The Diary of A Teenage Girl – Film Review

In an era before children could document their private lives on social media, Minnie (Bel Powley) records her most inner thoughts on a pile of old cassette tapes. It’s the 70s and she’s 14 years old and sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). The affair supposedly unfolds right under the nose of Minnie’s mother (Kristin Wiig) – a poor reflection on the mother’s child rearing skills let alone her ability to keep tabs on her own boyfriend.

Yet here we find them sitting in the kitchen, the mother unaware of her boyfriend’s predatory relationship with her daughter. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of her own insecurities and narcissism. The film plays out a sad reality that adults are often incapable of looking after themselves let alone their children. The only real maturity separating the mother from her daughter is the money she has from her first marriage. The adults have financial security to look after their children, while their emotional security is left frozen in the teenage romanticism experienced by people who watch too many back-to-back episodes of daytime soap operas. They wait to be figuratively swept off their feet by their prince, and find themselves figuratively and literally sweeping the floor of a loveless marriage instead.

Minnie’s mother Charlotte sits casually dragging on her cigarette, while Minnies attempts to digest a sandwich hoping her mother does not realise what is happening. Furthermore, Charlotte, completely unaware of the debauchery, is blindly pushing her daughter towards chasing boys. She regales stories of her own youthful exploits, especially with the girl’s father. You begin to wonder whether some form of reverse Oedipus syndrome may take place.

It’s this type of emotional neglect, born from parents own self obsession, that causes the over-sexed teens to pursue the unhealthiest of human relationships. It’s Minnie’s awareness of her own exploitation by Monroe, which becomes most unsettling. Aware enough of being a victim, yet seeking solace, validation and fulfilment of her curiosity through a brutal coming-of-age. Despite her confident bravado, plus the notion she thinks she is the seductress of the older Monroe, this is a film about paedophilia.

It’s more and more uncomfortable at every turn. Knowing it’s based on the semi-autobiographical book by Phoebe Gloeckner makes it all the more concerning yet intriguing at the same time. Handled with careful respect by Marielle Heller’s screenplay and direction; this is a film that adults, young girls and young boys should see to understand better the respect we should show each other’s emotions and bodies.

Kid #28 – The case of the stolen lippy

The twenty-eighth kid I hated held a grudge.

It was a very long grudge and gives proof to the adage that children have elephants’ memory – or so say I.  Well, at the least, they remember when they’ve been wronged, despite an inability to remember more academic tasks like how to spell; or how to add numbers.

The grudge this child held was due to the fact I’d confiscated her cherry coloured (and presumably flavoured) lip gloss. The girl wasn’t one of my student’s. I merely caught her smearing the stuff across her face as I descended the stairs to perform my weekly yard duty. I’d normally turn a blind eye to neutral lip gloss, as the crisp dry winters of England usually crack as many lips as a clumsy kitchenhand cracks saucers. But this ten-year-old trickster had no use for cherry colour or cherry flavour, unless of course she was about to seduce one of her peers or had low blood sugar, respectively – albeit in the case of low blood sugar it wouldn’t be medically recommended to eat a tub of emollients.

So it was, that I confiscated the afore mentioned cherry lip gloss and told her she could pick it up in the afternoon.

I had every intention of returning it. The problem was two weeks passed before the girl finally came to claim her lip gloss. As I opened the drawer, I had put it in two weeks before, I found nothing more than the usual collection of half chewed pens and confiscated gum. No lip gloss. It had been taken by an equally troublesome child; another mystery for another day.

“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, “but your lip gloss is no longer here.”

“Where have you put it?” she demanded.

“I put it in this drawer.”

“Well you owe me a new one,” she said.

She stormed off.

I felt a little bad that the lip gloss had been stolen, although I was hardly to know there was a high theft rate of beauty products from the stationary drawer. Probably some pre-teen, with a penchant for broken pencils, pilfered the possessions of the drawer and thought they had hit the jackpot.

Thinking nothing more of it I continued my day-to-day duties as an educator of young minds until one day our paths crossed again in the playground.

“That’s him,” exclaimed the girl to her friends. “he’s the one who stole my lip gloss”.

‘Stole?’ I thought to myself. We’re my lips particularly red and shiny? Did I look that well-presented, that I could have stolen her infantile lip enhancer? Had I been spotted picking cherries too frequently from the schoolyard cherry tree?

Presumably it was the latter. Either way this was to become an ongoing pattern.

On an intermittent basis the student would spot me in the playground and the same accusations would surface.

Months later, I was considering relenting to the harassment by replacing the lip gloss. Instead, another teacher friend had fortuitously made lip gloss with her Year 11 students at another school, during a chemistry lesson. She had some spare containers of lip gloss remaining from the lesson, so I happily took one and placed it in my top coat pocket to give to the belligerent child when our next encounter took place.

