Tuesday, July 22, 2014

THE phone pings with a message: “Get me out of here!”

I ignore it.

Two full minutes pass before the next text lands. It reads: “Get me out of here, PLEASE!”

I’m studiously ignoring that one, too, when a third missive from my darling 14-year-old daughter rattles my phone. “She won’t stop picking at her hair. She must have nits. I can’t stand it. GET ME OUTTA HERE PLEASE MA!”

Contrary to how it might sound, she’s not locked up in a jungle with vain, celebrity-seeking nobodies, nor is she even banged up in a Bangkok prison. Rather, she’s spending quality time in school. During the summer holidays.

While all her friends around her are gallivanting around the town or in the far-flung wilds of the gaeltacht, snogging new boys, my particular genius has been enlisted in a summer school. Sumer school is, of course, a euphemism for grind school, but I can’t tell her that. The term ‘summer school’ sounds fun, as if it might involve surfing classes or tips on how to apply fake tan so that you can be totally beach-ready.

No, that ain’t it at all. This particular college is like an academic boot camp for the brain.

But such is the fate of a teenage slacker whose last school report was so shocking and appalling that immediate and drastic intervention had to be taken. So, she was conscripted into this college for two weeks where the mind is focused on academic matters only.

Of course, she railed against the very idea but I stood firm and hauled her in, kicking and screaming, that first morning.

The series of texts above were, of course, inevitable. There had to be a settling in period, after all.

“They’re all f***ing weirdos, Ma,” she said in the car going home the first day. “And there’s this one girl, and she follows me around. She smells, Ma. She smells awful and she’s always at her hair.”

“Don’t worry, little pet, you’ll get used to it and you’ll make wonderful friends,” I reply, not at all confidently.

The thing is, the girl who follows her around has taken a real shine to her. Every morning, she slides into the desk next to her and spends the rest of the day scratching her scalp and picking her nails. My daughter is appalled by such slovenly behaviour, but she’s also getting to know her other classmates, weirdos included.

There’s the one who wears all black even in the heat of the summer but who has the voice of an angel; there’s the fella who’s the spit of Ryan Gosling (in her eyes) and who she fancies so much that she falls off the pavement one day while he’s talking to her; there’s the trio of blondes in Hollister sweatshirts and Ugg boots (despite the summer, again) who are “stuck up bitches”; there’s the other one who has won gold medals in athletics and who can’t keep still for a second. And then there are the other kids who all melt into the background as supporting actors to the main stars in her class.

Every evening, she was a right ol’ time, bitching and moaning and marvelling at them all.

She’s fascinated by the stories they tell about themselves, about the horrible teachers that infest all of their lives and the parents who were born to make each and every one of them as miserable as they can.

As the weeks wear on, it’s clear that she’s loving it and she’s already swapped phone numbers with about five of these new strangers. And she’s also concentrating on the school work, which is an extra plus.

I have noticed, though, that she’s scratching her head an awful lot. I’m too afraid to look …


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