It’s all about Lego

image

My own emotional attachment to Lego is getting a little bit out of hand. I spent a ridiculously long time working out how to create a custom designed Lego table and get endless pleasure out of sorting all the little pieces into their appropriate sections.

Of course, I can’t actually build the stuff now that Jonah has progressed to the serious box sets but I’ve loved watching his complete and utter commitment to those little blocks.

Lego is the first thing that comes out in the morning and the last thing at night. He brings it into the bath before we read some sort of Lego related bedtime book and he’s even got his own blog, Legocation.

image

Maybe because in this crazy world, Lego is the one constant for Jonah. No matter where he is or what situation he is in, he can count on Lego to be the same and I guess there’s a huge amount of satisfaction when completing a box.

It’s funny because I’ve spoken to a few mums of little boys who say that in school their boys can’t sit still or focus but will literally spend hours pouring over the instructions to create some fabulous Lego set. What is it about Lego that can hold their focus for so long and how do we harness that?

I mean if any of you have actually looked in a typical Lego instruction leaflet, you will see that it requires a huge amount of concentration, certainly beyond the limits that I have. But Jonah has very little problems finding the correct pieces and fitting it all together. Sometimes he asks me for help and I offer a piece that I think will work only to have him look at me with pure horror when it’s a slightly different colour or has an extra bit sticking out.

image

And it’s not just through the building of it, Lego is the start of so many imaginative roleplaying games that they can do alone or with friends. It’s a chance for them to express themselves and their emotions because if you actually listen to their dialogue, it is often full of experiences that they may have had themselves that day.

Jonah and I used to play a game called Star of the Day, based on the real Star of the Day at school. We would come up with a reason why each Lego figure wasn’t the Star before knocking them flying and then give a huge whoop for the one who was. Rather than drilling him in appropriate behaviour at school, this was a fun way of him hearing the same message without feeling like he was just being talked at.

Jonah also loves to draw Lego. For many boys, picking up a pen and paper comes slightly later so anything that encourages them to do this has got to be a good thing.

image

But really what I love about Lego is how much Jonah loves it. From the original Duplo Lego through to Lego City, Ninjago, Chima, Star Wars and now the ultimate, Lego Minecraft, Lego talks to him like no other toy can. If Jonah can just maintain this passion and commitment and apply it to other areas of his life, then he will be successful in whatever he chooses to do.

I on the other hand will probably spend the next 20 years finding the stuff in places throughout my house, furniture and clothes and often stuffed in the ends of my shoes.

Daily Mail headline

image

We’ve all seen those Mail Online headlines, you know, after you’ve read and refreshed the celebrity section for the tenth time that day and you finally move to skim the news section.

Five year old boy gets excluded! Nursery bans toddler! That sort of thing. Terrible parents you think to yourself. How on earth could it come to that?

Well, let me tell you. It sort of did happen to me, although exclusion was replaced by softer words such as ‘half-day timetable’.

Starting ‘big’ school is not always easy for every child. Some cry for their mums, some are overwhelmed or some like Jonah have fears that they simply can’t express. Unfortunately for Jonah those fears manifest themselves in ways that simply can’t be tolerated at school.

Every reasonable adult would agree that hitting, kicking, pushing or just general fighting can’t happen at school. Although many appreciate that kids do fight at home with siblings or friends, this behavior is just not manageable in school.

So there we were, 10 days in and I was ‘frog marched’ in to the classroom to be told that Jonah got into a fight with Year 2 boys (the scrawny reception kid he is he was never going to win that one), and a decision was taken that he must now be on a half-day timetable.

Now to say I was shocked is a bit of an understatement. I thought I was going in for a quick teacher chat, not an ambush.

Me against four members of staff hardly seemed fair and they had time to prepare whereas I was simply picking up my kid from school with no prior warning.

Now, I’m not saying it was the wrong decision to make but the ramifications for our family were pretty huge. In one respect, we were lucky. As freelancers we can work wherever we like so we were able to shuttle to and from school six times in one day!

But as freelancers, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. I was also concerned that simply removing him from the situation was not going to address any of the problems. And being told that time would help is just too risky a strategy for me. Plus the feeling that school could not cope with Jonah was a huge concern.

Little did I know at the time but this was the start of entering a whole new and strange world of Special Education Needs (SEN). It was also time to be one of those pushy parents that I’ve always slightly loathed. Because the reality is if your child is not fitting into the system then they need help and that’s not always readily available.

One year on and I’ve learned more than I thought possible about child development. We’ve had in depth discussions with specialists who have told us that in their view schools just can’t cope with young boys who mature later than girls.

We’ve had speech and language assessments which Jonah passed with flying colours, although he was described as giving ‘odd’ answers. One such as his wanting to know how long the session would take, and using our first names when asked who he lived with – all perfectly reasonable if he wasn’t a five year old.

We’ve had sessions with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS ) where our amazing support worker probably helped us more than she did Jonah, and I’ve learned lots about the way an average primary school operates.

But above all I’ve learned that everywhere you look, there are kids that will potentially slip though the net.

Bright, inquisitive minds that could one day find the cure to cancer are in danger of being turned off learning if their schools and family are not working together properly.

Jonah is luckier than some. We his parents are reasonably intelligent, articulate and are gathering as much information as possible to steer him through school.

Communication is key and with the introduction of his home/school book we can support his teachers with the behavioural work he is doing in the class and playground. So one ‘cross face’ in his book means no iphone game time at home.

But what about all those kids whose parents don’t speak great English, or those who haven’t the confidence to speak to the teachers? How many ‘naughty boys’ are just those that need to be taught in a slightly different way?

Having a ‘difficult’/ ‘spirited’ child is a lottery. I’ve met people who have had four easy kids only to have number five turn their lives upside down and people who have put off having more children after not being able to cope with the first.

But the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is don’t pay too much notice to the good stuff schools say about your child and don’t beat yourself up about the bad stuff.

Your family knows more about your child than any school ever will, and parents, above all, are the crucial factor in shaping your child’s future.

Love or hate?

photo

 

Ok, so why this blog and why The Marmite Kid?

This is for my 5 year old son Jonah and also for his older sister Evie who may one day look back and understand why mum and dad were a bit cranky some days.

Jonah is affectionate, creative, sensitive, dynamic, energetic, bright and good fun. He is also a challenging little boy at times. He can be pushy, aggressive, quick tempered and not always focused, apart from with anything Lego related.

That first lovely year of starting reception has been without doubt one of our family’s most challenging times. But it has forced me and my husband Gordon to really look at ourselves and make us if not better people, at least people who are willing to learn and develop.

But it has also been an incredible eye opener and led me down some very interesting paths, questioning our education system and why some of the brightest kids simply can’t fit within it.

It has also been incredibly funny, in a ‘if I don’t laugh I will cry’ sort of way and perhaps this blog can help other families with their very own Marmite Kid.

Originally this was just going to be a blog about my son and family but the more I spoke to people the more I realized that there are lots of Marmite Kids out there, you know, you either love it or hate it.

When you have a difficult child, quite frankly it is easier to pry into other people’s lives as you are in no position to judge so others tend to open up to you.

Children, behaviour, education systems and parenting are without doubt hot topics of conversation. This is just my take on what it is like to parent a child that just won’t sit on that naughty step no matter what Super Nanny may say.