Of course, all things being even, when the girl next spotted me in the playground she had finally forgotten about the lip gloss; as did I until I next took my coat to the drycleaner and realised the entire contents of the container had melted into the fabric of my coat pocket.

So although the whole saga was probably of bigger concern to myself than to the student, if we met again in a school stairwell, I doubt I’d offer any of my own cherry flavoured lipsmacker.

 

Goosebumps – Film Review

Why are young boys so hell bent on being infatuated with the girl next door? Haven’t they heard of stranger danger? Just because they live within a hundred yards of your own house, does not mean you can start pursuing the adolescent child, of your neighbour, as a romantic love interest.

Of course this is Goosebumps, so rather than turning out to be a teenage version of American Beauty, Zachary Cooper (Dylan Minnette) finds himself face to face with the girl of his dreams and a myriad of supernatural third-wheels to his dating experience; Not to mention the fact that his love interest’s old man is R. L. Stine himself.

In the same ‘Pandora’s box’-vein as Jumanji, Zachary and his buddy Champ (Ryan Lee) recklessly open the manuscripts of Stine, while snooping for mementos they can steal from Hannah Stine (Odeya Rush) – presumably so they can stare at them dreamily while fantasising about a ghoul free future in Suburban American. Stine’s back catalogue of monstrous creations escapes from the manuscripts and subsequently wreak havoc on the city.

This setup is disappointing on two fronts. Firstly because half the appeal of R. L. Stine is his real life enigmatic persona, is brought to life in the most unlikely form of Jack Black. It ruins any notions fans may have had of the authors appearance or true existence (that is to say despite the real R. L. Stine having made a number of public appearances throughout his life, it’s easy to imagine the real R. L. Stine may indeed be merely a dark cellar full of ghost-writers).

The second disappointment is the lack of plot surrounding the escape of the monsters from the manuscripts. It doesn’t hold a candle to Jumanji in terms of overarching purpose, nor does it serve to teach adults or children any useful life lessons.

In short it provides kids with the Hollywood fallacy that you can pursue the attentions of the most attractive girl at school as long as she lives next door and despite her widowed father being a ferocious disciplinarian. Jack Black is better than this film, and the 1990’s television adaption was miles ahead of this monstrosity.

Kid #27 – Avoiding work at all costs

The twenty seventh kid I hated was a chronic work avoider.

The first day I taught him, he returned after lunch break to tell me he’d lost something very important in the playground. He then began crying.

I asked him what he had lost.

“It’s my Grandad’s war medals,” he said.

I asked him why he’d brought something so important to school.

“I wanted to show my friends,” he responded. “My grandad gave them to me as he was dying and said I must look after them. But I can’t find them in my jacket. I need to check again.”

Medals, given to a young child by their dying grandparent, were certainly a very important thing to be taken seriously. It was my first day at the office, so I did not want to have war paraphernalia lost on my watch. I allowed the boy to check his bag and jacket.

He did it very slowly and very meticulously. He managed to string it out for the first ten minutes of the Maths lesson. I let this slide, because of the importance of what he was looking for.

He did not find them, but said he’d shown them to two other boys in the class. I asked the two other boys to help him look through their bags in case it was mixed up in their possessions (*slash* stolen). Another ten minutes of looking occurred, but no war medallions surfaced.

“Perhaps I left them in the playground,” said he, the child who enjoyed avoiding any semblance of work.

Perhaps, I thought to myself. I certainly didn’t want anyone else to find them in the playground, so I allowed him to be accompanied by another student to check on the benches and under trees in the yard. He returned fifteen minutes later empty handed.

“I’ll have a look in my desk again,” he said.

I allowed this as his final attempt, as the Maths lesson came to a close.

It was then time for art.

“I can’t find the medals anywhere,” said the boy. “I think I’ll look for them later. They’ll turn up.”

What was this? An hour earlier he’d been on the verge of emotional collapse at the thought of his family heirloom being lost. Now he was resolved they’d “turn up”. I smelt a rat, but kept it to myself.

He spent the art session ignoring the set task of drawing birds, instead choosing to sketch a Lamborghini 350 GT – another successful effort at work avoidance.

As we left the classroom for the end of the day, I made a big song and dance about hoping to find the lost medals. I could see the kid beginning to squirm. He insisted it would be fine and he’d look for them at a later date.

When his grandmother arrived to pick him up, I dropped the bombshell, knowing by now it was most likely a lie.

“I’m sorry, but the medals your grandson brought to school today seem to have gone missing,” I told her.

“What medals?”

“The war medal…”

I was interrupted. The boy looked me in the eye, “Sir, it was a joke!”

Aha. It was as I’d always suspected. I really hammed it up then.

