A Public Apology and a Heap of Perspective

My lovely mum

My lovely mum

I upset my mum with my last post on parenting. I didn’t even think. The post was written as a rant against a British Nanny’s take on the ills of modern parenting. But I confess I was possibly also influenced by having spent a few hours at my mum’s house, feeling like she was criticising me because my kids backchat a lot.

I can’t blame her, they do.

But I shouldn’t get cross and I certainly wouldn’t want to upset her just because we have different views on parenting. Just because we don’t see eye to eye on one little thing doesn’t mean I don’t love her and would certainly never say something to hurt her. I owe her too much for that.

Yes there were elements of my childhood that weren’t great. My dad had about as much patience for parenting as I have, but without my self-awareness and support network. He raged, he occasionally hit, he hated mess and lateness and noise, and I grew up terrified of him. But I still loved him. And I wish he’d lived long enough for me to tell him that I yell just as loud at my kids.

Holidays in Dorset

Holidays in Dorset

And yes my parents went down the pub and my sister and I sat with our coke and crisps, but I can’t recall ever minding. In fact I am certain we got up to all sorts of high jinx while our parents were otherwise occupied. We were very good at entertaining ourselves writing notes to strangers through the window on long car journeys or finding things to climb on.

In many ways I had a great childhood, full of freedom and adventure. I spent my formative years in a housing estate in Sussex, with a garden that backed onto fields. I ran in a pack of kids, climbed trees and played in the tree houses Dad built behind our back fence. I practiced gymnastics on the beam he built and played on the stilts he made.

Fabulous fancy dress

Fabulous fancy dress

I went to fancy dress competitions in the incredible costumes my mother made with hours of endless patience and much tissue paper. I remember my mum was always baking – mostly raisin fairy cakes with icing on top. We got to lick out the food processor, even the super sharp blade, and we never cut our tongue. I remember putting on endless shows in the back garden for our parents and the German students who came to stay in the summer.

I remember going to the sweet shop and buying halfpenny sweets, and going for cycle rides all together at the weekends. I remember ‘spotting’ for dad when he was welding, watching for flames with a washing up liquid bottle full of water, ready to put out the fire. I remember helping him bleed brakes and accompanying him when he went to visit houses to collect cars.

I remember buying cream soda in a shop in a nearby village and my parents playing darts and whist and winning loads of prizes at the Christmas whist drives. I remember picnics on the beach and learning to swim in the icy cold sea. I remember the amusement arcades and holidays to Weymouth.

The camper vans (ours is the white one)

The camper vans (ours is the white one)

I remember going to France in our Comma camper van and learning to say, “un litre du lait, s’il vous plais” to the woman in the campsite shop, when offering an empty bottle, without having any idea what it meant.

Mum made the most amazing birthday cakes: pink princess castles and gymnastic medals. We had birthday parties at home, with sandwiches and cheese and pineapple on sticks. We went to fetes at the school and the summer fair at Wisborough Green and Mum would run in the Mummies race.

My memories of my parents fighting and my Dad’s rages are what motivate me to be a gentle, patient parent (even though, genetically, I’m fighting a losing battle.) My fears of speaking out to Dad are why I let my children talk back to me (up to a point) because I never want them to be afraid to speak. But my childhood wasn’t ‘inadequate’ and, on the whole, it wasn’t unhappy. I remember the stuff I don’t want to emulate, without focussing on the bits that were great.

So this is to set the record straight. And to say sorry.

Me, Sis, Mum, Grandma and Great Grandma

Me, Sis, Mum, Grandma and Great Grandma


Posted by on July 16, 2014 in My story, Parenting


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Wonderful Teachers and Winding Down For Summer

Gorgeous thank you

Gorgeous thank you

Today my daughter has her ‘Moving Up Day’ at school, when she will spend the day with her new teacher for next year. I can’t believe it came so quickly. Any regular followers of the blog will know that I didn’t take to school very well (slight understatement, as I ended up on medication to handle the extra stress of the school routine) so it might come as a surprise that I am sad the year is over and I will miss Reception and the teachers.

We took leaving gifts in today, even though there is still more than a week left, because there are so many other things going on between now and next Wednesday. I nearly cried when my daughter’s teacher hugged me and said thank you for choosing to send my daughter to their school (she knew it wasn’t an easy choice).

It shows you get out what you put in. It’s important to me to build strong relationships with the people who are in loco parentis for my children. I felt like I was being a pain, constantly talking to the teachers, double-checking everything, basically being that controlling parent. Clearly I haven’t been that annoying! And, for me, it has been returned ten fold.

Thank you card

Thank you card

My daughter’s teacher often goes out of her way to reassure me that my daughter is happy, well rounded, well liked. The teaching assistant listens to my rambles every day, and makes sure my daughter is happy and settled.

