ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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Learning through doing

CRASH!

(Pause)

WWWWWAAAAAAADDDDAAAADDDDDDYYYYYY…..HURHURHUR…….

Something like this happens at least once a day, every day in our house. On this occasion I found the source of the noise in the lounge where Sam was standing with the TV lying upside down on his foot.

You might expect at this point that I recount how I felt so sorry for him that I took him up in my arms and gave him a big cuddle.

Er, no.

I said something along the lines of “for goodness sake Sam how many times have I told you not to push that television (always more formal language when telling children off)”.

This of course did not help and Sam only upped the volume (on himself, not the TV) and decided that his salvation lay with Karen and not me, hence:

WWWWWWAAAAAAAAAMMMMMUUUUUUMMMMMMMMYYYYYYY….HURHURHUR….

So off Sam toddled to Karen with me following behind feeling increasingly helpless and stupid for not being more calm in that situation. For not starting with the cuddle followed by the learning opportunity to reinforce the dangers of rocking appliances. He was soon fine again though, although he has not been so bold with the TV again.

It seems to me that the boys take some things that we say as being unequivocally true, will never question it, and will repeat it verbatim and ad infinitum. Other things we can tell them, literally, hundreds of times and they will not take it on board at all. The difference between these two broad categories seems, roughly, that the first group of things are out of their control to disprove and so they are willing to accept them. The second group, broadly those things they can, or think they can, control and therefore carry an element of risk, are the ones where they push the boundaries. So Sam knew that we did not want him to push the TV, but only knows why now. The TV pushed back.

This can be a rather stressful scenario if you think about it too much, and was played out all too clearly when Jake recently found out what happens if you grab the wrong part of a hot pan. In that situation I fortunately did go straight into cuddle mode, and Jake has learned something about hot pans that he did not know before. But clearly it is not an ideal pedagogy and he took all evening to recover from the shock.

So we will keep plugging away at the dangers of cars, hot things, water, strangers etc… and hope that something gets through and we mitigate the risk. This does not mean that we remove it altogether otherwise the boys would never get on a bike, climb on a playground, or cross a road. There is a balance between risk and coddling but I have no idea where that balance lies and so the boys will continue to learn as they go along through a mixture of our guidance and their own experience, and I am sure that it is not the last time that I say: “I told you so”.

The TV was fine by the way.


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Angry

As I write this I am angry. I have been angry for quite some time now and think that it is about time that I expressed that I am angry through this blog. I am not angry with the boys, or Karen (the usual subjects I write about), but angry about the Jimmy Savile case.

I am angry because people knew what was going on and did nothing about it, and many of those who lionised him are now trying to pin the blame on others or say that they knew all along.

I am angry because he preyed on many people who were the most vulnerable and most trusting in our society. People who he purported to support through his charitable work, which now seem to be a front for him to be able to abuse them.

I am angry because every case of abuse is a life scarred, and there are a lot of lives involved here.

I am angry because he died before he could be brought to justice for what he did and was given that sickening funeral procession around Leeds, including his ‘lying in state’ at the Queen’s Hotel.

I am angry because individuals will now try and introduce spurious stories, taking away some of the focus from the genuine victims who deserve our collective support.

I am angry because it will mark more erosion of parental confidence in allowing our children freedom, not knowing who we can trust. So, while I want to allow my children as much freedom to roam and find out about themselves, I will now have to think twice about it. The fact that he ‘hid in plain sight’ also chills me.

I am angry because he has, on more than one occasion, been in the same room as Jake (at a park cafe we used to frequent): a cafe that was always full of children where he used to hold court. I am so relieved that I always found him too creepy to approach.

Of lesser importance I am also angry because part of my childhood has been taken away. A person who I thought, at the time, was being nice to people like me turned out to be a monster, along with Gary Glitter, whose records I bought when I was between 9 and 12 (makes me shudder just thinking about it). Although it gradually became clear to me, and many of my friends, that Savile was someone who was rather creepy: especially having seen him around Leeds on occasion.

