Feeling Old – Daughter’s GCSE Options Evening

Tonight we reach another milestone in our parenting timeline – our eldest is going to her GCSE options evening. Of course nothing is decided tonight but there will be some pressure on her for sure – not least from teachers of the outlying subjects trying to get her to “pick them”.

I say “outlying” and what I mean is those subject where she actually has a choice. Of course English (literature and language), maths and science are a given but from there she has some choices to make. There’s real pressure on kids nowadays when it comes to these choices, far more than I can remember as a spotty 14 year old tasked with making his choices.

Me, at school and around 15 years old

I feel for her, I do really. Because I simply don’t agree with the pressure put on our youngsters at school nowadays. Pressure to know the path you want to take, I mean she’s 14 for crying out loud. This was me at about her age – do I look like I know what I want to do? Nah, I didn’t. I went from Army, to physiotherapist,to fire fighter, to RAF, to architect to professional footballer all on a daily basis. But her younger sister, who is 13 and a year below her, also takes her options this year as the GCSE course changes from two years to three. Wow! So now we’re asking 12/13 years old children to make choices like this as well? Oh, okay then!

Our advice to her has always been to pick the subjects she enjoys. There is little point picking a subject that you think might be useful in the future you are looking at now but struggling through two years not enjoying it. I am living proof of how futures change. I left school with okay GCSEs and went to work at a chemical company in the labs for four years – then switched to IT for the next 18 (still in IT now). In the intervening years I have also been a photographer and now as a blogger I also love writing and maybe in my future this will play a bigger part. Who knows?

We won’t funnel her down any particular route at all. We will support her and listen to her and help guide her, but crucially the decision on what she chooses has to be hers.

I’m sure this blog will chronicle our passage through support our four girls through their GCSEs in the coming years – it could be a roller coaster!

Let me know what you think. Have you got a teenager heading into GCSEs soon?

Thanks for reading.

Why Are Teenagers Committing Suicide Over On-Line Bullying

Today logged on to Twitter for my morning peruse on the view of the world through the eyes of those that tweet about it. It was the usual mix of news,sport, satire and happy clapper celebrities with their shameless self promotion. Then I came across this from Jeremy Vine:

Initially I didn’t know who Dolly was but clicking on the hashtag soon brought me this this BBC news story – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-42631208#_=_. It made me shudder. I shed a tear and it brutally brough home to me how vulnerable my own 14 and 13 year old daughters actually are.

I re-tweeted Mr Vine’s tweet adding my own thoughts:

I got a bit of a surprise when Mr Vine re-tweeted my re-tweet of his original tweet (you may want to read that twice!). My phone started lighting up like Christmas tree with notifications. People who follow him liking and further re-tweeting my re-tweet. It was then I realised this subject really has struck a nerve.

When I was at school I suffered some low level bullying. Nothing that ever went too far (unless you count the “boxing match” I was persuaded to get into where I got walloped in front of an amused crowd) but sometimes enough to mean I was grateful to reach to sanctuary of home in the afternoon after school. 

Teenagers today, or rather those using social media (which is most of them), no longer have that sanctuary. They are still connected to all those people they left behind at school or on the school bus. They don’t have that escape. They could turn their phones off, but then they have to use the computer for homework, the temptation to check in on social media is there. Or emails, yes they are still a thing to teenagers!

When our eldest was born I was 23 and it was 2003. Social media wasn’t really on my radar although I think I was aware of MSN Messenger which essentially was an early form of social media. My research tells me that there was a a social media platform called Hi5, launched that year, but some 15 years later I’ve never heard of it! I had been working in IT for 3 years when she was born and the internet for me was for email and a source of information when asking Jeeves was still acceptable. I did use Friends Reunited, and of course looking back this was an early form of social media. It wasn’t until 2007 did I join Facebook. Going back further still though I didn’t experience the Internet at all until I was 16 and started work and it was a while later before I got it at home.

My point being is that I, nor my wife, didn’t go through our teenage years with social media and all the negativity it can bring. There is no doubt that social media is a good thing and has positive sides (where else would I get my daily dose of cat videos?) such as keeping up with family and friends for example. But everything has a dark side; social media platforms are like cities and all cities have really nice areas and really shitty ones, they have really nice friendly people and those that you’d just rather not share oxygen with.

