Monday, 29 August 2011

Posh Eyebrows

What is it about boys that is so unsavoury? Why are girls made of all things nice and boys made of horrid, yucky things? More importantly, why does our society actually believe that old wives tale?

Having been camping for a week in a field where my boys could swing like monkeys on rope and tyre swings, play on a 'lost island', climb trees, make as much noise as they liked and play with fire, today I took them to a National Trust house and gardens. Perhaps it was not the best planning since my boys had turned feral on our camping holiday, but I was in desperate need of something to do with them.

Sitting in the play area of the middle classes, I watched my boys climbing on the parts that were not meant to be clambered on and pushing each other on the swings so high that they fell out of them. They had alot of fun. I loved watching them look out for each other, take turns on the swings, chase each other and teach each other how to reach the higher bits.

Others in the play area, however, did not see the positives. I noticed anxious mothers steering their (ridiculously clothed in long dresses) pretty little girls away from my boys. ("Let's move away from those naughty boys"). I saw the worried looks on the faces of other parents when Max climbed right onto the top of the roof of the climbing frame. With their tweezered eyebrows raised, they looked my way silently pleading with me to tell him to climb back down again. Instead I gave him the thumbs up and told him he was a great climber.

Why are we so health and safety conscious that children are not allowed to take risks anymore? If my boys were genuinely doing something dangerous, I would stop them. However, they also need to learn about risk taking. What kind of men are we growing if we do not allow our boys to adventures and grow in their bravery?

Unfortunately for us, the eyebrows will continue to be raised when we venture into civilisation. My boys are not rude to others, they do not hurt other people, they do not swear or throw litter, they are simply boisterous, noisy, adventurous boys who love living. This, I will encourage until the day they reach manhood and beyond.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Mummy Dates

As you might have realised by now, we have no girls in our house other than me. How, then, will my boys learn to become gentlemen if they have no-one to practice on? How will they know that girls don't actually like to do armpit farts (well, some do) or want to play wrestling (again, some do)? Who will teach them those good old fashioned gentlemanly manners that are so prized and make a girl feel so special? I know that these days with the rise and success of feminism (all you feminists out there, please don't jump down my throat, I know it probably isn't as successful as you'd like it to be but it has certainly succeeded in squashing down young men) gentlemanly manners are sometimes scoffed at, but I also know that secretly even if not in public, most girls like to have a door opened for them. So, with no girls in the house other than me, I am the one to be practiced on.

With this in mind, we decided to arrange for the boys to take me out on a 'date'. Today was Max's first date with me. Jared spent a bit of time with him beforehand, explaining how to treat a lady and what the etiquette should be. Having been told that the boy should always do the asking, he crept into the kitchen at lunchtime and handed me an invitation. "To Mum, Plees will you come on a deat with me. Mum, thanks for doing all your jobs." Of course, I replied yes.

He decided to take me to KFC (a truly romantic destination - I did not tell him that this would NOT be the place to take future young ladies). He told me that he wanted me to wear a dress, and that he would also wear his best clothes. Just before we left, I changed into a dress and he changed into his Man Utd t-shirt! As we were leaving, he shyly presented me with a box of chocolates and a smile and off we went!

On the drive, my usually rather self-centred little boy (as most 7 year old boys are) began to ask me questions. "What is your favourite thing to wear?" "How old were you when you learnt to ride a bike?" "When did you learn to walk?" I could see Jared's training had certainly been taken on board. Arriving at our destination, he opened the door for me and asked me what I wanted to eat. He ordered the food, paid for it, carried the tray to the (dirty, but he didn't notice) table, set it down and pulled out my chair for me. I was impressed.

Finishing our meal, he removed and emptied the tray, pulled out my chair again and led me to the car (which, of course, I had to drive). I was very impressed with his 'ladies first' attitude and felt very special and looked after.

