Thursday, 25 October 2012

You cannot hurry nature - no matter how much Gove wants to

It is quite amazing to observe the speech development of Number One Son and compare it to that of his peers. When I go to collect him from the nursery, his friends in the nursery often inform me where he is and what he has been up to. However, Number One Son is only now starting to engage in continuous communication with his parents. Mainly with single words or socially rooted idioms, such as ‘O-oh!’ and ‘Oh dear!’. I am delighted that he has started to explain things – no matter if only on a very basic and rudimentary scale. Naturally, even if I would like him to do this in Finnish, but after all, I want him to start communicating, so currently I am trying to improve his English vocabulary.

Only now, when he is already three and half, he is engaging properly into pointing at images in picture books and repeating simple words like ‘cat’ and ‘chicken’ and taking part into a memory card game. For a year speech therapists have been promoting these strategies together with using simple sentences to describe what Number One Son is playing with in order to introduce the use of verbs and expand his vocabulary. I and Archaeologist Husband have been using these strategies, but only recently Number One Son has started taking part properly and showing interested in words. However, he is not stupid, since he recognizes many letters and can count low numbers. Just the other day he was counting autumn leaves on the pavement up to five or so.

This turns my attention to some recent opinions presented by the current Education Secretary Michael Gove. He has warned that “children are arriving at primary school incapable of learning because of their ‘chaotic’ home lives”. He has also been horrified that four- and five-year-olds are arriving to school in nappies and they are unable to speak in sentences or distinguish between letters and number. With my current experiences in the difficulties of potty training and bringing up a late speaker, I am feeling very much like siding with the parents, even if it may be easier for some parents to keep putting the nappies on instead of dealing with potty training. However, these recent remarks seem to be totally bypassing any notion that the child development is not something that happens at the same time with every child – as the experiences with Number One Son show. I feel deep sympathy towards working-class parents who are basically being demonised. Number One Son has not shown any inclination towards accelerated development, even if he has two highly educated parents, eats plenty of fruit and next to no crisps, is taken to museums and country parks. He has basically ignored every attempt to make him to take part in a sing-along in the playgroups he has been dragged to and cannot lured to sit down with the placid children to sit down and listen to a book somebody else has chosen.

It is scary that Conservatives who do want a smaller state are perfectly happy suggesting that the children who are not developing quickly may need intervention, even if he wants to exercise a degree of restraint. One can only hope that this intervention, even if he refers to the parents who create circumstances so chaotic that instead of neglect they are actively harming their children by failing to create a nurturing environment, will be more speech therapists, Sure Start centres and special tuition and not about taking children simply into care. Somehow those in politics responsible for early education should find an understanding that some children, still inside the parameters of ‘normality’, do not learn properly speak until later – no matter how much their parents try to influence them. In addition, it is the question of poverty, both financial and intellectual, that makes people to struggle – something Conservatives do not want to recognize. It has been suggested that Gove does not change his mind, so one can only hope that the education specialists can keep the agenda of individual development alive beneath him instead of testing reading at four or five and having rigid measures for developments at a young age. These rigid ideas are not restricted to the Conservatives but have been presented by Labour politicians, too, such as Labour MP for Nottingham North Graham Allen.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The reality behind the jokes

While struggling to recover from a virus caught from Number One Son, I noticed one of those hilarious ‘How to prepare for kids’ pieces. It relieved the irritation of yet again not getting the real cold with fever, but one of those minor bugs that bring general muscle-aching, stiffness, dizziness and low level headache that by afternoon makes concentration difficult and requires you to lie down for a half an hour every now and then, if you want to get anything done and not let your blood pressure go through the roof.

Alongside the normal ‘You will not sleep for five years! Ha-ha!’ items that just reinforce your own experience that you do not sleep for a very long time, one item especially resonated with some of those scary moments when Number One Son has disappeared in the supermarket. I have always found him after a runner – normally near the toy section – but you have those random cases where people have lured children away that always are at the back of your mind.

The piece on Mamami by Chet suggested testing the supermarket experience by taking the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child. Apparently a fully grown goat will do very well indeed. In the case you plan to have more than one child, the piece suggests taking the equivalent number in goats. Then your simple task will be to buy everything you need while keeping continuously eye on your number of goats. If you let your eye wonder – or need to find something – and your ‘goat’ eats, opens or drops something, you must pay for everything the goat destroys. It is left to your discretion to consider how successful this exercise will be. Nowadays I try to keep my 'goat' in a shopping trolley where he can pile up my shopping.

Nevertheless, as is traditional, fathers get the best joke. As is the case with that Cambridge T-shirt that suggest that ‘Daddy = a person with photos in his wallet where money used to be’, the piece suggests that ‘you go home, pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time’.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Aversion therapy

As parents we hope best for Number One Son and wish he will find a career in something more financially rewarding than archaeology. Naturally, it is difficult to say anything about his academic talent, but a vocational career is nothing to be avoided either. Plumbers are still busy – considering the number who were not returning the calls when we needed one. The garage owner in our village is also highly respected and successful; he actually started a MOT business and the other provider immediately dropped their prices. It is definitely something to consider if he turns out not to be any good in practical matters with his hands. If the love of cars is any indication, we are well on way to establish a successful career in motoring.

Maybe one should avoid taking Number One Son to archaeological sites or museums in order to improve the changes of wider choice. These are hard to avoid though, since many country parks in the area have archaeological features by default and as long as museums are free they are good destinations on a rainy day. In addition, Number One Son has not yet shown much interest to the specimens themselves, but enjoyed running around and testing the activities in the children’s area. The Egyptian section in the local museum actually scares him, since it is quite dark and ‘atmospheric’.

Number One Son shows much more interest towards natural sciences with his perfect categorisation of stones or general interest in climbing and exploring. Since these fascinations are quite universal, he may lose these interests in the future. However, an ongoing interest in coins is something we hope to build upon. Number One Son loves to empty Archaeologist Husband’s pockets of coins and fill his own piggy bank full. He fills and empties the piggy bank consecutively, orders the coins in a size order and carries his coins around in his piggy bank. Truly showing Uncle Scrooge like tendencies. He even picks up any loose penny coins he sees one on a pavement and hands them to us – hopefully he will hold on to them soon. Our conclusion is that bankers may not be loved now but we would love a banker in the family!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Under the weather

The autumn has arrived with its colds. This is the time every working parent is afraid of and wonders during the 'season' if work will progress or not in the coming days. In our case the season started early. Before heading to Jersey Number One Son had a bout of cold but just recently he went down with something again. Every time this happens there are visible signs that make us realize that something is going to hit us. We as parents see this coming and have Calpol and thermometer at hand.

If our lively and bouncy Number One Son suddenly becomes withdrawn and quiet, we know that something is brewing up. If we are visiting Number One Cousin’s house and Number One Son prefers to rest on the sofa instead of insisting getting into the garden and to the climbing frame, it is clear that all is not well. If he refuses to have animal biscuits and does not pay any attention to Marmite toast, he definitely has lost his appetite.

A day or two watching DVDs and children’s programmes should result with the kind of boredom that leads to a miraculous recovery. It really is miraculous recovery; one moment Son is lying vacantly on the sofa and the next he just gets up and starts playing with his toys. The colds seem to vanish as quickly as they appear.