Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Magic word confusion

LLC has forged her own version of the “magic word:” NO.

It comes out as “noooo,” and almost sounds like a yodel. It’s pretty cute, and because of this it can be easy to forget that she’s repeatedly shunning the affirmative and voicing her opposition, even when the answer clearly is yes!

Cue eye rub. “LLC, are you tired?” “NO!” Okay, I understand, she has already developed a love of being awake and not missing anything.

But then, cue dinner time, and LLC loves her food. “LLC, are you hungry? Let’s go get some dinner.” “NO!” Yet then she’ll reconsider and start using her “eat” sign.

Next cue really bad smell. “LLC, do you need your diaper changed?” “NO!” And then she’ll wander off in the direction of her changing mat.

I’m not sure where “yes” is hiding in her daily expanding vocabulary, but it hasn’t yet come out to play. I wondered if maybe I say no a lot, but I don’t think I do, since at our sing and sign class I also learned the sign for stop and I often use this instead of no when I want her to quit something. I’ve also been trying to respond to negative actions by responding with what a more appropriate positive action would be, as suggested to me in a previous post.

I guess through this phase of NO I must bear in mind the old adage that actions speak louder than words!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

How much of the England Riot shame starts in the home?

Devastated, disgusted and frustrated. This is my initial reaction to the senseless, barbaric looting and rioting unfolding on my London doorstep and quickly spreading across England like wildfire. It’s horrific to see vibrant city streets crumbling and burning at the hands of, largely, young people without discernable conscience or respect for social order. How else can we explain those willing to crush the homes and livelihood of the innocent by throwing petrol bombs or breaking shop windows with the same ease they’d use to switch off a light? How did things come to this? Were they never taught about values and consequences at home?

The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham by police, still under investigation, proved the catalyst for this mayhem. Yet the root cause of the riots of the last three days runs far deeper than this incident in my opinion. Mark’s peaceful protest gone wrong appears a worrying testament to the latent tensions brewing across the country, poisoning our society and fundamentally blurring the line between right and wrong.

Fortunately the closest I’ve ever come to anti-social youth was riding the train home from work one evening. I was in my early 20s, and with Chris. Two young boys, probably in their early teens, were smoking on the train. It wasn’t the height of rush hour so the train wasn’t packed. A number of us asked the kids to put out their cigarettes. They scoffed. Then they snubbed them out on the train seat, only to light up again. This pattern continued our entire train ride home. Perhaps naively, I was shocked how these boys just did not care. They had no respect for Authority, and that they weren’t supposed to be smoking on the train. They had no respect for fellow passengers. They acted as if they were untouchable, and how dare we even attempt to mess with that.

This memory always stays with me. It reinforced my knowledge that I have to keep my wits about me living in a city; it also worried me and discourages me from attempting to reason with wanton youth, for fear of a worse result than pure scoffing and a face full of cigarette smoke. I don’t believe people in the street should sanction anti-social behaviour by teens and children, but simultaneously stories of people being stabbed for asking youth to stop messing around prove a pretty big deterrent.

So what to do now, now that an unfortunate incident has been blown out of proportion and become an excuse for seemingly bored, angry, frustrated young people to run feral and destroy society in their wake? Undoubtedly the police are working hard at quelling this challenging situation, yet so far they appear a limited disincentive to rioters and that is worrying. Should they be using limited force or tear gas or rubber bullets? Or would this just lead to a portrait of them assaulting human rights? Should the army be called in, as many were suggesting on news boards and in social media?

And what to do with the perpetrators as they gradually are identified and charged? How can we genuinely get through to the “untouchable” to show that their behaviour hurts the innocent and is unacceptable? Some are calling for a re-introduction of a National Service-like programme. Most importantly, how to we rehabilitate more than condemn?  What do you think?

Yes, burning London and England-wide cities are a wake- up call about the ripple effects of poverty, lack of education, gang warfare and survival of the fittest mentalities that run deep in England for which there are no easy solution. But when we strip that all away, and ask how these kids came to be involved in such rioting, I can’t help wondering where their parents are? I know I can’t tar them all with the same brush and that often bad eggs/influences in society may cloud positive family influences but I can’t help feeling shame for these rioting children, and shame for the parents that don’t know where their children are or who won’t chastise their children’s behaviour as anti-social, cruel and wrong.  I'm not talking about dumping their child with social services either - I'm talking about taking some personal responsibility and being involved in a positive way.

