Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Something new

A few years ago, when the Bookworm was small, my sister and music-loving brother-in-law bought her a CD and DVD set called Here come the ABC’s by the band They Might Be Giants.  It’s a fun approach to letter-learning, with a quirky sense of humour, and we’ve enjoyed listening to it and watching it over the years.  My favourite song is Alphabet of Nations, which lists a country for every letter of the alphabet (including a surprising idea for W and X!) and I love the music, which has a very patriotic feel to it!

This gift was followed up some time later with Bed, Bed, Bed, a book and 4-song EP set, which the girls also listened to a lot (although probably not as much as Here come the ABC’s).  I believe Here come the 123’s has also been released now, although my girls were a bit old for it by the time it came out.

Anyway, without knowing very much more about They Might Be Giants (apart from remembering Birdhouse in Your Soul being popular in my youth) I started following their Facebook updates in gratitude for those children’s CDs, which make such a difference in the life of a parent whose personal music interests have had to be set aside almost completely in favour of nursery rhymes and audio versions of picture books.  I see their posts from time to time, usually announcing extra tour dates in obscure American towns I’ve never heard of, occasionally announcing a new track or album available (once we all had to download Birdhouse in Your Soul to see if it could get to number one, but it didn’t. Fun though).

Today they are trying something new and I’m seeing if I can participate.  They are giving away free an entire album, as tracks recorded live on their tour last year, to anyone who requests it.  In return they would like people to share the opportunity with others, on Facebook or Twitter, or in a blogpost.

First of all you need to add downloads@theymightbegiants.com to your email address book (they are pretty clear that it will not reach you if you don’t!).  Then use the widget to send your details to get the download code.  I’m afraid my lack of technical skills is preventing me from getting the widget to embed on this page as desired, but if you click the link below you’ll see the widget and it’s still clickable and workable!

http://www.theymightbegiants.com/widgets/index.php?i=1

After you’ve done that you can use the bottom part of the widget to share the news with others too!

I have mine downloading now – hope it works for you!

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Do you know your tables?

A long time ago, before the concern over the appearance of our resting face, the fascination with how to treat introverts and even the quizzes revealing which Disney princess/Jane Austen heroine/Hogwarts house we were, the trend du jour was to ascertain our learning style.  There are three main categories that people fall into: visual learners, who are most receptive to information when it is presented in written or pictorial form; auditory learners, who best remember what they’ve heard; and kinaesthetic learners, who benefit from using movement, touch and texture when studying.  Most of us use a bit of everything, but there’s probably one you can identify as your main strength.

I’m most definitely an auditory learner.  I remember things much better if I hear them spoken or say them out loud to myself – especially with numbers, which I often confuse when I see them written down (bizarrely I always confuse the same pairs, because to me, certain numbers look like one another).  At university I once gave a friend the wrong date for a ball we were planning to attend together, because I’d only seen it written on a poster.  Thankfully, I realised my mistake in time to pass on the correct information, which was pretty lucky for me, as the friend in question was Southern Daddy and the occasion was the evening on which we decided we were actually more than just friends!

It’s useful to be aware of your own learning style, but all the more important to be aware that others may not share it, especially if you are involved in any form of teaching!  When I’m leading Bible studies (both for adults and children, at different times), I have to remember the importance of using visual information and interactive methods as well as just speaking.  We have a small whiteboard which we use at our ladies’ Bible study group – the hardest part for me is deciding what I should write on it that might be helpful to others!

I’ve been reminded of learning styles on a couple of occasions recently because of the issue of Times Tables.  I’m not an especially political person and, I’m afraid, pay less attention than I probably should to the news, but I read a few weeks ago on a blog that one of the planned changes to the school curriculum (which are pretty much a constant thing just at the moment) is to encourage children to return to chanting tables.  This has caused something of an outcry amongst teachers, along with maths experts such as Carol Vorderman, who don’t believe this is a helpful or effective way to learn them.  My first response was to wonder why they are all so against the method, since to my mind constant repetition is the best way to learn anything.

Then I realised I’d answered my own question: to my mind.  My auditorily-focused mind, which relishes hearing the spoken word, takes in sounds other people don’t notice, learns all the lyrics to a song by the third time through.  I learned my tables by reciting them, out loud, repeatedly, until they were stuck in my head.  (The last one to stick was 8×7=56 which I recently found out is recognised as the most difficult one).  But I’m told that auditory learners are in the minority, so it’s not surprising that teachers are concerned that this method won’t benefit their students.  Clearly what’s required is a bit of everything, so that each learning style is accommodated and all the children find something helpful to them (and, by the way, I don’t think I’ve just revealed anything especially groundbreaking there, if they trusted consulted teachers more they’d discover loads of little gems like that one).

