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Sixteen Insights from Children’s Books, with Apologies to the Bobbseys

Sixteen Insights from Children’s Books, with Apologies to the Bobbseys

Amanda Martin:

I love this post. Maybe we only reflect on the lessons when we’re older!

Originally posted on momocular:

I loved my grandparents’ house for many reasons. Crafts, Boggle games, the pond, the swings, strawberry plants, the cookie jar (thoughtfully located in a lower cupboard, accessible to even the youngest child), croquet, the purple tandem bike, and, of course, Grandpa and Grandma. I also loved the book stash. Grandma was both the church librarian and a school librarian, and, as such, inherited custody of the cast-off books. Although most had achieved their “withdrawn” status by becoming almost too tattered to read, they were still readable as long as one kept track of the molted pages. Walter the Lazy Mouse, Pippi Longstocking, the book about the bunnies and the weasel (I forgot the title): I loved them all.

Well, almost all. Love doesn’t describe my opinion of the elderly copies of The Bobbsey Twins. These books held enough of my interest for me to scan them…

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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Parenting

 

Summer Holidays Week 1

Planning the Hell out of this Holiday!

Planning the Hell out of this Holiday!

It’s Day Six of the Summer Holidays and we’re all still here.

I have a plan and I’m sticking to it. It helps that I had Friday alone to write – that’s part of this year’s survival plan.

I can’t give up writing for the summer, much as I want to be that kind of parent: Last year I didn’t write properly again until January.

This is how the holidays are panning out so far:

Homemade Messenger Bag and Purse

Homemade Messenger Bag and Purse

Day 1:

Son at nursery, so daughter requested that we spend a day doing sewing on the machine.

We went to the knitting shop and bought three fat quarters (who knew material was soooo expensive!) and found an easy pattern online.

I have to do these activities early on in the holidays when my patience bucket is at its fullest.

Even so, I made the green purse by myself while my daughter did cartwheels. But she did help with the bag, including pressing it and gluing on the jewels.

Monopoly abandoned when crying started

Monopoly abandoned when crying started

Day 2:

Day started with Monopoly, followed by a trip to the Opticians (where daughter screamed the place down. Sigh), then to the sweetie shop and to a local garden centre to hear a friend play in the local festival.

A delicious lunch of pizza and ice cream followed, and I was feeling like a really good parent. Until we got home to pick up the swimming things and son and I fell out big style. I wouldn’t let him sit in the car without a t-shirt because I didn’t want the seat belt to cut him. He sulked and then asked if I was ready to apologise for being rude (or words to that effect).

Result: I exploded!

Ten minutes of screaming and ranting about ungrateful children etc etc. Sigh. We went swimming two hours later, but only so I could wear them out.

Day 3: Raining, but a good day because both children went to nursery!

Even though my daughter is too old now, the staff love her. My son’s keyworker was as excited as my daughter, and she invited her two daughters in to play too! A great day for all.

I wrote 8,000 words and still got the house ready for visiting rellies.

Day 4: Visiting rellies arrived overnight. I managed to stay awake until midnight to greet them. I also put a loaf on to cook at 7 a.m. and presented a breakfast suitable for Italians at 9 a.m. Then karate at 11 a.m. No idea what we did in the afternoon, slept probably. I still seem to be doing a lot of that this year!

Day 5: Invited my parents to lunch, so went for a run at 9 a.m. rather than cleaning the house. Bored of trying to keep the pigsty tidy already. Walked the dog and took kids to the supermarket to burn off some energy. It’s still raining. Cooked curry (dropped a whole jug of curry sauce all over the floor and DIDN’T CRY, despite taking my meds late on Friday. I did growl at the kids for spilling ink all over the table, but I’m only human.) and crumble and watched the kids pretend to be in a band. Slept from 4-6 p.m. Detecting a theme here…

Dog in her happy place

Dog in her happy place

Day 6: Pyjama Day planned, so I could do more writing. The dog got the hang of relaxing, and I slept curled up with her for an hour, but the children don’t really understand how it works.

