Things I don’t understand – and things I do

The other week I went to my younger son’s school concert. I love the school concert because everyone takes part, even the cool boys. At my younger son’s school you can do anything you want to and nobody judges you. Whereas at a lot of secondaries a boy taking part in a school concert would instantly be dismissed as a geek or nerd. My son isn’t musical, but he’s happy to join the boys’ choir once a year along with all of us his friends.

The choirs sing pop songs. I love pop songs, therefore I love to hear kids singing them. I don’t care if it sounds a bit bad, in fact I quite like it if it does. I just love their enthusiasm. The mix of boys’ voices – deep 6th formers, squeaky year 7s and in-between year 9s just makes me smile. Laugh even. But with them, not at them.

Being a billy no-mates aka having a husband who doesn’t like school concerts, I was at the concert on my own as usual. Unusually, I had found a spare seat next to a friend and her husband. The husband spent much of the concert with his head in his heads. He couldn’t bear the sound of the boys’ choirs. It was too flat apparently. I didn’t understand. Couldn’t he see the joy? Couldn’t he see how much fun they were having? Wasn’t their enthusiasm infectious?

When the orchestras came on, I got a bit bored. It was OK if they were playing pop songs or TV theme tunes, but not if they were playing actual orchestral music. And I realised something.

There’s a lot of things I don’t understand.

Generally, grammar school kids don’t come out of nowhere. They come from families who embrace music and sport as well as academia.

But we’re not a musical family. I don’t understand music. I like listening to the radio. In fact, I LOVE listening to the radio. That doesn’t make me a typical grammar school parent. I don’t hear what my friend’s husband heard, because I don’t understand music at some deeper level. I understand two things about music – I like it or I don’t.

I also don’t understand rugby, another essential of the grammar school family. I love watching my son play, but my understanding is pretty much limited to the ball must never be passed forward.

My husband and I are bright enough. My son isn’t a freak of nature, but our family isn’t quite that perfectly wholesome middle class family a lot of the kids come from, with a piano in the front room and a dad who grew up playing rugby and now coaches the kids’ team.

But suddenly I understood my friend’s husband’s pain. He couldn’t bear the sound of the boys singing flat in the same way that I can’t bear to see a misplaced apostrophe or incorrectly used capital letter. I couldn’t understand his pain because I didn’t feel it, but I could understand him feeling pain about something others don’t understand.

Because I feel every apostrophe in the wrong place as a physical pain, but can I explain that to others? They just don’t get it. They feel their pain from boys singing flat or maybe the offside rule applied incorrectly or kids missing the beat in a dance.

Does anyone else feel pain from odd things? Or am I just weird along with my friend’s husband?


Author: Sarah Mummy

Share This Post On


  1. what an insightful post. Love how you are seeing the bigger picture and understanding other people’s pain. I
    Is there such a thing as a “perfectly wholesome middle class family?”
    DD3 went to a secondary school in a very deprived area. The school knew that the majority of the children did not strive to achieve much as they were in general doomed to a life of unemployment. Twice a year every year they put on musical shows and the children thrived on the fun, the praise, the challenge and the enjoyment. The joy on their faces was amazing, watching them go from 1st years who just sung in a group to 2nd year who moved and sung, 3rd years sung and danced etc etc and time you got to the 17 and 18 year olds the talent was beyond words. They also allowed the older children to learn the lighting and stage management etc that goes with it.
    DD3 came away with the ability to play many musical instruments up to a very high level and spent 10 years as a volunteer in the company that ran the scheme in the school. Her and others went on to achieve much more than you would have expected from their background start in life just because of music.
    Me I am tone deaf so the flat notes go over my head.
    ps I am crap at misplace apostrophes.

    Post a Reply
    • That’s lovely to read about! Extra curricular activities can make such a difference to kids. But in our house it’s more about the sport than the music. The kids have all played instruments, but none of them have really practised or had any enthusiasm for it!
      My son’s school has A LOT of wholesome, middle class families. Not everyone, but a very high proportion.
      There are a lot of people who misplace apostrophes! I’m not sure why they upset me so much, I sometimes wish they didn’t, but I seem to be stuck with apostrophe trauma!

      Post a Reply
  2. Ive stuck out like a sore thumb my entire adult life, I gave up attending my sons school events as I’m sure half the parents there had no real clue about what was going on but would pretend they did and it was very painful. I’m like you, if I like something I like it, but I do struggle not to burst into giggles if singing or playing is off key

    Post a Reply
    • Glad I’m not the only one who sticks out! Everyone else seems to attend these things with their other halves or makes arrangements to sit with other parents, but I’m always on my own. I’m so bad at understanding music that I’m not sure I even know when things are off key most of the time!

      Post a Reply
      • I was always on my own also, even now when I go to events and you know how ‘social’ I am, i find it difficult to get people to interact with me, i think i scare most people off lol

        Post a Reply
  3. Haha this made me laugh! I totally understand both of you – I am musical and can’t stand it when people sing or play instruments out of tune, I can’t even watch X-Factor or any of the other singing shows, they drive me mad. I also don’t enjoy Strictly because of the bad dancers ruining the amazing dances, and bad grammar irritates me although mine isn’t perfect.

    The only thing I perhaps take issue with is “Perfectly wholesome middle class family a lot of the kids come from, with a piano in the front room and a dad who grew up playing rugby and now coaches the kids’ team.” We would fit into every aspect of that if my husband wasn’t injured. We have a piano in the front room, a dad who grew up playing rugby and he’d coach if he could.

    But we’re not middle class – to me, being middle class is about not having to worry about making ends meet from one month to the next. I also doubt we’ll be a grammar school family because it looks unlikely that the girls will be academic enough to get through the tests. But they will definitely play musical instruments because I think it’s important.

    Post a Reply
    • That’s interesting, I literally can’t understand what people hear in music that I don’t hear! I wish I could get inside your head for a day or two!
      Sorry if I offended on the middle class thing – it’s a bit of a generalisation! There are clearly working class families who have pianos and middle class families who don’t. I consider myself middle class, but middle class covers a big spectrum and we’re not at the posh end of the spectrum!
      My kids have all played musical instruments, but their hearts have never been in it. I wanted them to do it to broaden their horizons and they wanted to do it, but they’ve never had that love for it that some people have. x

      Post a Reply
  4. Ultimately, every is individual and different. I have a friend who is a music teacher. I can assure you he would probably have struggled to be in the same room as a school choir! he picks up on every single misplaced note so such an experience would have been tough for him, just as a misplaced apostrophe is for you.

    Post a Reply
    • I have never come across this phenomenon before! I know a lot of people think I’m weird for my apostrophe thing. When I was a school governor all the governors laughed at me every time, but they did appreciate my input! You would think a music teacher would have to come into contact with a school choir!

      Post a Reply
  5. Sarah,

    Using “refute” as though it meant “deny” has become as common as the greengrocer’s apostrophe, but it still makes some of us groan.

    Post a Reply
    • Love that! I also dislike ‘anymore’ as one word and the introduction of the American ‘gotten’ into British English!

      Post a Reply
  6. I think you’re right in it depends what we are passionate about. For me it’s manners and grammatical errors, for my husband it’s walking in the house for shoes on and people who show zero interest in current affairs! Interesting topic!

    Post a Reply
    • Your husband’s make me laugh! My husband has his passions, but I don’t think they’re the sort that upset him in any way!
      This was one of those blogposts that just appeared in my head and I wasn’t sure whether or not it would work or whether it even made sense, but I thought I’d write it anyway!

      Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: