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Are you as brave as a toddler?

Spring is just around the corner and parents all over the country can’t wait to release their tightly coiled toddlers into the garden! Many, quite wisely, haven’t waited for Spring and have been throwing them out into the garden, parks and mountains all winter. After all, so long as they’re wrapped up warm, it’s definitely worth it. I know it’s the only thing that keeps some parents sane.

Parents have the choice of a) staying in doors where it’s nice and warm, kettle is in arm’s reach, fridge just below it, TV is waiting to entertain, there’s a soft, warm, dry sofa to sit on, the house is cosy but … there are three wild bipeds bursting your ear drums as they scream like mandrakes, running round your legs, between your legs, up the walls, across the ceilings, swinging from the light fittings, destroying everything in their path OR b) go out into the bracing wind, trudge waist high through mud, get side swiped by sharp tree branches you couldn’t see due to trying to turn your head away from the driving rain and hail, almost fainting with hunger and busting for a wee but … your three little cherubs are being all cute hunting for pretty leaves or animal footprints and shouting baa at the cows and moo at the horses.

As you might have gathered, we’ve been out doors all winter, but I never fail to be amazed at just how brave our little ones are. Yes, it could be argued that they’re naive or just plain stupid. But how much of a superhero do you need to be to put your face up to a 5’ cow when you’re less than 3’ tall? Imagine patting a dog that is bigger than you? Fancy swinging on a rickety piece of wood that takes you to four times your own height! Or sliding yourself off the equivalent of a small building and straight away running up to do it again!

Our devilish darlings are the ultimate action adventure heroes and we should be encouraging their wild and reckless behaviour for as long as it lasts. I’m sure all our wonderful representatives at the Winter Olympics are just big toddlers who never learnt fear as they grew up.

The beauty of taking your littlies outdoors are endless: you remain sane, they take in fresh healthy air, exercise increasing strength and stamina, build a good appetite and better absorb nutrients, feel joyful and invigorated, they sleep better, their eyesight develops better with changing from looking close up to looking over distances, their skin and hair improves due to the better blood circulation, this also develops their brains better, they develop problem solving skills and practice being brave and facing fears … the list goes on.

In fact, not only does the list go on but the benefits continue long after the outdoor session is over. I’ve sat in countless training sessions and school assemblies where it has been pointed out that many children with bad behaviour and/or poor grades are giving in to fear: fear of failure. It’s a brave person who sits a test and tries their hardest even though they know they may well fail. It would be much easier to not try then there’s no shame in failure – no proof you couldn’t do it.

So, what happens as our children grow up? When they’re toddlers, it doesn’t matter how many times they face plant when trying to walk, they just keep trying until they can do it. It doesn’t matter how many times they stick the spoonful of porridge in their eye and their ear, they just keep trying until they can do it. Why then as they reach their teenage years, do so many give up and not try?

I think I have the answer. When your toddler fell on their face did you tell them they’d just scored a pathetic 9%? Did you tell them if they didn’t succeed you’d not let them watch TV? Did you compare them to another toddler the same age who didn’t face plant half as often?

When they tried to draw a picture of a dog, did you point out that it looked more like an egg and had too many legs? Did you tell them to keep doing it again and again until they got it right?

No. What we did was ignore every fail and encourage every success. We never scored them or compared them, so they felt safe to keep trying. They didn’t understand that not succeeding meant failing. For many years, it wasn’t until Year 11 that they really felt that danger of failure, and for many of them, they’d been so positively encouraged up to that time, that it gave them strength to go on. Now, due to SATs testing we are teaching our Year 6s that they have the potential to be failures. Shockingly, our Year 2s also have that experience. The fleeting feeling of freedom, safety to explore, try and enjoy will be thoroughly stamped out of them before they turn 8 years old.

So, what can we do about it? Well I can blog on here, we can shake our heads, roll our eyes and tut, we can sign campaigns to get the government to scrap all SATs. But in the meantime, let’s get our children out in the fresh air, encourage them, love them and support them, so that they will always feel brave: as brave as a toddler no matter how old they get.

20170305_112606Fun ideas to encourage our ankle-biters to play out:

  • Hunt for animal footprints or signs of animal homes
  • Collect pretty leaves
  • Build a den
  • Touch insects and invertebrates
  • Splash in puddles
  • Roll down hills
  • Make a pattern out of pretty stones
  • Make a mud pie
  • Play animal bingo
  • Hunt for Easter eggs (can be decorated boiled eggs)
  • Go Geocaching

Scientists or Wizards?

I’m lucky enough to be married to a wizard. He often comes home from work and tries to explain to me why the different potions he mixed in his cauldron turned into magical roof coatings, but the science part of my brain is under-developed and it quickly starts to melt, so he sighs and agrees “yes it’s magic.”

I’d love to be a wizard. What must it be like to open kitchen cupboards and fridges, take random pieces of food and wizardy-wizardy-woo them into a fabulous meal?