“A joke!?” I spluttered. “I was really worried. I thought you’d lost something really important. Especially since you said they’d been given to you when your grandfather was on his deathbed.”

I emphasised the last part for the grandmother.

“My husband’s not dead, and he didn’t fight in a war,” she responded.

Then she looking to her grandson, “Say sorry to your teacher”.

He would be sorry. Playing on my emotions. For goodness sake, where did he even get such a contrived idea?

As the year went on, I would force him at near to gunpoint (of course not an actual gun, because it was not an American school), to finish his work. He’d come up with many reasons not to finish work, including the need to sharpen one pencil for half an hour, the loss of his exercise book (which he’d usually hidden behind the book corner cushions), or the ever present need to urinate.

At the age of eight he would go the extra mile and urinate his pants as a way of avoiding work. His parents claimed he had a weak bladder, but we were never given any medical evidence to suggest a weakness in his urethral sphincter.

Instead he would sit there with his wet pants, looking miserable, surrounded by the musty smell of excreted liquid. He knew eventually an adult would find him and discretely remove him from the room. He’d be given sympathy and attention for his accident, beyond the realms of any praise he may ever receive for his academic work. So in his mind wetting himself became a success.

Instead of the parents finding a solution for this (i.e. potty training him or seeing a proper doctor), they simply told us to send him to the bathroom more frequently and provided us with a spare pair of trousers. It was a sad, depressing and smelly situation.

The other art of avoidance he had mastered was telling confusing stories. He never got to the point. If he did get to the point, it was jumbled somewhere in the middle.

The speech therapist even set to work with exercises aimed at getting him to sequence events clearly on cards before he spoke about them out loud.

Seeing him at work with the speech therapist showed clearly there was evidently something amiss with his processing of normal thoughts. But equally there was a cunning behind the jumbled chronology in his storytelling. This came to my attention one sunny morning detention, when one of the older children in the school told me they had been speaking with my student.

“I’ve been teaching him how to avoid doing things,” declared the older child.

“Oh yes,” I said humouring him, even though he was supposed to be reading silently for detention. “And what, may I ask, have you told him he should be doing?”

“Well he needs to create a distraction. Something that doesn’t disrupt the rest of the students and is partly about the work, but doesn’t really help with what he’s supposed to be doing. Normally by telling a long story or giving a long explanation about something, he can distract the teacher and get out of doing the work. The teacher will become interested in what he’s saying and start talking to him about other things,” he paused, with a wry smile creeping across his face. “I’m doing it to you right now.”

Touché you idiot genius, I thought to myself. But I had knowingly humoured him, so in a sense I was still the winner.

“That explains a lot,” I said kindly. “Now sit down and be quiet for the rest of this detention!”

And so it was the medal losing, pant wetting, tale telling child continued to attempt playing me like a fiddle (but not fiddling with me for a play – as that would have been inappropriate).

He was probably just a lost soul looking for a little bit of tender loving care.

But if I ever met him again, I doubt I’d decorate him with a medallion.

Kid #26 – The Bright Lights of Holby City

The twenty sixth kid I hated appeared as a baby in the television series Holby City.

This wasn’t why I hated her, but it would have been reason enough. She was eleven years old when I knew her, and the class had been asked to complete an autobiography on themselves. She chose to focus on the time when she was one week old in hospital and the casting crew from Holby City had come around the wards looking for a baby suitable for one of their two week story arcs.

Apparently as babies go, she was the perfect infant for the job; or perhaps the only one who had parents who would agree to have their child appear on one of the most banal soap operas of all time. It was most probably this early experience of fame, catering trucks and pampering, that led to her awful pre-teen personality. She could easily be described as a ‘right madam’.

At first it was unnoticeable. She was very industrious. She would complete her work, shyly answer questions in class and present artistically presented homework. However, meanwhile she was unleashing a relentless tirade against one of the weaker members of the class. It was a subversive attack, completely unseen by the adult staff. It was a series of mind games aimed at deflecting from her own insecurities. It was a batch of actions torn from the pages of The Plastics’ Burn Book in Mean Girls.

Unbeknownst to myself she could be found whispering insults to one particular girl. In the playground she was gathering together groups of girls and gossiping nonsense, when her victim was nearby. I later quizzed the girls on what had been said. It had merely been a series of indistinguishable mutterings aimed at creating paranoia in her victim. Finally it was escalating to the point where she was encouraging all female members of the year group to steer clear of the other girl, rendering her victim completely friendless.

All this was happening in such a calculated manner, it went by without myself batting an eyelid.

Luckily for everyone the classroom teaching assistant was wiser than myself and had her ear to the ground. She soon brought to my attention the reality of the situation. The teaching assistant held a few round table conferences with the girls and resolved most of the issues.

