Tag Archives: education

Raising Children With A Sex Not A Gender

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I’m raising my children to know their sex, not their gender.

To explain I’ll describe what I mean by each.  Their sex is what they are.  The girls have vaginas and XX chromosomes, the boy has a penis and XY chromosomes.  Obviously there are other physiological differences but that’s the basics.

Gender is something else.  Gender is what each sex is “supposed” to be interested in, “supposed” to like, think and feel.  It’s the boys like pirates, girls like princesses, and boys like football, girls like ballet, school of thought.

So, how do I raise them with one not the other?  And why?

They need to know their sex.  There are medical issues that could come into play for one thing; they need to know their body parts in order to describe any pain or discomfort.  They need to understand the changes that they’re going to experience on their bodies, things that will happen to them because of their sex.

Whilst I definitely believe we all need to know the physiology of the opposite sex, when it’s going to happen to your own body what you learn needs to be more intense.  I’ll be teaching the girls about periods; how to use tampons or pads, what pain relief works best.  I’ll be teaching the girls about yeast infections and what to look out for, what treatment to use.  The boy needs to learn about erections and testicular pain, about his voice dropping.  These are basic simple biological differences that will manifest as they grow and experience life.

But gender is unnecessary.  And in some cases it is harmful.

There’s a flow chart floating around social media that is spectacular at explaining why children do not need gender.

IS IT OPERATED WITH GENITALS?

/                                   \

YES                                             NO

/                                                              \

THIS ISN’T FOR CHILDREN                      YOUR CHILD CAN PLAY WITH IT

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series. Rose And Mum And More Blog, Parenting Blog, Mummy Blogger

Photo credit Cheryl Holt

Nothing that children play with, watch or wear is restricted to their sex.  Absolutely nothing.  There is absolutely no reason boys can’t play with My Little Ponies, Barbies or hair dressing sets.  There is absolutely no reason girls can’t play with dinosaurs, trucks and footballs.  And when we teach them that it’s not the case problems happen.

I recently had a conversation with someone one Twitter who’s raising her little boy as female now.  I assume that doesn’t include learning about the medical reasons he needs to know about his body, I don’t suppose she’ll be teaching him about period cramps and how to get blood stains out of knickers.  She’s raising him as socially female.

She tweeted that every birthday and Christmas he asked for dolls, and every year he cried when he was bought trucks.  I asked why she couldn’t just let him play with dolls?  Why not let the kid have what he wanted?  She said because he was teased for it, made fun of, laughed at for liking girl’s toys.

She taught him that the bullies were right.  She taught him that the bullies were right and he was wrong.  That something is wrong with him.  She changed him, not the bullies.

He is now on a path.  He’s being raised as a girl now.  He’s on a path that leads children into puberty blockers, a life time of medication, hormone therapy and, if he chooses to go down that path, surgery.  Or if he’s like high profile trans child Jazz Jennings who went on puberty blockers, he’ll find that his development is so damaged that not only is he unsuitable for surgery, but he’ll also not develop fully and he’ll grow older with an infant’s penis on an adult body, with nothing anybody can do to help.

Because he wanted a Barbie.

With other parents that could be my children.  Miss Rose is not a traditionally feminine girl in a lot of ways.  She likes her hair short, she loves football.  She plays with bricks and cars and super heroes.  With different parents she could easily have been taught that they are boys toys, that there’s something wrong with her wanting those things.  The more traditionally “girly” things she enjoys could have been hyped up, she could have been forced to grow her hair long and wear frilly pink dresses.  She’d be uncomfortable, she’d feel she was wrong.  She’d be told that only girls like these, only boys like those.  But she likes those.  You can see how their little brains make that leap without any slight concept of what they’re getting into.

Gender stereotypes being imposed on children starts them on their journey to adulthood in a way that is just not healthy.  Fifty years ago that meant little girls grew up to be housewives.  They were forced to play with make up sets, ironing boards, and dolls being groomed for a life of servitude, beauty and motherhood.  Little boys were forced to play with weapons, cars and blocks, preparing them for a life of adventure, money making and dominance.

Photo credit KlimKin

We started to leave that behind.  Movements like Let Toys Be Toys highlighted that any child can play with any toy.  We’re becoming accepting of little girls who like adventure and little boys who like domesticity.  We’re moving towards embracing both facets of our personalities, little girls like Miss Rose loving toy cars and My Little Ponies without any concept that she could be wrong in doing so.

