There have been times when I've wished I had a sensible and informed family 'elder' to give me advice. Good, proper advice
, not opinion, or platitudes, or interference, or stuff they just think should
I wish, in fact, that I had a Granny like 86-year-old Carmela. If you haven't read her words of wisdom on sex and relationships all condensed in to a 16 point letter to her granddaughter Alison, you can do so here
So, whilst I don't agree with everything Granny C has to say, (though 3, 4, 7 and 10 are pretty on the money) I love the fact her life experience, obvious no-nonsense approach – and, probably the confidence of age – enables her to shoot from the hip. To say what she thinks. Good, proper, RAW advice. Which I am sure she gives out in abundance on all matters, not just bedroom-themed.
There is no way in the world anyone in my family - parents, grandparents
, anyone - would have ever given the kind of advice Granny C gives her granddaughter. I grew up in a house where TVs were switched off the second anyone leaned in for a kiss, and sex was something only married people did, and then probably only at Christmas.
And advice was something generally handed out in the form of shouted orders and prolonged sulks and flounces if it wasn't acted on. Because of that, I am very careful about dishing out too much to my son, even at his young age.
Phrases like 'what you want to do' 'what you should be doing' and 'don't you dare do...' are banned in my house; they ring all too familiar in my head from my my own childhood and young adult years.
I am a firm believer that a certain amount of mistakes, both growing up and in adulthood, have to be made in order for lessons to be learned and better judgments formed in the future.
I prefer to suggest various scenarios to my little boy when I am worried he might make the wrong choice about something, or if I want to steer him in another direction; what could happen if you do X, compared to what might happen if you do Y.
Exploring options. Making him think things through rather than just stamping all over his own thoughts with my own. And when the time comes that those decisions are a little more serious than 'should I spend my pocket money on a Lego kit or a DS game' I hope I can remain as open-minded and guide him, rather than railroad him.
I hope this kind of approach will mean he can always come to me, no matter how old he is, or what he wants to talk about, and know that he will get unbiased guidance; more an exploration of ideas than the dreaded 'do as I tell you' or 'if I were you' that I heard growing up.
Despite this, given that he does in the main only have me to turn to on a day to day basis, it is one of those things I worry endlessly about getting the right balance of. What if, actually, he wants me to wade in and make a decision for him?
What if he is asking about things because he WANTS me to sway him to a particular line of thought?
With no one to step in and question the advice I
am dishing it out, it can be hard to know if I am getting it right.
Which is why, sometimes, I really wish I had a Granny Carmela on hand...
Do you worry as a single parent that your children only get your take on things?
That there is no one else close for them to bounce ideas and worries off?
And how much advice is too much?
- Why do stars twinkle?
<strong>The quick answer:</strong> “Um…so they look pretty. And if they didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to see them in the dark, would you?”</p>
<strong>The thoughrful answer:</strong> According to Glenn Murphy in<span style="text-decoration: underline;"> </span><a href="http://www.sciencemuseumshop.co.uk/product/124324/sm-why-is-snot-green.html" target="_blank">Why Is Snot Green?, Macmillan, £5.99,</a> they only appear to twinkle. In fact, they’re burning clearly and brightly. But we’re looking at them through the churning murky gases of our atmosphere.</p>
- Why can't I have juice now?
<strong>The quick answer: </strong>“Because I said so.”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer:</strong> "You can drink whatever you like at mealtimes. But in between meals, you can’t have anything other than water. Otherwise you’re covering your teeth in sugar all the time. And teeth don’t like being covered in sugar. It can make them go black and wobbly and fall out."</p>
- Why is the sky blue?
<strong>The quick answer:</strong> “Um…so that it matches the sea.”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer:</strong> "Air molecules are, in fact, slightly bluish. And while we’re at it, the sea isn’t blue because it’s reflecting the sky, whatever you may have been taught. Water isn’t colourless either - it’s also slightly blue."</p>
- Why does the rain die?
<strong>The quick anwser:</strong> “Er…because it needs to give the sunshine a turn.”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer: "</strong>It doesn’t really die, because rain keeps happening. There’s water in the air all around us, and as air rises it gets colder, and then the cold air just can’t hold all the water any more. So the water falls back down to the ground as rain."</p>
- Why is a dog a dog?
<strong>The quick answer:</strong> “Well, it couldn’t be a tiger, could it, or it would have to have stripes.”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer:</strong> A huge and difficult question, but you could talk about how there are lots of different kinds of animals because the world has hot countries and cold countries and jungles and deserts and ice and snow, and animals have lots of different ways of getting enough food to eat. Dogs have sharp teeth and a good sense of smell because they used to have to survive (before tins of dog food) by hunting.</p>
- Why does ironing make things go flat?
<strong>The quick answer:</strong> “Because it’s squashed against the ironing board.”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer: </strong>"Because an iron is hot and heavy. The heat makes the links between the little molecules in the material a bit looser, and then the weight of the iron straightens them out." (And a molecule, if they ask, is two or more atoms, and an atom is the tiniest thing in the world that everything’s made from. But it may be more useful to explain to your pre-schooler that daddies should iron as often as mummies.)</p>
- Why is that lady so fat?
<strong>The quick answer:</strong> “Ssshh! Don’t be rude! She might hear you!”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer:</strong> "People are all sorts of different shapes and sizes. That’s what makes us so interesting. The important thing is to keep ourselves fit - and that means lots of good food and plenty of running and jumping and dancing, because exercise keeps our hearts healthy."</p>
- Why can't I take my clothes off?
<strong>The quick answer:</strong> “Because it’s rude.”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer: </strong>Another difficult one, because lots of pre-schoolers like ripping their clothes off. You’ve got to tread the line between saying that being naked is fine because all bodies are lovely, but that it’s not always practical to strip off. (Naked in the bath is sensible, but naked in the snow is silly because you’ll get cold and ill.) You could add that generally people don’t take their clothes off when visitors come round, which might be a good thing to explain before Granny comes to stay at Easter. For more ideas on how to answer questions like these, get hold of a copy of <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ask-Your-Father-Questions-Children/dp/1906021619/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328007586&sr=8-1" target="_blank">Emma Cook’s Ask Your Father, Short Books, £8.99.</a></p>
- Where did the dinosaurs go?
<strong>The quick answer:</strong> “Er…they just got old and died.”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer:</strong> Glenn Murphy in <a href="http://www.sciencemuseumshop.co.uk/product/124324/sm-why-is-snot-green.html" target="_blank">Why Is Snot Green?, Macmillan, £5.99,</a> comes to the rescue: "Dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, probably because a huge meteorite destroyed the world they lived in. But one group called therapods survived, and over the course of millions of years turned into birds. So not all dinosaurs died off completely…"</p>
- Why don't girls have willies?
<strong>The quick answer: </strong>“Um…because they wee from a different place. Now why don’t we go and get an ice-cream?”</p>
<strong>The thoughtful answer:</strong> Go on. Be brave: "Boys and men have willies and girls and women have something different". (That no one can quite bear to name. But the sooner you find a word for it – please, please, not ‘front bottom’ – the easier your life will be).</p>