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News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

pointed commentary on current affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean

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Parenting

That Health and Family Life Education Manual – Bad Move!

English: Symbols for heterosexuality (middle),...
English: Symbols for heterosexuality (middle), male homosexuality (upper right), male bisexuality (lower right), female homosexuality (lower left) and female bisexuality (upper left). Česky: Symboly pro heterosexualitu (uprostřed), mužskou homosexualitu (vpravo nahoře), mužskou bisexualitu (vpravo dole), ženskou homosexualitu (vlevo dole) a ženskou bisexualitu (vlevo nahoře). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somebody messed up. Big time. This is not about being liberal, tolerant or open-minded. The people who managed to get what has turned out to be a hugely controversial Health and Family Life Education manual into Jamaican schools must have known that sections of the manual would be offensive to many Jamaican parents.

The manual, funded by UNICEF, is over 400 pages long, for Grades 7-9, and covers four themes, eating and fitness, managing the environment, self and interpersonal relationships and the one that has come in for criticism, sexuality and sexual health. The vast majority of the programme is uncontroversial, but some sections, dealing with sexuality, have raised concerns.

TVJ broke the story about some of the contents of the manual last week, which resulted in an immediate public backlash.

Within 24 hours of the story first airing, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said that:

“I consider sections of the manual inappropriate for any age and certainly for the Grade 7 and 8 students for which it was designed. I have instructed that the material be withdrawn from all schools and re-written then redistributed…”

It doesn’t matter if you believe that the law making buggery a criminal offence should be repealed, or if you think Jamaican society is homophobic and more tolerance is needed (or not), or if you are a gay rights activist who wants to see same-sex marriage legalized at some point. That is really not what this is about.

It’s about trying to sneak a controversial curriculum into schools without the knowledge of most of the parents of the children in those schools. It’s about trying to force change in a way that is certain to bring a social backlash. It’s about being respectful enough of other people’s views to understand that whatever you think children ought to be taught, parents have a right to have a say in that decision. This is not just a desirable principle, it’s a legal requirement. Section 44 of our Education Act says:

In the exercise and performance of the functions assigned to him by this Act, the Minister shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, the wishes of parents are to be considered in the education of students.

I used the words “sneak a controversial curriculum into schools” quite deliberately. I don’t care who in the Education Ministry approved that manual, how much donor money was spent or that focus groups were involved. Anybody, and I mean any honest person, would have known that most Jamaican parents would have objected to sections of that manual. If you were serious about wanting buy-in, the controversial sections would have been published, widely disseminated and discussed in the media to truly gauge public and parental reaction. Any bets as to what the outcome would have been?

One of the most publicized aspects of the manual is the activity aimed at Grades 7 and 8 students with the stated objective of increasing ‘awareness of an individual’s personal risk of HIV infection.’ The questions include:

–       Have you ever had sexual intercourse?

–       Have you ever had sex without a condom?

–       Have you ever had casual sexual partners?

–       Have you ever had anal sex without a condom?

–       Do you know your HIV status?

–       Do you know the HIV status of all your partners?

Someone has just emailed me to point out that the activity is for the students to assess themselves, and that the answers are not meant to be shared with the teachers. So what happens when a teacher is inadvertently made privy to one of the answers? What if a child decides to share his or her experiences thinking the teacher can be trusted? Not all can. Also, are ordinary classroom teachers really equipped to handle the possible ramifications of raising some of these issues?

We hear a lot about children having sex at an early age. The 2008 Jamaica Reproductive Health Survey, conducted by the National Family Planning Board, indicates that 66% of young women and 75% of young men say they have had sex. These figures are actually a bit lower than those in the 2002 survey when 69% of young women and 82 % of young men reported having had sex. (Respondents were men aged 15-24, and women aged 15-49.)

In addition, the 2008 report stated that the mean age for first sexual encounter was 16.1 for young women, and 14.5  for young men, compared to 15.8 and 13.5, respectively, in 2002.

Twelve per cent of young women and 35% of young men reported having sex for the first time before they were 15.

Clearly this is cause for concern and must be addressed. A lot of young people are having sex. And inevitably, some of that sex is risky.

