Thursday, 25 July 2013


Figures in the news today claim that more children than ever were excluded from Primary Schools last year and 45% of those were for physical assault.

The sad news that boys are three times more likely than girls to be excluded makes me wonder about the reasons. Boys as young as 4 and 5 years old are being labelled as troublemakers and, whilst I'm sure that they are children who have difficulties, it sends shivers down my spine as I think of the consequences of these labels on their young lives.

Are our boys frustrated with a system that doesn't recognise their need for action? Do we need to be teaching boys respect for others and themselves? Are these boys lacking men who will show them how to deal with their anger? And, dare I say it, has the rise of feminism in education meant that boys no longer know who they are supposed to be?

Of course, I'm not making excuses for bad behaviour but as a Mum I know that some situations will induce more difficult behaviour than others in my boys. It is hard for them to sit still and quiet for a long time without being given opportunity to move, for example. And in an education system that is increasingly heading towards the Victorian era, children who have not been taught Victorian values will struggle. It's not easy for boys to behave well in class. There are a whole load of reasons not to, and those who do work hard at it.

I'm no expert, but perhaps the boys who are being excluded need help rather than labels. Maybe they need compassion instead of exclusion. Perhaps our education system needs to be more geared up for different learning styles instead of squeezing all our children, boys and girls included, into one simple box and punishing those who flail at being squeezed.

Just my thoughts. What are yours?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Little Hands

I used to hold his chubby, sweaty little hand in mine as we walked to school together pretending to fly and talking about the planets we'd visited and aliens we'd seen.

Some days, too stubborn to put on his shoes, we'd walk shoe-less until he decided I was right in the end.

I warned him about dog poo and walking too close to the curb every day, several times.

We'd make hand-squeeze codes together.  One squeeze meant 'I love you'.  Two squeezes meant 'I think you are great'.  Three squeezes meant 'You smell.'

We'd chat on the way home about his day and he'd tell me all his exciting news.

Today, I took him for the last time.  In September he'll walk with Toby to a new school.  As he walked through the door, he smiled at me and waved.

Another 'letting go' moment that pulls at my heart as part of me is so excited about what lies ahead but the other part, the soft part, has to let go of his little hand so that it has space to grow into a bigger one.

I can't hold onto his hand anymore.  I can't squeeze it because it's time to let go and allow it to grow.  I have to step aside to make space for him.

It's with tears of sadness at the squidgy hands now gone, but joy as I look ahead to the future that I let go of him.  What will his hands accomplish now, as they grow without me?  What will he make?  Who will he care for?  What words will he write?  What decisions will he make?

I let go today a little bit more, and my Mummy heart aches, but the days and years ahead are exciting so I turn my face to them and prepare my heart for what they will bring.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Boy Tips for the Royal Couple

Dear Will and Kate,

Congratulations! You've had a precious son!

From one Mum of boys to another, here are my tips as you begin your exciting journey.

1. Boys do not understand hints. If you want your son to do something, you must tell him straight out.

2. Prepare yourself for bodily-function humour. I mean seriously prepare. Little boys (and big ones for that matter) will laugh at things that girls just do not find funny.

3. Your prince will need some fighting. Boys are very active and they need to play-fight to learn how to be sociable with others. A bit of Daddy-wrestling works wonders.

4. I'm not sure on the etiquette for royal princes, but however much you try to avoid the 'gun thing', you will not win. He will make guns out of toast crusts, Lego, sticks and even various body-parts (see point 2).

5. If you do not know already, learn about Star Wars quick. You will be required to light sabre your way through life, speak like Yoda and use 'the force' to open automatic doors pretty soon.

6. Competition is important. As is 'macho pride'. If your son is ever refusing to be obedient you should use phrases such as 'I bet you can't climb out of the bath before I count to 10' and 'Let's have a race to put our shoes on'. Simple but effective psychology. Works every time.

7. Cuddle your boy. He needs to learn about emotions from his Mummy. Even when he reaches the age where cuddles are not so appreciated, keep cuddling.

8. Let your prince get muddy. Enjoy his bruised legs. Allow him to take risks as he grows up. Give him freedom to climb trees, build dens and catch spiders.

9. When your son brings you flowers in a plastic cup form the garden, be enthusiastic. He's practising on you.

10. You might well have a cleaner, but once you have begun potty training, never ever expect your bathroom to be the same again. Always check the seat before you sit down.

Enjoy your boy. Like all our boys, he is very precious.

Mothering, the Royal Way.

The Duchess of Cambridge has it tough. She had a fairytale wedding that all little girls dream of. She is our royal heroine and well loved. She's beautiful but not detached. Everything about her is seemingly perfect.

But she is bringing her child into our world of rapid-travel news. Every cry of labour pains, every twitch of a hospital curtain, every dimming of the lights in the hospital room will be facebooked and tweeted around the world.

When she arrives home with her precious bundle, exhausted and possibly overwhelmed, she is going to have to live out her mothering in front of a worldwide audience. Most of us like to hide away for a while until the droopy bags under our eyes can't stay hidden any longer. Many of us won't get dressed for days on end, and even when we do our clothes will be decorated with baby drool and sick.

