaked driver's seat (and why does he always insist on driving anyway?) his response was to suggest that the driver requests silence from the passengers. I’m not sure if that is because of the racket the karaoke queens are now making in the back seats. He’s now trying to back track and claim he was joking! We’re an hour into the journey, so it is definitely time to stop for chocolate and to remember that we are on holiday!
The IB Results will be with us tomorrow; it’s a little bit like waiting for Christmas day only you really don’t know what Santa will bring. He won’t necessarily reward kids for being good and hard-working! I noticed that Betsy seemed a little bit out of sorts yesterday and couldn’t quite figure out why. Don’t get my wrong it was nothing that a sing-a-long in the Land Rover on the way back home from her Nanna’s didn’t set right, but I guess she is starting to feel a bit nervous!
Yesterday I had re-visited my own book to explore what to do for preparing for university if her results are pleasing. Today, I’ve just read the next couple of pages to get some tips about what to do if the results don’t quite live up to expectations.
Disappointing Results. If tomorrow your child is disappointed get that ‘brave face’ out of its box and have Option B at the ready. If they are just a few points short of what they hoped to achieve then get straight in touch with your school’s IB Coordinator and/or College Counsellor who will have advice to share. Have the contact details ready and act promptly. It is definitely worth calling universities to ask them to reconsider their offer.
Don’t Assume it’s in the Bag. Bets is hoping to go to the UK, but in some countries eg the USA, places are offered on an unconditional basis before results are released. There is a slim chance that universities can rescind offers so whilst I don’t want to be all doom and gloom just be aware that this could happen. In this case you might need your best negotiating skills at hand to persuade the Admissions Officers to change their mind.
Encourage Independence. This one is hard for me as I’m such a micro-manager, but I guess it makes sense to encourage your kid to be independent when sorting out university entrance problems. Ideally, they should be the one making contact with university Admissions Officers.
Self-Promotion. Encourage your child to sell themself. Have them create a list of all the things that they can say to the person at the other end of the phone about why they ought to be accepted on a course. In cases where students are close to achieving their predicted grades university places are often still awarded, especially if the applicant can make a convincing case on the phone for why they should be allowed to attend.
Stay Positive. In the UK it often takes a day or two for a university to make a decision about whether to accept a student or not. Try to stay positive and be patient. Easily said and very hard to do! I’d say keep busy.
Not Quite There. If your child narrowly misses attaining their predicted score then they will probably have enough points to automatically be offered a place at their second choice of university. In this case do all you can to make the second choice become the favourite after all! However, if they narrowly miss the points needed for this they will be entered into the University Clearing Process. This opens in August and aims to match students to unallocated university places. Most other countries don’t have such a centralised system and you are far more likely to find yourself negotiating with universities directly, so we’re in a good position from that respect.
Re-Marks. It is possible to have exam papers re-marked. If the grade is changed then this is free, if not then you will need to pay. The IB Coordinator will be able to assist you in the process for doing this. Be warned that marks may go down as well as up so take advice from school about the exam papers you wish to have remarked. It is useful to know how close your child was to the next grade before appealing.
Re-Sits. Know prior to Results Day whether re-sits are possible at your child’s school. I’m really hoping that we don’t have to do this as statistically re-sits tend not to be so successful. I think everyone has lost their mojo for doing well. Re-sits take place in November, so unless you child is going to Australia or New Zealand that means a year’s delay.
Gosh, I think my blood pressure is going up again but really that’s all I have to say about managing this situation. I’m trying to avoid being glib by suggesting that if things go badly then the IB can stuff their results up their … or anything so coarse!
Hopefully this will be the least useful post I’ve ever written and parents and students across the nations will be jumping for joy! As I said yesterday, though, it isn’t the end of the world if things go badly. I think whatever results will emerge our kids will be in need of a big hug. It might also be good to distract them from obsessing about them. We’re going to be driving to Edinburgh in a very old, noisy and uncomfy Land Rover. I’m hoping hours at the roadside waiting for the AA won’t be our form of distraction but you never know…
To all IB (and in August) A Level students and of course mums and dads. Good luck with your results.
