Many adults work to a tight schedule most of the time, but children have weekend and after school routines too. As parents we need to take advantage of moments with our children, just to talk.This might be in the car, at the supper table, or on a walk in the countryside. Just a few minutes can make a big difference to improving parent-child communication.
My father was sent to boarding school at a very young age. The thought of a small boy missing his mother was not on the agenda and as for even a murmur of paternal need, this was as alien as a teenage boy using face cream. Although fair skinned, my summer memories of my father are of sunburnt arms, not lashings of coconut scented oil. This was an era when sun tan lotions belonged in the female domain and the British Public School had a tradition of Fagging. Fagging instilled discipline by making younger school boys the servants of senior pupils. At this time, schools imposed physical punishment for even the most minor of misdemeanours. My father’s memories of his time at school focused on cold baths and punishment runs. In those times, a public school was not a place to express emotion. Flashman, the bully in Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays may still exist, but today, a bully can be tackled on or off the playing field. Huzzah. Twenty years ago this was not the case.
I am the mother of five boys.They know that it’s okay to have black days, to wear face cream if your skin is dry, and that it’s good to talk. My boys were certainly more boisterous than my daughter but play fights can lead to physical bullying. A bruise may hurt but the wound is visible. However, emotional bullying is insidious and often goes unnoticed by an adult. It is subtle and involves indirect attack. Once considered to be a female domain it’s important to remember that boys can ostracise too. Mean comment is not gender restricted. It encompasses, race, religion, body size and image, disability and sexual orientation.
I first heard the word banter from my eldest son in the late 1990s. It was considered a positive attribute, a person had good banter or excellent chat. It is still seen as an admirable trait. Or is it? Banter is associated with those who are quick witted, yes, but sharpness can strike deep; it can go beyond gentle teasing. Banter can be shrugged off when the chat is light hearted, but it must not be allowed to shroud a bully.
Cyberbullying is a relatively new phenomenon and is far from straight forward. Technology provides anonymity, a screen which allows protected confidence for the bully. Detached from face to face contact, the bully is at liberty to spout hurt in message form, often from the protection of home. The cyber-bully can strike at any time. Then there is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), for the young of today to get their heads around. A teenager will rarely turn off phone notifications never mind turning a smart phones off. A Social Media post rarely promotes a bad day. Meanwhile, the uninvited have the jollity of the partygoers thrust upon a screen, day and night. A parent can impose a mobile or laptop curfew, but if this doesn’t happen, the opportunities for cyberbullying can be 24/7. Sadly, the bullied often take revenge on those who are weaker than themselves, and so the circle of bullying is perpetuated.
Bullies are often portrayed as loners, friendless with low self esteem but this is not always the case. The bully hides under different guises and indeed has their own demons to tackle. It is no longer necessary to be the Alpha sporting boy or indeed for a boy to require more discipline than his sister. It’s okay to be different. One size doesn’t fill all. There is no need to conform. The dressing up box in the nursery school is no longer gender specific. Dracula’s cloak or the Nurse’s uniform is there for creative experimentation. In an ideal world every child comes from a loving home, in which case every child deserves doll’s house imagination time, a domain previously reserved for girls. As parents, we must avoid gender stereotyping.
If your son (or daughter) is being mistreated in school (by a teacher or pupil) let staff know that the behaviour is unacceptable. Regardless of athletic ability, physical exercise helps a child become healthier, stronger, and more confident. However, make the sport fit the child not vice versa. My only daughter and I were known to seek female solidarity and to chant Girls are Best , in a male dominated household but times are changing. My daughter is now a junior doctor, a profession which not so long ago (in the UK), was male dominated, we live in a changing world. Every child regardless of gender is entitled to be treated with sensitivity.
Looking for wild edibles to nibble on or to use in the kitchen, provides a learning opportunity and family time together. Cooking weeds for many, including the poet, Seamus Heaney, cascades a waterfall of childhood memories. In Blackberry – Picking, from his collection Death of a Naturalist, Heaney explores simple countryside traditions as childhood events. If we teach our children to coexist with nature through foraging, they can learn the many benefits that a relationship with the natural world gives us. It also provides a good opportunity to talk. No banter is required.
Rosa rugosa is wonderfully scented, beautiful, and attracts bumblebees.The Rosa rugosa is the lazy forager’s star because the bushes are relatively easy to forage. They have larger, sturdier petals and hips in comparison to the native British dog rose. Look for the candy-floss pink flowers with an intoxicating scent during the summer months, in habitats such as: overgrown hedgerows, sand dunes, sea cliffs, roadsides, and waste ground. Forage the petals alone. Shake well to allow any insects to relocate.
Wild Rose Juice
6 large handfuls of Rosa rugosa petals (well shaken in location to rehouse insects)
1 quart cold water
1 cup superfine sugar (to taste)
Put the petals, half of the water and sugar in a liquidiser and pulse to mix.
Strain the pink liquid through a fine sieve into a jug.
Rinse the liquidiser out with the remaining water and sieve the liquid into the jug.
Pour the wild rose juice into a clean, recycled plastic or glass bottles. Refrigerate and use within a week.