Giving Up

Last month I wrote a blog on perseverance, as part of a series of five short blogs, each one looking at one of our tenets of Taekwon-Do.

I opened the blog by saying that as parents we are sometimes to blame for a child’s lack of perseverance, because we set them high standards to achieve, but if the child feels unable to reach this high standard, it can make them anxious. The easiest route for them to then take, in order to stop this anxiety, is to give up.

Today it dawned on me that sometimes, it is actually really important to give up.

My thought was in relation to a child whom I taught Taekwon-Do. A child who I taught for nearly a year. During that year, I did everything I could to help him achieve. I gave him my energy, my patience and my expertise. After a few weeks, I started not looking forward to teaching his class. He was a constant disruption. He did the complete opposite of everything that I asked him to do. He made inappropriate noises and was boisterous with other children. I have taught for 25 years and I drew on everything I had learned during my teacher training course, knowledge of every previous difficult child I had taught and sought advice from other professional teachers. In other words, I was doing exactly as we teach our children to do: to persevere.

After a few months, I spoke to his mum. She suggested to me that she removed him from the class. I, however, refused to give up. I wanted to persevere. I knew that Taekwon-Do was the very thing that could help him. It develops self esteem, builds confidence, promotes team work and provides structure and discipline. The very last thing I wanted to do was to prevent this child from having access to the environment he seemed to so desperately need.

So I persevered.

His behaviour began to get worse. One day when I went into the class, this child wasn’t there. I was told that his mum had decided to remove him due to his bad behaviour.

Part of me felt that I had let him down, however the decision had been taken out of my hands and the classes continued without him. Suddenly, I had a class that was responsive. I had a class who worked as a team and who focused. The children in the class interacted with each other in many positive ways. The class had a new energy and took on a new life. We were able to engage with one another and have fun.

What this experience taught me is that sometimes it is important to give up. Sometimes it is absolutely the right thing to do.

In classrooms all over the country, teachers are struggling with one disruptive child in classes of well over 30 students. This is their dilemma: do you persevere with that one child at the expense of 30? Do you allow 30 children to experience a totally compromised education to help one?

We must continue to teach our children to persevere, but as parents and teachers, we should also be mindful that it is also sometimes the right decision to give up.


It’s a Game of Two Halves

I heard it said on Radio 4: everyone’s surprised that we left Europe before the England football team. Well, we only had to wait the weekend for Roy Hodgson’s team to follow suit. Brexit 2, people were calling it. Except that Wales are still in the Euros, so it isn’t really fair to lump them in. I’m a quarter Welsh, so I’ve still got something to cheer for this week. For an awful lot of people though, it’s all a bit depressing.

Once again the Over-65’s being blamed for England leaving Europe.

Although as someone on Twitter pointed out: to be fair to Hodgson, he did hang around to oversee the exit. Unlike Cameron, who has played his game of chess and is buggering off – probably to earn a stash of cash travelling the world, telling people how to lead a country successfully (don’t mention your dick and the pig’s head, Dave).

Mr Hodgson? I’d like you in my Cabinet with your experience overseeing exits from Europe

If you didn’t waste 90 minutes of your Monday evening watching the match, then you’re a lucky bugger, because it made for more depressing viewing than East Enders. I’d rather watch Love Island…or even Teletubbies, because at least they can pass a ball. It was bloody awful. Gary Lineker’s studio mob couldn’t hide their disgust in the post match analysis. Alan Shearer said that they were complete and utter shite ‘out fought, out thought, pretty hopeless’.

Sign a petition for a rematch! People are shouting. That was just a protest vote – they never thought they would actually lose! The humorous analogies between Brexit 1 and Brexit 2 are endless. The biggest piss off with the football, however, is that the players are paid so much money for their profession and yet yesterday, it did not match their ability. ‘They are weighed down by their wallets’, partner grumbled, half way though the second half. Sadly, I think this is true.

Daughter 2 is signed to Millwall for her 5th season with them. In her first season playing Academy football, when she was 11, she was signed to Chelsea. The girls at the club and their parents were treated like 2nd class citizens. We weren’t allowed to sit in the canteen, nor use the toilets. We were expected to stand outside for the duration of the 2 hour training sessions twice a week, or sit in the car, in the shadow of the state of the art building. Except that one of the mums got the train. When it was bitterly cold and snowing outside, she was still told she couldn’t use the canteen, where the parents of the boys at the Academy enjoyed free coffee and tea in the warm. I was shocked at the way the boys were treated compared with the girls.

