Thursday, 7 July 2011

Giving voice to the "Inner child"

Earlier this year I published a novel - "The Inner Child Journal of a Neurotic Parent" - a hilarious antidote to self-help overload and a seminal work for women everywhere who struggle to keep up with the domestic goddesses at the school gate and the perfect parents at the princess parties. Thankfully, some objective readers have read and enjoyed the book now, so pushing it again seems to be a reasonable thing to do - loathe as I am to hide my light under a bushel. 

The Inner Child Journal is an ideal holiday read. It will entertain and amuse, enthral and delight. And live long in your memory afterwards. Here is an extract to whet your apetite:  

This week my inner child has been feeling rather despondent.  It’s my week to staff the Montessori Tuck Shop and I’m dreading having to go there tomorrow. The nutritional content of the foodstuffs sold is appalling. I decided last year after a bitter argument with the then president of the Parents’ Association – Jeff - to stop upsetting the applecart – pie cart in this case – and simply ban Gracie from buying anything apart from fruit at Tuck Shop. I then went silly and volunteered to work there every few weeks hoping to influence the children to buy the healthier offerings. I was overcompensating for being so critical and convinced myself it was in Gracie’s interests for me to meet new people, curry favour with the movers and shakers in the upper classes and get to know her playmates. It’s been disappointing in every respect.

First, I’m rostered to work by myself – a frightful bore that leaves me run off my feet – and a punishment for speaking out, I suspect. Second, none of Gracie’s classmates have Tuck Shop, so just exactly who I think I’m cultivating is still unclear – fat kids with parents who can’t make sandwiches? Finally, try as I do, I can’t ignore the saturated fat, salt, preservatives and emulsifiers, not to mention E numbers and carcinogenic additive values in the meat pies, baked goods and hash-browns. The only almost health giving option is artificially coloured and flavoured pink milk. What sort of parent sends their children to school with money to buy this toxic rubbish? It’s worse than feeding them supermarket own brand pet food.

Freddie calls it Duck Shop and George has a less kind work for it.  I want out! George’s sister, Sophie, was actually the person who got me thinking about the ethics of school canteens. Living in the UK where school dinners have been “revolutionised” in the interests of improving the health of school children and reducing the incidence of childhood obesity, Sophie is an expert on school dinners. She’s an expert, per se, actually. Her children are anything but obese and she’s a health nut and a know-it-all, so I can take some of her remarks with a grain of salt, but even so, a salad sandwich or a tub of yoghurt wouldn’t go astray.

I offered to swap my Tuesdays at Tuck Shop for Helen’s Thursdays in the library. Helen’s an earth mother. She gardens, grows her own fruit, herbs and veggies and embraces moderation in all things.  Accordingly, she sees the merits of a little junk food from time to time. She’s expecting her fifth child and has an insatiable appetite for carbs at the moment. Since she can’t eat while on library duty, she’s very amenable to a swap with me.  I love seeing at her at school and hearing her views. Time spent with Helen is a wonderfully refreshing experience. She’s outspoken, yet loveable. She’s brave and warm and emotional and getting to know her has been one of the highlights of Montessori.

Helen was single-handedly responsible for affecting the anti car-bullying campaign last term. Three Year 2 girls (daughters of dentists) were making life hard for some children who had joined the school mid-term. One family relocated from California and the mother rode to school on a scooter – a large green one. The girls teased the son of this woman venomously about his mother who “only had a scooter”. This was the tip of the iceberg. After all, Scooter Mom was leaving her children open to some comment with that sort of behaviour. The bigger problem was that a number of girls were picking on children whose parents drove small, older model cars from Japan or Korea.  The mean girls didn’t actually know the brands of the cars, they just knew they were old and small and not very prestigious (no doubt hearing their mothers comment from the luxurious leather seats of their air-conditioned behemoths).  The taunting and ridiculing transcended the car prejudices of course, with taunts directed also at girls with healthy appetites and shy boys, but it was the car taunting that opened the huge can of worms – far more serious than mere teasing about size and smell ever could - as it seemed to constitute an attack on the parents, as well as the child.

In response, Helen initiated a campaign to get more children walking, scooting or cycling to school. The opportunities to compare cars became few and far between as many parents jumped on the bandwagon in the hopes of being environmentally friendly – or being seen as such. Hey, I drive an SUV too, but I’m not a hypocrite. It’s a hybrid. I personally don’t think I need to green up my school run, even though I applaud Helen’s ingenuity in overcoming the bullying by driving forward an eco-friendly agenda. My own approach is to park a long way from school and walk in to collect Gracie, rather than drive up to the gate and wait there ostentatiously with my engine running and carbon emissions mounting up in my notional balance sheet of carbon crime.  A number of parents now follow my example rather than face the car-bully backlash. I’m not sure what I think of all of this. I got swept up in the momentum, at the time, and supported Helen, but I think the girls in question are a product of their homes and it’s their parents and their attitudes that really ought to be chastised not the rest of us who drive German or Italian cars. There endeth the lesson.


Go on - buy the book. Find out what happens! And have a great holiday.

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