Saturday, 30 December 2017

Always a Single Parent

Christmas time is a time for reflection. For me, anyway. I confess to being one of those weird people who measures their lives, assesses what has gone on, how far I have got/not got and what I have or haven't achieved.

You might think I'd feel happy. Or smug. Or proud. Excited, even.

I don't really feel any of those things, but I am trying to make myself feel it. You see, ten years ago I was a single parent. I was alone with a child. I worked very hard. I raised a baby alone, I bought my first house, I learned to drive, I bought a car. I arranged childcare, I went to nativity plays, I organised school fund fees, I went on school trips, I taught her to ride a bike, to be polite and to be strong.

I did all of these things alone in the face of unbearable heartbreak at being left alone to manage.

I developed this thick skin. I remember the hardships I faced, the judgement.

Ten years on I'm married with three children now. No longer a single parent. I worked hard and look:

A First Class BA

A distinction at MA
And now undertaking a fully funded PhD full time. I have everything I have ever wished for, and more.

And yet, I feel like someone picked up this single parent, removed her from what she once was, plonked her in Liverpool with three kids and a barely-there support network and left her. I feel completely and utterly removed from what I was. From where I was. What happened to this strong woman? I fear she got lost in a new town, with new expectations. She's there. I can see her in these pictures, she is strong and so motivated that it hurts to think how hard and determined she is. And yet...somehow everything is removed.

I read somewhere that you should never look back except to see how far you have come. This is complete bullshit. You need to look back to remember who you are, you need people, experiences, memories. You need trinkets and tokens of remembrance: the picture of you and your new baby, the key-ring from your first house, old love-letters ripped into smithereens. You need to remember how bad it was, feel the pain and know that you are strong. You need to feel like there has been a journey. You can't erase the past, you need to embrace it and feel everything that came with it. I am so proud to have been a single parent - it made me who I am and it makes me who I am everyday.

You can't let go. The past makes us who we are, and in being urged to forget the past, move on, in some way feel "rescued" or "redeemed," I have lost something very precious that is mine.

So this coming year, I am working on getting it back.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Homemade STEM Toys for Christmas

Both myself and my husband are very keen on education, and raising girls means that we are keen that they are not limited by their sex - we like them to have a variety of experiences and play with toys, clothe, books that are not traditionally for 'girls.' As you probably know, part of my PhD research focuses on gender, so I won't start getting all lectur-y about sex and gender, but needless to say - we want our girls to embrace all aspects of being human without confining them to one gender or another.

So of course we are delighted to write about Konnie Huq's partnership with the Institute of Engineering and Techinology (IET) to create home-made STEM toys for Christmas. We were keen to get the kids involved in learning. getting creative and doing something a little bit different.

Christmas can be difficult for many people. Some people feel the pressure and spend a fortune on toys for their kids, and even if you aren't having money difficulties, it can still be hard to 'keep up with the Jones' in this way. This is why I really loved the idea of home-made presents - not just for Christmas gifts but also as a way of spending time with your kids, engaging with their creative side as well as teaching them a bit of science along the way.

The Christmas STEM toys made by Konnie include:

1. Dissolving egg

2. Magnetic slime

3. Icosahedron bauble

4. Marble run

5. Balloon boat

6. Bouncy balls

7. Smartphone projector

8. Living gingerbread house

9. Kaleidoscope

We decided to try and make the Icosahedron bauble. As Warren is a Physics teacher, I thought it would be best to leave the kids to be taught by their Dad with this, They sat with a compass and made each circle individually. Warren showed them some maths tricks to turn the circle into equilateral triangles, I was sat nearby and overheard the conversation between Warren and Alice - they discussed how important maths and science is to creating shapes and structures in the world, and how maths and science as subjects inform each other.

They had a really good time making the decoration. As you can see, it turned out really well - all they need to do next is to paint it and add glitter - that is our next job!

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