Daughter’s, body image and self esteem

DAUGHTER’S, BODY IMAGE AND SELF-ESTEEM

Having a young daughter makes me worry.  How’s my daughter going to make sense of this strange world?  Will she succumb to the pressure young girls often feel to look a certain way so they can be thought of as attractive, popular and successful?  Subtle and blatant ‘messages’ bombarded at them from dawn until dusk (that is unless you live on a remote outback farm with no internet, tv etc, or North Korea).
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I look into my crystal ball, it’s 2026, we’re all going around on hoover-boards, Rose is 15, wears all black clothing with Doctor Martins boots.  She’s deeply into social media (or whatever the future equivalent is), is worried about her weight, clothes and looks.  Various boys are starting to hang around her.  I was a teenage boy once (a very bad one at that), to think of them chasing my daughter gives me the shivers.  I digress, the worry is at this time in her life her body image and self-esteem are going to cause her some degree of misery.
What made me worry about her teenage self today was hearing a radio report talking about the former Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington and whilst appearing on the reality show ‘I’m a celebrity’ she broke down in tears.
This happened after showering next to a young girl who was a model.  She revealed that she felt insecure about her body next to someone who ” is stick thin, she’s got these push-up bras that make her boobs seem massive. She’s stunning.”  After the show she talked about how she’d received loads of abuse via twitter about her looks.

This young girl is a 4 times Olympic medal winner for goodness sake, in my books that’s about as high an achievement as you can get.  When a superhuman young women who’s achieved the highest accolade in the world isn’t confident with her own body image and gets abuse about her looks, what hope’s there for our daughters?
We can tell our kids ‘beauty is on the inside’ but we all know that’s no help to a teenager feeling rubbish about themself.

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As a concerned dad I can educate my daughter to a variety of life’s mysteries and cultural values.  I can teach her not to follow the crowd, to read lots of books, listen to good music, understand what’s going on in the world.  I can tell her not to get hung up on superficial things.  But this is easier said than understood by a teenager.  Being a dad, they’re many things I won’t be able to teach.

Hopefully I’m worrying over nothing, getting ahead of myself in future fear and unnecessary premonitions.  In ten years time perhaps things would’ve changed.  Pressure to look a certain way and self-image insecurity is a thing of the past.  Young girls now look up to artists, politicians, scientists and philosophers rather than orange wags and reality tv types.
By then lets hope It’s hip to be square.

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Getting children ready in the morning

Getting children ready in the morning

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1.  Cereals – No Weetabix means a slight whine. That is until I bust out the toast and honey. I remind them that Bees actually make this stuff which they think is cool, problem averted.

2.  Chairs – We have two small children’s chairs, one green the other orange. Each morning without fail major chair drama unfolds, screams, shouts and general chair related stress. Whoever gets the green chair is not at all happy and  chair gate ensues.  I really don’t get it, they’re identical in every other way apart from colour.
I’m contemplating spraying the orange one green or throwing both in the recycling then they can sit on the floor.

3.  Clothes – Not always, but often Rosy point-blank refuses to wear the days clothes.
‘Its too itchy, these are Tuesday pants and it’s Monday, you need to cut the label out etc. Mummy wouldn’t put this with this’.
This alongside the ‘your not getting me in this’ wriggle can really push your morning trying to stay calm buttons.  Give me a break my young daughter, I’ve only just sussed out the meaning of tights for goodness sake!

4.  Hair –  Both kids don’t like their hair being brushed.  For a few days Rose attended nursery looking like a cute swampy eco protester. Natty dreadlocks would’ve been fine in Dalston but not in Brentwood where sensible appearance is everything.

5.  Missing in action - It’s 5mins to 9, we’re running late, almost out of the door, we might just make it on time but alas, missing shoe alert. Cue frantic search (me) whilst the kids play around with ‘Sparkle’ My little pony.  As I slowly pull my hair out they endeavour to tell interesting Sparkle facts.

6.  Ready to rock - It’s 2 mins to 9, I’ve resigned myself, we’re going to be late, but perhaps only 5 mins. Jackets and shoes on, Rose has gone to the toilet, all good to go. About to step outside when up comes a whiff of doom. Theo has done a poo.  You couldn’t time it better if you tried.

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When getting children ready in the morning for school or nursery it’s trying to do everything on time that can bring a whole heap of stress.

