Friday, 31 August 2012

Silent Sunday - Silence is Golden (and rare).

Being a Blogger and Being Scottish. Cultural Cringe.

I've been pondering something lately but I am not firing on all cylinders so feel free to challenge me...

Why are there so few parenting blogs written by Scots and based in Scotland?

The more I thought about this, the more I recalled a book by Carol Craig called The Scots' Crisis of Confidence. While the book focuses on Scottish politics, industry and culture, its basic premise can be applied here to blogging and self expression by Scots in the media too. 

Craig says that the Scots' tradition of equality, a fine thing when it is equality of opportunity as it used to be, has become a lack of respect for individuality and a stultifying culture of conformity, which is inevitable when we redefine equality to mean "equality of outcome". We are ashamed of success or the lack of. The book is excellent and provides an in-depth analysis on how this cultural cringe affects areas of Scotland's enterprise, arts and culture, even the way we view our accents and our language as second rate. The things that we are most proud of are the things that we are also the most ashamed of. Take deep fried Mars bars, tartan hats, The Broons, Susan Boyle and Football for a small selection of examples. We produced these are so are inherently proud of these when another nation ridicules them. But we diminish our success or our opinions by drawing attention to our failings. 

Book review aside, the conclusion is this: that as a nation we have an inferiority complex. We feel the need to stifle our individual abilities. This will take time to change and me writing a blog post on it certainly isn't going to alter anything but it's glaringly obvious to me that in the face of a deluge of parent bloggers south of the border that this could possibly be something that affects Scottish bloggers. I think that a connection to this Scottish Cringe as she calls it, is why we aren't producing as many bloggers as our Southern friends. 

We have an inbuilt self deprecating switch that seems to me to be at odds with the amount of self promotion you have to do to survive as a parent blogger. We (or at least I think that we are) are a nation of sceptical thinkers. My Google Reader this week has been full of posts that say Well, I've never been a huge fan of these crisps but now that I have tasted the new flavour (read: now that I have been given ten free packets) I think they are the most wonderful crisps in the entire world. Or I always thought that [insert shoe brand here] was old fashioned but no longer as this new range is fantastically comfortable and fashionable. Written, I presume, whilst the blogger was breaking the shoes (free) inI inwardly cringe and go to my email inbox to turn down more PR requests for me to hawk their products. 

I occasionally dip my toe into networking and promoting my blog in what can only be described as a pathetically coy fashion. I hanging around staring at my shoes muttering, "psst! Here's a link to my blog, it would be lovely if you would read it." and then I run for the hills. As a nation we are ridiculously uncomfortable with self-promotion and for those of us who, albeit however temporarily, stick our heads out and shout our http address we are in fear of being regarded amongst our fellow compatriots as full of ourselves. 

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in my blogging career I have encountered is presentation and tone of my blog. I am, what would be considered in real life, one of the more experienced parents (my eldest is nearly 13, has special needs and I have a two year old toddler, and worked with children for five years). Parent bloggers usually start blogging about all the firsts we experience as parents and the tone of their blogs are inquisitive. Everything is all shiny and new and bit scary and quizzical at times. Then as the children grow and more are subsequently produced, the tone then becomes authoritative. Guides start to be produced about potty training, weaning and many other aspects of parenting. 

This is not an ego problem connected to the individual. As parents in real life, this assumed authority gets bred into us by health professionals and educationalists. Society seems to expect us to become experts after only one try. I remember two midwives being completely ignorant of my cries of "Yes, I've done all of this before but ELEVEN years ago! I've no idea what I'm doing!" Having done something once does not qualify you as an expert in anyway. That's something that I learned at a university conference in conversation with an eighty year old Classicist who still mused about all of the things about Greek history and language that he is yet to learn! Parent bloggers who dispense advice have to sound like they know what they're doing, like professional parents and that is not something that sits well with us Scots. 

This is a major hurdle when blogging in the genre of parent or even as mummy bloggers. A friend of mine asked me for advice recently and referred MY blog and I just about died of shame! Flapping my arms about in a panic, I was quick to reiterate that in no way was my own little corner of the blogosphere about how to parent! Jesus, no! I've no idea how to parent and I'm making it up as I go along with varying degrees of success. The test of time will be what they turn out like in the end. If and only when I am blessed with grandchildren, will I have then earned the right to dispense advice like a wise old owl. 

