Thursday, 10 July 2014

The big 4 O

 My little man turned 4.  My little man turned 4 many times, requiring many cakes.  We began with the Elsa cake, moved on to the farm cake, had a favourite loaf cake for a birthday picnic in the parc and, my pièce de résistance, finished with the green dragon cake.

But enough about cake.  My little man turned 4!  And such a splendid little man he is.  For his birthday he asked for an Elsa dress, and received a lovingly and beautifully handmade version from the ever impressive Auntie Katie, and an electric train.  Owen is a modern man, in touch with all aspects of his eccentric personality.  Just thinking about him and his happy little face makes me smile.

We went into school last week to celebrate with his class.  Part of the birthday ritual at the Calandreta involves choosing 4 people to jump up and down with while the others chant along to the beat of a tambour (don't ask me why, it's all in Occitan and I haven't a clue what's going on).  Last year when I came in with Owen to celebrate Matilda's birthday her first choice of fellow jumper was Owen.  This year, with Matilda on special leave from her class, the first person Owen chose was Matilda.  Their closeness nevers ceases to delight me.   After Matilda followed a string of little blonde girls...  "Ah, Owen et ses princesses!" his teacher sighed.

Owen also loves his teacher, Cati, who is not blonde but tall and foreboding with a shock of frizzy black curls.  To be honest she's quite frightening.  But all the kids adore her.  Owen made her a thank you card for the end of the year.

When he showed me, I pointed to the small round object to the bottom right, "Is that a spider?" I asked innocently. "No, it's Cati's hand, someone cut it off".  Well, that's nice isn't it.  Nothing says thank you like a bit of dismemberment.

My strange and loving Owen, you give the biggest, bestest squeezy hugs, don't ever stop.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Keeping up with the activities

I read this on a blog last week and felt a real pang of recognition.

"I'm not sure at what point it became necessary for children to be socially, musically and gymnastically aware all before they reach the tender age of 6 but it most certainly wasn't the way in the 80's and for that I'm grateful."

I pretty much did nothing except hang out with my friends until I started high school.  And I loved filling my time with games and make believe and sleepovers and reading and making perfume out of bits of dead petals and detergent.  The one activity I did do, Brownies, I hated and promptly dropped out.

I'm really in two minds about the whole extra-curricular activities circus.  Part of me has a serious dose of "Keeping up with the Joneses", I see all the other kids around me following a tight schedule of weekly activities and I don't want my kids to - what? - not fulfill their potential, feel left out, get left behind... behind in what exactly...? And socialising our children has become yet another activity to add to the list, but surely being social is something that just happens naturally because they are in the world.  It can all feel a bit like pushy parenting.  So part of me thinks I should leave them be a few years more.

But the Joneses have it and yesterday I signed up Owen for dance classes starting in September and Matilda will continue with circus.  I can see that she enjoys it, I suspect so will he.  I keep telling myself, and them, that it is about their enjoyment.  Their little lives are hectic enough without adding activities just for the sake of it.  At their age I just want them to have fun and if they want to stop they can stop.  In all honesty, I'm sure they would have just as much fun hanging out with each other or their friends but during free time it's hard to meet up with friends/cousins because they're all off doing activities!  And so it spirals.

I'm not quite sure what I'm saying here really, and maybe in fact what I'm trying to say is something I've said before.  There is a crazy pressure to make every second count for our children (I once read an article that claimed this was because modern parents see their kids as an extension of themselves, we seek vicarious fulfillment and affirmation through our progeny) and that seems to mean our children have to be constantly involved in "Activities" that develop their artistic, physical or social abilities in a more or less structured and measurable way.  But maybe, rather than always being behind our children, urging them on, we should simply live alongside them a bit more, allowing them to count their seconds as they wish.