Accidental Parenting

As a parent, there are some things that you pick up in a parenting book; others from the experience of others but I think there are a lot of things about parenting that we stumble upon and repeat in the hope that it will work again and again and again.

I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that successful people are readers. And I encourage, OK force, my children to read. To be fair, both of them love reading and have done so ever since they were little but as they grow up and discover other delights such as T.V, football, Nintendo and iPad; reading has taken a back-seat, particularly for my son and I don’t like that.

My daughter is seven and she’s coming into her own as a reader, quite a voracious one too. However, my son used to read a lot more than her, naturally, as he is two years older but now he limits it to what he reads at school. We have had to force him to read by cutting out play time.  Part of it is probably to do with varying the books to subjects he is interested in, which at the moment is football, football and did I mention football?  The other part appears to be simply laziness – I don’t know what else it could be. I have tried unsuccessfully to get him to willingly love reading again- you know pick up a book voluntarily and get lost in the pages sort of reading.

So three weeks ago, I came up with an idea. I set a target. I said, “you must both read at least 10 books a month but I know you can do 20, considering you don’t have jobs or adult responsibilities”. Well not in those exacts words but the sentiment was glaringly present. They seemed to take it on board after the initial shock. I saw a change but nothing too special. Yes! I’m a tiger-mum. Sue me! After a few days, it was obvious the plan had failed miserably.

Then last week, I thought of introducing a little sweetener. Pit brother against sister and introduce a COMPETITION! Muahahahahahahaha. It was ingenious!  I simply said, “at the end of the month, the person who has read the most books will win a prize”.

I always knew my son was competitive. I mean at the age of three he would race you to the door and cry if you got there first. My daughter has been a revelation. She has read eight books in ten days whilst he has read nine books. Although there is some strategic planning there cos some of the books are pretty thing. But the point is they are reading, albeit for a prize. And they seem to be enjoying the process too.

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Funny, they have been bugging me to get a reward chart for months but my aversion to them made me ignore the suggestion. In hindsight, I see now that they are motivated by rewards. God help me.

Now I’ve got to decide what the prize will be. Eek!

 

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World Book Day

Today is World Book Day and my children, like thousands of other children, are dressing up as a character from a book.

I had a very interesting experience this year with my children. My son was very clear about who he wanted to go as. He is going as Alexander from Einstein’s Underpants.

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Yes! My son will be sporting underpants on his head today for the world to see. So we’ve been painting pants over the past two days.

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My seven year old daughter on the other hand thinks fancy dress is embarrassing. And has chosen to show up as the very sophisticated member of the Butterfly Club. I wasn’t even allowed to get a yellow wig. She will go with a butterfly Alice band and butterfly print tee-shirt.

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She is going as a – wait for it ……. girl. Two years ago she went as a rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. However, last year she selected Charlie and Lola so she could go as a girl. And this year she’s done the same. Hmmmmm. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

I’m always intrigued by how two individuals who are brought up by the same parents can be so different. Despite my son’s friends telling him he must be out of his mind to wear pants on his head, he relishes the thought of making a fool of himself. And my daughter would clearly, never be caught dead wearing underpants on her head. It’s funny.

Jokes aside, It’s heart warming to see how children get excited over books. Their school has been running a book cafe every morning of this week. And as I stood by a table of books, I witnessed the chatter of seven year-olds discussing their favourite books and regaling one another with their best bits. I also got the supreme pleasure of being let in on a secret. A young boy who shall remain nameless told me his mother has said he was only allowed to select two books, but he had selected FIVE!!!!!  Hehehehehe. When she sees her bill, she’s going to get a shock!!!!!

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Books open up the mind and takes the imagination of children to boundless places. There are no rules only words.

Do Something New

My children are avid readers. Sports seems to be getting in the way for my son but generally they immerse themselves in books which I love – it keeps them quiet. LOL

Two Christmases ago, I watched the movie Esio Trot which is an adaptation of the book written by Roald Dahl and also Tortoise written backwards my children informed me. And I realised that I’d never read a Roald Dahl book in my life. Can you believe that? It’s like what planet have I been on?

