A budding career in puberty

spring-budsMy daughter has buds…not the obvious, ‘buds’, mates at school type buds, though, thankfully, she does have those. But more, spring like ‘bud’s, the type that are just about to blossom and bloom, into, well, yes: breasts.

I have to admit – I am not ready for buds, nor bras or B.O. and don’t even mention boys. But despite my desire to file her in the freezer immediately and keep this ‘on-hold’ for a few years whilst I get my bonce round it… puberty appears to be one road we are racing headlong towards without my authority or consent.

BUT, it appears I must wholeheartedly embrace this new found chapter of motherhood, not deny the existence of boobs and periods like some of our fore-mothers of the 1970’s.  Many of whom were happily indifferent to those one or two poor big-breasted girls who were left to swing and hopefully, presumably, work it out for themselves?

Into, obviously, the lingerie department at M&S we go. I mean, where else? BHS has long gone, Woolies a distant memory – and H&M or Primarni’s is surely not the place to take your beloved baby to begin her lingerie buying and puberty embarking career?

I try and appear, outwardly, nonchalant, while inwardly I am nervous and my heart is slowing shattering into a myriad of failed mother fragments. As we stroll around the bra section in M&S, it dawns on me that this is, without doubt, a milestone and I think that perhaps I am also a little bit excited about embarking on this together.

A large, soviet looking matron bustles up and ushers us into the official M&S: ‘bra fitting cubicle’. “I am professional bra measurer, Sveetie” she barks at us in a 1950’s Hungarian accent. “Remove your top sveetie”. My daughter looks to me for reassurance and I nod nervously.

32 Double A – the classic beginners statistic – Grade One, if you will. I am relieved – Miss Hungary circa 1956 brings us in a number of overly pinked and princessed starter bras from their ‘Angel’ range…my heart sinks. Simplicity, classical innocence, why the need to trash, brash and over-design everybloodything?

“You look beautivul Sveeetieee”, Olga drawls, did I mention she was Olga?

All, the bras in the Angel Range are made from a thick padded material that Olga had reassured us: “protects the growing nippvles”. However, the 32AA still seems vast on the buds and a great cavernous valley opens up between my daughter’s actual chest and the bra cup. I am secretly relieved, maybe we still have, what – another year at best – to enjoy the last sighs of childish innocence.

We thank Olga profusely, because despite her overtly Bolshevik manner and mighty, square, breast shelf – she was incredibly kind and gentle. As we leave, we hear her booming in the next cubicle: “I am Olga. I am professional bra measurer, Sveetie.”

Giggling we dash past the cubicles, ditch the unicorn covered pink starter bra and find a simple white one, which my daughter clutches over-enthusiastically. Her unimpeached joy at growing up and becoming: a Woman, as overtly abundant as my unfathomable fear of losing my innocent daughter to the devil clutches of puberty, pimples and parties.

But, I muse, I think I handled it well – puberty is safely stowed in the back drawer until the next unleashing of her wild humanity. I was calm, practical: a hands-on mother who smoothly ushered in and managed: The. Next. Stage.

This is what motherhood is about surely – utter panic, sleepless worry-filled nights, followed by facing: THE TRUTH and then, naturally, dealing with it in a modern, finger-on-the-pulse woman, kinda way…bring on the pimples and periods – but not the boys, not yet.

Why Should We Play?

Research in the UK has shown that rates of depression and anxiety in teenagers has increased by 70% in the past 25 years, not only that but, one in ten children aged 5-16 years have a diagnosable mental health disorder, one in twelve children and one in fifteen young people deliberately self-harm and about 35,000 children in England are prescribed anti-depressants.

Over the last ten to twenty years childhood has changed significantly with various factors leading to a reduction in a child’s access and ability to play.

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These factors include children living in a world which has a much faster-paced, life-style, society is far more risk-averse, there is an increased focus on academic success and play has been undervalued rather than seen as an essential tool to help a child develop social skills, creativity and on-going learning.

National Children’s Day UK (NCDUK) was created to establish how important play is for learning, creativity and a host of other skills needed to survive in this 21st century world we inhabit. NCDUK wants to raise awareness about young peoples rights and wellbeing.

We should be allowed to play, whether young or old, because creativity, freedom and access to your inner imagination – are integral factors to maintaining mental health and wellbeing.

Have you noticed how alive and good you fill – simply by walking down a county road, or touching the bark of a tree’s trunk – nature is bountiful and quite simply it makes you feel good. Being playful, breathing outside, being creative, immersing yourself in an imaginative, playful and natural environment is a simple and perfect tonic and one we must allow children and adults alike to access and enjoy so they understand how to find that inner peace and goodness as children, and adults, grow.

NCDUK, which is now in its second year, was started by the Save Childhood Movement – a collaborative network of people who are committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of childhood and who support, inform and, where necessary, challenge leaders and policymakers in order to build more caring and value-led societies.

Wendy Ellyatt, CEO of Save Childhood Movement, said: “Childhood is changing fast. From the impact of screen technology to the restrictions of an increasingly risk-averse culture and the downward pressures of the schooling system, children’s rights and freedoms are being eroded and their opportunities for free play have been drastically reduced. In the lead-up to National Children’s Day UK 2015 we want to remind everyone just how essential play and playfulness is to human creativity and wellbeing.”

