The kid turns 11

I asked the kid what he wanted for his birthday, and he said “one of those video slideshows you make for everyone else.” He was referring to the videos I’ve made over the years to celebrate the milestones of other people – 21st’s, weddings , farewells…  I hardly felt as though turning 11 qualified, but I knew that wasn’t the point.  He just wanted to know that his birthday was as significant as all those other people’s.

So over the next few weeks I set about paying attention to his favourite music, because as everybody who’s ever been moved by a slideshow knows, it’s all about the music.  The lyrics tell the story as much as the images, it sets a mood and connects the viewer to the underlying sentiments.  The music should be emotive, deep, and reflect the characteristics of the person it’s dedicated to.

But you know what song the kid loves at the moment?  The song he was emphatic about when asked “what’s your favourite song?”

Gentleman.

Gentleman, by Psy.  

As in, the grating Korean star responsible for unleashing “gangnam style” on the masses.

As in, the coma-inducing song whose lyrics are at best devoid of meaning, at worst offensive (i.e. when you understand them).

As in, the song with a beat so paralysingly annoying it’s liable to be adopted as a tool of torture.

As in, the song by the guy singlehandedly trying to bring back MC Hammer pants

As in, the song with a music video that features a guy catching his fart and throwing it in the face of the woman next to him

There was just no way, NO WAY, I could turn that song into anything sentimental.  Or could I?

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Let this space be a reminder of how much I Hate Love You.

no more minecraftSix months ago I downloaded Minecraft for my kid, the 10 year old.

Five months ago I imposed time limits on it.

Four months ago I drastically reduced those time limits.

Three months ago I reduced those limits again.

Two months ago I reduced them once more.

One month ago I banned the computer altogether.

Yesterday, I packed up the computer and put into storage.

Then I said to my kid, “When you look at that empty space, let it be a reminder of how much I love you.”

To which he replied: “And let it be a reminder to you of how much I HATE you!”

But drastic times call for drastic measures.

Once upon a time I cursed the sound of scraping Lego in the box, I lamented the holes in my feet caused by trodding on bricks littered about the carpet. But until yesterday I hadn’t heard the sound of Lego in months, my heels blissfully smooth. Because when the kid wasn’t playing Minecraft, he was sitting on the couch wanting to play Minecraft. He was sullen, moody, agitated and completely lacking in motivation and imagination.

And then I realised: He was addicted to the thing. Minecraft was like a drug and he’d get his fix even if it meant sitting on the couch watching the clock tick. The other two aren’t like that – they self-moderate to a large extent. Screen time gets boring eventually. If it’s taken away, they find something else just as, or even more interesting, instead. But the eldest kid is different. Enforcing moderation, I realised, was not only futile but it was also kinda cruel. Like taking an alcoholic to a bar and saying “Now, you can have just ONE drink.” The computer was always there, as soon as he came home from school, as soon as he woke up in the morning. It represented potential. Opportunity. The fleeting chance that Mum might, just might back down and let him on it (not a misplaced hope since in moments of weakness or guilt I sometimes did relent.)

The night before I packed up the computer I had the same wrenching feeling in my gut as I did when I held him back a year at school. The same bread-knife-raking feeling I’ve had at other times in my life too. The feeling you get when the Right Thing to do is also the Hardest Thing to do. Anyway, I digress.

The point is, The Pied Piper had stolen my kid and I had to bring him back, by whatever means possible and before it was too late. I needed to breathe life back into the 10 year old boy who once built a go kart out of scrap wood and a broken push chair (well, it was broken after he took it apart, anyway). The same kid who could find a flat white 5 piece in a bucket of lego bricks faster than a gun slingin’ cowboy. The kid who wrote and performed his first song on the guitar at 7, who couldn’t read until he was 8 but could recite whole passages of books before he could properly pronounce the letter “D”. The kid who never came across a cardboard box he couldn’t use.

If it means he hates me, it’s a price I’ll pay.

 

*Postscript* There were tears, there was hair-pulling (his, not mine), there were outrageous accusations that didn’t exactly not-hurt. All of it inevitable. But then, life went on. There wasn’t enough milk for the cereal in the morning. The post came. The cat from next door shat all over the doorstep. The boys scrapped with their sister about a rubber dinosaur. They played on the trampoline. And then, the kid dug out his skateboard. He got down a recipe book and made pancakes. He sat at the empty desk and spread out, drawing pictures all over my expensive printer paper, leaving pencil shavings all over the floor and felts without lids. Then I stood on a staple. And it was bliss.

Minecraft = 1 Mum = 2

*** This post was written a long time ago but was recently reblogged and as a result has attracted a lot of new attention, most of it negative and some even quite aggressive – something completely foreign to me as a blogger. Apart from the offensive or anonymous comments which I have and will continue to remove, I have tried to reply to all of the comments.  It is, however, proving an impossible task… not to mention repetitive!  So I’m going to stop responding – instead, here’s a summary of what I’ve said to detracters below.

