Just one of 7,063,061,028

Rant warning!!!

This photo popped up on Facebook earlier.  Usually these photos barely register on my consciousness.  This one however caught my eye as the little girls are very sweet.

Facebook photo

I looked at it, smiled, nodded slightly – because I fully subscribe to the idea that we are individuals and we should be who we chose to be, not sheep following the flock – and went to pass on.  Then I stopped, attention caught by the other little girls in the picture and my opinion of the picture shifted.  Because actually I don’t believe at all that there are only 2 types of people in the world I believe there are 7,063,061,028 different types (approx according to US Census Bureau).  Every single person in the world is unique, we are nothing special, or at least only as special as the man across the road, the lady on the bench, the boy standing next to us.  Every one of us is an individual with their own wants and needs, all worthy of respect.  But here is the crux of it – there are 7,063,061,028 of us!  We do not live in our own little bubbles we live in a crowded world, our actions impact on others.

So back to the picture, the little girl doesn’t want to join in, listening and watching, she wants to climb and swing, well that is fine.  But what about the other people in the scene?  The implication is they are sheep, doing what is expected of them.  That is not necessarily the truth.  I’ve been that little girl who was so keen to learn (but not ballet, even at 4 I had the grace of an elephant, I lasted 2 lessons!).  But I had the child behind distracting the group, meaning that I didn’t get the learning experience that I wanted or needed.  I’ve also been the adult, the one who knows that should that bar break or the girl slip they stand a fair chance of being sued and may well be thrown to the lions by the body they ‘work’ for because they haven’t dotted an i or crossed a t somewhere along the line, the one who has given up their time and a lot of thought trying to come up with stuff to engage the children, the one who feels they are letting down the children who are keen because they can not ‘guide’ them in the activities properly because they are distracted and they have to spend more time explaining things over again as people can’t hear through the noise and distractions than interacting with the children in a positive way.

Where’s the rant I hear?  What exactly made you so annoyed.  It was clicking on the photo and seeing all the comments ‘that’s my daughter’ like the girl on the right was behaving in a way to make the parent proud.  Personally I’d be much prouder of the two in the middle obviously keen and engaged and trying hard.

If I was the mother of the climber, would I be cross?  No, of course not, she’s a little girl being herself.  But I would decide the class wasn’t right for her and either find her a dance teacher whose style fitted better, or accept that she wasn’t a dancer, stick her in dungarees and head to the park, hey if it is the tutu that has the appeal then tutu and wellies and park would do fine.

I would not be proud and celebrating behaviour that in my view is selfish. By acting on one persons wants and needs you are having a negative impact on all the other people there.

Of course we should focus on our own happiness and needs but not to the detriment of others.  As parents it is our role to guide our children to knowing when they need to make these compromises.  Back to this example, in the situation if the little girl was mine and I was there. If we couldn’t leave without fuss, I’d be encouraging her to join in or sit and observe quietly so that those who wanted could learn and the teacher could teach as although her desire to climb is perfectly legitimate there are plenty of other times and places for that while for those who want to learn ballet it has to be then and there and therefore their needs are worthy of slightly higher priority in that instant.  Then we would head to the park, because having sat nicely her need to run about would trump my need to get home for coffee 😉

In a world of 7,063,061,028 we need to learn to live together and recognise that we need to respect and value those around us.  Being an individual doesn’t mean that we have to put our needs and wants ahead of those of others, as with anything it is balance.  Not doing exactly what you want at a particular time but waiting until another time or doing a slightly altered version so that others wants and needs can be met, makes you no less true to yourself but does make you a nicer person. This is not something that comes naturally and in my opinion it is probably the most important role a parent has, trying to help our children find the right balance, when in reality most of us parents don’t have it right.  All we can try and do though is our best, offer guidance and try and be a decent role model.

And yes I have definitely massively overthought this!

And Looking Forward to 2013

This year I made the promise to myself that there would be no New Years Resolutions.

Yes there are things I would like to do or change but setting myself non-essential goals at the moment is not the way to achieve anything.  This is such the wrong time of year to be adding any unnecessary pressure to ourselves.