But the more tolerant we become of celebrating differences, the more intolerant we become of those who are different.

Now it’s more tolerant to believe a little boy who likes Barbie is really a girl.  It’s more tolerant to think a little girl who likes her hair short and doesn’t wear pink is really a boy.

Gender stereotyping is getting a resurgence in popularity but under a new name, and instead of those who are against gender stereotyping being the progressives, it’s those who will strictly conform to it to the point of medicating their children who are applauded.

My children will be raised to know their sex.  To know their bodies, to understand what they do and how they work, how they’ll change and what to do to be healthy.  They’ll be taught to love their bodies, respect their bodies, nurture their bodies.

My children will not be taught their gender.  They’ll never hear from us “that’s a girl’s toy” or “only boy’s wear that”, and if they hear it from others they’ll swiftly be reassured that it’s nonsense, that they’re perfect they way they are.  If they’re teased for their differences I’ll never side with their bullies.  Ever.

Femininity and masculinity are both fine.  Women and men are both fine.  Girls and boys are both fine.  It’s okay to be anywhere on the feminine to masculine scale regardless of what sex you were born.

I’m raising my children to know their sex, but not give a flying f*ck about their gender.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

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#allaboutme

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I was tagged by my lovely fellow blogger @SprinkleOfPixie, who writes Baby Pixie And Me, to write a post with ten facts about me that you may not know!

1) I have a very rare allergy

I’m allergic  to my own blood.  It’s an auto immune condition where my blood becomes an allergen sometimes.  It can make me come out in an itchy rash, vomit or get very ill with very little warning and is one of the contributing factors to the swine flu nearly killing me whilst I was pregnant.

2) I’m vegetarian

I stopped eating meat for short periods throughout my childhood but gave it up for good when I was thirteen.  In the eighteen years since I’ve only ever eaten meat when served it accidentally.  I don’t miss it at all and the idea of eating meat now grosses me out, whereas I used to love meat when I wasn’t veggie.

3) I met my husband when I was 23

We got married when I was 26 and had Miss Rose when I was 27.  He left when I was 28 and my divorce was finalised when I  was 29.

4) I’ve never smoked a cigarette

When I was a teenager I hung out with lots of smokers in grungy rock clubs but never tried.  I also never smoked weed or tried any other drugs.  People always assume that was my history but it never appealed and never has and I hate the smell of it still.

5) I started modelling for a while

I tried it for a while and a few people wanted me to keep going but I was too short for fashion modelling and unwilling to pose nude, plus I wasn’t the right look at all so I wouldn’t have got much work even if I had really tried.  My heart wasn’t in it anyway, I felt pretty shit about myself when I did it and genuinely wish I hadn’t done it.  It was a silly impulsive idea I knew I wasn’t cut out for and used to validate my feelings of being unattractive and worthless.  It broke my already low self esteem into shreds.  I’d never encourage my daughters to explore that as an option.

6) I am a runaway fantasist

Part of me always longs to runaway.  To just take what I need, leave everything else, and disappear.  Start fresh.  When I was single with my daughter after my marriage broke down I even researched places I could take her and disappear to.  Now is the only time in my life that desire hasn’t been a prominent lingering urge to be ignored.  Now it only pops up in times of extreme stress.

7) I’m a terrible singer

I have no ear for music, can’t carry a tune, and really can’t hold a note.  Even if I could hit an actual “note” I wouldn’t hold it.  That said I sing with gusto.  My mum and I sang to Copa Cabana at a karaoke in Spain and it was truly dreadful but very enthusiastic.  Fortunately I was drunk.

8) I have HPV

My cervix has abnormal cells with the HPV virus meaning my likelihood of developing cervical cancer is greatly increased.  Three years ago I had to have a biopsy with suspected cancerous cells but luckily they were clear.  You can develop HPV after just one incident of sex without a condom.  There is now a vaccine they’re offering to teenage girls though many are arguing against it claiming it will encourage unprotected sex.  I, however, definitely want my daughters vaccinated.