I wonder why I never came across him as I child? I was an Enid Blyton fan, up to my teens actually. I’m not ashamed to admit it but for some reason I don’t recall being introduced to Roald Dahl. Then again, I had very little interest in reading so maybe I just ignored it. Can’t remember but I digress.

My children inherited a collection of Roald Dahl books which my kids love from my nephew so I’ve constantly coming into contact with them. My son really loves his books, particularly The  BFG  which he has read like ten times and still counting and which for some reason I keep calling The Notorious BIG but that’s totally lost on him.

So this Christmas just gone by, Esio Trot was on TV again and I thought, “why live in constant regret about this when you can do something about it. Get one of them and start reading”. And so I did. One of my favourite quotes is

No one can go back and change a bad beginning, but anyone can start now and create a successful ending.

-Maria Robinson

Truth be told, sometimes, it’s too late to do some things, but reading, learning a new skill, re training, going back to school – that we can do. Who cares that a 40 year old is reading a book for children? It’s a classic.

I started with Matilda and unashamedly, I took it everywhere; on the bus, train and car. It gripped me from the opening page and held my gaze till the very end. Loved it. (Could I say love any more times ????)

Now I’m on Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory which I am loving too.

I’m looking forward to reading the whole lot – at least the collection we have. What a wonderfully amazing writer and such a great legacy to leave to the world.

What new thing are you going to do this year?

 

-RWW

Limit Screen Time

Like a lot of families we have the following items in our household:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • TV
  • Laptop
  • Computer
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo Wii

I’m not against them but really too much of them is detrimental. They are time wasters and brain mushers! Of course I refer only to when my children use them not us adults.

We also have all the following items in our household too:

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Scrap paper and craft items
  • Monopoly
  • Scrabble
  • Science experiment sets
  • Electronic sets
  • Books!!!!!!

Guess which one my children always go for first? The screens! It’s quite shocking because these were children who only nine months ago were devouring book after book. Now these screens are competing for their time so of course we have developed a few new rules in our home, We just make them up as we go along 😉

  1. No devices first thing in the morning.
  2. After a couple of hours turn them off.
  3. Some days are no screen days.
  4. You must read a book.
  5. Go to bed if you are not happy with rules 1-4

What I find amazing when we enforce these rules is there are always frowns, sulks and moans. However when they see that that rule 5 above is an option then the creative juices kick in. Suddenly they are writing stories about make believe lands, drawing skateboards and making craft items, they are reading, dancing, running about and telling each other stories. And whilst they are doing these, there are no tears – only pure joy. So if they are so happy doing this, why are these screens more attracted?

Grandma’s Bias

My mum is visiting at the moment and has been helping me with my daughter’s reading homework.

This had gone on for about a week and half when I first opened my daughter’s reading dairy.

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No biased much eh Grandma?

I was tempted to apologise to the teacher and say all the superfluous comments are from a very proud grandmother. I wonder what went through the teacher’s mind as she read each comment. Only a grandparent could get away with it!

I Give My Children Too Much Choice

Sometimes, in a bid not to stifle them, I just think I give my children too much choice. I wanted my son to attend a poetry writing class during the Cambridge Literary Festival. He was adamant that he already knew how to write and did not need to go. I should have insisted. Two weeks later, he tells me he would like to go. 😐

Trying to get him to understand that even if he is ‘perfect’ he can be better than perfect is the phase we are currently challenged with. Or maybe I didn’t pitch it at the right level for him. I should have said, “you know you are the best writer in the world but there is a course where others can benefit from your 7 year old wisdom. What do you think about sharing your knowledge with them?”

Of course by this time the tickets were all sold out. Sometimes (if not ALL times) mum knows best – note to self.

