Friday, 30 October 2009

Bad Mother Day

What constitutes a Bad Mother Day? Let me give you a few ideas......

1. Before breakfast Jonah had a bowl of multi-grain boulders (which he walked around the house with). He then had multi-grain boulders for breakfast. After breakfast he wanted my bran flakes, which I gave him. 5 minutes later he was asking for an orange, which was also given to him (to prevent a tantrum). As we are getting ready to go out, he sees me packing up my bag and asks for a biscuit, which I give him (to prevent a tantrum). When we get to the Country Park, I put him in the pushchair which he is not happy about because the other 2 boys are on bike and scooter, so I give him a biscuit. After our walk, we go to the play area and he opens my bag, finds the biscuits and takes out 2 more. Do I take them off him? Absolutely not. It is, after all, Bad Mother Day. Does he eat his lunch when we get home? Absolutely not!

2. After lunch, Jonah goes to bed and the boys sit down and watch the TV for an hour and a half. When they are bored of this and come to find me, I plead with them to continue to watch it.

3. When they do not go back, as requested, and sit down to watch the TV, they go outside. It is nearly November and Max has on a T-shirt and his boxer shorts. I ask him to put his trousers on and he refuses. Do I battle with him or do I let him go outside and get cold? What do you think? It is, after all, Bad Mother Day.

4. They play outside without shoes on (or socks, in Max's case).

5. When Max comes in to tell me that Toby has strangled him with a rope because he won't help Toby put up a tent, I go outside and tell Toby "Don't be so bossy". Bossy? How is strangling being bossy? I can't even believe such ridiculous words have come out of my mouth.

Does anyone else have any Bad Mother Day ideas they could add to my collection? I have plenty more up my sleeve for another day........

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

"What A Mess".....

.... says Jonah as he walks into the kitchen with hands caked in mud, leaving a trail of muddy footprints behind him. Yes, i think, and you don't really care because you haven't got it clean it all up! What does he want me to do? He wants me to wash the mud off his hands so that he can go back outside and cover them in said mud yet again.

On the plus side (dare I say it?!), they are playing happily and there has not been too much screaming and arguing. This plus, however, has to be weighed up with a rather large minus which is that the downstairs of my house now looks alarmingly similar to the garden with mud, leaves, sticks and other unidentifiable objects sprawled through it. Their clothes literally do look like they have been pulled through a hedge backwards, because they probably have. Not to mention the rainwater that has made their trousers and socks wet enough to have a bath in(because whilst shoes are worn to go outside in, they somehow magically seem to leave their feet once out there and prefer to lie sedately on the grass).

So, do I keep them in and put up with their cabin fever (which is already hitting hard even though we are only on day 2 of half term) or do I let them out and spend the whole afternoon running around after them cleaning up and washing hands so that they can have a blank canvas to make yet more mess?

It's a tricky choice, but seeing as the mess-making also provides me with a small amount of peace where I can look away from the mess and pretend its not there for 5 minutes, I think I'll go with the playing outside option. This, of course, makes me sound like a good mother, but the truth is more on the 'lazy mother' side because if they were inside I would have to play with them to prevent the fighting, but whilst they are outside I can ignore them..... even if it does mean jet washing the house afterwards.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Anticipating Half Term

Half term looms ahead of me. It feels as though I am about to enter a dark torture chamber where I will be unexpectedly ambushed. I know some people love having their children at home for a week, but I find it very hard. The fighting, arguing, destruction and noise are quite unbearable sometimes, well actually alot of times!

Take yesterday afternoon for example. Max asks if he can make a book. This, of course, means that he will not be sitting in front of a screen for a small amount of time which in turn leads to me feeling like a very good mother. The smug feeling does not last long however. As soon as Max has all his pens, paper and other bits and bobs out, Jonah decides he wants to do 'drawing' too. Instead of sitting quietly on a chair and waiting for Max or me to pass things to him, he climbs onto the table, throws the paper all over the floor and then picks up one pen after another and either throws them on the floor or draws on something that is not paper. Max gets cross and frustrated, understandably, and I spend most of the time preventing a major 'drawing on something that shouldn't be drawn on 'incident. Eventually I decide that enough is enough and attempt to make him sit in a chair. This is, clearly, far too difficult for a 2 year old who wants his own way and so he throws the chair across the room ( the strength that a tantrum can induce is quite astonishing) and collapses on the floor, stiff bodied and screaming. All this, just because Max wanted to get the pens and paper out.

