Archive for the 'School' Category

Concernicisms

NS February 10th, 2011

There’s this mum at NG’s school who, on more than one occasion, has commented on how pale and/or tired I look. One time she even enquired as to the state of the dark circles under my eyes! Pardon me, ma’am, but the circles under my eyes are hereditary and no matter how much sleep I’ve had or how much concealer I’ve slapped on, they will always be there. As for how pale I am, again, this will not change. I do not fake n’ bake, nor do I care.

So, from the bottom of my heart, would you kindly bugger off and keep your opinions on how terrible I look to yourself? I don’t need criticisms disguised as concern, yo.

This is why I just keep my head down and rarely stop to chat to anyone at the school gates. I’m just waiting for the day when I snap at one of these suburban ninnies and am forever branded a Mean Mummy.

If I was 16, I would sulk in the corner and grunt whenever anyone tried to converse with me. Teenagers are onto something…

A foreigner to uniforms

NS August 27th, 2010

I went to public (state) school my entire life, in the American Midwest. I never had to wear a uniform.

Wait, I take that back. I did attend a Catholic school for one year and did, indeed, wear a uniform. But it was one year and I was only 6 so I don’t remember doing any of the shopping for it.

Anyway, my point is that I’m new to all of this uniform buying business. While everyone else knows where to go and what and when to buy, I’ve been tottering around the high street squinting at people I think I recognise from the parents’ welcome picnic in July, trying to sneak a peek at their shopping bags to see what kind of uniform loot they’ve got.

I went into the place that sells all of the ‘official’ gear and got a price list. I think I cried a little when I read that it would be around £30 just for two cardigans. Two cardigans for a 4-year-old who will likely ruin them, lose them or grow out of them before the ink has even dried on the name tags.

So this is why I’ve gotten a few raised eyebrows when I’ve mentioned to other parents that I haven’t started shopping yet! And, of course, the long bank holiday weekend (when it would make most sense to finish getting everything) is just before pay day and we are brokety broke broke.

Thankfully, my lovely new childminder, whose children attend the same school that Noble Girl begins at next month, mentioned that the large Sainsbury’s near us had some pretty good uniform deals so I drove over there and, lo and behold, managed to get about 2/3 of what I needed for less than £20. I would’ve been able to get all of it if they’d had Noble Girl’s size in a couple of other items.

I’ll be using the ever-thrifty website VoucherCodes.co.uk to get the rest when Sainsbury’s stocks are replenished. Gym shoes and polo shirts for £2?! Yes please! Marks and Sparks have also got some good deals on so have a look there too if you’re still looking for bargains for  your own child(ren).

VoucherCodes.co.uk did a recent survey and found out that the average spend per child on the entire school uniform kit is a whopping £131.41, even though their research shows that you can get everything for as little as £39.68. I’m definitely aiming to be in the latter camp!

I have no qualms whatsoever about sending my child to primary school in supermarket-branded clothes. She’s 4, ferchrissakes! I know it’s only a matter of a few years before she will want more name-brand and ‘cool’ things to help her fit in and/or stand out amongst her peers. But for now? I’m all about doing this as painlessly and inexpensively as possible.

And I will not get all misty-eyed when she puts it all on for the first time and I drop her off at the school gates. I will not, I will not, I will….oh, who am I kidding?

*This is a sponsored post

Absorbing

NS August 26th, 2010

Summer draws to a close

Perhaps my introspective period too?

Words don’t flow from me but to me

Books upon books upon books

Words of others, my need

Words of mine, few

Too busy absorbing

like a sponge

The knowledge and the beauty

The wisdom and the love

The skill and the art

of living in the moment

Absorbing words

Absorbing life

Absorbing her before she goes

off to school

No longer my baby

But a girl in uniform

Headed into the brightness

of her future

Destined to absorb

like a sponge

All of the words

that made her mama who she is

Absorbing her smell, her cuddles, her touch

Like a sponge, I soak her up

take her into my pores

The line between mother and child

blurred once more

Summer helladays, err, holidays

NS July 19th, 2010

It is upon us. That time of year when parents across the land look at the calendar and see nothing but late July and all of August yawning across the pages like a giant abyss, the depths of which no man (nor mother) can scientifically measure, for its impact is mental and emotional.

Yes, the summer helladays, err, holidays are here. And it won’t be over until 6th September for me. I’m cream crackered just thinking about it.

In a way, it will be nice. No school run twice a day and the stress that creates. We can do whatever we want in the morning. We can sit in our pyjamas all day. We can eat cereal for dinner and no one will be the wiser (except my husband when my children inevitably tattle on me for not giving them a proper meal). But what else can I do to keep them entertained, and cheaply? I’m not really one for Chessington World of Disappointments Adventures, or Lego Land or any place, really, where I have to be dragged round endless, stinking animal pens and through vast arrays of plastic tat.