When I confronted the girl about her manipulative actions and the seriousness of bullying, she admitted to everything. But that was only because the teaching assistant had already done all of the detective work, so the girl was cornered.

I said time was too precious to be holding round table discussions if this sort of thing happened again, and I asked whether there was anything troubling her that may have caused such nasty behaviour.

It was at this point she channelled her inner Regina George and played me for a complete fiddle. She told me how upset she was that her grandmother was dying and she may not see her again because she lived overseas. I asked what was wrong with her grandmother and the girl responded that her grandmother had been sick for eleven years.

At this point I smelt something fishy. I mean, if the grandmother had lasted eleven years already, she was as likely to live as she was to die. But I gave the girl the benefit of the doubt and sent her back to work.

A few weeks later the students were sitting their practice tests for the end of year exams. Due to limited resources the tests were downloaded from past papers stored on the Internet. So the sharp students were already onto these and downloading them from the web to cheat the system.

Unfortunately the girl was not smart enough. She had memorised the answers word-for-word from the marking scheme. One particular answer stood out as being so precise, there was no way she could have come to that conclusion without having seen the answer booklet. When confronted about it, she again crumbled knowing full well that the evidence stacked up against her. She had been caught red-handed. She was now a bully and a cheat.

A few months passed and everything went quiet again. Too quiet when there’s a rat in the ranks. I was keeping close watch on her and making sure to isolate her from situations where she’d be able to cheat or psychologically terrorise her companions. But then she struck again. She was caught, by a lunchtime supervisor, telling her posy of girlfriends that her victim had been saying things about them behind their backs – certainly a classic move in the ‘mean bitch’ stakes.

And so it was that I was left with no choice but to mark her behaviour down as ‘satisfactory’ instead of ‘excellent’ on the report card.

This did not go down well with her mother who turned out to be a beastly woman, who was ten times the bully her daughter was, but did not have the fall-back of being a ‘child-star’ on Holby City to excuse her behaviour.

She stormed into my room on parent teacher evening, declaring her daughter had never been anything but excellent in previous reports. She demanded the school records be adjusted to show her daughter as an upstanding citizen.

I pointed out the daughter’s status was still satisfactory, where I could have marked ‘unsatisfactory’, but I couldn’t possibly in my right mind say her behaviour was ‘excellent’ when she’d caused a near nervous breakdown in another student.

The mother, being a queen bee parent of deflection, proceeded to blame the other child for all the misdemeanours, began questioning my professionalism in behaviour management and espoused her misinformed knowledge about the academic curriculum because as she put it, “I work in schools and I know how these things work”.

What school she worked in and what particularly she did at that school I do not know. But she spoke with the knowledge of someone who perhaps restocked the stationary cupboard once a fortnight and only had interaction with children when her own brat wasn’t been looked after by the au pair.

The meeting spilled over by twenty minutes as she refused to leave. Luckily other parents begin getting agitated when this happens, and she only got the hint to leave when there was soon a number of angry faces leering at the window because their own parent meetings were now delayed. This didn’t stop her pursuing the deputy, the following day, to have her daughter’s behaviour record adjusted to reflect what she deemed to be the appropriate grade.

The deputy was a level-headed person who politely explained to her what good manners were and ushered her back onto the street. That was the last we heard of her. Well at least until the next parents’ evening.

There were no further flair ups from this pouting pre-teen plebeian before the year was out. Well, certainly there were no incidents that I was aware of.

Perhaps there was something deeper causing her puerile behaviour, which if I’d given more time to her, I’d have been able to help her with. On the face of it, she was probably bullying because of her own insecurities about her own lack of intelligence.

Or maybe she was in fact just mean.

Or perhaps it was modelled behaviour from her mother.

Inversely, she could be somewhere now being victim to a meaner nastier bully. Perhaps I’d even have some sympathy for her.

But if we ever met again, I doubt I’d sit down to watch old VHS tapes of her Holby City appearance.

Kid #25 – The Know-It-All

The twenty-fifth kid I hated was a know-it-all who heaved a big sigh, whenever someone didn’t know the answer to something.

For example a question, regarding seemingly simple mathematical equations, would be answered incorrectly by a student. Child number twenty-five would then respond with a deep sigh followed by a phrase such as: “It’s soooo obvious”; or “Everyone knows the answer is three”; or “That’s easy!”.

To which I would usually reply: “If it’s so obvious, why don’t I send you to university”; or “Clearly not everyone knew the answer otherwise idiot Joe over here would have responded correctly”; or “Go jump in a creek, you purulent child”.

Sure these were petulant reactions to a petulant child, but he was infuriating.