In 2010 IBM carried out a study of 5,000 chief executives across 60 countries and 33 industries and found that creativity was selected as: ‘the most crucial factor for future success’.

Creativity, imagination and playfulness are fundamental to every aspect of us as human beings, in our social skills, in our health and well-being and even in our business success – playful and innovative thinking is essential for a 21st century.

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There are so many ways to be creative, painting a plant pot, planting and nurturing a seed, baking a cake, writing a letter, lying in the grass and watching feeling the wind on your cheeks – nurture yourself and those around you in the simplicities of freedom, nature and play and grow inside.

NCDUK – was held around the UK yesterday 17th May 2015.

Why should we save Childhood?

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Boo inside an ENORMOUS Oak Tree Trunk #FreeNature

Childhood – an enormous word encompassing so much. There is such emphasis put on ‘childhood’ today and as parents it can feel very confusing knowing what you should give your child in order that they: ‘get the best’ childhood.

Of course, for every parent that means something different, perhaps a safe home, a garden, violin classes after school, private school, Steiner school, home-school, playdates, being vegetarian and on and on. There is a myriad of things we worry we should do more of, or cannot compete with, or simply cannot afford to give.

Yet research has found, over and over again, just giving a child the chance to connect and be free with nature, dirt and the earth around them is, quite simply, one of the most vital and important experiences they can have.

Encouraging children to play by themselves is essential. Get them outside and away from screens. Let them roll in the grass, chase butterflies, make ‘perfume’, plant seeds, blow a fluffy seed clock, run barefoot in the grass, listen to the birds, poke holes with sticks, taste fresh berries off a tree, build a fairy house with leaves, moss, stones, talk to animals, trees, flowers, clouds, the moon. Just let them really feel. 

This natural play is the building blocks of intelligence. To discover how to feel connected with the earth and yourself, to know you can return, any time you need, and re-tune throughout your life. It is so simple and all we need to provide is a green space.

One uncluttered with screens, tests, exams, the pressures of what to look like, be like, speak like, act like – leave it all behind – un-necessary weight.

The value of creative and experimental play in childhood, and adulthood, is often undermined and we need to ensure that we, as guardians of the next generation, are strong enough to stand true to the simple values of letting the children of our future be free.

Be truly free to experiment, get dirty, to imagine, to really feel and to play with their beautiful and wild imagination.

Britain has plenty of parks and open spaces and it is up to us to try and get everyone out for a walk and to deeply breathe in fresh air.

This year the Save Childhood Movement is partnering with National Children’s Day UK (NCDUK) on 17th May to celebrate: The Science and Magic of Play. Here in Bath that celebration will be in partnership with The Forest of Imagination ( a four-day contemporary arts event in Queen Square). This will include of a number of free talks given by the likes of, Wendy Ellyatt, Chief Executive, Save Childhood Movement, Steve Chown, Director, Play England and James Findlay of The Play Foundation. To hear these inspiring speakers and to find out more go here.

Never Stop Reading Aloud

The last two weeks in Bath have been so exciting and inspiring with the Bath Kid’s Literature Festival in full swing, we have enjoyed Andy Stanton, Lauren Child, Michael Rosen, Jon Scieszka, Emer Stamp to name just a few…

We have been reading like crazy ever since, pouring over our new, signed editions, and sharing the jokes and stories. I have been reading aloud to all three of my children, nine-year old twins and their six year old sister Boo, it has been beautiful, you are never to old to be read to, or for that matter, to read aloud.

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We just finished The Oddfellows Orphanage by Emily Winfield Martin and it is simply perfect, a curious and gentle read, I cannot recommend it enough, for boys, girls and adults alike.

Underpants

Can men actually stack dishwashers?

I’m possibly biased as I write this knowing that many folks might not have a) men or b) dishwashers – or perhaps neither things in their kitchens – this is, probably, a good thing.

Men are, generally, useful in the car and in bed (not always) but near a dishwasher: I don’t think so.

How is it that man can pack the boot of a car with painstaking precision, shifting the entire contents of your household neatly into a space the size and depth of a child’s paddling pool in less time than it takes you to have a wee – yet cannot physically put a dirty coffee cup into a dishwasher, or, even better: a sink; don’t even think about it. 106

Have you noticed on your journey through life that small men, i.e: boys, have barely any capacity to hear what you are asking them – you have to state the same question myriad times, then triple-check they have computed the information.

What they do with it thus is anyone’s guess.

Ask a boy to get their shoes on at 8.25am on a school day and find them ten minutes later embroiled in logging football cards, shoes: nowhere in the vicinity.

Is this training for their future of non-filling dishwashers and sinks?

In his brilliant book, Raising Boys, Australian child psychologist, Steve Biddulph, notes that girls have better hearing than boys, and ,moreover, boys’ retinas are more sensitive to movement, but less sensitive to colour than girls.