It had all gone swimmingly, until on our drive home he asked me if I wanted to play burp tennis.
"Burp tennis isn't really a game you ask ladies to play with you, Max. Ladies don't really like burp tennis."
"Well, our friend does, in fact, she taught it to me." (Friend, you know who you are!)
I did not really have an answer for this, so I changed tack.
"Well, I don't and I can't burp like you can."
Unfortunately this also backfired on me as he proceeded to give me a demonstration on how to burp.

Finally, we arrived home. He got out of the car before me and came round to my side to open the door. As soon as he'd done that, he ran off to play football with the others.

A successful first date, I feel. Next up is Toby. Part of our training is to teach our boys how to respect women. Despite the modern trend for metrosexual men, we want ours to be real men who love women the way they are supposed to be loved and cherished. Gentleman are hard to find in today's world. I married one. I want my daughters in law to marry one too.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Tomatoes, Tears and Victories

Yesterday will be circled in my calendar for two small, but important, parenting victories.

Last week was football club week. Unbeknown to the boys, they are learning far more than football when they attend these clubs. Whilst the competition is extreme and exciting, the coaches also look out for good teamwork, good attitude, obedience and co-operation. Encouragement of others in the team is prized. At the end of the week, Toby won the award for sportsmanship. Although he was not the most skilled of football players, he was a boost to his team and he even overcame the disappointment of defeat by applauding others. For those of you who don't know, Toby is highly competitive. He is not the type to lie back and allow someone else to win.

Watching him collect his prize, my mind wandered back to Toby at age 4 and 5. I remembered the hours I spent with him playing games. The temptation to just 'let him win' so that he wouldn't be upset was great, but I resisted it and we had many games where the playing cards, or dice, were thrown down on the floor as he stomped, tears flowing, out of the room in defeat. He hated losing. I began to teach him to stay in the room, shake my hand and say well done to the winner. This felt like rubbing salt into his raw wounds of failure, but I knew that I had to teach him to be a good loser. I explained to him how it felt to not be congratulated. I told him that how he played the game was more important than who won. It was painful and there were many tears.

Yesterday, as he picked up his award, I knew I could tick that one off his list of preparation for life. He is ready to face competition and be beaten. He realises that character is more important than winning (although winning is, of course, still preferable!).

My second small victory almost caused me to leap around the room in excitement. Unfortunately I had to play it down. Tomatoes and Jonah have not mixed well. For two years, I have been putting a small amount of tomato on his plate at meal times (not every meal time, just the meals that have included the dreaded fruit). For two years, Jonah has methodically removed the tomato and put it on the table next to his plate. I have not made a big deal of it, I have just continued to put it on his plate. I have always refused to give different foods to different children. We all have the same thing on our plates. Yesterday, out of the blue, he said "I'm going to try this tomato, today". My mouth almost dropped onto the floor in shock. I held myself together and tried not to watch him as he tentatively put it in his mouth. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the tomato chewed up and swallowed. "Mmmmm," he said, "I like tomatoes now!" Toby and Max gave him a cheer and we continued with the rest of our meal. I, however, had that wonderful feeling of winning a small victory. It warmed me from the inside and it took all my self control to keep it inside instead of dancing around the room singing "I won the tomato battle, I won the tomato battle!"

Bringing up children is full of these small triumphs. Small, but far reaching. Did I ever believe, in all those months of Toby tearfully shaking my hand and saying 'well done', that he would win a prize for it one day? Definitely not. I had almost given up on the tomato battle too. We have to persevere even when it looks bleak. The triumphs are not for our own benefit (although it does feel good), they are for the benefit of our children, their future families and their lives ahead.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


The answer is far more deep rooted than politics or economics. Our country has turned it's back on God. Children are no longer taught the basic morals found in the Bible. Conscience no longer exists. This is not new. The following excerpt was written 2000 years ago.

"Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too."

