Saturday, 20 June 2009

Life in the Real World - bring back competitive Sports Days!

With all schools holding Sports Day events this month or next, and having attended two myself over the past week..... I've been thinking.

My friends and I feel it is such a travesty that so few State Primary Schools feel it is "right" or "fair" to hold a competitive Event. Their reasoning though is just so intrinsically flawed.

"We can't all be good at Sport and it isn't fair on the less able." Is the excuse I usually hear. But how about the classroom then? There are *always* those more able in maths, literacy etc. and I doubt (and seriously hope) no one would advocate holding the more able back to allow everyone to catch up in class. I know it isn't a popular idea that very academically able children have Special Needs (ie need extra support to help them realise their potential, avoid boredom and lack of attention and progress because they can become quickly disillusioned) but deliberately holding the most able back would be so very, very wrong.

So why do we do it on the sports field? Firstly it is rarely the academically gifted who shine at sport and it gives everyone a valuable alternative environment to compete. I know several children who live for their one day of glory having struggled all year in class they sweep the medals board each Sports Day. Life isn't fair, two of my children have to struggle with additional needs like so many others. One has dyslexia and however intelligent he is, on paper and he will probably never attain the grades he deserves, and the other (as you know if you have read here before) struggles with Autism and ADHD.

Trying to create the proverbial level playing field is neither fair, feasible or advisable. It also makes us as adults look pretty stupid, because the children are not daft and know *exactly* who is best at which event and more often than not feel cheated and fobbed off when offered a paltry sticker! Our children are tougher and more savvy than we give them credit for being. They certainly don't expect - and most wouldn't want - an artificially "safe" environment. It's like Health and Safety gone mad all over again but this time interfering with our children's emotional curriculum. You don't have to unkind or uncaring, just realistic. Most primary teachers are innately good at this in any case, and if children are taught to deal with disappointment at a young age in an appropriate setting, whilst being given alternative opportunities to succeed it can only be beneficial.

The real world - be it the Natural World, the Animal Kingdom or Human Society is competitive at all levels from star to finish. Pretending otherwise is to deny the essence of life itself. So bring back reading schemes, House points/credits and grading in our primary schools, the kids love it, they know where they are and it is the most realistic and useful preparation for life after school. In the real world.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Cars – who’d have them?

It is a mystery of modern living that my car seems to spend almost as much time at the garage as it does on the road. OK, this may be something of an exaggeration but over the years since I first owned a car of my own they have all developed minor fault after minor fault in rapid succession. I have always felt it better to purchase nearly new rather than an older vehicle in the hope of avoiding major problems but the less serious ones are just as irritating!

The first step is to find a child free slot to get the problem assessed…. Not easy since there is never any guarantee No.2 son will even stay in school if he gets there. Taking him with me is not an option – his screaming and wailing does sometimes prompt some action but is painfully embarrassing, and to be honest forcing a child who has no concept of time to wait is verging on child abuse and is most definitely parent abuse. R has been known to attempt an MOT “While U Wait” appointment with H in tow but learned the hard way taking a day off work to accomplish this is by far the easier option…

So I get to the garage and after the usual trivialities get the car assessed. It’s nearly always something to do with the electronics. They can rarely find the problem. Their computer can’t find an error log….. and of course they NEVER have the necessary parts. Next comes the highly amusing task of explaining that their tiny run-around loan car is not going to cut it for a family with four children, three of whom are in car seats and one of whom ideally needs a straight jacket or at the very least a third row of seats to be safely transported. I usually have to wait until R is home, or I can enlist sufficient help to leave the younger two behind when delivering and collecting the car.

The latest problem was the parking sensors. When you put the car into reverse they started and never stopped. The kids had a field day at my expense and my parking ability rating has plummeted according to them. Cries of “Mummy, you must be hitting something” did nothing for my nerves, less for my judgement and I’m not sure the innocent “Well done Mummy!” from the younger two made the stress worthwhile when we did successfully park. I had to chuckle yesterday however, when A got out of the car, looked at me very seriously and said “Mummy, I’m very pleased with you!” Praise indeed - but I hadn’t the heart to tell him I had turned the blasted sensors off before parking!!

All fixed now – until the next time!

Monday, 8 June 2009

The bargaining power of a fruit pastille.

It is certainly true that scarcity breeds desire for many things and that is certainly true in our house. Take the average fruit pastille. I imagine if I had some to hand regularly at home their presence would have no impact whatsoever, but the mere suggestion of producing one can persuade the twins to perform wondrous U-turns in behaviour that only toddlers are capable of.

Today was ballet - something the pair of them have raved about and practised daily at home since their first trial lesson. Now they have the uniform and are fully paid up members of the dance school however A had other ideas. Unless he could dance in his Cinderella dress he wasn't playing ball. Not for anything would he put on the black T shirt and shorts he had coveted so much a fortnight ago. In a moment of guile and cunning I suggested H might like a tube of fruit pastilles from the cafe bar whilst K danced.... and we were in business. One fruit pastille later and the promise of another after his lesson and A was changed and in the hall. Perfect. Only problem then was persuading H that he couldn't eat the rest of the packet before the lesson ended.......