Our young children have no conception of time, it’s a wonderful way to be.  They don’t feel the imaginary clock in the sky with its infinite counter of doom.  They are not yet compliant time slaves to the man

But it’s extremely difficult not to pass on unhealthy time vibes to our kids.  They feel the stress of their parents rushing around in the morning and everyday life.

Lets stop rushing kids, things will still be there tomorrow, nothing will fall apart if you’re a bit late.

@dadwithtwokids1

Toddlers and the internet

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My first computer was a BBC 32K.  My tiny i-phone probably contains 100 times more memory than this early home computer, but at the time it was the Ferrari of the home computer world.
We made a 5 hour trip from our home in Devon to London in order to pick up this top of the range piece of futuristic technology.  It was around 1984 and the hype surrounding home computers was such that we had high expectations of our new piece of space age trickery.  Programs such as ‘Tomorrow’s World’ gave me ideas far above the computers or my station.  Excited kids pondered the infinite possibilities on the journey up to London, anticipating the amazing things we’d soon be able to achieve.
One of the reasons my father brought the computer was because of a computer mad teacher who’d convinced him that having one (and it had to be a BBC) would put me at a great advantage.  I’d soon be well ahead of my peers, top of the class, straight A student, changing the world, writing complicated, educational computer programs.

Of course once home the only thing the computer was ever used for was to play games.  In went a bulky cassette and after several attempts (with the external cassette player making a horrible screeching sound), frogger would be loaded.

Thirty years on and we’re now well into the age of the internet.  It really has taken us into the future.  Facebook, Twitter, youtube, Google etc have changed the way we think, learn and communicate.  Perhaps they are changing our very nature.  Our children can communicate with others thousands of miles across the world, make music, art and find out just about any fact they wish.  No generation has had access to so much so quickly
Computers or rather the internet is an amazing thing.  What we now take for granted would in the past be thought of as miraculous, technological acts.

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But miracles bring responsibility.

Our young children are the internet generation, for them it’s a normal part of life-like going to school or using the telephone. We want to encourage them to be internet savvy without being naive to new age issues.

Like many other parents of toddlers, we often wonder if we let our four-year old daughter Rose on the internet too much, was she too young when she started using it and are the websites she uses of benefit?  I closely monitor what she consumes, but there are definite concerns.

Even at this young age the internet’s pull is strong.  When she’s online, the addictive nature of it is plain to see.  As she plays the beeping, flashing, noisy games she is zombified, zoned out in a personal, ‘Tron’ like computer world, oblivious to the real one around her.  It’s quite scary and slightly concerning.  Left to her own devices she’d happily be online all day  Fortunately some games are educational and she’s certainly learnt off them (even learning a few spanish phrases from Dora the explorer on NickJr).
On weekend mornings she’ll often jump into our bed at some un godly hour, not wanting to wake us up (she’s a quick learner), grab my i-phone and watch something on YouTube or play one of the apps.

The increase usage of the internet and touch screen devices by toddlers is so new that we don’t really know yet the benefits or risks that they’re being exposed to.  In some ways we’re holding our toddlers hands whilst we walk through the desert with sand in our eyes.
As it would now be impossible to ban (and I wouldn’t want to anyway), we limit her usage and monitor what sites she goes on.  I also think that taking an interest in her online world can only be a good thing.  And simply use the ying and yang vibe, a bit of internet, tv, books, outdoor pursuits, mix em round a bit and hopefully you’ll have a healthy, happy, toddler.

Some scientists have said that large amounts of internet exposure will alter the way that a child thinks.  When this is applied to a toddler it’s surely magnified due to their smaller developing mind.  It’s a major concern that our toddlers are like guinea pigs in the middle of a new experiment.

If you type in toddlers and internet into Google there’s literally nothing to tell us concern parents the effects of internet usage on our little angels.  As I write this I’ve just been told that it’s internet safety day a brilliant thing, please check out their site, it’s full of useful tips for concerned parents.

To make life even more exciting for parents of toddlers we’ve got the giant that is social media to look forward to in the near future, but that’s a whole new chapter to be tackled at a later date.

Younglee

@dadwithtwokids1

THE ESSEX CAT SCENE

New year, new post, new cat…..

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As a kid I always had a cat.   They were always there, like a reassuring, comfy rug with claws.  Coco, Blue, Bruno, Tyson and DJ were the names of my various moggys.  Creatures with attitude who’d give love on their terms only.  You never own a cat, it merely lets you look after it.

After much discussion we decided a young cat would be a good addition to our family.  Now that we live in the countryside there are mice to kill and monster spiders to devour.