9) I hated school

I truly loathed school.  So much so that I couldn’t bare the idea of going to university, even now it baffles me that people love it and get excited by it, and so much that I don’t socialise with the group of friends I had even though they’re all still really close.  We aren’t even facebook friends.  I find reminders of that time too hard to deal with.  When I had to look around Miss Rose’s primary school I felt sick. I still feel incredibly awkward going there even though her teachers are super lovely and the school is really nice. I’m scared I transmit my own phobia to her even though I do everything I can to be calm and enthusiastic.

10) Our second daughter was named within weeks of us meeting

You wouldn’t necessarily think two cynical divorcees would be so daft, but within about 4weeks The Boy and I were referring to our future daughter by name.  Even my mum started doing it within a month or so.  When I got pregnant a year later he was so confident that she was the prophesized little blonde girl named so long ago that he wasn’t interested in discussing potential boy’s names because he knew the baby was our daughter.  Turned out he was right.  We found out the sex, she was a girl.  And he’s with us now and she’s a little blondey as he had predicted she would be, with the name given to her before she had even been conceived.

1. Share 10 things about you the person. Not you the parent, the baker or the business.
2. Name check the person who nominated you.
3. Tag 3- 5 others to share 10 things.
4. Enjoy the tidbits of information we all learn about each other.
5. Voila, job done.

I’ll nominate @MrsBaker, @OurRachBlogs, and @Life_Of_Tont

xxx

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

A Storyteller’s Heart

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

When I was a little girl I favoured my own company, much as I do now.  I would spend hours constructing elaborate stories in my head, also much as I do now.  Only then I would act these tales out with my My Little Ponies, Sylvanian Families or Barbies, and now as an adult I write them down and pretend I’m a grown up by selling them as books.

I could play with anything, and I would always tell stories.  My grandmother on my father’s side had a set of plastic farm animals and I would be left to play with them whilst she pottered about the house.  And play I would, for as long as I was left.  My grandmother on my mother’s side was less well equipped for the intrusion of children and when she wanted to have a nap I was simply left sitting in her living room.  Whilst I am sure many children would cause havoc, raid the biscuit barrel and turn out the cupboards, I played with her pin cushion.  She would sleep through the afternoon whilst I quietly acted out scenarios with the pins, distinguishing them by the different shapes and colours of the glass pin heads.

Stories have, for as long as I remember, been intrinsic to my identity.  They shaped my life.  I learned from the stories of others; decided my take on moral issues, learned about my sense of self identity, and worked through fears reading the words of others.  I wrote them as soon as I was capable, tale after tale, pestering my mother to read yet another scribbled down story and tell me what she thought.  I have a storyteller’s heart.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo Credit Pexels

When we watched our children as tiny ones, we assumed that my step son Z would be the storyteller in the family.  Whereas Miss Rose’s attention span is fairly small when it comes to films, Z will sit and watch a film in it’s entirety without moving.  If we put on Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Z would pull up his little Batman chair, sit himself down, and stare in captivated silence.  Miss Rose would amble about watching it half heartedly, then declare she was bored and seek alternative stimulation in the form of building blocks, colouring or cars.  Z’s natural inclination towards fiction made us believe that if one of them were going to love stories, it would be him.

However, as they’ve grown something has happened.  Miss Rose has started telling stories.

She tips out her box of My Little Ponies and begins.  For ages she’ll sit on the floor chattering away to herself, using different voices, and tell tales of adventure and drama between the characters she’s created.  When she gets the blocks out she builds houses and palaces, then begins acting out disagreements between who gets to live in which house.  In the bath, which she has a collection of dinosaurs and plastic animals in, she will be happily occupied for two hours or more telling excited tales of adventures on the high sea.  She is completely absorbed by creating stories, completely dedicated to what happens.

Whilst she won’t sit for an entire movie, she loves episodes of her favourite TV shows to be on in the background of her games.  She absorbs story telling styles, learns about the characters and how they relate to one another, and then recreates unique tales of her own from what she’s taken on.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo Credit Pezibear

Watching her last night, lying on her tummy and playing out stories with her My Little Ponies whilst Z sat quietly and watched a Batman cartoon, I realised how much like me as a child she was.  I never sat and watched a film without moving, I always had something on the go.  Sometimes it was drawing, sometimes it was crafting, but often it was story telling myself.  The films or TV shows were backgrounds to the tales I was telling myself, and now Miss Rose is doing the same thing.