I need to lose weight, and quite a lot, there is no way of denying it.  But with Christmas chocolate still in the house, a real cold snap keeping us indoors and craving comfort food, and a hugely busy time at work for both of us, with Pete having to be away a fair amount, meaning we’re relying a lot on convenience food and takeaways – it is just not going to happen at the moment  So I am not going to even try, absolutely no point in setting myself up to fail and feel bad.  When the spring comes and we are getting out and about, have new routines and work under control and there is more ‘nice’ fresh food in the shops, then is the time to make an effort.

Resolutions always tend to be very negative, things we don’t like about ourselves, things we wish we could change.  The dark, cold days, the inevitable coughs and colds, and the unrelenting, dreariness of mundane routine are all depressing enough, without us being unnecessarily self-critical. Now is the time for recognising what we like about ourselves and nurturing it, recognising what is important to us and what we enjoy and carving out time for it. Positive goals and small steps.

I love home educating and want to continue and I know for Sam to want to continue I need to meet his social needs, something I may have failed a bit in last year.  But I need to do so in a way that doesn’t stress me or it is unsustainable.  So taking small steps, we have started a weekly ‘school’ where I take Sam over to work with his best friend Oscar for the day once a week.  This is working really well.  Both boys prefer their social contact one on one and although they have taken a few weeks to get into the idea that it is about work, we are now establishing routines that work for everyone and ticking along comfortably.

This is not enough though, although Sam seems happy enough, I feel he needs to mix with more people. But with few activities about that really suit us it is down to me to try and organise what works for us.  I don’t want activities that take us out regularly too often – Sam likes plenty of time at home, enjoys his own company and we have activities of an evening which with public transport constraints means we can’t go far some days, also Sam is very bug prone – weekly activities have a tendency to become chores.   So having talked to Sam I have arranged a once a term activity at a country park (little work for me – organise numbers and collect money, fairly simple) and have set in place the motions for a trial science session.  Idea is run something for science week and see how much work is involved.  What I have in mind is something that is easy to spread the load among several adults for, so if I can rope people in it shouldn’t all come down to me.  Idea being maybe a termly/half termly session.  If they work I may take on more.  I would love to run a creative writing session and a book group again, but know in a way they are more hobbies for me than things for Sam, and therefore have to fit comfortably in my work load and I need to find the right venue and group of children for them to be fun rather than additional stress.

One thing I have done this year is be able to admit to myself and others that I am not superwoman.  For a fair amount of last year the only thing that kept me doing Rainbows was guilt.  This year for various reasons I’ve found my taste for it again, despite constant battering from HQ with it’s hoops and new computer systems making a lot of unnecessary work.  But looking clearly at it I can say as much as I enjoy it, it takes up too much time and I may have to face that I need to give it up.  I don’t want to give up, it is good for me and I am good at it, but having been honest to myself and others about it I have lost my guilt complex about not being able to give up.  I accept now it is not down to me, there are lots of other women who could step forward and help but for various reasons choose not to.  Strangely it probably means that I am more likely to still be doing it this time next year as I am doing it because I want to.

Being honest to myself about my strengths and weaknesses has definitely been good for me, for the first time in a long time I feel I have a clear idea of my priorities – family, work, rainbows, other hobbies, other home ed stuff and most importantly I am focusing on them in that order!  I am not beating myself up about things I feel I should do better at, all I can do is try and I know full well that the only reason I end up doing some things is just simply no one else will so therefore however I do it will have to do.  I am prepared if necessary to say no and try to give up this need to make others happy even at the cost of my own and that of those who matter most to me.  I need to keep myself happy to keep the boys happy, not spend too much time on stuff that grinds me down.  As ever I try and claw more time for reading, sewing and I would love to pick up knitting and crochet again and although I have a lot of demands on my time, I getting better at giving myself ‘me time’  and more importantly I am spending what time I can get on things that make me feel good rather than simply eat up chunks of time, sewing for example rather than computer games.

Life is not without stresses by any means, but it is good.  January blues seem to be staying at bay this year.

Looking Back at 2012

I am a big believer in not spending too much time looking back.  Well, not looking back with regret anyway.  Remember and cherish the good times, if you can – learn from mistakes and also from what works, but don’t rue decisions.