So behold: Noble Savage’s ten ideas for keeping your sproglets happy on the cheap.

  • Take them to a garden centre. Wide aisles, air-conditioning, outdoor furniture to break test out and lovely plants and flowers to destroy look at. Stay for an hour and a half and leave having spent a couple quid on a packet of seeds and a drink from the vending machine. Then when you get home, give the children  a spade and a gardening fork and command them to dig up the weeds in the flower bed to ‘prepare the soil’ for the seeds they’re flinging around in the grass and each other’s hair. Open a beer and stare into space while they get covered in muck. This leads me to cheap activity number two…
  • Baths. Lots and lots of baths. Kids get dirty in the summer. The sand, the dirt, the Cornish ice cream dripping down their grimy faces and onto their hands…baths are the easy fix-all for the mess. Chuck ‘em in the bath once, twice, even three times a day. Not only does it waste 45 minutes each time but your acquaintances and friends will think your children are exceptionally clean, if not well-mannered.
  • Set up an obstacle course in your garden or living room and change it around every few goes so they don’t get bored. Flip through a magazine or Twitter away while they run themselves ragged crawling through tunnels, running around a designated object several times and jumping as far as they can, as many times as they can.
  • Go to the library. It’s free, it’s educational and if you walk there, it’s environmentally friendly. If that’s not reason enough to feel smug and self-satisfied, I don’t know what is. Though the smug feeling usually wears off at around the 5 minute mark, when the kids begin tearing around, screeching and throwing books aside, while you run behind them growling through clenched teeth about being quiet and sitting still and ends with you screaming at the errant child who keeps running for the automatic doors that lead directly into the car park. Just keep the ‘free’ bit in mind and it will all be worth it. Sort of
  • Buy a pack of dried spaghetti for 49 pence. Divide pack evenly amongst your rug rats and show them how to snap them so the pieces go flying. When they get bored of that, sweep the bits up, chuck them in a pan and cook them. Put them outside or in the bathtub and let them ‘swim’ in the pasta or make funny hairdos. When they are bored of that, tell them the spaghetti are sad little worms that miss their mummy and daddy and ask them to help collect the ‘worms’ into a bucket for transport back to their familial home. When they leave the room, dump the contents into the bin. Rinse bucket and pour a glass of wine. Speaking of wine…
  • If all else fails and it’s a choice between screaming obscenities at the children or having a cocktail or two, always choose the latter wherever and whenever possible. The trauma of watching you dance to ABBA at 4 o’clock in the afternoon will not compare to the trauma that would befall them if you told them to get stuffed in a variety of four letter words and gestures
  • Stockpile playdate favours. Grit your teeth and have some other people’s little wildebeests over for a few hours at a time. Then, when you are breaking point, text and enquire as to when they “want to get the kids together again” which is code for “Ahem! It is your bloody turn to have my devil spawn cherub over to your place so suck it up and invite her round.” We don’t actually say that though because this is Britain. You must be all subtle and passive-aggressive about it. Naturally
  • Dump all your clothes (including high heels, hats, hand bags and costume jewellery) onto the bed and let the children dress you. Then let them dress themselves up. Turn a blind eye when they put the cat in a choke hold and force a doll’s hat onto her head. Then, when your partner gets home, let them dress him up, too. Encourage liberal use of the sparkly hand bags and hair clips for him. Smirk while he gets his toe nails painted with a fake good-natured smile plastered on his face. Go downstairs and pour yourself a drink to congratulate yourself on your ingenuity
  • Go to the best, busiest and most exasperating playground or park you know, the one that makes you tired just speaking its name. Just before you get out of the car or turn the corner, put a fake brace on your foot or sling over your arm. Hobble in with one hand feebly pushing the pram. Struggle with everything. Bring tears to your eyes but do not let them spill just yet. Let your lower lip tremble momentarily but then stand up straighter and throw your shoulders back before crumpling forward again. When someone asks if you need help or if you’re okay, tell them you’re fine. Ten seconds later let one single tear slide down your cheek and choke back a sob as you hobble on your ‘bad’ leg or clutch your ‘sore’ arm to help Susie on the swings or get Johnny down off the fence. When the offers of help come pouring in, whisper “You’d do that for ME?” and look at them as if they are Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Mary Poppins rolled into one. Sit down and have a rest while your new helpers run after your children for you
  • Bribe them into good behaviour with the promise of an outing to their favourite restaurant. Look for sweet discounts and two-for-one deals on VoucherCodes.co.uk* (Pizza Express perhaps?), a service I have used many times before. Buy some cheap ice cream or biscuits to have for pudding when you get back so you don’t have to splash out on that, too. If your partner is working late and unable to assist you with bedtime, bribe them further by insisting they can have an extra helping of pudding after they’ve gone to sleep. If they are under the age of 5, they may be stupid innocent enough to believe this

*VoucherCodes.co.uk sponsored this post. Though I don’t usually accept these, I did this time because I had used the site before and think it’s a good resource for people looking for a bargain. Saving money for parents is always a bonus!

