Category Archives: Childhood

Reminiscences, our childhoods, and how they compare with our parenthood.

Notes about me – Facebook meme

25 Random Things Share Rules:
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. I am blonde in my head, even though I haven’t looked blonde since I was about seven.
2. I have two degrees, one in Literature and Media Studies, and one in just Literature.
3. I wrote an entire MA dissertation on the Chalet School, and it was a darn sight more fun that Shakespeare or Dickens could ever have been.
4. I’m not sending my kids to school.
5. I have researched my family tree to the point of having 645 names in it. That’s quite a lot. I come from Wales, and Ireland, and Wirral, and Manchester, and Shropshire.
6. The most interesting story I found in the tree was of the man who married one sister, then ran off with the ten-years-younger sister, lived over the brush with her for 30 years, had a stack of kids, and finally married her when first sister died.
7. I didn’t intend to quit work when I had Daisy, but I’ve got no intention of going back, now.
8. My youngest, Henry, has never been in his pram, having travelled everywhere in a sling until he could walk, and even now when he gets tired. He’s 19 months old, now, and it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he ever will. I did toy with putting him in the seat of the shopping trolley, yesterday, but didn’t do it.
9. I couldn’t quite bring myself to get rid of the pram. Might celebrate his second birthday by throwing it out.
10. I make slings for friends, especially pregnant friends, but I could never sell them, because my sewing really isn’t of marketable quality!
11. I think 25 things is a lot.
12. I went to two primary schools, two secondary schools and one sixth form college.
13. I’ve only ever worked for two people – St Rhadagund’s Christian Holiday Centre, and Liverpool John Moores University.
14. I’m better at attention to detail than big projects.
15. I still don’t know if I’ve finished having children.
16. I’m not ready to have another one yet.
17. I’m still breastfeeding H.
18. I play the viola, but not often enough to be any good.
19. It’s so long since I’ve played from music, I think I may have forgotten how.
20. People think playing by ear is clever, and/or hard. Believe me, if it was hard, I’d be too lazy to do it.
21. I sometimes think that someone who studied literature to the relatively high level that I have ought to read more. I hardly ever read novels, don’t buy a newspaper, and search the internet for intellectual stimulation, with varying degrees of success.
22. I wasn’t fat when I was a kid.
23. I don’t eat enough fruit.
24. I don’t eat enough vegetables, either, but I do like vegetables. Sadly, the rest of my family don’t, really. They all eat fruit by the hundredweight, while I just sit here getting scurvy.
25. I am married to the best husband on the planet, which is hard luck on the rest of you.

Educational philosophy

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit, recently, and was suprised to discover that I have one, and that it’s slightly better thought out than I’d realised (though that may not be saying much).

I think I slightly scandalised my mum, at the weekend, by telling her that I wasn’t particularly bothered about the kids doing GCSEs. The fact is, I’ve become quite hostile to the idea of certification getting in the way of education.  Myself, I’m qualified to the hilt, with no particular evidence of it having done me any good – except in the sense that I really rather enjoyed writing my MA dissertation, and I’m still quite proud of it as a piece of work.  And I think that’s the key.  There are odd essays from my undergrad and postgrad career that I feel almost as proud of – they’re the ones that I enjoyed writing, got thoroughly involved in, and which consequently included moments of utter clarity, when I could suddenly see, and better yet, articulate, what was going on. I think I’ve lost my Freud essay, which is a shame, because I was rather partial to it.

The point is, the best bits of my education were when I stopped being in it for the qualifications, and started focussing on the education. The most satisfying, fulfilling, stimulating parts of the process were about the exhilaration of learning and discovering, for the sheer satisfaction of doing so. It was about intellectual achievement, not about doing the grunt-work towards getting a certificate.

That’s what I want for my children. I want their education – at every level – to be about the joy of doing something you couldn’t do yesterday, of understanding something you didn’t understand yesterday, of making a connection you hadn’t made yesterday. I don’t want it to be about slaving away at something that doesn’t interest you, just to get to the certificate.

Now, there are exceptions to this rule; I’m not sure if that’s because I’m applying it inconsistently, or because life simply isn’t that good. I do still think that learning to read is important, that qualifications in Maths and English are expected by almost everyone you’ll meet in adult life, and that certain goals require a certain amount of grunt-work to get to them. If, for example, you decide you want to be a doctor (example rather than maternal aspiration), you have to study medicine at University, and you have to achieve the minimum requirements to access that course – probably sciencey A Levels, and probably Maths and English GCSE to boot. In order to study A levels, you may be required to take more GCSEs than that, too, and almost certainly, some of that process will be boring – however, if you’ve stepped onto that treadmill with a specific goal in mind, and done it consciously, you’re likely to be less hostile towards the boring bits, because you’re committed to achieving your goal.

