Nov 212014
 
mothers: best drivers in the world

I passed my driving test when I was eight months pregnant with my fourth child and because of that my examiner didn’t make me do an emergency stop. Which was nice, and sensible, but I had to do the more difficult stuff instead (I liked emergency stops, they were easy, you just had to slam your foot on the brake – like, duh? Who can’t do that?) I then took a Pass Plus test which involved driving at night, on the motorway, and on winding narrow country lanes, in really bad weather (I remember it well, lashing torrential rain, rolling […]

Nov 142014
 
a language guide for grandparents

Parenting language has changed beyond all recognition over the decades since I was a child. When I say that, I mean I recognise it all, but if my mother had magically lived on another planet in the intervening years and dropped back to Earth right now, she wouldn’t understand half of what we go on about these days. I imagine it’s a common situation for grandparents who have taken their eye off the parenting ball since their own children were little and now find themselves negotiating a minefield of new words, phrases and expressions which they are expected to understand […]

Nov 072014
 

There are some ways we treat our kids which we wouldn’t like ourselves, I’ve done it, and for some reason I’ve imagined that even though it wouldn’t work for me, it should work for them. It never has. Here are some of those ways I don’t like to be treated, and my honest reactions to them: Insincere flattery: I know you don’t mean it and I just think ‘what do you want?’ Over-praising me: Love a bit of genuine praise, but loads of it and I start to feel uncomfortable and a bit weirded-out. Do you really feel I need […]

Oct 312014
 
I don't like halloween

‘I’m going out with my friends tonight’ announced my daughter. ‘Trick or Treating?’ I asked. ‘No mum’ she said, rolling her eyes. ‘Ooh’ I said, ‘have you grown out of it?’ ‘Mum I didn’t do it last year’ she said patiently. ‘Oh’ I said, ‘oh yeah, of course, I remember now. I do pay attention, honestly.’ I don’t like Halloween. Or to be more specific, I don’t like trick or treating, we didn’t do that when I was a child, it came over from America at some point and was well-established by the time my kids came along. I think […]

Oct 262014
 

We live in a culture of improvement – new improved tastes, experiences, products, results – you can’t get away with just leaving something as it is anymore, it will begin to look shabby. The rate of growth of technology in our consumerist culture produces goods and then quickly develops the means of making a better version so that we all have to continually upgrade. Nothing stands still for long anymore; just as you get used to something like, say, Facebook’s latest design, it changes again and it feels like you’ve moved house. Stressful. ‘New improved Mars Bars’ was a con, […]

Oct 192014
 
the pressure to be nice

It’s hard to believe it now but I used to try and be really nice to my children all the time. They won’t remember. I really did think that’s what you were supposed to do and I can’t believe now that I bought into that stereotype of a good mother and tried to live up to it for so long. The ideals of perfect motherhood get under your skin, they are guilt-inducing without you really being aware of it: failure, stress and resentment are built in. Being nice, polite, reasonable and calm all the time is an act, no-one’s like […]

Oct 122014
 
teenagers and things that don't work

I’m becoming increasingly aware of things that really should work but don’t. Diets for example, or regularly checking your breasts for lumps, they’re things that don’t work and there’s lots of research and evidence to back that up. But they should work shouldn’t they? They should work so much that even though I know the research, my gut instinct is to disbelieve it. And the reason, I think, is that they are simple answers: solutions which empower us with certainty that we can control things if only we do x, y or z. Simple answers to complex issues – our […]

Oct 052014
 
body confidence issues

As I look at my daughter, just turned 15, I am so glad I’d become older and wiser before she arrived in the world. I am so glad I had reached the Fuck It stage of body dysmorphia and that I had become Frankly Too Bored With The Whole Subject To Frankly Give A Shit. It had taken a lot of practice to achieve that mindset, a lot of pretending, but I’d come a long way by the time she was born. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if she’d been my first child when I was […]

Sep 282014
 
my parenting job is done

You use what you’ve got to give your kids an advantage in the world don’t you? And what we’ve got is individual to us, there’s no better or worse, there’s just what we happen to have. I was thinking this as my daughter was looking through the list of opportunities for a week’s work experience given to her by the school. ‘All my friends’ parents are getting them into companies they know Mum, but is it OK if I just do a week in a shop in Lewes?’ ‘Yeah of course’ I said, ‘I don’t know anyone so you’ll have […]

Sep 212014
 
blackberrying

This week I have mostly enjoyed picking blackberries, it’s something I haven’t done for a long time. Blackberrying is one of those activities I gave up when the kids got too old to want to do it with me. I began to calculate the hours spent versus the value of the goods produced (I’m self-employed, it’s a habit) and realised that, financially, I’d be better off buying my blackberries from Tesco. Except of course I never did because I can’t bring myself to spend money on something you can get for free in the hedgerows. A few blackberry-less years later, […]