As a family we are going up to Edinburgh at the weekend. Saturday is also the day that Betsy is due to get her IB results - yikes! We've been saying we will need to be somewhere with good internet access and phone reception, both for receiving the results and completing any follow up emailing or phoning regarding university places.
This is probably going to sound a bit daft, but I genuinely have just revisited my own book (co-written with Lorraine Illing and illustrated by NokIsMe), giving advice for parents surviving the IB. I needed to find out what to do both in the positive situation that the results are what Betsy hopes for, or in the (fingers crossed this won't happen) sticky situtation if they are not.
It is hard to believe that it is two years since Annie went through the IB and Betsy completed her IGCSEs, yet here we are again. Annie has already had her results for her second year at UCL, and all good there (well done Anniepops!), but I can't pretend I'm not nervous about Betsy's IB. It's a gruelling course, entailing studying six subjects along with completing Community, Action and Service based activities and doing a 4000 word Extended Essay plus some Theory of Knowledge learning too - great preparation for uni but a blooming challenge and no mistake!
Anyway, I've decided to focus on the positive in this post. If you've not been through the IB before, (and I'm pretty confident A levels are similar) these might be useful tips for next steps if the results your child receives are what they need to go university.
In the next few days, check out the process for accepting university places. If your child's results are available online, eg at the IBO website, make sure that they know their username and password and what time they are available. Don't panic if the site goes down, there will be massive demand on the server so you might need to wait a bit for them. Have the correct info to hand for applying to university and accessing school support. This is especially important if, like us, you are not going to be at home.
Check your Correspondence
Once your offspring has accepted a uni offer make sure that they keep up with the correspondence from them. It is easy to neglect emails in the summer. Be careful not to as you can miss out on important information such as accommodation offers, health care information, activities and insurance.
With the accommodation Annie was contacted by university catering and accommodation departments to make or confirm choices about the type of room and the catering options they offer. If this doesn’t happen then don't wait too long before contacting the university accommodation department yourself. Worldwide, first year students and particularly international students are given priority for accommodation on campus or in the city near the study areas. I'd recommend finding out when registration for accommodation opens as for some universities it is distributed on a first-come first-serve basis.
It is likely that your child will be given loads of info about things s/he can join. I'd encourage signing up now and engaging in uni social media groups. Your child will probably be invited to join the Student Union facebook page which will have lots of information about Freshers’ Week and upcoming events.
Health Care Provision
When Annie went to uni getting signed up at a Health Centre was a pain, so once you have a place it might be worth getting this done early, or at least setting the wheels in motion. It's also worth checking any vaccine requirements the university stipulates.
If your child does super well then they might be eligible to apply for a scholarship. If you receive good news on 'exam results day' then be sure to double check for this perk, as that would be lovely.
Blimey, writing all that, has just made me nervous all over again about the results. The kids put so much pressure on themselves, these days, that probably the biggest tip of all is to make sure that whatever happens, your child is reassured that if the results aren't quite what they'd hoped for then it isn't the end of the world. Of course, we want our kids to do well, especially if they've bust a gut to do so, but at the end of the day, life will go on. There's no way, in my view, that young people should feel defined by their school exam results. Gosh that sounded quite sincere for me. Time for a reality check - looking around our living room Annie is lying on the sofa wearing Christmas pyjamas, nagging her dad to set up his new scalextric set. I'm thinking that a bike (to enable healthy living) might have been a better present and am a tad regretful of my rashness re the purchase of aforementioned scalextric! Betsy, on the other hand, is in trouble for using bad language whilst watching Love Island! The nerves have abated and normal service resumes.
Finally, once again if you are interested in buying A Parents' Survival Guide to the IB do get in touch. At 6.99 it's worth every penny. Once you've finished with it you can donate to your school's library!