Self-confidence increasingly matters in the modern world and none more so than in a self-published on-line blog. The fact that the Scots collectively and individually lack confidence has enormous implications for economic growth, enterprise, physical and mental health, creativity, personal relationships and even, parenting skills.  It becomes a widespread ‘cannae do’ attitude.

Or perhaps it is just me...

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."

Bruce Lee

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Sh*t My Kids Say...

I thought that I would share some of this week's gems from out of the mouths of my babes...

Boo: "I want potato love!" (The curse of CBeebies!)

A: "Listen to this music mum, it's Nasty P!" (My subsequent joke about UTI's goes right over his head).

A: "My teacher said that puberty is an uncomfortable time so I thought it was going to hurt!" ( yeah...not literally, love!)

A (pointing to dark hairs on his shin): "Oh yeah! I feel like a maaaan!" (A finds a soul patch on his left shin)

Boo: "What's that dude called?" (The realisation that I watched far too many 90's films hits...)

Boo: "I've not got any boobs..." (Said whilst poking mine)

Most repeated phrase of the week by Boo: "I did a huuuuge peeeee!" (Potty training is going well.)

Most repeated phrase of the weekly A: "(siiigggghhhh) OH FOR GOD'S SAKE, WHY DO I HAVE TO DO IT?" (Kevin the Teenager is back)

Wordless Wednesday - Soggy Day Baking Session

Monday, 20 August 2012

He's not that autistic, is he? Autism and Bullying - ENABLE Campaign.

*Insert eye roll here.

We've been dealing with a bit of ASD related bullying at high school amidst some massive changes.

While his school is fantastic and the point of this post is to in no way criticise their efforts, it is to explore that well known fact that teenagers by and large are a horrid breed. Full of hormones, Red Bull and hair products, survival of the fittest is key at high school. But what if you are not one of the fittest? What if you are the parent of a child who is not one of the fittest? I spent a long, long time fighting for the resources that A has had access to during his life and while I might be, at times, his strongest critic (how else will he learn to adapt to mainstream society?), I am also his biggest champion. I'm struggling a bit this week with trying to be his champion and at the same time helping him to stand on his own two feet in any small way I can.

The school are great regarding dealing with individual episodes of bullying in the mainstream and are quick to stamp this out. This, in my opinion is fine if they have just fallen out or said something about someone's mother but what about an incidence where disability is involved and the reason for the bullying? The last time an episode of bullying happened, at the root cause of the bullying lay the fact that A has what is termed as a hidden disability. Physically he looks fine, he's a bit skinny and his hair is always a mess but in a crowd of peers there are no physical signs that he is disabled. However, children who spend more than half an hour in his company twig that something is very different about him. Without knowing that he is autistic, this difference becomes a negative thing. If he is different to them, he becomes labelled as a freak, a weirdo, an outcast. His social skills are impaired by a disability and it is not his fault! So many times have I heard the phrases, "well...he's not really THAT autistic, is he?" "He doesn't look autistic!" and my favourite "If you didn't know him, you wouldn't know that he is autistic!" (Yeah...what?!)

Recognising this I charged into the school, guns blazing and arms flailing and demanded autism awareness assemblies, hidden disability workshops. There was a lot of fist banging on tables and demands made. I was going to educate every last spotty youth in this school about autism! Without the entire school body recognising that the school is diverse and contains various kids with various disabilities, bullying was bound to happen, I said. Nevertheless, they calmed me down and assured me that for a number of years their approach was working. I did indeed calm down and went away satisfied that the episode had been dealt with. The school that he attends has what is called an inclusion policy. This means that there is a number of disabled children and children with additional support needs within the school and that specialist provision is there for them within a mainstream school. From third year and above, young adults work in support programmes with kids with special needs, my son included.. This can be either as paired reading or in social programmes. All of this should breed an atmosphere of inclusiveness.

Well, it is happening again. The lack of awareness within the lower school is matched by their lack of empathy. He's being bullied again and it even happened in front of me at a school social event I was attending. I went ballistic! But again the school tells me that it is not their approach to single out children as having special needs. They will deal with this on a one to one basis. This is going to continue unless the school takes action and makes more of an effort to raise awareness within the pupil body. I'm demanding the same action be taken after this individual episode has been dealt with but the school are reluctant to embrace my approach.

While I don't want to single kids out I really wish that just some of the pupil body in the lower school would, just once, consider that if a person acts in a way within an inclusion school that is perceived not to be of the norm, that there're might actually be a reason behind this. Waiting until third, forth or fifth year for kids to develop empathy when it dawns on the children that there are special needs kids within the pupil body is not enough. Would it be enough for you?

