Why I Let My Daughter Dye Her Hair Pink (and blue and purple)

I’m riding the “bad parent” wave each time we go out this summer. TinyPants starts high school in September and at age 11 has asked for a number of things that I’ve agreed to despite parental tutting. Here’s why:

She’s always had a strong sense of identity and year 6 has contained some big knocks for her. Instead of the last year of primary school being a fanfare of goodbyes, she counted down the days until she could be rid of bitchy cliques & a head teacher that she openly hated (strong words, but she had big boots to fill & did little to endear herself), and then there were SATS.

Since September, everything was building up to these bloody exams. Art, music, creative writing, science – all the things that made TinyPants love school went by the wayside. Maths drills, spellings, & exam papers were the daily grind – after which there were hours of tearful homework.

“Do your best & we’ll be as proud as always” we kept telling her. In the end, she sat in pain for 4 solid days doing her best (she was allowed to get up frequently, but allowed no extra time. Fearful that she wouldn’t finish, she didn’t take breaks. By day 4, she had a roll of physio tape strapped to her). Previous end of year reports have been a joy to read with comments given across the curriculum; this year one page was given with a table highlighted in red for each of the maths & english exams – “did not achieve”. The pass mark is 100, in most she scored 98 & in one 94. No “how I enjoyed my year” comment, but a “how could I have improved in my exams”. In contrast, her sister has a high school report with gold stars for effort & all subjects treated equally.

I was furious. My baby has fought past being born so tiny that she lived in an incubator; she fought apnea; she worked so hard to read (something that didn’t come naturally); she has emotional intelligence to rival most adults; she is a young carer; she has mentally prepared herself to be in daily physical pain & smiles through it; she worked like stink to pass those exams and yet she was deemed insufficient by a margin of 2 marks. She didn’t see how close she was – she saw “failure”. The piece of my mind that I’d like to give Gove, Morgan, & Greening may leave me without a mind. This narrowing of the curriculum and constant testing is stamping out the creative sparks that we’ll need in years to come.

So she asked to rebel, much like getting a statement haircut after a big break up. Step 1 was pink hair and I agreed to dye it for the final day. Step 2 was leaving primary behind – I genuinely feared her going out in a blaze of verbal glory, but she took the high ground and walked out with her head high (mentally flipping the bird as she left). And that was that.

She’s using the summer to find herself & that includes strange hair colours. We’re watching a pre-highschool reinvention of herself & it’s fascinating. She’s ditched the little kid clothes for older, but sensible shirts & jeans. I’m watching me grow up from a distance, but with a lot more self-esteem! Yes, we’ll have to get busy with the Head & Shoulders to remove the colour before school starts (eye roll), but for these 6 weeks the girls are allowed to be their genuine selves, whoever that may be.

We’ve just got back from a week at Disneyland where she asked to ride ALL of the rollercoasters on hoiday. I feel sick letting her put her body through that kind of strain – she’s already in pain most days & her back is a big culprit. Ibuprofen, TENS, & physio tape already feature quite regularly. Now, I could insist that she protect her joints at all costs, but shit, what right do I have to sap the joy from her life? She knows that adult life is going to hurt, but the pair of us are adrenalin junkies. At her age & into my teens I rode the coasters, I rode horses, I cornered so hard on my motorbike I could pick daisies with my teeth. So each time she wanted to go on a gut wrenching ride off Mr Geek went & rode with her.

Did it kill her? No. Ok, near the end of the holiday Mr Geek had to carry her out of bed & she gained wheels just like mum for part of the day as she couldn’t stand. Most days we paced quite well, the day before we’d thrown caution to the wind, but had the “best day evaar”.

Hell, even I rode a coaster – Mr Geek scoped it out and made sure it had head & back supports, I spent the previous day resting, he lifted me in – I screamed for the entire ride (on which my kneecap moved completely out & I pulled out both shoulders) – he lifted me back out & helped me pop things back, soothed the muscle spasms, then I rested for two days. All that pain for just 5 minutes? Yes. Totally worth it for feeling alive for just a while.

TinyPants looks at me and knows what’s coming – right now she wants to live as much life as possible instead of snatching 5 minutes of flying.

So, yes I’m letting her dye her hair far earlier than I ever thought I would, but it’s a small price to pay for the catharsis that its brought her. And as for Beanpole, well there’s no hair dye there – her genuie self blossomed at high school and my meganerd is blossoming into the intellectual fangirl that I expected, but she deserves a post all of her own.

Note: I’ve spoken a lot about pain here – for more info on Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, please read this post.