Our teenage girls weren’t allowed the platforms they are on until they reached the age requirement of 13. That’s a start as far too many parent’s allow their kids to sign up using a false date of birth and I know of 9/10 years old on Facebook and Instagram – that’s wrong, totally wrong. They also know they are only allowed to use it on the proviso we as parent’s have access to their accounts and police it – how many parents do that? I recently saw a post on Facebook (oh the irony) from a friend who was saying happy birthday to his teenage son (he was 13 – the age requirement for Facebook) and he stated he didn’t know which one of his sons Facebook accounts was in use – the one that says he is 18 or the one that says he is 23! Shocking!

But of course social media has long arms. You might not realise that YouTube is essentially a form of social media with comments and messaging. My girls watch vlogs, and I take not of what they’re watching and check on that. Just last week we had a YouTube celebrity post a video of him discovering the body of a suicide victim in Japan – he actually posted that on YouTube. Kids are watching this shit you know! That channel is banned in our house now but realistically can we police everything they could see?

But what can we do about it? If social media platforms increase the age requirements people will just keep faking their date of birth. Limit it to 18 and verify age with a debit or credit card? Maybe, but I really can’t see that happening this side of never. I have no solutions to offer other than if parent’s are going to allow their children on social media then you must police it, you must monitor it, you must talk to you children about it and you must ensure they are safe. If you are not prepared to do all of that then don’t let them have it – it’s that simple. And, the moment you sniff that something is wrong take it away. Don’t be afraid to do that at all. 

Statistics of where cyber bullying takes place

I’m focusing on social media but of course cyber-bullying isn’t limited to that. There is text and other instant messaging apps and gaming of course. It’s everywhere and unavoidable unless you cut yourself off completely.

Teenagers, or children, and social media will forever be a talking point and one that will constantly raise issues. What’s your view? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll leave you with this infographic that summerises what we need to get into our kids heads when it comes to social media.

Thanks for reading.

The Professionally Offended Are Out In Force

“What the hell am I reading,” was my initial thought when I first saw a news article about this H&M hoodie. Probably because I looked at that screenshot (it’s being called an add but clearly it’s a product listing to be more accurate) and  thought “nice hoodie”.

The furore that has broken out of this is way over the top and I feel sorry for H&M. Here’s why…

That slogan is only racist if you think in a racist way. I don’t, thus I didn’t see it as racist. Those that are up in arms about this (yes, I call them the ‘professionally offended’) clearly either think in a racist way, or have sadly been a victim of racism. But declaring this listing, product or H&M as racist just because a boy with brown skin is wearing it is utterly ridiculous.

Ask yourselves this: if you had seen this hoodie being worn by a white model would you have thought “ooh they dodged a bullet there not putting a black model in it” or “ooh can you imagine a black kid wearing that – how racist”. No you wouldn’t. That’s the issue for me, it’s only racist when people choose to make it racist. And frankly people who choose to be racist aren’t worth sh*t!

When the designer designed this was he or she thinking in a racist way? Of course not? When the factory in the far east made it (let’s face fact it was made there) did they think it was racist? Of course not. When the people (not sure what they would call themselves) at the photo shoot ask this model to wear it did they think it was racist? Of course not. It probably the young lads mum or dad was there, did they think it was racist? Of course not. When the product manager put it on the on-line store did they think it was racist? Of course not. Why did none of these people flag this up as racist? Because it isn’t and people only make it racist when they decide to do so.

I call my girls monkeys – it’s a term parents up and down the country use all the time for their kids. So why turn it into something sinister? I can only see one reason – attention seeking. It get’s people talking about racism in society – which is a good thing. But it’s get it talked about in the wrong way, totally the wrong way. Dragging a brand such as H&M down over something like this isn’t going to stamp out racism in our society.

