Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Have your children cost you any friends?

I set myself very high standards.

Always have.

And when things matter, like parenting, then the importance of reaching those principles is heightened.

This doesn’t mean I expect those around me to reach or even have the same ideals - they’d only disappoint you unwittingly anyway - but I do like to share a lot of common ground with parents that I consider friends.

I am very lucky that my best friend, and many of my close ones, ones that have started families around the same time, have similar parenting ethics and protocols to me.

With consistency, kids’ bedtimes, discipline, freedom, reward and reprimand.

Guess that’s why we are good friends.

But, there are others.

I’m not saying I’m always right – do I really need to? – but there are practices I just don’t agree with, and it means that I become uncomfortable around others that are.

Whilst being first-class at confrontation, I don’t particularly enjoy it, or always have the energy for it, so instead of taking someone to task on something I don’t necessarily agree with, I can simply disengage.

I know that some folks are just not worth reasoning with.

(I’m probably one of them).

I don’t suppose we can predict how our friends might choose to handle parenthood however close we are beforehand, and indeed it’s the same for couples that develop huge differences of parenting opinion, and thus their relationships can suffer too.

Life would be dull if we all agreed on everything, and little fractions can actually add heat and spice to relationships, but when does that become too much?

Guess I actually haven’t fallen out with anyone because of a difference in parenting style, but I have avoided becoming too friendly with people that I suspect that may happen with given time.

How about you?

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Replicating your childhood for your children

When I was a child (don’t panic, I’m not about to get all nostalgic and go Joanna Lumley on you) I used to spend large parts of the school summer holidays on the coast.

My folks had a big static caravan that we would disappear to for adventures, sometimes lasting for weeks on end.

I really enjoyed being there, or certainly remember it that way.

And as well as those vague memories, I also have some more specific ones.

Generally we were outside in good weather, playing in the sea, cricket against the shed or bursting hardened cowpats with large stones.

When the weather turned to rain, we’d then huddle inside of one of the vans, drawing, playing games or – as I remember vividly – playing with my ‘caravan toys’.

There was never an exhaustive stock of options, guess that was down to space and the fact that generally toys weren’t needed all that often.

One of my favourites was a Lego garage set. Because, certainly in those days, Lego sets were much more about what other things you could create out of the bits you had.

Meaning that you'd be building a different thing every time you got it out.


My parents still have this set, it has outlived at least three different caravans that I can remember.

So, when I was offered, or we were offered, a Lego City Police Station this summer, I thought it would be nice to take this with us for my son to play with at his grandparents’ caravan.

Due to fine weather it stayed in its box for a long time. And because it is designed to be built in stages, it was a brilliant activity when the showers brought the children back inside.

It was built over a few days, and at one stage of the summer I counted six children, all boys between four and nine, playing with it together, or all role-playing around it.

The thing was a hit.

A big one.

Lego always is with us.

And this set now lives on the coast too.



I wonder if my grandchildren will be playing with both sets in the years to come.

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

What can socks teach children?

Well, if you put them on your hands and use them as primitive puppets, then probably a great deal.

But they also have other uses.

Last year I bought my son a set of ‘day-of-the-week’ socks for use at school. I was absolutely chuffed with the fact that during the whole of the school term not once did his feet coverings not match the particular day of the week.

I'm clearly a domestic colossus.

As long as we don’t get passed socks. School socks at that.

Back to my child.

My school sock protocol helped him learn the days of the week, as well as serving as a subtle introduction to lean management principles.

And this school year I’ve taken it even further – but still sticking to experimental sock rotation – and rather unwittingly.

I was actually looking for a new set of the same socks from last year (I’m so kind like that) and when I couldn’t I had to come up with alternatives.

Not wishing to abandon my socks for particular days principle, I went for a colour-coded set.

My initial idea was to allocate a colour to each day of the week.

And it’s at this point I should probably say if you’re still reading this sock based adventure that you probably need to get out more.

Anyway, I soon abandoned this idea, as an even better one popped into the void between my ears.

And, check this out.

My son is now wearing his socks alphabetically.

How uncool is that?

He totally bought into the process, spelling out the colours and putting them in order. And now I can quiz him on what socks he wore yesterday, and thus which set he needs to find for today.

And as an added benefit wear and tear is equalised, rather than those pesky Bank Holidays and training days meaning that Monday’s socks look less thread bare than their cousins.

I should probably extend this principle to his underpants.

And book him an appointment with a child psychologist.

Timmy Mallet has nothing on me.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Back to school panic

I don’t do panic.

Even when my wife lay struggling for life panic was not a state of emotion I moved into.

I don’t like it.

It leads to rash and incorrect decisions.

I really don’t see the benefit of panic.

Then again – as well as irritating - it does amuse me when parents panic over things. Tiny things. Things that really don’t matter.

Like school uniform.

I knew I needed to supplement my child’s school wardrobe before he returns there this week. But it was never near the top of my priorities, as I knew we’d survive if I didn’t, that the uniform shop would be like a cold war Russian not-so supermarket bakery aisle, and that it's a mundane interruption to our summer fun.

Plus, I am spawny. To such an extent I rock up to the uniform shop yesterday, block the masses in with my car, wander over to our school’s particular section, a part of the shop that looked like it had been very recently ram-raided, but yet I find exactly the number of items and in the right size that I wanted.

Some of the parents were properly vexed. Shouting at under pressure staff that had inevitably got orders wrong, or supplied faulty uniform.

My smug smirking probably didn’t help. I'm not sure it ever does.

Well not them anyway.

Then earlier today we were treated by the kind folks at Clarks to some new school shoes.

Instead of their reliable – but sometimes lengthy – take-a-number-and-wait-your-turn service, a timed appointment was booked with a fitting expert.

And they are experts, because however many times I’ve been shown to measure where my child’s toes are in his shoes, and how much room he has left in them, I can’t.

Okay, maybe I’m an idiot and they are simply proficient at shoe fitting, but I’m sticking with ‘they iz experts’.

This service is something they have trialled this summer after trying to come up with ways of improving customer experience, and thus reducing the stress levels of parents buying shoes for a new school term.

The manager I spoke with, as well as being a nice and well-informed individual, said he expects the success of the pilot scheme to lead to it being rolled out further across all the Clarks stores eventually. Look out for it, and save yourselves some time. Time better spent mucking about with your kids.

I know Clarks paid for my boy’s school shoes (as they’ve done in the past too), but I’d recommend them, and their genuine service, over anyone else anyway. Perhaps there are independent shoe retailers that provide equally good service and range, but I haven’t found anyone else to rival them in the mainstream.

Plus they look like they shall be doing their bit to reducing back to school panic in the future.

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