Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Parenting category.

When they become adults overnight

My son recently turned 18 and that’s quite a milestone: for me as well as him. I’ve been asked “how many children do you have” and replied “only one … now”. I’m getting used to his being out until the early hours, getting his own credit card application letters, buying drinks in a bar … it’s the handover of responsibility that’s weird.

Like … will he take good care of his birth cert, NHS details, travel insurance? Will he know the implications of replying to a Reader’s Digest prize notification? Will he know how/whether to vote? Can he really be left in charge of his 17yo friend when her parents are away (and does he relise what that might mean)?

Letting go doesn’t come easily, I know. As far as i remember, I felt overprotected and stifled at his age by the continuation of the parental attention: after all, wasn’t I grown up now? I’m still wondering about that today – and I miss the unconditional regard.

With the other one reaching 18 this year, maybe we will be “free at last” to travel, experiment, risk different paths – if we still know how.


Memories Of New Places

I went to see the Hornby museum in Margate yesterday. I’d never been there before, but my son wanted to see it. He’s re-implementing his train set, building a larger layout and turning it digital and was seeking inspiration. Oh, and the museum has a shop too 😉

Anyway, I drove down there with him and my friend Rich. It’s a long journey from our house – about 3 hours counting comfort breaks and breakfast. The roads are good and relatively clear this time of year – nonetheless, it’s a long way East.

As we went along the coast the names of places were very familiar. I couldn’t account for the familiarity: I don’t remember ever being in those parts before, nor why Herne Bay, Margate and Broadstairs are so evocative. Rich was telling us he’d been there many times as a child. His family would get up at 4am and catch the coach from Derby Bus Station to Margate. So it all began to seem familiar, though strange too and with that sepia feel of re-told history.

The Hornby museum  was a bit like that too. There we were, wandering round the maze-like presentation spaces, checking out the intricate models, layouts and kits. Airfix, Corgi, Mattel, Scalectrix, Hornby-Triang – names from my boyhood somehow explained or de-mystified but still evocative. I could smell the Humbrol paint and plastic glue, see the original artworks from the box lids I’d bought. Marvel at the tiny figures and fluffy trees on the railway layouts, wondering again about their lives when the lights are off.

Then the shop – as Rich said a painfully attractive space. Budgets stretching and evolving, no pressure but promises to re-pay being negotiated. Just like with my dad many years ago (though I like to think I was better at doing the Dad thing).

Then off to have lunch – seeking a cafe with a view of the sea. Margate was decrepit and mostly closed – I’ve been to Black Sea resorts off-season and had the same conjuring of population and bustle behind the boarded-up windows. We found an hotel on Botany Bay (I suppose that’s the original one Capt Bligh) with good food and went for a walk to gain appetite.

Now it was Rich’s turn to re-invent the times he and his family spent on the bay. It was (inevitably) smaller than he remembered – though with the tide in that’s a transient situation. He could conjure runs along an endless beach, with knickerbocker glories at the end – though with no recall of where the end was, nor of the imposing cliff-front castellated building looming over one bay we visited.

Despite the cold, there was a filming unit on the beach – John Hurt was strolling (well wrapped up) and his no-doubt-lovely acting partner was standing, wind-blown, in the mid distance, looking blue and interesting.

How do we reconcile these memories, so strong but disconnected, with our adult selves?

Threads of Feeling – Coram Exhibition

Threads of Feeling Exhibition    14th October 2010 – 6th March 2011

The Foundling Museum, London, celebrates the opening of a new and highly emotive exhibition entitled Threads of Feeling. The exhibition will showcase fabrics never shown before to illustrate the moment of parting as mothers left their babies at the original Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram.

Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 11am-5pm
£7.50// concessions £5//Children and Art Fund Members FREE
020 7841 3614 //

Coram Community Campus,
49 Mecklenburgh Square,
London, WC1N 2QA


Friend of mine, Conny, recently had a baby – she heard this from a relative and I wholeheartedly agree:

“A new baby has a tiny thumb, but from the start you’re definitely under it”

Drinking to Forget?

I’ve been thinking about the way some friends of my children (and children of my friends) seem to use alcohol – to excess, without preference, at high-speed – and wondering why they do it.

Don’t get me wrong, I confess I’ve had times when I’ve had more than a few too many. Mostly these occasions were in my dim and distant past, but I seem to remember that I drank too much when I was a) hungry b) very nervous c) being “topped up” without counting d) very thirsty (ie dancing). I don’t think I was trying to get drunk per se, nor was I drunk before going out: it happened at parties, discos, pubs, bars. Afterwards, I just felt stupid for losing control and embarrassed when I think about people seeing me in that state.