In taking away the computer and Minecraft, my intention was only to teach my son moderation in the long term. I had played Minecraft and I have a good understanding of what it’s about. My only goal was to ensure that he developed interests in other things as well. I am not scared of technology in fact, I’m pretty sure the kid inherited much of his love and fascination with technology from me. I’m always making cool stuff on the computer – building websites, videos, photobooks and slideshows etc.   So there wasn’t a huge divide between us – but as an adult I know it’s important for me to do other stuff as well; that reading books, socialising, working etc, are also necessary and enriching life experiences.

So We had a clean break from computer life (even for me) and made an effort to do a whole lot of other things: some of them old school (card games and the like) some of them sporty, we even began watching cool technology documentaries on netflix and old Steve Jobs talks, as well as seeking out YA fiction about IT and online life (there are some great novels on these subjects coming out now).  He read Steve Jobs’ biography (the kid’s version) and walked me through his life blow by blow, which was hugely entertaining.  So you can see, even when Minecraft wasn’t around I still found ways to support and endorse and share in his passion for everything technology.

Then, after about 6 months we reintroduced the computer and Minecraft.  The kid’s interest is still as keen as ever, but he’s much calmer and moderate with it. Time limits aren’t stressful to enforce. He willingly and of his own accord goes off to do other things.

All I ever wanted to teach him was the importance of moderation. It’s hard for a 10 year old to work that on their own – I felt like it was my job as a parent to try and show him.  A clean break to begin may have seemed harsh but we had exhausted all our other options, and I guess my post was simply a shout out to other parents out there like me…. because all of us, at some point, come to a crossroads and know we must do the hard thing, the difficult thing, in order to do right by our kids in the long run.  It aint easy, but no-one said parenting would be.   You may not agree with the approach I took and you are entitled to your opinion, but what I can tell you is that the solution worked for us.  Life is better, post Minecraft-wars.

Cheers.

Hate mail and love letters: The B-Side of Family photo albums.

Makes you wonder if you should bother going to all that trouble to teach them how to write, doesn’t it?

Go To Bed, an original poem by me (“The Mother”)

Cake... or is it?It was time for Liam to go to bed

“Off You Go” his mother said

The boy he was a sneaky liar

He had no plans to retire

 

“I’m going!” he said with a shifty grin

And headed for the fridge wherein

He surveyed the contents looking suspicious

Hoping to find something delicious.

 

Lucky was he, for inside he found

A fat dark cake of chocolate round

His eyes shot sideways, that little Liam

Was sure to check no-one could see him

 

When the coast was clear he reached inside

And lifted the cake with a dreamy sigh

His tongue shot forth to give a lickers

Before dropping the cake into his knickers

 

He headed stealthily for the door

A sagging pud inside his drawers

His thighs now squelched with thick black muck

He clenched his buttocks with a tight little suck

 

At first what seemed like a good idea

Now filled Liam with dread and fear

Upstairs he headed one step then two

Chocolate melting like sloppy goo

 

Thick brown soup in his underwear

Could only look like diahorrea

Down his legs and on the stair

Just as his brother drew up near

 

He yelled out loud with his ugly face

“You shat yourself, you bloody disgrace!”

“Oh No” cried Liam, letting his knickers drop

“It’s cake” he said and they watched it plop

 

The brother he blinked and stared in fright

Then yelped “Why Liam, You little tike!”

He grabbed a handful big as he could

And filled his mouth with thick pooey pud

 

Next morning mother collecting washing

Was not surprised when she saw sloshing

A pair of undies stained with skids

She yelled and cursed “those bloody kids! “

 

“When will they learn? Why can they not?

To put their poos into the pot?

And wipe their bum, oh too absurd!

They LIKE their undies laced with turd!”

 

– Nadine Millar with inspiration and hilarity from Mark Pearce, The Beast Teacher.

Liam Wins Gold

Liam winning gold today in the 25 meter free style, by just a whisker.  He’s in lane two, near the botton of the screen.  He’s such a reserved little boy, I never picked him for being so competitive.  But there he is, drilling down the pool with the same determination that has seen him waking me up at 6am for the past two weeks so I could take him down to the pool to train.  So proud of him.  This is the stuff of why.

My Four Year Old… is not four anymore

I have a four year old girl.  She’s not three and she’s not five, and she’s not a boy. These distinctions matter a lot.

A three year old is, for the most part, still like a baby.

A five year old is suddenly and irrevocably aware of the world and her place in it.

A boy… well… A boy is a boy (and I say that with equal affection).

