Five Minute Friday: Truth

Thanks Lisa-Jo Baker for today’s Five Minute Friday: truth. 

This is a tricky one!

Truth.  It’s a funny word.  We hold it in such high regard, yet we all seem to not only attach different meanings to it, but also adapt those meaning to suite our current needs.  Everyone’s truth is indeed different, especially when it’s so open to being edited!

So does truth really exist and, if it doesn’t, should we place such a high value on it, especially with our children?

‘Tell the truth.’ we demand when they argue and we want to get to the bottom of who smashed the window, or drew on the wall.  They tell us and yet we insist they’re lying.  We question, we interrogate, pick holes in their story as though they’re a criminal under oath rather than a willful child.  Whatever they tell us, we punish them anyway.  We know, we tell ourselves as parents, what happened.  We were children once.   So where is the incentive for them to tell us the truth if we’ve already made up our minds?

Then, not half an hour later, we find ourselves ten minutes late to meet someone.

“Sorry we’re late, the traffic was bad.” We apologise with a little white lie to disguise the fact that we were behind because the toddler wouldn’t eat his lunch, we forgot our coats or were still chatting on the phone when we should have been in the car.  The traffic was bad but it shouldn’t really have held us up.  So is half-tale really the truth?  We give our children such mixed messages, rarely bother to explain and then criticise and punish when they get it wrong.

As adults, lots of us believe it is ok to tell a small untruth to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid an argument.  We’ve had those ‘new’ shoes for ages or that new hair cut looks lovely on our friend but when children do the same, we talk to them about liars having their tongues cut out or sing rhymes about their pants being on fire.

We claim to have a greater understanding of truth; we say that we can tell when truth is important and when it is best not to voice it, but is this really true?  We want to avoid an argument or spare someone’s feelings but aren’t we just trying to avoid an awkward moment for ourselves?  I’m not saying we never should tell white lies, I’m ashamed to say I do it myself all the time.

But I am saying this.  Children need modelled behaviour.  They copy us, look up to us, we are their shining example.  And what they do need is consistency.  If we’re going to hold up truth as a beacon of all that is right, surely we owe it to our children to be truthful ourselves or at least be consistent in what we say truth is?

Or, if we are prefer to keep those lines muddied with a few fibs here and there, we should credit children with enough intelligence to explain to them why instead of punishing them when they try to work it out themselves.

 

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World of your imagination – where has our love of reading gone?

I love books. 

Absolutely, utterly, completely adore them.  I could quite happily spend every waking minute devouring stories; flicking through pages, inhaling that new (or old!) book smell.  It never fails to thrill me that inside every cover exists another world: Worlds of adventure, mystifying magical lands, heart-wrenching tales and bellies full of laughter.

When I was pregnant, I used to read children’s stories to the bump.  I’d sing nursery rhymes, poems and create my own tales hoping to somehow instill this love of reading and stories into my unborn child.  If a fetus recognises its mother’s voice, then who is to say it can’t develop a love of literature too? That was my outward reasoning anyway although I suspect it had more to do with the fact that it gave me a perfect excuse to read some old childhood favourites!

We read to Jasper from the moment he was born – I used to breastfeed whilst reading aloud Christopher Robin’s adventures in the 100 acre wood.  He had a few bedtime stories that we’d read over and over again and other stories that we would dip in and out of.  He’d squeal with delight when animals would hide in forests, children would run and hide under beds and various creatures began their eipc adventures in the big, wide world.

We borrow books from the library regularly.  Jasper now rushes in desperate to find what’s hiding inside the shelves, searching for whatever he wants to read about that day.  My amazon basket is always full of books I think he’d like to share together and now, those he may be able to just start to read himself.  My favourite way to buy books though, is in a bookshop.  I know they’re cheaper online and I know we need to keep our libraries open and in order to do that, we need to visit them.  We complain they’re not stocked with the latest releases, that half the pages are missing and if you can manage to find what you want, it’s usually already on loan and you have to wait 6 weeks for the last borrower to return it.

Oh, but there’s something about a bookshop.  Sliding your fingers across the spines of freshly printed books, the rush you feel when you find a book by your favourite author that you have somehow managed to miss.  The excitement  when you notice that all paperbacks are on ‘buy one get one half price’ – you feel perfectly justified in spending money you don’t have on books you don’t technically *need* and end up buying bags full.  I don’t mean to sound frivolous, I’m not in any other way but with books, I just can’t help myself.  They’re like the purest form of escapism, new friends you care desperately about and can’t stop thinking about, long after you’ve closed the book at its final page.  Sometimes you even forget that the characters are just that. Characters.

I’m almost certain – I hope I’m certain, that my love of reading has been passed on to Jasper.  It’s the best gift I feel I could have given him.  He dances a jig when he is given a new book, he stares longingly at the pictures of other covers in the back of books he already has, wondering what joys he may find within their pages and begs to hear stories over and over again.

When we’re waiting for an appointment and other children around us are playing on their mother’s phones, Jasper will ask me to make up stories for him and sometimes I’ll ask him to make them up for me.  He’s three so of course has had very little (if any!) formal teaching yet he uses such descriptive vocabulary, he draws his listeners in – he gives voices to his characters, he uses adjectives and imagery.  Have I taught him this? Of course not.  Books have.

He sees us reading all the time because we genuinely love it.  Our house is full of books, they’re everywhere.  I have bought a kindle (as a space saver!) but I’ll never stop buying books.  Each one like a little treasure.

What saddens me though, and I mean deeply not merely in passing, is that something seems to have happened to our love of reading.  I teach primary school and we’re constantly bombarded with new initiatives to try to persuade children to read – let them watch the film, I hear; give them stories full of action; let them read comics; read an email or even a text.  I’m not suggesting for a second that everyone finds the physical act of reading easy (and hence perhaps not enjoyable) but a good story is magical.  No one can dispute that.

