What is childhood?

Artist Raindropmemory from www.wallpaperswide.com

Artist Raindropmemory from http://www.wallpaperswide.com

Reading the comments below this blog post on extra-curricular activities for children has got me thinking – what is childhood?

Are those who say “let children be children” and “XXX is being robbed of his childhood” a bit disillusioned? It’s only in recent decades society has romanticised childhood. Before the war and for hundreds of years (and in many countries even today) children were/are expected to work in factories, not have an education and provide for their family doing laborious, and very dangerous, jobs.

Children now in the Western world have never had it better. Education, toys, technology and more all on their doorstep. No longer are they shoved up a chimney or whipped to fetch a pail of water. Most are privileged to have loving families, a school system to help them succeed and to participate in extra curricular activities, which more often than not, are fun.

A fair number of parents shake their heads disapprovingly at the latter. When a parent is prepared to pour their time and money (not to say it always requires money) into educating and bettering their children, how can that be a bad thing? I see and hear about parents who don’t read to their kids, aren’t fussed about homework and let them play on the streets until dark in the name of childhood. Letting their child fall out of education without a plan in place, because you know, little Timmy is still trying to work out the path he wants to take.

Children get stressed when they have too many choices. Choices should be arbitrary (“would you like a custard cream or a digestive?”) not about serious life decisions. No child will ever volunteer themselves for maths tuition (or anything else that requires effort quite frankly), but that doesn’t mean it’s cruel to enrol them. DS1 started Kumon workbooks I bought from Amazon from aged three and they were a game to him.

At aged five, DS1 has been enrolled onto the Kumon course for three months now. He gets home from school, has a snack, does his 20 page Kumon worksheet in approximately 15 minutes, practises reading with his daily book from school and then he is allowed free play. He understands the routine, there’s no fight, no shouting, no tears. The misconception that a strict routine entails negativity from the parent is wrong. He is praised for his efforts and excited for the sticker at the end. Kumon hasn’t only taught him sums – he’s learnt routine, concentration (even when the task in hand isn’t brightly coloured and flashing to get your attention like most activities – that’s another blog post for another time…), to work autonomously, self-correction, seeing things through to the end, pencil control among many others.

The key to success is to be relentless with everything you do. I try my best to instil good habits from an early age, so as they grow up my children are hungry to achieve for themselves.

Snowed In.

It did cross my mind when signing our tenancy, that living on top of a steep hill, where the road is very narrow, might be an issue when it comes to snow. I dismissed it at the time in favour of a nice house, however now it actually has snowed, I am fearing the next couple of days.

You see, the only way is down where I live. Down the very steep hill where I would probably end up swerving the car out into the main road if I drove, or through a narrow private “road” (with pot holes all over the place, lovely home for the ice that is yet to come) where the car would probably skid into the wall or the fence opposite. And if we walked, no doubt I would fall, drag DS down with me and we would both roll down the hill, caked in snow, as if we were zorbing or something. I certainly do not want to relive our trip to Bodiam Castle, where I accidentally yanked DS down with me after taking a fall because of my inappropriate footwear. Poor boy.

For the moment though, leaving the hideous thoughts of it turning into some kind of giant ice rink, we enjoyed the snow and ventured to the local park.

Empty Promises.

That is exactly what New Year’s resolutions are. I won’t pretend that going to the gym is something I want to do, or even be fooled in thinking I could keep it up.

It baffles me when one chooses to lose weight, quit smoking, generally be a nicer person at this particular point of the year. I assume we all know how the calendar works, so why do we pick the first of January? Surely choosing a superficial turning point discredits the real objective.

Today did not feel any different from yesterday and I have had no desire to celebrate writing ’12’ instead of ’11’. If anything, I am mourning 2011, for the turning of the year only means I am forever ageing. Oh yes, the pessimist in me strikes again.

This does not mean we should all remain stagnant in reminiscing what’s gone, nor does it mean future goals shouldn’t be set. I have lots of goals and time frames for them, but to suddenly declare them because of the change of date seems all a bit odd to me. My goals are ongoing and do not necessarily start at the beginning of each year.