It left me feeling more than apprehensive about the week ahead. Every time the boys want to do something constructive (which, lets be honest, isn't all that often!) Jonah destroys it and makes it a stressful time instead. Even when they are just watching the TV, he turns it off and pulls out the plugs for the Wii. To gain their attention he throws things at them, hits them, pushes them and bites them and so they retaliate.

I know that this is a phase, and will not last, but I can't help but feel that the boys are missing out on doing things with us because Jonah gets in the way and messes it up. They are very forgiving and a few minutes later they are kissing and hugging him, but it feels sad to me that we can't do some of the things their friends do because we have a small terrorist in tow.

So, I await the arrival of half term. If there is time between the shouting, fighting and my attempts to control 3 small boys, I will update you with my progress.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Why can't I be like them?

Do you ever think this? I certainly do. Why do we constantly compare ourselves to other people? Or am I the only one that does this?

Am I really the only one that looks across the room in a church meeting and thinks "How do they get their boys to sit so still when mine are rolling around the floor and running round in circles? Why can't my boys be like theirs?" Or "Why doesn't their two year old scream and have major disaster-zone tantrums when they say no to him?" Or "How do they manage to keep their house so tidy when mine is covered in piles of junk and everywhere I turn there are people making more mess?" Or "Why does their child stay in the pushchair and mine climbs out unless I tightly strap in every part of his body as if he has been mummified?" Or "How do they get their child to hold their hand while they cross the road when mine will sit down on the pavement and blatantly refuse to hold on?" Or "Why won't my child eat like other people's children?" The List of Why's is endless.

Then, after we have thought these silly old thoughts, we make the wrong assumption that these other parents are better at being parents than us. They must be. Its logical that they must be, otherwise how else would they be able to get their children to do these things that ours aren't? What we forget is that our children are ours. And they are different to other people's children. Our family is different to another family, and what would work with one will not necessarily work with another. That is not to say that we can't learn from each other and try out new things, but we have to do what will work for our family. Whilst we might pray with our boys in the mornings before school, another family will do it at bedtime. Neither of them are wrong or right, as long as it is being done!

While I write this, my delightful 2 year old is telling me "You stink of poo, Mum". My immediate thought is "Why don't other children say this to their mums?"! Why do we think that other people's children are so much more perfect than ours? It is a strange phenomenon us parents have to deal with..... or maybe I'm the only one - you tell me!

Monday, 19 October 2009


Having read through my last blog entry and spoken to my very honest sister, I have realised that it sounded rather judgemental and I apologise if I made anyone feel guilty about things they really should not feel guilty about! As Mums we always feel guilty about something, and I would not want to add to that at all! Neither would I want anyone to think that I have it all together, am doing a fantastic job of parenting and my boys are perfect.......because the truth is quite the opposite!!

I am going to write more later because the school run is calling me (that joyous of walks where one child screams because he is strapped in the pushchair, one child runs ahead, one lags behind and they all want to talk to me at the same time), but I wanted to make it clear as quickly as possible so that you all know I am very unfortunately not Mary Poppins and nor do I claim to be!

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Yesterday we succeeded in executing the best party we have ever done. It really was fantastic. 8 little boys all dressed up in camo face paint and bandanas, split up into 2 Units with Unit Sergeants to command them. It was little boy (or grown up boy, as my now 8 year old Toby would tell me) heaven. Challenges, hunts, digging for rations, making fire, building shelters, fireworks and throwing water bombs at the Enemy were all part of the proceedings. The Enemy was the highlight of the whole party with an incognito entrance from a friend (THANKYOU!) dressed all in black with a balaclava and gas mask to cover his head, he danced and 'martial arted' in front of the boys and let them throw water bombs at him whilst making scary noises. It was brilliant that the boys could beat a real true-life baddie.

Of course it took an awful lot of preparing and planning. These things don't just 'come together on the day'. I think I actually enjoyed the build up more than Toby did. It made me wonder, what on earth am I going to do when they don't want me to plan their parties anymore? I'll still be making the invitations and they'll have to try and find a tactful way of saying "Erm, Mum, would you mind not making the invites this year?" I'll be devastated!