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A Novel in November – Begin at the Beginning, The Ending is Some Way Off! @NaNoWriMo

I’m writing this in chunks, but I fear I’m never going to hit the 50’000 words by the end of the month at this rate. My current style is write the chapter. Acknowledge that I appear to be swinging wildly between past and present tense and agree to sort out details like tense and grammar on draft two.

For now, it’s quantity over quality. This way, at least I have the gist of what is going on through the book.

Ooh. It’s a book. I’m 33 and I’m writing a book. Another book in fact. That makes me practically a grown up.

Current progress is in the Novel in November Page

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto….

So, we’re predicted a storm tonight. The Uk’s weather is fairly bland and mild all year round so when something unusual happens, we do like a good panic. (I will of course eat my words should I be blogging in a few days in post apocalyptic Britain).

Despite my gut feeling that panic is not required, we do live right on the South Coast (like less than 10 minutes drive from the sea. Accounting for traffic), so probably ought to take heed of the official warnings like out stuff away, expect power outages, buy some candles & torches, charge your phones etc. I’m not intending to try any last minute kite surfing despite the offering of 80mph winds here, but you just know someone is going to get themselves a Darwin Award later.

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I’m guessing the point at which they give the storm a name it’s worth paying some attention. But the St Jude Storm? Really? The patron saint of depression and lost causes! Why is there even a patron saint of depression??! The UK is already known for it’s miserable weather, so why make it official??

So what have I done to prepare for impending doom? Well…

  • There’s a storm lantern upstairs in case the kids wake up.
  • The garden stuff and bikes are all inside the sheds
  • There’s a torch in each bedroom.
  • We’ve eaten a nice warm dinner.
  • Kids were in bed on time so they get some sleep.
  • Kids have been reassured and given instructions to come into us if scared (I may regret that)
  • Candles are in easy access as are long matches to light them.
  • Electrics will be unplugged just in case of a surge
  • Panic has been dismissed.
  • Knitting has continued.
  • I may even give Breaking Bad another go this evening….

Ooh has knitting ever continued! Last night I reached the much desired 40cm of looooooong boring block colour for my jumper and got to start the sleeve. Ok, this is more block colour, but it requires DPNs which keep me on my toes and it’s growing nicely. I may even finish sleeve one whilst we watch the ‘subtropical storm’ (it’s not a hurricane as it didn’t start in the Atlantic. It’s not a cyclone as it didn’t start in the Pacific. Frankly I feel a bit cheated by the name. They could at least give it a proper name like …. Swirlydeathwind, or Stormnado. We could even go quite British with it and call it The Stoic Storm of Denial. That has a ring, no?)

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So in true stoic fashion….Further preparations for Armageddon this evening are a nice hot bath & washing my hair 🙂

Sunday Smells

It rained today. All day. Add to this that LSH has a streaming cold (which could take him from us at any time) and today looked like it wasn’t going to go well.

As it turned out, today was possibly one of the most relaxed weekend days I’ve had in weeks. All down to the new routines we have in place for ‘helping’ and my lax attitude to childcare.

This morning started with the smell of bacon. There is no better smell to wake up to (unless Johnny Depp, as Jack Sparrow doesn’t smell of bacon). And as I staggered downstairs in ruffled pyjamas and make up spread down my face I realised that not only was LSH cooking breakfast, I was up in time to get in on the action! I claim Sunday morning pre-9am my time to be completely incapable of logical thought or conversation. I’m not that much better most other mornings, but Sunday morning I verge on finding Nick Jr an academic challenge.

Breakfast done, I could smell coffee freshly brewing and this liquid nectar was just the thing needed to kick start our Homework Hour. In previous weeks, this has been horrific. Tears, snot, shouting, threats and full on sit down protests have ensued since the start of September (not just from me). But the last few weeks we have learnt about GoHenry and the power of pocket money! (The nice thing about this is not only do they get bonuses for tasks like actually doing their homework, I can deduct money for poor behaviour) They are mercenary little souls, but homework was got out, completed without fuss and done well.

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They instantly both logged onto their GoHenry apps to make sure next weeks pay reflected their newfound efforts, which it did. Payday is Saturday, so they still have to wait a full week for their money, but they can see it coming and both are budgeting their sweets accordingly. BeanPole even started her take home task by designing an Ancient Greek vase that she is determined to make and paint. She used a photo found online “but left out the Minotaur’s willy in case Mr T gets cross”.