I discounted her as having the storyteller’s heart because she is too busy to watch the stories of others.  But that was foolish.  The story’s of others interest her enough for inspiration and entertainment, but not enough to be the focus of her life.  Telling her own stories, though, that will captivate her attention entirely.

How they love stories in their own unique, but equally dedicated way, is truly fascinating.  Z can quote films to absolute perfection.  He learns the songs and will perform them word perfectly.  He likes any role play games with the toys to be completely accurate and true to the original.  It is, I am told in fact, very similar to how his father was as a child.  Miss Rose makes up her own versions of songs, uses stories as inspiration but not script, and goes off book whenever it suits her story.  Both love stories, but, as ever, in completely different ways.

Will either follow us into the family business?  Will we see new stories coming out in the Augmented Universe with Rose or Z in the author’s name space?  Will Emily the Master Enchantress or Lilly Prospero one day meet one of their creations?

J.J. Barnes, The Lilly Prospero Series, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Pexels

One thing’s for sure, if either does ever want to learn about writing stories they’ve got parents behind them who will show them the ropes with love and enthusiasm… we just have to try not to be obnoxiously pushy in that stage mum kinda way…

I’ve got to learn to say, “Yes darling, of course you can go into the sciences.  That’s a fantastically stable option that should guarantee you a lifetime of job security.”

And not add on, “But your heart will yearn for a life you could have had.  You will forever feel hollow for not creating new worlds to run through and explore.  You will feel alone because you won’t have created the most fascinating friends you could ever hope to meet.  And you will feel lost because you have not followed your heart down a path so full of amazement that you are surrounded each day with adventure and joy.  Become a storyteller, my love, and learn to feel a happiness that you’ve never before known, and that you never possibly could if you don’t.  Become a storyteller because it’s who you are.  Become a storyteller because it’s in your heart.”

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Cookie Swirl C

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Do you know who Cookie Swirl C is?  No?  Let me tell you.

Cookie Swirl C has a YouTube channel where she is the absolute master of the “unboxing” craze.

What is unboxing?

Unboxing is where a person, usually an adult, films themselves opening toys and playing with the contents of the box.  This can be big toy sets, My Little Pony Castles for instance, or it could be “blind bags” which are little packages where you get a mystery prize, such as a tiny plastic My Little Pony.

Why?

Because the kids LOVE it.  And at first I thought it was ridiculous.  All you can see is her hands with spangly nail varnish, and hear her voice as she enthuses over Shopkins, Littlest Pet Shop figurines, My Little Ponies and Barbie dolls.  I thought it was bizarre.  I didn’t understand why they liked it and I thought it was a waste of time.  Something to only allow very occasionally because it was not educational in the least and just plain annoying.  Why watch somebody else play with toys when they could be playing with toys themselves?

And then I started to notice something.

Miss Rose was starting to emulate it.  Her play was getting more imaginative.  Her conversations with her toys becoming more dynamic.

Photo credit Sae Kawaii

Photo credit Sae Kawaii

She had always loved playing and been creative, but it seemed like it had inspired her to even greater games, even more vivid imaginative creations.

Cookie Swirl isn’t just playing with toys, she’s teaching kids how to play.  She’s showing them how to create worlds with their minds.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like to think of myself as imaginative, indeed I’m making a career out of it, but there’s something about children’s play which is different.  And as a busy, stressed adult with a house to run and a book to write and children to feed, actually sitting down to play like that isn’t something that gets as much focus as it should.  We’ve played, she loves doing it, but I haven’t given it as much as perhaps I could.

Cookie Swirl has helped developed what I began.  Helped take her mind from simple chats between ponies to entire worlds where drama unfurls with various toys entering in to take part.  And it has helped me remember what I’m missing… helped me remember my childhood games and how much I want to be part of hers.  How much imagination and creativity have been key to my happiness and satisfaction for my entire life, and how much I want to celebrate her feeling that same satisfaction.

Once I got past the high pitched squeaks and enthusiasm that is perfect for kids but drives adults to yet more coffee, I saw the value in this woman and her massive collection of toys.

And Cookie Swirl is the best.  Sure there are others, and many are equally enthusiastic and equally well stocked, but Cookie Swirl is the best.

Why?

She knows what she’s doing.  She has it down to an art form that is flawless.

Miss Rose’s My Little Pony obsession has lead me to be obsessed too and become something of an expert.  When other unboxers reveal a My Little Pony character from their blind bag and don’t know who it is I get incredibly frustrated.

