Monday, 23 July 2012

The True Value of Friendship

The day began well. Motivation was at it's highest and we enjoyed games, books and other such wholesome fun for the morning.

The trouble began when we took a trip to the park with our friends. (And I am SO very glad they are friends and know us well).

Max always struggles at the beginning of the school holidays. Our normal routine is thrown out of the window. He has to rediscover toys and games that he hasn't played with all term time. He's with me. And we are so alike that sometimes we clash, badly.

Every little thing that I did or suggested was wrong in Max's eyes. I hadn't taken acceptable food for the picnic. Apparently he doesn't like apples. When I reminded him that he has them every day after school, he told me he only likes them sliced up on top of crackers. Of course, silly me. In the blazing hot sun (how kind of the sun to make it's appearance on the first day of the holidays), he refused to wear his cap. I knew he was waiting, just biding his time, ready for a fight to triumph all the other little fights we were having. I was ready.

And it's a good job too. As we were preparing to leave, Toby helpfully threw a 'rock' at Max. It was wrong, of course. Max, however, took this as his opportunity to become the all-tired one. So tired, in fact, that he was unable to even collect his bike and walk to the car with it. Everyone else managed to ride their bikes over to my lovely, patient friend's car (well, 'bus', and if you know her you will now know who I am writing about). They all piled in and waited. And waited. And waited.

I strode back to find Max with all the defiance of a militant dictator to collect Max and bike. Max, without an audience, had managed to summon up enough energy to sit on his bike and slowly ride it. All his energy, however, escaped quickly out of his body when he turned and saw me and he immediately slithered to the ground as though he had been shot.

"I'm too tired!" He wailed.
"Pick up your bike and walk to the car, Max" I answered.
"I can't! It's not that I don't want to Mum, it's that I actually can't!" He continued to holler.
"Why can't you?" I asked
"Because I don't want to!"

Well. That was enough for me. Breathing deeply and slowly, I picked up his bike and told him to get up and walk to the car. I pushed the bike back to the car myself and then waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, over the brow of the hill we saw a forlorn, red t-shirted creature, crawling on his hands and knees towards the car. With dirty tear streaks down his face, and knees so grubby you could write your name in them, Max crawled his way slowly and dramatically towards the car. As he saw us watching, he slowed down even more just for further effect. It was a sight to behold, and a lovely start to the summer holidays.

How glad I am for friends who know me and accept me. Thank you, my friend for standing with me under such trials. You know who you are. Today, we made another memory together to laugh about in a few years time (but not now, it's still rather raw).

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A little light summer reading

The summer holidays are now upon us and so,thankfully, is the sunshine. At last!

My aim for the summer holidays is to give my boys time to relax, to play with their friends and to be themselves again. However, if you have children like mine you will know that this doesn't happen naturally but needs a little encouragement and structure.

My first goal is to get them reading again. "Reading?!" I hear you cry! Yes, reading. They have spent the academic year reading books because they have to. I want them to read because they choose to do it. I want them to know the absolute bliss of being pulled into a story that comes alive in their imaginations. School reading books occasionally do this, but mostly it is seen as a chore. Teachers teach them how to read. I teach them how to love reading.

It is a commonly held myth that boys don't like reading. It's true that many boys prefer information and factual books to fiction. I, however, just see this as a challenge to be overcome. So, we've had our first library visit of the summer holidays and now my goal for the summer is to see them taken away to the secret world of their books.

Here are my tips for encouraging boys to read...

Model it. This is more important than anything else. If they see us enjoying our books, they are more likely to follow. And it makes an enormous difference if they see their Dad reading too. Seeing mum reading is great, but seeing Dad reading gives off the vibes that reading is a man's activity. We have done this for the last few years and although Jared began reading in front of them for their benefit, he has actually also discovered a love of reading himself.

When they are too young to read interesting books themselves, read the books to them. We have spent whole summers reading Roald Dahl books with them. Just one chapter every night. The twinkling light of imagination in their eyes as you read to them is absolutely priceless.