English: Adults and children estimated to be l...
English: Adults and children estimated to be living with HIV in 2007. Source: WHO & UNAIDS (here) Ελληνικά: Ενήλικες και παιδιά που εκτιμάται ότι ζουν με τον ιό HIV το 2007. Πηγή: Παγκόσμιος Οργανισμός Υγείας & UNAIDS (εδώ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jamaica is one of seven out of ten Caribbean countries named by UNAIDS Caribbean on its website as having a prevalence rate for HIV of over 1%. The figure for Jamaica is 1.7%. UNAIDS says:

“When the HIV rate in the general population is higher than one percent this is defined as a general epidemic. That means that while communities with higher risk such as men who have sex with men and sex workers may contribute disproportionately to the spread of HIV, heterosexual transmission is also sufficient to sustain an epidemic independent of those groups.”

So most of us understand that young people must be given information about the dangers of early sexual activity and how to protect themselves when they start having sex. Advocates of  the manual apparently think we don’t. That’s not it. But how far should schools go?

Look at the flip side. Eight out of ten of the girls and two out of every three boys  would NOT have had sex in first and second form, which is the  age group targeted by these activities in the family life manual. Does that really suggest that we need to have discussions about multiple sexual partners and anal sex with the class as a whole?

Is there a way to initiate introductory discussions about sex and risky sexual behavior without going into the kind of detail many parents have said they find offensive? Could we start the general discussions in class, but with a pointer to internet sites where sexually active students who have concerns can discreetly go to access the more detailed information they might need? Or find a way to involve parents in the process, by asking them to discuss sensitive information with their children?  I know, I know, many parents are themselves ignorant, or uncomfortable discussing reproductive health issues. So how do we provide the information our young people clearly need without introducing topics that have been deemed unnecessary and inappropriate for others of the same age? After all, the statistics clearly show that not all teenagers are having sex.  It’s a discussion we need to continue, until we find a generally acceptable  solution.

Another offensive aspect of the manual for many people though, was its emphasis on sexual orientation which the manual rightly identifies as a “controversial topic.” I guess this is where I  say “duh!”

English: Symbols for heterosexuality (middle),...
English: Symbols for heterosexuality (middle), male homosexuality (upper right), male bisexuality (lower right), female homosexuality (lower left) and female bisexuality (upper left). Česky: Symboly pro heterosexualitu (uprostřed), mužskou homosexualitu (vpravo nahoře), mužskou bisexualitu (vpravo dole), ženskou homosexualitu (vlevo dole) a ženskou bisexualitu (vlevo nahoře). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, one can only wonder at the person who really thought it would be appropriate to include in an activities section for Grade Six students, a suggestion that “students volunteer for a panel discussion on the rights of homosexuals. The discussion focuses on the need to show tolerance and respect to all persons.”

The guided imagery activity for Grade 8, asking students to imagine a world where it was normal to be gay but where you, the students, were straight, was also problematic for a number of reasons.

For one thing, many people saw it as “conditioning” children to accept the gay lifestyle. In my view, the aim of the activity was clear, to try to have students walk in the shoes of a gay student and understand his/her feelings and problems a little more. But adapted as it was from a Toolkit by a group called Advocates for Youth to “create safe space for GLBTQ Youth,” this was an inherently wrong choice. NB – GLBTQ means Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender and Questioning (I had to look up the Q!)

Advocates for Youth is a US-based organization which seems to carry out considerable work in the field of  reproductive health education and advocacy for young people and describes itself, among other things, as an “innovator of new programs to redress homophobia and transphobia in communities of color.”  That should have been a little red flag for people who wanted to borrow material for our purposes, shouldn’t it?

Another recent survey gives us a picture of current Jamaican attitudes to different sexual lifestyles.

The 2012 National Survey of Attitudes and Perceptions of Jamaicans Towards Same-Sex Relationships  was recently released by the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), and was  funded by AIDS-Free World.

The survey states that about 50% of respondents become aware of homosexuality by 14 years old, 88% felt male homosexuality was immoral, 83.7% felt female homosexuality was immoral, and 83.5% felt bisexuality was immoral.

When questioned, 76.7 percent of respondents did not want to see the buggery law amended, and 65% did not want the constitution amended to include specific reference to LGBT rights. However, 21.3% said they would support an amendment that would allow consensual sex between adults in private.

One reader commented that there was “extensive island-wide” consultation with stakeholders. If that is so, then the persons designing the field testing needs to revamp his or her methodology entirely, because it clearly was useless in gauging true public opinion on the most controversial issues.