“What do you mean you don’t know?  That’s Lyra Heartstrings!  That’s Cheese Sandwich!  That’s Diamond Tiara!”

Rose and I exchange eye rolls, bemused that someone who is making a career out of My Little Pony knowledge has less than us.

Cookie Swirl never knows less than us.  Her knowledge is admirable.  She does her homework, she understands the characters she’s playing with, and she is able to make Princess Elsa interact with Pinkie Pie like a pro.

Basically, she has invested in her audience and she respects them.  She knows they care about it, she knows they love it, and she gives them the attention they deserve by caring too.

Photo credit Startup Stock Photos

Photo credit Startup Stock Photos

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a downside.

Cookie Swirl C has WAY more toys than we do, and we have a lot of toys.  The discovery of My Little Pony blind bags and My Little Pony squishy pops has lead us down a rabbit hole of gift buying that I had no idea was out there.  And I’m getting off lightly, the My Little Pony obsessed Miss Rose is delighted beyond imagination at the presentation of a £2 blind bag from Tesco.  Z’s mother actually took a train to the city to find and purchase a massive Toy Story gun that Z fell in love with on one such video by another unboxer!

So if your child has discovered these YouTube videos and you’re taring your hair out over why they like it, and whether you should put your foot down, take a step back and watch.  Is your child’s passion being validated?  Are their imagination games growing and developing?

Education can come from more than learning to count and matching colours.  Learning to play and use your imagination is equally valuable, in some ways more.  So embrace the spangly nailed madness and indulge now and then, because we’ve found it well worth every crazy second.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Nerd

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I used to think that I’ve left my school days behind me.  That I’ve moved on.  I’m not that girl anymore.

Today I realised just how wrong I am.

I’m awkward around new people regardless of where I am or what I’m doing.  I either get stiff and forget how to breathe, or I go a bit ridiculous and loud to over compensate.  Because of this, when the school gate mums chat to me and my tongue grows three times as big and I can feel my toes sweating, I don’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

However, one of the mums terrifies me more than the others, and I’ve never really been able to put my finger on why.  Today I worked it out.  She’s one of the cool kids.

We were talking about the homework.  Last week the task was to decorate a hedgehog as they were learning about Autumn.  Miss Rose and I took this seriously.  We went on a walk with a wicker basket to gather “autumnal things” and came home with assorted leaves, acorns and sycamore seeds.  We mixed glue and she busily stuck them down whilst I guided her to keep within the lines.  Then we liberally applied glitter because… well… why wouldn’t you?

Flower The Hedgehog by Miss Rose

Flower The Hedgehog by Miss Rose

The end result was spectacular and she was thrilled.  As was I.  We had created something worthy of handing in.

The cool mum didn’t bother doing it.

The other task from school is that you write what educational activities they do at home.

I wrote about playing animal, vegetable or mineral with her picture blocks.  I described how she is dictating the words to her first novel as I transcribe them.  I reported that she is learning the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees and we point them out on our walk to school.

The cool mum didn’t bother doing that either.

“Oh,” I said, shifting my feet awkwardly.

She explained he spends all that time in school to learn, she’s not going to do homework.

“Oh,” I said again, picking my thumb nail.

The thing is I have sympathy with that.  They do spend a lot of time learning in school, and they’re so young at just three or four years old.  I don’t believe in letting children getting bogged down with work and the pressure of education.  Home should be home where they can play and rest and relax, indeed in some of the highest educationally achieving countries they don’t start education until much later in life, around six or seven years old.

I have sympathy with it.  But I wouldn’t do it.

You’ve got to have a certain amount of chutz pah to “not bother” doing the homework.  A certain amount of cool.  I do not have that chutz pah.  I have even less cool.  What I have is a fear of authority figures.  A need to conform.  A terror of teachers.  And a long history of being a nerd.

Fortunately for me, Rose is showing signs of nerdliness being firmly in her future.  She loves her homework.  She loves learning.  She loves doing tasks and challenges and is very proud and insistent about doing her homework.

If she resisted?  Would I panic?  Would I force her?  At three years of age, would it be fair?  Should I back off?

