My parental agenda is painfully simple: Let her choose. For all the dinosaurs, princesses, blue and pink divides of the 80s, just let the little nipper pick her lane or colour. Then give her the space to change her mind every day, every minute or every second if she fancies.
Because as women, we’re not always a pretty shade of pink and as men we’re not always into the blue; sometimes we like a diplodocus and other days it’s a swarovski-encrusted pastel-hued crown. We’re beyond all that archaic pigeonholing.
That’s why I am all over the Fruit Shoot It’s My Thing campaign like an e-colour-fuelled toddler. It’s simple: let them try new things, do new things and find their THING. How immense is that? It makes me wonder where my love of snails as a youth would have taken me. This is a campaign that raises them up and celebrates their creativity and self-expression. More than anything it’s about helping us let them simply go for it… to pursue those mollusk dreams.
The thing is, I already feel the pressure of what Mae should be doing at this stage. Is she winding the bobbin up correctly? What even is a bobbin? Should we care? Is she reading enough? Should we let her scribble freely on an old birthday card with a Biro or should she have a dedicated ‘creative corner’ – complete with working felt tips and mindfulness colouring-in books.
Then there’s the schooling juggernaut. I’ve heard mentions of ‘tutoring’ in parental circles to get toddlers in the education zone. It all seems too much considering Dutch kids don’t even start school until they hit five.
And it seems I’m not alone. Research commissioned by Fruit Shoot revealed that 80% of UK parents think that children are under too much pressure today, with 80% also agreeing that this pressure is limiting their creative flow.
If I’m Googling local maths tutors for a three-year-old, I’d say they’ve got it bang on.
So having actually missed the school admissions deadline like absolute plonkers. Yep, we are those parents who are never on top of all the forms, we’ve had to accept a year of Mae doing her thing while we wait to reapply next year.
So far we’ve covered ‘sandwich maker’ where I’ve been offered up a plasticine sausage and mash sandwich – a culinary triumph. I’ve also uncovered a manky Tupperware box under Mae’s bed with all of her favourite stones – “the grey spiky one is the best; he is called Frank the rock”. Perhaps my favourite moment was when Mae asked to take a photo of Matt and I. Since she’s asked for her own camera and instead of buying her cBeebies Magazine every week, we’ve invested in a Polaroid camera for her to merrily snap away on wherever, whenever.
We’re collecting the photos – all brilliantly angular and off-the-wall; much like Annie Leibowitz in many ways – and are planning on framing them once our house has been renovated. We’re going to ask Mae to edit those snaps down to her favourite 12 and she’s going to come with me to pick the frame. It’s essentially the first time we’ve let her lead the creative way and in return, we’ve stopped worrying about what she should be doing and focused on what she is doing – right here, right now.
While I didn’t imagine a year of stone-collecting, sandwich making and photo-taking ahead of us, seeing her confidence grow as she navigates the incredible corners of her mind has made me glad that we’re the rubbish parents that missed the school admissions deadline.
Living the dream
Fruit Shoot want to make a long-term commitment to helping kids find their thing. The Fruit Shoot Facebook page will be a hub and forum for parents to share content and opinion on the campaign themes. There will be a social competition to ‘Win that thing’ on Facebook where children can win prizes related to their thing. The campaign will also have presence in the major supermarkets and leisure destinations.
Celebrate your kids ‘things’on the FruitShootGB Facebook page and by using #itsmything and #FruitShoot.