All this has coincided with the Butterfly’s transition from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 this coming September (for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, it’s what used to be called “going into the Juniors” – her year group will be turning 8 during the school year and work has a tendency to become noticeably more difficult) and the expectation that she will learn most, if not all, her tables over the coming months.  This proved more than a little difficult with her sister, who preferred to perform the calculations in her head rather than learn the answers.  Whilst mental arithmetic is a useful skill and one in which the Bookworm is very proficient, what’s required in tables-learning – whether you like it or not – is an instant recall of the answer.

So, in an effort to avoid the stress and misery which came with our last journey through Year 3 Tables Homework, I’ve been researching a variety of fun and interesting ways to learn them.  I started with a bit of googling, which threw up some ideas of games and websites.  Carol Vorderman’s site, The Maths Factor, offers a variety of courses aimed at children of different ages (primary school level).  It covers all kinds of numeracy work, including tables, but although I agreed with Vorderman’s overall approach (understanding patterns, working through tables spoken and written, aiming towards an instant recall of the individual responses and not just an ability to recite the table as a whole) when I read about it, the courses on the site are expensive and a big investment if you’re not sure your child will take to it.

I canvassed opinion via Facebook and discovered some other, much cheaper, resources from friends who are teachers or parents (or both!), including Teaching Tables which has various different free games, some of which work on learning and performing the calculations, including looking at the patterns, whilst others focus on the speed element.  Both the girls love Table Mountain, in which you have to answer a series of questions correctly in order to propel a climber to the top of the mountain (and successful participants get the fun of watching him slide down the other side!). Another teacher-recommended site is Education City, which caters for both schools and families.  However, membership is payable, and although a free 10-day trial is available we decided not to register as we were about to go on holiday and wouldn’t be able to use it (we may still try it!)

With the holiday in mind I wanted something portable to keep things ticking over (we didn’t do much but I feel it was better than nothing!), and took up another parent’s recommendation in the form of the Squeebles Times Tables 2 app from Key Stage Fun.  It’s available for iPhone, iPad and Android and cost me £1.49, but I think it will be well worth it.  As with Teaching Tables there are various tables-related activities and participation earns equipment for a just-for-fun game called Bubbleball.  When a stage or level of the tables activities has been completed, a Squeeble is rescued from imprisonment at the hands of the Maths Monster!  The games are customisable in the PIN-protected parents’ zone, e.g. at the moment I have removed the harder tables that we’re not working on and it’s easy to switch these back on again once we’re up to that.

I’m fairly sure that both my daughters are auditory learners like myself, so I wanted to find something we could listen to – particularly in the car – which might reinforce the learning almost subliminally.  To achieve this, the songs would have to be a) clear, b) fun and c) acceptable for parents to listen to several times over.  There are dozens of CDs and downloads of tables songs, and many of the samples I listened to were performed in unusual voices (singing cats, etc) which made the content unclear.  In the end, after a lot of review-reading, I plumped for what has possibly been my best decision in years: Professor Mathmo and the Voyage to the Times Tables.  This is written and performed by Giles Hayter, who conveniently happens to be a musician, artist, composer… and maths teacher.  On listening to this CD, my children have proclaimed him “The Colin of Maths” which, as you’ll agree if you’re a Colin fan, is no half-hearted accolade!  I have to agree that his approach is appealing, catchy and parent-friendly (no irritating squeaky voices… oh, OK, one irritating squeaky voice – but it’s for one line only and it’s actually very funny!).  The CD was £7.99 and over our two-week holiday we’ve probably listened to it over twenty times.  The songs are cheerful and clear – easier tables such as 2s, 5s, 10s, are sung as they stand, whilst the more difficult ones have rhyming lines as an aide-memoire – sometimes a whole line in between, sometimes just a little comment to tie together a section, such as:

One eleven is eleven

Two elevens is* twenty-two

Three elevens is thirty-three

And four is forty-four – who knew?