I am angry because it makes me think twice about my trust in human nature. Not only that someone can act in such a depraved, systematic and calculating way; but that he also abused other people’s trust in him and it makes me wonder how I would have reacted if I had had something to do with him. Would I have be similarly starstruck, and have been taken in by his charisma? I would like to think not, but the doubt is enough to again make me shudder.

I feel that as a society we have taken quite a jolt with the conversion of Savile from charismatic and ceaseless charity worker to serial abuser of the very vulnerable people he was supposed to be supporting; using the power he gained as a prolific fundraiser to ‘blackmail’ institutions into giving him access to those who they were supposed to be protecting. It is somehow more understandable when, as is more usual, a monster emerges who has ‘kept themselves to themselves’, but for such a public figure to get away with it for so long is something I find very difficult to comprehend. Just as shocking it looks like investigations are spreading out to involve other celebrities, further undermining our trust in those we put on a pedestal.

As a parent, then, this whole affair has hit me very hard. I am not normally an angry person but I can hardly think of what I would do if I found out that something had happened to one of the boys. It is a scenario that I do not really want to think about, and should not need to, but having this at the very centre of our society forces me to, and that really scares me.

I hope that something positive can come out of this whole affair. That perhaps children (and adults) will feel more able to report cases of abuse and it will lead to a more open revulsion in such things in such a way that will not allow people to hide in plain sight in the future. I do wonder though whether this will be a less free society, and then we must ask whether this is a price worth paying.

The unmasking of this monster will lead to change at many levels. It will make us re-assess risk in relation to our children since it creates paranoia. It may change our relationship with the idea of celebrity (which, in itself, may not be a bad thing). It will make us more aware of the possibility of abuse, and I hope that this will lead institutions such as hospitals, children’s homes, prisons and broadcasters to make sure that they are never in the same position to allow this to happen ever again. Above all I hope that it does create the environment for genuine victims of abuse to come forward and receive the trust, support and closure that they need.

Finally, I hope that our children do not suffer as a result of this greater perception of risk and no doubt things will calm down. But at the moment it is a scary situation that makes me very angry and very wary, and I feel changed by it in ways that I am yet to fully comprehend.


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The Flash of the Torch

The Olympic Torch Relay came our way this week. The Olympics aren’t something that I’ve got particularly excited about yet (although I am looking forward to going to an event in August) since they have seemed so far away.  Nevertheless I thought it would be good to go and see the Torch since it would probably be a once in a lifetime experience for me, and maybe even for Jake too: Sam probably being a little young.

And while it was over in seconds the whole anticipation surrounding its coming was well worth it, and it didn’t seem like an anti-climax after it had gone.

I wrote last time about memories, in relation to photos, and I guess that to some extent this post is about memories too. By going to see the Torch I wanted the boys to have this once in a lifetime experience because I remember so vividly some of the once in a lifetime things I did as a child: walking through the new Kingsway Mersey Tunnel and over the new Humber Bridge before they were officially opened to traffic; and watching some huge ships being launched at the shipyard close to where we then lived.

These and many other things remind me of being young and of how happy my childhood was. It also reminds me of the responsibility I have to make sure that Jake and Sam have a happy childhood too.  I don’t mean this in any idealized or indulgent manner, but in a way that is natural and spontaneous. This is often quite difficult as I also have things that I want to do: read a magazine of mine rather than a book to the boys, listen to some of my music rather than nursery rhymes; or stay just that bit longer in bed rather than building that wooden railway. Sounds trivial? Well maybe but culmulatively it has an effect.

I’m not sure that I fully appreciated this responsibility when I first became a Dad, and I dare say that there will be times along the way that will suggest that I still haven’t really got it.  There’s also the temptation to not think about it at all. After all it’s huge because bringing up children is a one shot deal (I know I’m not the first to realize it, but it’s still a pretty big bombshell when it lands) and that can sound very scary.

In the end I suppose it comes down to trial and error, a series of checks and balances that seek the best way forward, hoping that when all is said and done the boys will, like me, look back with fond memories of when they were young, and have an appreciation that their childhood has given them a good grounding for their lives to come.

So, like the torch flashing past, Jake and Sam’s childhood will race by and before I know it they won’t be my little boys any more. I need to constantly remind myself to make the most of it and enjoy it – and, for their sakes and mine, not waste it.