Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Get up, stand up

A few weeks ago I went along to an event called the Vagina Dialogues which, rather than being a group discussion about vaginas (which in itself could have been a raucous affair), was actually an evening of thought-provoking entertainment designed to facilitate a conversation between us about our experiences of motherhood - whether as a mother, or having been mothered.

I had expected that I would come away with a few insights, which I did, but what I hadn't anticipated is that it would lead me to performing stand-up.

We were asked to make ourselves a promise - the usual workshop thing of committing to paper something that you'll either stop, start or continue doing - and mine was "I will be more honest and less afraid".  We were also asked to write down some goals, for which I had included "attend an open mic night".

It's funny how writing a few words on a bit of paper can grab you.  Having looked at my list I asked one of the staff at the venue if they did open mic nights to which the reply was "yes, there's one in three weeks actually".  I called the box office and asked if there were performance slots available and they freed one up for me.  I told a friend I was going to do it and then couldn't back out....

And with this mic, I silence thee
horrid inner critic!
I felt nervous as hell, pacing the kitchen rehearsing aloud in the days before, and then on the eve of the gig I watched my son, daughter and their school friends perform songs, skits and poems in front of each other and hundreds of parents.  These children aged between four and eleven have been taught to enjoy performing and in the process are picking up some incredible life skills - did I miss that lesson or did the process of growing up rub some of that out?

In the end it was a great experience - life affirming, liberating and confidence building.  Thankfully it was held by the very supportive team at New Greenham Arts who welcome first-timers (trying to take on a Saturday night Jongleurs crowd may well  have ended very differently....) 

What I learned was that being honest with myself about something I wanted to try helped me to silence the little voice that makes me afraid of what other people might think.  And that feeling the fear and going for it is not a sensation we experience often enough as adults.  And that there's still lots to be learned from our honest, unafraid children.  Now that is a good lesson in motherhood.

Soundtrack: Get Up Stand Up - Bob Marley

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Washing Line

Dry? Yes. Soft? No.
Washing line
When the weather's fine
How I love your simplicity
You save money on my electricity

But a line alone is not enough...
Unless you like towels that are rough
Until that's solved, I can't retire
My lovely, soft towel, tumble dryer

Monday, 14 July 2014

I Don't Want To Talk About It

A couple of months ago my daughter brought home a road safety DVD, the aim of which is to help parents teach their children to safely cross the road.  It says that most children are not safe to cross a road unaccompanied until they are ten years of age.  

A few weeks after that I receive a letter to inform me that my daughter's PSHE lessons will include a cartoon depiction of sexual intercourse - I just hope it's not between Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse - Mickey will go nuts!  Joking aside I can't help but wonder how a child considered not old enough to cross the road is seen as old enough to watch a depiction of the technicalities of sex - it doesn't seem to make sense.  

I'm not a prude, or naive.  Both children know precisely how they were born - even if my son does insist on referring to it as when babies are 'laid' (I blame the fact that we keep chickens) -  we told them the truth on that one as soon as they asked.  The children know that conception (most of the time) requires a man and a woman and a 'cuddle' but beyond that they haven't pressed to find out more and so I feel a bit sad that the decision to discuss this is being made by someone else.  Now, we could opt out of our daughter seeing the video but I think it is probably better for her to watch it rather than have it described to her by a fellow class mate with a vivid imagination, or one who's suffering from the shock of realising that her mum and dad do that thing, or one who might see it as great sport to make something up ("yeah - the man puts willy in the lady's belly-button!").

There's loads of very useful stuff too - explanations of puberty, body changes, hormones, emotions  - all things that will be here sooner than we'd like and it would be wrong to pretend it's not going to happen, but sex?  Do we really need to cover that right now?  In the context of our daughter's life so far, it's (hopefully) at least another lifetime away for her and her peer group, even if as parents we joke that we hope it's at least another twenty...

