Monthly Archives: May 2017

Peace be upon us all

I had the opportunity to have a thorough run through of the 10 commandments and how they relate to my life. I very much enjoy being able to explore my spiritual beliefs or lack there of. 

To make it clear. I would place myself somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic. I explore as much religion as I can and consider if there is a place within each that might fit me. I’m still looking.

Predominantly, I look towards the Christian faith. I grew up with a fabulous grandmother who was very firm in her Catholicism and she enjoyed scaring God into us. I can’t say she was very successful but she stayed true to her faith until the end. She was a stern and complex individual who fled her home in Ireland to offer her illegitimate son a better life. She married my grandfather and raised a total of four siblings together in the best way they could. My grandfather seemed to shun religion, he openly scoffed at Sunday Best and I don’t remember him visiting Church except for hatches, matches, and despatches. Only one of the four children seem to have a connection with religion today and her own children have found Allah. Islam has brought peace upon them and they are active, happy members of their communities. I love that my cousin seeks comfort from her maker and leads her life in a way that honours his teachings. Her quiet faith brings strength and support and, I imagine, brings its own questions and a journey to the answers. 

We grew up being brownies and beavers – both branches of organisations with God, Queen and Country at their cores. The Girl Guides, 1909, was started to respond to the specific needs of girls and young women, whilst the Scouts was started the year before. Robert Baden-Powell wanted to encourage young people to be responsible, capable, God lead individuals. I spent week after week pledging to live my life under a code of honour which I never thought twice about. I would follow my dad to the Methodist Church for Mothering Sunday and other calender events before hot footing it to the Salvation Army to take part in the tambourine performance and hear another beautiful sermon about the Lord. I admit to finding great comfort within the church walls, I learnt things that school would never teach me and was read stories of a time long ago with men and women of courage and faith. If I hear the choir sing today I can feel my heart swell and my own voice joining in. 

As an adult, it is from the communities with ties to the Church that I receive greatest support and love. My friends, religious and otherwise, welcome me into their homes and into their hearts. They stand shoulder to shoulder with my family offering them unconditional love and an overwhelming sense of being welcome – mostly. 

I spend my time between the fantastic congregation of the Salvation Army, I listen with an open heart to the words and with an open mind to their structure and then willing give more of my time with my Baptist family in the hopes that their love and guidance will sink into our family as it did with myself as a child. 

The youngest Gingerling very much thinks we are Christian. We go to church sometimes and we close our eyes when Mr A (for Awesome) tells us to open our hearts to the Lord. She’s a very astute nearly, nearly 7 year old (6 and 4/5). She has been told that good Christians go to Church and listen to what the people say. Our dear friend and Major Redhead always spoke in a way that our Little Sponge understood and would have her listen intently before asking what a word meant or by nodding with a “we do that, don’t we mummy!” by way of acknowledging the words flowing into her. 

I can see the older girls all seeking something, all listening, all questing. They, like myself, are willing to listen, to feel God in their lives. In many ways I hope they do find what they are looking for. The way of the Lord sits so well with our church family, the glow of his wisdom is beautiful to behold. If only it was so easy for us all.

Whilst talking to the Good Rev about the commandments I found it easy to answer his questions truthfully and whole heartedly. He makes it very comfortable for me and I respect him greatly for it. I fear that he could not support my son with such easy grace. His Lord made it very clear, 2000 years ago, that there is no place within his heart for my boy. And yet, if I apply the 10 commandments to my son I can see that his place in heaven would be well deserved. A kinder, more sincere and honest a human being would only be found amongst other beautiful young people. They live their lives by a code of conduct that is based upon the words spoken by our parents, grandparents, great grandparents. Do no harm. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not cheat. Respect your elders. Protect those who cannot protect themselves. They don’t even use any Lord’s name in vain preferring the plethora of profanity in the English language or the good old almost swear “oh for pete’s sake”, “frickin’ heck” or “fiddlesticks”! 

Why is my child not welcome? I can’t ask this of the Rev just yet. I want to know but I also don’t want to hear that my child is somehow less worthy of any God’s love because his inner being has been nestled into a body that feels alien in nature. I do not know enough about Islam, Jehovah’s teachings, or other holy scriptures to know how my boy would be seen or received. All I know is that he is pure and he is good and if a god does not love him for that then he cannot be the true saviour of which I seek. 

And there in lies the conundrum. I look for a place of belonging, not just for me but for my children too. I cannot listen to a chosen mouthpiece of God and have them tell me that my child is not worthy, not welcome. My understanding of religious faith and doctrine is too limited. I have yet to find my spiritual leader, I know not if I ever will.

So many lives have been lost this past 24 hours. Some to life limiting conditions, some to old age, some to war, some to famine, some to disease, some to a violence without a name, and some because of a man who seems to have lost his way and may have uttered the name of a Lord he may or may not believe in. The loss of so many children, possibly 25,000 every single day, is not easily reconciled. I imagine God has been listening to many prayers today. I hope that many of those prayers have been answered in one way or another, that those mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, doctors, nurses, friends, emergency service personal have the comfort they seek.