For all those whose children love reading, try a day trip to the Cambridge Literary Festival. It’s really fun for kids and usually during the school holidays.

Aaaaaargh! Give Me Strength!

I’ve just confiscated my son’s books because instead of getting ready for school, he has decided to read. In the morning rush; after having a bath, before changing into his uniform, before having breakfast, before we navigate the terrains of the early morning school rush; he decided to read!!!!!!!!

I should be happy I have a son that’s interested in reading right? NO! Not when he makes us late for school and, subsequently, work as a result. The books have now been banished to where the Christmas wrapping paper is kept. I don’t know how long they are going to stay there for but suffice it to say that right now, I DON’T CARE!!!!!

Now as he has given me reason to write this post before the school run, surely he should be doubly punished for that as well as we are definitely going to be late now. Aaargh!!!!!!

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This Parenting Thing Is Hard Work!!!!!!

Teaching children adult values is the hardest thing ever.   My children’s school is participating in Readathon which encourages children to read and gives to childrens charities at the same time. My daughter has just begun reading independently so she has embraced this challenge with great gusto.  My son on the other hand, who is an old hand at reading, has not taken it quite as seriously.  Every day my daughter gets home from school and after her homework, she independently gets a books to read.  Everyday I ask my son to get a book and he conveniently slinks out of the room and goes and does something else.  Rather than stress about it,  I decided (for my mental well-being) not to get agitated about it.  He’s a voracious reader anyway plus as a family we give to a lot of charities.  So, no big deal. No pressure.  I was embracing a more laissez-faire parenting style as opposed to tiger mum.

For whatever reason, he came home from school  desperate to read as many books as possible.  I said

well I’ve been telling you for two weeks to read your books and set a target of how many books you want to read so we can get people to sponsor you but you haven’t paid any attention to me.

He left the room forlorn and came back half an hour later holding a pile of about 10 books.  In his wisdom, his solution was to grab all the books  from their library that were at the reading level of his five year old sister.  😐 I was not amused.  He now, by his thinking, had ten books to record on his sponsorship form.  As calmly as I could, I told him it was not happening.  He has to pick books at his level otherwise he wasn’t getting involved and it was fine not to be involved.  Tears ensued.  Why are you crying I asked.  I don’t know he said.  Yet, more tears.

Every time they finish reading a book, they are to fill out a green leaf which is meant to be attached to a reading tree in the school. It turns out that he’s the only one in his class who has not had  a leaf on the tree.  Ah ah!  The plot thickens.   Well unfortunately I said,

if you had started reading two weeks ago, you might have finished at least one book by now.  I’m afraid you are going to have to start now and read whatever you can but you will not put those books on the list.  More tears!  Why are you crying now I asked.  I-sniff-don’t-sniff-know-sniff sniff sniff.

I’ve been trying sooooooooooo hard not to be one of those  mums who forces their child to participate just so that the readathon form would fill up.  There is a prize for whoever raises the most money and if we were going for the prize, I should have let him put all those ten books on the list.  In fact I should have read the books and just signed his name next to him.  Despite resisting the urge to be tiger mum and cajole him into winning the prize or not shaming the family by returning an empty form, we have ended up here.  I should be the one crying!!!!!!!!

Dinner was eaten in tears and lots of pitt stops to the bathroom to get tissues for face wiping.   He came into the kitchen to apologise for being upset – very bizarre and probably with an agenda– and I said I wasn’t upset at all.  He really didn’t have to do this thing but if he was going to, then he had to do it properly.  More tears!!!!!!!  I gave up the will to exhale at this point.

A few moments later, I was making a smoothie and he came into the kitchen again, no tears but a very forlorn face.  He asked if he could help cut the fruit.  I said sure.  By the end of cutting, dicing and blending, we had a happy son again who will tomorrow start the process of being diligent and not looking for short cuts as he participates in readathon.  🙂

This parenting thing is hard work!!!!!!!