For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I finally managed to get my stories written and sent off to the publishers. Blimey, it took me at least three times the usual time and I'm not entirely happy about the last one. I wouldn't be surprised if it comes back to be rewritten. The brain is still not back to normal working order and I feel every one of my fifty years.
Ah well, I'll try and be British about it, but that doesn't come naturally to me ;).

I need to show you a major metamorphosis within our family.
My youngest girl is definitely and most convincingly not my baby girl anymore.
I knew that, of course. She has told and shown me many times. But still, you know, it's kind of hard to let go...
Now, the outside has been adjusted to the inside.
One day she was looking like a tall little girl, on the balancing wheel in the playground.

The next day, after a visit to the hairdresser, she's this guitar playing cool teenager.

Mystery is her middle name.

Ahhh, another month and she will be thirteen and that'll definitely be the end of me being the mother of young children. I'll try and make the most of that last month.

About that playground.
I'm considering writing to my MP about it (does that sound integrated and British?).
See, there's this sign above the entrance:

I think that's just so discriminatory. Myrna and her friends really enjoy going in there, and even Owen likes to come along every now and then. They're always very mindful, helpful and kind to little ones. (When there are any, that is, because we're usually there in school hours.) They push them on the swings, they hold them when they want to climb, they pick them up and take them to their parents when they fall...
Yet they're all - apart from Myrna - over twelve, most of them over fourteen.

When I have the dogs with me, I'll not go into the play area because I realize some children might be scared of them. So I stay just outside. But I wish I had a pound for every time a little child comes up to stroke or cuddle them. And they are so good with little children, they lie down flat and undergo all the attention patiently. They've never yet scared a child, or caused any damage, for that matter.

On Mondays I take Myrna to the local Music Centre where the choir rehearsals take place. I always stay there until they're finished, not only because I like to hear them sing, but also because otherwise Mrs Y, who takes the choir, would be the only adult in the building. The Music Centre is on the premises of a Primary School, in a fenced off area, behind big iron gates. I don't know how, but the other day a group of about six youngsters - all boys - managed to get onto the school yard and into the Music Centre. Within a few minutes they managed to kick over all the bins, pull the fire extinguisher off the wall and shout offensive and obscene language at the choir girls. I know I can be quite scary and authoritative if I have to, but I can't say they were very impressed. Between the two of us Mrs Y and I managed to persuade them to leave, but not before they'd caused a lot of damage and a real fright with the girls of the choir.
Now, I'm pretty sure not one of these boys was older than ten. I'd say they were closer to eight or nine years old.
Which means that, technically, they would be allowed to go into that playground.
So where's the sense in that? What's age got to do with it in the first place?
IF, and I say if there has to be a sign, couldn't it say something about behaviour and respect for other people / children and the equipment?

I'm sure people who know me have heard me sing this song before, but I'm convinced that our (adult) expectations determine a large part of the behaviour of young people. I'm aware of the fact that children within the home ed community often have a more positive picture projected onto them. And I'm also aware of the fact that the school system makes it more difficult for children to be different to what they're expected to be. But signs like this certainly don't help bring about a change in attitude. They make teenagers feel excluded. They send out this message that when you're past the age of twelve you do not play and have fun anymore. Instead, you're expected to display bad and destructive behaviour, which makes you a potential danger to younger children.
Okay, end of rant. I'm preaching to the converted here.

I might set up a good old English picket line outside that playground with over twelves carrying signs: "We want to play, too!" or "I am nice, trust me!" (although then 'they' might think these teenagers are juvenile paedophiles...) or "Socializing doesn't stop at twelve" or...

The horrible thing is that Myrna - my law abiding daughter - feels that if she goes to that playground with her over twelve friends, she is breaking the law. And that she can't go anymore once she's thirteen. We've talked about it, but she's still hesitant. She's convinced she'll get into trouble when the park wardens see her. So, I'm back to taking my child to the playground. To make sure that she's safe. And happy.
What a strange world we live in.


