From time to time my dear husband comes home with an idea how to enhance our family’s life skills. In October last year he introduced the concept of Talking Tuesdays. Each Tuesday night henceforth we are to gather in one room and talk about something which we read or wrote about recently and want to present to the family. The excitement he got in response surpassed his expectations.
– Yes! Yes! YES!!! Let’s do that! What a brilliant idea! Come on, let’s go to the living room now and talk!!
– Mummy, calm down, it’s Monday…
Talking Tuesdays have been going for more than three months, and I can definitely say that this was one of my husband’s best ever ideas, although he disagrees and claims that his plan for turning our back garden into a wind farm with a solar-powered greenhouse in one corner is a far superior example of his brilliance.
All five of us gather every Tuesday evening or, if one of us is busy on Tuesday, the event becomes a Warbling Wednesday or a Thundering Thursday. Rules are that everybody has to speak every week, ready or not, no interruptions or negativity allowed, round of applause is most welcome after each speaker finishes, time limit is between one and five minutes each. Each person chooses whether they wish to stand in the middle of the room or talk directly from the sofa.
Older members of the group usually bring printed copies of what they wish to present, the young ones read from devices.
Talking Tuesdays felt a bit stilted at first, as we were suddenly oddly self-conscious with each other in the awkward formality of the situation. We have moved on from there, and now each session is a great pleasure and a roaring success. Everybody loves it and we all make an effort preparing for each event. As we are a family of aspiring writers, several of us read extracts from our own work. My freshly adult son inspires us with his ever changing entrepreneurial ideas. My 15 year old daughter surprises us with her ability to talk non-stop, and wittily so; coming out of her teenage shell does not begin to describe the transformation that we witness in her every Tuesday. My youngest daughter, a 12-year old militant feminist in the making, more than holds her ground as she tackles issues far beyond her chronological age, propping herself with Powerpoint presentations and strong blog pieces. I already feel sorry for her future opponents in any debate on the subjects of equality, abuse, or sexual harassment.
My husband relishes his status as the Talking Tuesdays creator, and struggles to hide how proud he is of his brainchild, but he is also the first one to admit that the concept has far outgrown his boldest expectations. From where I stand it has reached the stage where it is ready to be packaged up and send off to the intellectual property office for fast-track approval.
Anyway. All of the above was meant to serve as a rather long, but in my opinion necessary, introduction to what I really want to say, which is this. During a recent Talking Tuesday, my husband chose ‘Things that fathers should pass on to their children’ as the subject of his talk. He read out a long list of tasks and ideas that in his view, fathers should teach their children.
Changing a tyre and checking oil was mixed with kindness, not holding a grudge and ability to listen, and then back again to practicalities of putting together an Ikea cupboard, riding a bike, swimming and cooking. As he listed each item we played a little game trying to work out how successful he had been so far in imparting knowledge and wisdom to each of our three children. Somehow, I got bundled up with the kids for the purposes of this assessment, and my husband realised with discernible sadness that to date he had failed to teach me absolutely anything.
While the others were trying to assess a degree of dad’s success by deciding which of the kids had learnt the skill of house cleaning, and lighting a fire, my mind wandered off as I tried to compile a parallel list of ‘Things a mother should pass on to her kids’. Next day I carried on with the exercise.
First, I tried to work out how it was that I personally saw the division of labour between parents in the task of passing on things to children. I realised that until now I had, to a large extent intuitively, seen a father as a chief ‘passer-on’ in a family, with mother being more of a basic needs provider, nourisher, homemaker, nest builder and a general house manager, who makes sure children were clean, fed, dressed and ready in the mornings, and clean, fed and in pyjamas, teeth brushed in the evenings. Now that we have moved beyond the drooling helplessness stages of their childhood, the real work begins.
Not being the world’s most practical person, it would be pointless for me to try and teach them any housekeeping skills, as it would be doomed to fail, and besides my 15 year old daughter has already overtaken me in the cooking and baking category.
I see my role mainly as the person who will steer minds, nurture attitudes and instil values that I believe are good to have in life. I would like my lasting legacy in their lives to take the shape of continuous personal development, ambitious aspirations, intellectual discipline, cultural curiosity, fluency in geography, history and literature of their country, the world would be a bonus, childlike fascination with everything around them, contagious passion and enthusiasm in whatever they choose to take on, political and social awareness and a witty sense of humour. I want to be the one who puts them through their paces at Bletchley, Blenheim Palace, Hadrian Wall and the battlefields of the Somme, who smuggles Shakespeare, Austen and the Marriage of Figaro into their consciousness, and who bombards them with endless raw ideas so they can make them their own. I want to make sure they are well versed in art and music, cultured is probably the word I am looking for, and appreciative of their heritage. And if at the same time their dad manages to teach them how to change tyres and put up Ikea furniture, there will be no stopping them.