People-pleasing. What a terrible affliction. It may make you liked (but not always) but man, do we miss a few tricks! From Rosa Parks on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama to the brave few who stood up to Nazi outrages, down to the man who stands up to the neighbourhood bully, these are the people who leave their mark.
Fitting in is not something I admire. I like the guy who dares to stand out, who questions stuff. Take Galileo in 1600. His idea was that the earth goes round the sun and not the other way round. And of course, he was told to shut up. But he didn’t. He wrote his book. And caused a lot of trouble. Charles Darwin did the same thing with his outrageous idea – although he took a lot longer to publish ‘The Origin of Species’.
How do you encourage this in children? If you know, please tell me!
X Factor winner Joe (how long will he last?) sings about the uphill struggle, viz ‘ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side………it’s the CLIMB. Now that’s a good attitude for children to pick up.
But I am not sure Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (first men up Everest, 1953) would have agreed. No oxygen and 29,000 feet can’t be that much fun. But what counts is the tenacity and the determination, qualities that are still totally admired today. Making films about famous figures who’ve shaped the world, as we do, I’ve become really aware that they all share these qualities. Marie Curie, tired and sweaty, boiling up rocks to find her radium, Columbus hawking his ‘what’s-across-the Atlantic?’ idea until he found a buyer, Rembrandt still painting flat-out when bankrupt and weeping for his dead wife – the universal message? Don’t give up, keep going.
Do you, like me, feel the pressure to make lists, achieve goals, aim higher, do more? And if yes, does this get transferred to your children? Try harder. Do your best. Get stuff done. Never slouch around.
What’s striking about the lives of the great thinkers, inventors, artists and pioneers is just how many of them spent a good deal of their time just bumming around, wondering about stuff. Isaac Newton’s story, apocryphal or not, is an example. If he had been rushing around, fixing the plumbing or frantically chopping firewood, he’d never have had the time to sit in that garden at Woolsthorpe under the apple tree and ask why. ‘How do you come up with these great ideas?’ you might ask. ‘By thinking unto them’, he said. And for that, you’ve got to be chilling, not writing lists.
I’m loving How to Fossilise Your Hamster by Mick O’Hare. It’s a series of hilarious experiments you can do with your children when it’s pouring outside – and they all prove some scientific principle.
Take this as an excellent example:
Question: is it true that you can measure the speed of light using nothing more than a chocolate bar and a microwave oven?
All you will need is:
- a bar of chocolate
- a metric ruler
- a microwave oven
Tell me, how could you NOT want to try this out?!
O’Hare has had the brilliant idea of dividing up his experiments into rooms. ‘In the Kitchen’. ‘In the Living Room’. ‘In the Bathroom’. Wherever you are, there are experiments to be done.
Cheryl Cole – a sage for our times. After listening to ‘Fight For This Love’ for the thousandth time (‘turn it up, Mum’) I’ve got the message : ‘Anything that’s worth having is sure enough worth fighting for. Quittin’s out of the question – when it gets tough you gotta fight some more’ . That’s what I call a positive approach to life. Nelson Mandela, Ernest Shackleton, Charles Darwin, William Wilberforce, the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae – there’s a ton of legendary figures for whom quittin’ was out of the question. One of our films is about Galileo, the 16th century Italian scientist and astronomer. He was up in front of the Grand Inquisition for what he believed in (the earth goes round the sun) and he didn’t’ give up. The uphill struggle stiffens resolve, obviously.
Are museums boring for children?
Kids In Museums has produced a report that says the iPod, Nintendo and Wii generation of children are turned off by ‘interactive’ displays with a couple of buttons, a flashing light and a beep. Hold on – haven’t museums become SO MUCH MORE FUN than 30 years ago when the boredom of staring at Roman pots was really killing? But they do need to come up with something newer.
One suggestion is for fewer buttons, more imagination – roleplay, dressing up, being Alexander Fleming noticing the green fuzz that was penicillin, handling the sort of fossils Darwin found on the Galapagos etc. But what you really need, in my view, is preparation. To know in advance that van Gogh painted ‘Sunflowers’ for his best mate Gauguin who was coming to stay gives it a whole new flavour. To understand that early navigators like Columbus only had the stars as a map makes the quadrant seem really cool and inventive (if that’s all you got!). And to grasp that Beethoven was a bit hard of hearing when he wrote his 5th Symphony – well, it paints a more interesting picture for everyone.