Sat scrolling? Feed full of advice? Ever felt like screaming at another wholesome mum/family/forest school whatevs telling us how to ‘be’ with our children?
Well, clearly as I’m writing this, I have felt this too! A lot!
And to be honest, I’ve really had enough of folk making our enjoyment of the great outdoors yet another stick to beat us with, another measure to judge us by and another way of pitching us against each other. The hour-by-hour challenges, the check-lists of ‘what-to-say-instead-of’ and the tik-tok style reels and videos ‘mum-splaining’ what we NEED to do. Eugh. As we celebrate and acknowledge International Women’s Day, I can’t believe that it still feels like a crazy, revolutionary idea to suggest that we should just lift each other up…and lift each other up high…with conversations based in reality. Let’s positively reframe what are essentially criticisms sneakily presented as ‘advice’. And there is a lot of ‘expert’ advice out there, right?
Take for example, the handy crib sheets posted to berate us for saying ‘be careful’. Isn’t this just another judgement; something else that we aren’t quite getting right; one more thing for us to stress about. We are all products of our own upbringings and yes, we can be made aware of our language choices, but man…can we just first acknowledge the attentive parent, the concerned parent, the interested parent? I am so very aware of the ‘be careful’ phrase, but it still comes out and you know what, I don’t care – I see it a general cover-all phrase that alerts my kids that I am near, that I am with them and that I am ready if they need me. They are barely even listening if I’m being honest; they are absorbed in their activities and making their own judgement calls and risk assessments and even just having some good old fresh air fun!
As an ex-Head of English, I am definitely not dismissing the importance of language but maybe the folk of social media could embrace the modals and avoid the imperatives… less judgey-judgey and more suggestive. I mean, who really does have all the answers?
Right, as I’m clearly on a roll now – the ‘advice’ on how we talk to our children is just the start of a divide-and-conquer/them-and-us approach… Do I dare to mention the posts that tell us ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather’. Erm, there clearly is. This is possibly the biggest load of contradictory bullshit ever. Can’t be bothered? Just not feeling it? We all have those days. Listening to our bodies, honouring both our own and our children’s needs are essential for well-being, positive mental health and trusting relationships and if we ignore that, what then? Just to tick off another few hours on our challenge sheets or to lay claims that we are an ‘all-weather’ crew. Who cares? Not Conker Crew! We are all individuals with our own needs and the weather can absolutely affect our finances and our mood. It is a blinkered and elitist post that tells us otherwise. I wrote once about being menopausal and suffering in the wake of an unprecedented heatwave alongside my north-eastern roots tripping me up in the midst of a sea fret. Tricky, adverse weather is real for us all, on different days at different times of our cycles and our lives and we should certainly acknowledge that.
However, this ‘advice’ is the mere tip of the patriarchal iceberg. Let’s take a look at the challenges… monthly challenges, a billion hours to do x-y-z, colour-in chart, tick lists, you know what I mean – you’ve seen them too. Even the word ‘challenge’ sends a shiver down my back – do I really want another challenge in my life? Probably not. In fact, who am I kidding? Absolutely not. It takes me back to a Louis Theroux documentary on self-fulfilment using hypnosis; the believers kept using the phrase ‘no challenge’ rather than ‘no problem’; challenging the negative connotations with a positive spin. Once more using language to ‘trick’ or ‘fool’ us, when really, no matter how much you muck about with words and phrases, it still ultimately means the same. So I suppose what I’m getting at is this – if you set me a challenge it is still a problem to overcome. And while I’m not against that in theory, I can honestly just do without it right now. What I’d love to see and hear are some common realities, shared honesties and the advice, suggestions, guidance and tips all wrapped up a big, warm, sisterly hug.
So here’s my advice; ignore the insta-experts and embrace some fresh air fun in your own way; however and whenever that may be!