Gym-tastic? Or not?!

The other day was a very icy morning, so when I went out to the car and saw the frozen windscreen, I told the children we’d have to wait a bit before we could leave. Eventually, we got in the car but as I got onto the road, I realised that although the ice had melted, the windscreen itself was completed misted and I couldn’t see, so I told the children I needed to pull over.

At this point, my 6 year old son was flabbergasted:

“Mummy! Don’t stop! Sometimes things are difficult but you can’t just give up. You need to PERSEVERE!”

My children attend a Church of England primary school, and each month has a different Christian value as a focus throughout school. This month it was perseverance! After I’d made it clear I wasn’t ‘giving up’ but rather waiting for a chance to be safer, it was all ok!

However, perseverance is a funny one isn’t it? There are many things that frankly, children don’t have a choice over – their entire school days are made up of a curriculum they have to follow, and for many, home life operates with military precision to squeeze everything in that needs to be done – children and adults alike!

Clubs are one decision that my children have always made for themselves. Each term, they choose which school club (if any) they would like to do, and they have regular clubs outside of school too – both do gymnastics, my daughter goes to Brownies and my son is on the waiting list for Beavers, but I have been told that he’s unlikely to get a place before he’s too old to go! They’ve also had ballet, football and swimming but it’s difficult to know when is the right time to let them stop doing an activity – when it’s not ‘giving up’ but rather deciding something isn’t for you, because let’s face it, these after school activities aren’t kind to the bank balance either!

The swimming was the first activity to go – I was adamant that my children would have swimming lessons because I didn’t want them to fear the water, but I also wanted them to know its dangers and how to be safe, however they were so unenthused by their lessons that after a year of begging to stop, I gave in and now they go to public swimming sessions weekly instead – the enjoyment they get from these sessions has completely transformed the way they are around water – it was definitely the right decision, but only because they still swim regularly. My son on the other hand decided to stop going to football, because he didn’t like the fact that some of the other children kept trying to get the ball off him (we had a chat about some of the basics of the game)!

At the moment, Brownies and gymnastics are still happening, but I think the days are numbered with gymnastics as they don’t seem quite so enthusiastic about it as they were, it’s just such a tricky thing as we’re trying to encourage these activities as hobbies, yet when the children aren’t having fun, can they still be hobbies? Sometimes I think the answer can be yes, as my daughter is proof of…

If you follow me on Twitter or read my blog regularly, you’ll know that in my spare time I’m a primary school teacher, music specialist and I also teach privately at home. A couple of years ago, my daughter, aged only 6 at the time said after I finished teaching one night:

“Okay Mummy, I’ve been listening to you teaching through the walls and I think I know the songs now. When can I do my Grade 1?!”

I’ve never put any pressure on the children to choose music lessons just because it’s what I do, and any of you who have seen the amount of work the children need to put into getting ready for an exam will understand the concerns I had when my 6 year old daughter announced she wanted to have a go! It’s not just about performing the pieces accurately, the children also get assessed on their ability to read traditional music notation at sight and answer questions about music that they hear. The ABSRM exams are also very traditional and formal in their approach.

Nevertheless, my daughter was determined that she wanted a go, so I helped her prepare. She loved the performing but we had many tears over the sight singing until one day it clicked. Thankfully this day was literally the day before the exam, but I think both of us could have quite happily given up at times – in fact I went up to bed and found this once:

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When the results came out, not only had she passed her exam with Distinction, age 7, she’d only gone and got the highest mark I’d ever seen, not just in my career as a music teacher, but also in all the years I’d been taking those exams, and was subsequently invited to take part in the ABRSM High Achievers Concert! I’m so glad we persevered, and since then she’s got Grade 2 Distinction under her belt, and is getting ready to do Grade 3 next term!

 

So should we be pushing our children to carry on, or, if it’s supposedly a hobby, should they be able to make the choice not to if it isn’t something they enjoy, to give them the chance to find their niche? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Be Brave…

Isn’t that something we advise our children a lot? “Be brave.” Whether they’ve fallen over and you can see that silence before the building, inevitable scream, or perhaps they are feeling shy and don’t want to go over and talk to the other children, even though they’d love to join in with their playing, or when we can see the tantrum building as another child takes a toy or pushes your child, because they haven’t learnt how to share yet. There’s a whole host of emotions or scenarios to which we could say those two words. They’re very easy to say, the trouble is, I’m a bit of a hypocrite because, I’m not sure that I could actually be brave in some of the circumstances I expect my children to be. If I hurt myself, I may not have a tantrum, but I will more than likely want to loudly utter a stream of expletives, and if one of my peers acts in a way that I don’t think they should, I have to bite my tongue very, very hard in order to remain dignified! And most significantly for now, would I find it easy to walk up to a group of people I didn’t know and introduce myself in order to facilitate an opportunity that I might otherwise miss out on? Hell no!

That is until yesterday, when I turned into the bravest person I have ever been! Forget the fact the fact that I gave birth twice with no pain relief. Forget the fact that I once ate some mayonnaise without crying. Last night, I joined a choir!

Perhaps the fact that I was a music teacher and before that a semi professional singer makes this action seem like not a very big thing at all, but I was actually shaking all day, before I’d even decided whether I was brave enough to go or not. Just the thought of it was making me nervous! I can’t even explain why. I love singing, adore it in fact. I trained as a classical singer, and did a lot of singing in my late teens and early twenties, but gave it all up when I went down the ‘sensible’ route to a regular wage, and while I haven’t missed the day to day aspects of my job since becoming a stay at home mum, I have had pangs for the performing side, especially classical music.

I put it to a Twitter vote and genuinely would have done what the majority of people told me to do (yes I’m easily led too!). As it was, they told me to go for it, so I got in my car and drove. I’ve got no idea how I found it, I seriously don’t know how I ever coped without Google Maps! I then sat in my car for a bit, dithering about whether to actually go in, or whether to just drive home again, but I kept hearing my dad’s voice talking about fuel prices in my head so (merely so as to not have wasted the petrol!) I went in.

I intended to look around for the person who looked least scary, but I clearly looked slightly scared because this lady asked me if I was okay! I told her I was a potential newbie, and straight away she gave me a massive hug, and introduced me to loads of people. And that was that!

So that was my brave moment of the year so far, and it was worth it! And I know that when my own children need to be a bit brave as they will inevitably need to be at some point, when they ask me if I know how it feels (which they also inevitably will at some point!), I will be able to say “yes!”