Tag Archives: kids

Kids can write brilliantly too

I can’t believe it’s come around so fast, but it was World Book Day yesterday and I was in at the kid’s school volunteering to teach years one two and three.  It was so much fun.  I brainstormed a whole fairy story with each group, so that the children came up with a heroine, a baddie, a hero, a trap, a daring rescue and a happy ever after.  Then they each did an illustration of part of their story, so that by the end of the session they’d created a whole fairy tale book.

 

I was amazed and surprised by their suggestions and how quickly they could subvert the fairy story clichés into something new and whacky and how each fairy story ended up being completely different, even though I was guiding them with a formula.

 

Our need for exploring conflict and resolution seems to be ingrained at a very fundamental level.  Even by the age of five, children have a very clear sense of right and wrong, goodies and baddies and how female heroines have to use their wit and ingenuity to get out of a scrape.

 

What I found amazing – and a clear indication of real progress from when I was growing up – was the resolution of each story.  Left to their own devices these young children all wanted a romantic resolution.  But rather than a bossy knight on a white horse charging up, taking over, scooping up the heroine and taking her to a life of bliss – over which she’s had no say, they all naturally chose to have the heroine finding love with someone realistic who was right underneath her nose the whole time.

 

What was most interesting though, was that in each case and with each group, the love resolution was not the end – and this was very much prompted by the kids and not by me.  Their stories all ended when the heroine either got her own back on her oppressors in a very public and satisfying way – pop-star Polly in New York winning a talent contest and thus a recording contract, thereby totally rubbing her mean, ugly sisters’ noses in it.

 

Or when, having won back her magic shell necklace and escaped an underwater cage, mermaid Lucy returns to coral castle to find that the elderly king is so impressed with her  bravery and courage in defeating Snap the evil seahorse, that he decides to abdicate the thrown and make Lucy queen.  At which point, she throws a rocking party for the whole kingdom …obviously.

 

I came away, as I always do from teaching children, enriched and a little humbled.  It seems to me that many grown up writers could benefit by a refresher course with small children in the fundamentals of story-telling.

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Back to school blues

It’s that back-to-school time of year again.  As I write this, huddled up in a cardigan and looking out at the rain, I can’t help but think how strange my sun-tanned hands look and how far away all that Fiesta-ing suddenly seems.  Was it only a week ago that I was cavorting round in shorts and a vest top, drinking tequila shots in the Placa at midnight?  Good Lord!

Yes, after six glorious (if not somewhat excessive) weeks in Mallorca, we’re back in England and I’ve had the task of re-acquainting my children with such forgotten concepts as wearing clothing and shoes, going to bed on time and brushing their hair and teeth.

As usual, we holidayed up to the wire, disorientating the little blighters with extreme culture-shock so that before they knew it, they were trussed up in school uniform and bundled through their classroom doors.

In my usual spin-to-the-positive way, I convinced myself that this would be a great idea, brushing over the inevitable dose of easyFlu and easyNits that such a strategy involves.   But a twelve hour pool-side to registration turn-around is the norm for my kids.  They can handle it.  Who needs those dreary last-days-of-the-summer-holidays slow build up to the inevitable going back to school moment?  Not us Reeses.  We’re hard core.

But this time I was forgetting that the Little One was starting nursery.

Big mistake.

OMG! What a trauma.  Emlyn and I have been through the emotional wrangle every morning since we’ve been back.  For both of us, it’s been like splitting up with our first girlfriend/boyfriend ten times over by nine a.m.  We meet, war torn and exhausted for our morning coffee, the weight of guilt at ‘breaking’ our darling three-year-old weighing heavily upon us.

The poor Little One.  She seemed so positive about the whole starting nursery thing on holiday, playing ‘school’ every day, ransacking the kitchen drawers to put all the plastic cups and cutlery into her backpack for an imaginary party with her new school mates.  In her head, I now see that nursery was going to be one long party. Her party.  With her in charge, of course.

Watching reality slap her round the head has not been pleasant.  For starters, she hadn’t at any point grasped the concept that we’d be leaving her there, or that she might have to do as she was told.  So what followed was awful to behold.  That big, big shuddering intake of breath, the wide-eyed shock of betrayal followed by those fat, fat tears and the heart-breaking wail, ‘Don’t leave me.’