Perhaps we all (okay, maybe 90%+) seek answers from a higher power when times are tough. I am open to seeking the truth, the answers, the continued questioning. My love is with you all, always. I will not stop seeing you as my family and any Lord I find will welcome you too. 

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Sweeping it under the carpet

With our size family, we often have to deal with issues of self esteem. There are 3 gingerlings, some bean poles, some belly woes, a few geeklings and a couple of nerds, a bookworm and a sports enthusiast. We have been exceptionally lucky because none of these things have led to any sustained bullying or upset. The issues we have had is because of the sense of justice, the choice to follow the rules, the lack of “tell-tale” mentality at home which allows for a greater sense of needing others to do their best and the reporting of poor behaviour or rule breaking.

My children get pulled apart for doing the right thing. It is absolutely frustrating that they have to deal with back handed name calling, pinching, pushing, isolation tactics etc. and when I try to discuss the issue at school, it is *my* child who is told to ignore poor behaviour in others, to walk away from troublesome 10 year olds, to find a new place to play, to stop taking things so personally. 

This doesn’t wash with us nor does it mean that the school get to deny they have a problem with bullying. As a parent, it is my job to protect my children, to encourage a positive attitude and install a compass to help steer them clear from trouble. When I drop them off at the class door I expect the staff to put the same effort in and 10 years ago, mostly, they did. As I now approach our youngest two entering the system I can see definite flaws in how things are being handled and the way the schools mark down incidents.

At a recent meeting with one of the Heads, it was mentioned that the mother of the boy who *slapped my child around the face* was not keen on the school’s behaviour policy so although it would have been mentioned the school had not given the child any sanctions beyond asking him to say sorry. So, as an adult, I can go into the playground and smack a member of staff and all I’ll have to do is say sorry….. No. I can’t see that assault being let go quite so easily and this is what children face everyday at school.

There’s one of those urban legends about a young lad who twangs a girl’s bra strap multiple times and when he doesn’t back off the female turns around and punches him in the face. Parents are called to the school and the girl looks to be excluded for a day or three for violence when the mother, quite rightly, steps in and explains that if the young adult isn’t punished she will be forced to press charges for sexual assault. It is almost certainly a lesson based on some truth but also one that doesn’t seem to be being heard by those in a position of power and responsibility.

My beautiful niece, only 12 years old, was having trouble with the snidey kids at her secondary school. It started with giggling as she passed, whispers in the class line, notes being passed around reminding others that she wasn’t to be talked to. Her mum tried to do right by our little Smiler, explained to not let these kids get the better of her, remind her that she isn’t any of those things being talked about, to be “the better person” and walk away. That worked for a short while but when these bullies saw it wasn’t working they stepped it up a notch and eventually became physical. One day she finally had enough. Smiler had done everything she was supposed to; walk away, tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell head of year. Now she had nowhere else to go and felt that she wasn’t worth as much as these other delightful tweenagers because no one had her back at school, a place where she spends the majority of her time, where she is supposed to be as safe as, or better safer than, home. She stood up for herself and when the leader tried to trip her up, again, she told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to pack it in right now. The other girl laughed before grabbing a handful of Smiler’s hair. She defended herself brilliantly and matched her enemy pull for pull, scratch for scratch. She was put in isolation for the rest of the week and made to apologise to the other girl.

What does that teach the next generation? Do the right thing but you might get hurt in the process but stand up for yourself and you will be punished and probably more harshly than your bully..? Why are we allowing the bullys and their bullying parents to dictate how we handle these situations? Why should our children be putting up with hurtful behaviour, attitudes, and violence, the consequences of which stay with a person for a lifetime? Accidental headlocks, recommending the wearing of shorts under skirts to prevent bullies from showing your knickers to the rest of the school, ignoring others blatently breaking school rules, holding back the tears for fear you give the bully more ammunition. Our children shouldn’t have to feel scared at school, they shouldn’t have nightmares or breakdowns as you insist that they attend classes. 

I urge all parents to stand up to bullies. Speak to the teacher, the Head, explain that you will not stand by and allow your child to be subjected to poor behaviour because the school fail to see it, or worse, see it and do not appropriately handle the situation. Our children have the right to an education free from harm and harrassment, lessons that don’t involve being kicked under the table, lunchtimes free from people ruining food, and also to walk home without a group of kids following or crowding around them.

School isn’t always fun, we all know how far the government have gone to make tests the most important part of the learning process, but as adults, we have the capability and responsibility to keep our children free from physical AND mental harm. 

Apple for Teacher

Once upon a school class, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I felt a compelling sense that I needed to help people especially the young. Little by little I grew as an individual and decided that my path had led away from medicine. I could not stand to be in school and the idea that I had to spend another 10 years of life not being able to help children whilst I studied and amounted a vast debt just didn’t seem right.

The Mr and I met at college. He is the reason I absolutely believe in love at first sight. He came out of a meeting in the hall and swaggered down towards the common area and I knew with every fibre of my being that I was going to have children with him. Fourteen months later our first child was delivered by caesarean section, a more than healthy 9lb 15oz and a beautifully fuzzy ginger top. Looking at this tiny (!) human being I knew that I had found my path. I wanted to be a mother, a really good mother. 