The Duchess will be expected to still look beautiful and glamorous. She will not be allowed to go out of the house with white patches on her shoulders. She will have to don large sunglasses to cover her sleep deprived eyes. What if her her dazzling smile turns to tears of exhaustion and frustration? There will be no hiding for our fresh faced princess. The whole world will be looking on as she tried to work out how to be a Mum. Everyone will be waiting to hear of her successes and failures.

We've all had those soul-humbling experiences when our toddlers decide to tantrum in the local supermarket. Everyone watches, either out of pity or irritation. For Kate, this will be her life. Every parental decision will be analysed. Each milestone the child reaches or doesn't reach will be assessed by the experts of the nation (and the pretend experts too). The world will be full of advice for this first-time mum.

I think we should give her a break and expect from her all we would expect from any new mother. If she stays in her pyjamas all day and hides away from the flash of the camera, I will be applauding her. Stunningly beautiful she is, but this does not qualify her to be a perfect mother and if she makes mistakes along the way (as we all have) I hope the world will be kind to her. When she leaves her home with bags full of baby paraphernalia but forgets to put her shoes on, I hope we will not criticise.

She is, after all, a first-time mother who will be trying to stumble her way through this parenting business just the same as the rest of us.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Dear Mr Clegg and Mr Gove

Dear Mr Clegg and Mr Gove,

Meet Max. 

He is nine years old.  He is creative, slightly eccentric, highly disorganised but full of inventive ideas and curiosity about the world around him.  He dislikes reading, although he will do it if he has to.  He hates writing even more.  He's great with numbers but lacks self belief.  He's a deep thinker and often makes very profound comments about what he sees around him.  He is very intelligent.  He has a dreadful memory and might not do so well in tests.

As parents, we send our creative, playful, energetic, curious and unique five year olds to school and we hope that they will be given the opportunity to develop into the young adults they were meant to be.  We are aware of how different our children are, even within the same families, and we always want the best for them despite their differences.

Under your 'regime' Max will be tested and tested and tested to ensure that by the time he is 11, and then 18, he will fit your required mould or will be relegated to the bottom of the pile.

Your plans are dangerous for the future of our country.  Do you really want adults who are all experts in Shakespeare or prime numbers?  What about the innovators and the risk-takers?  What about those who struggle to read but are experts at thinking of the needs of others and caring for them?  You are going to have a generation of young adults who are divided between those who have given up because they have been branded as failures, and those who are so moulded by your system that they have become robots.  No creativity, no joy in learning, no discovery and exploration.  Everyone the same.

And it's not just the children who will suffer.  Teachers who love the children and desperately want to bring the best out of them in creative ways will be squashed into teaching for tests instead of teaching for a love of learning.  Why do you think there is such a lack of teachers at the moment?  Nobody wants to teach under your rule.

So, Mr Clegg and Mr Gove , what are you going to do to ensure that children like Max, who may not be academic but have other beautiful qualities, are going to be nurtured and encouraged at school?  How can we celebrate the successes of our unique children?  How can you reassure us as parents that your system is going to bring the best out of our individual children?

I very much look forward to hearing your response.

Helen Hodgson
Mother of three very different boys.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A Proper British Heatwave

We're all meant to love it.

"We can't complain," everyone mutters to each other, wishing that really, we could complain. But we're so British and the truth is that whilst we're all busy saying how delightful this weather is, our lives aren't set up for heat like this and we all find it a bit tiring.

Of course, teenagers will love it. I did too when I had nothing to do other than lounging around listening to music and reading books.

But when you actually have to go to work in a stuffy office or (like me) dance around with pom poms singing at the top of your voice, it's really rather wearying. And when you have to drag hot, tired children home from school who then eat you out of ice pops and have proper water fights (take the word 'fight' literally) complete with screaming, it makes you want to climb into the chest freezer and never return.

In hot countries they have lovely things like air conditioned homes (or at least a fan on the ceiling) and siestas. Here, we work up a sweat in the hottest part of the day, continuing to hurry our crazily busy lives along.

Still, we can't complain. At least everything in our house has been washed, maybe even twice, and hung out to dry. And we're all donning a lovely brown suntan (oops, we're not meant to like that one either but secretly we do). And my cucumbers, courgettes and tomatoes are enjoying the sunshine.

We'd better make the most of it. It will probably rain for the six weeks of the summer holidays, like a proper British summer.

Friday, 12 July 2013

'MUUM, will you tell him!'

It seems that whilst I cook and clean for my children, I now need to speak for them as well.

It's called the 'MUUUM, will you tell him!' syndrome.

This syndrome renders the child speechless as soon as they have uttered the phrase. Consequently, anything that they wish to say to their sibling, in particular pointing out something that they deem as unsuitable behaviour, you will have to say for them.

It can be shouted at any moment, but more usually it is yelled at the most inappropriate moments. Often when you are cooking the dinner or trying to leave the house on time.