Assuming we’ve thought through a decision, or even made it because our gut tells us to, it should never be regretted.  Every decision we make takes us off on a new path in life, a one way path, we might not like the road and it might end up very bumpy BUT if we had taken a different path or stayed on our old one whose to say they would have been smoother.  With the gift of hindsight there may be evidence to suggest that the other paths would have been better but we all get a bit lost sometimes and provided we choose our paths for the right reasons then we can not do more.  Mental energy spent analysing past choices is wasted energy.  Much better to spend our energies on trying to smooth out the road or even simply on developing coping strategies to cushion the bumps (chocolate and the resulting well padded derrière are my recommendation) while we ride them out waiting for smoother paths ahead.

Sometimes a path that we would never have chose is forced on us of course.  Certain sorrows will never leave us, it will never be alright in my head that my mother didn’t live long enough to know my children, but there is absolutely nothing I can do about that but share my good memories with the boys so they at least have some sense of knowing their Nanna.  9 years on still miss her with an ache that is nearly physical in its pain but over the years the ache has lessened and hits in a rare sudden wave rather than a permanent gnawing.  But my memories are clearer and more vivid than ever, time adds rather than takes away, and my mother’s voice and laugh is still loud in my head and heart.

Anyway with no regrets (and a lot of help from my old blog – my memory is not what it was) here is our 2012.

January

D-Day museum

We were looking at WW2 and getting out and about. The Cabinet War Rooms, Churchill Museum, Imperial War Museum, Royal Naval Museum, Action Stations and D-Day Museum all featured on our schedule.

Sam had mastered reading but we had not got over the surprise and pleasure of seeing him devouring a book.  The surprise has gone now, pleasure is still as felt as keenly.

February

Cocoa beansFebruary blues hit along with the coughs, colds and assorted bugs, but rather than get overwhelmed I tried abandoning ‘normal’ work and adopting a small project (week or 2 week) approach using bought resources to save me the effort -3 lapbooks later and I was cured of lack of motivation – I hate the things!  A fun trip and a project based on it – Cadbury World and a chocolate lapbook kept up the boys motivation.

Oh and Sam started Beavers.

March

TravelodgeMarch started with a very wet trip to London where we visited the Museum of London and the Royal Observatory and spent a lot of time playing marbles in the hotel.

Spring sprang, the boys did healthy body projects – lots of time outside running about.

 

April

EasterVery little got achieved home education wise this month.  Jack was in the Gang Show which meant 8 shows in 6 days performing to several hundred a show on stage.  With an intense rehearsal schedule in the run up and 11pm finishes during show week, it was time for relaxing, crafting, baking and a lot of Easter themed activities.  And Jack turned 10 so there were birthday celebrations to fit in.

Longer term Gang Show had a major impact on our lives as Jack spent a lot more time around schooled children and reignited his friendship with his best friend from pre-school, resulting in the idea of school entering his conscious.

May

SomersetMay was holiday time, Pontins in Somerset.  Definitely won’t go down as a classic holiday.  We were all narky and the place was dismal.

Elsewhere we did a project on the Titanic.  And as part of my eschewing home education groups in favour of spending time with individual families that we ‘click’ with we met up with a lovely family we’d met through a forum at the Maritime Museum in Southampton.

Mentally I wasn’t in a good place, I am ashamed to admit that I struggled with the idea of Jack wanting to go to school.

June

WalesAgain an unproductive month home ed wise but over the years I’ve learned that this really doesn’t matter.  Sadly my aunt (my mum’s sister) passed away after many years of illness.  So we had a few weeks up in North Wales seeing friends and family.

Apart from that we had a day in Poole for the Bang goes the Theory roadshow and a catch up with friends.  And according to my blog that was it!

July

Chamber of SecretsJuly was Harry Potter month, with a trip to the “Making of…” and a lot of time on the sofa reading for Jack.

There was also the Olympic Torch relay, The New Forest and Hampshire County Show and a new bike for Jack to keep us amused.

We had come to an agreement about Jack starting school in Sep 2013 (Secondary) and everyone was in a better mood – brief rays of sun and paying off the mortgage helped.

August

OlympicsWith his typical need to make life as difficult as possible, Jack decided that actually he wanted to go to school this September.  With me now well-adjusted to the idea, in went the form and we had 4 fun weeks waiting for the school to go back so we could find out if he had a place (heard 5 days before he started!).