*Yes, it should be “are”, but as Southern Daddy pointed out, he’s a maths teacher, not an English teacher…

The girls have picked these songs up quickly and sing along to them whenever the CD is playing, as well as sometimes when it’s not.  I think this will be a winning move in the war on Tables Homework!  My only criticism would be that more could have been made of the “voyage to the times tables” concept.  There’s a booklet included which shows the answers in each table on a different page (in a random order), and the listener is encouraged to point to the numbers as the song plays (the idea obviously being to get quick enough at remembering the answers to be able to do this in time).  The numbers are represented by alien characters that Mathmo and his sidekick Walter meet, and I thought that there might be more of a story on the CD about the intergalactic voyage and goings-on on each planet.  A missed opportunity?  Perhaps, but at least there’s nothing to detract from the task in hand.

Still keen to use a more structured approach as well, I bought Carol Vorderman’s Times Tables Book, published by Dorling Kindersley.  As someone who’s worked with educational literature and seen a lot of it – good and bad – I’m a long-standing fan of Dorling Kindersley’s contributions, and was further reassured by the fact that this book uses Vorderman’s approach (detailed above) and that it has only good reviews on Amazon.  We’ve not gone far into it yet as we chose not to take that on holiday, but it seems helpful and informative, whilst colourful and imaginative enough not to come across as boring to children.

Altogether, my approach to the whole Tables journey is now a lot more positive, which can only be helpful to the process!

So, what about you?  What’s your learning style? What helps you take things in? Do you have any resources to add to my list of recommendations?

And do you know your tables?

Thankful for…

A really refreshing holiday with beautiful weather and many good memories

Some great times with extended family

A tidy, peaceful house to come home to (still reaping the benefits from Susan‘s planner!)

A couple of weeks to get ready for back-to-school

The prospect of a long anniversary weekend approaching

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Summer fun?

My family and I have just returned from our summer holiday. For the second year running, we chose to spend our week away in what is possibly the most rain-soaked region of England: the Lake District. (It’s also one of the most stunningly beautiful, which is one of the reasons we go, coupled with the fact that it’s within 3 hours’ drive from where we live which means we don’t lose a day’s holiday to travelling either end).

Bad weather is common in the UK at any time of year and I can’t blame people who choose to take their holiday abroad in the hope of better weather. But few people go away for the full 6 weeks of the traditional school break, and it’s the thought of wet weather which strikes terror into the heart of many parents as the end of July approaches and the school-free weeks loom ahead. “What are we going to do with them?” we hear from various corners of the school yard. “How can we stop them from being bored – especially if it rains?”

Now, I hope I don’t come across as smug when I say that this has never been a concern for me. I look forward to the school holidays and relish the prospect of some time with my girls (I’ve been known to feel secretly pleased if they wake up ill and can’t go to school too!).  Some of this is because I’m inherently lazy and prefer not to have to drag myself out on the school run twice a day – especially if it is raining – but mostly it’s because I love having them around and almost never find that they require extra entertainment that I can’t provide. I’d love to say I’m one of those “hands-on” mums who bake, craft and paint with their children, but really I don’t enjoy craft that much, I can’t abide the feel of paint on my hands and, whilst I do bake with the girls on occasions, I much prefer having my kitchen to myself.

The bottom line is that my children play.

They play with Playmobil. They play with their dolls and teddies. They pull duvets and pillows off beds and cushions off sofas (when they’re allowed) and make dens and boats and nests. They run around our small patch of garden and ride bikes and scooters up and down the pavement at the front. The Butterfly has an endearing habit of turning everything she does into a game by narrating it under her breath, creating a story with herself as the central character (endearing? Self-absorbed? Maybe a bit of both!).  They spend time occupying themselves in different ways and then we all come back together for a meal or a game or something, and we usually enjoy the holidays with very little falling out.

Now, I’m not saying that they only ever indulge in what people think of as “healthy” or “old-fashioned” fun – they also watch DVDs and iPlayer and play DS games.  But they don’t require the constant entertainment dreaded by so many parents, whether they’re at home during the holidays or away on a break elsewhere.  We are lucky that our children enjoy reading as much as we do (although that “luck” is probably partly heredity, partly conditioning, so you could say we’ve created our own luck to a certain extent) and that very wet days can be spent indoors with a book – we did this last Monday when it lashed it down from 8.30am until after we had gone to bed – but when they’re not in the mood for reading, they’re able to find something else to do.