But as this blog is called The Yorkshire Dad I thought I would ask my thirteen year old daughter what she thought. So Without any influence I showed her the screenshot above and asked her what she though of it (I did explain this was on the H&M site and she likes H&M clothes by the way). Do you know what she said? Go on, have a guess? No? Okay then I’ll tell you what she said, she said “I like it, it’s really nice”. That was it. She liked it. She wasn’t offended, nor did she think the photo was racist, nor did she make any comment about the boy model being black – nothing. What does that tell you? Well it tells you that by brandishing things like racism we’re positioning the minds of these kids who would otherwise just see this for what it is – a model wearing a hoodie!

Thanks for reading and I’d really like to know your thoughts on this one.

**UPDATE**

I ran a poll on my Instagram story last night asking viewers if they thought this was racist or not and the results are 90% of respondents didn’t think it was racist.

Trumping Brexit

If you thought this blog was going to stick to family life and my running you would be very much mistaken. No, I do have opinions about things as well and today I’m writing about two.

Trump & Brexit

You see to me Donald Trump is very similar to Brexit – here’s why:

  • Trump became president when nobody thought he would win, and Brexit was voted for when nobody thought it would
  • Trump won a narrow victory (I’m going with the actual way the president is elected and not the pointless popular vote*), as did Brexit.
  • There’s an awful lot of anti-Trump feeling in the media, press, social media etc especially with celebrity and well know faces voices there disdain for the president. We have this with Brexit too, lots fighting it and apposing it and many “celebrities” openly bemoaning it.
  • The US is stuck with Trump and the UK is stuck with Brexit.

I’m not political analyst. I am no expert on US politics. I am not expert on UK politics. I am not expert on the EU. I know as much as any other voter really.

The things is that the whole world sometimes seems anti-Trump. I’m not. Every morning I look at Twitter and I am entertained by his latest round of random tweets to the world on various subjects. Then I am further entertained when people, clearly more knowledgeable than the president, call him out and mock him. I laugh, I do.

I laugh because this is what America voted for. Not just on election night but in all those primaries where Trump came ahead of his republican rivals. It really did bring to the surface some of the worst in American society and give them a public voice. I laugh because the US has a system that allows a single man to become the most powerful in the world, provided he can garner the financial backing required to run for president. Whilst the UK has had it’s share of pompous twits in “power” I do have faith that our particular system is one that wouldn’t allow and buffoon like Trump to actual become prime minister. Never say never, I suppose.

But, here’s the real reason I like Trump. Because with him America is at rock bottom. They can’t get any worse can they? In 3 years times there’ll be a chance for someone to persuade the America people that can do a better job (provided Trump stand for re-election that is – and I think that’s questionable). Trump is showing the American people how bad it can be done and how much better they can do. Which means in 3 years they might get a really good president – maybe.

So the Brexit link. Well I’m not going to divulge the way I voted – you can make your own assumptions (I really don’t care) but I will say that I swung. Was I out then in or was I in then out? The fact is though, whether I agree with Brexit or not, we must come together and make it work for OUR country. At the moment we are allowing it to divide us as Trump is dividing America (and the world). Brexit might be the worst thing to happen to the UK since WW2, but we rebuilt then and we can rebuild now.

So there it is. My simple, uneducated rant-analysis of Trump and Brexit dealt with neatly inside one blog post. I need never darken this site with such rambling again. But this has been cathartic writing for me. I have got it off my chest. I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders for having shared these thoughts with the world.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing some comments!


* I say pointless because although it might show that Clinton won more votes as a nation is makes no different because of the way the US election system works. Much the same here in the UK with a general election.

Running Diary 2018 – Week 1

Distance this week: 11.1km
Number of runs this week: 2
Distance to goal: 1988.9km

As I sit here typing this from my sickbed (okay – sofa) to reflect on my running in week 1 of 2018 I must admit it’s been a bit of a failure. Then when I consider that I have targeted a goal of running 2000km this year it dawns on me that things can (have to) get better.

I had a good run on News Years Day, getting out in the sunshine on an otherwise chilly day. I followed this up by reluctantly dragging myself out on the Tuesday morning before work. I had no appetite for it but I went nonetheless.