He would lean back on his chair causing his eyes to roll backwards in his head. We gave him the benefit of the doubt about the eye-rolling – he claimed it was a nervous tick. More likely it was induced by a case of misplaced arrogance from his overfed lower middle-class ego that had been fuelled by the sycophants who fuelled him further with Haribos so he’d not beat them up.

If it weren’t for his intimidating physique, booming sigh and pseudo-psychosomatic eye rolling, he’d have been just another mediocre nerd who had spent a few extra hours reading some pages of an Encyclopaedia to one-up his mates.

We’ve all had to withstand such buffoonery either as children, parents or teachers. The child who memorised some large, yet ultimately useless, calculation to impress; or the fool who attended a summer school learning Latin and then enjoyed espousing the importance of prefixes derived from ancient languages; or the young hoodlum who spent every other evening swim training, so thinks they’re the next Leisel Jones, because their mother said so.

Child number twenty-five was that kind of kid. The dark reality was his show-boating was an attempt to distract from the clear eating disorder he had. He was at least three times larger than the second most obese student in the class. His mother was not obese.

She would come to parent meetings lamenting how the child never listened to her, when her husband was working away. She complained her son seemed agitated and unfocussed. In lieu of a medical degree, it was still reasonably clear that most of these things could be traced back to his high daily intake of sugar (and this was before faux dieticians Sarah Wilson and Davina McCall were publishing sugar-free books).

This is not to solely blame the child’s poor attitude on his diet. That would be unfair. He was most likely a horrible person by nature. But his mother’s constant feeding did not help. She was a sympathetic feeder, giving him what he wanted, when he wanted it. Hell, if I lived with him on a permanent basis I’d probably done the same – not just giving him slices of cake, but force feeding him the entire triple-layered chocolate sponge, Boris Bogtrotter style.

There was one particular meeting where the mother really felt at the end of her tether. I was also at mine. But as I said to the class teaching assistant, “How do you tell a mother her child is fat, and that it’s her fault?”

The answer to that question is probably to be more direct. Instead, in my ever diplomatic style, I beat around the bush. I raised with her our concern that her son had been turning up to school with energy drinks in his bag. Politely I suggested the guarana and caffeine could be a root cause for his lack of focus and any hyperactivity. She said she hadn’t given the drinks to him. He must have stolen them.

Either way, that didn’t explain the Nutella sandwiches, bags of sweets or chocolate coated sultanas he’d often bring to school. The idea he’d stolen them is as bizarrely ignorant as saying a child watched porn without their parents knowing, or cranked up thousand dollar bills on in-app purchases, or got drunk off your vintage wine cellar while you were out picking daisies. Parents should throw the television out the window, disconnect the Wi-Fi and pour the alcohol down the drain respectively. Remove temptation.

Likewise if your offspring have a sweet tooth, then incinerate all sugar-based products within a one hundred metre radius of your home. Leave them to gnaw on what they hope to be a sugar-cane chair, only to find it’s made from bamboo. They’ll be eating salad sandwiches soon enough.

If I had my time again, I’d probably be more direct with the parent, or have done some better health education in class to steer the child in the right direction. If only I’d had access to That Sugar Film, back then, things may have been different.

I’m sure the young man is growing up to be a more tolerant and intelligent person who will hopefully come to his own conclusions about his diet. Our destiny is in our diet.

But if I ever met him again, I doubt I’d suggest popping down to the local ice creamery for a catch up.

The twenty-fifth kid I hated was a know-it-all who heaved a big sigh, whenever someone didn’t know the answer to something.

For example a question, regarding seemingly simple mathematical equations, would be answered incorrectly by a student. Child number twenty-five would then respond with a deep sigh followed by a phrase such as: “It’s soooo obvious”; or “Everyone knows the answer is three”; or “That’s easy!”.

To which I would usually reply: “If it’s so obvious, why don’t I send you to university”; or “Clearly not everyone knew the answer otherwise idiot Joe over here would have responded correctly”; or “Go jump in a creek, you purulent child”.

Sure these were petulant reactions to a petulant child, but he was infuriating.

He would lean back on his chair causing his eyes to roll backwards in his head. We gave him the benefit of the doubt about the eye-rolling – he claimed it was a nervous tick. More likely it was induced by a case of misplaced arrogance from his overfed lower middle-class ego that had been fuelled by the sycophants who fuelled him further with Haribos so he’d not beat them up.

If it weren’t for his intimidating physique, booming sigh and pseudo-psychosomatic eye rolling, he’d have been just another mediocre nerd who had spent a few extra hours reading some pages of an Encyclopaedia to one-up his mates.

We’ve all had to withstand such buffoonery either as children, parents or teachers. The child who memorised some large, yet ultimately useless, calculation to impress; or the fool who attended a summer school learning Latin and then enjoyed espousing the importance of prefixes derived from ancient languages; or the young hoodlum who spent every other evening swim training, so thinks they’re the next Leisel Jones, because their mother said so.

