I hated school. Hated it from day one. It took me away from my Mum, my animals, my books and everything else I enjoyed at home and thrust me in a room with about 30 other kids and most of them, in kindergarten, were dumbos who couldn't read or write (at the risk of sounding like an annoying prat, I could do both by the age of 3. I was bored shitless in the first couple of years at school.).
Coupled with an anxiety that having had one parent bugger off, the other would as well while I was at school, my early schooldays were filled with anxiety. Would Mum be there at 3pm? (She invariably was.)
Things improved a bit over the next few years but I was never happy at school, and when Nan made this proclamation when I was about ten and later when I was a teen, I didn't believe her.
It's lucky I wasn't the suicidal type because by the time I hit high school, the thought that life couldn't get better than this was a living vision of hell.
I guess Nan meant that while you were a child you were free of adult responsibilities, of pregnancy and childbirth, of running a business, paying tax, avoiding bankruptcy, struggling to find pennies to pay for your children's dinner, not to mention finding rent. She was born in 1902 and had a successful bakery business with my grandfather in the 20s only to lose it in the Depression. Then there was WWII… For Nan, schooldays in a sleepy country town must have seemed like a blissful haven before adult life began at 16.
Now I'm struggling to pay bills, to find money to pay taxes, selling things from the house I won't use or don't like to get some cash, panicking because I have $50 to last till the end of the month, all the usual stuff people do. But do I think my schooldays were better than this? Nope. They were still hell.
I'm just glad social media wasn't around when I was a child or teenager. It was tough enough getting teased face to face. But back then kids didn't suicide because of bullying. We fought back. Or I did. I tried to chase Michael Tw*gg and punch him in the face when he made fun of my bicycle in primary school (sadly I couldn't run fast enough. He was a little bastard), and when a couple of fellow pupils tried to chuck my bag over the side of the ferry in high school I pushed them hard enough to almost send them overboard and got left alone after that.
I'm digressing - as usual - but are we bringing up kids to be more namby-pamby than in previous generations? We are bringing up a generation which has an expectation that they are perfect and deserve to be totally pandered to. Often the entire household revolves around a child's or children's activities. Nobody says No to them any more (do you know that childcare centre workers aren't allowed say 'No' to kids in their care?). Nobody tells kids they are naughty or bad in case they get a complex about it. Nobody threatens a smack because smacking on the bum appears to be outlawed too. You can't send a child to a naughty corner because then you're excluding it from its classmates.
We had a teacher in year 5 who was a serial hair puller, a punishment reserved for talking in class and other crimes. We survived. Mind you Wendy whatshername had a chunk of hair pulled out one time and that stopped Mrs E from hair pulling for a while. Mrs E would have been sued or arrested today.
Had Mrs E seen Wendy's imaginative if not totally accurate drawing of "A Hairy Dick" she would have done more than pull hair. That drawing was one of the highlights of the year and circulated the classroom covertly. I imagine a counsellor if not the the social services would have been called in and Wendy subjected to careful and perhaps leading questioning about her father. Wendy's story was that she saw her Dad galloping from the bathroom to the bedroom and drew it from memory. In those more innocent days, I am sure she wasn't lying. Kids will always draw rude stuff.
And this - the year of the hair pulling teacher - was probably the best year of my schooldays. I had finally made good friends and was relatively popular with my classmates. Sadly that all changed two years later. I hated high school with such a passion I was a reasonably mute, pathetically law-abiding student in order not to get a detention. Any extra hour spent at that place filled me with horror. The knowledge that it took an hour to get to or from school didn't help. I just wanted to be at home, writing; working on a novel.
Working life, when it came along, was a revelation. Nobody minded you talking. You could even tell jokes. And get paid for it. You didn't have to wear a poxy uniform (another of my absolute hates). I started work the year my old classmates were having conniptions and breakdowns studying for their HSC, and I couldn't have been happier.
It says something about me, or the high school I went to, or the culture in the place at the time, that I have a lot of trouble thinking about it in any affectionate way. I read the regular bulletins I get in the mail from the place and am constantly astonished that there are so many 'old girls' who view it with love. For me it was a prison, and one I was grateful to finally escape from.
Sorry Nan, but you were wrong. xx