Why are we hothousing our children?

I’ve noticed that every time I meet up with other mom’s, the conversation inevitably strays towards schools and getting into schools. S is at the age now where I have started considering schools for him and so I’m very open to discussing the different schools in our area and what might be the best fit for him.

However, what I do take issue with is the hothousing that appears to be part and parcel of getting your child into a “good” school. I say “good” because really everyone’s definition of the word is different. But to generalise, parents usually refer to good schools as those that prep your child for the top prep schools, followed by London’s top secondary schools and then on to the best universities this country offers.

Children as young as 3+ are being “assessed” before they are accepted into said good schools. At that age I don’t even think the children care so much where they go but I’ve seen it come as more of a blow to the parent’s whose little cherub didn’t get into their choice of school. In case you haven’t gathered, I’m anti-assessment at such a young age. Although it’s not lost on me the fact that I’m partly anti-assessment, not just because I don’t want my child to be put through that, but I also don’t want to be made to feel like my child is not good enough.

S can sit down and do a 35 piece puzzle on his own but put him in a room full of strangers at this age and I doubt he’ll want to show off his skills. My child shouldn’t be judged for essentially just being a toddler.

I recently went on a school tour and at the end the headmaster pointed out that this school (which takes children at 5+) don’t assess the children anymore but rather they have a “get to know you” session. As my friend B pointed out…”So when your child doesn’t get in, it won’t be because they weren’t up to assessment level, it’ll be because the headmaster didn’t like them in the ‘get to know you’ session?!” I’d like to see how they answer to that one.

The fact is, although many schools have come under scrutiny for assessing such young children and have now changed their terminology, parents are still having their little toddlers prepped for these meetings with the schools. School assessment tutors are very common and growing.

Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my child to do well and will put him in the best school I can in order for him achieve that. However, I believe there needs to be more of an emphasis on the child and not just their ability to read, count or write their name by the time they are 4.

In today’s day and age, what is more important than that grade A is a child’s good social skills, self-esteem and emotional intelligence. Hothousing is a new term which refers to the undue pressure that parents put on their children. Although many schools claim that children should learn through play, their curriculum shows otherwise.

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I want S to thrive academically as well as in a sport he chooses but it’s about finding the line between him wanting to do it and me wanting him to do it. As parents we should always be encouraging our children to be the best that they can but knowing when not to overstep the mark. When parents all around me are enrolling their children in football, rugby, piano and drama, it’s difficult not to question whether I am doing right by S by not putting him in a different class every afternoon but I constantly remind myself that all children are different, as are all parents, and as long as he’s thriving doing what he enjoys, then I’m happy (and more importantly, so is he).

I read a really interesting article about how Finland is changing their teaching methods. You can read it here.

I was really impressed and I think we’d do well in the UK to start adopting this method of learning. Because I can tell you I learnt trigonometry but I don’t remember the last time I ever had to use it. I wish I knew more about the E.U. though!

What’s your views on schooling?

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I’m going to Brit Mums Live 2015!!

A little over a month away is the very exciting Brit Mums Live! Having been shortlisted for a BiB (Brilliance in Blogging) in the Fresh Voice category last year, I was very excited to go but realised it clashed with my cousin’s wedding and I wasn’t even going to be in the country. However, time has flown and here we are again and this time I’m here!! Woo hoo!!

As a blogger, I read a lot of other blogs and some times I feel like a right stalker because I know so much about these people’s lives and yet have never met any of them. I went to Blogfest last November and ended up recognising Kate from Wit Wit Woo as well as making new friends. One of which is Amie who blogs over at Bump, Baby, Me and we also chat about all things parenting over at The Parent Cast.

I’m pretty shy when it comes to these things and so if you see me standing over in the corner staring into my coffee hoping it will talk back to me or pretending to browse the books (I bought loads at Blogfest!!) then please come on over and say hi!

Without further ado, this is the “I’m Going to BritMums Live 2015 Meme”:

  • Name – Natasha M
  • Blog – http://www.mamaduckquacks.com
  • Twitter ID – @mamaduckquacks
  • Height – I’ll say average because I’m pretty sure no one will have a tape measure!
  • Hair – I’ve recently gone quite blonde (picture below)
  • Eyes – brown
  • Is this your first blogging conference? – my second but I’m still very nervous!
  • Are you attending both days? – YES!
  • What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015? – Seeing and hopefully getting to meet so many fellow mummy bloggers I follow.
  • What are you wearing? – I’m not THAT organised?!
  • What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015? – Hoping to connect with other mummy bloggers, meet some brands and learn more about the wonderful world of blogging.
  • Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? – Don’t be afraid to just walk up to another blogger and say “I know you…”! I think they’d be pretty chuffed ;-)

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See you there :)

Cesarean Awareness Month, April 2015

I remember when I first got pregnant and was looking for a doctor in Hong Kong, one of the things people always talked about were C sections. Apparently private doctor’s there are known to push for a C section. Perhaps they make more money out of it or maybe they think it’s the easy way out. Either way, there seemed to be a lot of stigma attached to it and I didn’t quite understand why. But of course, what people said did influence me and by the time I was 9 months pregnant, I was adamant I was going to have my baby naturally (i.e. vaginally)

After about 20 hours of labour, my doctor came in and told me she was pretty certain I was going to have to have a C section and all I remember thinking was no, I can’t have a C section, I just can’t and I didn’t really know why. So I tried the whole “natural” thing. I pushed for about an hour. My dear doctor tried everything she could to give me what I wanted. Forceps and Ventouse! But S was spine to spine and he had a big head…there was no way he was coming out that way. Eventually the epidural wore out, I went into distress and was rushed in for an emergency C section. When they placed my baby boy in my arms, all I felt was relief. That he was safe and I finally got to meet him. In that moment, it didn’t matter how he got there.