Should tolerance be taught? I would say yes, absolutely, but there must be serious questions asked about the methodology which the Education Ministry chose to use here. The attempt by the people behind this manual to tackle this issue in the schools in the way we saw here was not just inadvisable, it was disrespectful as well.

People who are so quick to speak about the need to respect others, need to understand that respect works both ways. Parents’ wishes, much as you may disagree with them, must be respected as well. And if you have trouble accepting that, refer again to section 44 of the Education Act.

Corporal Punishment in Jamaica Part 2 – What Happens at Home

You've got to be cruel to be kind...
You’ve got to be cruel to be kind… (Photo credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather)

I got some interesting and heartfelt responses to my first post on corporal punishment in Jamaica, especially in relation to what used to happen in the schools.

In commenting on how students not very quick academically were treated at his primary school Earl said:

“Instead of intellectual stimulation they were mostly treated to the stimulus administered to all parts of their bodies (not just the rear end or the hands) by heavy belts, rulers, sticks, canes or any other convenient implement. Some of these instruments of cruelty were even given names by some teachers, so strong was the bond they attached to their favourite ‘weapon’.

I am still pained by the memory of a particular girl being made to stand on the desk so that her tormentor could be better positioned to beat her around the legs. The strop he used was about four ft long and with each blow it would wrap around her exposed leg and bruise her further as it retracted. But it did not stop there! With each blow he issued a string of invectives, calling her names such as “white pork”. Yes; she was of very light complexion as most the people in that section of St. Elizabeth (mainly of Scottish descent) were.”

This memory came from Vivienne:

“I still remember grade six at primary school when the whole class was caned because one boy did not do his homework. He was not punished. This went on for about a week until the boys beat up the one who refused to do his work. That was apparently the teacher’s strategy. It was a traumatic experience. Teachers should be banned (from) hitting a child point blank.”

A thin, flexible cane designed for corporal pu...
A thin, flexible cane designed for corporal punishment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People’s feelings about corporal punishment in the home, however, are a lot more mixed.

Carmen shared this:

“I think parents should parent with love, care, concern, self-control and discipline. That is what setting a good example means. Each child requires different techniques … beating them to death (or near death) to teach them about life is just plain ridiculous and abusive. Slapping down a child because “yuh jus like you fadda” makes no sense, slap yourself, you chose this no good SOB!! But again a swift swat on the behind is necessary sometimes.”

But Phyllis believes that corporal punishment is always a no-no.

“Parents may indeed rationalize that they were beaten and that they turned out alright- is that really true? This is called fooling oneself.

Teachers and parents have absolutely no need to inflict physical punishment on children- instead, both parents and teachers need to be made aware of the difference between discipline and punishment. …Correction of errant behaviour could take the form of lost privileges, doing work to compensate for what should have been done etc. The outcome of this approach is to cultivate a sense of ownership of one’s actions in the child via showing the strong relationship between logical and natural consequences of actions- positive or negative. This approach develops discipline which everyone needs to take them through life as responsible, productive and principled individuals.”

Many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of the state intervening in how a parent disciplines his/her children. with the caveat that clear cases of child abuse should be prohibited.

This of course is the difficult part. Where do you draw the line? What is ok? Carmen speaks of a swat on the behind. Most people wouldn’t bat an eye at that. Or at a slap on the arm or leg. Once you get beyond that it can get tricky.

Paul said in response to my post on Facebook:

“There is a difference between beatings to keep a child in line and taking out frustration on children with what they called “murderations.” I thank my mother for keeping me and my siblings in line with the rod. God bless her and I thank her for it every day.”

Many Jamaicans echo his sentiments and tell you they were the better for the beatings they received as a child.

The Global Coalition to End all Corporal Punishmentof Children is seeking to end corporal punishment in all settings, including the home.

Map of the world with colour applied to countr...
Map of the world with colour applied to countries with an official prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment of children, based on http://endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/progress/prohib_states.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The group’s 2012 Progress Report on the Caribbean stated that:

“A 2004 study involving 1,720 11-12 year olds in Jamaica found that the most common methods adults used to resolve conflicts with children in the home were pushing, grabbing and slapping children (experienced by 86% of children) or beating them with an object (84.2%).

