Saturday, 30 January 2010

It has struck me again recently that boys get such bad press, and really, sometimes they are just doing what boys do.

Boys are : Noisy
Sometimes boisterous
Full of energy
Sometimes heavy handed ("I only touched it, and it just came off in my hand.")
In need of a pecking order
Sometimes difficult to contain
Often focused

Does any of this make them 'naughty'? If it gets out of hand, then sometimes they can go too far (and I of all people know this!) but these attributes are not in and of themselves bad behaviour.

So, why is it that people would rather have a room full of little girls than a room full of little boys? Why do people, when finding out I have 3 boys, always make a comment about me having my hands full? Why is there a general feeling that little girls are lovely, kind, gentle and wonderful to be around and little boys must be avoided at all cost? Why do we expect them to be something that they are not? Why is a boy who cares for his friend and puts his arm around him called 'gay' by his other friends? Is it not at all possible that a boy can be loud and bouncy but gentle and caring all at the same time?

It upsets me that boys have this general reputation in our society as troublemakers, fighters, noise-makers, show offs and other negative attributes. How bad must it feel to be a boy who is growing up knowing that these are the things expected of boys. It grieves me that there is such a gloomy image for young boys to live up to. I so wish that our society was one that accepts boys for who they are, and trains them to be the men that they could be instead of dismissing them and writing them off at such a young age.

Boys who are noisy, full of energy, sometimes boisterous and focused on the right things can grow up into men who are charismatic, determined leaders who will lead people with love and wisdom. We need to have the right expectations of our boys, accept them as they are and train them so that they can use their exuberance for good things.

I apologise for the seriousness of this post, but it is something that I live with and battle with every day. I know that the way boys are treated today was not God's original plan when he made them. I hope I haven't offended anyone, but I needed to be honest and write down what was in my head!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Baa Baa

Every Tuesday morning I have the privilege of taking Jonah to Rhythm Time - a music class for toddlers where, under the pretence of benefiting our children, we sing and perform silly songs, play instruments and generally do ridiculous things usually while our children stare open mouthed at us, with dribble dripping down their chins.

The strangest part of the morning is the Rhythm Patterns section. This is so strange that it could easily make it onto a Louis Theroux Weird Weekend programme (except it is on a Tuesday). Sitting in a circle, the teacher (in this case my lovely big sister!) holds a microphone, which is not plugged into anything, and chants "baa baa" while we all repeat it back to her, clapping our hands on our thighs in time to the rhythm she is chanting. After this, the children each come into the middle of the circle while the teacher chooses one child at a time and says "baa baa" into the unplugged microphone. She then holds the microphone in front of the child's mouth, waiting for the child to repeat "baa baa" back to her. Usually, the toddler stares at her and dribbles all over the microphone. Sometimes, the child performs. Always, the children have a clap and run back to their adoring audience, sorry, mother.

It struck me this morning, whilst watching the faces of the mothers, that each mother is desperate for their child to perform. Even the mothers of the children who cannot speak seem to have some vain hope that suddenly their beautiful little angel will say the all important "baa baa". I wondered then, why we want our children to perform so well in front of others. Is it because we want them to look good, or because we want to look like fantastic parents?

When our 2 years olds (or 5 years olds in my case) have enormous tantrums in public are we embarrassed because we feel it somehow makes us look like terrible parents? It made me realise that I, even subconsciously, have these thoughts. Do I discipline my boys because I love them or because I want to look like a good mother? Even today, as we were walking out of the school gates surrounded by other parents, Jonah was sitting in the pushchair shouting "I HATE YOU!" and my first thought was "What will other people think? Will they think that's what I say to him at home?" It made me question my whole motivation for parenting.

Outwardly, I will say that I love the fact that my boys have so much energy, or are quirky or eccentric (one in particular!) yet when they display this behaviour in public I feel ashamed. This is wrong. It is also wrong that I care more about what other people think of them than how God thinks of them. Yes, we have to discipline and yes, we have to expect certain standards. But our children are not performing seals and it does not matter what any other children, parents or even teachers think of them, or us, if we are parenting them to love God, obey Him and us and are inputting the right values into them. Easy to say, and yet so so hard to do.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


At the risk of sounding like a full blown rant or an old lady, I need to explain a small incident that happened to me today. Having a child-free morning I decided to visit the library. I love libraries and I especially love to go without any children who will pull the books off the shelves, run around hiding between the bookshelves and talking loudly on purpose. It is a treat and one which I cherish beyond words. In fact, and I digress but it's worth it, the first time ( for 8 years) I went to the library child-free was recently and I actually wanted to just lie on the floor and breathe in the peace and the presence of all those delicious books. I didn't, but the temptation was great.

