I promise to do my best….

When I was a child I had seemingly boundless energy. One way I had of channeling this was by attending loads of after school clubs and groups. I did all sorts including several years of “Disco” dancing and about the same of drama. I loved it and I hope Oscar gets to enjoy after school activities the way I did. One of the groups I loved dearly in my earlier childhood (in the mid 80’s) was The Brownies, which if you’ve been living under a rock forever (or come from a country without The Brownies) is the part of the Girl Guiding Organisation for 7-10 year old girls. I was an “Imp” (the name of my pack). I only gained two badges, but they’ve stood me in great stead all my life – Hostess and Agility! I serve amazing tea AND I can do a headstand – what more do you need in life?

Yes this is me in my Brownie Uniform, minus the brown bobble hat! The baby is my sister Laura!

Yes this is me in my Brownie Uniform, minus the brown bobble hat! The baby is my sister Laura!

Anyway, that’s by the by. This year The Brownies celebrate their 100th birthday. For 100 years the organisation has been providing a female only environment for girls to undertake various activities. There was a piece about it on the morning news last week talking about the history of The Brownies and what it did today. It was a sweet piece that I was only really half watching. Until they interviewed someone from their head office. They asked her whether a single gender environment was still relevant. The spokesperson said something approximating this (I wrote it down as soon as I heard it):

‘The girls tell us they appreciate this environment; to be themselves and build their confidence, that they wouldn’t always get in a mixed environment.’

Now I’ve done work with female only groups before, YWCA were a client of mine for years and I’ve heard this argument before. But it never confused me, ever, the way it did when I heard it last week.

I have a son. He is a boy. What is it about him that will mean such a young girl can’t be herself, in his presence? I was baffled and to tell the truth a bit hurt. Surely just by the nature of his gender he isn’t going to hold these girls down? And reversely just by the nature of their gender, girls are not going to be held down by boys? Are they? Seriously?

So my first thought was, what can I do? How can I raise a boy that wont do this? Is that the answer? Is it about parenting? I asked a friend for her opinion – she’s not a parent but she is the most card carrying feminist I know. She was able to tell me of studies that have shown that girls don’t speak out in the same way when boys are present, as boys are socialised to be more confident in the value of their opinions than girls. So maybe parenting does have a part to play? Maybe the parents of girls should be working to ensure their daughters know that their opinions are valid regardless of what the media says? She also pointed out that single sex environments don’t always equal “safe” environments. If children are being “socilised” to be a certain type, then this pressure can be applied by your own sex – being a ‘real’ man for example.

It was really interesting to talk it over from a social perspective, as opposed to a parent’s. My first instinct as a parent was to get offended. Why is my son gonna stop your daughter being herself???? That’s the protective mama in me but not particularly helpful in the grand scheme of things.

I still don’t have an answer, if indeed there is just one answer, which I fear may not be the case. It’s such a MASSIVE subject when you start looking, it’s frightening. But the long and the short of it is I don’t want my son to ever be the reason a girl/woman feels she can’t be herself.

Maybe I should talk to Oscar’s grandma and ask her what she did – she seems to have done a real bang up job with Ben. Hmmm, do you know, maybe this wont be as hard as I first thought 😉

I left the Brownies before becoming a Guide, when I became disillusioned with the organisation. I didn’t get promoted to Seconder, despite being the second oldest, because I was off sick the night they promoted. I felt so slighted! Maybe I’ve just never truly forgiven them? 😉

xx

Something Old, Something New….

As the festive season is well underway and the end of the year creeps closer I thought it might be a nice opportunity to update you on a couple of things I’ve covered in the last six months (six months? I’ve been blogging for six months already – where the hell did that time go???)

Anyway, lets crack on.

Back in August I wrote a post about Ben’s grandmother’s clock that had come to live with us. If you missed that one, you can read about how deeply it touched me here.

Since then we have had the piece restored by the wonderful chaps at the Surrey Clock Centre and had it properly installed in our house. We found out something of its history. It was made in Cornwall (Cornish grandfather clocks are something of a rarity apparently) and we even have the makers name. We also found out for certain that it was made in the 18th Century, probably around 1780! That made me gulp a bit. It really is a proper, proper antique. I mean I knew it was but having it confirmed in writing was just such a shock. As I said before, we are just so privileged to have been given guardianship of such a beautiful piece.

The clock in its new home

It now sits on the landing, outside our bedroom. The ticking and chiming have become a part of the sound of our home. We don’t even notice the little squeak, the guys tried and tried to correct, anymore.

tick tock...

tick tock…

Every time we take Oscar past it we stop and say “Hi Clock”. It started as a way to try and introduce them, so he wouldn’t be scared (it’s quite big!) or curious and want to play with it. So far it’s worked and he’s trying desperately hard to say “Clock”.

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A thing of beauty

Bettie is still with us, being cared for down in Cornwall. I still wish I could thank her.

