Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The schools question

Our daughter is just one and a half, so you might think it's a little bit early to worry about this, but all anyone ever seems to want to talk about is schools. I've lost count of the number of people who have asked us if we'll move house (possibly, but not to be near a good school) or if we'll find faith (no way, and even if we did we both believe schools should not be faith based).

Then there are the people you meet at the park, or signing sessions, or through the other parent and child networks, who assume you'll feel the same way. "London is so vibrant," they say, by which they mean multi-cultural, "and when we didn't have kids we really loved going to the theatre and eating food from different cultures, but now we have children our priorities have changed and we want to be somewhere quieter," by which they mean whiter and more middle-class. 

Fine, I don't want small minded racists living near me anyway (or for that matter, non racist people who think a small market town is the height of excitement), though it is particularly galling if you've earmarked them as a potential friend because they too allow their child an occasional biscuit and have heard of Ed Miliband. 

But what isn't fine is that some people seem to think you are practically abusing your children by choosing to stay in London. In Haringey no less, home of riots and child abuse and 160 languages. 

I'd been warned that as your children grow older, the things that drive you and your friends apart are not the differences over demand feeding and routine, sleep training and co-sleeping, each to their own on those, but ideological differences over education, and insinuations that you don't want the best for your child - that you will sacrifice their future on the alter of your own pompous misguided left wing values. 

As if we don't all want the best for our children. I want the best for my child. I want the best for all the children who will be in her local school with her, when it is her time to go to school. And I believe the best way to get the best for them all is to have a comprehensive education for all our children, not just for those who have to go to the shit schools (because that, my friends, is not comprehensive). 

One person I know pointed me to a bit of research she had come across that suggested middle-class parents don't mind their kids going to 'bog-standard comprehensives' because they feel it teaches them a lesson about how to get on with all kinds of people, even those from ethnic minorities, even those who are poor. I'm offended by this. I do not want my daughter to benefit because they are poor for fuck's sake, I want them not to be poor, and above all not to be poorly educated. 

What we'll have to teach her at home I guess, because there won't be any of them at the school she is likely to go to, is how to deal with the holier-than-thou smugness of the kind of people who think we'll be doing the wrong thing by her, by not choosing where to live by catchment area. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Where dreams come true

I love crafts. I'm not particularly good at them - neatness is not one of my main attributes, but what I lack in precision I make up for in enthusiasm.

And I love looking through catalogues at things to buy. So imagine the excitement when a new Baker Ross catalogue comes through the door. They sell all kinds of kids' craft materials, from make your own snow globes to pens that draw on glass and funky stickers.

What's more, now my 18 month old is getting to the age where she's interested too. Playdough, made to my mum's thirty year old recipe (see below) was a hit, and next up is rainbow rice where you colour rice with food colouring, put it in a crate and bury toys and cups in it for playing.

So I can't wait she's in for a treat when our next delivery arrives. I've gone for London stickers and pirate stickers and mini chests of drawers you can paint yourself and design your own fridge magnets and, joy of joy, bottles and sand that allow you to make your own sand pictures, the kind of thing I've dreamed of since seeing them in European seaside resorts as a kid. I'm We're going to have a lot of fun.

Playdough recipe

1 cup of plain flour

1 cup of water

1/2 cup of salt

1 tablespoon oil 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar

A few drops of liquid food colouring

Put everything in a pan and cook on a moderate heat for a few minutes, stirring the whole time, until it thickens. When it's cool knead for a few minutes then wrap in clingfilm and store in the fridge.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The racism of strangers

On the bus two old women were admiring my daughter. Of course they were - she's lovely. She smiled, they cooed, she giggled, I was proud - everyone was happy. The one of them turned to the other: "She's a lovely little girl," she said. "You don't get many blond haired blue eyed children about these days do you."

I am jewish. To those tuned in to such things, I look jewish. My skin is, hmmm - olive? swarthy? a little darker anyway. My hair is brown. My eyes are hazel, whatever that means.

A little later one of the women turned to me. "Where does she get her colouring?" she said.

Here's what I said:
"From my husband. He's fair."

Here's what I wish I had said:
"I don't know, we bought her from gypsies who stole her from a white family."

Monday, 11 June 2012

Some things I like

1) Ninjabread Men! It's what happens when good gingerbread men go bad. Get them here: Ninjabread Men

2) Cookie monster mug - with space for your cookies. Get them here.

* The first two finds courtesy of the Soup Dragon Facebook page

3) This rainbow cake made with copious amounts of food colouring - I have no doubt the organo-fascists of north London will run a mile which is exactly why I intend to serve it for afternoon tea next time anyone comes over.

4) This article on breastfeeding and bottle feeding by Hanna Rosin from The Atlantic magazine in April 2009 sent to me by a friend following my previous post on bottle feeding.