Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Eeyore Aura

Welcome back to the Cushy Parent.   This week I said I'd talk to you a little bit about magic.  Magic is a trick that you can miss if you're not careful.

Recently, I helped out on a school excursion around town.  On our way back, we passed the River Avon.  Large white frothy deposits were floating in the water.  "What are those?" asked Lily, one of the six-year-olds in my charge.  "See those trees up on the hill?" I replied.   "Giants live there.  When they get bored, they throw clouds down into the water."  Lily froze in horror - not at the prospect of the giants but that I had told such an outrageous lie.  "Don't you believe in giants?" I asked.  "Nope," Lily said.  "Goblins?"  "Nope."  "Angels?"  "Nope."  "Witches?"  "Nope."  "Fairies?"  "Yes," she said.  Ah.  "But that's the only thing," she added hurriedly. (So those over-priced fairy costumes and parties have paid off).

I was rather quiet as I digested this alarming information.   Others joined in our conversation.  Lily wasn't the only six-year-old who didn't believe in magic; she was firmly in the majority.  As we halted at the school gates, I said, "Next you'll be telling me you don't believe in Father Christmas."  There was a silence as the little group that had amassed around me thought about my question.  "Well," said one of the boys, who possesses what I can only describe as an Eeyore Aura, "my brother didn't believe in him for ages but then he met him so he said he must be true."

"Now listen up," I said, "if you don't believe in the giants they will come down from the hills and stomp all over the school."

"So?" said Lily.

Now this is what I call the Eeyore Aura.  Our children today are living under a cloud of gloomy reality.  They don't believe in things unless they see them - because they see absolutely everything.  There is no awe any more.  They know all the sad workings of life and the mundane details of family life.  Their parents talk to them as equals, forgetting that this little mind next to them would rather think about whether centipedes really do wear tiny boots.  Instead they hear about how stressed their mums are, how they need to pick up Alfie from tennis club later, get their contraceptive pill from the clinic, meet Janine for a skinny latte at 2pm and feed the chickens their new diet to make them produce more eggs with creamy porous shells.  There is too much detail.  Not enough abstract.

My mum's inside talking to Auntie Marge
about having a coil fitted.

Children are born to be abstract.  My son once wrote me a letter.  It simply said: Dear Mummy, I love you.  Did you know that hummingbirds can change colour in light.

Why don't we drop the details and bring back the awe into our children's lives.  We want more awe, not the Eeyore aura.  (It's rather cumbersome catch phrase, I'll admit).

Next time at the Cushy Parent: how to have a marvellous summer holiday with the children.  Waiting for the pun?  Thought I was being sarcastic?  Tsush.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Case of the Incredible Growing Jumper

Welcome back.  This week I promised you a peek at the lost property cupboard.  I know you don't want to deal with it, but it does need addressing.  At this time of year, with all those end of term sports days and school shows, it's easy to lose your child's clothes and become muddled.  My advice is: put their name inside their garments.

The lost property cupboard is one thing that hasn't changed since our own school days.  It is always in a dimly lit area and everything in it is smelly and limp. Even the most colourful clothes take on a sea-sick pallor once they fall into the hopeless pit of Lost Property.  L.P. tends to be located somewhere unpleasant: outside the visitor's toilet or in the sick bay, or matron's room where headlice needles and ointments are kept.

At any given point at infant school, you will hear the cries of some poor child being dragged off to the L.P.  Their fate is sealed.  Punching and kicking, their soiled pants are going to be replaced with school pants: grey, baggy, elastic hanging out, last worn by a troll - the utter humiliation.  It's worse when you know who wore them yesterday.

In order to spare your child this agony, it's absolutely essential that you send them off to school dehydrated.   It doesn't matter if their lips are chapped.  They'll understand once you explain.

The effect of the school pants is instantly alienating.

Despite my efforts to label my children's clothes, my son recently came home with a very tight jumper on.  The next day, I scanned the playground.  It didn't take me long to find what I was looking for.  There, sat inside one of the wooden play huts on his own, was a little boy in the reception class, staring at his jumper sleeves.  The sleeves were astonishingly long.  He flopped them about, transfixed, marvelling at his secret.  Look at that.  Wow.   How did that happen? My sleeves have grown overnight.  They have grown, they have actually grown!

I explained the mishap to the little boy's mum, who was very nice and hadn't noticed that her son had someone else's jumper on.  Then she frowned at him and said, "Hmm, your arms do seem very long today, Harry..."  I'm not sure that she had been listening to me.

The point is - if you thought that magic didn't lurk in lost property, you were wrong.  Magic is everywhere - even in jumper mix-ups.  

Next time we will look in more detail at how to bring the magic back into your children's lives - without having the emergency services on standby.

Cath Weeks is author of The Mood Ring.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Front seat Archie

Welcome back to the Cushy Parent.  On the eve of the Wimbledon final, we're going to take a quick look at sport psychology.

We all remember our Inspirational Fathers of the Seventies, who stood legs straddled on the sideline, a pipe in one hand and a fist in the other.  On the pitch, their offspring shivered in the drizzle, their miserable faces specked with dirt, their knees bloody from the winter pitch. Leave me alone, the kids thought.  I'd rather be at home watching Fingerbobs, even if the mouse is a grey paper cone and the seagull a white ping-pong ball.  "Come on you stupid tossers!" the fathers shouted.  "Pass the frigging ball, you morons!  What are you - a bunch of frigging girls?" Girls? No. Absolutely not.  Although my sister is back home at the moment in the warm watching Fingerbobs...

In the old days Dads wore tight shorts pulled up rather high

Back in the glory days of swearing and sexism, the Pushy Parent ruled the sporting world. It's no surprise that they still rule, but it's all much cleaner these days.  Today's Pushy Parent speaks a foreign dialogue.  I have had to go home and look up some of this stuff, you know. 
To help other cushy parents, I have put together a little glossary that might be of use:

Get pumped. Take your brother's bicycle pump, put it in your mouth - ensuring that there is a tight seal - and inflate your body until you are buoyant enough to bounce through the opposition.

Get psyched. Consult your horoscope. If it says Mars is going to clash with Uranus, it might be best to not stand near the chocolate machine in the sports hall lobby.

Front seat. I really don't know what this means. But the father at our local club shouts it a lot to his little boy.  Poor Archie isn't the nitty gritty tenacious sort.  He is a bit of an aimless child - happy playing his own imaginary game.  Whilst his father shouts "front seat Archie" he also does a funny signal to Archie with his hands.  I've yet to be able to interpret the symbolism, but I think it might be something do with aircraft marshalling.  Because as the dad shouts "front seat" with increasing exacerbation, so Archie whizzes around the pitch with his arms outstretched, his mouth simulating the rumble of an aeroplane, his face full of daydream bliss.

Archie isn't going to play for England.  He probably isn't even going to take a front seat.

Whatever that means.

Next time: how to make sure that your child's school wear is properly labelled, so that you never have to endure the smelly lost property box again.

Cath Weeks is author of The Mood Ring.