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Then there was my post about my grandmothers inheritance. You can read about that here. I was left a small amount of money and wanted to buy Oscar something from it as a present from the Great Grandmother he never got to meet.

I had such a job deciding what to get him. Had he been a girl then a piece of jewellery would have been perfect, but a boy? Its just that bit harder to know what to get.

In the end I chose a beautiful copy of the collected works of Winnie the Pooh. Oscar loves the original characters and Ben and I love AA Milne’s writing, so it seemed like a good choice.

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It’s a proper ‘read to’ copy. When he has enough concerntration to sit and listen to a story I can’t wait to get the book out of it’s box and share the adventures of the inhabitatants of the Hundred Acre Wood.

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And then when he’s old enough to understand I will explain who bought him the book and tell him all about her.

My favourite illustration

My favourite illustration

My hope is the book will become special to Oscar. Hopefully special enough to pass down the line 😉 .

I hope you enjoyed this little catch up as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I will hopefully be writing my update tomorrow as I am going to a SW group tonight rather than tomorrow. But for those of you who don’t read my SW updates I thought I’d let you know I wont be writing over the festive season. We have agreed to unplug for a few days and I can’t wait!

So if I wont see you before, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If I will you’ll get yours tomorrow 😉

xxxx

In memory….

When I was a little girl, my biggest dream was to go to Disney World. Now remember, I was a little girl loooooong before Disneyland Paris had been thought of. No I dearly wanted to go to Florida to experience the magical kingdom. A friend of mine went when I was about 9. I remember thinking, “how does she ever think about anything else, ever?” when she got back. Disney was the zenith of life experiences as far as I was concerned.

My Nanna, that is my maternal grandmother, used to play the pools every week when I was a child. And every week she told us that if she won, she would take us grandchildren to Disney World (of course there were only two of us when she started promising this – she must have been a bit nervous once it was a promise she was making to six of us!!) I truly believe she would have kept her word and I willed her on every week, sometimes choosing her numbers for her. She never won, but far from disappointment, it left me with a great memory of her.

My Nanna died in 2004. She had been incredibly ill and it had been hard to see her so frail, struggling for air as she tried to speak. She had always been this strong matriarch, quick to scold, but even quicker to cuddle. When she died, I read the bidding prayer at her funeral. I cried along with everyone else. I was sad. But then I got on with my life. It wasn’t until one drunken night in 2006, that it properly hit me that she’d gone. I cried so much and so hard Ben practically had to carry me home. She was gone and that was that.

When she died, we found out that she had left a small amount of money to each grandchild (there are six of us). I was shocked as I had no idea she had any money at all, but very touched. I then learnt that the money was in a trust that would only mature once the youngest grandchild turned 21. At the time I was 25, nearly 26. I was furious! I felt that she had snubbed me, treating us as a homogeneous lump of grandchildren, rather than individuals. And as the youngest grandchild at the time was only 12, and we had very little contact with the family now that Nanna was gone (a very loooong boring story I assure you), I fully expected never to see that money again.

What I didn’t bank on was the diligence of my second cousin John, who as an IFA, was managing the trust. This week he managed to contact us through his sister, who is friends with my sister on FB (thank goodness for social media huh!) to tell us that the trust has now matured and we are owed our inheritance. Having not thought of it for years I was completely shocked. Its not a huge amount, but as someone without an income it’s means I can do things like get a haircut and buy some boots. It’s made me very happy! It’s also made me very reflective.

I have been thinking about my childhood and my relationship with my wider family. Some memories are painful, some are awesome, but all of that adds up to be my history. Its unique and its mine. It’s made me feel sad (for the umpteenth time) that Oscar doesn’t see his grandparents as much as as I did. But mostly its forced me to apologise to my Nanna. With time (and age – come on lets not beat about the bush!) I understand things differently. I now understand, that she just wanted us all to be treated fairly and equally. Of course she saw us an individuals! She wanted each and every one of us to receive the same treatment at the same time. She was doing what was best for us.

I’m so sorry Nanna.

I wish I could tell her what she means to me and what I think of when I think of her. I think of the empty boxes she would save for me so I could play “shops”. I think of the day she let us draw all over her formica topped kitchen table with pens. I think about “my” room in her house. I think about her garden, whose path I used to run up and down and up and down, swinging myself round the washing line pole. I think about her love of massive and I mean MASSIVE hanging baskets, which she had made specially every year. I think about her stews and her mash. I think of her pinnies (half aprons) which she would always wear, made of well washed soft cotton, perfect for wiping a mucky face, or tears away. I think of her kitchen – the domain of the women, whilst the men stayed in the lounge. I think of going to Pete the greengrocer over the road with her, and being so proud that they knew her name.

I think how sad it is that she never met any of her great grandchildren and how much I know she would have loved Oscar. I don’t have enough to take him to Disney World (not yet!) but I do plan to buy him a gift from her money. Something that one day, we can take down together, and I can explain who it came from and who she was.

I think she would have liked that.