In the mean time the boys lived outdoors, playing with local kids in the park.

Oh and there were the Olympics of course and a trip to Wembley for us.

 

September

School BoyJack started school and we all floundered a bit trying to find some routine.

Sam lacked focus home ed wise and I was snowed under with work.

We had some very good days but also a lot of mediocre ones.

 

 

October

BakingJack started bring home one bug after another.  He thrived at school, the rest of us struggled with illness and heavy workloads.

I gave up structure with Sam in favour of baking!

 

 

November

Birthday boyAnother month beset with illness.  Sam turned 7 and I realised that I need to make more effort to meet his social needs.  Groups are not the answer though as he definitely prefers one on one or small numbers.

Jack moved from Cubs to Scouts.

Sam worked on a space project.

 

 

December

Fake snowSlipped by in a mix of illness, finishing off projects and workbooks and Christmas celebrations.

Christmas 2012

My camera started malfunctioning in early December which means that most of my Christmas photos have been lost.  Fortunately memories are not so easily wiped and we have had a good Christmas to store up in our memories.

I am as guilty as the next person of slipping in to it but I think we, as a society, have developed an obsession with photographing everything since digital cameras do make it so easy. We are in danger of developing a tendency to view life though a lens.  I had one of those epiphany moments last year walking around the British Museum, I watched people jostling to try and get a decent photo of the Rosetta Stone and when they had it they walked on.  I must have stood there for about 5 minutes and saw about 30 or people come and go and only one gentleman paused to look with his eyes and read the inscriptions and the information cards.  29 people walked away with a photo, 1 walked away with an image burned into mind and heart.  I think we are in danger of doing the same with our children’s childhoods, becoming observers recording events rather than participants experiencing, shaping and enjoying. I know at various points I am guilty of being out with the boys and instead of playing with them and joining in I’m there snapping photos, thinking this will be a good blog post.  Not this year, photograph less and experience more is the plan.  Photos do of course have a place, as I grow older time passes by so quickly it is nice to freeze the occasional moments to jog memories.  But I look back to my childhood pre-digital, when photos were few and far between and tended to be clustered around the annual summer holiday and it is all there in my memory to make me smile.  The big, fancy camera has been replaced by a simple but quality camera set aside for work and a Blackberry with a reasonable camera that is in my pocket if required, there as a tool to be called on if needed not a master hung around my neck directing events.

Anyway back to Christmas (and inc some photos 😉 ).  Last day of November was marked by the annual Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth Dockyard.  Fantastic day out, heartily recommend it to anyone this way.

Fake Snow - almost as good as the real thing
Fake Snow – almost as good as the real thing
Victorian reenactments - military dispays, travelling shows etc
Victorian reenactments – military dispays, travelling shows etc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was Santa - don't expect a traditional visit to Santa here, always a slightly bizarre 'show'.
There was Santa – don’t expect a traditional visit to Santa here, always a slightly bizarre ‘show’.
But the reindeers are lovely.
But the reindeers are lovely.
For two slightly uncoordinated boys the swing boats proved tricky but fun
For two slightly uncoordinated boys the swing boats proved tricky but fun.
See the concentration!
See the concentration!

We had some other lovely days out over the Christmas period.  A jolly up the Spinnaker Tower with Claire, Oscar and Herbie and a trip to Fort Nelson with Grandpa Bob.

At home we pottered, baked and made decorations.  Here are some of the books we used.  The Rod Green Santa one and the Usborne decorations to fold are especial favourites.

Living in a village there were fetes and village carol services, school events and activities making the run up to Christmas a busy time.

We took part in a mini cultural exchange organised by the Worldwide Culture Swap which was great fun.

Here is what we sent
Here is what we sent
Culture swap
And here is what we received from Salt Lake City

I finished my Christmas sewing mid December for once, so no sewing machine activity on Christmas Eve, which was nice.  Unfortunately the photos went kaput and the sewing was in the post, they are the only photos I will let myself mourn.  Did make these lovely creations though courtesy of the delightful Paper and String.

20121128_1And here are previous years efforts which are still in use.

Sam's Advent Calendar

Jack's advent calendar