It made me feel very grateful to be a mum who stays at home. I had time to make invitations, certificates and signs. I had time to focus on it and think about it in a way that I would not have done if I had been at work. I don't want to miss these moments. I want to always be here to make their birthdays days that they will still be talking about when they have children. On the way out of the party, one of Toby's friends said to his mum "They organised it themselves and it was really good!" Why was it really good? It was really good because we know Toby, we know his friends and we know what works with 7 and 8 year old boys.

Kids these days don't know how to party. All they know are the parties organised by someone other than their parents. Someone who doesn't know the tiny details of the things they like, someone who is doing it because they are being paid to do it not because they love the child and want the best for them. This is one way I show my boys how much I love them, and I hope it has made good memories for them. It certainly has for us. My only concern is that, now we have set the standard so high, how we are going to beat it next year.......

Friday, 16 October 2009

New Report

The report that has been published recommends delaying formal education until children are 6. "Hooray!", I hear you shout. But don't be too excited. Whilst this report ticks all my boxes (and other parent's) about education it obviously doesn't tick the government's box. They believe it would be a 'backward step' and 'counter productive'. So, they are ignoring the expertise of those who have written the report, ignoring the pleas from parents like me who's children do not fit the education system, and ignoring the experiences of teachers all over the country.

So, what do I do? I wrote a letter to the Education Minister Mr Vernon Coaker. And here is a copy of my letter.

Dear Mr Coaker,

I am a mother of 3 young boys aged 8, 5 and 2. It was with great excitement that I read the news report about delaying formal education until the age of 6, only to be utterly disappointed when I read that you said it would be counter-productive.

I wonder, Mr Coaker, if you have young children in the school system at the moment? If you had, and especially if you had boys, you might understand how our education system is damaging our children and holding them back rather than inspiring and motivating them to learn.

My eldest son is in Year 3. This year, and only this year, has he begun to be inspired to learn. Whilst reception was fantastic for his learning needs, moving into Year 1 squashed the life and excitement out of him and turned him off learning completely. Every night we had to battle through reading books with him, wondering if he would ever learn to read. Year 2 was not much better because he had to be put through the utter and ridiculous torture of SATS. Was his teacher interested in helping him learn or was she interested in making sure the SATS results were good? The pressure put on him was unbelievable and at the Parent's evening I was told that he "would never be a writer". This, talking about a boy who is interested in the world around him and soaks up information like a sponge, was total rubbish but his confidence in his ability had sunk so low that whenever he had to write anything he would end up in tears. What does a parent do when faced with the fact that their child is not being taught in a way that they can learn? I taught him myself. Every evening after school we would spend working on this together in a way that was far more creative than his teacher had ever thought of. 2 months later his writing had improved tremendously and still is.

My 2nd son is now in Year 1. Reception was a fantastic year for him. He was able to be creative and to learn through play. He could learn by movement and in a way that was just right for him. However again we are watching Year 1 squeeze the excitement about learning out of him. He no longer wants to read or write. He doesn't even want to go to school anymore. In my opinion Year 1 is a total waste of time. The children simply cannot learn in a way that is right for them. Young children should not have to sit at desks reading and writing. They should be exploring the world around them.

Over and over again I hear stories of, particularly boys but sometimes girls, who have been failed by the education system because they are not being taught in a way they can learn. They then become discouraged and lose confidence, only to sink further down. These are the children who leave school without any skills. These are the children who commit crime (I realise there are other factors involved in this). These are the children who cost the NHS because they have depression, and other illnesses as adults. Our children need help. Our children need to play, and to be children. They are not robots who can conform to a set pattern, they are children who start out excited and motivated about learning and school, but get squashed, squeezed and moulded into a box that just does not fit them.

I plead with you to take this report seriously. I am not the only mother who believes these things. Talk to parents and teachers. Don't just make up your minds about this report yet. Read books such as "Boys and Girls Learn Differently" by Michael Gurian. These are our children and they deserve our very very best, yet time and time again they do not receive it.Thank you for your time in reading my email and I look forward to watching the education system change for the best for our children.