Maybe I am getting too het up about what is, after all, just a 'fact of life', maybe our daughter will do little more than express utter disgust or mild hilarity.  Maybe she already knows....  This being uncharted territory for us as a family, perhaps this worry comes from not having talked about it before.  My own experience was (if my memory serves me right) being shown a video of childbirth at school which did a great job of making all the children say "I'm never, ever having sex!!" and being given a book called 'Woman's Experience of Sex' by Sheila Kitzinger by my mum which became quite a talking point for me and my friends.  With a more mature mind I can appreciate its frank, even-handed explanation and illustrations of post-birth vaginas, masturbation and sexuality but at the time it served mostly as a tool to amuse and repulse me and my pre-teen friends.  I am forever thankful that its pictures were black and white, there were a lot of them *shudders*.

One friend has, very kindly, provided me with perhaps a more suitable book to help support the conversations that we're going to have to have - a nice practical one with not too many pictures that give you nightmares.  I'm sure it will be fine, I'm sure I'll discover that our daughter knows more than we think but if I'm honest, I don't really want to talk about it.
Photo Credit: www.sxc.hu
Soundtrack: I Don't Want to Talk About it - Everything But The Girl (you could have Crazy Horse or Rod Stewart but I'm picking this one :) )

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Kitchen Bin - You Stink!

Oh kitchen bin, you stink!
I think
Next time I won't leave it so long
To empty you
Your almighty pong...
Reminds us all, when we've forgotten
Hot weather makes your contents rotten

Monday, 7 July 2014

Ain't No Time to Play

The boy is worried.  As his first year at primary school draws to an end he's said more than once "I won't get to play as much when I'm in Year One".  The same thing happened with his sister and it is true.  Reception class is awesome - lots of time outdoors, play-based learning and just a reading book plus a little spelling for homework.  They even get afternoons outside where the whole lesson is geared around the natural environment - something inspired by the Norwegian outdoor learning model.  Come Year One, these will stop and he'll be bringing home projects that are impossible for children to do independently and so become 'family homework'.  That's on top of the reading, spelling, and times tables.   Little wonder he doesn't want to move up.

Now I think we are a family that is very much invested in our children's education.  We pay attention, help, take an interest and support them.  But it all feels a bit sad to know that they are being primed and geared from the age of five for exams and 'getting ready' for secondary school.  Short of taking them out of the state system and going for something like the Dolphin or a Montessori school I felt a bit hamstrung.  If the school focuses more on academic instruction than play then what can I do?  And then something happened in our bathroom to wake me up.  My daughter came to find me to ask me to play, and to my shame, I uttered the sentence "I can't, I'm cleaning the shower".  Now this was factually true - it is hard to participate in a game when you're wearing rubber gloves and have a container of Flash in one hand (unless you're into some really specialist stuff) but I felt like a pretty crappy parent when I heard myself say it.  Even my daughter gave me a look that said "yep mum, that's pretty much the lamest sentence you've ever said to me."

Tickets please!  Photo (c) tptoys.com
So the gloves came off and within a moment I was running around the garden with the children playing 'tickets please' where essentially one person gets to be an irate ticket inspector while the other two fail to show the correct ticket for going down the slide.  Within half an hour I was on my front on the slide with both children balanced on my back.  We all took skin off our knees, fingers and elbows (who knew plastics slides could be so injurous?!) but we were all also laughing like drains - not cleaning them.  So as the summer holidays come closer and the play days at school drift away I'll be paying more attention to how much playtime we're enjoying, not how grubby the bathroom looks.

Soundtrack: No Time to Play - Guru


Thursday, 3 July 2014

An Ode to Waitrose Coffee Cups

Waitrose coffee cups
What is up
With you?

Left in piles
In the aisles
By customers who should know better
Than to place their empties in the feta

Whilst sourcing 'essentials' they suck and sup
From their corrugated sippy cup
I want to take these folks to task
And hit them with a tartan flask

So show some bloody manners please

Don't leave your cups amongst the cheese!