To me, my lack of scientific knowledge means nothing is impossible and I’m sure that’s the first step to being a wizard. Once upon a time, simple humans thought once you’d seen something happen, you’d never be able to see it again. Then some bright wizard invented film! A couple of hundred years ago, we couldn’t imagine travelling from Edinburgh to London in less than 4 weeks and then some clever wizard came along and invented the train. Now it’s only about four hours. Thanks to SpaceX there’s a strong chance we could be reaching Sydney in that time in the not too distant future!

Therefore, I think it is perfectly feasible that one day, people will be able to see and hear things that happened in the past, possibly hundreds of years ago, before recording equipment had been invented. I’m convinced that everything we say near wood or stone is somehow imprinted into the natural material and we just need to find a way of extracting that information, then we’ll be able to hear what the cavemen were saying, when they were carving buffalo pictures into the cave walls.

This causes me a problem when I walk over the stone bridge in our town. I often use dry sarcasm (I know – the lowest sense of wit) when speaking. For example, when I was dropping my son off at school this morning, we were almost late because we hit every red light. After one set I commented “how dare that woman use the traffic lights to keep her little child safe as she crosses the road – doesn’t she know we need to get to school?” Then I realised we were driving over the stone bridge so I had to say out loud “sorry – just a pathetic attempt at humour”.

My son thinks I’m a little odd, but in a hundred or thousand years, he’ll realise I was right. Thanks to a future wizard, we’ll be able to eve’s drop on Dick Turpin’s gang as they hid in the Royal Forest of Waltham and we’ll be able to watch dinosaurs making their dens in caves.  Nothing is impossible. Bookmark this blog – I know I’m right!

caveman

Dave The-Disco-Rave

My friend Daniela gave me a “story inspiration slip” and told me to write a 500 words story. The slip said “Your office friend thinks he is a superhero. Everyone in the office knows but has to pretend they don’t know”. I don’t think I’ll win any prizes, but it was good for a giggle:

Disco Dave

The bank’s office party is about to start. Several workers are chatting and sipping drinks. Others stand around awkwardly, eyeing the buffet. Music starts, but nobody wants to be the first to dance. Then Dave, The-Disco-Rave appears in the middle of the dance floor. Nobody sees him walk on. He’s just suddenly there, in his trademark pose: left leg straight, right leg forwards, one hand on hip, the other pointing up. He’s wearing an Afro wig, orange star-shaped glasses and open-necked white shirt revealing a huge medallion. Flowered flares and sparkly silver platform boots complete his outfit. Everyone knows it’s Dave from accounts, but he believes he’s unrecognisable with his disguise. He nods to the DJ who changes the track and Dave, The-Disco-Rave starts to wriggle and squirm his body in time to the music. The ice is broken; some join him on the dance floor, some help themselves to the buffet and everyone has a fabulous time.

Monday morning back at work, the office workers are still in good spirits reminiscing what a wonderful time they’d had. A few start to laugh about Dave, The-Disco-Rave. One particularly unpleasant worker mocks Dave and he starts to feel sad. As more people begin to laugh at him he becomes upset and angry. The atmosphere in the office begins to change. Everyone seems to be quarrelling. Dave storms downstairs and glares at the cashiers. They start arguing with each other, the customers start shouting at the cashiers and two customers even start fighting.

Just then armed robbers burst into the bank, but there is already such commotion that nobody notices them. The police run in screaming for everyone to lie down on the floor, but they’re not heard above the racket. Customers are pushing and shoving each other. One old lady is swinging her walking stick above her head.

Then, in the middle of all the chaos, appears Dave, The-Disco-Rave in his trademark pose: left leg straight, right leg forwards, one hand on hip, the other pointing up. He’s wearing an Afro wig, orange star-shaped glasses and open-necked white shirt revealing a huge medallion. Flowered flares and sparkly silver platform boots complete his outfit.

A man notices him and stops to stare,  with his fist still bunched up ready to hit the man next to him. One by one, everyone stops, turns and stares at Dave, The-Disco-Rave. The crowd stand in stunned silence, then quietly at first, but quickly growing louder, a disco beat can be heard. Dave, The-Disco-Rave starts to wriggle and squirm his body in time to the music. The spectators start to tap their hands, then they start to move their feet. One by one, without knowing what they’re doing, they begin to dance to the rhythm of the music. The robbers twirl their guns above their heads, before sliding them harmlessly across the floor. Their bodies are jiving, although their faces still wear stunned expressions. They conga out of the door, and straight into the waiting police vans.

Guilty Relaxation

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Here we are: the end of the school holidays. As I work in a school, I’m just as nervous and unhappy about going back as the students are. Not because I don’t like my job – to the contrary I love my job – but because I won’t be home relaxing anymore, and no matter how much you love your job, relaxing is always better. Isn’t it?

