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 [...]

May 252014
 
when will my kids be settled?

Last week I heard something interesting on telly from Bob Mortimer, the comedian and, in my opinion, the funnier half of Reeves and Mortimer. Apparently he was once a bin man for a year, and he listed a few other jobs he’d done before becoming a lawyer, and then a comedian. I don’t know what it is about lawyers becoming comedians – Clive Anderson had the same career trajectory – but I love hearing about people who have done lots of different things, all totally unrelated. It just goes to show what potential we have as human beings, so it’s [...]

May 182014
 
my eldest son is leaving home

My eldest son is twenty-two and is leaving home at the end of the week. He did leave home once before, but then moved back in as a stop-gap while he was looking for a flat, and eighteen months later here we are. He works mostly evenings so he’s been around a lot during the daytime, and he’s really good company. I’ll miss him. He was going through all the forms he needs to fill in before he can move in to the flat he’s found with his mate, and there were so many checks the letting agent seemed to [...]

May 112014
 
outraged indignance

I remember very clearly when I was quite young, the moment I gave myself permission to feel irritated. This was way before I became a parent, it was back in the days when I thought that being irritated was not an attractive quality for a young woman; I think something in my culture and upbringing had instilled in me the belief that if I looked irritated I wouldn’t get a boyfriend. I just knew in my bones that looking irritated made you look ugly, and then no man would fancy you. I knew that I had to be very careful [...]

May 042014
 
do we support kids too much?

I saw the brilliant Tracey Thorn this week reading an extract from her autobiography, and she’d got to the bit where she was sixteen and had decided to ‘be in a band.’ She explained how brilliant punk was for its lack of demand for any talent, or for any evidence of previous dedicated practice of an instrument, but best of all, it was something that all parents hated, so you were safe to go into something knowing that your parents wouldn’t ruin it by being supportive. There was a burst of laughter at the knowing way she said this, but [...]

Apr 272014
 
dealing with hurt feelings

Why is it that dealing with hurt feelings (my own) is still the most challenging thing with my children after all these years? I’ve learned to deal with my angry, irritated and impatient feelings quite well over the years, but those feelings are easy compared with feeling hurt, because those feelings don’t make me want to cry. Having my feelings hurt by my kids is not something that happens very often so maybe it’s partly a lack of experience, or maybe I’m usually just more thick-skinned when it comes to them. Either way, it feels a bit inappropriate, as if [...]

Apr 202014
 
alternative therapies

I spent years and a lot of money on my first two children when they were little, trying to cure their personalities with alternative therapies, before realising that they didn’t need it (well, one of them didn’t..). Just to assure you of my credentials in this area, I tried everything; I think I was viewed as the ‘mad one’ in my extended family, a position that maybe some of you can relate to. Homeopathy, crystals, colour-light therapy, magnets, essential oils, odd potions from little shops calling themselves ‘apothecaries’ rather than ‘Boots the Chemist,’ you name it, I tried it. I’m [...]

Apr 132014
 
hidden messages

We drove up to North Wales for our Easter visit to Grandma this week and on the M25 we saw the strangest motorway sign we had ever seen. It said: ‘Pick up litter. Other people do.’ Cue fun and entertainment for the rest of the journey: ‘Break the speed limit. Other people do.’ ‘Drive like an idiot. Other people do.’ ‘Ignore motorway signs. Other people do.’ ‘Mum, buy chocolate! Other people do.’ Honestly, this new car game kept us fully entertained all the way to North Wales. Six hours have never flown by so quickly. We have been entertained before [...]

Apr 062014
 
are you a good mother or a bad mother?

This week I got a leaflet through my door from my local Conservative MEPs, with a questionnaire to fill out about my views. I checked through, and there were no ‘Don’t Know’; ‘Not Sure’; ‘Well it Depends’ or ‘That’s a Stupid Question’ options, so I can’t fill it in. I never know the answers to questions which are phrased in black and white, either/or extremes. Take this one for example; do I agree with: ‘Fairness means people getting what they deserve, with those who work hard getting rewarded and no more something for nothing.’ Or: ‘Fairness means sharing prosperity equally [...]

Mar 302014
 
the perfect gift for mothers day

I was watching an ad on telly last night for a double album of songs, and I just knew it was going to end with the words ‘The Perfect Gift for Mothers Day!’ The reason I knew that was because the album was called ‘Bland Undemanding Songs for Generic People’ – oh alright then, that was a lie. It was actually called ‘Relaxing Classics’ or something, but it contained only bland undemanding songs – and songs that I love, I have to say – but unrelentingly over two discs? I’m old and experienced in life enough to know that that’s [...]

Mar 232014
 
gender stereotyping

We’re good at gender-stereotyping in my family, and for that I think we have to thank Enid Blyton and the Famous Five; reading those books together gave us all much opportunity for gender-based hilarity and mirth when my children were younger. My daughter has had to run the gauntlet of Blyton-inspired patronising and sexist comments from her brothers right through her childhood: ‘Oh wow, brilliant! Sometimes you’re JUST AS GOOD AS A BOY!’ is a particular favourite. And happily a heavily gender-stereotyped media has kept this rich vein of humour alive and kicking as my children have grown up. My [...]

Mar 162014
 
mothers are role models

When I just had my three sons, I saw myself as their blueprint of Woman and I wanted them to think that women are good, but when I had my daughter I learned pretty early on that ‘women are good’ was the most important thing I could teach her. I saw that her greatest need was to respect me as her mother; that in me she saw her future self and she wanted it to be something worth growing up for. In her case, I knew I was the most important role-model in her life. We have rather different hopes for [...]

Mar 092014
 
babies are born with empathy

It’s official, babies are born with empathy. It’s not an add-on. Paul Bloom of Yale University in Connecticut, after carrying out a series of studies of babies, argues that a sense of morality is hard-wired, although it can subsequently be either enhanced or degraded according to experience. This is not new information, it has been shown before, and it makes absolute sense, how could it not be so? Primitive humans depended on empathy – the ability to imagine another’s feelings and desire to help them – because man or woman could not survive alone in the wild (although it’s easier [...]