The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Why Wrong Reveals The Systems Limitations Rather Than The Participants …

I recently saw this piece of brilliance …

Isn’t it awesome?

Of course some people will think it’s cute … but wrong.

Whereas others may think it’s cute … and smart.

Putting aside the fact the responsibility for clarity of communication is with the communicator, not the recipient – which means the exam board have to accept their role in the answer given – it also highlights how one persons ‘normal’ is another persons ‘lateral thinking’.

I know that sounds a big leap for what is a young kids incorrect/correct answer to an exam question … but at a time where the British PM wants to kill the arts and freedom of expression for kids in schools – in favour of even more logical and rational studies – it’s a sign how early we try to destroy/control/devalue the imaginations of the young.

What I find ironic about the British PM’s stance is that he seems to be of the belief that having people study maths for longer will make everything better.

Putting aside the fact that much of the UK’s global influence – ignoring the violent invasions of other countries – has come from the arts, that’s a big call to make.

Even more so when you consider the financial mess the UK is in right now, has come from the hands of the very people he wants to encourage more of.

As a parent this situation is very difficult.

Of course we want our children to be set up to embrace life. But if they’re all being taught the same thing … in the same way … without consideration of what their own personal talents, interests and abilities are … then are you actually preparing them to thrive or simply survive?

Recently Otis got diagnosed with a learning difficulty.

I say difficulty, but really it’s a complication.

It’s called Dysgraphia.

While this doesn’t affect his ability to learn, it does affect how he does it and what he may be able to do because of it.

We are incredibly grateful the school he goes to – Birkenhead Primary – not only embraced this situation by changing the way he could engage and present his schoolwork. They did it by specifically tailoring their classes and approach to ensure Otis could participate in ways that actively played to his strengths while maintaining the pace of everyone’s learning. And if that wasn’t impressive enough … they were the ones who first noticed there may be an area of challenge for him and were proactive in acting on it.

The impact of this approach on Otis has been enormous.

Not just in areas of his schoolwork that were being impacted because of dysgraphia, but in his overall confidence, enjoyment and willingness to participate.

He has always been a kid who tries hard and wants to do the right thing [so definitely more like Jill than me] … but thanks to his teachers, he now feels he can express himself fully rather than having to become a smaller version of himself in an attempt to find a way to get through certain areas of class that challenged him because of his dysgraphia rather than his ability.

Frankly I doubt this would have happened if we were still in the UK.

Not because the teachers aren’t as good, but because the system doesn’t allow the sort of deviation of approach that Otis’ school created for him.

What’s scary is Sunak’s attitude towards education will only make this situation for kids like Otis, even harder.

Either actively leaving them behind or setting them up for a life of anxiety, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. And yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

So many of these complications aren’t barriers to learning capacity, just accessibility.

A bit of flexibility can unlock the full potential of a child, especially with the power of technology these days.

But the schooling system is increasingly about ‘targets’ rather than learning.

Preparing you for exams rather than life.

Systems rather than needs.

And while I totally accept creating an education system that caters to the masses as well as the edges is incredibly difficult, having a one-dimensional system that ‘succeeds’ by forcing compliance and oppression is not the solution either.

What the British PM needs to understand is making kids study maths for longer isn’t going to solve the UK’s economic woes. But maybe designing an education system that enables teachers to help kids learn how to play to their strengths, is.

Or to paraphase Sir Ken Robinson … see creativity and imagination as a strength, not a weakness.

We’re so lucky Otis’ school values potential rather than parity … but I can’t help but wonder how many other clever kids are out there who have been written off simply because the system would not allow for them to be recognised, embraced and helped.

When will certain governments understand an educated generation is a successful nation?

Probably when they understand school should be about learning not teaching and it’s an investment rather than a cost.

Comments Off on Why Wrong Reveals The Systems Limitations Rather Than The Participants …


My Them …
October 17, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Babies, Cats, China, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Home, Jill, Love, My Fatherhood, Otis, Rosie, Singapore

Look at that photo.

Look at my kids.

Yes, I appreciate one is a cat, but she isn’t to me.

She’s my demanding, complaining, cranky daughter who – bizarrely – is also a grandmother.

But only in age.

While also being Otis’ ‘kitty sister’.

We had Rosie for 7 years before Otis came around. And when he did, everything changed.

I remember how Rosie couldn’t work out what was happening. Especially how Jill was behaving.

From ruling the roost, she was now playing second fiddle to this screaming object that seemed to be awake at all hours of the day.

Rosie’s way of dealing with it was to sulk.

She would openly shun Jill before blindly following her every move. Blatantly craving the love and focus she had enjoyed for 7 years while pretending she didn’t care.

I felt sorry for her.

I’d talk to her a lot and gave her extra hugs to ‘equalise’ the attention and adoration being given to Otis.

And while you may think this shift in hierarchy could make Rosie hate Otis, she never did.

I’m not saying she loved him, but she put up with him.

However Otis found Rosie fascinating.

He thought she was AMAZING.

But babies don’t know how to treat animals which is why we paid a bloody fortune to have an identical version of her made as a cuddly toy so he could learn how to be gentle with her.

While the identikit cat didn’t achieve the desired result – I would often find him swinging the toy version of Rosie over his head by the tail – he never did anything bad to the real thing.

He loves her. Adores her. Is thrilled every time she pays the slightest bit of notice to him … regardless how small or short.