Well … here lies the problem, because I cannot relax without feeling guilty. I always feel as though I should be doing something. Now sometimes my guilty feeling when relaxing makes sense. Perhaps the house is a tip, the dog has his legs crossed and I haven’t started on the “To do List” of half a million little admin tasks I leave for the holidays.  Then I am in the “dark playground” as Professor Steve Peters calls it in his book “Mind Management”. (It’s on my “To do List” to finish reading.) The dark playground is when you cannot completely enjoy your relaxation time because there’s that nagging voice constantly in the back of your mind that you have other things you ought to be working on.

My problem is that that nagging voice is a complete and utter liar! Even when my house is shining spotlessly, the cupboards are full, no children are at risk of losing teeth, the dog’s chasing rabbits in his sleep, still that voice grinds on “shouldn’t you be doing something?”

“oh yes, perhaps you’re right. What should I be doing?”

“that thing”

“what thing”

“you know – that thing”

“no what thing? I’m sure you’re right but I can’t think what it is”

“I’m not going to tell you – you’ll have to work it out for yourself”

“it can’t be that important if I can’t remember it”

“but it might be”

“it’s not”

“well I’m not going to let you relax until you remember that thing and do it”

Then I start making things up to do and make a new list of “things” just to silence that nagging grinding voice!

Why is that? Why can’t I just relax? I like to blame my dad at this point. Or the government. But I can’t really. I think it’s just a habit. I’m always so busy that when I do find time to relax, it feels odd – doesn’t fit with my normal state so I get jittery and look to return to my normal state of frantic worry. I’m far happier there!

This is why I’m typing this blog at this time of night when I should be getting an early night ready to go back to school in the morning. I’ve been off work for more than a fortnight and not blogged. I feel guilty. As though there’s anyone out there, saying “that Rachel Coverdale hasn’t blogged for a while. I feel totally let down by her and my life is now ruined. It’s all her fault”. Well there you are imaginary person. I’ve blogged just for you.

So, job done, my intention now is to go to bed and have a peaceful night’s sleep. Who am I trying to kid? That annoying, grinding little voice is going to tell me that I MUST remember to do that thing as soon as I get to work tomorrow and I’ll lie awake all night wondering what that thing is and worrying that the school will be razed to the ground if I don’t remember what it is and get it done in time.

G’night all xx

 

 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

When I was young, my mum used to buy the Readers Digest – I have no idea why when it was free in every doctor’s waiting room.  My favourite section was “Laughter is the Best Medicine” (which seems quite apt due to the aforementioned doctors’ waiting rooms).  This week has shown me just how true that saying is.  Ok, it cannot cure someone with a terminal illness – but neither can medicine, so you might as well die laughing.

The other night I received a late-night phone call from a sobbing friend. She works shifts and this week her husband is working away.  After feeding her twin three-year-old boys, she sat them in the living room to watch a Christmas film while she quickly jumped in the bath.  Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, considering the hours she works, she fell asleep in the bath, waking up freezing cold a whole hour later.  She literally jumped out of the bath and ran downstairs starkers, knowing that something had gone terribly wrong.

This is what she saw:  The living room child gate was collapsed in the hallway. It had clearly put up a brave fight, but was now spread eagle and despondent on the cold tiled floor. Every previously wrapped Christmas present had been dragged from the dining room into the living room where they were piled up in the centre like the world’s most expensive bonfire. Some had their wrappers half torn and cast aside in disgust when revealing they only hid clothing.  Sweets, however had been mercilessly ripped open and little piles of sick lay testament to just how many had been gobbled down (and back up). Packed lunch paraphernalia had been brought in from the kitchen and the greedy gremlins had gorged on Pringles and Baby Belles.  Christmas baubles had been enthusiastically smashed, juice had been gratuitously sprayed across the sofa, curtains and carpet, and Christmas cards had been ripped and scattered like a snow blizzard.

We stayed talking on the phone for ages.  I sympathised, made suggestions, offered to come and help, but her sister had already promised to go round first thing in the morning.  The next day after work I called in to see how she was doing.  She was still really upset, so we sat down with a good old English cup o’ tea.  Then something strange happened.  She began to see the funny side of what had happened.  We realised that those two boys had just had the best party of their lives, ever.  Three years old and no grown ups to stop them from doing anything at all they wanted.  No rules!  We realised that they were no different to the rock stars of the 1970s and 1980s who traditionally trashed their hotel rooms, threw TVs out of the window and drove cars into swimming pools.  Those boys had had the best time of their lives.  We were creased up at the comparison and immediately made plans to include their escapades in their wedding speeches or at their 21st birthdays.  By the end of the evening, we were both howling with laughter.

Make no mistake, my friend can’t wait for her husband to come home to share the load, but at least she can now laugh in the face of disaster and that makes it all better doesn’t it! 😊

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