Read with them. Take it in turns to read a page each until they are gripped by the story and can carry on themselves.

Give them some quiet time every day to read. We all sit down and read at the same time. It is quiet so they can concentrate. It isn't a chore because we are all doing it. It is accepted as the norm.

When they are older, talk to them about the books they are reading. Ask questions and show interest. Talk about how it feels to be transported away into the world of a book.

If they are motivated by rewards, then give them rewards for reading. My boys have never really been interested rewards for reading but I know it has worked for some.

Take them to the library and let them choose their own books under your careful guidance. Push them slightly so that they don't become stuck in a rut of reading books that are too easy for them. Encourage them to try different authors. Allow them to have some control over what they read. There are some fantastic books out there for boys.

All of this is our responsibility and the summer holidays are the perfect opportunity to give time to it. I am still right in the middle of all this with my boys, and eventually I hope to have three boys who love reading as much as I do. I won't ever accept that they don't like reading just because they are boys. It's a myth which I intend to turn into a lie.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

'Summer' Plans

The oh so long 'summer' holidays loom ahead of us. As I type this, my garden is yet again threatened with flooding and the boys are yet again racing around the house shooting each other. Oh please let us have some more dry days in the 'summer'. I don't even mind if it's not sunny (although that would be nice). Just dry will do.

Over the 'summer', I will attempt (amongst the organised chaos... Ok, just chaos then) to post on here some ideas of things we will be doing together so that you can try them out too if you feel so inclined. You may want to ignore my ideas completely. The great thing about a blog is that I will be blissfully unaware of that fact (unless you choose to tell me, of course).

So, my first plan of action for the 'summer' is to create a big wallplanner. I do this every year. I have a little box for each day of the holidays and I attempt to fill it with something for every day. I do this before the holidays begin. It doesn't have to be anything extravagant. Just 'picnic in park', 'ride bikes and scooters' or 'bake cakes' will do. They can always be elaborated upon nearer the time. These plans often change, but just to know that there are plans in the first place helps me to feel a little less overwhelmed about the neverending story of the holidays.

So, if you feel at a loss about the weeks ahead (as I do!), watch this space for ideas that I will be throwing your way. We can do this. We really can.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Preparing for Romance

It's a good job we've got a few more years to prepare Max for romance. Today, he was off school for a TED day so with Toby in school and Jared and Jonah out for their 'Special Day' (that's another blog...), Max and I had some time to ourselves. We decided to go out for lunch. Food is most definitely Max's love language. Without a doubt, it is the way to his heart.

After making up a story together about a dragon being a pet and discussing the excitement of how much he sweated when he was playing in the soft play centre ("it was literally pouring down the whole of my face, mum"), I happened to mention what might be expected of him if he was to take out a young lady. He must be growing up slightly because this time he didn't pretend to be sick. However, I still feel we have rather a long way to go.... Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "When you take a young lady out for dinner, Max, you have to pull out her chair for her before you sit down."

Max: (totally serious) "What if she's got a really fat bottom and needs another chair? Do I ask the waiter to bring one over for her?"

Then, later on, as we were leaving....

Me: "When you have a young lady with you, you will need to open the doors for her."

Max: "What if she is too fat to fit through the door?"

These were not the kind of conversations I was expecting to have with him. We have a lot of work ahead of us.....

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

50 Shades of ..... What? (Warning... not for the fainthearted)

As our nation seems to be gripped by the "50 Shades of Grey" fever, I wondered what exactly it is about the book that seems to hold the readers attention. Is it particularly well written? Is it a great storyline? Or, let's be honest, is it just the sex?

And I'm no prude. Sex is great. The Bible is full of it, and God loves it. In fact, it was His idea in the first place. But in our sin we have twisted and distorted it to bring about pain, control, selfishness and other uglinesses.