However, I need to get back to my point. The library car park in Bromsgrove has about 10 spaces and 2 disabled spaces. This is, of course, totally inadequate for the library which has many more than 10 book-lovers at a time visiting. The library is situated in the middle of the town, in which you have to pay fairly extortionate rates to park. Needless to say, lots of people use the library car park when they are in fact visiting the town. There are enormous signs all over the car park explaining that it is for library users only. Are you guessing what is going to come next?!

I pull into the car park, ready for my rare treat, only to find one space left which is just being taken by a man who really did not look like a library user. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and watched him climb out of his car, hoping that he would at least be going into the library. Unfortunately, he started walking in the opposite direction towards the town. I cannot sit and keep quiet about these injustices and wound down my window.

"'Scuse me" I called to him, "Are you not going into the library?"
"Nah," he replied, "I'm just nipping to the cash point."
Well, I thought, at least he is being honest.
"But you are only supposed to use this car park if you are going to library." I tried to speak as politely as I could.
"I'm only nipping to the cash point and then I'll be back." He didn't even look remotely sheepish at being caught out.
"Yes," I argued "But there are signs everywhere that say you can't park here if you're going into the town."
"I know, " he said, shrugging, (and this is the bit that shocked me) "But there are signs like that everywhere. I'm only nipping to the cash point." He started to walk off.
"I am waiting to go to the library!" I called after him, but he had gone, and he did not care.

I did not get my parking space and I gave up on my prized visit to the library.

What shocked me immensely about this man was that he either did not care that he was disobeying, or he had never been taught to obey authority in the first place. Is that not one of the biggest problems in our time? Children are not taught to obey and respect authority, so they grow up breaking rules left, right and centre. This man was in his 30's and I think even 30 years ago children were taught about obedience more than they are now. I wonder what it will be like when our teenagers and children have grown into adults. A whole generation of people who have not been taught obedience, who do not respect authority, who do not realise there are consequences for their actions, who are selfish and want their needs met immediately. I wonder what the world will be like then? We need to be intentional with our kids, however difficult it is (and having given birth to the worlds most stubborn and disobedient children, I know it is difficult!!) to teach them to obey. It is perhaps one of the most important life skills we can give them.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

More of it.

Here we are again with yet another Snow Day. I wonder if our country will ever get used to the idea that we might actually be able to function with snow on the ground. Last week, when the school re-opened, I tried that good old tactic of praising them for doing something good in the hope that they might not do something bad again. I emailed the headteacher and told them how grateful we were that the staff had made an effort to get into school and get it open. I gushed about how wonderful it was that the children could play outside in the snow with their friends. It didn't work. Today, as we woke up to yet another white blanket, the school closed. All you psychologists and parenting experts out there who say 'praise the good and ignore the bad' - it hasn't worked!!

So I am trying to have a Good Mother Day but failing terribly. With one child ill and in bed, one toddler who has to get his hands on everything, one child who only has to look at a room and it is messy and 2 nephews (because SOME people make it to work!) my task feels rather enormous. Having tried to do experiments, play games, draw and make and play in the snow this morning, I have now resorted to a DVD. I can justify it to myself though because it is 'Prince of Egypt' which is at least a Bible story!

As I look out of the window at the white flakes continuing to fall from the sky I do not have alot of hope for school opening tomorrow. I will have to instigate 'Mummy School' again and put up with the sighs and the huffing that accompanies it.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Act of Kindness Day (Best said in X Factor Announcement style)

What a fantastic idea, which I unfortunately did not think up! My big sister, who also has 2 boys, told me of this brainwave yesterday which we have decided to implement today. Act of Kindness Day which must be said in the X Factor voice will encourage inherently selfish children (which mine are) to think about other people.

How to do it:
Step 1: Everyone write down their name and put it in a hat. (You can also use this as sneaky writing practice for those who hate to write.)
Step 2: Everyone pick a name out of the hat. (Not their own.)
Step 3: Whoever's name you pick, you must do something kind for them that day.