I may be speaking out of turn, but how did we reach a point where young people are running rampant destroying English cities? I’m not saying that there aren’t very real challenges in our society that need addressing or that these children and young adults shouldn’t be held directly accountable for their actions. I just wonder why they never learned that for every bit of good they put back into the world they are one step closer to tackling inequity. And that anti-social behavior or rioting or cruelty will only cause hurt, condemnation and more struggles.

These are messages we should all be sharing with our children in hopes that gradually we will collectively generate goodwill, that as part of the bigger picture, will help shift the balance away from the madness of late.

*For a take on why rioters feel like they don't belong to "the community", read Camila Batmanghelidjh
She makes a compelling case for more proactive approaches to social inclusion with fair insights into the anti-society where rioters may be coming from.  I don't feel, however, that this negates personal and in some cases parental accountability for the goings on of late.  Rehabilitation of this mindset is key, just not cheap or easy.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Bliss meets late night flight fandango

Hello again, I’m breaking my silence. Part of the reason for it was that last week Chris, LLC and I jetted off to Malta for a last minute break. This was our first week long family holiday of three to somewhere hot, but not too hot, we’re talking the low 30s C / high 80s/low 90s F.

And it was bliss. I rarely (if ever) swim in the sea or an outdoor pool in the UK without being cold. I get cold easily, but still. To play in the water, to make drip castles in the sand, to be generally sun kissed on a daily basis was something I’m not used to and really appreciated. And so did LLC.

I referred to my tips for taking a one-year old on a long haul flight (even though this was short haul) and unsurprisingly found that some of them weren’t applicable (no more boob on tap for take-off, no bulkhead seats on offer, etc), though armed with snacks and lightweight distractions, we had LLC happily playing on our laps.  She even sat for about half an hour in the small space by our feet on the floor. She likes small spaces. Amazingly she didn't ask to parade the cabin.  But I quickly saw what others indicated – flying with small children quickly evolves into a different ball game, even with the passing of months.

And once we arrived, LLC drank everything in and coped with the heat like a native. We made sure to bring her inside during the middle of each day for a nap and some down time, but aside from that, a UFV sun suit and hat from Konfidence and a healthy dose of sun cream each day, LLC was business as usual. Running around, exploring, splashing, chatting and people watching.

Used to city breaks and more active travelling, I felt a little strange being largely resort based though our aim for this trip was to chill out, which we did, and I can't fault the resort's convenience for a child. Everything was on our doorstep, it was easy to pop LLC upstairs for a midday nap, she could eat for free at certain times in a couple of the hotel's restaurants and we also managed to wheel her out asleep in her pushchair on the nights we went for a late dinner or evening drink. I’m not sure how much more mileage we’ll get out of that night transplant from bed to stroller and back trick, but it’s handy while it lasts! And to satisfy our want of exploring, we did rent a car and visited Mdina, Valetta, Saint Julians and much of the rugged, barren limestone that is Malta - I hadn't realised it must really be only about the size of the Isle of Wight.

Refreshed and happy, we boarded our 9:40pm flight home last night hoping LLC would conk right out. Hope springs eternal. Conk out? She freaked out! Overtired, she did not want to be strapped onto Chris or my lap for takeoff. (This highlighted to me that although she will be under 2 next time we fly to NY, we will really need to get LLC her own seat). We fortunately had an empty seat in between us she that she could claim once cruising, but oh, to get to that point. She went mental. Crying, gasping, gagging, flailing, gouging, arching. Forget the snacks and toys. She was past the point of no return. A “well meaning” flight attendant, who I’m sure didn’t have children, asked "didn’t have any toys to share with her?" Had she not noticed the book or teddy that just flew through the air when proffered?

Finally, once we were allowed to unclip LLC, she moved to her “own” seat but took about 2 hours of the 3 hour flight to settle.  She kept laying down, popping up, cuddling us, standing up on the seat, trying to climb on us, all the while clearly tired but the well lit cabin didn’t exactly scream sleep. Unlike the long haul red eye flights to NY, there was  no dimming of the cabin lights.

So would we do it again? Most definitely; I'm not a resort-only type of person who can spend all day by a pool but definitely enjoyed the change of pace and the convenience of it. Ideally I'd mix these types of holidays with more adverture/exploring ones, probably "harder" with children but still near and dear to our hearts (and hopefully LLC's if she gets a taste for them growing up).  The only thing I would reconsider is taking a short haul night flight home – after a long day we were all tired but the environment didn’t invite rest and I quickly found my zen state fading fast.  The forever learning curve continues.