Being the moral angels that we are, it was decided to score a feline from a local cat protection society rather than off some Gucci loafer wearing Essex cat king pin, who presumably breeds cats in an underground Brentwood dungeon.

It was rather surreal to find myself in the middle of Basildon at 10am on a Saturday morning at the wonderfully named ‘bascats‘ surrounded by 50-year-old ladies sporting mum jeans and knitted cat jumpers.  Their distinct look they rocked hard, respect!

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I was at a cat homing show.  After giving my details I walked around and inspected the caged creatures.
A pair of tiny young kittens immediately caught my eye, extremely cute and meowing loud.  The previous owners had lost their home, repossessed by the bank.  Their meows were filled with heartache and pain.  The metal cages contained not only cats but also their sad stories and emotional turmoil.
People were forced to give up their cats for a variety of reasons such as death, accidents and economic hardship but on this particular morning I had to put these tales of woe aside and focus on the task at hand, I was gonna get our family a cat.

Although tempted by their cuteness the young kittens were too fragile.  They would’ve ended up either covered in permanent marker pen or in the tumble dryer.  My two-year old Theo will colour in anything that moves.
But alas the kittens heartache would soon turn to joy as a family in matching kagools and sensible shoes appeared on the scene and snapped them up.

At the opposite end were the old cats, they looked like they’d seen better days (and a couple of world wars).  By now I’d sussed out this cat homing vibe, so when I saw the old couple approaching I gave them a hard stare to try and scare them off.  Go and look at another cat you old duffers is what I didn’t say.

‘Hello dear’ said Mrs Brady, old lady.
I politely smiled and moved on, I wasn’t here to make friends and looking around cats were getting snapped up left right and centre.  I had to get my hustle on and fast.

My search became more frantic, I’d looked at just about every cat in the room but not one measured up to my high expectations.  There was no way I could go home empty-handed, maybe I would have to call up the Essex cat breeding king pin after all.
Just as I was about to give up hope, Molly came into view, immediately I knew my quest was over.  I casually strolled over (not wanting her to think I was desperate) and said hello.  She put her paw out of the cage and gave me a paw bump.  This 6 month old tabby had found herself a new family.

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FAMILY HAPPINESS

Ths is a micro post for a competition that limetree are doing.  The subject is family happiness.  Voting starts via their site from May 15th so if you like what i’ve wrote please vote for me!

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Often happiness is only realised with hignsight or reflection, something not appreciated at the time.

This isn’t the case with instant gratification happiness, the type that entices us in after buying a new house, handbag or shoes.  But it’s  temporary and soon forgotten.

Family happiness is a completely different kettle of fish. Your suddenly caught up in a good old back to basics happiness vibe. Getting woken up by your kids on Sunday morning followed by a family hug session. Sounds cheesy as hell but as a happiness hit it can’t be beaten.  You feel it immedately.

Simple things now give so much.  Family walks in the park, the extended family xmas get together, together watching your child tackle that scary, slide for the first time, looking at each other and realising what an amazing thing this existance is.

www.limetr.ee

PHONIC SONG

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Yesterday morning I was woken up post gig to the familiar sound of the Phonic song via my phones youtube. If you’ve young children i’m sure you’re familiar with this lovely child friendly ditty. If not do go check it out, your kids will love it plus it’s a great learning tool.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BELlZKpi1Zs – Phonic song 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saF3-f0XWAY - Phonic song

After being lulled into a strange bliss like state whilst singing f.f.f fish I started to wonder about the guy behind the song. His name is A.J. Jenkins and he’s been described as ‘The Jack Johnson of childrens music’. His music is simple, melodic and lovely. His voice and lyrics have honesty and meaning and seem to have a calming effect on my children.
Try as I might, I can’t find anything on this guy which is strange, because these days via Google and various online channels I can usually access intimate details of anybody from my postman to the local cornershop lady.

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A.J. Jenkins is like the J.R Hartley of the phonic world, all secretive and hard to track down, an international man of mystery. Maybe the phonic scene is strictly underground. Word of mouth, under the counter, secret handshakes.
I’m surprised that someone with all this phonic goodness on offer is lying so low especially in a world were everyone is trying their up most to have profile. You wouldn’t catch Mr Tumble with no online visibility.

There’s a very simple website http://www.kidstv123.com/ where you can buy songs by A.J. Jenkins. But he certainly doesn’t seem to be cashing in on the huge popularity of his phonic goodness. I think that’s what makes this guy even more special. Not only does he compose lovely educational songs for our children, he’s got enough integrity not to try to squeeze every ounce of cash out of the phonic phenomenon. It’s really quite a lovely thing in a world of over promoted everything. Where are children are usually bombarded with the message ‘buy, buy, buy!’