Boys are put under incredible pressure at the Academies and they are also given benefits at a young age. No wonder there is a prevalence of suicide, attempted suicide and depression amongst professional footballers. By the time they are signed to a club, they are earning more money than they could have ever dreamt of. The culture of ‘the haves’ has been set in stone a long time before this.

Meanwhile, the ‘have nots’, the girls and the female players get none of the same treatment. Football is ingrained in our national psyche as a male dominated sport and the women don’t stand a chance.

However well the woman’s England football team play, they are always compared unfavorably to the men, by men. Rod Liddle wrote a disparaging piece in the Times a few weeks back, where he sneered at woman’s’ football, saying that any boy’s club level team could beat a female national side.

Well, you know what: I am sneering right back at you, Rod and all those men who try to compare the men’s and women’s game. It’s a game of two halves: the haves and the have nots and despite being worth millions between them, those who have the money, unfortunately lacked the skill.

What’s the Plan?

A conversation overheard in a bar in Westminster:

So, Boris, what’s the plan?
Plan…? What plan?
The plan now we’ve left and now we know that Dave doesn’t have a plan.
Ah, yes, that plan. Well, erm, the plan is to plan a plan.
Yes, we must. The people are asking us what the plan is.
I know and I keep getting asked that too. It’s bloody annoying.
We need to get the civil servants to work their arses off, sorting all this shit out. They know what to do.
Boris, I think they need someone to give them some direction, like a plan or something.
We’ll sweet talk Dave. He’ll arrange all the meetings. We’ll do the touchy feely stuff. It’s what I can do. I’ll call on my public school boy good looks and foppishness – gets them every time. You never know, it might make me Prime Minister when Dave buggers off. After all, I have fuck all else.
What about the immigration issue, Boris? People are worried about the racism that’s been escalating since Friday. They’re also worried about share prices and a shed load of other things. We need to reassure them.
Well, Dave’s still in charge, not me. No rush. Mañana, mañana. George can sort out the money side of things. We can jump on Nige’s bus – scrap the NHS slogan, what a twat, and let’s go and build bridges, reach out to the worriers. I know, we can start a new campaign: hug a Remain voter.
Boris, I’m not sure that they want hugs. I think they’re looking for leadership.
Everyone’s so worried. Why? This is fun! It’s exciting! They need to lighten up and join in the games. We played hide and seek at the weekend, but they found me. Blighters. Now it’s British Bulldog – get past the doubters! Move out the way, we’re coming through. Vive le UK!
Er, Boris…

A Pain in the Arse

I come in from the dog walk, that no teenager wanted to come on. They were too busy being in bed, screens lighting up their faces, still creased from sleep. Catching up on the latest news, from their friends who are posting from their beds. Taking photos of nothingness to keep up their streak on Snapchat. Why are you taking a photo of your bedside table? I ask, stupidly. Don’t worry about it, Mum comes the impatient reply. So I don’t. It is of little concern to me when there are bigger, more important worries than pointless photos. I am simply intrigued and want an insight into this other world. A world in which I don’t want to exist, other than as a pain in the arse.

So that very same pain in the arse returns from the dog walk. I enter the kitchen that I had left an hour ago issuing strict instructions on how I wanted to find it on my return. Can I have bacon for breakfast, Mum? If you wipe the hob down afterwards. Make sure you wash up, wipe the table, sweep away the crumbs. The pain in the arse drones on to deaf ears, but continues undeterred. It makes me feel better. It makes me feel as if I might be achieving something by giving orders. That maybe, just maybe, someone will be listening. One out of four? Perhaps there is a chance that one out of four may hear a small part of what I am saying and fulfill my expectations.

I scan the kitchen on entering. It’s not so bad that I can rant, it’s not good enough that I can’t comment loudly. So I grab the dishcloth and shout my way around the work tops. Moan a little over the splashing washing up water and grumble loudly about the state of the floor.


I shout a little louder. No response. I’m muttering to myself, how I imagine Old Mother Hubbard would have done, when she went to her cupboard and found it bare.

Partner comes in and asks who I am talking to. The girls, I reply. They didn’t leave the kitchen to my standards.

They’re all out, he says. You’re talking to yourself.

Always, I thought to myself. Regardless of whether they are in or out, I feel as if I’m always talking to myself…myself and the dogs.