I like to think my goals are about the bigger picture, not just for me, but my family. To see how many successes we can accumulate in a year, as opposed to limit ourselves trivially to eat less biscuits. Success shouldn’t be measured upon a list made up during the January blues, but something we all work towards in continual progress. Being loosely committable because it’s the trend to make resolutions takes away from the seriousness of your goals; they should be applicable at any given point of the year.

Sapin de Noël.

We decided to play by tradition and erect our Christmas tree on the first weekend of December. This required the furniture to be rearranged for it to fit in our tiny house, which had to be done in silence last night to avoid waking a sleeping DS.

I say we put up the tree, but it was mainly DH. I dabbled in a bit of decorating, but building the actual tree was a bit too hands on for me.

Don’t Go Knockin’ on my Door.

Halloween has been and gone, I must say, despite my initial fears, it has been rather painless. All because of a little sign I created and hung on my front door, DS was able to sleep in peace and I did not have to spend my evening distributing fruit, only to explain that we do not keep sweets in our household.

I was a little wary at first, fearing the little tykes who would purposely play knock down ginger on my door. I thought long and hard about how to make my sign nice and happy to avoid that kind of situation. ‘knock on my door and I will smite you’ would probably not have gone down very well with the crowd.

I am so pleased my sign worked a treat and our evenings were saved. This is definitely going into storage for next Halloween. Perhaps I will magic another sign to divert those pesky carol singers.

*My apologies for the Britney Spears lyric in my title, I just couldn’t resist..

Clocking in.

I think it is extraordinary as we turn back our clocks to gain an hour, internationally they are none the wiser. We all live on time in accordance to our country, and obviously the sun, without thinking too much of it. In some countries the time is not altered at all.

As DS is now a bouncing toddler and his routine is a little more flexible, the clocks have not really affected him. Waking at 6:30AM new time meant that his normal routine could be maintained, as he would usually wake at 5:30AM anyway. I remember the last time we had to change the clocks the lead up was very different. We would adjust meal times by fifteen minutes each go and slowly pushing back naps. An hour is nothing to an adult, but to a baby it probably equates to half a day; their tiny brain can only handle so much activity.

All this messing about with time, who does it actually benefit? In the days of yore the farmers could utilise the extra hour of sunshine in the summer and sleep in during the dark months of winter. This of course is translated into modern day utilisation, where childless individuals can get that extra hour of sleep. But for the rest of us who have reproduced, and there are a lot of us, it is just a prolonged day with tiresome little rascals.

I do miss those baby baby days, this baby toddler is growing up way too fast.

Witchful Thinking.

As Halloween is approaching in the coming week, I am dreading the swarm of children and greedy teenagers that will inevitably be knocking on my door. With the exception of living in my family home many years ago, I have never personally received any trick or treaters. Previously, I was very comfortable to forget Halloween even existed behind my flat door, and by another external door just to be safe.

I have a very bah humbug attitude towards Halloween, if you had not guessed. I was not allowed to trick or treat as a child because my mother said it was like begging. This was also coupled with it being dark and dangerous to knock on strangers’ doors. All this bundled together with my paranoia that someone might give me some kind poisonous concoction in a wrapper, lead to my dislike for Halloween. DH was not allowed to trick or treat either, so there are no qualms in this household about whether DS will be permitted.

Lets be honest, if it was hardly safe to knock on random doors when I was a child, it certainly isn’t now. No longer is it about supervising small children around your friendly neighbourhood, unless you live in a small middle class village where a special selection of Mr Simms is thrusted to you, along with a homemade toffee apple.

I remember one year when I was younger, we had the same group of thirteen to eighteen year olds knocking on the same doors repeatedly on my road. They would swap masks, as if we couldn’t tell the difference, and smirked as they walked away with more ‘goodies’. Assuming they were the local chavs, we were too frightened of getting a brick thrown at our window, so we would give them a little something each time. You see, we saved our out-of-date chocolates and crisps specifically for this type of rapscallion.

Hopefully this year in my little house I can avoid all of the above. I don’t think having people pointlessly knocking on my door throughout the night will bode well with a sleeping DS, and inevitably, it will be pointless because I have nothing to give them. I plan on making a sign and placing it strategically on my door to ward off the little tykes. I will let you know how it goes…