Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Kids: Characters and Caricatures

It’s been a full on, funny old week so far.  Two out of the three boys started their Easter holidays, with the last one breaking up at close of play on Tuesday.  This is a lot earlier than the rest of the schools in the area, and so it made sense to take advantage of the theme parks and avoid the overcrowding that so often happens during the school holidays.

And so it was that we decided on Legoland Windsor.  This is well known to us, being practically on our doorstep, and has served us well over the years from toddlerhood to pre-teens.  Not only is it the place where the boys learned to face their fears on the Dragon ride in the Knights Kingdom and laughed at the pictures of Grandma in the log flume at Pirate Falls, but it is also small enough in which the older ones can roam independently, safe in the knowledge that they are tall enough for the rides and reveling in their freedom – all character building stuff. So it was that we waited in the house, my  12 year old excited to see two companions for a day out of fun and a sleepover.  One of his friends was well known to us, having been a lively part of our lives for a while, but the other child was an unknown – he had been in the class for a number of years, but in the weird way of children, had recently been discovered by my son as  a ‘new friend’.  His mother arrived to drop him off and warned me that he wasn’t unsociable, just ‘a bit shy’ in new company.  As soon as she left, I could hear her shy and retiring son bellowing through the walls of the playroom as they indulged in a last minute game of Xbox, so I knew it would be all right.

As the three elder boys charged off into the primary coloured world of our destination, I had a very excited 9 year old on my hands who took control and insisted on visiting every ride, regardless of whether or not his mother was as enthusiastic. So we got soaked, we went up and we went down, leaving our stomachs in mid air and the contents thankfully still inside.  We avoided the throngs of school trips by going where they didn’t, and all in all had a great time. The three elder boys met us for lunch and then scarpered, and we wandered amiably around Miniland and the Star Wars exhibition (which was Little Man’s favourite).  And Little Man sat patiently whilst an artist drew his caricature.  I always think a caricature is interesting – no matter what image you present to the world, the caricaturist picks up mercilessly on your flaws, and exaggerates prominent features from which you can’t hide.  You are forced to not take yourself so seriously.

This brings me in a roundabout way to two blogs that resonated with me this week.  One was  and the other was  

The first posting was about a mother, who on being told that her 5 year old daughter was bossy, gently and tactfully confronted the stereotyping that took place within the school, and thus by society at large.  Why would a girl be called bossy, in a situation where a boy would be called a leader?  Does that word have negative connotations?  Would it not be better to use that ‘bossiness’ and channel it positively to ensure that girls become good leaders rather than class bullies?  Would that bossiness then become an awareness of others, and a willingness to listen to others without losing focus? The second post was written by a successful business leader who was drowning in self doubt brought on by social media – her carefully selected Facebook images not matching real life, the superficiality of the medium, and the gulf between the digital identity and reality.   Both blogs are well worth a read, and reflects on the way that we not only characterize ourselves and our kids, but that in some ways, we become our own caricatures.

Legoland was a great success, the older boys still had enough energy for their sleepover, and Little Man had his drawing and a stuffed dragon toy that he had won on one of the stalls.  The ‘new friend’ was collected by his mother the next day and I assured her that he had been a star.  She admitted that she had had ‘The Chat’ (you know, the one where you tell your son to behave, say Please and Thank You and on no account to reveal that you love your mothers’ arms because they are really flappy and you wonder if she will take off one day), and that he had told her not to worry.

This morning, Little Man was the first to reach the station platform on the start of a journey to London after a particularly slow ticket office experience. The train was just about to leave.  He waved his arms at the guard who was just about to signal the all clear. As we veered into view, Little Man was explaining to the guard that his mummy had a sore ankle and couldn’t run as fast as he could.  The guard let us on the train.

 Bossy…Leader – you decide, but one thing is for sure, our kids are definite characters.

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