Helen Martin: Green code to crack modern parenthood

PARENTING changes radically over generations, and with good reason. Today's family lifestyles, technology, working hours, foodstuffs, careers, education and expectations would be unrecognisable to someone existing in the 1950s and parenting has to adapt.

Monday, 28th November 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:42 pm
The average 11-year-old should be able to cook at least 25 dishes from stew to sponge cake making them more independent. Picture: Michael Gillen

Granny doesn’t always know best either; in fact granny doesn’t have a clue how to operate a virtual reality headset and is guaranteed to be beaten hands down by a three-year-old on a console game.

But if most grans are honest, there are some aspects of modern parenting that force them to button their lips.

Children today are less independent, more molly-coddled and more indulged (I’ll bet every gran secretly agrees with that statement). And it flies in the face of what kids are being taught at school and by society.

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Anastacia is unhappy about the scars on her back. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Being “green”, caring for the planet and reducing waste has never been such a priority, either for adults or children.

Yet among the major causes of food waste today are children’s fussy eating, snacking on junk food and sweeties between meals, and leaving food on their plates. Along with parents being suckered into buying too much in supermarkets or serving over-sized portions at home, that’s led to 20 per cent of the food we buy going in the bin.

Many grannies in childhood would have been expected to eat exactly the same meal as the rest of the family, but less of it, and to clean their plate. Failure to do so left no option; no emergency pizza, “kiddie” alternatives or oven chips. If that meant going to bed on an empty stomach fair enough, and not because of a lack of food in the house. It was just the correct way to raise kids. Too strict for today? Yes, of course.

But asking children to choose what they want to eat for tea each day as if they were ordering from a restaurant menu, accepting without question that they “don’t like” or “can’t eat” standard ingredients, failing to broaden their diet and encourage them to try new things, or replacing something they turn their noses up at with a completely different meal, is going too far in the opposite direction.

Anastacia is unhappy about the scars on her back. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

A Samsung survey and report last week showed ready meals and a lack of cooking lessons in school or at home have eroded children’s cooking skills.

The average 11-year-old should be able to cook at least 25 dishes from stew to sponge cake making them more independent – and more appreciative of food than being waited on by a mummy-chef or a microwave.

Over-indulgence isn’t just about food. A lot of parents will also admit their children have too many clothes, often growing out of them before they’ve had a chance to wear them. As for designer labels? They should have at least an “18 and over” age limit on them. What sane eight-year-old – unless their second name’s Beckham – cares about the label?

There shouldn’t be any stigma or daft hygiene concerns about hand-me-downs from friends or neighbours, or checking what’s available in local charity shops before buying new. We all have washing machines.

That’s the no-waste, save-the-planet, day-to-day, parenting code for this generation. It’s not harsh or cruel. It’s green.

And it leaves grans and grandads with a clear conscience to take kids to McDonald’s, buy them trendy gear and feed them sweeties . . . as a special treat.

The scars remind us that we’re still alive, Anastacia

SINGER Anastacia is unhappy about her scars following cancer surgery. To reconstruct her breasts, the surgeons used her latissimus dorsi back muscles leaving stitch lines which slope down her back. She accepts it was necessary but would rather they were on her bra line and thinks they will compromise her beauty on the beach.

Well . . . been there, done that. Most women don’t want a wound on the bra line for obvious reasons. My surgeon intentionally slanted the incision down the way, just like hers, because he said: “Many ladies like to wear backless dresses or swimsuits”. In Anastacia’s case her surgeons also had to avoid her tattoos, which is something “body art” fans should bear in mind for future consequences.

It’s all showbiz vanity. Most of us couldn’t care less where the scars are as long as we’re alive!

Was all that borrowing worthwhile?

NOW we know why local services are being cut. It’s not merely “austerity”, it’s because £119 million a year, or 50p in every pound of council tax, is going to pay off “historic debt” built up over many years, including the tram fiasco.

Councils have to borrow money. Edinburgh is not alone. But with this level of debt it would be enlightening if the council was to publish a list of everything the loans were made for, and for how much.

It spans many council regimes, so it’s not political and not a matter of blaming current councillors. But we do have a right to know what the money was spent on so that we can be assured the debt we are paying off was worthwhile, has given us long-term benefits, and councils can be trusted to borrow wisely in future.

M&S isn’t my bag any more

M&S are launching another doomed women’s clothing range, allegedly suiting all ages, in January. What I’ve seen of it is ghastly. Well-made basic separates and underwear used to be their speciality. Cutting-edge design has never been their bag.