And, on Friday, when my daughter sobbed because she didn’t get the year one teacher she wanted, her Reception teacher took us through to meet the teacher she’s been allocated and they both spent ten minutes reassuring my timid daughter that she’ll have loads of fun next year.

To do such a thing at 3.45pm on a Friday, when suffering from laryngitis, shows care above and beyond expectations. As a result my fearful daughter, who has been crying about going into year one since Christmas, said “I’m so excited about Moving Up Day.” What more could a mother want?

This morning the teaching assistant, who has held my daughter’s hand at drop off every day this year, and talked me down off the edge more than once, said, “I’ve been worried about your daughter all weekend.”

Bless them all.

And so we wind down for summer. Not the best start, with Daddy having tonsillitis, but we’re muddling through. Loom bands have been ordered to keep little hands busy, craft has been stocked up and the paddling pool purchased.

For the lovely teaching assistant

For the lovely teaching assistant

All writing projects are on hold, although I’ve spent the last few days enthralled by the K’Barthan series by M T McGuire (you are personally responsible for the filthy state of my house, I’ll have you know!) does that count as working?

The blog will be sporadic in the coming weeks (nothing new there!) especially as I can’t seem to work on the iPad since I foolishly gave in and upgraded to ios7. I’m hoping to get in a few posts about days out and book reviews, but I’m going to give myself a holiday too.

It’s been a long and stressful year, with lots of achievements and a few battles. I feel like July might become my new Year End, when I take stock and down tools. It’s only six weeks, and I’m going to try and enjoy it with the children.

Of course, I’ll be on here moaning how they’re driving me mad in a couple of weeks, but for now I’m looking forward to a change of pace.

Happy holidays!


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In Defence of Modern-Day Parenting

The rules we live by

The rules we live by

I read an article on Huffington Post yesterday, via iGameMom, who I follow on Facebook. The article is written by a British Nanny, Emma Jenner, and discusses “5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting Is in Crisis”.

According to Emma, these are the things we’re doing wrong:
1. A fear of our children
Giving in to their demands for a pink sippy cup when you’ve already put the milk in a blue one, to head off the inevitable tantrum
2. A lowered bar
Children are capable of better behaviour than we expect
3. We’ve lost the village
Other people – bus drivers, shop keepers – used to feel able to discipline our children, but no longer do, and we’re worried about being judged by other parents if we let our kids kick off in public
4. A reliance on shortcuts
Using technology to soothe your child – like an iPad in the restaurant
5. Parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own
There’s nothing wrong with not giving in to every whim, to say no occasionally

Emma Jenner goes on to say, “I fear that if we don’t start to correct these five grave parenting mistakes, and soon, the children we are raising will grow up to be entitled, selfish, impatient and rude adults. It won’t be their fault — it will be ours.”

For some reason this article really struck a chord with me, leaving me with knots of rage in my stomach. I can’t put my finger on exactly why. I think, as I said in my comment to iGameMom, it’s because “I agree with the points but not the tone.”

There are so many reasons why I disagree with Ms Jenner’s article, many of which I rambled on about in my original comment. Mostly the line above is what jars, because I already know plenty of entitled, selfish, impatient, and rude adults and I don’t think it was because they were mollycoddled as children.

I think instead of hurling round more blame and doom, we have to ask WHY parents act like this. I know my parents think I’m not hard enough on my kids; that they’re too quick to backchat and I’m too quick to respond to their needs. But I was brought up to fetch and carry and do as I was told without question, so it’s not hard to see why I wait on my children hand and foot. My parents often say my upbringing ‘did me no harm’ but why then do I lack in confidence, and feel I am not worthy of love? Why do I instinctively and automatically run around like a servant anytime I’m in the family home?

I was raised not to challenge authority, to do as I was told without answering back; is it any wonder that I listen to my health visitor when she tells me it’s not possible to spoil a child? Besides, I don’t believe that raising a child to do as they’re told without question is wise or healthy. You only have to look at the prevalence of stories of child abuse from famous and influential people that litter the news right now; those children had no voice and were not listened to. I read one harrowing account of a ten-year-old boy with a broken leg being abused while on a hospital trolley by Jimmy Saville and when he tried to share his trauma, his mother told him to, “shut up, it’s Jimmy Saville!”

Also, which authority do we believe in? In a time of social media and blogs and programmes all telling us how to be good parents and all offering conflicting advice is it any wonder that we live in fear of getting it wrong? My children will be surrounded by people telling them what to do, some of them their ‘betters’ – older kids, teachers, doctors. But what if those people are saying, ‘take drugs’ or ‘you’re useless’ or ‘you’re bi-polar’ and they accept that without thought, because they’ve been taught to blindly ‘respect their betters’?