Sep 142014
 
empty nest syndrome

Over the summer, on and off, I was playing a fun little game in my head called What If All The Kids Had Left Home Already, What Would That Be Like? It started in July when I went up to North Wales by myself to visit my mum, I was driving alone on the motorway when it suddenly struck me that this is what it will be like when all the kids have gone. At Oxford Services, where we always stop off, I could sense the ghosts of Holidays Past and the feeling was so painful I decided my next […]

Sep 072014
 
back to school

Hi I’m back! Hope all you CWK blog followers have had a brilliant summer! And now it’s back to school, a phrase that always strikes dread in my heart. I’ve obviously been programmed to feel this way since childhood and it never changes, even though there are now some things I like about the start of term. When my children were little it was the relief to get back some precious time to myself, and these days I quite like that return to a structured day. Really. Eventually. Back to school time always raises an important question for me which […]

Jul 202014
 
the wisdom of teachers

Having spent a year sitting in this exact position where I am sitting now, in front of my lap-top writing my book (did I tell you about my book?) I have decided that all things Communicating with Kids could do with a break, so this post is the last snippet of parenting fun I will write until September. Instead of looking at a screen, I will spend a few weeks looking at other things – the sea, the landscape, my children –  I will swim in the sea and walk up hills and have fun with my kids at festivals. […]

Jul 132014
 
what's wrong with insecurities?

My daughter and I, for lack of a World Cup game, found ourselves watching a tribute to football pundit extraodinaire Alan Hansen on telly the other night. Presented by Gary Lineker, it was one of the most moving stories of someone’s life I can remember seeing in a long time. Through all the archive footage they showed, my daughter got a quick potted history of my football-mad childhood (which is always nice) but of course I was also watching on a deeper level than that, as you would expect. I found his story so moving because he was variously described […]

Jul 062014
 
positive thinking

I have just spent a year sitting in front of my lap-top writing my book ‘Communicating with Kids’ (Due to be published in February 2015! Just so you know) so I thought it would be a good idea to go out for a walk and start to get fit again. I was walking for about an hour, and on the way back, as I was nearing  my house it hit me that I had spent all this time in reverie about the fame and success which would result from the publication of my book. I thought I had been appreciating […]

Jun 292014
 
should we worry?

I remember watching some t.v. news programme years ago, where an interviewer asked an ‘expert’ this question: ‘Should we be worrying about this?’ I think it was something to do with a food scare. The question stayed with me. Should I worry about this? Should I mind? Does it matter? Is it my duty to worry? If I refuse to worry about something, does that make me an irresponsible citizen? And when you get into the wonderful world of Competitive Parenting, does refusing to worry make me a bad parent? My own personal parenting mantra which I developed over many […]

Jun 222014
 
success and failure

Having won the World Cup last time, Spain have exited this one at the group stage, just as France did when they won, as did Italy, and even Brazil. This reminds me of a statistic I read once which showed that if your coach has just won the Manager of the Year award, you’d better start packing your bags and looking towards the division below because your odds of being relegated the next season are significantly increased. All that expectation that you will live up to your Number 1 position! All that pressure to stay in the top spot and […]

Jun 152014
 
watching the world cup

When my daughter was three, I said to her ‘The World Cup is starting next week, I’ll need to watch every match uninterrupted.’ This is a confessional blog post, by the way, I’ve always felt I can’t possibly tell people I said that to a three-year-old. Like watching the World Cup is a need! How selfish that sounds. To justify myself, she’s my fourth child. I had learned things by then. When my first son was a toddler I remember sitting down to watch the Wimbledon Final, and several stressful hours later registering the awful fact that never again in […]

Jun 082014
 
how do I explain Page 3 to my kids?

Here’s a question I get asked a lot: ‘If my little girl/boy gets to see Page 3 in public how do I explain it to her/him?’ and my advice is the same as it would be for anything else that really worries us, which is that we parents have to empower ourselves in order to empower our children. (And by ‘empower’ I don’t mean taking our clothes off, just to be clear). Otherwise, we can be so worried about the damaging effects of something that we pass on that anxiety to our children, and that’s not very helpful. So to […]

Jun 012014
 
shopping for a swimming costume

Summer half-term is like a seasonal consumer groundhog day for me. I inevitably find myself in one of those large cheap shopping emporiums like Matalan with my daughter and the reason we’re there is to buy a new swimming costume. For a girl of fourteen there are no swimming costumes. The girls section is hyper-sexualised and frightening and only goes up to age thirteen anyway. The adult section is just awful; garish, fussy and ‘glamorous.’ As she is in the changing-rooms trying on the pair of shorts we didn’t come in for, I find two costumes that look the most […]

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