In a later study, also in Jamaica, children described being beaten with objects such as belts, rulers, garden hoses and boards, and in a 2004 study involving 203 parents of 6 year olds, 46.6% stated that physical assault was the most commonly used “disciplinary method” in their homes. Of those reporting physical assault 31.1% reported spanking and 13% beating with an object; other physical assaults included pinching children, shaking them and tying their hands.”

The Report looked at children’s attitudes to corporal punishment and said that:

“In a study involving six focus groups with 60 children aged 7-12 in Jamaica, reported in 2008, children expressed their anger and hurt at physical punishments and revealed their struggle to understand the idea that their parents “beat them because of love.”

When children were asked about how they would behave as parents of the future, some children said they would use more democratic or flexible discipline while others said they wanted to hurt their own children as much as they had been hurt:

“I would give them everything they do to us; I would tape their hands; I would beat them so hard they can’t talk; I would slap the living daylights out of them; I would tie them to the bed, and thump them in their mouth …”

The Coalition notes that the laws governing corporal punishment in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries have their origin in our colonial past.

Bodilo adjusting his culottes after corporal p...
Bodilo adjusting his culottes after corporal punishment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“As in much of Africa and Asia, corporal punishment of children was promoted and institutionalised across the Caribbean during the colonial period, in the context of military occupation and slavery, in the development of early school and penal systems, and in some Christian missionary teaching.

The legality of corporal punishment across the region has its origins in the laws of colonising European countries. This is visible in the provisions allowing for “reasonable punishment” in the laws of many Caribbean nations, as well as the application of the English common law concept of “reasonable chastisement” in British overseas territories including Anguilla, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

The group is lobbying for law reform that would remove all legal defences to corporal punishment and for legislation clearly prohibiting corporal punishment, saying that:

“Without explicit repeal of these defences and justifications, children do not have equal protection from assault; laws may exist against violence and abuse of children, but these are not interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment.”

The Coalition maintains that although public education is necessary, legislative reform cannot await societal acceptance of the abolition of corporal punishment, arguing that:

“The states which have achieved full prohibition have done so in almost every case despite majority public opinion opposing a ban. On this as on many other social issues, governments must act on the basis of their human rights obligations and professional advice – well ahead of public opinion.

There is no justification for keeping children waiting for a change in the law to confirm their fundamental rights while attempting to change adult attitudes. Nobody would argue that law reform to prohibit all violence against women in the home should await universal anger management courses and full employment for men.”

It’s unlikely that our politicians are likely to grab onto this particular hot potato yet. Let’s be clear, Jamaica has made significant progress on this issue of the beating of children. The nightmare scenarios of vicious beatings in schools recalled by so many Jamaicans are unthinkable today. Thank God for that!

The Education Ministry under the leadership of Andrew Holness acted against the sentiment of a sector of the public in announcing that there is to be no more corporal punishment in schools, and corporal punishment is now legally prohibited for children in the care of the state.

Neighbours will often now call the police if they think children are being beaten excessively, that is, are being subject to what Jamaicans call “murderation.” But what is acceptable remains the subject of debate. Spankings with the palm of the hand? Beatings with a belt? Electric cord? A broomstick? A ten-minute beating? Half an hour? An hour? Where does loving discipline end and abuse begin? Is any type corporal punishment by parents ever acceptable?

These are hard questions. What I think is beyond doubt is that parents need more help. I keep hearing the question “If we are not to beat, what are we to do?” and I think it is a legitimate one.

Parenting is hard work. It is one of the hardest jobs on earth, and some children are much  more challenging than others. We need more resources, more workshops and seminars to help parents cope and to provide ideas on how to parent. Schools and churches can be instrumental here. In many cases, parents don’t choose corporal punishment as a considered method of punishment. Many of us simply don’t know of any other methods of discipline that work.

It’s a difficult issue, but one we need to keep talking about. What are your feelings on corporal punishment in the home?

Corporal Punishment in Jamaica Part 1

A thin, flexible cane designed for corporal pu...
A thin, flexible cane designed for corporal punishment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There aren’t many more emotive topics in Jamaica than the debate on corporal punishment. By law, corporal punishment is now banned in state institutions like children’s homes. Section 62 (d) of the Child Care and Protection Act provides that a child in a place of safety, children’s home or in the care of a fit person shall have the right to be free from corporal punishment.

The Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica several years ago banned corporal punishment in  its schools, and the Education Ministry has issued a directive that corporal punishment is prohibited in all schools, with legislation expected to back that up.