I knew I was coming down with something and although it wasn’t showing I was feeling drained so since then I haven’t’ run. I also haven’t booked a marathon yet so I need to really pull my finger out and get started soon.

So there is it, my uninspiring start to my running in 2018. I must up my game!

Thanks for reading.

Parents – Teach Your Kids to Cook

November 17, 2017 at 07:38PMNot long ago our usually excellent (by that I mean distinctly average) meal planning plunged to a new depths. You know those days when all plans unravel and change. Well, on one such day I came home from work, just after 5pm, and was greeted with having to whip up a meal for the 6 of us. You know, just like that. I don’t mind, I love to cook.

But, throw into the mix it was a Thursday and the cupboard and fridge we low on stocks what would I cook? Easy, every dads best friend – pasta. I produced a beautiful, Michelin Star restaurant standard spaghetti carbonara in about 20 minutes. Onion, bacon, egg yolks, Parmesan cheese (or cheddar if like us you like your carbonara distinctly English), salkt, pepper and of course spaghetti. Simple.

This week the eldest (14) girl got to make us all a meal. It was chicken Kievs and chips. The Kievs were frozen but she did make her own oven chips (let’s call them Italian potatoes to give them an edge). It was a perfectly enjoyable and tasty meal. The following night it was the turn of the 13 year old. Now, I thought the plan was cottage pie (i.e. shepherds pie but made with beef mince instead). However, on getting home it was to be carbonara and I was making it. “Oh no I’m not,” I insisted in pantomime fashion. I set about instructing the 13 y/o how to make this simple, yet delightful meal. First, chop the bacon into small pieces…..this is where it went wrong.

After 10 or so minutes the bacon was still being chopped and the meal was still as far in the distance as England winning a world cup. I had to step in. So I helped (read took over). I diced the onions, chopped the garlic and got it all going in the pan. Put the spaghetti on and then showed her how to seperate the egg yolks. She grated the cheese and then when it was all ready I put it together. Kind of a team effort in the end I guess.

My point is I have failed as a parent here. I should have been teaching them these simple cooking skills for a while not and haven’t – probably because they show zero interest in learning them and you can teach somebody who doesn’t want to be taught. But I still have failed.

So, in a not-so-new-years-resolution style I am determined to show them how to cook simple, hearty, healthy, balanced, delicious meals from scratch and not simply removing a pizza from a box and putting it in the oven.

Why I Won’t Stop My Kids Drinking Sugary Drinks

You must have seen the commotion caused as the makers of IRN-BRU announced that they are altering the recipe of their popular drink to reduce the sugar content in there famous drink from 10% sugar to 5% sugar and replace it with artificial sweetners. If not then take a look at Sky News.

Now the title of this post might suggest that my children drink sugary drinks until they are higher than an addict of something far more sinister. Actually that’s not the truth at all.

We generally don’t buy fizzy drinks at home. We might get the odd bottle of Pepsi Max but that’s about it until Christmas or a special occasion. But the thing is this is our choice and that is the point I would like to make,

Choice

As an adult I make choices every day. As a parent those choices also affect my children. We make choices and that is our right to do so. This is whether the nanny-state starts to get on my wick just a bit.

The sugar tax. Oh I hate that terms and I hate that smarmy Jamie Oliver for his link to it even more. We don’t need taxes or laws limiting what we buy – not at all. What we need is people to understand balance. i eat a balanced diet, as do my children. Is there sugar and fat in there – yes absolutely. Is there a good mix of healthier stuff thrown is – oh hell yes. Why not?

We educate our children to eat a balanced diet. We let them have a bag of crisp, but we ask that they limit it to only one in any day. There might be a chocolate biscuit after a meal, but there’s also fruit that is eaten. It’s a balance.

I am actually offended that our Government chooses this route of bullying us to do things rather that educating. Those of us that are balanced and careful and try to do the right thing are being punished because there are idiots out there who dont’ give a flying fart about their, or their children’s, health. Thanks for that, another case of the few spoiling it for the many.

I’m off now to buy a can of IRN-BRU….

Thanks for reading and I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.

 

Dealing With It All

Wow it really is 2018 isn’t it.

