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.


Chugga Chugga Choo Choo..

I wish all our trains were this happy.

In recent weeks I have joined our daily commuters in the not-so-adventurous journey into London. I get the high speed train which takes me into St Pancras in shockingly 25 minutes, which is a very expensive alternative to avoiding a 1.5 hour journey on the slower Charing Cross train, to only get the tube to the other side of London. I must say, commuting has become a rather pleasant and, dare I say it, relaxing experience on the high speed. You rarely find a group of loud obnoxious teenagers hogging up all the seats and drunks are pretty much unheard of. I guess they would rather spend the extra dosh on a few more tins and get the peasant wagon.

Not to be classist or defamatory to people who get the Charing Cross train, I mean, my husband gets it for gods sake. Realistically though, the drunks and yobs are not willing to pay more for the same vandalism they can cause on a ‘cheaper’ train. I use the term ‘cheap’ lightly, because we all know how ridiculously expensive both trains have become. The Charing Cross train takes an hour to reach its destination, and with an annual season ticket, it will set you back £3,380. The St Pancras International high speed train is a comfortable 25 minutes, for an even pricier £4,368 with an annual season ticket. Isn’t it ironic that the longer you are on the train for, the less you pay; for an extra £988 you can pay to not be on the train.

And yet we factor in the losses because our time is so precious to us, we would rather pay to retain few more minutes of our lives. The train has become a rich man’s toy, leaving the rest of us in deficit. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Dressed to the Nines.

I am thoroughly enjoying the summer holidays with the family, however I am also incredibly excited about my new job in September. As I will be commuting, I will inevitably arrive home a little past the usual dinner time of 6. This means preparing dinners well in advance, as well as clothes, DS’ day bag etc. I am quite an organised as it is, but this will take some real planning, maybe even charts, to ensure DS remains eating as healthily as he does now. I plan to pre-cook a large batch of healthy dinners and freeze them in tiny containers so he gets his continuous dose of goodness. DH and I are fine to eat a little later, but DS runs like clockwork and must eat at the same time daily.

I thrive on organisation and keeping everything in order, although the one part of this new advancement on advances strategy I dread is the ironing. And choosing tomorrow’s outfit. Those two things coupled together causes a wave of lethargy and my brain to melt. When I finally do pull myself together and am dressed to go, the lethargy dissipates, only to be replaced with a burst of panic when DS runs towards me with mucky hands. I think I will need to invest in a boiler suit or an old lady’s long-sleeved night dress in XXL to cover every part of my outfit; I am certainly not prepared to choose and iron another outfit in the same day.

In the next few weeks leading up to my new job, I plan to rejig DS’ entire routine and sign him up to a new nursery. Currently he feeds and sleeps at times which suited us as students; he has had the same routine since birth. He will still eat at the same times as he does now, however what was a snack time will become lunch, and so each meal time is pushed back in accordance to the nursery. I doubt DS will be too fussed with this new routine, as long as he is fed and can nap he remains a happy boy.

This is proving to be quite an exciting time for all of us. I am raring to go as we are catapulted into a new era of our lives. Dressed to the nines, the Bradley’s are ready for the kill.

Farewell Canterbury.

So yesterday was my final day at work, the last of my excuses for being in Canterbury. No longer will I have to risk my life driving 40 minutes each way half asleep, only to sit in a dark room made of glass. Nor will I have an excuse to buy random objects in my lunch break, to receive odd looks when I return with a laundry basket, mop and a whole chicken.

With my ties to CCCU severed, it leave me with an odd feeling; I am not overjoyed, yet I am not completely saddened. Perhaps a little empty; after all, CCCU and Canterbury have played a large part in my life over the past four years. I have lived the student life, become a responsible parent, a wife, and a full-time worker all under the same setting.

After drinks with my colleagues, I had to say my farewells and make my journey back ‘home’. The sun was setting on my walk to the train station along the city wall, making Augustine House sparkle; a picturesque view I have mentally stored and taken back with me to dreary Gravesend.