Photo credit

Why the sexualisation of girls hurts boys, too

NS November 10th, 2009

school boys

My interest was piqued by this post I read today, by Sandy at Baby Baby, about ‘shag bands’ and the sexualisation of young girls. As reported by the Times, apparently ‘shag bands’ are these plastic, colour-coded bracelets being worn by children as young as 8 (but mainly by teens), with each colour representing something sexual they’ve done or are expected to do if a member of the opposite sex (usually a boy, since mainly girls wear them) manages to ‘snap’ or break it.

Sandy expressed her dismay at the existence of these bands and used it as an opportunity to discuss the sexualisation of young girls. Though I wasn’t thrilled to hear of these bands and always welcome discourse on how our society sexualises girls and women, I was a bit doubtful that these ‘shag bands’ were the insidious items that they were made out to be in the media so I did a little digging.  A quick Internet search and I found this excellent article on Snopes about the ‘sex bracelets’ and rumours of other playground ‘sex coupons’ that have been around for decades, including the soda or beer can tab and the beer bottle label as items to be traded for carnal knowledge. You can read more about the legends here but the summary of the article is that we’re likely assigning too much significance to playground devices such as these, which are mostly rumour. Even where there is some truth in the meanings attached to the items, it’s more indicative of teenage explorations of desire and the appeal of abdicating responsibility for the sexual decisions they face, not of a sinister plot to actually trade or force sexual favours for trinkets.

So even though I don’t think the bracelets are actually being used in the way they’ve been portrayed,  I agree with Sandy when she says:

Advertising, magazines and television (particularly MTV) are taking away our children’s innocence. Girls are bombarded by airbrushed size zero models with fake breasts. This is not how most women look. This is not healthy.
The cult of celebrity is also damaging how youngsters view the world. There seem to be many children that believe just being on television is a worthy ambition. They want to be famous – no talent required. Even worse, they want to be married to someone famous. Being a footballer’s wife should not be an acceptable career choice.

I too look at how women are portrayed in the media and in advertising and find myself filled with despair. I too worry for the kids aspiring to be famous  for nothing in particular and without any kind of plan for an education or career. But then, at the very end, she says: “On days like this I’m glad I have sons and not daughters.”

Even though I know that Sandy meant no harm when she said it and was  just trying to express her frustration at the situation, I disagree strongly with the sentiment behind this statement. I hear a lot of parents of boys use this line whenever we talk about serious, scary issues that young girls are facing, be it negative body image, sexual objectification and exploitation, the pay gap, gender stereotyping,  rape, domestic violence or discrimination in the workplace. They feel, perhaps understandably, relieved that they won’t have to tackle these issues in the same way that they would as parents of  boys. The thing is, they should be every bit as worried about how to deal with all of the aforementioned problems as the parents of girls. Though framed in a different way perhaps, all of these issues need to be discussed with boys. In fact, I’d say it’s just as important for parents of boys to help them understand and combat these messages as it is for girls.

You see, the bombardment of “airbrushed, size-zero models with fake breasts” in the pages of magazines, on billboards and on tv isn’t aimed solely at girls, nor are they the only ones to see these things and internalise the messages within. Boys see those MTV videos, those beer ads, the covers of all those magazines with the celebrities and the models and their “perfect” proportions and they are getting a message too. It might not be screaming out to them “Lose weight! You’re not pretty enough! You need to be sexy to attract a man!” but something is being projected to them just the same, believe me. They are hearing things like “This is what the ideal woman looks like! Women are nice to look at but they’re a pain in the arse! You’re not a Real Man (TM) unless you notch up as many sexual conquests as possible!  No doesn’t always mean No, especially if she’s dressed sexy! You’re pathetic if you care too much about her feelings or express your own! You must assert your masculinity at all times or risk being labeled a ‘loser’ or a ‘queer’!” amongst many, many others. This is harmful. It’s harmful to young boys’ emotional and mental development and affects the way they view not only their own place in the world and their own sexuality, but that of the girls and women they know (or will know), too.

So not only should parents of boys (myself included in this group) be worried about these issues just as much as parents of girls, we should be talking about how to tackle these problems with the same urgency and seriousness that it holds for our daughters. The sexualisation of girls hurts boys, too, and it will never end until boys (who will eventually become men) become involved in the discussion. Only then can they become part of the solution. In fact, that may be the solution.

Photo credit: exlow’s Flickr photostream, via a Creative Commons license

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