Kept shooing them away, and we lasted until lunchtime, although the children ended up with me while I worked, so not sure how much I got done.

Quite proud of my latest story though – Moon Pony – and now just need to find someone to read it!

Pyjama Pancake Picnic in the Playroom

Pyjama Pancake Picnic in the Playroom

Lunch ended up being a pancake picnic in the playroom because I’ve given up trying to feed them healthy food already.

The fridge is empty and so is the fruitbowl. I’ve thrown away twice as much as they’ve eaten. I miss school meals when I didn’t have to know whether they ate or not.

We’re now heading off to the park because it’s finally stopped raining and I need to get us out the house. My son is running around in his waterproofs (which happen to be pink because he’s wearing his sister’s) yelling, “Super Pink! Super Pink!”

Only 38 more days to go. Not that I’m counting.

 

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Being an Introvert Doesn’t Make Me a Bad Parent

I love these gorgeous people

I love these gorgeous people

It’s that time of year again. In two days time the children will break up for the summer. Here in the UK the summer holidays are only six weeks long – you’d think that would be easy, compared to the months they get in other countries, right?

Not for me.

The anxiety started a few days ago. The fear, the broken sleep, the crankiness and racing heart.

Tiredness makes it worse, as does grumpy children, and the end of term creates both.

Summer shows, birthday parties, day trips, farewell gifts, celebration assemblies, things to sign, uniform to buy for next year, moving up days, heat and humidity, have all taken their toll.

The children are fighting non-stop and Hubbie and I are like bears woken early from hibernation.

I know the irony of writing this after my last post. Maybe the contentment makes it harder. Because contentment for me comes from routine and time alone. Knowing where I’m meant to be and what I should be doing, and periods without responsibility or conversation.

Ultimately the thing that makes it hardest is the view that dreading the summer somehow makes me a bad parent. I come across it all the time. Mostly from parents who work, who are glad to have some time with their offspring, or at least away from the office.

Most of my acquaintances have public-facing jobs, which I guess makes them more likely to be extroverts. They like being around people, they take energy from others. Introverts? Not so much. Even people we love spending time with use up our energy and it’s only replaced by periods of solitude. That’s hard to find with two small children and a needy dog in the house 24-7.

I long for the 1980s – children running free in packs away from the house, like I did. Even now, if we lived in a town or a cul-de-sac with other children, then maybe mine would disappear to a friend’s house for an hour or two without me having to arrange it.

Already the children have started the, “Can we…?” and “When will we…?” questions. For half term I scheduled every minute and we were all happier, but I want my children to be free. I want them to be bored. I understand the importance of benign neglect. But there are no trees to climb where I live, no woods to explore, without driving to get there. They’re not old enough to ride around outside on their bikes (even if they could) and I live on a main road.

So it’s trips to the zoo and park and play dates and picnics, refereeing arguments because child A wants to do one thing and child B another. Trying to give them the freedom of my childhood in a world that dictates I must ensure their safety. Trying to stop them being clingy while remembering the psychotherapist that told me ‘dependence before independence’.

And through it all there are those other parents. The ones who say, “I don’t understand why people have kids if they don’t want to spend time with them,” or, “I love hearing my children play and talking to them. I miss them so much when they’re at school.” Or the dreaded look. The one that says, “What a horrible person you are for not wanting to spend 42 days straight with your beautiful children.” Even my doctor questioned whether I actually loved my children.

Yes I love my kids. Sometimes I’m so proud of them I could burst, or my love for them is like a suffocating hug.

I am a good parent.

It’s taken me seven years of soul-searching to appreciate those facts. But I hate arguments, and my children are currently at ‘tantrum four’ and ‘stroppy/sulky six’.

I gave up writing for the whole summer last year, so I could be present and attentive and all those things, and then couldn’t write again until January.

For their sake and mine, I need time by myself, to write, to read, to breathe.