I feel this explains a lot and is a point I try my darndest to remember every single time I tell my son to brush his teeth, pick up his underpants, turn off the tv, put his cereal bowl in…

And the Reason Is?

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“I’m fat mummy”.

Does that sound familiar? An eight year old recently said this to her mum – she thinks she is fat because her older brothers tease her. This little girl is a normal, healthy child but is worried about her young, innocent and perfectly beautiful pre-pubescent body.

We learn so much from elder siblings, and if we don’t have them, invariably someone else will. Influences both negative and positive spill out into the classroom, the playground and beyond and there is nothing we can do about it.

So how should we support a child and ensure they have a healthy, well adjusted body image?

At what point, if ever, do we decide that there is more beauty and aesthetic pleasure to be gained from our imperfections? To be perfect is impossible. Yet for many the acquisition of perfect is the quintessential conclusion we must all, surely, wish to achieve. Through our jobs, our homes, our bodies and our clothes.

How then can we teach children, and ourselves, that beauty comes from within and shines out from inside like a beckoning beacon.

For younger girls (say from 3-11yrs) this book; Beautiful Girl is simply perfect, written by Dr.Christiane Northrup, the essential element of the story is to introduce girls to their bodies, for them to understand they are beautiful just the way they are and for them to begin to discover the incredible gifts and magic that their bodies contain.

It might seem stupid and ridiculous to you but positive visualisation, a kind of easy meditation, is something you can do with children – it is so gorgeously simple and it is also a really wonderful thing to do together. Your are literally just telling them a story. Practice it in the classroom, at bedtime, sitting quietly under a tree or snuggled up on the sofa. It is a moment when a child or children can close their eyes and indulge in a short story told by you.

These visualisation techniques right here will give you the tools to begin to help your child regulate difficult emotions, fears or worries. These brilliant ideas from the Kids Relaxation team can help teachers and those working with large or small groups of children – especially using this: the Mind Pirates visualisation and game.

Give a child the tools to believe in themselves and give them a way to help them believe in themselves and help yourself and learn along the way.

Do you have a reason to believe in yourself?

Twin Perks

Getting a ride on the back of my new loves bike was a profoundly altruistic experience, more so because I was five months up the duff, and we were wheedling through heavy Barcelona traffic.

Cycling our way to hospital, “Caballero”, the van drivers yell to my boy: a gentleman they considered him. As he humbly struggled to peddle me around, while I sat fat, blooming, getting a backie.

The twins

At that five month scan, our first – (eventually we had managed to decipher the bureaucratic Spanish health system) – the obstetrician asked whether we had planned our pregnancy.

“Errrr, no Señor”, we sheepishly admitted. He then proceed to interpret the scan image.

“…Your first child is here…” I looked across at my new love – he paled and fell back against the wall, desperatly looking for somewhere to sit down.

“There, there is the spine, the head and the vagina…”

“The second baby. Here, see the head, the spine, here, and the penis…Did you know you had twins?”

Shock, fear, joy and sheer disbelief flooded through me, fortunately I was lying down. Unlike Toots, who was clinging onto the cardboard walls.

“You are very lucky”, the obstetrician proclaimed as he left us in our newfound chaos.

We stumbled out of the hospital and gazed across at the steadfast, azure whims of the  Mediterranean sea.

We clung to each other in wondrous amazement. We were indeed blessed – we were magical. We could not believe this thing we suddenly held between us. Just an hour ago we had one baby and now, incredibly, we had two – we were: a family of four.

It was mind-blowing. More so, as we had met only eight months previously and had nothing between us except for a couple of rucksacks, a laptop, some books, our passports and a great and beautiful love for each other.

Nothing so far in our relationship had been conventional and now fate had dealt us another unexpected card. We truly believed our love was so magical that we had created boy/girl twins from it.

Little did we know at that time how common multiples are becoming as our generation parent much older and as IVF becomes more prevalent.

Eight years from that precious eureka moment Fealte & Rosebud have played a starring role in our lives.

And from those humble bycling beginnings we have continued on our quest for simplicity, knowing that the single most important thing we can ever give to our children is our love.

No need is there of great mounds of ugly plastic destroying our peaceful home.

No need is there of television or high-tech pushchairs, great monstrous high-chairs, massage classes or adidas trainers.

Pencils, paper, lego, books and latterly bikes are the most important tools in their lives.

Barefoot we plant seeds, water vegetables and make-up songs.

Research from TAMBA (The Twin and Multiple Birth Association) suggests that parents of multiples are more likely to separate – citing financial pressure as the main culprit.

But surely twins, or singletons, or three, or four children need as little or as much as you care to give them. Granted the costs of two high-chairs, two cots and two pairs of shoes at once may be great, but that is, surely, what IKEA was invented for.

No parent needs to lavish its offspring with the amount of material junk they do these days. No child can wear more than one pair of shoes at once. No child needs a mountain of DVD’s or plastic gadgets. No child needs to be taken to hand-signing or baby-yoga classes in a huge motor.

The amount of debt and expense taken on for the sake of an innocent child is incredible and cannot fail to rock the foundations of its parents as they struggle to keep on top of this mega debt.

And all for the sake of whose happiness?