What a great idea! So far we have giggled over saying "Act of Kindness Day" in funny voices over and over again, and we have picked names out of the hat. Max has decided to give me extra cuddles as his Act of Kindness. Toby has written little notes for Jared. Who knows how Jonah will decide to implement his Act of Kindness towards Max. Perhaps he will just try not to hit him and snatch things off him for the day..... but I doubt it somehow. I am not sure that an ego-centric 2 year old is quite able to join in such an activity.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Grrrrrrrr and Aaaaaaggggghhh

The title sums up exactly how I am feeling today. Having had my boys off school for 2 and a half weeks I sent them back in this morning with glee. The fighting, arguing and tale telling had become unbearable and they needed to be somewhere other than near me!

As we walked to school, however, the sky went ominously purple and then small balls of white fluff started falling from the sky. "It's snowing!" shouted the boys in excitement whilst I tried desperately to pretend it wasn't happening. By the time Jonah and I reached the warmth of home again it was snowing hard, and settling and an hour later the streets had transformed from grey old Charford to the beauty of a winter wonderland. The beauty was not long lasting though, because at 11am I had the text to say the school was closing. Wrapping ourselves up yet again, we traipsed back down to school to pick up 2 very excitable boys. Pushing a pushchair in the snow is no easy task, but pushing one with a screaming, cold, hungry and tired toddler in it is even worse. By the time we reached home (again) I was sweating and crotchety to say the least.

Throwing the boys in the garden, I attempted to be happy and enjoy the snow with them but that was not to be as Jonah continued to scream about having cold hands. I wonder when he will actually realise that if he wears his gloves instead of taking them off and throwing them on the floor, his hands might actually stay slightly warmer. We made a snowman and I gave them some water with food colouring in, to paint the snow, and that was my limit. I needed warmth, I needed sanity and I needed my 2 year old to have his lunch and go for a nap!

Having put him in bed, I have given the other 2 their lunches and done an hour of "snow experiments" with them before thankfully letting them watch the tv guilt free. Why couldn't it have snowed yesterday when Jared was off work? We could have all gone sledging and it would have been "Happy Families". The photo's would have made us look like we were one of those families who always have fun and never argue (do those families exist?)! As it is, they are stuck with a grumpy mum who really was looking forward to some child-free time today.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

I Resolve.

Excitement and gluttonous waste of Christmas is over. Don't get me wrong, it was lovely. We enjoyed our house being full of the people we love. Despite having what felt like billions of people here, we have actually had the most chilled school holidays in our family history with the 2 biggest boys waking up after 8am most days. This is unheard of in our house, and it has been good for them to sleep and rest (although I am not looking forward to the growth spurt that will inevitably follow).

Now that we have all eaten in excess and been far too slovenly, we all try to appease ourselves by making New Years Resolutions. I am married to someone who lives, dreams and makes constant lists of goals. Thankfully I think we just about managed to get away without having to do the "Family Goal Setting" time that he wanted to do on New Years Day, but he has talked with the boys and they have all come up with 4 goals for the year (this is a huge improvement on the 30 goals he usually has). I wonder if it is a boy thing, because they are all very excited about and motivated by these goals. Would boys be more inspired to do something if they have set a goal for it? Perhaps I am just cynical and it is a good thing to set goals. Those goal-lovers always quote the good old "If you aim for nothing, you reach nothing" quote and I do understand that, but still I struggle to set myself up with goals that I will ultimately fail in.

Or perhaps I aim too high. Maybe I should resolve to do things that are easier to achieve. I do have a vague idea of the things I want to do this year, but I wouldn't go as far as to say they are goals or resolutions. I am excited about this year. I want to make myself available to be used by my God, and I want to get to know Him more and love Him more. I want to be the best wife I can be by serving and loving my husband, and I want to inspire my boys to love God and His word and grow in their friendships with Him. But these are life 'goals', not just for this year. I won't suddenly at the end of the year decide not to do those things anymore!

Of course, the usual resolutions of losing weight, watching less TV, tidying the house more often and eating less chocolate will probably feature at some point but how many people do you know who set these goals year after year without ever achieving them? Exactly! What is the point?!