I’ve been through this with the others, of course, but somehow with the Little One, my third and final baby, it’s been harder than ever.

A friend reminded me how the Big One was when she started school.  She was fine on the first day, but when I took her back on the second, she said, ‘Oh no, Mummy.  I’ve done school.’  Talk about a short, sharp life lesson there.

The school have been brilliant, I must add and today, so far, so good.  I think that’s because I resorted to some of my most brilliant parenting this morning, fully committing to bringing a BIG packet of blue crisps AND a cola Chupa Chup to pick up.  That won’t ruin her lunch, or her teeth at all, right?

But…hang on.  I’ve just found out that Emlyn managed to get her settled in this morning by promising that ALL of her new friends in the nursery can come to her house for a party.

Hmmm…. I’m staring to think that the Little One has had this all worked out, all along. She’s not ‘broken’ at all.  We are.

NOW what do I do?

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Falling for the big kitten eyes…

I’ve got a cat.   I’m in shock.  

You see, I’m not a cat person.  I’ve never lived with a cat, or owned a cat, and I’ve hardly ever picked up a cat.  But cats like me.  Oh yes, they purr and wind around my feet and snuggle up to me whenever they get the chance and claw anything I’m wearing. But I’ve never really got the point of cats. I guess it’s because I’m lucky enough to have a cuddly husband on my sofa and he’s already bald and unlikely to shed much more hair.

Besides, I haven’t got a great track record with the feline amongst us.  I once was cat-sitting our neighbours beloved old mog, when it carked it on me.  I couldn’t find the damn thing.  The poor neighbours were distraught when they came back from their hols to find old Pinkie rigid under the roses in the garden.  Although they never said anything, I had a ‘cat killer’ reputation for years afterwards and nobody ever asked me to pet-sit again in our street.

Then there was the incident with the esteemed author (and very good friend), who invited me and Emlyn for dinner to her fifth floor flat and introduced me to her pair of very noble-looking rare-breed Siamese cats.  She’d spent her whole book advance on these things and had just had them delivered from Harrods.  We’re talking posh pussies here.  Anyway, after we’d oo-ed and ah-ed for a while, I sat up on the kitchen counter and opened the kitchen window for a sneaky cigarette (oh, those were the days!) and the cat shot past me out onto the window-ledge.  I had to crawl out into the night, high above the North Circular to retrieve the damn thing, whilst my friend literally had kittens.  We weren’t invited again for some time.

So when it comes to cats (and dogs and hamsters and guinea pigs and even goldfish for that matter)  I’ve done the brick wall thing about having a pet, despite the kids begging and begging.  How can we have a pet when we come here to Mallorca for our holidays? I always argue. It’s just not fair on the animal.  It’s a holiday home or a pet.  A simple choice. 

And so far I’ve won. 

But they’re clever these kids.  Wily.  Canny.  They find ways of blindsiding me, just when I think I’ve got all the angles covered.  (They definitely get that off their father.)

So this latest edition to the Rees household occurred in seconds, before I’d even had a chance to order my argument and now I’m going to have to live with the consequences.

It all happened because the Middle One has been begging to go horse riding more or less consistently for about two years, so when she was invited to go to the riding school down the road in Llosetta the other day, it seemed churlish to refuse.  The “I’m too busy to get in the car and take you miles away to the countryside to an expensive riding school” argument didn’t wash, when it was dirt cheap and we were getting a lift.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful place with a backdrop of the Tramuntana mountains and it’s just what you’d expect a Mallorcan riding school to be like – lots of lovely looking Spanish horses (and men) and dogs curled up in the shade of the trees, a loud TV in the bar and cold beers on tap for the Mummy’s.  My kind of place.

Before long the Middle One was up on a pony who wanted to be near his mate and as I stood on the wooden bars of the riding circle, it was like watching the wacky races.  I never thought watching one’s kid on a pony could be so entertaining.

But meanwhile The Little One was back in front of the TV in the bar and had sneakily begun operation ‘covert kitten’, taking a shine to one of the tiny cats that were mewing around the bead curtain.  A litter had been dumped at the stables and needed homes.  And when the Middle One came back and joined in the cat love-in I knew that the writing was on the wall. 

