If at first you don’t succeed…. sod it, it was dumb anyway. That’s how Hazel Davis used to feel, but home-edding her little ones isn’t just teaching them a thing or two.
I’m learning some lessons of my own in this home-edding lark. The biggest one is one of persistence. Now, persistence is not something I am used to, being a bit of a flibbertigibbet and all and prone to giving up stuff if it seems like hard work.
My other half, on the other hand, was raised a Methodist and hours listening to sermons as well as possibly having been born with a generally all-round better attitude than me, means that he has patience and persistence oozing out of his ears. He’s all about the if-at-firsts. He’ll contentedly cut three large pieces of kitchen the wrong size, say oops and happily start the whole thing again (while treading sawdust through the house).
Not me. I’d rather die than let anyone see me trying hard at anything and if I can’t do it brilliantly on first attempt, it’s discredited. Knitting? Boring. Trumpet? For pricks. Baking? Oh fuck off Nigella.
This means that when I first opened Vorderman’s Maths Made Easy I somehow expected Clem to have page one done and dusted within a few minutes. When she tried the first one, couldn’t do it and decided to skip the next few, opting instead to draw a large purple ‘2’ instead, it took everything I had not to assume she was unteachable and had deep intellectual problems. Her father explained it to me: “You just need to go back to it again and again and eventually it will go in. That’s what learning is.”
Wait, what? This was news to me. Go back to something? I was always under the impression that if you didn’t learn something first time around, you could throw it in the bin and pretend it was stupid anyway and that you never wanted to try it in the first place. But I also naturally assumed that when I taught Clem that two and two was four she would look at me and go, “Okay then. That’s learned. Next.”
“In the past I would have EITHER held up a beautifully finished piece and waited for praise or muttered ‘I FUCKING HATE LINO-CUTTING. IT’S STUPID’ and pointed at the bin.”
Imagine my surprise when this wasn’t the case and I’d have to approach the two-and-two issue Quite A Few Times. Many Times. Who knew? And she seems game. She isn’t as bored as I would have thought/been, approaching the same problem again and again.
As I notice that this method seems to be working (Clem now counts on her fingers a proper treat – yeah, yeah, I know your four-year-old can do long-division and calculus. I DON’T CARE), I notice that I, too, am starting to display some suspicious signs of persistence. I now tackle problems more than once. I recently took up lino cutting and imagine my surprise when a couple of weekends ago I sat down, tried something and when it went hideously wrong, instead of screwing it up and throwing it in the bin, I calmly took another piece of lino and started again.
My partner wandered in the kitchen and casually asked how it was going. In the past I would have EITHER held up a beautifully finished piece and waited for praise or muttered “I FUCKING HATE LINO-CUTTING. IT’S STUPID” and pointed at the bin. But this time like a zen master I gestured at the failed attempt at an owl (STILL ON THE TABLE FOR ALL TO SEE) and then at the second, slightly better, try. This was my first attempt at a second attempt and I have to say owning it felt pretty good. And if I can let this new grown-up attitude bleed into home-edding then maybe I can nail this thing after all.
Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".