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.

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Do Mums Know Best?

A maternal bond is heavily focused on amongst new mothers and midwives, how it is crucial to get that motherly connection going in case it might never happen and your baby will grow up resenting you. As you can probably tell by my sarcastic tone, I completely disagree.

Scare mongering new mothers in thinking they must breast feed, co-sleep and wear their baby like a fashion accessory is completely absurd. Of course breast-feeding is considered the ‘better’ option, however mothers should not be made to feel bad if they are unable to (as explained in a previous post). Also, articles which encourage co-sleeping are just creating a recipe for disaster.

It is almost tragic that there is not equal respect for paternal instinct. This is not just sharing responsibility and baby duties begrudgingly whilst the mother takes a rest, but to actively seek to care for your child and equally be Mummy. DH and I are both Mummies and Daddies; we both know how to put DS to sleep, feed him, his likes and dislikes, whilst simultaneously slaving away to earn the bucks.

On leaflets, websites and magazines we all advocate fathers taking an interest in their child, some choosing to take the lead in parenting. However, when it boils down to reality, attitudes and public opinion have not changed. In any circumstance when I mention the hardship we endured during the birth of DS in the midst of our degrees, I receive positive responses varying from amazement to shock. Yet when DH broaches the subject, it almost ends in an anticlimax as the listener stares expectantly for the next part to the story; as if he had the time to juggle anything more than being a full-time dad whilst achieving a First in his degree.

I believe fathers have equal capability when caring for their children and it should not be a mother’s prerogative. You learn from your child through practice, it is not instinctual. Your baby is born a blank canvas and it is both parents’ responsibility to shape who she will eventually become. Traditionally a mother knew best because she would always be looking after the baby, however in our modern society I believe team work produces the greatest results.

Sometimes we need to ask, why is it that a man gets a job over a woman because he is least likely to take time off for the children? Why is a man looked down upon for stepping up to the game? Society shuns fathers who abandon their babies and leave behind a single mother, yet it is no more inviting to fathers who love their children and actively seek to be part of their lives.

Two months - I'll help you study Daddy!

Textbook, not Facebook.

Today’s public announcement by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) warned that there would be consequences in having a Facebook account accessible to pupils. This has caused a somewhat mixed response; some say teachers’ should have the same liberties as you or I, and others expect them to keep their personal lives hidden.

I think to impose a ban on Facebook would be almost impossible to regulate and would merely add to this ‘nanny state’ the Daily Mail loves to rave about. Schools should advise new teachers of the repercussions, so they are made very aware that their images and wall posts are in public view. It is then the teacher’s decision whether or not to have a social networking website, to change their privacy settings or to use a pseudonym. If the contents of their website are misused by pupils, then they are culpable. To have images manipulated or comments made in class, ultimately loses the teacher’s respectability. If a teacher does not have the respect from their pupils, they will not succeed; thus, giving a school a valid reason to remove a teacher from their post.

I find it odd how perceptions have changed; once teachers were the pillars of society, but now they are seen to be ‘one of us’. As a parent, I want teachers to be smarter than me, well-educated and have a high standing in the community. They should be reserved and informed, happy they have chosen a vocation where they have such an influence in our children’s lives; not living for the weekend, where they intend to sit pint in hand in the local Wetherspoons. They have an obligation to uphold this demure exterior and ensuring their reputation stays intact.

I do not agree with schools imposing rules, but I do think teachers should want to be perceived as professional, in and out of school. If politicians and celebrities can live their lives without writing on each others’ walls and tagging photos, I am sure teachers can. Your memories are your own.

They had it comin’

They only had themselves to blame
If you’d’ve been there
If you’d’ve seen it
I think that you would have done the same..


Okay, enough of the Chicago Soundtrack.

It is very easy for me to position myself with the students and to recognise their anger towards the Tories; after all, I was one not long ago. It seems to me that the students are fighting their own corner, dismissed by elders and unappreciated for what they will provide to our society in the future.