Buy yours from "Sweet Wonderland"


Parenting, in my opinion, is 99% mind games and 1% organisation. Perhaps a little else - but not much! Trying to keep on top of the needs, wants and demands of four kids is no mean feat, but I have a little world class expert in mind battles to contend with here. H, with a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, can reduce the toughest parent to a heap of jelly with his relentless arguing, repetitive demands and escalating volume. Personally I think Barney videos at Guantanamo Bay were waaaay over-rated as a form of mental torture - life with an Aspie is often MUCH higher up the scale of mental olympics. Imagine gradually "coming to" at 5am to the sound of someone yelling (at an ever-increasing volume) the morning's explanation of their current state. It's usually "I'm not going to school!" followed by "You can't make me!" etc which is in fact (I believe) designed to wear you down before you have a chance of a positive start. From then on in it's negotiation at the highest level.... in fact Sir Alan would be really impressed by his unswerving dedication to the chosen topic and his ruthless persuasive technique. What worries me is we end up only partially listening and finding we have agreed to trampolining at midnight or similar! But then being allowed more than 5-6 hours sleep would give parents an unfair advantage....

Sadly fruit pastilles rarely cut it for H, unless offered in bulk. His preferred carrot is always more expensive, and usually something to do with Pokemon. I did try offering a single card each time but somehow without realising it had given in to offering a whole pack in one go. The makers of Pokemon certinaly knew what they were doing too - designed to perfectly appeal to every child (and adult!) on the Autism Spectrum in every way. GAME store owners across the country rub their hands together in glee when a new Pokemon game is released, knowing full well it isn't an option to buy for many but an essential, spawning numerous Youtube monologues offering walk-thru advice which H actually sits and listens to whilst playing the game on his console. It's so much more than "just a game" for these kids, and like A's fruit pastille, the creators understand only too well that rarity breeds desire. Each and every pack of cards will be largely full of worthless duplicates whilst the "Super Rare" Pokemon remain elusive and few and far between.

Now, if I could lay my hands on the "Super Rare" Pokemon fruit pastille equivalent I really would be getting somewhere. Whoever said "knowledge is power" hadn't spent a 12 hour day attempting to bargain with a 7 year old Aspie, or indeed the majority of under tens on the planet. What it all boils down to most of the time is holding that super rare fruit pastille or the Pokemon everyone is looking for....

All the Small Things - MummyNeverSleeps

Monday, 1 June 2009

A plague of euphemisms

Toddler-Speak is so funny......

All four of our children have in their time come up with some highly amusing (and at times pretty damn clever) alternative terms as young children will. From "Hot Boots" for slippers, going for a "Bike-Walk" ie a bike ride with Daddy, to the more extreme "Woomarrer" (Sp???!) for Lawnmower (A) and "Coconut Vegetables" for, well, just about anything (H) we now have quite an extensive Thompson nomenclature. So extensive is it that R and I can be found chuckling to ourselves most days using a totally alternative Thompson dialect. The current favourite is the absurd "Woomarrer" word for lawnmower, spawning "Extreme Woomarrer-ing" for a variety of mowing techniques. Bizarre I know, but you had to be there. Honestly.

On a more serious note it occured to me how so many groups in society are now guilty of the same thing. Certainly my IT Director husband knows "Geek Speak" or "Tecchie Babble" or whatever you want to call it, and the ridiculous jargon used in business to "flag up" the main issues and tackle the "low-hanging fruit"...( Or "High hanging vegetables" according to A which could even be extrapolated to high-hanging coconut vegetables if desperate but like I said, it's a Thompson thing.) This surge of social dialects is transforming society. Regional dialects still exist of course but the population is so mobile now they are considerably diluted. Social dialects like business "Firmware" can seem exclusive and elitist, affirming your membership of whichever "club" you are in. But how to break in to the clique in the first place? It must be like arriving in deepest Yorkshire from Kent a hundred years ago - or the other way around. The same is true on the internet, social networking sites like Facebook have spawned hundreds of new euphemisms, terms, and alternative descriptions. Our current need to redefine everything we come into contact with goes deep and our daily interaction with modern technology has precipitated a lot of this.

So is social networking replacing economics and geography in providing our language, customs and mannerisms? Certainly the internet has a lot to answer for, Facebook for one has transformed how many of us keep in touch, superseding even texting for many as a "one-stop interaction shop". It's a bit dry and cerebral though, I'm not sure a cyber hug makes such an impact as a real one but then so few of us have time for more on an average day. The virtual gifts of coffee and alcohol are tasteless but sin-free, the thought was there but the enjoyment was definitely not.

Whether it is through work or play there is no doubt there has been a huge surge in social dialects - in their creation and use. Ironically one of the side effects of this is isolation and the growth of new barriers in society. Instead of finding it incredibly difficult to get a job in a local or family firm the task is no easier, just different. Instead a knowledge and degree of understanding of appropriate nomenclature is essential - or you don't stand a chance. Breaking into a new social group, now often on the internet, poses similar difficulties. Many's the time I have abandoned a new discussion forum because I don't feel I "fit in".

What it boils down to is this. Human beings are essentially a small group species. Challenge and redefine the Venn Diagram boundaries of society and society will come up with new ones. But it's important not to forget that the newer, possibly less obvious frontiers are no less prohibitive to those on the other side. We haven't actually come very far in terms of creating an open society, and I'm not sure that is what human beings are designed to do, however fashionable the idea may be. Why else are we still teaching adults to work together like our toddlers at home? Are we banging our heads on the proverbial brick wall? As R will often quote "There's no "I" in "Team" but there's a "me" if you look hard enough!" Now that IS extreme woomarrering. ;)
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