Friday, 28 November 2008

A week of mistakes and hoohas

We have been moving rather too fast this week. I have been feeling low level ill (have I been saying this since Autumn began? It feels like it) and trying to stay on top of things. So, there have been minor mishaps aplenty. I washed my phone in the washing machine. I forgot what year we were in and so bought the wrong dvd for someone. P and I slogged to the sorting office to pick up a parcel that the postie had tried to deliver and were disappointed to find that it was not our lovely Christmas craft bits but some free lightbulbs... That sort of thing. It also turned out that our credit card details had been stolen from some online retailer. The card company knew this but hadn’t got round to mentioning it to us. They had, instead, decided the sensible thing to do was to trigger a security thing every time we used the card – and block it until we’d confirmed the transaction. What with washed phones and the approaching festive season, we’d used the card three times in as many days and were spending half our life on the phone to the credit card company. In the end, D managed to speak to someone who knew what was going on and arrange for new cards.

I will spare you any more mishap tales but let’s just say that it is being a very tiring week.

The kids and I are off to the vet with Bunny in the morning. He’s not really improving but he’s still with us. Wish us luck...

Sunday, 23 November 2008


There’s an advert on TV at the moment in which parents identify their motivation to give up smoking. In one case, a dad looks at a baby boy and says he wants to see him score a goal. In another, a dad wants to “walk her up the aisle.” She is a little girl of about four years old – dressing up and looking at herself in the mirror. Every time I see it I want to scream at the TV.
“He might loathe football and bake a mean soufflé!”
“She might be into open relationships and ride a big motorbike across America!”

I think it is so unhelpful to us all, as we try to work out how to be parents, that it is implied that we should have these kinds of dreams. The way I see it, we’re just not entitled to dream our children’s futures for them. I have had many friends over the years who had to deal with a whole load of unnecessary guilt and pain because they chose lives that weren’t the ones that their parents had dreamed for them. Sometimes they spent years hiding themselves from their parents because to be open would have meant shattering their parents’ dreams. It is so unnecessary.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with playing football or getting married. But there are so many futures. If we dream of happy futures for our children then we cannot help but define them with reference to our own ideas of happiness. We cannot help but factor in what we think is fun or fulfilling. How can we know what they will feel? I am often surprised by my children’s choices, day to day, as I live with them. They change and grow and find new passions. If this is the case in the day to day, it seems insane to me to let myself dream of any future for them. Who is to say what they might want? I suppose I do allow myself the occasional moment when I wonder what it will be like to hug a grown man who was our baby. Or how it might be to see a woman from a train window, as we pull in at a station, and know that she was our little girl. But I don’t dream them up aisles, collecting certificates, owning houses or winning Nobel Prizes. I don’t dream them partners or babies. These will be their choices to make and all I am entitled to do is to keep loving them, no matter what they choose to do with their lives.

What I also dislike about that advert is that I think that it links the notion of responsible parent (who gives up smoking) with the kind of ‘good’ parent who ‘wants nice things’ for their child. It is clear that this is something parents should aspire to. All those ‘hopeless’ parents who don’t give up smoking clearly don’t care enough about their children’s happy futures, do they? Oh, I do dislike that scripted stuff. Good people want certain things and bad people don’t care. Hasn’t everyone figured out that life is rather more complicated than that? And, of course, because these people are ‘good’ they want nice, unchallenging and respectable futures for their children. He’ll play football and she’ll get married and all will be right with the world. It is so patronising. Will these be the rewards for doing the right thing? No, because there are no guarantees. All any of us can do is live our lives the best way we know how. The tomorrow we find ourselves living in will not be the one we expected. That’s about the only thing we can guarantee.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Back again

I have been hopeless about blogging recently. I wanted this blog to be a place for our intelligent and considered thoughts but I think we must be a bit short of those.

We have been busy with real and demanding life. Poor old Bunny, the guinea pig, has been ill. He has been to the vet twice, where they have weighed, prodded and prescribed. I don’t want to tempt fate but in the last day he’s been picking up a bit. A couple of days ago we thought he wouldn’t last long and the vet might advise we speed him on his way. So, please send healing vibes to the old piggy! The kids have been very worried and sad at the thought of losing him. We have no real idea how old he is (he came from the RSPCA as an adult pig) but he could be anything from four years up. I guess he is a fair bit older.

The kids and I went on a home ed trip today – to the Herstmonceux science centre. A local home ed mum had booked a Big Lemon Bus for us to travel on and that gave the day a lovely feel of a Grand Day Out. There was a bridge building exercise for the kids and a show all about sound. We had a great time.

I’ve been doing some extra hours at work too – various meetings and training. I could do with a veg out day but I don’t have one on the horizon.

We had a slight wobble recently, with the number and sorts of commitments we had going on in the family. But everyone had a think about it and decided what they wanted to pursue and what not – and I think we’re all happier now. I know I am! We all have to home ed in whatever way we like but, personally, I’ve never wanted the role of nagger in chief. When everyone in the family is happy with their activities and commitments then the self-motivation kicks in and that nice warm buzz re-emerges. I’m happy when I can feel that. Any other home edders know what I’m talking about? This does seems a tad waffly.

Right, tired now, so off to read some King Arthur to the boy, before I fall asleep at the keyboard.

Monday, 10 November 2008

BBC Four programme about picture books

We've just watched this on i-player. If you love picture books, and you didn't see it on tv, it's worth a watch.

It had lots of our favourites from years gone by. It even had that picture from Dogger that makes my eyes fill with tears because it is the spit of our two when they were about four and seven years old.

