A few years ago, I had a bit of a rant at Alex's school fair when we walked past recruitment stands for the Army and Royal Air Force. Recruitment! At a school for 8 to 13 year-olds! I'm only a half-hearted pacifist in these troubled times but it did bother me that war might be glamorised to these easily influenced boys. I refused to stop and look at their displays. Alex said nothing at the time although I thought saw his eyes drift back as we walked past.
Fast-forward to now. His new school has a great selection of activities and the kids get to choose one activity per day for the term, allowing them to try out new things. It's a great system. In the past Alex and I have sat together to look at the list and choose a selection of activities that are interesting, exciting and don't have an added charge.
So I was a bit surprised at the beginning of this term when I asked about his activity sheet and he said he had already handed it in. Well, isn't that interesting? I checked with the school to make sure I wasn't being charged for some extravagance like Car Restoration (over £50 per term and they don't end up with a car at the end of it). They confirmed that they always check with the parents first before signing the kids up to pay-for activities so I couldn't really complain. He's 14: it's not unreasonable for him to choose his own activities, really.
But it bothered me a bit. I suspected that he'd chosen all "lazy" activities. Board Games, Classic Cinema, Chess, Reading Room and Table Tennis would be a great combo from his point of view but I'd usually try to talk him into finding something a little bit more active.
"So what did you take," I asked him when I could stand the suspense no longer.
He mumbled a response.
"ACF" he said. I noticed he wasn't looking me in the eye.
"Army Cadet Force," he said with his eyes on the floor and his mouth in a tight line.
I took a deep breath but before I could speak, my mind started reeling:
- Social Activity
Well, wow! That was pretty much exactly the type of activity that I'd try to steer him to and fail. As much as I wasn't crazy about my little boy in the military, I had to admit that ACF ticked a lot of boxes that I'd like to see enhanced for my introverted computer-gaming son.
I started to say that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea when I realised there was another box to be ticked: Not Chosen by Mom. Or maybe even: Mom Disapproves. Either way, showing my enthusiasm for the idea was probably not a good thing.
I was beginning to turn blue. I finally exhaled, pleased that it sounded like a long-suffering sigh. "Well, I guess you can make your own decisions," I said.
I felt bad for a moment as I turned away but it was noticeable that he didn't stop me nor try to justify his decision. I knew I'd guessed right: he wanted an activity that was 100% his, without my influence.
He waited until dinnertime to drop the other shoe: he's taken an accelerated version and is doing the activity a few times a week.
"You are pushing your luck, kid," I told him with a scowl. I think it's a good activity but I don't want him in the military full-time, please!
He grinned at me, clearly happy to see that he got under my skin.
Still, as far as rebellion goes, I think I can live with this.