I know, I know. It's been a while. My head has been a bit all over the place recently, too many other things to think about and too little time to write. Although H would say my head wasn't so much "all over the place", as suffering from too many atoms exploring the universe as per the Copenhagen Theory of Quantum Mechanics.
Of course it was.
This was the month when Chaos Theory and Quantum Mechanics coincided spectacularly and too many crucial atoms decided to take a vacation from my head. At least - that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!
H is currently obsessed with Physics. His school have been amazing, going out of their way to provide opportunities for him to extend his knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject. He's now got a sixth form mentor to discuss his favourite topics with, an inspirational Physics teacher who meets to discuss "String Theory" and those cats that guy called Schrödinger seems rather fond of too. He even attended a Year 12 class on Quantum Theory this week - not bad when you are only Year 8. (Apparently he kept the 16 and 17 year olds on their toes, and they were nice enough to not only accept him in the group but include him in their sharing of a bag of Haribo...) When he's not in lessons he's in the library, reading psychology and philosophy and planning his future education. It's a tough life being 13.
This fantastic progress is due to the gift of one thing from a number of individuals. Time. All those involved in teaching and supporting H have given a little extra of their valuable time, an investment in his current and his future happiness.
Along with this academic enthusiasm I've noticed a distinct effort on his part to try and surmount the enormous problems he has organising himself. I blogged a while back about his Executive Functioning impairment, about how planning *anything* is just a tremendous challenge for him. But that investment from others has really paid dividends, he has started to capitalise on the confidence he has gained as a result.
So I have been profoundly impressed with his recent efforts to pack his school bag for each day by himself. Such a small thing - but such a massive achievement. I suggested he might like a reward for his efforts, which we had all noticed and appreciated. A "pat on the back" if you like - appreciation that this was no walk in the park for him. (Not that I would use such an abstract phrase for an Aspie, but you get the idea!!) He immediately suggested a trip to Costa, which got me thinking....
H's reason for this suggestion was an association of ideas. There is a Costa at our local hospital, and we always go there if we have time to spare, on our many visits. It's "us" time, we rarely have his younger siblings in tow - and he can chat about his favourite subject to his heart's content. Similarly, if we walk in to town for some exercise, we invariably pop in for a gluten free brownie...... it's a treat he associates with me, with our special time together.
But how often do we as parents treat our children with food? And is that really good parenting?
I try to assuage my own guilt with the above excuse, that it isn't the food he's after, it's my time. But I'm not innocent of rewarding with food. We all do it - for our kids, our partners, and ourselves. I don't think it's intrinsically wrong, but perhaps we should question our motives and methods a little? After all it certainly seems bizarre to "treat" children to a McDonald's for tea for example, or a bag of sweets, if you consider it in the context of feeding your child a healthy diet as a key parenting aspiration. You wouldn't allow them to travel in the car without a seatbelt as a "treat", so why allow them to eat food you know is substandard, unhealthy or lacking in nutrition of any kind just because they have been good? It may even be setting them up for a life-long cycle of comfort eating to reward themselves, either for genuine achievement, or because they lack gratification in their life.
But we all do it, don't we?
I think that our appreciation of food is so deeply ingrained in us, and it's so bound up with our maternal need to nurture that food as a reward is almost inevitable. But quality should matter. Or maybe it's time to rethink our Western reward system? But what is best - surely not ubiquitous monetary rewards with the mercenary tendencies they might bring? Or perhaps it's time to return to quantum level once again. Maybe little changes, small rewards can have a deeper and more profound impact than we think. The gift of time is certainly undervalued, yet something our children value enormously.
Today is International Day of Happiness, and I think we've lost our way. We are so caught up in what we should do that we rarely take our foot off the pedal to consider what we ought to do. We live fast and hard, lurching to the next reward, the next break and any available respite. More people are more stressed, more lonely, drinking more and struggling to see a reason in the rewards available to them. Maybe it's time stop thinking BIG and think small. Really small. Because little things can make a big difference.
Maybe H isn't so wide of the mark after all then. Because spending that quality time together is crucially important to him for good reason. It has nothing to do with the brownie at all.
And of course, you would *never* catch me rewarding myself with food or drink either. No Sireee, no glass of wine here after a long week..... no, not at all.