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After an unusually pleasant homework session, it was my turn. As I sat down, the smell of LSH preparing the pork joint for slow roasting wafted through the house… Mmmm…..Session three of marking and planning for this weekend (I’m breaking it down into 3-4 hour chunks). I set a lot of tests this past week and I’m paying the price this weekend. The upside of this is the lovely progress graphs I’m collating for the term so far. This is a long half term and right now graphs are making me happy. I feel more organised and the more I feel I need to chase people to catch up, the more coloured conditional formatting I use. I am an INFJ – I need to feel in control!

A full 10 hours of marking and planning since 5pm Friday night and I feel back in control for tomorrow. I don’t begrudge this time. It’s what is needed to be effective and give the kids my full attention when I’m at school. I am pleased that I got it all done though.

While the kids played on various computer games & LSH fell asleep in front of the Grand Prix, I snuck into the kitchen with the iPad and attacked the groaning pile of ironing. The smell of the slowly melting pork loin mixed in with the lavender steam from the iron for the next two hours made the house smell lovely and warm in cold contrast to the continued miserable weather outside. Over the course of two hours I pressed and folded what felt like every item of clothing my children own, being kept going by a marathon catch up of Miranda and Mock the Week. I giggled my way through tedium.

Next followed something truly shocking. Having placed each child’s clothing in a personalised pile, when asked to take them upstairs and put them away nicely….. They did! No arguments, noises or arm swinging. I checked. In shock, I duly ticked off the ‘put clothes away’ task on GoHenry and thus another 50p was added to next weeks payday.

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Dinner finished by LSH, I frantically finish the apple crumble as everyone sits down to eat. Mum is shattered after being in work all weekend – more to follow on that next week… But dinner smells amazing. LSH makes a mean roast dinner and the 6 of us always make a point of making Sunday dinner a family meal. We talk. Or ‘debate’. And the kids make everyone laugh.

After dinner, it’s bath night. The kids are duly scrubbed clean for Monday morning. Hair is washed, and the lovely orangey scent of their shampoo makes me want to hug them tight and sniff their heads once I’ve dried their hair and snuggled them up warm in their pyjamas. This is not to be though as they opted so spend some of yesterday’s earnings on sweets which they had for pudding instead of my apple crumble (rude!) and were subsequently bouncing off the walls. Ah well, it’s LSH’s turn for bedtime. So while he reads them something in a low monotonous voice in the hope of boring them to sleep, I can sink into a lovely Radox filled bath and contemplate just how nice today was. And that Sundays smell really nice.

Too young to be a feminist?

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So, we’re sitting in the car driving back from taking the girls to their Kung fu lesson and I flick on the radio. The girls and I like a bit of Radio 4 comedy hour and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be exposed to more intellectual comedy than Peppa Pig (not knocking the muddy puddle queen – we still love you).

Or rather, I saw no reason. One may say I should’ve learnt my lesson after the Women’s Hour fiasco when I had a rather awkward discussion with my then 7 year old about why women might want a doctor to make her girl bits smaller (labia that is). That spawned the unforgettable conversation, “no darling, not many ladies do handstands with no knickers on, but some ladies worry that it doesn’t look very neat….. No I haven’t……. No I don’t want to….. I’ve never really thought about it…. I know you’ve got crinkle scissors. Ooh look a squirrel!”.

Well, today I’d forgotten that lesson, and with beanpole (now 8) and TinyPants (now 7) loaded up in the back alongside their various very feminine weaponry we clicked on Bridget Christie Minds The Gap. To my thirty three year old bitter sense of humour, this was a funny and painfully true representation of feminism. In my infinite wisdom, I totally forgot that every word would be soaked up by my little sponges who spent most of the time asking questions (more of this sort of thing!). Questions like:

  • “Mummy, what’s a mysoginist?”
  • “Mummy, why is she a witch?…… And why is it funny if she’s a lesbian?”
  • “Mummy, who’s Virginia Wolfe? Is she like a lady big bad wolf?”
  • “why didn’t the lady in the bookshop just look on the shelf? She could read Ruby Redford – that’s about girls!”
  • “is a feminist someone who only likes girls then?”

These and many other questions that I had to answer on the fly. I’m rather proud that they took such an interest and sort of get women’s rights (thank you Horrible Histories), but I’m just not sure they’re ready for The Female Eunuch. I’m not sure I am! For now, they seem happy with my explanation that feminism is about the right for ladies to wear enormous knickers which are much more comfortable instead of silly lacy ones, and mummy having a job that she enjoys and being able to read whatever you want and eat Yorkie bars even if they do say it’s not for girls.