I wonder though, in reading the latest craze, what we are modelling to our children. I have seen families and marriages torn to shreds by pornography addictions. Oh yes, we can always dress it up to be something else that is more palatable, but at the heart of it porn is porn. Porn is selfish. Porn destroys. Porn holds people captive. Porn destroys real, loving relationships. Porn addiction does not let go easily but kills everything in it's path.

I am aware that I have sons entering their pre-teen years and I want with all of my heart for them to grow up to have healthy relationships, including beautiful and passionate sex with the women they have chosen to marry. Therefore, we as parents need to model a healthy marriage in which we choose each other over anyone or anything else, including porn. As their father, Jared needs to be an example to them of 'bouncing their eyes away' from pictures of naked and half naked women that are draped across billboards. He needs to teach them to put a guard stationed on their heart, their minds and their eyes. As their mother, I need to show them the true meaning of love, passion and commitment. As their parents we need to be an example of loving one another and being faithful to one another.

I am making no judgements on the book in question. I freely admit to not having read it (and I don't want or need to read it either). However, I do think it brings to light an issue which is still taboo in our society and which we sweep under the carpet because we don't want to have to face the difficult questions it might throw at us. As mothers, in reading the book are we then telling our husbands they can also look at pornographic pictures of other women on the internet? Are we modelling to our children a lifestyle of pleasure first, commitment second? Are we teaching our children to stay faithful in their hearts, minds and bodies to the person they have committed themselves and given themselves to?

It starts now. Whatever age our children are, we need to teach them about healthy, committed relationships. We need to model a different way to the one they see all around them. It's not an easy path, but I am absolutely convinced that by daring to be different in this our children will stand a chance in their futures.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Entering In

There have been more than a few times over the last 10 years when I have been extremely glad there is no big brother style webcam filming my every move. The things we find ourselves doing with our children when no-one else is around are laughable. Answering plastic telephones; crawling around on our hands and knees mooing or baa baaing; reading stories in ridiculous voices; playing tickle monster; looking for dinosaurs / crocodiles / fairies / sharks / monsters around every corner; fighting pretend pirate enemies with pretend swords ..... the list is truly endless. Why do we find ourselves doing these things? Is it just me or do other people actual enjoy these mindless games we play with our young children?

The reason we get ourselves into this situations is because we want to build relationships with our children. Why else would we make ourselves look so silly? We put aside our own preferences and we enter the world of our children. We forget our inhibitions in order to have fun and enjoy the growing friendship with our child.

This doesn't stop when they don't look for dinosaurs anymore. Whatever stage our children are at, our task is to enter their world. This is easier for some than for others. If you happen to enjoy the same things, you are one of the lucky ones. If, like me, you would rather be curled up reading a book than out in the middle of the woods on a cold day finding and identifying mushrooms, then you will understand what I am talking about. I know of mothers who hated football as girls but now spend their weekend mornings standing in the pouring rain at the side of the pitch, shouting encouragements to their sons. I know of fathers who have been covered in make up or had their fingernails painted and their hair styled.

It doesn't matter whether we enjoy these activities or not. What matters is that we are spending time with our children. It shows them that we enjoy their company. It validates their ideas and their identity. So often, children feel loved not by the amount of presents they have for birthdays or christmas, but by the amount of time we spend with them. Time is so important to them. Time shows them we value them. Sacrificial time shows them that we love them.

It's not easy. I have to battle through my irritation at standing next to yet another pond and skimming stones for hours at a time, but it is so important to my boys. It doesn't come naturally to me but if I don't spend that time with them, how will I ever know what they enjoy? How will I ever see the pleasure on their faces as they enjoy such simple delights? When will we laugh together or celebrate together? It's a choice that I have to make. Spending this time with them, whilst feeling sacrificial in the moment, is vital to the ongoing friendship that I have with my boys.

So, keep mooing, clucking, chasing fairies, standing on football pitches, playing with barbies, riding bikes, skimming stones, singing JLS songs (and that IS a sacrifice) and climbing trees. Let's make the choice to enter the world of our children, I am certain that we will reap the rewards in years to come.