I’ve had plenty of therapy in my time, and have been told my own inadequate childhood is to blame for my failings as an adult; that I see things too much in black and white because I was never taught to recognise and regulate my emotions; that I take responsibility for more than I should because I was told things were my fault as a child and never challenged it; that my difficult relations with men are because I was never allowed to challenge my relationship with my father. Therefore is it any wonder I hesitate to make the same mistakes? During that therapy it was shown to me that everything a parent does affects (screws up) a child – so no wonder I’m a nervous, hesitant, worried parent.

Our parenting ethos

Our parenting ethos

As for the other points, losing the village, taking shortcuts: we don’t live in the same world we used to. There is no village. No one helps me raise my kids but my husband and the nursery/school – and they’re as quick to step in with discipline when required. There are no next-door-neighbours, aunts and grandparents sharing the load, so they don’t know my children well enough to comment on their discipline. And maybe the iPad is my second parent, but I’d rather my kids played a maths app or Guess Who than annoyed other people in a restaurant or at a school play. I don’t have access to babysitters. Besides, I’m always on my phone or iPad – who isn’t? So better to teach them to do something productive on the device.

Articles like this only add to the focus on parents getting it wrong; we become the reason why society is in crisis. But maybe we might be getting some things right, too? Who is praising us for that? My children are the most intuitive, thoughtful, caring, empathetic people I know.

Maybe we’re teaching our children to challenge and fight for what they want and not blindly do what they are told? Maybe we’re teaching them that people who care about others care about their desires and seek to make them happy? Maybe we’re teaching them love and empathy? Maybe we accept that children are people, with wants and needs that shouldn’t be belittled and ignored? I have a favourite cup and type of cutlery; why shouldn’t my children be allowed the same? And why shouldn’t they come first, as long as there is balance? Better than sitting in a hot car with a packet of crisps and a bottle of coke while Mummy and Daddy drink beer with their friends.

Every generation will assume it knew best about parenting, but in reality there is no one right way to do it. The most important thing is to love our children and trust our instinct and know we’re doing the best we can. Whether we’re getting it right or wrong, it doesn’t seem fair to make all parents personally responsible for all the ills in the world.

Emma Jenner’s final rallying cry says, “So please, parents and caregivers from London to Los Angeles, and all over the world, ask more. Expect more. Share your struggles. Give less. And let’s straighten these children out, together, and prepare them for what they need to be successful in the real world and not the sheltered one we’ve made for them.”

I say, “So please, parents and caregivers, love your children, give them your time and support, teach them to challenge naysayers, teach them empathy and understanding and how to be resilient against attacks, and for goodness sake let them choose what colour sippy cup they want!” ;)


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Seven Reasons You Should Thank A Feminist Today

Amanda Martin (writermummy):

A masterful rant (I love this blog!) – with some swearing…

Originally posted on The Belle Jar:

If there is one thing in this world that makes me want to chew my own face off, it’s women who think that feminism has ruined their lives.

You know the type - women who want to live in some kind of souped up 1950s fantasy world where they get married right out of high school and their husband makes enough to support their family on just his income and they think the moral decline of society has something to do with the fact that women no longer wear crinolines and genteel white gloves and cute little hats. Never mind that, you know, lots and lots of families in the 1950s weren’t able to live off of a single income; trust me when I say that feminism did not invent the working mother. Leaving that little scrap of truth aside, I guess I can see what some women find appealing about this…

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Children’s Picture Books You Will Love Reading Out Loud

My kids love reading

My kids love reading

I love reading to my children, it’s one of the few interactions that I’m willing to engage in. I’ll tolerate puzzles and board games, get reasonably engaged with playdoh, craft, football, tennis or trampolining. I’ll actively avoid hide and seek or ‘play with me, mummy’ and I dread the words, ‘can you make up a game, please…’

But reading, how could I not love that?

Except there is definitely a hierarchy of books. I’m not good with voices so, whilst my son loves books like, Squash and a Squeeze, I find it terribly repetitive. I can do voices in Peppa Pig books because I mimic the TV show, but there is such a thing as too much Peppa. At bedtime I can’t read anything on a dark blue background because I can’t see the words, which rules out many pirate and Mike the Knight books, and I hate TV-based books without a story (yes, you, Mr Bloom’s Nursery and Baby Jake).

I also have a pet hate for badly rhymed books, where words are forced against their natural rhythm (I used to know the technical term for that, but it’s buried under fifty-seven readings of Dear Zoo.)

So, when I come across a book that’s an absolute delight to read out loud, I rejoice. I also tend to make sure it’s near the top of the pile. Books that have clever integral rhyming (if that’s the right term – again I can’t quite remember: when the rhymes are also within the lines, not just at the end), books with poetic alliteration or just brilliant tactile words like squelch or tingly.

These are my top ten great-to-read-out-loud books, in no particular order. I’m sure there are more – we have over three hundred books for under fives in our house, not to mention the hundreds that come home from school, preschool and the library every week. But these stand out.

