After the walk, we took our friends rock climbing - not to a climbing wall but on a rock face in the open air. This despite the fact that none of us are professionally trained or qualified, we had not done a health and safety risk assessment and so on. But we know what we are doing (more or less) and I continue to hold my heretical belief that such spontaneous and (potentially) risky activities are good for kids - particularly teenagers.
The other day some counter-cultural friends came round. We went for a walk and found several ways to cross a river. Ant carried the little ones through the river, her trousers rolled up; Charlie and their boy climbed along under the sub-structure of the bridge feet dangling over the river, and the rest of us took the conventional option of walking over the bridge.
Irresponsible parenthood as usual: there was a possibility somebody might have had an accident... They could have fallen into the water! Or into the nettles! How could we be so reckless? In fact a good time was had by all.
We took Bernie, Charlie and Dominique to see Romeo and Juliet the other night. Although Dom is only 10, she enjoyed the play as much as the rest. I had taken her and Charlie through the plot in advance, so that it wold be easier for them to follow; Charlie had opted out of that as he preferred to hear it fresh -and he seemed to follow it fine. I sometimes think we underestimate our kids’ abilities to understand this kind of stuff: but Shakespeare is such a great dramatist that even if a few words and phrases are not understood, the dramatic power of the whole is unmissable. We followed that up by watching the DVD of West Side Story: a great re-telling of Romeo and Juliet in a modern setting, with fabulous music. Charlie was disappointed that Maria didn’t die at the end - after all, Juliet had to!
Ant is now at the stage of trying to decide which Universities to apply to. It’s very different from my day, when there were fewer universities, fewer applicants and so on. I never visited any of them until I was interviewed, whereas Ant and her peers are expected to go to a range to see what they are like.
It strikes me as a slightly bogus exercise, and (along with student fees) encourages a consumer mentality which I sure is not the healthiest way of looking at Higher Education.
Reading all the prospectuses, it is hard to distinguish between them: does she choose an institution dedicated to excellence in research and teaching, or one dedicated to excellence in research and teaching and engagement...?
She’s looking at Sheffield this week as it has the best climbing wall in the country. It seems as good a criterion as any...
It seems to me that one of the areas where I am most at odds with contemporary culture is human sexuality.
The wisdom of the world seems to be that sex is for recreation. I believe it is for procreation.
By that I do not simply mean for conceiving children, but also for participating in the creation of true - and permanent - love. And that those two are inextricably entwined.
How we convey that to our kids in the culture we live in is one of the biggest challenges of all - but convey it we must.
Otherwise - well look around you to see the consequences of the other view: rampant STDs, abortion, aids, young men driven to suicide by their gay identity, marriages falling apart, kids raised in unstable and emotionally crippling circumstances...
People sometimes think the traditional rules around sexuality - those which, strangely , the Catholic Church continues to proclaim - were there to oppress us and stop us having fun, and sprang from a celibate clergy's hatred of (or jealousy of) sex.
But the reverse is true: the rules are there to protect us (from, for example, rampant STDs, abortion, aids, young men being driven to suicide by their gay identity, marriages falling apart, kids raised in unstable and emotionally crippling circumstances...) and are the fruit of the Church's divine origins and centuries of wisdom.
The poor Anglicans shattered twenty centuries of Christian consensus in 1930 when they first permitted contraception: and now they are reaping the fruits of that, because they have nowhere left to stand.
Childcare 'beyond' poor parents, the BBC news site reports (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7508582.stm) "A quarter of parents on low incomes are unable to work because they cannot afford childcare, research conducted for Save the Children suggests. Some 28% of families, with children under 18, earning less than £15,000-a-year after tax said they could not work because childcare cost too much."
Here’s my radical solution: one parent works, the other looks after the kids.
Of course, that does suggest two parents living together with their kids’ best interests at heart, so I suspect I’m way off the page, as usual...
I had a look at the website of the organisation which was invited into Dom’s school to establish the mentoring scheme. They organise a lot of mentoring of young people by volunteer adults, who are trained and supervised. Supervision includes regular discussions with an experienced mentor to ensure that what they are doing is appropriate and that they are OK themselves. But the kids at school who are being trained in mentoring have no such support. That is clearly at odds with their own best practice, let aline the guidelines of such organisations as the British Psychological Association, or any of the Coaching standards organisations.