I’d like to suggest that children who can’t entertain themselves haven’t had the opportunity to try.   Many children I know, even as young as 5 or 6, spend a lot of their term-time evenings and weekends at various clubs and activities.  Breakfast club, after-school club, swimming, riding, Scouting and Guiding associations, dance lessons, music lessons, football practice, drama group, etc all serve to fill the school-free gaps in their lives and ensure that there is no opportunity for boredom or loose ends between meals, compulsory education and bedtime.  These children will probably grow up to become accomplished (if somewhat exhausted) individuals with plenty to say in their UCAS personal statement, but will they have developed the creative skills children acquire when their weekly routines include time that still needs filling?  It’s no wonder, when the holidays roll round and the club leaders take a well-earned rest, that the children they usually entertain wonder what on earth to do with all the time that’s stretching out in front of them and their parents panic that they need to find some other form of organised entertainment.

This is where most people start complaining that entertaining children is expensive, but a recent report suggests that this is only the parents’ perception.  In fact, says the research, children would far rather build dens and play with their friends than go on organised trips.  Much of the article focuses on outdoor activities but I assume the same can be said of indoor games (one can, after all, build a den and play with friends indoors on a wet day).

So it may be that some children do complain of boredom and need to be given the chance to learn to play by having regular “down-time” (necessity being the mother of invention, after all).  But equally, it seems that parents need to relax a little about what is required for entertaining children during the holidays.  The same report says that an average of £183 per child is spent on summer holiday entertainment – just think what people could do with that if their offspring spent some of the six weeks nesting under sofa cushions or running races in the garden.

I’m not saying that we should never take our children anywhere, or that parenthood isn’t a costly undertaking.  But perhaps we parents are making it harder on ourselves by not allowing their youngsters the chance to make their own fun sometimes.

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Apron strings

Today the Bookworm is 9 years, 9 months and 20 days old.  Today is the first day in her life that I haven’t been able to speak to her.

When she was 2 years old, she stayed the night with my mother while we moved house.  I drove her over and dropped her off and we spoke on the phone at bedtime.    The move didn’t go well, our carefully planned arrangements did not come off and the new house ended up in a state.  “We’ll keep her another night,” said my mother on the phone.  “Then you’ll have time to get yourselves straight.”  I declined her offer because I wanted my baby back.  When she came home she refused to speak to me for several hours (my toddler “punishment” for abandoning her, despite the fact that she had the time of her life).  That was the first night we spent apart.

When she was 4 years old and had just started school, Southern Daddy and I went to a wedding near Salisbury.  The reception venue was very small and children were not invited, so my parents came to stay for the weekend to look after the girls.  We had to leave very early in the morning and hadn’t planned to wake them, but the Bookworm was up before anyone.  She cried a lot and begged us not to go.  It’s one of the most difficult things I have done in my life.  We phoned from the reception at bedtime and they were both fine, and we were back to see them by tea-time the next day.  That was the second night we spent apart.

There have been other separations: at first more through necessity than choice, when my mother was dying and I needed to visit frequently; later for more enjoyable reasons, when she’s been for a sleepover at a friend’s house and I’ve had the odd weekend away with Southern Daddy or my best friend from college whom I meet occasionally.  I have always made a point of phoning at least once a day, just as we always make a point of calling to say goodnight to SD when he’s away on a business trip or we’re on our annual summer visit to my parents’.

Yesterday I drove her to Yorkshire for her first Bible camp, which lasts for three days.  She could have gone last year, as the minimum age is 8, but she didn’t want to.  At all.  There was no discussion, we showed her the leaflet and she said “I don’t want to go to that,” and that was that.  (I had similar misgivings about time away from home when I was her age – my mother chose to deal with it by encouraging me to spend regular periods of time away from home, and whilst I didn’t hate any of them completely, I was pretty miserable a lot of the time and only really began to enjoy myself when I started university, so we were keen for our children to provide the impetus for camps and residential trips themselves).  This year, she brought the leaflet home from church and has been “going” ever since.  When our plans fell through to coordinate for her to go at the same time as the son of some friends, so she would know someone there, she was still going.  When two other friend who were keen to go discovered they couldn’t make it, she was undeterred.  We were delighted that she was feeling confident enough to do this by herself.

It only occurred to me last week that I wouldn’t be able to speak to her the whole time she was there.

She doesn’t have a mobile phone – she is 9 and has no need of one.  Even if she did, whilst phones are allowed on camp, they have to be switched off for much of the time (meetings, meals, etc) and the reception is intermittent, so there would be no guarantee that we could contact her.  And of course (the Biggest Deal) nobody else would be talking to their parents.