Lovely pace

Lovely pace

Billy and the Bargleboggle by Lindsay Camp, Peter Utton
(About the new baby) “Billy couldn’t understand why everyone was so excited about it. He thought it was a funny colour and its skin didn’t seem to fit properly. And Dad said it wasn’t big enough to ride on Billy’s skateboard.”

Farmer Duck, by Martin Waddell, Helen Oxenbury
“They lifted his bed and he started to shout, and they banged and they bounced the old farmer about and about and about, right out of the bed… and he fled with the cow and the sheep and the hens mooing and baaing and clucking around him.”

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, by Giles Andreae, Russell Ayto
“I’m going to cut you up into little pirate sausages. Then I’m going to put you on the barbecue and EAT YOU UP with much too much tomato ketchup!”

Fantastic cadence

Fantastic cadence

The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm, by Paul Bright, Jane Chapman
“How the thunder crashed! It boomed and crackled so the house shuddered and the windows rattled. It grumbled and rumbled and echoed and faded, only to boom and crash again.”

Snail and the Whale, by Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler
“And she gazed at the sky, the sea, the land, The waves and the caves and the golden sand, She gazed and gazed, amazed by it all, And she said to the whale, ‘I feel so small’.”

The Bear with Sticky Paws, by Clara Vulliamy
“There’s a girl called Pearl and she’s being very grumpy, stamping her little feet and slamming the door.”

Could be my dad

Could be my dad

Grandad, Rachel Elliot, Katie Pamment
“Grandad’s old bike rattles when it goes down the hill to the beach. Our teeth rattle too! ‘My poor old bones!’ Says Grandad.” (This book reminds me so much of my own dad.)

Smelly Bill, by Daniel Postgate
“Bill the dog loved smelly things, Like muddy ponds and rubbish bins. Disgusting stuff he’d stick his snout in, Sniff and snort and roll about in.”

Poetic and hypnotic

Poetic and hypnotic

William and The Night Train, Mij Kelly, Alison Jay
“In the carriages people sit nodding in rows. They slumber and doze. They’re not wearing pyjamas; they’re still in their clothes! ‘Everyone sleeps on the night-train,’ explains the writer. But William’s too busy squishing his nose. He’s too busy standing on tippity toes. He’s too wide awake. All he knows is that he can’t wait for the train to go. ‘When will we get to Tomorrow?’”

Arthur’s Tractor, by Pippa Goodhart, Colin Paine
“That must be the sprocket spring sprigget needing a twist and an oil.”

(Lovely article about Arthur’s Tractor by the author here.)

"No! No! No!"

“No! No! No!”

"Bathie-wathie time for you!"

“Bathie-wathie time for you!”

"Too much ketchup!"

“Too much ketchup!”

"I feel so small"

“I feel so small”

"Before the darn thing brangles free"

“Before the darn thing brangles free”

"How goes the work?"

“How goes the work?”


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Living and Loving as an Introvert

Amanda Martin (writermummy):

I love this post, it describes my life exactly. Brilliant.

Originally posted on dorkymum:

good advice

*stands up*

*shuffles nervously*

*clears throat*

Hello. My name’s Ruth and I am an introvert.

Would you believe that it has taken me 31 years to say that?

Most of those years have been taken up with saying other things. No, I’m not anti-social. No, I’m not shy. No, it’s not that I hate people, or that I hate you, or that I’m a badly brought up Awkward Annie.

I’m just an introvert.

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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Parenting



Tidy front garden

Tidy front garden

I did some gardening today, for the first time in about two years. I realised it was open gardens in our village this weekend and I didn’t want to have the scruffiest house in the entire village, so I decided to tackle and tame the front garden.

Pre-kids I did a fair amount outside, although I’m not a massive fan of gardening (plus I have black rather than green fingers). Since becoming a parent? Not so much. I used to mow and weed the day before our annual family barbecue, followed by a trip to the garden centre to buy bedding plants that might live for several weeks after the family had left. The garden looked amazing for a month, tops.

We didn’t have a party last year, so it’s been a long time since the trowel and strimmer have crossed my path. Turns out there’s a good reason for that.

Things I’d forgotten about gardening:

  1. Blisters are painful
  2. Just how evil-prickly our hedge is (we don’t own a hedge trimmer)
  3. How hot and cross gardening makes me (especially when it’s 22C and sunny)
  4. Children are not good assistants and may try patience beyond endurance (see point 3)
  5. Making the garden tidy is addictive but impossible
  6. Plants are expensive and generally come to our house to die
  7. Discovering muscles I forgot I had and knowing it will hurt more tomorrow and the day after
  8. Maximum effort only achieves minimum visible results
  9. Only retired or unemployed people have time to garden how they want to
  10. I’d rather be writing

Posted by on June 21, 2014 in My story, Random


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