There is a beautiful photo sitting on my work table of my daughter. It’s hard to place her age, she looks so knowing and so wise, and so old, and so young, a mezcla. The only thing that gives her away is her fringe, it’s clear that her mum cut it as it’s a bit wonky; and her gaze into the camera lens is straight, direct and honest. It is a priceless photo for me (the terrible fringe cutter). It was taken a couple of years ago when she was in infant school, she might have been about to turn four years old. The second I saw that picture I had to have it, for myself. It’s the essence and purity of my little girl before she was tainted with ‘Tiny Pop’ and all the sugary crazy stuff that children seem to want to immerse themselves in these days.
To be honest, I can’t remember being four, or even five. My earliest memories are hinged to food (mainly eating either birthday cake or cocktail sausages – I don’t know why, perhaps there is a career here for a psychologist) and my first ever memory of school is decimalisation. I remember having to learn about centimetres and metres, and I remember being the milk monitor (the milk was foul, it was always warm and if we didn’t drink it we were in big trouble).
But the thing I do remember about school when I was a littleun is enjoying it, entirely and without question. I wanted to go, every single day. I didn’t want to miss out.
So I am dismayed and worried about my (almost six year old) daughter’s attitude to school. Already homework is ‘boring’, she’s only done one – and all that was writing her name and address in a book (after being cajoled and harassed by her confused parents – i.e. myself and the long suffering other). So, what do we do? Ban the telly? Quit worrying and show her a stack of wood that needs cutting? Invite a grandparent to live with us (in my day, this was a norm), or go the whole Victorian hog and do the ‘children are best seen and not heard’ route?
I find myself channelling my inner grandma and insisting that La Gidg (which rhymes with ‘fridge’ for those people who have asked recently, although she does not look like a fridge, she’s got a ‘surf blonde chick’ look going on these days) sits at the table and eats her dinner before slipping off to watch cbabies or pop teen, or whatever it’s called. The harder she pushes forward the stronger I pull back. I think this is to do with my own raising, which all in all wasn’t too shabby, and although my own mum was out earning, along with my dad, my own grandmother was putting our tea on the table at 4pm (after saving whatever string, rubber bands and brown paper came her way that day). So I am going to call on my ancestors and dig deep into my own memories and try to remember how they did it, and perhaps severe a couple of digital tv cables on the way… because as I had to remind my little girl today (whilst gulping in some swallows of air), if you’re going to complain about writing your name on a form in Spain now then you’re really in trouble tomorrow.