But being a present parent, a helicopter parent, an attachment parent, call it what you will, means my children want to be with me ALL THE TIME. My son sobs if I walk the dog. My daughter wants me to watch her cartwheels endlessly. I can’t pee by myself, even now.

So, judge if you must. I don’t care. Well, not much. The anxiety is with me all the time, your disapproval can be ignored. My son will still go to nursery some days this summer even though his friends have all finished. My daughter has drama camp and church camp. The holiday is planned and sorted and there are times I can be alone.

And I’m okay with that.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2015 in Parenting

 

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Radio Silence

Never-empty Ironing Basket

Never-empty Ironing Basket

I’m sorry for my crapness at keeping up with the blog. I was going to blame the hot weather, or the never-empty ironing basket, or Wimbledon, or my latest computer game obsession (Forge of Empires), or the great books I’ve read recently (Holly Webb is awesome), or the new blog, or the fact I’ve started running again. But the truth is I just don’t have much to say.

I know, it’s a shocker, right?

I seem to be at peace with myself and life, even with it being only six days to the start of the summer holidays. I’m eating well, sleeping okay (when it isn’t hot and humid!) and writing when I can.

There are things I’ve thought about sharing on here – great blog posts on parenting or recipes I’ve discovered or the new KDP Amazon pages-read reports – but I can’t help but feel I’ve said it all before.

And the stuff that gets me really riled these days is all political and I swore I wouldn’t get into politics on my blog. It’s for things mostly writing or parenting related, although I know I stray off topic from time to time!

Hopefully I’ll come up with something to share. Maybe bits of the novels I’m writing at the moment. I’ve started a new series – called Will on the Water – about a girl raised on a narrow boat. If anyone has any direct experience to share, that would really help my research!

I might also do Art in August again, too, just so the blog doesn’t wither and die in the long vacation! At least there will be less ironing to do when the children aren’t at school!

So please don’t give up on me yet. I’ll try harder I promise!

 

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A Plea for Child Readiness

Amanda Martin:

I couldn’t agree more.

Originally posted on Tales from the Penguin Room:

all families matter all families matter

The term “School Readiness” has always bothered me. As a preschool teacher, I am not just getting children ready for school or even for kindergarten. I am helping them learn to be life-long learners. I want them to enjoy school, of course. But I want them to enjoy the people they meet at school and enjoy the things they do after school just as much. I want each of them to be a well-rounded person who finds their own way of fitting in to the world and offering something to the communities they find themselves in.

A blog post of Teacher Tom’s http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2015/06/your-child-is-not-falling-behind.html

making a map

made me see another reason to dislike the phrase “school readiness.” It is often a euphemism for literacy; more specifically reading and writing. Too often I see programs focusing on “school readiness” put so much emphasis on reading and writing that they ignore speaking…

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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Parenting

 

Playing Away From Home

I don’t know how to admit this, but it’s been playing on my conscience. I have neglected you, my family, for another.

The is someone else. What can I say? It was new, exciting, secret.

I thought I could keep you both happy, that no one would know. But then I saw the truth – I was keeping part of myself from you.

There it is, the truth is out. There is another. Another Blog.

Mummy Fit By Forty.

My new place to ramble and try to work out life. An attempt to galvanise myself into getting fit enough to keep up with my kids.

It’s not going so well. The initial excitement is waning. It’s hard. It’s lonely.

So if I’m ever missing from here, I might be there. But you will always be my first, my family. :)

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in My story

 

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Maybe Children ‘Behaving’ Isn’t So Essential

The Guardian article

The Guardian article

In my last post I complained that even my fictional children won’t do what they’re told. My character ran off and started writing a completely different book to the one I intended. According to a writer’s course I did, this is a sign of bad planning and research.

It turns out that my character might know what she’s doing and, if I let her express herself, she’ll write a truer story than anything I could carefully plan and execute.

While writing courses and writing advice is all brilliant, and helps the craft, there is definitely a point to tune out external opinion and trust your gut.

Two articles I read on Facebook recently have made me realise the  same thing with regards to my real life parenting.