Child number twenty-five was that kind of kid. The dark reality was his show-boating was an attempt to distract from the clear eating disorder he had. He was at least three times larger than the second most obese student in the class. His mother was not obese.

She would come to parent meetings lamenting how the child never listened to her, when her husband was working away. She complained her son seemed agitated and unfocussed. In lieu of a medical degree, it was still reasonably clear that most of these things could be traced back to his high daily intake of sugar (and this was before faux dieticians Sarah Wilson and Davina McCall were publishing sugar-free books).

This is not to solely blame the child’s poor attitude on his diet. That would be unfair. He was most likely a horrible person by nature. But his mother’s constant feeding did not help. She was a sympathetic feeder, giving him what he wanted, when he wanted it. Hell, if I lived with him on a permanent basis I’d probably done the same – not just giving him slices of cake, but force feeding him the entire triple-layered chocolate sponge, Boris Bogtrotter style.

There was one particular meeting where the mother really felt at the end of her tether. I was also at mine. But as I said to the class teaching assistant, “How do you tell a mother her child is fat, and that it’s her fault?”

The answer to that question is probably to be more direct. Instead, in my ever diplomatic style, I beat around the bush. I raised with her our concern that her son had been turning up to school with energy drinks in his bag. Politely I suggested the guarana and caffeine could be a root cause for his lack of focus and any hyperactivity. She said she hadn’t given the drinks to him. He must have stolen them.

Either way, that didn’t explain the Nutella sandwiches, bags of sweets or chocolate coated sultanas he’d often bring to school. The idea he’d stolen them is as bizarrely ignorant as saying a child watched porn without their parents knowing, or cranked up thousand dollar bills on in-app purchases, or got drunk off your vintage wine cellar while you were out picking daisies. Parents should throw the television out the window, disconnect the Wi-Fi and pour the alcohol down the drain respectively. Remove temptation.

Likewise if your offspring have a sweet tooth, then incinerate all sugar-based products within a one hundred metre radius of your home. Leave them to gnaw on what they hope to be a sugar-cane chair, only to find it’s made from bamboo. They’ll be eating salad sandwiches soon enough.

If I had my time again, I’d probably be more direct with the parent, or have done some better health education in class to steer the child in the right direction. If only I’d had access to That Sugar Film, back then, things may have been different.

I’m sure the young man is growing up to be a more tolerant and intelligent person who will hopefully come to his own conclusions about his diet. Our destiny is in our diet.

But if I ever met him again, I doubt I’d suggest popping down to the local ice creamery for a catch up.

Kid #24 – Hyperactivity

The twenty-fourth kid I hated had ADHD.

Having been brought up in a generation where ADHD was sniffed at as a cure-all for misbehaviour, I still have apprehensive cynicism when I first meet such children. Yet this child would be the child to blow numerous misconceptions I had about the condition out of the water.

To begin, he certainly had attention deficits. You would be working with him individually on a task, where he’d be acting engaged and enthused. But turn your head for a moment to give attention elsewhere, and he’d have caused mischief to another unsuspecting member of the room.

He was also hyperactive. He was always dancing (except for one occasion when he was supposed to be dancing, and then refused). The rest of the class were lined in regiment ready to commence the day and he’d be James Brown shoe shuffling, krumping or moonwalking his way up and down the line.

When he had finally been commanded to a stationary position his knee would be twitching in anticipation of his next jazz split.

But worst of all was when his ADHD manifested itself as anger. He could be triggered into full blown tantrums or attacks with very little provocation. This of course incited his peers to find various ways of chiding him into unbridled hysteria. As in adult life, psychological warfare is less frowned upon than hand-to-hand combat. So the kiddely-winks took the opportunity to create situations of paranoia which would eventual lead the child to an outburst of violence.

The fact he’d hit someone in the head was easily proven, but the jeering, teasing and subversive undermining of his character was always hard to pin point. So, inevitably he was the one who’d find himself standing in isolation outside the staff room during lunchtimes.

The general lack of acceptance led him, on a number of occasions, to create rather contrived stories. He was forever banging on about his mother’s promise to take him on a trip to Jamaica. He also claimed one of his Jamaican cousins had arranged a romantic liaison for him with a nice young girl via Skype.

On one occasion he brought to class a series of handwritten notes from the ‘girlfriend’, arising much suspicion considering it was supposed to be an online relationship. Also, most of the notes were only a couple of sentences, meaning it would have been a lengthy exchange of messages if they had indeed been posted back and forward between the UK and the Caribbean using the British postal system.

There was also a level of censorship required with this child. Most of his peers were still under the impression that babies came from cabbage patches, storks or Amazon’s home delivery service. But the ADHD kid spent a lot of time hanging around older cousins and had clearly been informed about the birds and bees, and a few species in-between.