Helen Hodgson

Will it make any difference? I doubt it. I doubt I will even be graced with a reply. But who will stick up for our children if parents don't? I have to at least try.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Limited Edition

For one night and one night only, I am going to write in praise of the school. The ever-dreaded parent's evening, sorry, 'Parent-Teacher Consultation' was yesterday. So far though, I have not been consulted on anything so I'm going to stick with calling it good old 'parent's evening'.

I sat down in the usual fear and trepidation in front of Toby's year 3 teacher, waiting to be told he was dyslexic, had adhd, was incredibly naughty etc etc. Why do I do this to myself I wonder? However, this year we have had a wonderful surprise. Toby has a male teacher, which I found a bit disconcerting. When else would you sit alone in a room with a man you have never spoken to before? Toby, though, finds him inspiring, motivating and exciting.

As he went through all the usuals about reading, writing, maths, and how Toby needs to stop chatting with his friends and focus a bit more, I wanted to reach across the table and hug him. I wanted him to know how thrilled I am that Toby has a teacher that teaches him in a way he can learn. I wanted to shout FINALLY!!! Finally I am hearing a teacher telling me the things that boys like to do. Finally I am listening to a teacher who makes learning real and exciting for boys and keeps them interested. However, I am always slightly in awe of teachers and so I very politely told him how grateful we are that Toby is loving being in his class and that we have never seen him so motivated before. What I really wanted to say was "Please can you keep Toby in your class forever?" I wanted to tell him to read my blog about boys, so that he would know we are on the same wavelength. At one point he was describing how they learn about Ancient Egypt and how he shows them gruesome, disgusting things that the boys love, I almost told him about reading Judges with the boys and how horribly fascinated the boys have been with it. I stopped myself, thankfully. I don't want him to think Toby comes from a family of loonies.

The down side to this, and there is one, is that we never stop hearing about what Mr Skitt says, thinks, eats, breathes, makes, believes etc. And we dare not disagree.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Warning - Gruesome Content

The King is surrounded by servants and courtiers, but a stranger comes to him with a secret message. He sends all the entourage out of his chambers and sits alone, apart from the messenger. What could it be? Is he a spy? Has he come to bring secret information? The stranger says "I have a message for you from God."

"Which god?", the rather plump King asks himself as he stands ready to receive his message. In one swift movement, the stranger reaches into his trouser leg, pulls out a sword half a metre long and stabs the King right in his stomach. The sword is pushed so far that even the handle sank into the King's flesh and the blade came creeping out of his back. The King's slimy stomach fat covers the whole of the sword. The stranger leaves the King lying on the ground, covered in blood, fat and other bodily fluids, goes out of the chambers and locks the door behind him.

Whilst the servants all think the King has locked himself in his chambers because he is doing a poo, the stranger escapes far away and tells his people that the enemy is defeated. Eventually the servants realise that even the King does not take this long to poo, and they break into his chambers to find him lying on the floor, dead.

By this time it is too late and the war, which will kill 10,000 enemy men, has begun.

Is this the script for the next epic film? Is this from a violent x-rated video game? No. It's from the Bible. Every single detail is from the Bible. The King is a Moabite King, and the stranger is an Israelite Judge. The 10,000 enemy men defeated were from the Moabite army. This was real life. Real life that is so often dulled down because we don't want our children to know about these things.

So often church is 'nice'. We sing 'nice' songs about love and goodness. We sit in our nice rows and we learn about nice things. How are we going to capture the attention of a generation of boys who are used to playing video games and watching violent cartoons and films? By reading the Bible to them. We need to make it come alive for them. We need them to know that God made them the way they are for a purpose.

Of course, we need to do this within reason and I am not advocating a mass war with blood spilt. But let's let boys be boys in our churches. Let's give them opportunity to worship a God who goes to war; a God who is the champion; a God who is a King riding out in battle; a God who wants to let boys be boys. Let's give them chance to shout, and I mean really shout, their praises to him instead of singing which is sometimes thought of by boys as a girly thing to do. Let's teach them about a God who is tough and strong; a God who is strategic in battle; a God who gives them armour to put on; a God who is their protection. Let's make church meetings a place where men can be men, and boys can be boys.

Monday, 5 October 2009


'Tis the season to find conkers..........