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I imagine A.J. Jenkins as a 60’s counter-culture hippy living in San-Fransico in an eco-friendly house in the hills. Spending his days strumming guitar in search of the perfect riff to accompany new Phonic themed songs.

Perhaps he’s a retired pop star, a real hell razor during his day. His wild nights of trashing hotel rooms and a different groupie in every city are over. He’s now a stay at home dad getting personal satisfaction from his anonymous phonic work.

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Or maybe he’s a corporate banker trapped in the cycle of money and materialism. He only stays in his stressful, uninspiring city job to give his family the sort of life that they’ve become accustomed to. His wife has an expensive addiction to Jimmy Choos and kids at top private schools. His only escape is his double life as the Phonic master. Late at night when everyone’s asleep, he creeps into his office and secretly pens phonic melodys. It’s his only form of escapism and he doesn’t know what he would do without it.

Of course I’m having a little joke here (my partner didn’t realise this when I just read the last few sentences, ‘you don’t really think his wife has a Jimmy Choo addiction do you?, I think you’re missing the essence of A.J. Jenkins’.

But I do love the fact that this guy keeps a low profile and lets his music do the talking and wow, think how many kids throughout the world he’s touched (phonic song 1 has over 65 million hits on youtube and phonic song 2 over 157 million.  People would kill for that many hits and most would cash in.  What an amazing guy!). I’ve gotta take my hat off to him. Respect is due sir.

Just after finishing this piece i’ve discovered a Wikipedia entry on the legend that is A.J. Jenkins
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.J._Jenkins_(Singer/Songwriter) there goes my theories on him!

MOVING HOUSE

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In one of my earlier posts ‘I’ve got 99 problems but a city ain’t one’ I wrote about whether our family should leave London or not.  I concluded that the pros far outweighed the cons and I talked like we’d never leave.  How things quickly change.

Since my last post we put our East London place up for sale, sold it and have brought a house in Essex (subject to all the legal stuff going through nicely).  So am I a hypocrite? Perhaps, but alas when you have children your decisions change as much as they do.

The decision to leave was a difficult one, different ideas bounced around  like a wandering soul lost in a maze of confusion.
We initially viewed larger properties in our existing area but soon realised that to buy anywhere with enough room for the four of us would require either a win on the Euro lottery or me donning a balaclava and ‘reclaiming’ some of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension pot from RBS.
There was also the extremely important matter of schools.  In Tower Hamlets like many other London boroughs getting your child into a good school is very hit or miss.  There are more children than schools.  You see new apartments being built all over the borough but no new schools to accompany the influx.  We weren’t prepared to chance Rose’s choice of school being an unsatisfactory one.

We did consider a few areas in South London that were a bit more affordable, but after weighing things up we decided on Brentwood in Essex.  The area of Brentwood that we’ve decided on has great schools which aren’t over subscribed (a major selling point), is surrounded by miles of beautiful woodland and parks, is nearer to the children’s grandparents and is an easy commute into London.  Vicki will be commuting each day and I’ll drive in for my DJ gigs (there goes the drinking) 2 or 3 times a week so it’s not going to be that much of a change.

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Going from an apartment to a house with garden is going to be amazing.  I’ll be able to hide away to read my Sunday newspaper and cook up a storm on my new Aga.  The children are really excited about the move especially the promise of bunk beds.  There’s also talk of a cat, but let’s take this suburban dream / nightmare ;) ? one step at a time.  Vicki’s already talking about a summer garden party complete with soundsystem so i’m sure the neighbours will love us.

The downside is that it isn’t London, it’s been many years since I’ve lived in a town so will I go out of my mind with boredom? I suppose the last time I lived in a town there was no internet and I didn’t have children.  But let’s be honest, if we were millionaires and could guarantee good schools we wouldn’t be moving from London (it’s the best city in the world!).
The kids might end up with funny accents and it’s where TOWIE is based.  The day that they come home with fake tans is the day we move!

It was an extremely difficult decision to make but we do think it’s in the best interests of the children.  We are near enough to London to be able to take the kids to shows, theatre, exhibitions etc and have the beautiful Essex countryside on our doorstep (as well as the coast not too far away).  So hopefully it’ll be the best of both worlds.  If it all goes pear-shaped we can always move back with our tails between our legs!