I hadn’t intended to down tools on blogging over the festive period too much, in fact I saw it as an opportunity to have a bit of time to write some post ready to hit the new year running. But, it didn’t quite work out like that and I just enjoyed some down time. I was still posting to Instagram though.

I read a post over at Dad v World earlier that I replied to (go check it out but finish reading this first please). Only after reading back my reply did it dawn on me just how busy I/we are for the first quarter of 2018. Then I remember Helen telling me that between the new year and the end of March we have just one solitary weekend where we have no plans! Madness! This isn’t quite the new year post I had started writing already, but my reply on Dad v World made me change direction – thanks for the inspiration.

So here’s what on the agenda:

  • Panto rehearsal and performance run for the two young girls – meaning lots of Dad’s Taxi and assisting with chaperone duties
  • Dance school showcase for all four girls – meaning lots of rehearsals, Dad’s Taxi, helping back stage/front of house.
  • Two dance festival competition for the youngest two – meaning rehearsing at home and spending 4 weekends at the comps.

On top of this my day job as an IT manager is crazy busy and the company I work for is in it’s busiest period of the year from January to May. But it doesn’t stop there…

Social media profile photo.pngOn May 6th it will be the annual Kirkbymoorside 10k. This annual charity road race raised funds for local school and I am the race secretary/director  looking after entries, health & safety, website, social media, promotion, traffic management and the course itself. It’s a massive volunteer undertaking by a dedicated team. We start taking entries in October but things start to hot up from an organisational point of view in January. Head over to kirkbymoorside10k.com to enter – it’s a great event.

I am also still planning to run a spring marathon so I will need to cram in the training for that along the way – oh and I’m writing a book (more on both of those another time)!

So you could say we’re pretty busy and I am looking forward to summer already! We do have a BIG family holiday in September for a wedding that is the big thing we’re looking forward to this year but until then it’s busy all the way.

Please hassle me - I thrive on stress.jpgI actually thrive on being busy and up against it. I’ve always been the same. I thrive on tight deadlines and being a bit last minute and taking on more that I really should. But I do recognise I need to take some days easier and find some downtime. I really do.

I’m not ashamed to say that many years ago now, during my first IT management job I was diagnosed as having stress by my GP. That made me change my ways massively. At that time I was going to work early and leaving late. Once home I was continuing to work. Something had to give and it sure as hell wasn’t me and there and then I decided work stayed at work. I’ve relaxed that a bit now, but maybe that’s because I’m 10 years older and better tooled up mentally to cope with these things.

In a nutshell I love being busy – but in a controlled way that works for me, Helen and our family.

I think as parents you somehow develop this amazing control mechanism that allows you to deal with all the coming and goings that come with having kids. I sometimes see posts by friends on Facebook who have just the one son or daughter and catch myself thinking how simple that must be. But then I love, love, love having a big family. Yes, it’s stressful and challenging at times but our house is also filled with love and laughter (okay we have two teenager so it’s also filled with hormones and attitude).

I’d love to know what you think in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

A Happy Musical Christmas

You may have noticed my post on Instagram recently where I had bought this years Christmas Radio Times. We don’t generally buy TV listings magazines, and nor do we buy the weekend newspapers that usually contain their own variety so it’s not often we plan ahead what we watch on TV. In fact, for over a year now we’ve predominantly consumed our TV viewing on Amazon Prime and Netflix via our Amazon FireTV stick so we’re no longer following a TV listing anyway.

But, at this time of year which lots of visual TV delights to choose from it’s nice to peruse the Radio Times to see what’s to come. I particularly like the specials films section, even though with the above mentioned streaming services with thousands of films to choose from it’s nice to see what’s coming to terrestrial TV. With that, I like that the genre of film is also listed and being a family of musicals lovers I have mapped out a Christmas musical journey for us – here’s where we are going.

Christmas Eve

Bugsy Malone (ITV3 11:35am)
Who doesn’t love a bit of Bugsy? This is a great film for all the family and my foot is tapping already to Fat Sam’s Grand Slam.

 

 

Oklahoma (Channel 5 1:35pm)
A Wild West cowboy love story – what’s not to love about that?!