With the kids it’s different somehow. It’s not as if they don’t know how much they can take before they get drunk … rather that they want to reach that point as soon as possible. Also to reach that point, if possible, before going out. There seems to be a certain pride in achieving inebriation at speed, a certain dutch courage when out and about while out of their heads.

I’m just glad that neither of my two seem so hell-bent on getting drunk for the sake of it. There’s a certain smugness from them when recounting the antics of other (drunk) people. Overall though the just seem to be able to have a good time with little or no alcohol involved (so far), as do most of their close friends.

Anyway, it occurred to me that maybe they are trying to blot out something which they wouldn’t want to remember afterwards. As with many drunks, they don’t recall what happened exactly – they particularly can’t recall how much they’ve actually had to drink. So, what could it be they’re trying to disconnect from? What can they say wasn’t their fault about what happens to them?

I’d like to ask some of them what their thinking is.

Jack Petchey – Listen Up – We should!

I’ve always had a feeling that the way people are portrayed has a huge impact on the way they feel about themselves and how they behave when they’re showing off to each other.

That’s clearly how it works for children and young people. If they are respected, if their achievements are celebrated, if they are cared for and cared about, they respond by being respectful, kind, caring and happy.

The Jack Petchey Foundation has recently surveyed over 6,000 young people and asked them about their influences. I think it’s about time that chikldren and young people were given good press. I think it’s the best way to ensure they are enabled to make their heartfelt contribution to society.

Listen Up 2010 JPF Report_1_7MB

Most amazing thing about the teen years

So … some time ago for your’s truly but very now for my two. Some observations:

  • it must be healthy for them to fight – they do seem to do OK on the constant to and fro and (in the small quiet times) it’s clear they talk with each other about most everything
  • there are two very different people there – emerging, trying stuff out – and it’s right to let them both try for themselves (impossible to prevent, useless to complain – talk it through beforehand though)
  • love is hard at that age – what is it, where does it come from, where does it go, is there enough to go round
  • can I really have forgotten or never experienced what they are going through?
  • I’m most proud of their being proud of themselves

Read a book recently – The Glass Room by Simon Mawer.
“Zdenka shakes her head. Love seems a relative quality, not a unitary thing that can exist independent of an object. There are different grades of love, different shades of love, different scents and tastes of love. It is not like happiness or misery, qualities that seem dull or limited. Love is limitless, she feels. You can love one person one way, another person another way and your store of love, all the different loves, is never diminished. And she loves Hana. She loves her as a daughter loves a mother, as a pupil loves a teacher, as friends love and lovers love, all these things, all the time. ‘I don’t mind’, she says, ‘I don’t mind if you don’t mind’.”

Parents help you remember

It’s about this time of life that people realise their parents aren’t going to be there forever. One of the things that happens when they pass away is that family memories get lost.

We’ve all got piles of photos – even our parents have piles of photos, it’s just that ours are usually digital these days. It’s really hard to remember some of the people and places in these photos – even when I took them myself. It’s pretty much impossible to remember for those pictures my mum has. No doubt she showed me them before, maybe even told me who the people were and where the photo was taken – I just can’t remember.

I was wondering if there was a place to put photos where other people could verify where they were taken, perhaps even when, and who the people in them are. Sort of a Wiki for old photos.

There are sites for identifying photos off the web – they can match one digital file with another, even partial file and ask people to say something about them. I’d like to post old pics and ask people to say if they knew who or where they were. Kind of like an old person’s facebook tagging system …

Anyway, I’ll be looking out for that.

Who needs parenting?

I thought I’d start this section off with a question: who needs parenting?

Actually, I first thought “who needs parents” … then I realise that’s not the half of it. There are (far too many) kids who haven’t, for one reason or many, got both parents available to them. I believe they still need good quality parenting.

In any case, since every month I join a panel of experts and (like me) lay people, deciding who can become adoptive parents, I know a bit about the gap between children needing parenting and adults wanting to become parents. Takes a load to cross that gap.

Then there’s our “inner child” – we all have one – and that needs parenting too. Probably need to say more about that some time.

Lastly, parents themselves (that’s our parents if they are still living) start to need “parenting” late in life, often from their own children (that’s us as carers).

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