Friday, 28 August 2009

Is this normal? Not for us.

'A lot of mum action happens at tea-time (after nursery or school) and cake is often present to liven up proceedings... And, by the way, there is a lot of social pressure around this issue. You can be ostracised if you don't eat cake. I'm serious. No one likes a mum who doesn't join in. No one likes a mum who fusses about what her child eats.' (Opinion piece, Amy Jenkins, The Independent 27.8.09)

If this is mainstream, then this is a world I don't want to join. It sounds like a world of judgement, social exclusion, and bullying.

I have only ever encountered the judgmental cakes-and-mums situation once. That, by the way, was at an after-school club that Squirrel joined for a term. It is true I was definitely a strange item there, to be commented upon if I didn't eat The Cake.

So what happens to you? Do you approach that cake like it was a fearful initiation ritual into the one-of-us mum gang? Do you eat it willingly? Is it a mark of social acceptance? Are you airkissed afterwards, hoping you don't chuck up the blue flavoured sugared up E-number icing over the new moc-croc handbag? And when it's done, do you sigh and settle back down, and wait for the next new mum to turn up innocently, so she too can be shown the cake slab?

I declined cake. But to these tea-time mothers I could shed no light on their world. So there was no way I was invited to the post-cake chit-chat. I could not discuss the latest heel styles (is three inches too high?); I could not talk about how difficult it is to shop when you have a three year old who, infuriating, won't go to nursery (really? want to try three three-year olds who we choose not to send to nursery?); of course I couldn't say anything about Tinkertop's school (school? should we say child care?), and then there was the burning question of what to put in lunchboxes (how many hours can we really talk about that?).

Grit, who wouldn't have minded talking about what good books folks might recommend for children and how to encourage non-readers, was distinctly a fish out of water, a non-cake eating variety, for the entire 6-week run of the thing. And mostly ignored.

Not surprisingly, it is true that I now feel much more comfortable in the home ed meetings. There is cake there too. Actually, there may be several types of cake. Make one vegan, make one non-gluten, make one by Ellie, aged 12, with added jam and home made rosewater icing. There will also be fruit for those who don't eat cake. Someone's brought popcorn, because this morning they used it to model the Big Bang. And parents in my world care aplenty over what their children eat, and no-one thinks them strange, or odd, or fussy. Just normal.

The home ed community - and not just mums, I'd better say, but mothers and fathers and grandparents and siblings all turn up - is remarkably non judgmental about these things. Sometimes strange, no doubt, when you meet the roadkill enthusiast, but still, just let us all get on with it. Cake is not a social hurdle. It's just cake.


Jax said...

I find it bizarre to think that there could be parents who aren't at all fussy about what their child eats in one way or another. Well, maybe fussy isn't the right word. But I like my children to be offered things they like and I whip sweets they don't like and replace with fruit, which got me judged oddly in all sorts of places. But never in a HE group.

kellyi said...

I have got into the habit of checking with "new" friends when they come over to make sure that we are eating some thing they like.

I remember being force fed lamb at some ones house when I was 9 years old, and going home to throw it all up. Horrible.

Maire said...

Totaly relate to this experience,home ed circles are the only ones where most people haven't looked at me with incomprehension most of the time.

Grit said...

i agree jax, i think that's one of our jobs, isn't it? to make a scene about food?

i hated tomatoes until i ate one at a neighbour's house age 9. it was the sweetest, most pure food i ever ate. i have never lost the love.

yes maire, everything is sort of normal there. i appreciate that so much, because i have often thought our ways were pretty strange.

ruby said...

I agree, home ed group/meets are the only place I feel 'normal' socialising and I do eat cake, lots of it, in fact I think maybe a bit too much especially when its my own!!

mamacrow said...

actually I find that in home ed circles I get looked at in total incomprehension almost as much as I did in school circles.

I guess even home edders arn't very tolerant of deep seated interest in the dewy decimel system 'sigh'

Deb said...

This post really resonated with me. I don't care if my kids eat cake, as long as I know to bring a gluten-free piece for my kid with celiac disease. But it wouldn't occur to any of my homeschooling friends to even care if I ate any or if I let my children eat it. Maybe we both know some really cool people.