Gill said...

Wow, she looks stunning! And yes, a lot older ;-)

I share your disgust of that kind of thinking re: the sign. My personal pet hate is the 'no unaccompanied children' one on shops - as if all children are automatically thieves unless with an adult.

I love this country but I'm the first to admit that its generic attitude to children sucks.

Went to Holland on holiday a lot as a child myself though and the difference was amazing!! Restaurant staff spoke directly to us! This was something that had never happened to us in England. And shop staff - everyone. They even seemed to like to see us playing, which was a complete novelty to me. I loved being there.

Mieke said...

LOL Gill, I actually considered including some of the experiences we've had in shops, when the shop people didn't realize Owen, Myrna and a friend were with me... Shocking, the things they got told and all they were doing was walking there. Ow, and laughing.

I remember the first time I came to England and I couldn't get over the fact that (a) there were public places where children were not allowed, even in daytime!, and (b) that there were still people going to these places!!
Before we moved here, when AL and O were only four and two, we came to England to see Ken's family visit and we were asked to leave a restaurant where we were having lunch because the children were too noisy!! I was absolutely shocked.
When we have Dutch guests I always get kind of embarrassed for having to explain that, sorry, children aren't welcome everywhere.
Having said that, I'm afraid that if you'd go to Holland now you might not find the Dutch as tolerant as before. Things - and especially tolerance levels - have changed majorly.

thenewstead6 said...

My eldest is 13 this year, and aren't these teen years scary?! I'm glad I've got baby J to help me con myself into still being a "young mum" even if the mirror says otherwise...

Mieke said...

*grin* To be honest, Ann, I love those teen years. In quite a different way to how I love them when they're little, but I find it fascinating to see how everything they've been gathering and developing comes to bloom, and they all do it in their very own way.
I've always had teens in the house. Even when AL was young we had teenage foster children. Now that all my birth children are teenagers, we have registered to foster. And it would be nice to have young foster children, in an age where fantasy and play are still very important. It keeps a nice healthy balance in the family.

Anonymous said...

I am not overtly keen on 'playgrounds' anyway. They always come across as contrived and fake to me, but of course kids love 'em. We had a playground put in our back garden in the old house and brought it to the forest when we moved here. It looks out of place, lol, but the kids love the swings (me too actually) and the platform bit of it is ace as a lookout.

But I don't like the kind of play that goes on in public playground. So often kids are taken to them to be 'unleashed' during some spell of 'quality time' between school and whatever extracurricular activity is next on the schedule. And whether we like it or not, a group of unsupervised kids at a playground are at the mercy of the sort of gangs of lost boys you mention invading a space at the choir.

I don't know what to say really. Where we live there is a community playground maintained by the villagers, there is no age limit to who may play on it but I tend to ask the massive bloke teenage boys to get down off the beams of part of it because I know that there is a weight limit.

If we go to parks where there are a load of massively built people who are barely able to contain themselves with regard to the littler ones, not that they are being mean, but 'clumsy' is a word that that springs to mind, we would feel intimidated enough not to put the smaller members of our family into that mix.

At the trampoliney part of a local play centre they have one trampoline for little kids and one massive one for the big b*ggers. The bigger one is always splattered with blood, purely because when a mass of muscle, blood and tissue of that size is careering through the air it makes quite a mess when impacting on another. *sigh*

I spose what I am saying is that I agree with you in's not fair to segregate the playgrounds, but my experience is that a lot of injuries occur at those places and it's just a lot less hassle to avoid that happening.

Play is about wild abandon to most kids used to being penned up anyway, and that is why so many injuries do occur in contrived play spaces, I'd say your kids are not the norm and that they will be kinder and more considerate and less 'charged'. Perhaps you could do what kids used to do to council signs in the old days: if you don't like what it says: grafitti over it till it says what you like. I can't tell you how many signs my own little pre teen gang went around altering in the public parks when I was a kid.


EF x