Monday, November 18, 2013

Parental empowerment

Tuscany 2012 by PhylB
Tuscany 2012, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
I'm not sure if it is the sheer size of my family that has changed the way I approach life compared to many of the people around me... (some don't realize that when you have five kids, you still only have the same two incomes you had when you had none, to pay for everything, including the five extra bedrooms). Or perhaps it is the instability of the current economic climate, especially given I own my own business. But sometimes when I look at the positives, rather than the stresses this lifestyle affords me I have to conclude that it can even be empowering...

I used to play the game... the middle-class game of providing my children with all-class parties, of attending all the mums' dinner nights, even when I was too busy, too tired or too skint. I paid for the obligatory swimming lessons at a fiver a go, the summer clubs, the badminton, the martial arts, the football and all the rest. Childhood was regimented instead of wild like in my day.

But now I couldn't go to five sets of mums' dinners even if I wanted to - I'd be out all of December for a start and two stone heavier at the end of it, so I can choose not to! I can take back my childrens' birthdays and have a few kids to my house, ones they actually want to play with, rather than lining the pockets of the local softplay and having my kid ask me at the end of the day whose party they had just been to, lost in the circus of it all. I have been spurred on by their overpriced swimming lessons, to get into my own swimsuit and actually get in the water, as my father did before me and, with Thomas, teach Léon and Anna to swim all by ourselves. You feel a sense of achievement, and dare I say empowerment, taking back your life to the individual level once more. I know society doesn't expect parents to go swimming with their kids any more. Everything conspires against it - the crazy permitted ratios of adults to kids in public pools - it is only now that Léon is 8 that we can take all three wee ones together. And when Léon tried to get his swimming badge at Beavers last year the leader said he needed to bring in 'a letter from his swimming teacher' to prove he could swim. When he pointed out he had learned without lessons - in the river on holiday, they scratched their heads and weren't sure that counted! But shouldn't that count more? Passing on your knowledge and skills to your child rather than delegating them to someone else is definite a recession positive I have learned to cherish.

(Oh, and if you are wondering what inspired this - Anna learned to swim under water today using only her pretty pink goggles - she was very pleased with herself! But of course, you're not allowed to take photos in public pools either, grrr, so you'll need to wait till she's next at the seaside for photographic proof!)

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