March 25, 2020
When Life Gives You Lemons
By Dr Kathy Weston
A couple of years ago, I gave a talk at a rather affluent school to a group of well-resourced parents. During the Q&A, a father asked me how he could prevent his children becoming spoiled and encourage them to stop taking things for granted.
He said that his children were used to food being rapidly replenished, misplaced iPads being quickly replaced, regular luxury holidays and an array of staff who supported their family life. I have been thinking about him a lot this week, wondering if he has taken the opportunity (now afforded to all of us), to teach our children a degree of humility.
Last night, for the first time ever, I heard my husband tell my children, “there is nothing else to eat, so you have to eat it”, as he dished up a medley of out-of-date fridge ingredients. In ordinary times, this may have been an empty threat, but this time they could tell he meant it.
Being down to your last loaf, and being unsure as to when you might get the next one, is a new experience for my children, and, to a degree, a welcome one. Most of us are used to nonchalantly, casually and ungratefully galloping through our busy lives. Now, we have to pause and actually consider our level of consumption, carefully thinking through its impact on others, both within our families and throughout our wider community.
I was reminded of the saying “when life serves you lemons, you make lemonade” this week when pondering the fate of the rather antiquated, forgotten oranges in our family fruit bowl.
Before I could think, my enthusiastic youngest got the juicer out and made a delicious orange juice for his daddy. He personalised it with ice-cubes and a cocktail umbrella. He enjoyed every second of the task, and I felt acutely ashamed at what may have happened to those oranges pre COVID-19.
He reminded me that there are opportunities for learning in simple things. Home schooling isn’t just about sitting in front of the computer, it is also about being creative and looking for opportunities that occur naturally around us. Yesterday, when I asked my teen to wash our car, I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity centred around physics. I know nothing about physics, but that isn’t the point. Modelling a thirst for knowledge and an interest in how the world works is at the heart of parental engagement.
We figured out what we didn’t know and what we wanted to know, and we then set about finding out the answers. How does soap work? Are there particular weather conditions that are optimal for car-washing? How are bubbles formed and why don’t they last long? To answer these, we asked around; online, offline and looked things up in BOOKS. We got the answers we needed and we all learned something. “We believe in asking questions and in cultivating curiosity” may be a great motto for your new home school.
For those of you keen to get on the household tasks and admin this week (let’s face it, there are no excuses now), I made a quick list of jobs you might wish to consider doing (or delegating) over the next housebound month.
When dusk arrives these days, and your household reverts to a normal evening routine, think about listening to my podcast series (still very much alive and kicking). In the last week, I managed to interview psychologist, Professor Shirley Reynolds, an expert on teen depression, and, this coming Friday, I will interview Sir Anthony Seldon on all matters relating to young people’s mental health. On a final note, I wanted to say how much joy I am finding in reading poetry again. I highly recommend you read or listen to ‘Idyll ’ by Wendy Cope and ‘Blackberry Picking’ by Seamus Heaney. Both evoke a sense of retrospective joy in experiences temporarily denied and remind us of the sensory, sociable treats that await us on the other side of this challenging period.
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