I’m Just a Little Black Raincloud (who won’t do her homework)

It’s been a Sunday. We’ve built up a bit of a routine here. Sunday morning is Homework Morning. I have planning to do for the week ahead and it’s the optimum time for BeanPole to address her 2 hours or less of ‘home learning’.

So this morning we started at 8.30. I sat and in between ranting at her for her lack of any productivity, I spent 4 hours creating an array of worksheets, test papers and death by PowerPoint for my lucky lucky students. BeanPole stropped, sighed loudly, scribbled, doodled, and when this did not have the desired effect cried, sobbed, and snotted on her homework sheets (did I mention, she has a mild cold that is putting her at imminent risk of death? The rest of us have the sniffles.). Eventually, my mum ushered her up to their room where she used mum’s desk to actually do her work before I throttled her. Seriously, how hard is it for a G&T 8 year old to write a list of adjectives and ten sentences?! She has a reading age of 13! It took her THREE HOURS.

LSH and I are holding onto the fact that eventually, the more we push the regular time for homework thing, the easier the habit will be and we won’t be having this screaming match with her when she gets daily homework at high school. We’re in denial. Please don’t let this continue for the next 10 years.

My head hurt and being a believer in fresh air, we headed out for a walk. We went to the one place where our family walks MUST take place every autumn!

Back in 2006…

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And then again today…

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Same tree, same family. This is affectionately known as ‘our tree’ – it’s looked like it’s on it’s last legs for years. I love this place. It’s where The Gruffalo used to live when they were diddy. Now it’s a playground for survival camps and catching weird wildlife.

It’s always nice to witness IT Consultant in outside of his natural environment (yes, iPhone in hand, but he was just geotagging the walk….)

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The walk was lovely, and as hoped did all of us a lot of good. The kids when combined with mud, instantly forgot their germy moaning. There was no bickering. Just squishing through the woods with the occasional rushing into the bushes with cries of “I’m Bear Grylls!!”.

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We found things hopping around (thankfully, Miss Grylls decided that eating the frog wasn’t on the agenda).

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As we walked conifers conkers (argh autocorrect!!) were discovered and collected.

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And we collected a bag of sweet chestnuts which have been stored for roasting later on during the week. (Get us foraging for food!)

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Throughout the walk we found a variety of mushrooms – generally unidentified, but very pretty (wont be eating them!).

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Finally, it was back home to make the final bits of the roast ham dinner that had been sitting in the slow cooker in brown sugar for the past 5 hours contemplating its fate. And a resounding success with the Yorkshire puddings! Extra eggs in the batter. Who knew!

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And the cat agreed, we’ve ended the weekend rather relaxed!

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Fresh air. Curing all ills from homework tantrums, to the common cold!

It’s Not The Plague, You Sneezed.

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It’s nearing the end of September, we’ve bundled our kids in stuffy rooms full of other kids, what possible side effect could that produce? Oh yes. Germs.

I’ve spent the past 10 days with an on off stuffy nose and sore throat which may or may not just be my body fighting off the barrage of infection that each class arrives with on a daily basis. This is generally dealt with through paracetamol during the day and a sneaky gargle of brandy in the evening (for medicinal purposes only you understand!).

BeanPole is now also suffering the ill effects of ‘fresher’s flu’ ie. she has a cold. She does indeed suffer them badly as she and I both have a touch of asthma so the wheezing that follows is less than pleasant. But, for the record, the child is not dying. Today we stopped swimming early as she was feeling bad. Ok, fair enough. I got out with her and we had a nice hot chocolate together while we waited for LSH and TinyPants who was still in her lesson. Later, she couldn’t possibly do her Kung Fu exam as she was too ill…. She just wanted to sit quietly and read her book. So BeanPole sat quietly with us while I got through some marking and off TinyPants went and round-kicked her way through to her junior level 8 sash (#proudmummy). After Kung Fu we trundled off to the roller disco (total highlight of my week) and once again, BeanPole was struck down with can’t possible move my legs as I am DYING. So she sat the whole session out reading while we whizzed around playing tag at a rate of knots we’ve rarely reached before! There’s one less session at the gym.

Strangely enough, this deathly illness has absolutely no effect on her ability to play computer games or watch TV, or eat sweets….

Now I’m totally up for all this reading (she’s got through Charlotte’s Web in under a week!) but the child needs to move! She needs to get some red blood cells pumping and accept that a bit of snot generally doesn’t kill anyone. We are not withholding the Calpol, we are providing hot drinks, but just like the rest of society, unless you are actually being wheeled into an ambulance, you can quit fishing for a day off school.

Sincerely,

Your unsympathetic, but ultimately thinking of your future work ethic, Mother.

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