A day later I sent out my birth announcement and it took me about 3 days to respond to all the messages of congratulations. As I read through them, I noticed that some people congratulated me and when I hadn’t responded after a day or two, they went on to say “Did you have a natural birth or a C section?” And I just didn’t get it. Why does that matter?

A few weeks post partum, I was on Babycentre when I read about women who had delivered naturally who had 3rd degree tears, women who had prolapse and other’s whose pelvic floors pretty much didn’t exist anymore and in that moment I thought “I’m actually so glad I had a C section.” I had an amazing doctor who did a great job with my stitches and although I needed some help getting out of bed for the first week, it healed well and 6 weeks after S arrived, it’s like nothing ever happened.

So why the guilt mama’s? Let me tell you…it takes great courage to have a C section. Lying on a table and being prepped for what is essentially major surgery is terrifying.  I remember as they tested how numb I was using cold water, I could still feel pressure around my abdomen and I only remember constantly saying “I can’t feel the cold water, but I can feel what they’re doing.” Having to give up on wanting a natural birth and being rushed into surgery was scary but knowing I was that much closer to seeing my little boy made it worthwhile.

But given all of that, if I had to do it all again, I think I may just choose to have an elective cesarean the next time! Want to judge me? Go ahead..

For all those of you feeling twinges of guilt or fear at the idea of giving birth via C section, for those of you who feel that way already having done so and for those of you who chose to have an elective cesarean, I say screw the idea of natural child birth and be happy. It doesn’t matter how you deliver your baby, what matters is that they entered this world safely. Children who are born vaginally aren’t any happier or any more loved than those born via C section..and surely that’s all that matters?!

Your children become you…

Let that sink in for a minute. Your children become you…

Is that a scary thought or a pleasant one?

Late last year I went to a parenting talk by Swaminiji Supriyananda who heads the Chinmaya Mission in Hong Kong. And the first thing she said was “Your children become you…” It’s quite an easy statement to make until you start to consider the implications of it.

Our children basically repeat what they hear and copy what they see. Yesterday S was riding his bike around outside before we set off to nursery when we saw our neighbour leave home with her two sons. She was trying to get her bike out the door and lock up when her son shouted “Come on mum, chop chop.” I wander where he got that from? If S is doing something he’s not supposed to he he almost hurts himself or falls, he’ll say “See?” I def. know where he got that from! *guilty*

Our children pick up what we give value to very easily. Do you sometimes find your children know which buttons to push and you find yourself getting frustrated because they do the exact thing they know bugs you? I hate to be the bearer of bad news mama’s but they pick up on what bugs us because they know that is what we give energy to or place value on. While our children imbibe what they love and respect about us, they will do the same with what frustrates us as well.

So with that in mind, the question is, would you be happy if your child became you? And if not, then what are you going to do about it?

Parenting is a journey – it’s hard and treacherous at times but also filled with so much wonder and joy. It’s a constant work in progress! There are no perfect parents but everyone just doing the best they can given their version of the world. I’m certainly not the parent I set out to be but one of the things I try my best to practice (and sometimes fail miserably!) is to be the type of parent I’d want my son to grow up to be.

While parenting is no easy task, I think it’s a privilege. Our children are our masterpieces, they are the culmination of all our sweat and tears, our doubts, our fears and our mistakes. But they are also the product of our love, joy, positivity and time. I think we owe it to them to be the best version of ourselves so in turn they become the best versions of us.

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The secret to staying young

I had a delightful conversation with a 75 year old French woman when I was getting my nails done on Friday. She was chatting to her 85 year old friend and then turned to me and said: “Oh the two of us, we were beautiful around 40 years ago, parading about with our big hats and our hair.” So of course I told her she was still beautiful and from there our conversation carried on.

She was from Paris and had in fact just gotten back to London an hour before and come straight to do her nails. She told me how Stella (the 85 year old) was stunning back in the day (she still was!) and she had amazing hair.

“I love wearing wigs and I buy a lot of them” she said. “I have about 12. And why not? You youngsters, you wear hair extensions, so why shouldn’t I wear wigs? You know that girl…hmm…Rhianna and the other one…(Jennifer Lopez I offered)…Yes, her too but there’s another one..hmm…Cheryl Cole! That’s it…she wears extensions.”