What is the answer? Not only do we need to acknowledge God, we need to fear and follow Him.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


As I wake up this morning to yet more images of destruction on my screen, my heart is grieved. Yes, for the people who have lost their businesses and livelihoods. Yes, for the communities who have lost their souls. Mostly though, I ache for those young men and women who have caused this horrific, rampant devastation. I know that not many will agree with me, and most will feel anger towards them.

I live with 3 small boys who often struggle with anger. Sometimes, in their anger, they throw things, break things and smash things. Sometimes, I see their eyes flash and they lose their tempers. Sometimes they take out their anger, which usually has it's roots in something totally unrelated, on other people or possessions. It is a scary moment when the anger almost takes control and gives them a strength they did not have before. We teach our boys that this is not the way to deal with anger. Anger is an emotion which needs to be recognised and then learnt how to control. One of my boys has struggled with this in particular, and I know that had we not spent years training him (with many more to come) and praying for him, he might one day have used his anger for wrong in the future.

Reading the BBC website, there was a quote from a Conservative MP, Peter Luff, who said "There is no single explanation for this anarchy but the rioters are likely to be products of failed families - bored, selfish, unloved young men." Whatever you think of politics, or of Mr Luff himself, this rings true and breaks my heart.

These young men are unloved, untrained, undervalued, under parented. They do not know their place in society. They are angry. No-one has taught them how to control their anger and direct it for good. No-one has given them confidence in themselves. They do not know the potential they have. They have not been loved for who they are, and encouraged to change for the better. Nobody has taught them respect for property or people. No-one has taught them to obey those in authority. They have not been loved and do not know how to love. They are selfish because they have had to be to survive. Nobody has shown them how to be real men, not the macho image of a man that is in the media, but men who know how to love, how to respect, how to treat women with courtesy, how to lead others, how to have courage in the face of adversity, how to fight for the right things. These young men are lacking all that they need for the foundation of their lives.

I am not in any way condoning their behaviour and of course, they need to meet the consequences head on, but to me this is a product of our times. We have elevated the status of young women, and in the process we have squashed young men down so much that we now have a generation of almost feral, angry men who are ready to fight back. How do we respond? I don't claim to have all the answers. Loving the unlovely seems the right response to me. As hard as it may be, these boys need us.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Holidays aren't what they used to be.....

....they're better!

I NEVER EVER thought it would happen. Small children plus holidays always felt like doing the same things just in a different place, without all the usual creature comforts. It was often more stressful than being at home, and we had several holidays when the boys were small where we just gave up and came home!

This year, all that has changed. No longer in the 'small children' family age bracket, we have discovered that holidays can actually be just that - a holiday! People used to tell me it would get better - I never believed them. I just thought they had perfect children. However, we have just returned from a week away with our very imperfect children to discover that we have had fun, been refreshed, relaxed and even, dare I say it, we've had sleep! Apart from the first night, when Jonah woke up several times asking to go outside (we were camping, or rather 'glamping'); and the second night when Jared forgot to put a bedtime nappy on Jonah and he woke in the night with a wet bed (you can imagine the whispered arguments we had over that one at 2am), we actually slept. We even had lie ins (8am - yes, that really is a lie in for us!) and when they did wake up, they lay quietly in bed reading or playing on ds's until we told them it was time to get up. If you know my boys, you will know that's a miracle.

Instead of chasing around after toddlers all day, making sure they don't go in stranger's tents and help themselves to their food, I sat by the fire and read my book. Two books in fact (which is a record for me on a family holiday - usually the books are frustratingly taken home again unread). The boys played football, rode their bikes, played in the stream, made new friends and had their own adventures.

When we went out, we didn't have to take pushchairs, nappy bags, potties or any other paraphernalia. We just explored, played and had adventures that we would never have been able to have with small children. Instead of resenting it, I actually enjoyed myself (apart from the terrifying speed boat ride during which I screamed for most of the hour long trip while the boys laughed at me).

So all of you who have small children - be full of hope. Your holidays will one day be proper holidays. If it can happen to me, with my imperfect family, it can certainly happen to you.