 

'The Guardian' - A student dressed in bank notes before the start of the protest march in London.

Those who opted out of university appear to have taken the higher ground and are disgusted with the violence from the minority of protesters. They chime ‘university isn’t the be all and end all’, ‘I worked my way up and now I manage graduates’, ‘what’s the point of non-qualifying degrees anyway’. The argument is not whether university is a necessity, whether a particular degree is worthy of honours, nor is it a comparison to progression through work. It is that the opportunity is being robbed from the poor; people who once wanted to take this route are having second thoughts. It should not be that only the middle-classes and the rich can aspire to be doctors, teachers, lawyers, everyone has the potential to be whoever they want to be. Yet no matter how hard one works, without a degree professional jobs are limited to the ones who can afford to take out a second mortgage.

If the future means students will only study professional degrees, thus leading to professional jobs and hopefully earning a higher income; what will happen to teachers, midwives and nurses? We all know these professions are poorly paid and overworked. The banker who is to blame for the economic crisis pockets all his hard-earned cash, whilst a midwife who is working night shifts trying to pay off her tuition fees and her mortgage is left penniless.

‘According to analysis by Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Union of Students, the total cost of repayment for those earning £35,000-£40,000 per annum would be £37,800, assuming a 30-year repayment period. For those earning £100,000, the cost would be £31,849, based on a repayment period of only four years.’ (Target Courses)

Yes we want professionals who look after us, fight our court cases and whatnot. Yes we also want labourers who fix our pipes, heat our houses and sweep our streets. On top of that, we want social mobility and justice for those earning average annual salaries in a career they enjoy, which they probably acquired from their ‘mickey mouse’ degree.

By ‘we’ I am speaking in reference to society. We should be fuelled by aspiration, not greed.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny.

I have noticed in recent weeks there has been a lot of talk around women and the various sizes they come in. I find it almost comical how being fat once use to give you an unsavory reputation, and now times have shifted, it is okay to put on the pounds; leaving the skinnies, who eat healthily and look after themselves, to be the bad guys.

Do not get me wrong; I do not condone anorexia, bulimia or any other form of eating disorder. Naturally human beings are designed to be thinner; we have demonstrated our ability to survive and evolve without being malnourished. The majority of individuals who are thin do not diet or starve themselves, they are just healthy beings who are judged upon because society chooses to accommodate our greedy nation.

This lax attitude in our modern day that makes it acceptable to be overweight is absurd. Perhaps our recent government’s cuts on housing benefit should have brought to light the real reasons why some individual chooses to abuse the system. Our deficit cuts should have focused more on the individuals who resign themselves to being overweight and claim that they are disabled, thus not working, exercising and using taxpayers money to fund the numerous care they receive from the NHS. Society has become somewhat lenient towards obesity in our ever-growing nation.

By no means am I saying there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ weight as such, some people are naturally bigger than others, that is not the problem. The issue lies when one’s lifestyle is substantially affected by overindulgence.

Fat seats in Brazil designed to hold up to 550lbs.

I am a material girl.

Bluewater Shopping Centre – where dreams are made of. Yesterday we spent hours in awe of all we could buy, every store became a tease. It therefore prompted me to compile a list of things I feel I need in the near future:

  1. 16GB Wifi and 3G ipad
  2. An iphone
  3. All the furniture in Lom Bok (Though I’d settle with the Maharani range in John Lewis)
  4. The entire new collection in Zara (for myself and DS)

I don’t think I am entirely to blame for this acquisitive nature of mine. I am purely a product of this capitalist society we live in, where we desire money and work hard to better ourselves. Despite this, I like to think that my greed does not always correlate with my expenditures and I live within my means.

But does the extent of my desire for material goods breach the criterion set by society? It is hard to determine in our modern day the line which separates the overindulgent from the norm. Whilst some would classify my wants and needs as excessive, it would not seem dissimilar to another individual’s desires.

Let’s be honest, I am not alone when I say I want an ipad. They are, after all, the ultimate definition of cool.