And so I find myself on a cold, windy and rainy Saturday afternoon standing underneath several large trees hunting for conkers. Would I rather be inside in front of an open fire watching a nice black and white film and eating chocolate? Yes! Do I want my boys to know the earthy thrill of searching and finding? Yes! So under the tree I stand, for what feels like hours but is actually not even 1 hour, trying to show enthusiasm for something I totally do not understand. Even Jonah was excited to find conkers and held them in his hand for the rest of the afternoon, not willing to relinquish his conquests to anyone else! Jared was finding huge sticks and hurling them up into the tree to rain down conkers on any passers by. I just put up my hood and wished that I was wearing protective clothing.

Now that children are not allowed to play conkers in school anymore (and don't even get me started on that ridiculous health and safety twaddle - I'm sure you will all know what I think about that), I understand the excitement even less.

There are some things that I will never understand about my boys, because they are boys and I, funnily enough, am a girl. I will never understand the need to make gun / bomb noises. I will never understand why it is so difficult to aim properly. I will never understand why sitting down in a quiet room to read a book is not as appealing to them as it is to me. I will never understand why life is a competition that has to be won. I have to accept that, try as I might, I will never have the mind of a boy.

Not having the mind of a boy though does not disqualify me from entering their world as much as I possibly can. Sometimes I try to enter, but get withering looks from them all because I have tried too hard! Sometimes I try, and I actually get it right! What I have to do though is keep trying because if I don't I will lose my relationship with them. I am the main female influence in their lives, and I have to stay girly so that they can understand the minds of girls. I also have to work hard at engaging them at their level so that they will feel loved and understood.

It is not always an easy position to be in, but this is the position God has put me in and I know that He is the ultimate in wisdom, so I trust Him. I trust Him to give me wisdom. I trust Him to give us all we need to raise our boys to be men who serve Him and follow him wholeheartedly with a dogged determination. There are things that I will never understand or know, but thankfully I have a God who does.

Friday, 2 October 2009


Apologies for my absence. Summer holidays, mixed with business of life, mixed with 3 noisy boys produces not a lot of time for thought. Still, here I am again ready for action. I am still on my mission to make the world a more understanding place for boys to live. Even more so, in fact.

Today on Radio 2 I heard the end of a discussion about back gardens. From what I could gather the main thrust of the discussion was about gardens that are a mess and how terrible it must be for the neighbours to have to look at it.

My mind obviously wandered to our back garden. Well, garden would be too pretty a word for it. Playzone? Warzone? High Risk Area? Those are more fitting descriptions. Our garden is full of tyres of a shapes and sizes, footballs, gardening tools, material (yes it does get wet in the rain), sticks, a trampoline, bikes, scooters, a play house and countless other things. Mess would be an understatement.

One listener phoned into the radio station and said that people (like us) who have disgraceful gardens should be forced to live in a flat. I wondered how old this man was. I wondered if, when he was a small boy, he was allowed to play out in the fields making dens and swings to cross rivers. I wondered if he had space to ride his bike and to carry out daring exploits with his friends. I wondered if he collected sticks, stones, conkers and other treasures, took them back to his den and put them in his custom made treasure chest.

In the 'olden days' of my parent's generation boys could do these things. They could learn about risk taking, they could discover whether it was safe to swing from a certain place or not. They could learn about teamwork with their friends by making shelters. They could catch frogs, snails and other bugs and have races with them. We made a decision when we moved into our house that our garden would be a place where our boys could do just those things, but with the safety of being at home.

One day I might have a beautifully manicured garden that the neighbours would delight in looking at. At the moment though, I have 3 boys who need to learn about the world around them. Whilst it may look like a garden that needs to be cleared out, the naked eye does not see the learning that goes on there. The neighbours who look on will not see one brother helping a younger one to find a frog; they will not see the excitement when they find spider eggs; they will not see how one brother comforts the other when they have hurt themselves; they will not see the fear in a face as they step out for the first time on a bridge they have made and the pride in their faces afterwards when it has worked; they will not know that a 2 year old watches his brother and learns how to ride a scooter; they will not see all the mud pies and other creations that they have cooked and dried in their home-made oven; they will not realise that these boys are playing out in the fresh air instead of inside on a computer game.

I would never ever give up my mess of a garden. It is a garden of delight, wonder, learning and creativity and is worth every raised eyebrow that it receives.