The dark side of the whiteboard - A spiritual fix in time of crisis

12th November 2010 at 00:00

I'm feeling kind of temporary about myself. It's Sunday morning, 9am, and I'm lying crumpled in bed, weighing up the prospects of the day ahead. I'm all alone. The youngest is playing rugby somewhere in Scotland and my husband's job has taken him down south. I haven't seen him for three weeks, but he texts me every day, signing off with emoticons to support me through my emotional times of need: smiley faces, kissy faces, laughing faces. Off-the-shelf little yellow Happy Ever Afters. This morning he sent me a winking face. I think he may have been doing something rude. I tried to reply but couldn't find the emoticon for "Where is my housekeeping you selfish bastard?" so I made do with the squiggly mouth instead.

With all the family gone, the house feels chillingly empty. Just me, Charlie the golden retriever, and a teetering pile of marking. Any higher and it's going to need its own trig point and a shop selling lanyards and gaiters. I'm feeling very lost. I suspect I'm heading for an identity crisis. For the past 20 years I have been a wife and a mum; now it feels like I'm being made redundant.

It's supposed to be teenage girls who struggle with identity, not middle-aged mums. Their crises are played out in public, in the cruel glare of the playground. You only have to look out over the yard at break-time to witness their latest wardrobe of personalities. Overnight, our Year 10 girls have evolved from Katie Price into Alexa Chung. Their tartan linings and hand-warmer pockets scream out "I'm a Barbour Girl in a Barbour World", and under their Chrysalis coats they all dream of becoming the new Lily Allen. It won't last. When the next teen icon emerges, they will shed these quilted skins to reveal another nascent personality. The downside is that, in the process, they are damaging a perfectly good all-weather heritage brand (remember Burberry?). The upside is that, for once, you can't see their thongs.

My daughter was no different. Between 13 and 15 she had more reincarnations than a Buddhist monk. My least favourite was her Year 9 charva special. I'll never forget the night she came back covered in cider, ruched Lycra and most of Claire's accessories. It wasn't a great look. But then neither is the one I'm wearing now: a kind of frilled self-pity twinned with violet despair. Sometimes it's so much easier to admire other people than it is to like yourself.

All this mawkish introspection was triggered by last week's Inset day about our spiritual development. Until now I've used God only for recreational purposes - Christingles, christenings and the like - so this was my first experience of Class A Christianity. It was mind-altering. We broke for lunch after reflecting on Matthew 20:16 - "the first will be last". Not in the dinner queue they weren't. The SMT were halfway through their puddings while the rest of us were still wondering if the roast potatoes would hold out.

As a result of my spiritual journey I am re-evaluating my life. I'm sick of being lonely and I'm going to reach out. Friends tell me is an effective way of socialising, as long as you're happy having 10-second conversations with a stranger who has his eyes glued to a small screen and his hand stuck to his penis. Brilliant. It will be just like having my husband back home.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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