Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Lessons in Love

I am sat in the car with two four-year-olds and two seven-year-olds and they are discussing love.  They get on to the topic of marriage and one of the children says:

"Women and men get married."

To which one of the others replies: "Yes, and did you know that men can marry men, and women can marry women?"

Everyone confirms that they do know this and so the conversation switches to Power Rangers and who's daddy has got the smelliest bottom or something equally important.

Some weeks later I am at a church hall at the end of a Scout parade (a parade that one of my children took part in - I don't just hang out at these things!), the hall is full so I stand in the reception area and amongst all the posters advertising cake sales for charity and services for families and children, there's a publication called the 'Pro-Life Times' which has a headline screaming words to the effect that damage on an unspeakable scale will happen to children if they are taught in schools that equal marriage is ok.

As someone who is not homophobic and as a person who believes strongly that women should have control over their own bodies and reproduction, I am not 'Pro-Life's' target demographic.  I respect everyone's right to their own opinion and freedom of speech,  but what astonished me most about the leading article of this paper was that it assumed children need to be taught what love is; that they wouldn't already know.  It also assumed that everyone in the church and their entire network of friends and family are straight...

When my children and their school friends discuss love they're not talking about sexual preferences, ancient laws and institutions, or tax breaks.  They don't feel their moral compasses, or their personal or life-style decisions are threatened by another person's choice of partner, or how they want to demonstrate their commitment to them.  They just see love as something normal and wonderful that is shared between people, and getting married as something that people in love do.  Their conversations are filled with love and light, they are positive and supportive, honest and healthy.

As cheerful as I am, it made me wonder why in a place that focuses so much on acceptance, support and community you could find a publication using the language of fear and shame to influence how our children should be taught about love.  I think they could use a few lessons from the little people.


Soundtrack: 'Lessons in Love - Level 42'

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Wonder of You

Today marked a milestone in our family history.  The boy wonder is now a 'big boy', so he and his sister donned their uniforms and the whole family walked to school together.

We took more pictures than the children felt willing to pose for so half the photos contain face pulling or are blurred by sudden movements as they adopted a Power Ranger stance rather than standing neatly in their freshly ironed uniforms and new shoes that will be scuffed before I finish writing this post.

I haven't felt particularly sad about our daughter becoming a 'junior' or our son starting primary, because they are now together during the day and we are financially and logistically better off with the pre-school years behind us.  That said I have been a little more wistful and reflective and am being told to 'stop looking at me!' on a regular basis so I feel I need to offer the children an explanation.  Here it is:

When I'm looking at you, or holding your hand, or giving you a cuddle, I'm trying to take in and commit to memory every little part of you - every detail on your face, how you move and stand, how your hand feels in mine.  I'm trying to capture that sheen on your cheeks, the tilt of your nose, how you fit in my arms.  I want to record the way you light up when you're really excited, your uncontrollable giggles, the flashes of your Daddy and Grandpops that sometimes cross your face.  I know the shape of your nails and the length of your toes, the first freckle you got and the chickenpox scars.  The curve of your tummy, the strength in your calves, the shape of your hairline, I'm trying to hold on to it all.  The way you narrow your eyes, your cupid's bow, your little ears, I want to keep it.  I'm trying to absorb these things because the photos can't capture it, the videos don't come close and you are growing fast and one day you'll be too big to fit on my lap, too grown up for holding hands, too self-conscious to dance like a chicken in the living room.  There will come a time when you definitely won't want to be tickled into hysterical submission or kissed goodbye at the school gate, when you'll think I'm embarrassing and cramping your style.  So until that time comes, you beautiful and amazing children, I'm not 'just looking at you', I'm taking every hug, hand-holding moment, and opportunity to enjoy you that you send my way and treasuring every second of it.

Soundtrack: The Wonder of You - Elvis Presley

Monday, 2 September 2013

Come Back to What You Know

A week or so ago we packed the car full of bags and headed, for the sixth year in a row, to a farm in Devon for our holiday. 

As usual I packed things I would never wear (white jeans, heeled sandals - when will I ever learn that there is no place for these things on a beach or a farm?), and as usual one of the children was unhappy within five minutes of leaving the driveway.  This time it was my fault for remembering to download 'Chasing the Sun' by The Wanted which my son has some strange obsession with, but forgetting to download 'Paradise' by Coldplay which my daughter had asked for.  I was secretly relieved to be free of Chris Martin's shabby lyrics but they may have been preferable to the feeling of guilt caused by my daughter's wailing.  Bad mother. 

Within an hour there were arguments about whether we were playing 'I-Spy' correctly but within two hours we were parked up at Westward Ho! beach.  It is a place that I love very much because in my head it is twinned with a place called 'Thundercats Ho!' that is populated by people dressed as Lion-O.  For those born after 1975 - here's what I'm on about.

Bloody English Weather!
Anyway, back to the story.  We are all starving but we have a massive packed lunch and the beach is looking inviting.  We get out of the car, sit on the beach, take the first bite of our food and then it rains.  A lot.  We pack everything back into the car and sit there as our wet clothes steam up the inside of the windows and the sky turns into a big grey dishcloth.  Bloody marvellous and typical of every holiday we have spent in Devon so far. 

The final thirty minutes drive to the farm is spent sending silent curses to the English weather that has once again blighted our break.  I build myself up for a week of scuffing between barns of animals in wet jeans and smelly wellies, or attempting to find an industrial-sized barn housing a soft-play and drop-slide that we have yet to visit.  The question 'why on earth are we doing this again?' is asked more than once.

We get out of the car and my self-indulgent sulk disappears as we're greeted with hugs by the owners who ask 'how has your year been?' and remember the children's names and remark on how they have grown.  The children beam at this recognition, then shriek with delight as they hear that the summer has brought new rabbits and piglets and yet another round of kittens, and just as they think it can't get any better their cousins arrive which sends them off the scale and I am so happy to see my sister-in-law and her husband for they bring good company, fizz and the extra pairs of hands that means we all feel like we're getting a holiday. 

I remembered why we were doing it again.  In that moment, it didn't feel like we were 'away', it felt like we were coming home.

Soundtrack: Come Back to What You Know - Embrace