If you fail to speak for your child, they will be forced to use their body language to communicate with their sibling, namely through punching, kicking or other violent means.

There is no cure for this syndrome, but the hope is that as maturity progresses, the child will grow out of it.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Whose Job? Part 4 - Falling in Love


The Israelites had invaded.  Those of us who were Midianites screamed in terror as we were utterly petrified and completely thrilled all at the same time. Hiding out in a field (and some of you reading this will know which field I am remembering), we were swept up with the drama as we waited for the story to continue.  Our imaginations and our hearts had been captured and, at that moment, I fell in love with the Bible.

All this happened around thirty years ago (ssshhhh - my boys think I'm seventeen), but I will never forget the commotion and the awe as all round me the Bible was brought to life. 

The Bible is exciting.  It's not a boring, enormous rule book.  It's a love story, full of adventure and is sometimes downright bloodthirsty.  Teaching our children the Bible isn't a chore, it's a pleasure.  To see their faces light up when they suddenly understand something new is a privilege for us as parents.

Our job is to show our children how to fall in love with the Bible.  Of course, it's a book and logically, you can't fall in love with a book.  But it is so much more than that.  The Bible is God's word to us.  When we have a love letter from someone precious to us, we treasure that letter and read it over and over again, memorising every phrase and hiding them away in our hearts (or at least I do, perhaps I am just an old romantic).  It's the same with God's word.  When we treasure those words and try to live our lives by them, we will see our lives change.

So, how do we help our kids fall in love with the Bible?  We bring it to life.  Choosing appropriate Bible stories for their ages, we can read, act, draw and make them out of lego, duplo etc,  and of course laugh over them (yes, we are allowed to do that too).  We can help them apply these stories by bringing them in to every aspect of our lives.  Daniel and the lion's den, for example, is a great story for anxiety over starting a new school.  God protected Daniel, and so He will protect them.  These words are not just for adults, they apply to our children too.  For under 7's, we have found 'The Jesus Storybook Bible' to be a fantastic resource that not only speaks to our children, but has also been known to make me cry too! (  We have also used lots of Bible story cd's, which are brilliant for car journeys or bedtime (especially when you can't bear to read them yet another story...).

As our children grow older, we can encourage them with bible reading notes to help them develop good habits for themselves.  Finding a good time in the day to do this is sometimes hard, but each family is different.  There are lots of great resources out there, but we use 'XTB' and 'Discover' from The Good Book Company (  These have always been age appropriate and enjoyed, even by boys who don't like writing (and believe me, my boys hate writing).

This isn't the job of the Sunday School or Kid's Club Leader, it's our privilege and as we teach our children to love God's word, we give them strong foundations on which to build the rest of their lives. 

So, get donning those tea-towels and start letting God's word captivate the hearts and minds of your children - it is an investment worth making!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Whose Job? Part 3: Dulling down our Kids

I love this quote from D.L Moody, a preacher in the late 1800's:

"It is a masterpiece of the devil to make us believe that children cannot understand religion. Would Christ have made a child the standard of faith if He had known that it was not capable of understanding His words?"
 In other words, Jesus told his disciples (and that includes us if we follow him) to have faith like children.  Would he have said this if he thought that children couldn't understand his words?

Now, I know from bitter experience that very often children 'seem' to not understand our words.  Selective deafness is a well-known and very frustrating condition that many children (including mine, regularly) suffer with.  Actually, I think the parents suffer more than the children.  It mostly occurs when I say "time to turn the screens off" or "make sure you lift the toilet seat up before you.... oh, too late". 

But when talking to our children about our faith, I think we often lower our expectations.  Perhaps we miss out the bits we think they won't understand.  Sometimes, I think these missing bits are vital to their faith but because we don't want to make anything sound weird or freaky, we exclude them from our discussions.  We dull down the exciting, mind-blowing riches that God has given us because we aren't sure that our children can quite cope with it yet.  If we don't teach our children those all-important truths, what we are actually doing is giving them a false gospel.  Life as a follower of Jesus is thrilling.  If we teach our children the 'head knowledge' but don't allow them any experience of God when they are young, it's like having Christmas without the presents.  We all know it's Christmas day, but we're not going to make a big fuss about it.

Of course, faith, particularly with children, is a journey and we will not understand everything immediately.  We can't expect to suddenly understand every theological concept in the Bible.  But we can expect our children to understand and experience more.  In fact, they often accept biblical truths more than we do because they don't have all our hang-ups.

Let's teach our children to hear from God when they are young.  Let's get them baptised in the Holy Spirit before they enter their difficult teenage years.  It will be a vital piece of their armour to get them through.  Let's get them praying for healings and miracles.  Let's teach them about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and see them modelling them for the rest of the church.  It's all for them!  They are not excluded!  Let's build their faith by experiences of God as well as all the vital knowledge and truth of the Bible.  Imagine the kinds of adults they will become if they have spent their childhood in the presence of God!

As adults we should be following their lead of faith, not the other way round.  Let's stop dulling down our kids and expect more of them.  We might be very surprised!