I don’t believe learning shouldn’t happen at home.  I’ve always gone to great lengths to try and educate her at home.  I encourage her to ask questions and get involved in tasks from cooking dinner (this evening she joyfully mixed her omelette mixture), to looking after the animals (she helps feed and clean the guineapigs).  We look at books, practice new words, talk about why rain falls and why paint dries.  I wouldn’t want to just say no you don’t have to learn things if you don’t want to.

Am I pressure cooking her little brain by cramming so much into it that she feels the pressure to perform that could result in her losing the plot at ten years old and running off to join the circus?

Should I take a leaf out of cool mums book and just not bother?

Would she be happier?  Would I?

If she is naturally nerdy like myself then probably not…

When I’m not looking for reasons to be hard on myself I remember that she has lots of down time.  She spent an hour in the bath this morning playing with her zoo animals in the bubbles.  She spent two hours on the sofa after school snuggled down under a blanket with me and her baby sister watching Peter Rabbit.  She gets to chill.  I’m not a horrible pushy no rest allowed mum.

But I’m also not a cool mum.  I wasn’t a cool child.  I wasn’t one of the popular kids and I guess if Rose is going to obsess over making sure her homework is done and done right, and think that animal, vegetable or mineral is actually a fun game, then she’s not going to be cool either.

Cool mum at the school gates is confident and cool, doesn’t bother doing homework, talks about how often her little boy says “fuck off”, and absolutely terrifies me.  I am awkward, always do the homework, get upset when Rose tells me I’m not her best friend anymore, and terrify nobody.  And yet we seem to end up chatting quite regularly.  Well she chats, I mumble agreements and nod a lot.

In the words of Mika and Ariana Grande; “It’s not about who you are or your fancy car, you’re only ever who you were.”

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

The Little Novelist

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Writing is in my daughter’s blood.  I have written stories since I could write.  Before I could write I drew comic books to tell the stories in my head.  I acted out stories with my toys, I told stories to my brother that I made up as I went along, and I obsessed over stories that I read or watched.  But writing them… writing stories is where I found my home.

When you ask what Miss Rose wants to be when she grows up she usually says she wants to be “a doctor like nanny”.  She wants to heal people who feel poorly, and very proudly carries around her toy doctor’s kit, complete with boy toys and real equipment acquired from various places, including blood vials from the nurses when I was pregnant and a stethoscope from nanny herself.

Miss Rose is not yet 4, so I don’t take anything in stone, but if she were to become a doctor I would obviously be incredibly proud as it is one of the noblest and most generous professions you could have.  I’ve cheered her on.

However…

Tonight Miss Rose, aged three years and eleven months, decided it was time to write her first novel.  After a few efforts by herself, and a swift realisation that she actually hasn’t quite got this writing thing down yet, it was left to myself and her aunty Katie to write down her stories whilst she narrated.

We wrote them, we read them aloud, and we all clapped.  She was thrilled.  We took the book up to bed and I read them aloud to her again for her bedtime story.  She told me “I like the bit with the trousers on their heads” and “this is the best bit with the PowerPuff Girls”.

I understand her joy.  She hears Jonathan McKinney and I discussing our work every day.  We talk about our characters and our stories with passion, with an earnest intensity, and serious desire to move them in the right direction for our long term goals.   I understand her being drunk on creating a world with her words because Jonathan McKinney and I are regularly intoxicated.

Should she decide she loves writing I will OF COURSE encourage her.  Not because it’s a financially rewarding career… I dream of the day it is but right now I still camp myself firmly in the struggling artist category, but because it’s fulfilling in a way nothing else is.  It gives you opportunities to change lives through words, to inspire people, to make people think, to drive people to achieve their dreams and do better with the lives they have.

She may well never seek to make a career from writing.  Indeed, I wouldn’t push her towards it because it is not a life filled with stability and financial reward.  But if nothing else, if she learns to tell stories and write for pleasure, she’s opening up a world of excitement and creativity to herself that could bring endless joy to her life.

The following are excerpts from the first novel by Miss Rose.

“Dinosaurs try and catch the people.  Take the little bit of tape out of the dinosaurs hands.  They like coloured ice lollies and coloured ice creams.  They make the dinosaurs bigger than everyone and too big!”

“Rainbow Dash can fly everywhere and the PowerPuff Girls can fly very fast and get very far, but they don’t know where is Rainbow Dash.  Rainbow Dash is a very awesome My Little Pony and she flies very fast over the other My Little Ponies.”