It took me a while to pick the glint in his eye when he was heading down the path of one of his more inappropriate tales – tales that would be rated PG in comparison to his Skype dalliance. One such tale involved him wandering down a beach and spotting a group of people lain near the water. He told the story with such flare and embellishment, including details of seagulls, sandcastles and pelicans, I was caught unawares when he concluded with his punchline: “And then I saw that one of the girls wasn’t wearing a top and I could see her boobies!”

The conclusion was met with raucous laughter from the class, again fuelling his delicate ego and curing his low self-esteem.

The adults around him must have been reasonably doubtful and untrusting of him; myself included – not undue to stories such as the one previously mentioned. He always needed to prove himself in cold hard fact. Perhaps it was a self-aware case of ‘the boy who cried wolf’.

One particular weekend, after a long absence by his father, the young lad spent a day with his father in Leicester Square visiting M & M World and the cinema. He returned to school the following Monday with his ticket stubs from Wreck-It Ralph (an apt choice of film, due to his own tendencies towards destruction). It was one of the saddest things I’ve seen. Normally telling people you’ve seen a movie and verifying a few plot points suffices in convincing them you have indeed viewed the film. Yet here was a child so desperate to prove the existence of a promise his father had delivered on, that he brought in a couple of torn ticket stubs.

Or perhaps he had stolen them from a bin outside Odeon.

He was an insecure sweet heart at the best of times and an infuriatingly stubborn child at others. It was his stubborn misbehaviour that led to him being banned from performing in the Easter play, being banned from making homemade bread with the class, and causing the football coach to have a meltdown and resign.

His inability to process thoughts, his relentless fidgeting and social ineptness are now my benchmark for ADHD. He convinced me there is a need to deal with such children in a different manner to those without the condition.

I even choked up a little bit on his last day, at the thought of him being left out in the ruthless world of high school where he’d probably be thrown to the dogs for his abrasiveness. A world where ADHD is a dirty word and you’re expected to do what you’re told when you’re told.

But if I ever met him again somewhere in the Caribbean, I doubt I’d shout him a Pina Colada.

Tale of Tales – Film Review

It’s that age old story; woman (Salma Hayek) can’t get pregnant, she and her husband (John C Reilly) get a visit from a magical old man, magical old man tells them to retrieve the heart of a magical underwater dragon and eat it raw.

It’s the sort of thing that makes In vitro fertilisation look like a swim in the lake. In this case it was a swim in the lake, but it was a more difficult swim in the lake because the king had to slaughter the dragon so his wife could eat the heart.

It’s enjoyable how this film taps into the human condition and vulnerabilities, despite its fanciful fairytale setting. Most specifically the story above deals with all the complexities surrounding the desire for parenthood.

Where modern stories would see a barren character head to the fertility clinic, Tale of Tales heads to the magical dragon. Perhaps this is a story as old as time. Both Into the Woods and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, are based on fairy tales dealing with parents who can’t produce offspring.

The themes of youth and childrearing don’t end there. Hayek’s albino son leaves her abandoned in a maze at one point – a mean trick to play on anyone’s mother; another king (Toby Jones) becomes more obsessed doting on his pet flea than his teenage daughter (Bebe Cave); and an old woman (Hayley Carmichael) convinces a witch to turn her into an younger and extremely pretty version of herself (Stacey Martin).

Adults wanting kids to love, kids wanting adults to love them, and adults wanting to be kids so adults love them. It’s a complex playing out of an inherent want for acceptance and purpose.

The film transcends its fairy tale environment to spin some of the oldest fairy tales, in the world (they are from The Pentamerone), into a cinematic masterpiece of fantasy that trumps similar fare like Stardust, Ella Enchanted and dare I say it The Princess Bride.

Kid #23 – Smacking A Parent

The twenty third-kid I hated hit his mother repeatedly in front of the entire playground.

The mother just stood there taking it. She had such little self-esteem and self-respect left that she allowed this seven year old boy to continue hitting her again and again. Sure he was seven and doing little damage, but it was concerning she allowed him to do this without reprimand or consequence.

She stood there, looking completely unsure what to do.

The classroom teacher needed to intervene. The teacher guided the boy to a bench and sat down with him and started going through the reasons he shouldn’t hit his mother. The mother also sat with them silently allowing the teacher to do all the talking.

It concerned me how little authority the mother had over her own child.

It also concerned me that teachers are having to fill such gaps in parenting.

What was more concerning was a bigger-picture problem where mothers are disenabled by their male counterparts within their own families.

There’s the old catchphrase, “Wait until your father gets home!” used by mothers throughout the decades.