French Knickers

The french may be
Good lovers,
Good kissers
But they
Uncomfortable knickers

#Brexit #nomoreuncomfortableknickers #maybe



In My Tribe


I’ve seen this meme a few times now on Facebook. When I first saw it, I’ll be honest, I groaned at yet another schmaltzy meme appearing in my news feed. Then I thought to myself, they’re not much of a friend if they seriously fall out with you over politics. I mean, a debate over a few beers or a glass of wine sure, but this meme made it sound like serious shit. My train of thought then continued and I thought, actually this meme is being posted to counteract all the bigotry and nastiness that we’re seeing on social media, so I forgave that meme a little. It’s just a small shout of: group hug, amongst a load of nasty bollocks and an awful lot of uncertainty.

It made me think of a conversation I was having with Dad on Father’s Day last week. He was talking about tribes and how essentially the world is, as it has always been, tribal. He said that at the end of the day, when the shit hits the fan, we return to our tribe. We associate ourselves with groups that we can identify with and these groups give our existence meaning. Tribes have always been an essential for community and security. Sometimes a group we are a part of becomes too big and we start to feel that we are losing our own identity and it then that we retreat back to our tribe.

Now, here’s the thing: we will all quite happily create networks of tribes to expand in various ways that will make things better for the tribe, but ultimately the tribal instinct is to hang out with people who share our values, looks, humour, food and desires.

So where does all our innate tribalism leave us as a country now that we have divided into two camps: remain and leave. One camp has a majority and has, ‘won’, but within those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’, there are friends transcending both groups. Thus, coming back to that schmaltzy meme. If we are going to move forwards, we need to gather the tribes together, friends need to reunite, we need to pursue a common goal in order to make this happen. Rise above the cultural tribal drift. One thing that is certain: a tribe needs a leader. Not ‘big man’ leadership ∗ – look at me, I’ll solve the problem, but a leader who has depth and breadth.

And tribal trust.

∗Leadership For a Fractured World: How to Cross Boundaries, Build Bridges and Lead Change
By Dean Williams


Should’ve Used a Pen

So the UK voted to leave in the EU Referendum the most divisive bit of politics that I for one can remember. Politics is always full of bullshit, but this whole debacle was so stuffed full of it, some people were rendered tongue-tied. Unable to open their mouths to give an opinion. Other people couldn’t shut up. Perhaps the conspiracy theory we all read about on Facebook yesterday, warning people to take a pen when they go to vote, was actually a Brexit wheeze. MI5 defected to Boris!

Millions of elves from Eastern Europe were paid below the minimum wage by MI5 to rub out every single ‘remain’ vote and change it to ‘leave’.

There were some amusing comments on Facebook yesterday:

If you are voting leave,  you are only allowed to use marker pens made in UK otherwise your vote doesn’t count. No “Bics” please. 😀

I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve just gone and bought shares in pencil eraser companies 😉

Fuck pens, I’m taking a needle & doing mine in blood

can we use our Bingo dibber dabber dobber things?

And now I feel that we have entered a game of bingo. A game of bingo without anyone calling the numbers. Oh, the uncertainty of it all.

As well as being worried about what the result means for the economy, I am now seriously concerned that the referendum, with all its allegations, lies, scaremongering and propaganda has messed with peoples’ brains. We are becoming a nation who is suspicious of everything. Who questions everything. We no longer trust anyone…

…and today we are a very divided nation.

I’ll leave you with a tweet from JustSomeGuy:


however he should have remembered that…


Remain, they got you. Huge opportunity, or huge risk? Now we just have to hope that as a nation, our numbers come up.


The Lost Smile

One of my daughters has lost her smile. Her smile that normally lights up a room, has disappeared. Exams? Friends? Me? I don’t know why. I can only guess and ask and be told that she doesn’t know.

The absence of her smile has shut me out, when normally she draws me in with her quick wit and insightful comments, that pick out the funny side of life.

I know that it is temporary, but as a mum, it still hurts.

It makes me think about all those parents who must face a child every day who has lost their smile. The agony that it causes the parents who try to reach out to that child, but who are constantly pushed away. The anguish they must feel for their child, who is unable to express why they have lost their smile. Or, perhaps the reason is painfully clear, yet the help isn’t there to find it.

Mental health issues among young people are rising. 1 in 4 young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts. As a mum, I find this terrifying. It plays on my mind daily. I admit, it scares me.

I know that my daughter’s smile will come back, but for those mums who aren’t sure, my heart feels heavy.

