E+E Column: Here Comes The Sun…

…and with it, my favourite kind of parenting – outdoors parenting! Everything seems easier when you’re doing it outside; the kids can be louder, they can be messier, they can run around without breaking things until the cows come home, they even seem to fight less. Sunshine and warmer days are nothing short of miraculous and the season of spending hours in the park, at the beach and in the garden is definitely upon us, at least if my kids are anything to go by. Even our shoddy little surburan garden has been transformed into a playground every evening this week with them only reluctantly coming in from the fading sun when it’s time for dinner or bed. There’s basically a patch of lawn possibly 8 ft by 2 ft, a similar sized bed of gravel, a range of plant pots, two sun loungers, some wooden planks and a water table. It hardly seems inspiring from an adults perspective but somehow, my big two have been managing to eek out hours worth of play from it all this week. And the tiny has been beside himself with happiness, toddling around and soaking himself at the water table three times before midday.

It’s not just the children that are happier though; all the adults and especially parents that I’ve seen this last week or two, seem to be as well. Our winter wasn’t particularly cold but it was very wet and very windy, hampering even the bravest of souls attempting to get outside. Cabin fever was rife and now, finally, we have all been let out, like a bird out of a cage. I even found myself optimistically (and possibly foolishly) organising a beach trip for this weekend with a friend and was pondering the potential for a barbeque. We’ll see how that one pans out…

And with the sun comes a fresh appreciation for the county we live in. With the moors and beaches aplenty within stones throw, I don’t think any of us need encouragment to make the most of our surroundings this coming summer, most families I know are chomping at the bit to get out, have some adventures and make some memories. On top of all this, it’s at this time of year that I especially find myself content with our decision to home educate. All children are different but mine (and a lot that I know) definitely aren’t designed to be inside, sat down, for hours each day. They thrive on being outside, on exploring and learning through seeing, touching and doing. So I will be absolutely jumping on any excuse to take our learning outdoors this summer. Whether that’s just workbooks in the garden or a trip out like today’s visit to Torre Abbey, we’ll be outside every minute we can. (And of course, if the weather now turns and we get another two weeks of gales and driving rain, it is most definitely my fault for jinxing it by writing this and I apologise profusely….)

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Eli embracing the muddier side of nature...

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E+E Column: Pushing Boundaries

Isaac has always been more prone to pushing boundaries than his elder sister, I suppose it’s just in his nature. However recently, he’s been taking it to a new level. And to be honest, I’m not quite sure how to deal with it. Sophia has always been curious and prone to exploring but if told no, as long as provided with a good reason, she’s been quite happy to accept the boundary and carry on her merry way. Not so with Isaac. Take yesterday for, example. He had helped me make some malteser biscuits, ready for a picnic today. Once baked and cooled, he asked if he could have one. I said no because they were for the picnic today and it was almost dinner time. He said he was hungy to which I repeated that we would be eating dinner soon. He pottered off.

I popped out to the garden to get in the laundry and upon my return, five minutes later, was met with Isaac who had an unidentifiable look on his face. Then he casually announced that he had taken the tin of biscuits to his bedroom, ready for tomorrow. I said that they didn’t need to be in his bedroom and asked him to bring them down. Off he trotted…and then, ‘Mum, one of them got broken in the tin whilst I was carrying them’. I peek in, and see a half eaten biscuit. ‘Isaac, this looks like a bite mark, did you eat it?’ He protested his innocence and declared the remainder of said biscuit to be in the tin. I confirmed that it wasn’t and suggested the biscuit to either be in his room or his tummy. A cheeky smile flitted across his face and I had my answer.

Now, this wasn’t a massive indiscretion as things go. But it was indicative of a larger issue. Recently, time and time again, when told no, he will defiantly do exactly what he has been told not to. It is beyond frustrating, especially when it is an issue of safety as it often is. I’m not a fan of reward and punishment based discipline personally but apart from maintaining distinct boundaries and talking to him when they are broken, I’m not quite sure what else we can do. I’m guessing it’s a case of running the course and that as long as we remain consistent, eventually the message will sink it. I like the idea of ‘natural consequences’, for example, your child refuses to wear a coat despite it being cold or wet. Rather than having an epic battle, if they don’t listen to your reasonable suggestion that they do wear a coat and explanations as to why, they’ll soon discover that you were right upon spending a few minutes outside. In this case, Isaac could have ended up with one less biscuit when we actually came to eat them. Although just to be awkward, it turns out he didn’t like them anyway! Sods law in play there… I am only 6 years into this parenting game though and am quite happy to learn new and better techniques if folk are willing to share. So if anyone has any thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear them! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a picture of the biscuit-stealing monkey in question – hard to tell him off with a face like that!

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E+E Column: Not Safe, Not Fair

The ongoing dispute between the junior doctors in England and the government (or at least Mr Hunt) was front page news for much of the last month but the media, in it’s increasingly short attention span, has stopped giving it so much coverage recently. One could be forgiven for thinking that it has either been resolved or that the junior doctors (that is, all doctors below consultant level) have resigned themselves to unfair contracts, forced upon them despite their protestations. Neither is true. The face of the mainstream media has merely been turned to other matters. The battle is still ongoing and I wanted to take the opportunity to add my voice to the fray, to publicly show my solidarity for the hard working, dedicated doctors of our NHS. I’d also like to address some of the misconceptions being propagated by some of our less than classy national papers.

First and foremost, this is not about money. Some coverage has suggested that the proposed contracts offer a pay increase and therefore, by rejecting them, doctors are just greedy and after more money. This is not true. Due to the proposed restructuring of what are standard hours and what is on call or out of hours, doctors will end up being significantly worse off each year. I think anyone in their right mind would object to a new contract that saw their pay being cut, especially in such a mentally and physically demanding profession.

Secondly, a seven day NHS already exists despite the insistent cries from Mr Hunt that it doesn’t. If one of my kids broke a bone on a Sunday and I took the to A+E, guess what? They’d be cared for! When I had to transfer to hospital after the birth of Elijah on a Saturday morning, guess what? An ambulance turned up! And when I got to the hospital…it was pretty busy with staff and patients, despite the fact that it was a weekend. There is a massive difference between access to routine and emergency care and I for one, think that we should cut doctors a bit of slack. Yes, it is vital to have emergency care available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But routine care? It is not unreasonable to suggest that we limit it to Monday-Friday (although from what I gather some aspects have already leaked outside of those boundaries).

Our doctors are already exhausted and sacrificing precious time with family and friends. What more does the government want from them? It doesn’t seem physically possible for them to work the hours that the new contracts are proposing without a serious strain on their physical and mental health. At the end of the day they are just people. People who have chosen a most noble and challenging profession but people who still deserve a personal life outside of work, that deserve the opportunity to rest and whose patients deserve to be treated by doctors who aren’t so overtired they could make fatal mistakes. So, on the 26th and 27th April I urge you to join those protesting outside the RD+ E if possible to show your support and join the thousands of voices telling the government that what they are asking of our junior doctors is Not Safe, Not Fair.

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