And I love that.

I love how they have found their own relationship.

Not expecting anything from each other but accepting what each other wants to give.

It may have started as a forced relationship, but it’s definitely a family now.

My family.

I get some people will read this and think I’ve lost the plot.

And maybe I have.

But family is more than blood. It’s understanding.

The good. The bad. The quirks. The demanding.

And when you find the level where you’re able to float with all of that, then you’re doing pretty well. It’s not always easy, but its always worth it.

Which is why I love spending my my time with them – and their Mum – every weekend.

Oh and one last thing.

To Dave …

I’m thinking of you.

I wish I had something I could say that would shield you a little from the emotions you’re facing, but for what it’s worth – know I love you. And love them. Rx

Comments Off on My Them …


Happy Birthday Dad …
September 16, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood

Tomorrow would be my Dad’s 84th birthday.

That means he’s been gone 24 years, approaching half my life.

How is that possible?

But of course it is … demonstrated by the fact that I’ve been using the same photos of him on birthday posts for entire time this blog has been going.

Which is over 16 years.

They’re the things that reinforce the time he has been gone.

And yet he’s still here.

Maybe not as much as he was in the past, but where it matters.

Mum and Dad … this seminal duo in my life.

There for the big things in the first and second chapters of my life.

The good and the bad.

Of course I’d love them to still be here.

As I’ve written many times, the fact I have not been able to talk to my Dad about the life I’ve found myself living is one of the great sad parts of my life.

He’d have been thrilled.

And full of questions.

Which I would have absolutely loved to have answered for him.

I sometimes try to think of all the things he would have asked.

Some would be obvious, but his brain was so wonderful he would have thrown out some very unique questions. Questions that would make me think as much as he would be considering the answer.

Wanting to understand.

Wanting to connect.

Wanting to grow because of it.

That’s the kind of man he was. He deserved so much more than he ended up getting … but what he offered as a father was unsurpassed.

Even with the bits that used to drive me nuts.

Like the love of his sweet pea flowers, which were treated like new born children.

I still remember the time I ran in the house from the garden and trampled on them – as he’d left them in boxes by the windows to care for.

That was NOT a good conversation … hahahaha.

But I never doubted his love for me – and hopefully he felt the same – which for a parent, must be one of the greatest accolades a kid can give.

Hopefully Otis will think that about his old man.

Because I definitely think that about his grandpa.

Happy birthday Dad. Give Mum a big kiss from me.

Rx

Comments Off on Happy Birthday Dad …


Glimpse Of A Past Life…
September 14, 2022, 8:10 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Jill, Love, Otis

I was going through some photos when I came across this …

It feels like a million years ago, but it’s less than 2 years ago.

It was taken around Christmas 2020 …

We were living in England and we’d recently bought that house.

We knew we weren’t going to be in it for long as I’d accepted the job at Colenso … but we wanted to enjoy it as much as we could while we were there.

And so we did.

But the snow added a new dimension to the experience.

It came down a lot over a few short days and so for the first time since I had left the UK 25 years earlier, I was in a place that had enough snow to mess about with. For Otis, it was the first time he could … the first time he properly experienced snow … and after he’d accepted it was bloody cold, it was a bloody challenge to get him back indoors.

Oh the fun.

Snowball fights.
Building snowmen.
Slipping and sliding.

It was amazing.

All topped off by us getting into our giant hot tub in the garden to get warm, while it snowed around us … which was a bizarre – yet awesome – feeling.

And while that house is pretty much isolated in the countryside, so the small roads were all ice rinks, something about that week made the whole thing even more special for us.

A chance to connect to that house. To build a memory with that house. To be a family home.

And yet, when I saw that photo it seemed like another life.

A world away from the one we live in now.

Yet it’s still our home.
We may well one day return to it.
And we still utterly love it and its garden.

Lots of people talk about their ‘forever home’. I get it …

But the reality is while a place you grow roots in, is very important … the thing we forget is we have to do the work. It doesn’t happen by itself. Those 4 walls require the interaction of the people in it to build something worth remembering it for.

And while that house only had us in it for 6 months [so far] that photo will forever remind me that sometimes, that’s all you need.

Comments Off on Glimpse Of A Past Life…


Testing The Limits That It’s The Thought That Counts …
September 2, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Love

It’s Fathers Day in NZ this Sunday.

A day where we are supposed to be loved and spoiled.

Or at least acknowledged.

That said, I at least tried to buy my Dad some thoughtful stuff.

Or at least personal.

Like a Ms Piggy from The Muppets doll … or a Rolls Royce pencil sharpener.

And while they sound naff, my Dad LOVED both Ms Piggy and Rolls Royce’s exemplified by two things.

1. He kept them his whole life and we placed them in his coffin when he died.

2. I chose to remember my Dad with a tattoo of Ms Piggy.

And while I accept with hindsight, they hardly scream ‘respectful Dad gift’, it’s still waaaaay better than this …

Yep, that’s real.

Which means either someone at the supermarket either wasn’t thinking or they just want to exploit Father’s Day for profit in whatever way they can.

So to all Dad’s out there – past, future, present – I hope you have an amazing day.

And to those who get a gift of Stayfree Ultrathin pads … remember, it’s the thought that counts.

Allegedly.

Comments Off on Testing The Limits That It’s The Thought That Counts …