Yesterday morning she shed a few tears, but they soon cleared up when I told her it was perfectly normal to feel nervous.  Thankfully she seems to have inherited her father’s ability to pack for trips and holidays.  I had made her a kit list the night before and by the time I awoke yesterday she had packed almost everything (only the things on shelves she couldn’t reach were still outstanding) and added a few more things to the list that I had forgotten.  This saved us from additional tears (mine) and tendency to illness (again, mine – I really struggle with travel preparations of any kind) and we were able to leave promptly and arrive on time.  We left her luggage in the cabin she’ll be sharing with 5 other girls and two leaders, and went down to the main building where a craft activity was taking place.  She instantly joined in with the craft and, when I finished the cup of tea I’d been given, she hugged her sister (at my insistence – the Butterfly does not do half-hearted goodbyes so I’d had a quiet word before we left about what was an acceptable minimum) and gave me the tiniest wave before she went back to her collage sea.

One of the leaders I’d been chatting to, who turned out to be the friend of a friend, promised to text me that evening (signal permitting!) to let me know how things were going.  She did so at 8.30 to tell me she had been fine:

Now in bed and getting settled.  Making friends!

It was the best news I could hope for.  I won’t hear anything now until I see her at 11am on Saturday.

I’m not counting the hours, and the Butterfly and I have all sorts of plans – yesterday we met up with friend who lives in Yorkshire and her children for ice creams and play on a farm, tomorrow we’re going to the cinema – but every now and again I realise she’s not here and it feels strange.

Before the Butterfly was born we had 3 years of being a twosome.  We did everything together and most of the time it was just us, because we liked it that way.  Like the year we had an annual pass to the Blue Reef Aquarium and went nearly every week to watch baby dogfish grow and hatch from their mermaid’s purse egg-sacs in the nursery tanks, then grow up until they were nearly as big as the ones in the walk-through aquarium that the attendants fed at 10am, as we watched from our special vantage point that nobody else seemed to know about.  The times she had her afternoon nap while we were driving in the car, and I would stop at the park so that when she awoke we could get straight onto the swings (nothing else – she just spent the whole time hogging a swing!).  Our long car journeys to visit relatives while SD was at work, when I’d think she was sleeping and then suddenly hear a voice say “Look – cows!” as we passed a field of them somewhere along the way.

I didn’t want any more children – I’m not one of those people who “know” they have or haven’t completed their family, but it seemed selfish and greedy to want more when I’d been blessed with so much already.  The Butterfly was born because I was out-voted, 2 against 1, in our little family unit (of course, as soon as she was here, I was utterly convinced they were right!).  A lot of people say it was good for both of us that she came along, because it changed the parameters of our relationship and we learned to share our experiences with someone else.  I agree with them, not least because otherwise it would have been doubly hard to start letting her go, as she grows up.  As it is, our family dynamic is more variable – sometimes it’s all of us, sometimes two or three of us, but the twos and threes are always changing and we get used to spending time in different groups.  It’s good.

I know younger siblings who worry that parents love their first-born more than their subsequent children.  It’s not true.  I don’t think it’s possible.  But you can’t replicate that singular, undivided focus when you have more than one child, just as you can’t go back to being a couple with no children once you’ve had a child, so it will always be different.

However old the Bookworm is, wherever she goes and however long she stays away, I’ll always remember our times of two-ness and treasure them.  They’ll keep me going till I see her again.

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Dancing Mum

You may not be aware that I have a secret identity.  A few times a year I become…

Dancing Mum!

It’s not an exclusive persona – there are many Dancing Mums across the world and in fact you might even be one yourself – and it doesn’t involve any dancing for me personally.  Dancing Mum is the person who spends time washing, stitching, getting up early, driving, hairdressing, making-up and sitting (mostly sitting, actually) for the sole purpose of ensuring that a young dancer is able to be in the right place at the right time, wearing the right costume, be it for exams, a competition or a show.