Will she one day be writing for Siren Stories and creating action adventures within our magical world?  Maybe… watch this space…

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

When I’m 83, Where Will You Be?

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Life is terminal.  No matter what you do, no matter where you’re from.  No matter if you’re rich or poor, white or black, Buddhist or Muslim, man or woman, everyone dies.  It’s something we all have in common.  And it’s something my little girl is slowly learning to understand.

In the summer on our walk to school we found a blackbird dying on the pavement.  She had a broken wing and was clearly gasping her last breaths.  So we very gently picked her up and put her in the border out of harm’s way, and waited with her until she died.  My little girl watched her, talked to her, and experienced death for the first time.

We had a good cry and a cuddle and walked to school sadly.  We told her teacher what she’d seen and how she was thinking about it lots, and even though it was months ago now, she still talks about it.  Her blackbird who was poorly and old, and went to sleep forever so she didn’t have to feel pain anymore.

Yesterday she asked me when she’s going to be eight.  And I told her not for a long time because she’s only three.  She laughed and said she wants to be eighty three.

“Mummy, when I’m 83, where will you be?”

I told her I’ll be gone.  I’ll be long gone and it’ll be her job then to be the mummy to her children, and the nanny to theirs.

Suddenly my own awareness of mortality hit me.  I’ve seen death, I’ve had grandparents and friends die, I’ve had pets die, I’ve watched documentaries about Dignitas.  I’ve written death scenes in novels.  Death is not an alien concept to me.  And yet…

I’m going to die.  One day I’m going to die and I won’t see my little girls anymore.

I know that’s a ridiculous thing to be thinking about as if it’s new and I had no idea.  I know that’s not true.  I’ve thought about who my girls will go to if I die young, who will care for them and raise them and love them.

I’ve thought about what I want to happen at my funeral, how I don’t want a headstone and a fuss, I want my ashes under a tree and for Albatross by Fleetwood Mac playing before everyone goes and has a drink or ten.

I’ve pondered the concept of an afterlife.  I’ve wondered which of the various versions that are taught by religions and believers of things I might believe in, and comfortably settled with “I don’t know”.

But that’s in a really abstract way.  The actual reality of not being with my children anymore.  Not seeing them.  Not knowing that they’re happy and they’re loved and they’re well.  Not being able to comfort them when they’re sad, help heal them when they’re ill, advise them when they’re confused.

At thirty years old I still depend heavily on my mother for all of those things.  Not a day goes by that I don’t speak to her in some form, even if it’s only a text message, and I rely on her for comfort, help and advice just as much now as when I was a child, and some days even more.  I’m terrified of her leaving me, and I’m petrified of leaving my girls.

It hasn’t always been the way.  At times in my life, the low times, the times I’ve struggled the most, death has looked to me to be a blessed relief.  A comfort.  Something gentle and warm that would take away the pain and the struggle of living.  So the fact it’s haunting me means positive things for my mental health, I have no doubt.

Where will I be when my daughter is 83 and my other daughter is 80?

I’ll be gone.  I’ll be long gone.  I don’t know where I’ll be but I know I won’t be here with them.  I won’t be holding them tightly, kissing their heads, and telling them I love them.  I won’t be moaning at them for getting me up early.  I won’t be exasperatedly shouting “just put your coat on!” when we’re already late for school.  I won’t be lying next to them in the darkness, singing Que Sera Sera and stroking their heads.  I won’t be crushed beneath them both as they cuddle me and giggle with glee.  I won’t be here.  I won’t be with them.

Even though I’ve witnessed death in various forms in my almost thirty one years of life, it’s never felt as real to me as it did the moment my little girl asked me that.

How am I supposed to teach my daughters about death and that it’s a natural part of life if I’m feeling like it’s the most unnatural concept in the world and I can’t get my own grown up head around it?  It’s so much to cope with, so much bigger than I know how to carry.

Where will I be when my daughter is 83?

I don’t know, baby, I don’t know.

I’ll be with her blackbird.  I’ll be sleeping and warm, free of pain, with no more tiredness, no more aches, no more sadness.  I’ll be gone and it’ll be her job to dole out the comfort, cuddles and advice.  I’ll be with her blackbird.

 

 

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and The Boy (Jonathan McKinney) and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!