 

 

 

Guys and Dolls (BBC2 3:20pm)
I’ve never actually seen this one so it’s another one to tick off for me!

 

 

Christmas Day

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Channel 5 11:05am)
The premise of this film is a hard sell for me and in modern day terms is a tad sexist but still an enjoyable movie all the same.

 

 

Singing in the Rain (Channel 5 1:05pm)
It’s Signing in the Rain for goodness sake – it needs no introduction from me!

 

 

Oliver! (Channel 5 3:10pm)
“Please sie, can I have some more?”. Love this film, but o that Bill Sykes is a nasty piece of work!

Boxing Day

A Hard Day’s Night (BBC2 11.55am)
I’m not exactly a Beatles fan and I’ve never seen this so I’ll give it a go with an open mind.

 

 

 

The Little Mermaid (Channel 4 4:20pm)
Delilah’s favourite movie and one we shall definitely be watching!

Crimbo Limbo

Sunshine on Leith (Channel4 27th December 1:15pm)
I have to admit I’d never heard of this film until I caught the back end of it one night on Channel 4. I do love a good Proclaimers song so if you do do then this is one to watch.

New Years Eve

Into the Woods (BBC2 8pm)
This was such a promising movie with an awesome cast. We’re still not sure about it though if I’m honest. But, the waterfall see with these two signing Agony is worth it!

 

 

 

What to watch on TV this Christmas

I remember as a boy that my Mum would always buy both the Radio Times  and the TV Times Christmas editions. It always made me giggle with excitement as this event meant Christmas was not very far away and I would spend a good long while pouring over both books ensuring I knew exactly which films to watch and when the Only Fools and Horses Christmas specials were on. Back in those days we only had 4 TV channels (yes, I come from a time before Channel 5) and my parents didn’t see the point in having Sky TV so TV life was pretty simple for us. It wasn’t until 1990 that my parents dragged themselves into the technological worlds and purchased out first VCR! So, with these memories making me smile and it being my last working day of the year (I’ll be at my works Christmas party when this post goes live) I thought I would share what we will be watching this Christmas.

Admittedly, in this day and age with terrestrial TV, Sky+, Amazon Prime and Netflix to choose from in our house the schedule is a bit different as we are no bound by the schedule the TV broadcaster set. So, I’ll list what we’ll be watching by service.


TV

  • Elf: The Musical – Live on Stage (23rd December 5pm, Channel 5)
  • It’s Christmas Live From The Royal Albert Hall (23rd December 8pm, Sky 1)
  • All Star Musicals (24th December 6:40pm, ITV1)
  • Michael McIntyre’s Big Show (24th December 8:30pm, BBC1)
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (25th December 9:25am, ITV1)
  • Toy Story 3 (25th December 1:20pm, BBC1)
  • Call The Midwife Christmas Special (25th December 7:40pm BBC)
  • Strictly Christmas Special (25th 6:30pm BBC)
  • ET the Extra-Terestrial (26th December 3:30pmm ITV1)
  • Little Women (Starts 26th December 8pm BBC)
  • Grandpa’s Great Escape (New Year’s Day 6:55pm BBC)
  • Christmas Bake Off Special (25th December & 1st January 7:40pm Ch4)
  • Miranda Does Christmas (27th December 9pm Ch4)

Amazon Prime

  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (just in case I miss it on Christmas Days on ITV1)
    Possibly my favourite Christmas film. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and still laugh at the ridiculousness of it every time and I’m hoping that my love for the film will spread to the girls. But, there is also an important message in there (somewhere).
  • Nativity 3 Dude, Where’s my Donkey?!
    I know what you’re thinking – what about the first two Nativity films? Well we’ve watched them already in December and now I’m happy to see that Nativity 3 is included with Prime.
Netflix

  • Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’
  • Elf
  • The Holiday
  • Love Actually
    We’ve watched this already because we love it. It’s a great film and I am sure will be a classic in time (if not already).
  • Arthur Christmas
    I won’t lie, again we’ve watched this already in December. It’s a great movie and we’ll definitely watch it again before festive season is over.