But although corporal punishment now (supposedly) remains the province only of parents or guardians in the home, the current position is bitterly opposed by many Jamaicans who believe that one of the worst things to have happened in the education system was the ban on corporal punishment in schools. Really?

One of the things I have great difficulty with is this romanticising of what used to happen in the schools in decades past. Let’s be clear. Some of those teachers were either sadists or mentally ill and needed to be removed from the classroom and either put into therapy or locked up.

God alone knows what issues they were bringing into the schools.

And no, this isn’t personal bitterness. Confession –  I was a nerd, I didn’t get beatings.

But sit down any group of Jamaicans and have them reminisce about the beatings they got and observed in school, and if you take off the cultural filter that tells us this is ok, you will, or should, be horrified.

A co-worker sent me this BBM when she heard me discussing the issue:

“My Grade 4 teacher nearly bruk mi thumb with a bamboo stick. Grade 4 and mi still remember she name!”

Others have stories of teachers who would wet the strap so as to inflict maximum pain.

One friend remembers a teacher who at one point during a particularly vicious beating, got up on a desk for better leverage to beat the boy since he was refusing to cry.

Another remembers a teacher hurling the black board eraser straight at her head (yes, she hit her), a common practice of teachers up to fairly recently. Hopefully by now, the threat of having their asses hauled into court, along with the Ministry’s directive, has put paid to that kind of behaviour.

And as for the fondly remembered Jamaican charge to the teacher at the beginning of the school year in respect of a “bad boy” to :

“Tek him teacher, I beg you, just spare the eye”

when stripped of the humour and the romanticism can be seen for what it was: parental complicity in the abuse of vulnerable children.

A scottish schoolboy receives corporal punishm...
A scottish schoolboy receives corporal punishment with the lochgelly tawse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is nothing romantic or alright about such stories. Personally, I think some of the parents who were quick to rush up to school and threaten teachers who beat their children might well have been reacting to the state-sanctioned child abuse they suffered as a child.

Some readers will say I am recounting the extreme examples. Problem is, there was a lot of extremist behaviour taking place.

Some teachers say it is impossible to keep order without the belt. But where do you draw the line? Is it ok for teachers to walk around lashing out indiscriminately with a wide, heavy, leather strap? Is it alright if  canings are administered only by the principal? What about a slap on the palm of the hand with a ruler? What’s ok and what’s not? Or is the best bet to abandon the slippery slope and ban all corporal punishment in schools as has been done?

As I said, the issue is controversial. but never more so than when it comes to corporal punishment in the home.  Here’s a sampling of comments from the Facebook page of Beyond-theHeadlines (my radio programme on http://www.rjr94fm.com 5.30 – 7.30 pm) illustrating the range of views on this matter.

Collin Hutchinson: One cannot equate a child’s rights to that of an adult as you are shaping the child’s behaviour, while an adult is already shaped, therefore you cannot justify children’s rights on that basis. The problem is experts cannot separate child abuse from corporal punishment and also fail to give suitable alternatives to what has been an age old human behaviour.

Troy Kennedy:  Have these people noticed how some of these foreign kids are spoiled because parents can’t discipline them? I don’t see beating a child the old fashioned way being corporal punishment. I think they should define what they call corporal punishment of a child.

Eleanor Grace: Spanking your child is sometimes effective. Child abuse is an entirely different animal. The Government should NOT be involved in a parent disciplining their child.

Brian-Paul Welsh: Everything in moderation. A firm correction and slap is not the same as “batta-bruising” and humiliating a child. Jamaicans by and large are very physically violent with their children because that is their only frame of reference for discipline. It is an ugly cycle that we keep perpetuating.

Joseph T. Farquharson: So I know good adults who were never beaten while they were growing up and I know criminals who were subjected to corporal punishment while growing up. If parents have to resort to it that means that they have already lost control. We need to be examining the parents, not taking it out on the children.

Given the controversy, it was no surprise that there were mixed reactions to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children when representatives visited Jamaica recently.

The organisation’s website states that it was launched in 2001 to speed the end of corporal punishment of children across the world.