We got chatting more about how she looked after herself. Having just spent a couple of weeks with one of my grandmothers (who just turned 80) and comparing her to these 75 and 85 year old women, I wanted to know what kept them so young and agile. “I go spinning once a week at the gym here” she said. “And I also try and look after myself. If you google Kim Kardashian make up, you’ll find a link that shows you how to do your make up so you look like this (she pushes her cheeks up) and I follow that sometimes and ooh I look so glamourous.”

A few more minutes of chatting and she had to leave (not before telling me I should go with a bright pink nail colour for Spring). It got me thinking about how important it is to look after ourselves. Not just getting our nails done but working out, staying active and making an effort to look good so in turn we feel good. I know when I have my nails and hair done, even if I’m in yoga pants, I feel better about myself. Making an effort gives us a sense of confidence, a little spring in our step. We don’t need to have the perfect body or slap on tonnes of make up to be beautiful. When we’re happy with ourselves, the beauty shines through :)

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk

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“A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, in 2015.”

Fresh coconut water,  straight from the source. Nothing added :)

Incredible India

I’ve spent the last 3 1/2 weeks visiting India and although I spent 3 school years here and have visited almost every year since I was 14, India still leaves me with culture shock.

If you’ve visited India you’ll see what a magnificent country it is with so much potential but it’s completely mismanaged and there is a desperate need for a change in the mind set of the people. Within one day of arriving in Pune, I was almost spat on, I saw a man’s penis as he urinated in a pile of rubbish on the side of the street and I watched as people wound down their windows and threw garbage out of their cars. And this is all perfectly “normal” by the way. The citizens seem to have no sense of pride in their country.

When I arrived in Mumbai, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister was visiting Colaba where I was headed for some work. The streets had been cleaned, there were extra police on the roads and things felt more orderly. When I got to Pune I noticed certain streets had better road signs and road markings. I was told the Prime Minister visited Pune a few months previously, hence the clean up. Last night my cousin was telling me how 2,000 CCTV camera’s were installed when Barrack Obama was visiting and then taken down as soon as he left. I just don’t understand it. If the resources are available, why aren’t these changes slowly being made permanent?

Earlier today I started reading a book I picked up last week by Adbul Kalam called Ignited Minds. He too writes about the potential he sees in India and suggests ways to change the mind set of the people and motivate them to want a better India. He believes the people of India have an inferiority complex. They don’t believe they can be better or deserve to have more and so the opportunities don’t present themselves.

It was the Indians who invented the number system (in fact they had the world’s best mathematicians), most call centres are based in India these days, they are tech savvy, fashionable, great cricketers and their women are beautiful and yet the vast majority of people live in abject poverty, using the roads as their personal toilets and spitting like there are drains built into the ground.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to these issues but from what I’ve read of Abdul Kalam’s book so far, I think he’s on to a winner when he says the youth need to make the change. I also think his book should be a mandatory read at schools and the government should invest in teachers who are going to inspire the youth to think differently.

India is home to some of the most beautiful temples, the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple and even Victoria Terminus (VT) Station which was built by the British in Mumbai. A few days ago a fellow mummy blogger posted a picture to her Instagram showing the Colosseum in Rome surrounded by scaffolding as it was being worked on. VT station, a beautiful Victorian piece of architecture is surrounded by faeces, urine and garbage.

It’s sad to see a country with so much potential not realising it. There needs to be a change in the mind set of the people…an uplifting of the people to take pride in their country (not just in their words but in their actions as well), to dream and to believe that India deserves better!

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Threenager

I’ve heard the term “threenager” before but never fully got it until S turned 3. He’s always been a clockwork baby/toddler and this change was no different. When he turned 3 it’s like someone whispered “game over mama”!! To say it’s a difficult phase is an understatement. Not so much because his behaviour can be challenging (it really can!) but because it’s like dealing with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Just before lunch we were lying down and I was doing silly dance moves which had him laughing hysterically (my favourite sound in the world) and this evening I had him screaming, hitting and being downright strong-willed. Even when on holiday I try to keep him routine because a tired child is a cranky child and often I can put his behaviour down to him being tired but at other times it comes out of no where.

The other thing I’ve noticed is it’s only really with me *should I be offended?* If I leave S with my mom for the afternoon, he’s an angel but he feels the need to test his boundaries with me. I suppose as his mama I am his main care taker and he looks to me for guidance/limits.

We’re in India at the moment and I can tell you that the heat makes me a lot less patient (I think it’s time to go home now!!) and I was questioning how to handle my strong willed boy when my cousin put this link up on Facebook:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/Parenting-Strong-Willed-Child

One of the things I’ve always tried to bare in mind with S is that it’s a good thing he knows what he wants. I truly believe those that know what they want, get what they want and so I don’t tend to push him if he says he doesn’t want something.

I also try to judge if he’s tried and put him down for a nap before he gets over-tired. Although he cut his naps out completely back in November, I guess the heats been getting to him too because we’ve been in India and Sri Lanka for the last couple of weeks and he’s napped almost everyday.

As I was saying to a friend just the other day, parenting is a work in progress. Just when we think we’ve found our parenting groove, our protégé’s grow, develop and change, forcing us to do the same.

Have you gone through the “threenager” phase yet?? Any pearls of wisdom?