At home, we act out stories – we go into the woods on a bear hunt – perhaps red riding hood will be behind a tree or we’ll find the Gruffalo trudging along with a mouse.  We read Alan Ahlberg’s classic ‘The Ghost Train’ in honour of Halloween week and decided to go on a steam train to make up our own version.  Everywhere you go is the setting for a story, every incident the start of a wild adventure.  But so many of us would rather watch a film or play a computer game.

Recently, I was listening to John Suchet on classic fm.  He was talking about a performance of one of Haydn’s symphonies and how the interpretation had involved almost slapstick comedy while the orchestra played.  Before playing the symphony on air, he said he wasn’t able to fully describe the performance and that the listener would instead need to use their imagination as they listened. “Radio,” he said, “is better than television because the pictures are in your own imagination.”  He didn’t say this exactly (my memory fails me!), but that was the gist.  And isn’t it just the same with books?

So where has our love of reading gone?  Isn’t it about time it came back?

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Grace

It’s my second week of Lisa-Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday and this week the word is ‘Grace’

So here goes:

I recently watched this beautiful video by Shaun Lichti entitled ‘What she taught Me.’  The video shows Shaun, a young man who was home educated, reflecting on the love of reading instilled in him by his mum.  It was, he says, the snuggling on the couch reading stories, listening to her voice for hours, which made him want to emerge himself in the magical world of story.

When I first saw it, I cried.  Tears streamed down my face and it made me think of all the things I want to achieve as a mother for Jasper.  I want him to be happy; I want him to remember that I had time to play with him; to join in with him and not just shout at him not to get dirty, to tidy his room or wash his hands in time for tea.  I want to give him the opportunities to try everything and find what it is that he really loves; to help him not be afraid to speak his mind and to have courage in his own convictions.  I want him to be well-mannered and considerate; to be open-minded and polite; to always try his best and approach everything positively.

As I thought about these things, I thought about my own mum.  My lovely mum.  I argue with my mum a lot.  Not seriously, we’ve always had a fiery relationship and we make-up as quickly as we’ve fallen out, usually several times in a minute.  I complain that she doesn’t listen, she complains that I’m too critical.  But whatever our disagreements, I know this.  Everything I want for Jasper is based on what she taught me; what she showed me to try to be.  She was never afraid to be different, she doesn’t follow a crowd. She’d wait in the car for hours with a baby for me to finish my piano lesson; she’d spend all her evenings in a freezing swimming pool (no doubt with us screaming) whilst we all took turns to have swimming lessons.  She played with us- really played.  In the late eighties when we were growing up, it was the time when all the risk-aversion was just starting.  Was it safe to play outside?  Should you really make dens in the wood?  My mum said yes and we had a fantastic childhood.

Long before we had the internet, she’d spent hours scouring bookshops and newspapers, looking for stories we’d enjoy.  She was a whirlwind – whizzing all over town in her white metro, giving her children the best chance she could.

And the thing about my mum?  Unlike me, she does it all with grace.  I’m a tad shouty, I’m volatile, I’m opinionated and I swear too much (although hopefully not in front of Jasper).  Whenever people meet my mum though, they always comment, no one fails to notice.  She smiles; she connects with everyone; she’s well spoken and she’s kind.  Although she speaks her mind, she’s careful not to offend.  She’s sweet; she’s thoughtful; she’s beautiful but she doesn’t know it.

My mum is Grace.

Five minute Friday: Together. In an age of social media, why are we less connected than ever?

I haven’t seen these challenges Lisa Jo Baker but have today found her wonderful encouraging site through the equally encouraging Called to be Home.  I’m not a Christian myself but I find the posts on Called to be Home inspirational and love reading about the activities and learning that goes on in her household.

Challenge:  To write for 5 minutes, unedited about the word given.  This week the topic is:  TOGETHER

Anyway, timer is ready to start so here goes…

Together is a word that conjures up ideas of closeness:  A family snuggled together on a couch, babes in their mother’s arms, solidarity, loyalty.  It suggests a united stance, a bond.  Connectedness.

Yet it can so easily hide the truth, the sadness behind.  We talk about families who have stayed together, somewhat of a rarity in these days of broken homes, but we constantly hear stories on the news about families who never eat together.  I read recently that 25% of British families don’t have a dining table.  Now of course they might eat at the breakfast bar or on the couch (although then of course, the tv is likely to be blaring out) but the reality is that so many families don’t sit together.  In days gone by, the family would make the effort to sit together at meal times.  It was the one time when everyone could catch up with everyone else.  What happened in everyone’s day?  Did anyone hear about that story on the news?  Who was really proud of an achievement or upset about something?  Cynicism leads me to believe that even if a lot of families were to sit together, most would communicate more through their mobile phones in a series of lols and winky faces rather than engage in any quality discussion with the family.

I hear shouts of, “But we talk all the time, we live together for goodness’ sake.  So what if we don’t eat together – our mouths are full, we wouldn’t chat!” But in an ever time deficient society, parents, spouses, children so often seem to pass each other like ships in the night.  Ships that are perhaps on opposite sides of a vast ocean.

Kids don’t want to be seen with their parents and parents sadly, don’t often want to be seen with their kids.  In lots of authorities in England, half term starts today and I have heard desperate cries from many parents.  “Why do they need a break?  They have only just gone back after the summer! Roll on a-week-on-monday!”

Have we forgotten what together means?  Do so many of us spend so little quality time together that the mere suggestion of it frightens us so we avoid it at all costs.  How ironic that with the boom in technology, the constantly expanding network of social media and other means of staying connected, that we are actually less together than ever!