I’ve always been a ‘soft’ parent, willing to accommodate my children and listen to them.  I did see a meme this morning on Twitter that said something like, ‘If you always put others first, you teach them that you’re second’ and that is certainly worth considering. I often have to explain to my children what ‘servant’ and ‘slave’ mean after I’ve blurted out a particularly sarcastic comment.

Even so, I’ve never been too bothered about swapping the pink cup for the yellow, or making toast that’s half-marmite, half-jam. This is seen as a parenting weakness. In an article I ranted about a while ago, a nanny said she judged a family badly if they did exactly that. I argued with this view. Why shouldn’t we accept that kids have opinions? I have my favourite glass, fork, plate, bowl and make sure I get them at mealtimes. Woe betide husband making a cup of tea in the wrong mug!

We tell our kids not to whinge or have tantrums or change their mind, but we’re no better. This brilliant article Toddler vs Mum Behaviour: Spot the Difference? on WryMummy.com sums up the hypocrisy. We’re all capable of spilling a drink or napping at the wrong time, and we’re old enough to know better, as the phrase goes. So why yell at a child for it?

The second article that really hit home was on the Guardian website. It’s called Since when did obedience become the epitome of good parenting? My answer would be, Always. Traditionally that’s been the whole purpose of parenting and education. To raise obedient children, seen and not heard, who would go into the Forces, or a factory or an office, and do what they were told.

But life isn’t like that anymore. There are no jobs for life, and the good jobs are about being able to think for yourself – doctors, nurses, scientists, programmers, designers, entrepreneurs, even plumbers and electricians (jobs picked at random!) all require independent thought and problem solving skills. How many times have you moaned because a person in a shop or a tradesman did ‘exactly’ what you asked, without using their brain?

In the Guardian article, the author says, “Imagine going to a friend’s house and you accidentally spill a drink and get shouted at, instead of them saying “oh don’t worry” and mopping it up. And yet…”

The Wry Mummy article

The Wry Mummy article

My kids are terrified of doing something wrong because I yell at them, particularly if they break something or spill a drink. Recently, due to perceived external pressure to make them more obedient, I’ve started started saying things like, “I don’t want to hear excuses, I want to hear, ‘yes Mummy’!”  WTF? I sound like a sergeant major at best, a monster at worse.

I don’t want kids who can’t think for themselves. It is tough, when compliant children are so much easier to deal with. But the flip side is the dangers of compliance. The article discusses a book by Alfie Kohn, called Unconditional Parenting. In it, Kohn explains that a compliant child becomes a particular worry when they hit the teenage years.

“If they take their orders from other people, that may include people we may not approve of. To put it the other way around: kids who are subject to peer pressure at its worst are kids whose parents taught them to do what they’re told.”

That terrifies me. My son already does what his sister tells him to do, even if that is scrambling onto the shed roof or dangling from the climbing frame – activities she often won’t do because she knows they’re dangerous and she’ll get told off. When he’s in trouble for fighting at nursery his explanation is always, ‘But my friends were doing it…’ He’s 4.

The same goes for children who won’t tell their parents when they’re in trouble or suffering. If I silence them now, will they not tell me when they’re being bullied, or starting to think about having sex?

Hard as it is to be constantly challenged, at least my children aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves or explain their actions. Part of my strong reaction to it is knowing I would never have got away with arguing back as a child. There is definitely a fine line between arguing and answering back (in a rude and stroppy way – something my daughter is a master at).

A comforting thought is written beneath the attached photograph: “A healthy sense of rebellion is a sign that a child’s attachments are secure.” If a child can’t push the boundaries with their primary caregiver, how will they ever learn where those boundaries are?

Reading these articles today has made me more determined to watch for the line, rather than having a blanket ban on all forms of self-justification and expression of opinion.

Who knows, today’s child that learns to fight her corner, justify her position, who knows she is valued and her words count, might well go on to change the world. Or at least enjoy her place in it more.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Parenting

 

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