You’ve lost your smile.
I asked you where it was,
You shrugged.
You didn’t know.
I asked again – too soon.
You got annoyed,
But it wasn’t a demand –
It was a care.
I suggested that we search for it
You physically recoiled
And instead you forced a smile
On to your face
Which made me cry.
I can’t even bribe your smile back
With promises of chocolate and Netflix.
A mum can give hugs,
Wipe tears, stick a plaster on a wound
And listen,
But only you can find your smile.



Smash it Like a Girl

Take a teenage girl and tell her that she can enter an environment where no-one cares what she looks like. Where it doesn’t matter if she’s tall or short, fat or thin. Her hair colour is irrelevant – no-one is judging. She doesn’t need to wear make up, or put on any mask.

She may be tempted; it sounds so liberating compared with the stifling, judgemental arena of school.

The environment is sport.

Tell a teenage girl that she can enter into sport and statistically she will back away.

I teach Taekwon-do. It’s a Korean martial art and it’s an Olympic sport. Every time we get a teenage girl joining our club, I whoop with joy. I’d do a dance if I could, because the majority of teenage girls in the UK don’t do sport.

The reasons are varied. I can tell you from my years of experience teaching, that sweat plays a big part: girls don’t want to sweat. They see sport as unfeminine and this, coupled with a drop in self esteem as they hit puberty, makes the drop out rate high.

Do you remember the campaign: Like a Girl? When asked to run or throw like a girl, adults responded meekly, but young girls did it with athletic vigour – they had yet to be conditioned.

We need female role models. We need varied PE lessons. We need to ensure that as parents we’re not favouring the boys when it comes to encouraging sports.

Quite often girls feel that it is the most athletic girls in the school who get all the attention and I would really agree that this is so often the case. In addition to this it has been suggested that girls like to connect with other girls and to form relationships, that they then don’t want to jeopardise with ruthless competition.

I have 4 daughters and a step daughter who are all black belts in Taekwon-do. One of the 5 plays every sport going, the others are less sporty. This is why Taekwon-do is so good for teenage girls. They don’t have to conform to any athletic stereotype – they can be themselves. They can perform like the girl that they are. This is empowering in itself. Their self confidence grows, while at the same time they are learning skills in self defence.

There is no ‘like a girl’ negativity associated with Taekwon-do. Males and females are equal: both face the same personal challenges. Our challenge as coaches and parents is to do everything we can to encourage girls to ignore the stereotypes, embrace the sweat and smash it like a girl!

Tasha sparring

Step daughter smashing it like a girl

Let It Go

When my daughters told me at 7am that the next two trains were cancelled, I cursed under my breath. It happens frequently, but this morning daughter 2 had a maths exam that she was wobbly about and this was about to send her over the edge. Partner offered to drive them to school and so the situation was quickly remedied. It wasn’t until we were on our dog walk a couple of hours later, that I thought about how bloody annoying it is that they frequently cancel trains, especially as they are so expensive…grrrr…I could feel myself getting cross and I thought to myself, I could write and complain. Should I e mail the chief executive? Shall I ring? Then within a millisecond I thought, I haven’t got time for this, let it go.

I find that this happens to me fairly often. There are many things that happen that I could allow myself to get really worked up about, but instead, I let it go. I’ve realised that it’s simple: the busier you are, the more you will let go, because obviously you haven’t got time to deal with it. Sometimes I listen to other people get hett up about something and I can’t believe that they are bothering to worry. The more time I had to think about World Book Day, for example, the more stressful it was and the more important it felt to create that perfect costume. As I got busier, I left WBD, Harvest boxes and projects to the kids. Yes, they were pretty shit compared with the other kids’ parents’ creations, but the girls didn’t see that. They just felt huge pride in the fact that they had done it themselves.

IMG_0288  Pretty shit compared to the Harry Potter and Hermione who won, but proud

There are, of course some things that I just can’t let go, but the phrase, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ comes to my mind a lot. Teenagers hate it when parents get obsessed with the detail. Daughter 2 tells me that I ask her too many questions. They want freedom and with my incessant questioning, I’m sweating the small stuff. Yes, there are boys at the party, yes, the parents will be there, no, there won’t be alcohol (said looking away), yes, her friend is going, no, she won’t smoke…MUM, CAN’T YOU JUST TRUST ME?!

She’s got a point. I know the kid whose party it is, I know the parents are going to be there and I know how she is getting home. LET THE REST GO!

So, my advice to us all:

Let it go…clear away the shit and make room for the next pile that’s going to be dumped on you!