Open your mind, not your mouth.
ENABLE Scotland challenges you to make bullies think before they speak and to challenge other people's understanding of learning disabilities.
Bullies sometimes don’t realise the effect their actions can have on people with learning disabilities. The things they do and say can make people feel alone, depressed and isolated from their friends.

You can make a difference by standing up to bullies. Sign our charter and make a promise to challenge those who bully people with a learning disability.
For more information about our Anti-Bullying Campaign, please click here.
Be part of something great – Open your mind, not your mouth.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Teenage Kicks!

Over the summer holidays one of the many exciting things which happened was that I now have become the proud owner of one teenager. A turned 13 near the start of the holidays and celebrated by having a paintballing session with some buddies.

So is 13 different to 12? I think so. For a start there has been far more doors slammed this summer than previously, more sighs and hormonal moments. It is both funny and sad at the same time watching him go through this. Funny because although he is not of the generation to have appreciated The Fast Show and Harry Enfield, somehow he IS Kevin the Teenager. Word for word, he shouts the same nonsense about life being so unfair as Kevin says to his parents.

It's sad because on hormonal days where he flies off the handle and then he feels awful for the rest of the day. He had a teen tantrum a few days ago while on a shopping trip to buy him new trainers. The result was that we returned home without the trainers and he felt really bad for being horrible and also trainer-less. I blame this on teenage hormones. Becoming a teenager isn't just a matter of my child getting older. It means that things have changed internally. Chemical changes. Every parent of a teenager will tell you that their child completely changed when they became a teenager.

The teenage years are also a time when children become more socially sensitive. At the age that most teenagers are concerned with spots, fashion, popularity, school marks, and dates, teens on the spectrum become painfully aware that they are different from their peers. They might notice that they lack friends or deep friendships and unlike their schoolmates, they aren't dating or planning for a career. While all neurotypical teenagers are difficult during this turbulent time, I am still wondering how it will manifest in a teenager on the spectrum. Every child is different and so we will have to wait to see how it manifests itself in him.

From what I can remember of my teenage years, my sister's and from the parables of friends, I figure that if I just try to remember this then it will explain a fair amount of his behaviour and attitude over the next few years instead of looking for rational reactions during a irrational period. A sort of parental survival mantra to accompany this period along with purchasing a bulk supply of Febreeze:

  • Some teenagers care about smelling good. Or not.
  • Some like orderliness. Or not.
  • Teenagers do not learn good self-esteem by themselves.
  • Teenagers like to make their own choices. They are not usually the same as yours.
  • Teenagers do not develop good organizational skills through osmosis.
  • Moodiness is a normal teenage state of mind.
  • Raging hormones are part and parcel of being a teenager.
  • Self regulation is an important life skill but is not practised by teenagers.
  • Teenagers are never hungry at the same time as the rest of the family.
  • Masturbation is normal teenage activity. (Eurgh!)
  • Discussing sex with your parents is not.
  • As a parent, you will survive the teen years. Barely.

I will try to remember this over the next few years!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

"Yesterday I did a poo and it looked funny..."

...Said the Toddler to the Sales Assistant in John Lewis. 

Boo has been very reluctant to potty train in the past. Peer pressure amongst friends meant that I started trying around 18 months and subsequently gave up each time that she became resistant to it or worried about it. This was something I was a little bit unprepared for. As a female of the species I expected our mini counterparts to think like us or to be as squeamish as us, I suppose. A was incredibly easy to train and was dry both night and day fairly quickly. Being the slightly grubbier of the species, I automatically expected boys to be harder to train than girls but not in the case of our Boo. She is quite content to sit in a dirty nappy and will tell you bare faced lies about whether or not she has done something in her nappy even as those around her in the room drop like flies!

So with less than a week to go until the start of term she announced that she wanted her big girl pants and that nappies were for babies. The associated banter has been hilarious! The above quip happened while buying travel potty supplies and waterproof sheets. We are having lots of accidents and lots of success at the same time and even wanted her night nappy off to sit on the potty.

I'm slightly worried about what to do when she starts back at playgroup this week. If her attention is focused on something else she piddles everywhere but I think that pull-ups may be a step backwards. I'll just have to start furiously baking treats for the staff to cancel out their memories of Boo's river of pee!