Tuesday 2 April 2013

Guest post - The Big Knife And Fork: Just The Tip Of The Iceberg.

It was one of those Eureka moments. It suddenly made sense why the kids couldn’t cut up their food yet even though they’re 5 and 7.

We’ve been trying to teach the girls how to cut up their food properly for quite some time now. They just never seemed to grasp it.

It’s never come up in conversation with family and other parents because it hasn’t ever seemed that much of an issue.

But thinking about it, at seven years old, our eldest really should be able to cut up food. It got me thinking about whether or not the other kids in her year group could do it.

If they could and our little one was sat there asking for the dinner lady to cut up her food every lunch time, that’s a sure way to get picked on.

Then I started to worry a bit. ‘Are the other boys and girls taking the micky out of her?’

That sort of thing can shape a child’s school life and development into adolescence. Ultimately, how they turn out as an adult.

I was one of those kids at school, I’ll ashamedly hold my hands up. So I know how a child’s mind can work – picking on the most insignificant of things and making it stick.

I remember a boy at my First School (which in Norfolk is reception class through to Year 3) who had a little accident in an assembly once. Literally one time.

From that day on we called him ‘Nappy Boy’. Nappy Boy graduated into ‘Nap Nap’ in Middle School and Nap Nap evolved into ‘Naps’ at High School.

He turned out ok and we were good friends with him. But if we were a group of viscous bullies rather than just childish, that could have been hell for him.

I really don’t want that for my child.
All he did was pee his pants once when he was 6.

But do kids have to be absolutely average just to avoid the chance of getting bullied? Probably not, but then again, what constitutes ‘average’ development anyway?

When they’re that age they all develop at different speeds. Maybe little Jimmy has been able to cut up his food since the age of 4 and Susie could do it at 5.

Maybe little Jimmy and Susie won’t learn how to cut up their food properly for another year. Who knows?

There’s just this constant worry in the back of my mind that they may be behind with some aspects of their development – and the subsequent school life consequences that could spawn from it are a concern.

In my mind, it could unravel a little like this. And it might sound a little far-fetched.

They start to call her ‘Spoon Girl’, which then evolves into “Spun Girl” because most Norfolkians call a spoon a “spun”. That then develops into “Spungal”, which then becomes “Fungal” and finally “Fungal Infection”.

I did say it was far-fetched, but that’s how a child’s mind can work, and anybody coined with a negative nickname like that would struggle not to let it affect them.

It might take something as small as not having the ‘coolest’ trainers. Or even wearing your skirt high round your waist, which our eldest has a habit of doing.

She says it’s for comfort, which it undoubtedly is, but I keep telling her ‘Don’t wear your skirt too high gal, we used to take the micky out of people who did that when I was at school.”

‘Frumps’ we used to call them. I don’t even know why. But I know it didn’t carry a positive connotation.

Simon Cowell: Famously high-waisted

Perhaps times have changed since I was at school. Perhaps it’s now a Utopian learning environment in which not a single slur is uttered.

I highly doubt it, though.

I would imagine it’s exactly the same as when I was in education. There’ll be a group of boys and girls (the popular kids, if you will) who will always look for faults in an aim to boost their own status.

In fairness it happens in the adult world as well. Maybe the intentions are different, but essentially it’s still bullying.

It’s usually aimed at the adults who were picked on at school, which then shapes their inherent mannerisms and behaviour in the adult world. Maybe still too scared of social rejection to fit in.

My wife openly admits that she was bullied at school because she’s got a few specks of ginger in her hair. She had a torrid time and is committed to not letting the same happen to our two.

But if you don’t know what the average development speed is for every social element of a child’s life, then how the hell do you know if your little ones are on track?

There’s not really much we can do about it. Nobody ever taught me how to be ‘cool’ or ‘fit in’ – children just seem to find their own path.

I play guitar myself (although not until after school) and thought it might be an idea to get them their own guitars because everybody who played guitar when I was at school was automatically liked, regardless of their social standing.

I saw them on Groupon before Christmas, which is a vouchers website, and they seemed reasonably priced for a three-quarter sized instrument (suitable for the girls) so I got them and they haven’t picked them up once.

Maybe they will later down the line. But I’ve realised that I don’t actually care if they do or don’t.

If they’ve got no interest in instruments, that’s up to them. They’ll find their own path through school.

I don’t even think it necessarily even has to have anything to do with the respective parents. Some of my best friends at school had really quiet parents but their kids were completely extravert. Supposedly ‘cool’.

All we can do is be there for our kids when they come back from school with a problem. We can then talk them through the best way to tackle it, but we can’t be at school with them to make sure they follow through with our advice.

They are their own people at the end of the day.

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