The Bookworm and the Butterfly both go to dance lessons every weekend at Shelley Dobson School of Dance.  I don’t think either of them will pursue it into later life as they’ve inherited my sense of coordination, but for now they enjoy it and it helps keep them fit.  They also dance at school and, until recently, went to an after school club in Irish dancing.  We’re not as involved as many Dancing Families and rarely take part in competitions.  I’ve heard stories of being in the car on the way to York at 6am on a Saturday ready for an 8am start, or trying to find a venue in the wilds of Northumberland using only public transport.  Neither really appeals, and anyway, we’ve always been of the opinion that children shouldn’t have too many commitments as it limits their time to relax and be themselves.  I’m pleased with the fact that ours have chance to play or read for pleasure after school, as well as being involved in the Girl Guiding movement, doing homework and practising music (although the latter possibly needs more emphasis as they grow older – it doesn’t happen much!) and that’s one of the reasons why Shelley’s school suits us so well – the emphasis is as much on having fun and making friends as it is on the work and the achievements.

However, there are times when I’m called on to be more involved: two weeks ago I was shivering in the early morning air outside Dance City at 8.20am (on a Sunday!) ready for the Bookworm to take part in a competition with four of her school classmates as part of a sports initiative called Schools 500 (they won silver in their category – yay!).  This weekend, squeezed in between the end of the school year yesterday and the church Holiday Club beginning Monday, is the dance school Summer Show.  Compared to some years we’ve got off quite lightly – I have not been prevailed upon to source or create any costumes (a task I never take on with much relish as my imagination and crafting abilities are both in short supply), merely to send money for the requisite items to be purchased by the dance school.  I did have to get new dance tights for the Bookworm as she has grown out of hers and they’ve been passed down – and what a palaver that was!  The excellent dancewear suppliers, StageStruck, who have been a source of help to me on many occasions, have now closed their Newcastle store, so the choice is to order online or to go to Sunderland, which we rarely have time to do, so various deliberations and emailing of Shelley the principal had to take place before I could order with confidence!

Yesterday evening I had to take them to a local theatre for the dress rehearsal, which involved my getting up and out with them for school in the morning so I could take Southern Daddy to work and keep the car for the theatre run later!  When they came home from school there were no end of term celebrations, just a “Quick – have your tea and get washed and changed so we can go out!”  However, I can’t deny it was pleasant, for the first time in many, many years, to be able to collect SD from work and spontaneously stop in town for dinner on a warm and sunny evening.

The hustle and bustle began again once they got home – at 8.45pm, which resulted in a very bad-tempered Butterfly who is always in bed by 7.30! – because I needed to get their dancewear washed and dried (in two separate loads!) for the matinée today and also repair the Bookworm’s ballet shoes (again – I’ve no idea what she does to them but the elastic which helps keep them on comes unstitched about once a fortnight).  Then this morning it was French plaits, which the Butterfly hates with a passion, and make-up, of which I never put on enough because I’m not used to seeing them in any at all, so the slightest bit looks like loads!  After an application of hairspray so liberal they’ll need to steer clear of naked flames for the rest of the day, they’ve been despatched back to the theatre armed with bottles of water and hopefully enough fruit, cereal bars and Haribos to see them through the afternoon, as well as a tin of “Rosy Lips” Vaseline to keep their lipstick topped up after they’ve eaten, drunk and licked their lips for an hour before the show even starts!

When they come home there will be a couple of hours for them to rest and eat dinner and then back for the evening performance, which is the one we’ve bought tickets for.  Usually I help out backstage during whichever performance I’m not watching, but this year I haven’t volunteered because I needed the extra time to prepare for holiday club.  I’m disappointed in a way, because it’s something I absolutely love doing.  The back-stage environment is an exaggerated version of all the other Dancing Mum commitments.  It’s a strange experience – lots of sitting, as I’ve mentioned, interspersed with short periods of furious activity as the children come off-stage and need help wriggling in and out of costumes and changing shoes before they dash off again to be ready for their next entrance.  The atmosphere of nervous excitement, the puddles of discarded clothing, the dancers’ chatter as they discuss their performances, the smell of – well, whatever it is that all stages and backstage areas seem to smell of – makes you feel part of something thrilling and productive, and even though you’re as exhausted as the dancers by the end of it, it’s a wonderful occasion every time.  It always makes me think of Garnie and Nana in Ballet Shoes, accompanying the Fossil girls to auditions and performances, sitting quietly with a book or chatting to another parent or nurse that they got to know over the litany of occasions on which the same pairs of children and adults turned up to participate.  It’s part of my life, and a part which makes me feel closely involved in my children’s lives, at a time when they’re becoming ever more independent of me.

And that’s why I’m happy to be a costume-washing, shoe-mending, early-rising, dancewear-buying, snack-fixing, bottle-filling, hair-plaiting, make-upping Dancing Mum.

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