Mothering is so much more than making sure you meet the 4 Bs. – bottle/boob, bottom, burping, bundling. Bundling is my favourite part. The mini human gets laid in a lovingly made blanket from a nanna, aunt, bestfriend, and you tuck the edges around them almost too tightly. Some like their arms tucked too whilst others have one arm out, a thumb in their mouth, and then you hold them. Just hold them. 

In the late hours, when the world seems quiet and it is just you two, that’s when the lessons are learnt. You teach your child about love, acceptance, joy and laughter, even fear. In return your child shows you compassion, independence, loyalty, faith and trust.

Oddly, that isn’t exactly what I had planned on exploring but it is a good start to where our family finds itself right now.

The youngest gingerling has just finished doing some “fun” quizzes and as a reward she will be going to the seaside. Miss Diva didn’t find them so fun. You had to sit in boring seats and you weren’t allowed to even laugh! But she got to write a really good story only she didn’t have enough time to finish it and that isn’t fair.

Year 2 SATs suck. I have always had a passionate dislike of them. They tell us nothing about what truly matters when we look at our 6 and 7 year olds. It doesn’t state their favourite colour or toy, whether they prefer Science or Art, how high they climb on the bars or how much their handwriting has improved this year. My wonderful 6 (and a half! Very important to Miss Diva) year old has spent the last 6 months learning how to pass a test. She was told how to write with a start, a middle, and an end – like those are the only options available when writing a story. She knows how to work out a word problem in maths, which is useful in the long run but not so helpful in encouraging her how to remember her times table and then how to use that to work out division. The last time she worked on a beautiful piece of artwork was Christmas and they haven’t had a music lesson since the class assembly in January. She has had afterschool booster sessions and even a couple of days of extra mini quizzes during the holidays. My beautiful prancing, dancing, singing, smiling, giggling 6 and a half year old wasn’t even alloed to laugh.

Yay. I’m sure that tells the government lots about my child.

My not so little anymore CEO is just about to start her “fun quizzes” except without the sugar coating. She knows exactly what is expected of her by her teachers and is not sleeping because of it. Her SATs prep started last school year. As soon as My Daydreamer went off on her school leavers journey the lines were laid down to start teaching the year 5 class how to “do well” in their SATs. For the whole of the last 12 months they have had it drummed into them just how important these tests are and they have worked for nothing else. I have every faith in my rule enforcer, my little teacher’s pet, my stressed and anxious nearly nearly 11 year old. She has the most awe inspiring spirit, her mind is so enquisitive, always asking questions, always fighting for the World to be a better place to grow. I know she is intelligent, probably top 10 at her school, I have no desire for her to do these exams which leave her despondent and fearful. To see the light ebb from her as her shoulders slump and her wrists need rubbing from cramp. 

The tests don’t show that though. They aren’t interested in my child’s personality, her strengths and weaknesses, they only care about how well she can decipher the maths word puzzle, how her teachers have taught her the difference between clauses, how to use adverbs correctly, the humble comma, and when to use there, their, and they’re. She must also resist the use of emoticons because they’re not appropriate. 

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My no longer little but my almost fully grown red head has been stuck in his bedroom for the last two years. The once vivid green walls are now adorned with a revision timetable covered by an exam timetable, post it notes in various shapes and sizes, thought maps, English quotes, and words of hope that soon this month long stressfest will soon be over. 

The GCSEs are the ones that terrify me. The teachers have high hopes for my biggest boy. Meeting after meeting, email after email, each one telling us if he just studies a little longer, revises just a little harder, pushes himself just a little further…. He has bitten each and every fingernail, you can see the little patch of fringe where he has been tugging and twisting, he is mainlining chocolate and his light hasn’t been out before 2am in a ridiculously long length of time. 

We have spent so much of the last five years battling the anxiety and handling the stress so that he can explore his identity and then embrace his transition. My boy doesn’t need this extra burden. He would have put himself under enough pressure to do well. He desperately wants to do well, he wants to get the qualifications he needs to move forward on his career path and help children in a way I absolutely understand. He is determined to make a difference in this world and he sees the educational route as his future journey. 

His GCSEs won’t show that about him. They won’t show off his absolutely enchanting voice, his delicate style of drawing that he has no faith in, his dark sense of humour which he shares with his father, his passion for politics causing voices to shake and hands to clench. They won’t count the tears he has shed because he doesn’t think he is good enough, the notes screwed up because they need to be just so.

The numbers at the end of the day won’t matter to me, they won’t change how much I love and cherish them, I am not concerned about competing with the other mums in the playground or stealing the Best Mum award of 2017. 

My children have been, otherwise, fabulously educated and by some of the best teachers – when they leave compulsory education at 18 they will be articulate, well-rounded, informed young adults but a good chunk of it will come from us, as parents, family & friends, who have all worked just as hard as the professionals to ensure that the next generation are ready for what comes next.

They are going to be awesome adults. 

Jus’ Sayin’

😉