Tuesday, 8 November 2011


As the half-term holidays waves goodbye, so the 9 year old trundles back into the school playground with a heavy heart and an even heavier rucksack that would do a Gurkha proud, because deep within the bowels of that rucksack..... lies the dreaded half-term homework.

We have had a few “issues” this week with the homework and I'll be honest here – 90% of the trouble is me. For I am a perfectionist. I can blame my father all I like for this trait (and I frequently do) but in the end it's really up to me to control it. For instance, when child No.3 brings home a school project requiring a castle to be built entirely from household materials, I watch her at work.....and I watch....and I watch... and I try really hard, but I just can't do it; there I am, hovering round the empty Carlsberg Lager box and various toilet rolls with a pair of safety scissors and my glue gun. I just can't leave her alone to build the blessed thing without offering “constructive” advice.

ME: “What's that supposed to be?”

YUMYUM: (9 year old daughter): “It's a turret. Can't you tell?”

ME: (aghast) “That's not a turret. THIS is a turret!” (proudly producing a masterpiece that I just happened to have made earlier from the inside of a Thirst Pockets kitchen roll). “ You know, you have to be accurate about these things; for instance, what kind of architectural style does your castle represent?”

YUMYUM: (thinks hard)..... “uhmm....the Fairyland style?”

ME: “Okaay – well yes, that's a good start..... carry on....” (silently places the other 3 matching turrets I just happened to have made earlier on the dining room table and slopes off)

Then came the English homework:

Q.1. Retell the story of Theseus & the Minotaur in your own words.

Firstly, let me just say that the classics are a subject very close to my heart. I studied them with the Open University and unfortunately, I can be a bit of a purist (ok, pedant) about the subject.

I can still remember squeaking at the cartoon film: “It's Heracles not Hercules! That's Roman, you Disney plebs - it's HAIR...A...CLEES not HER...KEW...LEES!! And YumYum saying: “mum, shut-up, the people in the second row are staring at us”. (side-note: even as I am typing this, Microsoft is telling me that 'Heracles' is misspelt – unlike the word 'Hercules'. I feel an e-mail coming on, but I digress).

spot the difference           

Anyway, YumYum goes off to write up her essay and I know I shouldn't have looked, but I did...

ME: “Er, I don't think that's quite right”

YUYUM: Giving me that 'here we go again' look.

ME: “Well, I just don't think Ariadne would say that to Theseus – after all, she was meant to be in love with him.
Own up woman, what have you done with me trews?

YUMYUM: “and?”

ME: “And maybe I'm a bit old fashioned, but if you're in love with someone who is about to face certain death in the middle of a labyrinth at the hands of a bloodthirsty monster - would you really say: “Listen Theseus, here's the deal. Luckily for you I  just happen to have this brilliant magic sword and a ball of silken thread.......”

YUMYUM:I would say that” (one pities any future boyfriends – they may have their work cut out there).

Of course, she may have a point, for Theseus ends up abandoning Ariadne on the island of Naxos.  Perhaps he finally wanted to prove who really wore the trousers......

Now husband pipes up.

OTHER HALF: The question says “in your own words”. They are her own words. That's how kids talk and that's the kind of things they hear on tv and read in books now. Enid Blyton is dead. Long live the Horrible Histories and Nickelodeon.

..and here we have a fine example of
an Early English Gothic style
Castle from the Fairyland Period
So I let it go. It pains me greatly but I know that sometimes I have to step back because there is a fine line between helping and taking over or controlling. My intentions are well meant, but I have to consider the long term effect they will have on my daughter. I need to give her the space and freedom to grow and learn in her own way and only wield the double-sided tape when she really wants me to.

My castle is not her castle.

End note: Ariadne's bolshieness earned YumYum a credit, while the castle won first prize.

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