I've wittered on about picture books before but I never feel like I've really expressed the importance of picture books in our lives - back when they were little. I can walk past a hundred babies in buggies or see the fuzzed head of a newborn breastfeeder and never get a twinge of broodiness. But show me a child of somewhere between one and three, looking at a book with a grown up, and I get swamped with a wave of nostalgia that swamps good sense. I loved *LOVED* reading books with our two when they were tiny. I think the most powerful times were before they could talk much. They would hand me a book and off we would go.

And it was nothing to do with teaching them to read. When we were there I wasn't wondering if they were noticing text, or pointing out rhyme or letter shape. I was just swimming in the story with them. And it brought back memories to me, memories of pictures that I studied so closely - in my own infancy.

Life with really little children is tiring. I often found it bewildering and sometimes overwhelming. For me, the picture books were like life rafts on choppy days. We could all cling on and Alfie or Frog or The Elephant and the Bad Baby, would get us to calmer waters.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

My favourite shelf

at work is labelled "Books that do not exist". It is rather full at the moment.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

L writes Gremlins 3

Leo has been spending a lot of time on the computer recently, blogging and working on a story. Today the story appeared on his blog. He'd be very glad if people would go and have a read of his story - Gremlins 3.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Married, qualified and otherwise approved

The stuff about prop 8, in California, has sparked with some other floating thoughts about qualifications and made some connections in my head.

Marriage has always seemed strange to me. I shocked my grandmother when (at about L’s age) I announced that I wasn’t going to get married as it was just a nuisance to have to get divorced later. On the whole, I think I had a point. For me, there has been no moment of walking up an aisle or even standing with my beloved in matching tuxedos at a civil partnership ceremony. The moments that have marked commitment in my relationship with D have been largely private. But, for me, commitment is not about standing up and saying something before witnesses. It is about doing it. It is about time and tests and patience and trust. It is about communication and flexibility and, more than anything else probably, respect. I know what our relationship is and what it means. I can’t see that it makes the relationship any stronger to get it stamped and classified. OK, so there are some practical advantages in getting your relationship approved. But, personally, I think it would make me feel more vulnerable. I have never asked the PTB to ‘approve’ us and they never have. So they can’t withdraw that approval. They can’t tell me what my relationship is, or isn’t.

I wonder if part of the reason why people strive to get married is that they want to be approved? They want to get the stamp and have the photos. It is strange that there are certain occasions when photos must be taken. One is at a wedding and another is at a graduation ceremony. I wonder if marriage and qualifications are largely about the same thing – getting validated? I did do the qualification thing but I never went to a ceremony and don’t have that photo with the hat as the idea made me squirm. Once again, there are practical advantages in getting qualifications (sometimes) but I wonder if they carry the same danger as marriage. The bit of paper tells you you’re clever like the bit of paper tells you you’re loved. The bit of paper validates your life. The bit of paper gives you a place in the world, some status, some identity. And that identity bit is, for me, the most risky. Because that given identity is like a veneer over a real person.

I don’t have anything against people living in loving, long-term relationships and I don’t have anything against people studying. (That’s a good job as I live in such a relationship and make a living out of other people’s study!) But I do think that, for me, it is important to remember that content is what counts – not badges.

Thursday, 6 November 2008


Well, this has been a weird week, in many ways. The Obama news was gooood. The news about prop 8 in California was depressing. I have been wondering about many a thing and getting little snippets of time to write creatively. We finished off our history course with six ten to thirteen year olds, today. It was a learning experience for us and I think they all thought it was ok too. Did you know that the world’s deepest hand dug well is in Brighton? No? Well, you do now...

I was prompted to comment on a blog on which I have lurked for many a year, attempting to understand the mindset and lifestyle of a US, fundamentalist homeschooler. I wouldn’t have done so (as I never have before) but I was referred to by the blogger, who knew that this ‘homosexual’ was reading... I had gone to see what she made of Obama’s election and she was, of course, horrified. I asked her if she read my blog but she said that once she’d realised that we were both women she’d stopped reading. So, there we go. Jesus, I have been led to believe, wasn’t bothered about associating with the most reviled of sinners. But I guess it isn’t documented whether he would have read the blogs of homosexuals.

I took a brief break from Patrick Gale (seven in a row and I was in need of someone else’s style) and read Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy, which has been waiting, patiently, on my bookshelf. It was gorgeous and left me feeling all invigorated and not nearly forty. Actually, I’m not forty for a couple of years but D will reach that big zero next month.

Well, off to drink some more tea and watch Michael and Diane. I have a strange fascination for them, sitting on their little sofa with the ghosts of their past selves screaming in horror from the shadows.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Laughs and what counts

Dani and I watched Beautiful People the other night and then found P watching it on i-player. She loves it. It has a few rather risqué jokes but is basically good stuff and I’m glad she’s enjoying it. Dani and I watched a programme about Jake Thackeray on BBC 2 last night and discovered that his songs were part of both our childhoods. My mum and her dad were both fans. If a bit of risqué humour was ok for us then I guess it’s ok for our kids too!

I’ve just had a joyful reunion with a song I LOVED at about the age of fifteen and was reminded of by a homework drama on another blog. It has made me feel so happy that I had to share it. It just about sums up what is important to me in our family life. What counts for me, more than anything, is that my kids know that we are on their side in this rather bizarre world. Whatever they choose to do I hope that they have fun and laughter in their lives and that they are never afraid to go their own way. So, here’s Bowie singing Kooks.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

New blog recommendation

L has started a new blog. Have a look at Mohawk World.