As part of her mentoring training, Dominque has written a list of Danger Topics. These include drugs and ‘sexual.’ these are not thing which would have crossed Dom’s mind when considering issues which new (5-year-old) kids a the school might discuss. So the question arises for us - how was this list arrived at? Dom explained, when Ant laughed at the idea of 5-year-olds having drug problems, that they might be talking about their parents’ drug problems. Again that raised all sorts of questions in my mind. Why should any 10 year old child be expected to be able to cope with other kids’ parents’ (and step-parents’, mum’s boyfriends’ etc) problems?
The CTS (Catholic Truth Society - English publishers to the Holy See and of devotional etc books) have picked up on my mention of their booklet on Patience and asked me to review their www.site: http://www.cts-online.org.uk/ As they say in their email to me, ‘It’s got some downloadable publications on it, plus it’s got a great range of Catholic books, DVDs and other things.’
I am happy to do so. I have read and benefited from a number of CTS booklets, from lives of the saints (and others - I’m currently reading their booklet on Chesterton) to practical booklets on modern life, and of course lots of exposition of Church teaching.
The www site is well worth a visit: not only does t provide a quick and easy way to review and order their extensive range of excellent publications, it also caries a ‘latest news’ feature of particular interest to Catholics in the UK.
All in all the CTS are an excellent organisation;my only reservation in recommending them is a slight lack of attention to detail in some of the booklets: whilst the substance is normally extremely good, a number of them could benefit from good editing and proof-reading to remove infelicities of style which at least irritate and sometimes confuse the reader.
I wage a one-man campaign against the widespread use of plural pro-nouns referring to singular nouns... but perhaps that is the subject for another post. Suffice to say, some CTS booklets commit that, and many other, errors of syntax, style or grammar.
Nonetheless, if you are looking for sound Catholic material covering a huge range of topics, their site is the place to go.
Dominque has been asked to be a buddy or mentor at her junior school, for smaller children. We were pleased at this: it is something which she will take seriously and do well, and will be good for her too. However, at the weekend she brought home the booklet which she had been issued on completion of her training as a mentor (something we had not been aware she was being required to undergo). This had been delivered by an outside ‘expert’ brought into the school.
We learned that in the name of confidentiality, she had been told that while normally mentoring conversations were confidential, there were some which must be reported to an adult: if a child revealed that he was the victim of violence, bullying or abuse, for example; so far so good.
The adult nominated for child protection issues was named, and the fallback was to talk to the class teacher. Under no circumstances were you to reveal anything to your parents or family members (or a whole host of other people). This was printed in bold to make it carry more weight.
We have several problems with this:
One is that many of the problems which beset our society are the result of the breakdown of communications between parents and children. To have the school teaching our daughter not to talk to us is abhorrent to us.
Another problem is the implicit message: your teachers are more trustworthy than your parents.
A third is the demands this might place on a young child: Dom is only ten; she would take this commitment seriously. But why should she be put in a position where she is potentially distressed and not allowed, a priori, to talk to her mum, her dad or her big sister (Ant, to whom she is very close) about it?
Further, all this was done without our knowledge, let alone consent.
So we rang the school and were pleased that they understood our concern, and agreed that we could tell Dom that she was always able to talk to either of us, or her biggest sister, in confidence, about anything that might arise. Further the head said that she would talk to all the mentors to the same effect: she had been unaware of this particular element of the mentor training. (If I were ungracious, I would wonder why she should be ignorant of such a thing in her own school....)
And there were more problems with the mentoring training - but I’ll post again on those.
I was relieved to see, on re-reading the post about my intermittent blogging, that I had not committed to post more frequently, as it is now several months since I put anything on this site. However, I have now re-discovered my user name and password, and have been prompted by a couple of things to post again. One is an email form the CTS asking me to review their www site, which I shall shortly do. The other is an issue arising at Dominique’s junior school which is worthy of comment. So watch this space - but don’t hold your breath!
Secretive (eg my wife doesn't know I'm writing this blog)
Mendacious (eg my name isn't really Ben Trovato - that comes from an Italian saying: Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato - if it's not true, it's well found (or made up, as we'd say.))
Superficial (I have an interest in almost everything, and can pass myself off as knowing a lot more than I do...)
Self-deluding (my wife probably does know about this blog by now...)
For the record, my kids aren't really called Antonia, Bernadette, Charlie and Dominique either... It would seem unfair to write about them under their true names, so ABCD seemed a good idea. My wife's not Anna either, but again the AB pattern seemed pleasing.