Before I knew it, we were on our way home with the kitten. 

Emlyn, who was still painting the pool, rolled his eyes, when the kids explained that the cat would be living outside and would kill the rats in the palm trees.

He did lots of tutting at me, but I couldn’t really explain myself. Other than that when confronted with two sets of human kitten eyes and one set of very, very cute real kitten eyes imploring me to say ‘Yes’, I just didn’t have the heart to say ‘No.’

So ‘Misty’ a.k.a ‘Raffa’ (after Nadal) is staying for the time being and I’m trying not to get attached. 

Of course, I’m still going to have to train the thing to be a country cat and to fend for itself when I’m not here, buy a feeder, find a vet, get the injections and all that malarkey, but I’m already worrying.   Yesterday, he/she? (we can’t tell) disappeared when the tanker man came to fill up the pool.  I was convinced it had run away and had been squished.

But sure enough last night she was back for her dinner and was purring and winding around my legs and batting my flip-flops.

There’s a weird thing that happens when you get a new addition to your family.  You sit on strange places on your kitchen floor at odd hours of the night and all of a sudden your perspective changes.  You see life from a different angle, because he/she/it is so cute.  As in shamelessly, gorgeously cute in a way that makes you forget everything else.

The kids are all so smitten that I have to admit that I’m secretly basking in the attention I’m getting as a result.  They can’t believe that their mother was SO nice, that I actually let them keep a kitten.  It looks like I did a little bit of blind-siding of my own.  It’s made me realize that perhaps I should say ‘Yes’ to them more often.

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Feeling guilty about the kids’ carbon footprint

http://isiria.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/footprint.jpg

Education.  Hmmm.  Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?  I think my eighties comprehensive education in Essex left me blissfully in the dark about many things – especially social responsibility.  But these days it’s all different.

For example, the big one is learning all about the environment and her little person’s size 13 carbon footprint.  It’s led to all sorts of uncomfortable questions at home and now our whole lifestyle is under scrutiny.

In my defence, though, I’d say we’re fairly green. We recycle.  We compost.  We work at home. We share baths.  And I shan’t tell you how my husband refers to the ‘green’ washing powder I use, but it’s something to do with comfortable shoes.

Ethically, we’re pretty good too.  Emlyn and I are both suckers for people with clip boards who want to engage us in conversation.  We’ve signed up for monthly direct debits to just about everyone:  NSPCC, The Red Cross, Oxfam, the lot.  Often twice.  I don’t even buy clothes from Primark because of my nagging fears about the cheap prices equalling slave labour, and I offload all my jumble to the good people up the road at The British Heart Foundation.

However, we do have a holiday home in Mallorca, which sounds very glam, but is actually the same as camping with bricks.  And we fly there and back in the holidays at ludicrous times of the day and night.

So far, so smug.  Except now the big one has told the middle one that all this so-called ‘cheap’ flying is bad for the environment.  The middle one is now proposing that we ditch the holiday home, the benefit if which is that I’d no longer have a valid excuse for not getting her a dog.   And we’d be saving the planet for my grandchildren. Hmmm.

I’ve tried to appease them both by paying for Carbon Offsetting on the easyJet site.  But I’m a bit hazy about what that means.  I just feel ripped off.  Isn’t it Carbon Offsetting for guilty green people, what Speedy Boarding is for stressed people, who get to pay to be at the front of the queue?

I resent feeling guilty.  I’ve avoided it quite successfully until now, pacifying myself with the thought that the favour I’m doing society by removing me and my off-spring from the museum queues in the holidays, more than compensates for the evil of flying to Maj.

And it’s not like I’m not suffering already. The airlines hoick the price up so that Mums like me have to pay nearly double what everyone else does for the privilege of giving their little ones a holiday somewhere sunny.

For now, I’ve told the big one that if she’s going to learn about such things, then she has to study hard at school and become a scientist so that she can invent an alternative to fossil fuel.  Which would mean that we could fly to our holiday home guilt-free.  And if she does that, then I’ll get her and the middle one a dog.

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