But at four there is a bridge to cross, and Bobbie, right now, is on it.  Click click click go her plastic heels, blue eyes cast upward to meet the gaze of those who have had the good fortune to be in town as her parade passes through.  I envisage her as the lead actress in a big budget Bollywood film, with swathes of extras thrusting their arms skyward in unison, dancing to the beat that Bobbie is setting.

This is my four year old girl – not three, and not five, and not a boy.

I wrote the above diary entry on the 5th of May 2011, nearly a year ago.  I came across it today and thought… how true.  Bobbie is now 5, and everything is different.  She could still be a Bollywood star, I’m sure, but suddenly we’re all homework this and ‘how do you spell that?’.  I wake up in the mornings to find beautifully handwritten letters strewn about the carpet (“Mum, I love you, do you love me?”).  And pictures of her and her brothers bouncing on the “Chrampoleen”.  My four year old girl is not four anymore.


The Making of Jarek

Lightning struck over the dark village of Scandinavia!  Winds swept through the gaps of the houses, Scandinavia had been turned into a wasteland.  Long ago this once prosperous land was a country of joy and laughter…until now.

Suddenly the huddled people heard a giant roar “ENOUGH!” cried the most ruthless and revolting Viking known as Eirg Goldminer.  Everyone froze solid, “We must not let not let all this hold us back from becoming the most powerful empire in the world!”  One of the men cried “what are we supposed to do?” and others began murmuring in agreement.  Another desperately said “we’re gone for.”  Quiet silence fell over the crowd.  “Here is what we will do, we will build long boats that are small enough to slip through small and big enough to sail in the ocean.  If the building is successful…we will conquer England!”

It took months but they finally did it.  But before the voyage began a terrible tragedy occurred.  Erig Gildminer died.  Nobody knew what to do.  “We should go without him”, said one man. However, not many people like that idea.  It took days but one person did come up with an idea.  “What about Jarek?”  “You mean Erig’s son?”  “Yes, we have no other choice!”

On the day of the voyage one boat was for the women and children, the other boats were for the men.  Then out came Jarek, his red beard thick, he looked tough.  “People of Scandinavia today we set sail, my father may have died but we must not give up hope.  Now let’s kill us some English!”  Men rushed and leaped onto boats carrying sacks of weapons and food, and paddled off.  Storm hit Scandinavia disappeared behind them as rolling clouds followed their boats as they went to sleep dreaming of power and wealth.

When they were waking up they saw the lush emerald grass as they neared the coast of England.  The captain jumped off his ship, “ATTACK MEN!” he screamed.  Men jumped out of their ships with axes and swords, and all sorts of other weapons.  As they ran sand crunched under the feet.  “Arrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!” cried the men ferociously. 

One of the villagers looked up from picking crops.  He saw a shiny light in the distance that was the sun reflecting off the Viking’s amour.  He ran down to the beach but when he drew closer he saw savage men with armour, shields, swords and lots of other fierce looking weapons.  “Run!” he screamed terrified.  The villagers looked shocked.  “Aaaaahh!” cried one of the men as an axe crushed down on his head sending blood spraying from his face.  “Aaaahhh!!!” cried the people as they ran with nowhere to go.  Screams of terror rose as poor villagers struggled as they were cut down.  Women and children cried, babies were smashed against the rocks and some women were taken hostage.  “Retreat!” cried the men, everyone ran past the wood and ashes of their homes as flames leaped into the air turning the sky black and their village into hell.

“We won!” roared the men.  “But now men, save the party for when we get back to Scandinavia because now we must gather all our food and wealth and sail home” commanded Jarek.  The journey back to Scandinavia was fast and short.  They returned in just one day and night, and when they touched the shore the rolling thunder went away.  Women and children jumped out of the boats and started cooking food for a grand feast.

That night as they were all drinking and eating Jarek stood up and said “A toast to all the men who built the ships and all who came on this journey, and to the women and children.  Now we will be called…VIKINGS!!  I will be known as Jarek – The Hell!”  “Hooray” the people cheered.  The party went on for weeks without an end.

THE END
This story was written by Cormac, aged 9

 


School Reports (or “Parents’ Performance Review”)

On Cormac “I am delighted by his eagerness to learn and his positive approach to all areas of the curriculum, Cormac is an absolute pleasure to teach”

On Liam “I am so proud of the work Liam has produced and what he has achieved this year…He always tries his best in every aspect of his learning and is chatty and polite to adults in school”

On Bobbie “Bobbie is a confident and independent learner and also works very well as part of a group or team. She takes turns and shares and his good relationships with both peers and adults in the school”

School reports just in – otherwise known as parents’ performance review

Bobbie Turns 5

Happy 5th Birthday to Bobbie, aka Neave Karaina Ines Millar, born on Christmas Day but whose birthday is celebrated on the 1st of December every year, except this year when we celebrated it on the 27th of November. Fairly straight forward?