A visual representation of the forest that had to be chopped down to support my educational journey, ages 4-28.
A visual representation of the forest that had to be chopped down to support my educational journey, ages 4-28.

It’s not the same thing as studying as many GCSEs as you can fit into your timetable, with very few real choices as to what they are (in my day, the choice amounted, for most people, to History or Geography, and I get the impression it’s even more prescriptive, now), and then choosing the subjects you hate least to study as many A Levels as you can, so you can go to University, because everyone has told you that you simply MUST go to University.

Don’t get me wrong. University is great, not least because it’s the very first time you get a free choice of what to study, and in what depth. Sadly, most undergrads (myself included) take a long time to get out of the habit of studying because you have to, and into studying because you want to. Lots never manage it. Having got so far on doing work, to get marks, to get grades, to get qualified, to have a piece of paper to wave about saying how qualified you are, the joy of learning is so long since squashed that it’s irreparable. But, if you’re careful, if you choose your course properly, and keep your eye out for the bits that are genuinely interesting to you, University can be the place learn how to enjoy learning again – to essentially relearn what came so utterly naturally to you before you ever started school, because young children love learning; nothing gives them greater pleasure.

I coasted for most of my academic career, and actually, that’s not terribly fulfilling.  I was lucky – I was bright enough to get away with it.  My mum is convinced that in a different school, I would have gained straight As at GCSE, but that I lacked the ethos of work around me to get me to put in the effort.  I’m not convinced.  I mean, she might be right, but I’m not convinced it would have changed my life’s direction in the slightest.  Instead, I learned fairly early on how much effort was required to achieve what I need to achieve.  I didn’t get straight As, but I got C and above for all my subjects.  Since no-one ever requires a GCSE A grade, it was perfectly adequate, and since I wasn’t engaged with the process of learning for it’s own sake, I saw no reason to work any harder than I needed to.  But since my desired A level course accepted me, and my desired degree course accepted me (well, my second choice did, and there were extenuating circumstances around the time of the exams), I’m now more or less where I was always heading.  A different environment might have changed my attitude, but not my outcome.

I would much rather my children were engaged with learning, than engaged with gaining qualifications, on the off-chance that they might need them one day.  And on the day that they decide that they want to do X, and that the best way to achieve that is go through the process of Y and Z, they’ll know why they’re doing it, and hopefully be motivated by that knowledge.

learning fun!

Over Christmas our house has suffered another influx of attention seeking talking toys. It’s not bad enough that they constantly sing every-time someone walks past them, but if you don’t touch them they start screaming for attention.

my ‘favorite’ two phases spinning around my head today are

“are you read for the learning fun?”

“lets go on a learning journey”

don’t know what you play with if you don’t want to learn anything.

*i don’t want people to think we are ungrateful, for all those who bought us these presents, thank you, really if we didn’t have them our children would be climbing the walls, but still i’m allowed to go mad arn’t I?

Maternal guilt

Christmas is over, and so the maternal guilt has begun. Specifically, I am currently feeling guilty for throwing away toys. I mean, I stand by the decision – the house is finite, and the toys were taking over the world. I’ve ditched almost nothing that arrived this week (almost nothing), and the vast bulk is soft toys that Daisy’s never really played with, or else hasn’t played with for a very long time. If anything, I’ve probably not thrown away enough. But every single decision left me rocking in a corner, in case I was getting rid of the wrong thing.

Seriously, folks: my kids do not need any more soft toys. Possibly ever again. Also, I think we have all the toy tea-sets we’ll ever need, now. I reckon we had the right number of presents under the tree – sadly, we were three sacks away from having finished, at that point.

I sound so ungrateful, don’t I? It’s just that I’ve spent the last five days looking at the pile of Stuff in my living room, and wondering where I’m supposed to put it all. Fighting the urge to wonder why my friends and family hate me so much as to fill my life with all this Stuff, when they all know that I’ve spent the last five years trying to simplify my life – to live the Flylady way.

And of course, I know. It’s not about seeking to make me miserable, it’s about loving my children enough to buy nice things for them. I do get it, really. But then, that leads back to the guilt. Because we cannot possibly keep it all, but it’s me that has to throw things away, knowing that they were bought with love, for someone who isn’t me.

If I had just one wish, I think it would be for less volume. When I was a child, we never got more than one present from one person, and I was taken by surprise by the literal sackloads that some people sent. We only gave the kids one thing each – and with no particular reference to monetary value, either. One present is one present, especially at this age.

I did my bit – I bought a bigger toy cupboard. Now it’s time for someone else to help me out.