Monday, 30 September 2013

being a kid: 7 things I learned

1. Families are great sources of stories

When I was a girl I had a voracious appetite for stories. I would often fall asleep with a book on my face. But I would always bug my mum for family stories too. Mum has a marvellous meandering way of telling a story. You get sucked in and follow it along, and it's only when the story is over that you realise you never did find out what happened to Beryl.

My Great Aunt Mamie.
I was lucky to have a family with plenty of stories. My favourites were of the rich Russians who fled the country. We had a photo of my Great Aunt Mamie which made me yearn to better understand her world. But the one that really wormed its way into my mind was the tale of my Grandmothers missing mother. What on earth had happened to Rachel?

Did you have good family stories too?  What's your favourite?

2. I do not like peas

There seemed to be a theory when I was young, that children should be given food, and then sit at the table until they had eaten it all. There was no possibility of preference or dislikes.
I did not like peas, and peas were like a food group all their own. We would have peas nearly every day, at school, where I would sit at the bad eaters table until I either ate my peas, or managed to convince the dinner lady I was going to be sick. When I went home, I would again have peas.
I still don't like peas, and I swear it was all the fussing about eating them which meant I never did. My youngest doesn't like peas either, so she has sweetcorn.

Did you have tyrannical dinner ladies?  Were you on the bad eaters table?

This picture is awesome and totally out of character.  This
must have been taken by my Grandma on my Dad's camera,
 because there's no way my parents would have gone for it in
 this red, white and blue style without her being there!
3. Families can break

When I was a child, my parents separated for a while, and then they divorced.  Nobody was happy about this, but it was the right thing for them to do.  Of course, I had hoped that it wouldn't happen, and dreamed of them getting back together, but I knew it wouldn't happen really.  Both of them moved on, and so did I.  I think the blow was made easier by the fact that a lot of my friends were going through the same thing - it seemed like divorce was catching in my parents social circle.  There's reasons for that, of course, and families still function afterwards.  Sometimes you even manage to get new siblings.  I don't think I'd have had a baby sister if my parents had stayed together.  I did learn a lot about how you need to ensure you're singing from the same song sheet before you get into marriage from this experience, but I still keep my fingers crossed and hope that it doesn't happen to my family.

Did your family manage to stay together?  Or did you end up with a blended family you wouldn't be without?

4. Owning up is silly

Let me first put the caveat on this that owning up if you're caught bang to rights is completely the right thing to do, indeed, if it looks like you're likely to be found out, you're best to get in there straight away.  However, if there's a chance of getting away with it, then owning up is a ridiculous thing to do.  Not only will it get you into trouble, but you didn't need to get into trouble in the first place!  Quite often, nobody will know anything happened, unless you own up, and sometimes your little brother will have done nothing, but will get the blame anyway, and let's face it, that is not a bad result.

Now for an example... When I was at secondary school (I don't know why they call it that in a tertiary system, which was what I was in.  In America they call it High School), if you were late arriving, you were supposed to go to the office and sign the late book.  I did this.  After a certain number of times you were compelled to attend detention.  Where I had to write out 100 times that 'punctuality is the soul of efficiency'.  What did I learn from this?  Not to sign the late book.  You'll be glad to hear that I never signed it again.

Mind you, I don't think I ever managed to get away with anything truly spectacular.  What about you?

5. If you try, you might succeed

I loved writing when I was a kid, and when I heard on the radio that there was a competition for children to write a radio play to air on Radio 4, I entered... and I was one of the winners!  I cannot remember anything about that radio play now, and we didn't record it or anything crazy like that, but it did teach me that you can often get things if you put your mind to it.  I've used that a lot.  I always applied for scholarships and bursaries, and I always got them.  On the other hand, I suck at raffles.  My brother is your man on that front. 

6. You will get more out of your parents if you are hopeless

Prepare for a serious dose of hard-done-by here.  If you diligently save your pocket money, in order to buy the new Sindy, that was you.  However, if you took your pocket money, spent it all on the puggies, and then mithered your parents enough, you would get more, hypothetically.  Similarly, as an adult.  If you were saving to get a place of your own then you'd need to pay rent.  Alternatively, if you spent all your earnings down the pub, no rent, and all the home-cooked food you could wish for.  My family are very used to my being grumpy about this, and I know I should get over it, but it rankles.  Similarly, in America, there was a scheme whereby recovering crack addicts would get cinema vouchers and the like for staying clean.  People who'd never taken crack asked what did they get for staying clean ALL THEIR LIVES.  It ain't fair.  Still, giving recovering crack addicts cinema vouchers, if it works, is a lot cheaper than having them not recover.

The boy - his words of wisdom?
Be nice to people or they will cry,
like babies

Well, this post is called SEVEN things I learned, and so far I've got six.  I got a bit stuck, I must confess, so I turned to my son for inspiration.  What did he think he was learning as a kid, which he would use when he was a grown up.  He was a bit befuddled, but then said that he learned to be nice to people, because if you're not nice to people they cry.  Like babies.  You are wise, my son.

I know why he was befuddled though, because as a kid you sometimes seem to do nothing but learn.  A lot of people argue that you don't need to know lots of the things you learn at school, and that may be true (although I don't think it is), but my point is, the most important thing I learned as a kid was (drumroll please)...

7. How to learn

Learning how read, write, and do maths, are great building blocks, but learning ways to satisfy our curiosity (and thereby feed it) are awesome.  I love reading.  I do it constantly.  The idea of being in a country where the signs are all completely unintelligible fills me full of dread.  I love finding out stuff too, and helping my children to do that, getting them to check their sources, and see if they are robust.  Little Billy told you you were fat?  Was he right?  Is there a chance that Little Billy was just being stupid?  Even if Little Billy was right, what does that mean?  Does it matter?  Why?  Question marks breed question marks, and it's all pretty awesome.

When I was doing my undergraduate degree, a lecturer introduced us to Social Sciences by saying that he bet we thought we were all pretty smart, that we knew a lot of stuff.  But that the more we learned, the more we would realise we didn't know.  I'm always interested to find stuff out, but it's ok that there's lots I don't know.

Which makes me wonder, what was your absolute favourite thing you ever learned in school?  Mine was Enclosure in History - thanks to the marvel that was Mr Selena.

Posts in this series

This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's list of 50 things to blog about if you'd like to take a look at the others, you can find them here.