Are we growing up or just going down?

And so I have reached the grand old age of twenty-two. It is a bit of a nothing age; you still feel youthful and exuberant, but responsibility looms and the pressure to get a career started is on. Elders no longer ask, ‘what do you want to be when you’re older?’, as it is expected that you already have a plan underway. In your teens you were dreaming a world away, but as we timidly step into our twenties, we feel the need to progress in our lives before we hit the dreaded thirties and the next thing we know, it is a downward spiral from there.

I like to think I have crossed a few things off the list – drivers licence, car, degree, marriage, baby. One of my biggest fears is not having done enough. I need to feel like I have succeeded in something, even if it is just getting through the day with something completed. I have a mental list of different experiences and life accomplishments which must all be ticked off.

I have a full-time job, but that is far from ticking the ‘successful career’ box. I need a master plan that will lead me into riches and provide all the toys DS will ever want, whilst simultaneously being the best mummy. Watch this space, I will not settle for anything less.

Young and Aspiring.

At twenty-one, I am criticised for being too young, yet I am too old to be down with the kids. They say your teenage years is about identifying yourself and evolving into a well-rounded grown up, but evidently this continues long into your twenties and thirties. For some, they may never reach that stage of maturity.

Tell tale sign I am not as youthful as one may think: I can no longer drink vodka straight.

It is almost impossible to use expressions such as ‘when I was younger’ or ‘I feel like I am aging’, without an elder reminiscing their youth, dismissing your reasons for feeling like this, in an almost superior fashion. Similarly, when one frets over something, be it money, renting, jobs etc, an elder once again chirps in with some unhelpful remark of how they have ‘been there, done that’ and how we ‘have it all to come’. This line of conversation seems acceptable for most, but if I were to reverse the situation and make a comment about the other being ‘over the hill’, this would be outrageous.

Whilst I should also be dismissive and use this opportunity to embrace my youth, I am simply not that youthful anymore. I can no longer attend Taking Back Sunday gigs, barging my way to the front in hope of catching a used towel or some sort of memorabilia, only to be pressed against a barrier and kicked in the head by a crowd surfer. It is just not viable.

I have a baby, husband, a full-time job and bills to pay, such responsibilities should equate to some kind of respect. Marriage is usually held in high regard amongst elders, so I often refer to myself as ‘Mrs’ over the phone or in emails as I receive such a welcoming response, in contrast to when I was ‘Miss’ or when someone meets me in person and immediately judges me because of my age. Despite this, I do not believe that it is wholly these stages in life which makes one mature. It is the ability release yourself from your past; whether it be, what went wrong in your childhood or the idolisation of your parents/role models, from one extremity to another.

I cannot say I have matured in entirety, but I do believe my focus and drive has ameliorated from my early years. I will continue battling with myself, torn between reminiscing my youth and careering my family and I into a life full of riches.

Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

– Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto.

May Bank Holiday, also known as International Worker's Day.

As DH’s final year of his degree is nearing to an end, I have an overwhelming sense of relief, anxiety and fear all bundled into one. Obviously there is relief that we will reach a new era in our lives, but this also conjures up anxiety and fear for what will come next. I am always one for planning (writing lists being one of my favourite past times), but at this moment in time, no matter how much research and effort I put into foreseeing the future, running through all the possible life options and weighing up their pros and cons, I am still none the wiser.

I feel like something should happen to launch us into a new and exciting part of our lives. I am not complacent with being average and succumbing to the dullness of bills, mortgages, working 9-5 and bumbling through life. I am twenty-two this year and have already achieved so much, but this is only the beginning. I want the same things everyone else wants; to travel the world, to be well read and an endless supply of money to lavish my son with gifts. These things are not unattainable, but require strategic planning. Coming from working class families, it just means we will have to work harder for what we want. I fully intend on ticking everything off on my ever-growing list; life, as I see it, is one big catalogue of experiences.