But in the old days, this phrase was used as a final stage in a long series of sanctions. Normally the mother had complete control over the situation and wanted to add the cherry on top of the guilt that was the discipline pie implemented in her home.

However, in some families I’ve witnessed situations where the women are seen and not heard.

Often in these families the mother has told me, “I don’t know what to do. My child doesn’t listen to me. They only listen to their father and he won’t be home for a couple of weeks.”

I ask myself, What will happen in the meantime? Are we all expected to withstand the belligerence of your offspring, while Daddy’s off abroad wheeling and dealing?

The answer I come up with is ‘No’. Children are very in the moment. They don’t need hierarchal systems. You must establish your own relationship with a child and the respect will operate within that framework.

If a child respects your boundaries for behaviour and achievement, then they will respond accordingly. If you have disempowered yourself by always referring them to third parties, they won’t be interested in what you ask of them.

More at fault of course are the men who have devalued their wives and daughters.

One father I dealt with had a wife who always looked very sheepish and began every sentence with, “My husband was wondering ….” or “My husband would like our daughter to …” or “My husband wishes to…” She was always very pale and nervous looking, speaking quietly and continually appearing sleep-deprived.

When I finally met with the father, I was surprised to find him a most amicable character. But soon enough it became evident where his values lay. He would speak about how successful his sons were academically and that he liked to see them pushed. But his daughter, whom I taught, he said was not as gifted and he was simply content to know she was happy at school and would have the skills to be able to look after herself and family when she was older.

It sounded like he was planning to raise a 1950’s housewife.

Turns out his daughter was quite intelligent. More intelligent than her brothers. Definitely more intelligent than her misogynistic father.

But then these are the sort of fathers who lead to such incidents as what I witnessed in the playground that day. A mother, who had no means by which to discipline her own child. A mother, whose own father had presumably taught her to be subservient to the whims of men. She’d married a man who then asked her to look after the household and left her to solely look after the kids; probably to return to a chaotic home, demanding why the children’s behaviour was so out of line.

It was no wonder the child had such little respect to start laying into his mother publicly. His mother was a metaphoric punching bag for the father, so now the child had brought the metaphor to life.

In a generation where hitting your children is frowned upon, perhaps the balance had shifted the wrong way. If his mother had given him the odd smack, perhaps he’d have known his place. But then again, her inability to control came from the father’s own misplaced family values.

Either way if I ever met this child again, I doubt I’d join him for a round of ‘Whack-a-Mum’.

What is a Teen Dating App? (or rather ‘what the hell is a teen dating app?’)

We had child safeguarding training at work the other day. There was all the usual cautionary tales and signs to look for.

But one the thing that behoved me was to find out there are now dating apps for teenagers.

That’s right! Dating apps for thirteen to nineteen year olds. Here’s the link to one:

http://www.mylol.com/

Don’t click on it you pervert!

Anyhoo, I feel dating apps for teenagers should be bundled amongst things that are definitely a bad idea. Dare I say such applications are worse and more dangerous than pornography.

At least with pornography is known to contain explicit material, so when you click on it and see explicit material, you are unsurprised.

Or for example, drugs. Drugs are dangerous to teenagers also. But they are illegal and, although used by teenagers, adults will frown upon drug use.

Yet here is something being marketed straight to a teenage market, when parents are fighting tooth and nail to prevent their children creating Tinder accounts, Snapchatting their private parts or Facebooking their home address. We as adults are trying to teach the youth of today to be careful online and not fall into honey traps. Then along comes a group (presumably adults also) deciding to entice children into socialising with faceless strangers on a dating app.

Plus despite the website’s own terms and conditions stating an age cap (USERS THAT ARE OVER THE AGE OF 19 YEARS ARE FORBIDDEN TO SIGNUP FOR MYLOL. Registering with fake ages will result in a permanent ban from the site.), what’s to stop people creating fake accounts?

mylol profiles

I’m not being some old fuddy-duddy prude who doesn’t want kids going out on dates. Date away. But surely it is best to date people you know. As many of us adults know, you meet enough weirdos and creeps doing online dating when you’re an adult. Imagine how many creeps and weirdos you’d meet as a teenager with less of a filter.

Hell, when I become a parent I’m going to get a cell phone jammer for my house. There’ll be no social media on my watch. Even the most innocent session of Minecraft can turn into a gaming session of lust and desire.

In short I am shocked that adults are endorsing the very things so many other adults are fighting to keep on top of. In real life we wouldn’t accept speed-dating for toddlers, or a cocktail bar for teens, or a dating consultant for under 18s. But in the under-policed cyber version of our universe there it is.

Join me next week, when I create my own ‘mylol’ profile to prove you can be over 19 and count as a teenager in Cyberspace. Oh no, these guys have already beaten me to it…