Legality of corporal punishment in Europe Corp...
Legality of corporal punishment in Europe Corporal punishment prohibited in schools and the home Corporal punishment prohibited in schools only Corporal punishment not prohibited (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The problem for many Jamaicans is the lobby to end ALL forms of corporal punishment, and the feeling that overseas lobbyists are trying to impose their values on us. Many Jamaicans will tell you they don’t support excessive corporal punishment, but have no problem with moderate corporal punishment by parents to help discipline children.

One of the problems of course, is what level of corporal punishment is ok.

The Global Initiative, of course, says it is not ok at any level. It uses the definition from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and which states that:

The Committee defines ‘corporal’ or ‘physical’ punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. Most involves hitting (‘smacking’, ‘slapping’, ‘spanking’) children, with the hand or with an implement – a whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, etc. But it can also involve, for example, kicking, shaking or throwing children, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion (for example, washing children’s mouths out with soap or forcing them to swallow hot spices). In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading. In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.”

I’ll highlight excerpts from the report in a subsequent blog post.

But tell me, what memories do you have of corporal punishment? And what are your views on the debate?

Let’s Hear it for the Moms Who Suck at Art & Craft!!!

Photo by supertrooper at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by supertrooper at www.freedigitalphotos.net

I’m not going to pretend that this is a virtue on par with that of the Moms who sacrifice their lives for their children, give up kidneys or who starve while giving little Billy the very last Ramen noodle, for example. But can we just stop for one minute and recognise the Moms who struggle to the very end with those horrific art and craft projects when they, to put it baldly, suck at art? I don’t know what the hell teachers are taught in training school, but you will never convince me that anything involving construction of multi-building complexes  is an age-appropriate project for a five-year-old. A teacher told me once that the projects are supposed to encourage parents to work with their kids. Ok, pause. Doesn’t pasting pictures into a scrapbook achieve that, though? Why penalise those of us who scored Fs in Art? Oh, yeah, and our kids.

1. STORY Number 1-  Junior,  kindergarten kid comes home. He says he has to make a fire station to take to school. I, Mom decides that no kindergarten teacher could possibly expect anything looking like a real fire station. Since I sucked at art and craft Since Mom sucked at art and craft, she

photo credit: Rowan fire station visit via photopin (license)
photo credit: Rowan fire station visit via photopin (license)

got a shoe box, sat with Junior and found pretty pics of fire stations and then helped him paste them all around the shoebox. Presto!  An age-appropriate project for a three-year-old. P.S. Teacher sends back word to Mom that the box wasn’t a fire station. In the interest of world peace, Mom does not respond (although I was really tempted!)

English:
English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

STORY NUMBER 2  -Little Janie,  prep/primary school kid comes home. She’s supposed to make a village. Mom (who sucks at art & craft) helps kid make a village (of sorts). A couple sheets of cardboard, with windows drawn in, repeated five times, what’s not to like? On the morning the project is to go in, Architect Parent (of another kid) marches into classroom, carrying a perfectly constructed model village, of the type you might see outside the offices of a major development company to show investors what to expect. Little Janie bursts into tears.

“‘I’M NOT CARRYING IN THAT!”

she howls, in reference to the now-pathetic looking village.

Godshill Model Village, including the scale mo...
Godshill Model Village, including the scale model of the model village, within which is a third, even smaller model of the village. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

STORY NUMBER 3 – Junior comes home. This time, he’s supposed to make a housing scheme.  Junior wisely by-passes Mom entirely this time. Dad and Junior spend three days working lovingly on a model housing scheme, with matchbox houses complete with windows that open. Did I say Dad and Junior? Junior helped paint the white line in the middle of the beautifully baba-greened roads. This time, Junior proudly walks past the kids with the crappy houses that they made with the Moms who suck at art & craft.

Moral of the story? Moms (and Dads, but today is Mothers’ Day) who suck at art & craft are the real heroes of the parenting world. Those of us whose hearts sink when  we hear that Junior needs a hat for the hat parade tomorrow, and it has to be hand-made with an ackee on top. We rally to the cause and stay up ’til midnight and proudly produce a black cylinder with what looks like red and yellow ping-pong balls on top which Junior loves until he gets to school and sees what the other Moms made (let’s not fool ourselves that these are the kids’ creations!) And then we wipe away the tears, kiss them when they get no prize at all in the competition for the sucky projects and count the years until we, I mean they, can drop art & craft for good.  Don’t worry, that day will come, I promise. In the meantime, here’s to all of us!

Mothers' Day Cake crop
Mothers’ Day Cake crop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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