Points mean prizes: when reward charts turn toxic.

Points mean prizes: when reward charts turn toxic.

21st October 2016

INSET day for three youngest. Planned to take children to country park in morning and return for lunch. Free time (art and craft, screens off) until we met eldest in Costa as consolation for normal school day.

Big mistake to let husband take eldest to school. Meant could stay in bed, working til was too late to take children to country park just for the morning. By this time everyone used their ideal screen time allowance for whole holiday. Would have to make packed lunch, but thought about cheese sandwiches in cold or adding crumbs to compost already on car floor. Guiltily made cheese on toast and suggested we go to shoe shop, ask for shoe boxes for Samaritan’s purse and then take football to park before meeting eldest. Everyone finally dressed and teeth done. Felt like parenting (and social conscience) triumph until looked at time, did calculation should have done before and realised had to go straight to Costa. Ten minutes late. Eldest looking out of window wistfully.

Realise everyone’s dislike of outdoors is genetic. Secretly sympathise with their wish to stay in all day, watching TV and eating sugar.


Everyone gathered round table while I queue. Probably guilt that makes me go for £2.50 hot chocolates for everyone, and not 50p option in dolls cup. Children gulp down in three minutes and complain about lack of marshmallow they would have got with other one. Pass through several different guilts from raising entitled children, through post-Brexit angst- should we not be investing this in gold ingots to bury in the ground?- to guilt from this week’s parenting session. In what seems like flash of genius, I call first family meeting, which will a. justify cost of drink I could have made at home and b. give opportunity to set up half-term routine and reward system.

All four are clearly excited. Too excited. Everyone is talking over each other, no doubt drowning out every other conversation going on around us. I institute empty milk jug as conch to be passed to somebody before speak. This just means children standing up around coffee table, shouting “I want the milk jug next. I have something to say,” over each other.

It feels like hour, but is probably less, before we have timetable, places they agree to go and points system involving ticks, jigsaw pieces, personal rewards for ten ticks and group rewards for jigsaws completed. Had to grab milk jug, hold it tightly and shout above everyone else to keep it as simple as this.


Rest of evening very noisy. Children constantly asking me whether what they’ve just done earns a tick, and disagreeing with ticks I award everyone else. Nick arrives home. I hand over children to him and seek refuge stacking the dishwasher.

Saturday 22nd October


Daughter wakes us up seeking further clarification about points system, pointing out she’s dressed, had breakfast and laid it out for everyone else. I’ve not run for three weeks and was worried I wouldn’t exercise again, but find myself fleeing out of the door to parkrun.


Everyone is still arguing about each other’s points. Fortunately husband has been away for a week and so owes me. He agrees to take them out. I promise to write and do some washing while he’s out- both can be done in silence.

Monday 31st October

Dear diary, sorry it’s been so long, but I can write now the children are back at school. By the end of the week, I’d lost track of how many points meant what. The extra minutes before bed seemed a particularly silly idea- they’re never in bed for their official bedtimes anyway, but we lumped it all together on Friday night, and had a baking day (as apparently promised) on Saturday which even I enjoyed. Reader, learn from my mistakes: go to the Range, where they’ve already thought it through for you.



The man who made Caesarean section safe

The man who made Caesarean section safe


For a small country, Scotland has produced more than its fair share of medical pioneers. My article on Murdoch Cameron was published earlier this month in the November/December issue of History Scotland.

Although the first Caesarean section had been carried out in Roman times, the procedure was hardly used anywhere when Cameron first arrived at Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital (the “Rottenrow”). The few women that survived the operating room usually died of infection or ‘ward fever’.

But Rottenrow served the East End of Glasgow, where Ricket’s disease was rife. Womens’ pelvises were often too deformed to deliver a baby safely. Doctors inserted instruments through the cervix to crush the baby and allow vaginal removal. Murdoch Cameron revolutionised childbirth by proving Caesarean section could be used safely in these cases,

The magazine have been kind enough to provide me with a PDF of the article for my portfolio, which is online here.






Hot chocolate

Hot chocolate

Last week, my son invited me to take him out for a hot chocolate after school. My husband’s reaction was similar to mine: “Is this for his benefit, or yours?” I suspect it’s for me.

It might have been prompted by the on-line questionnaire  I asked him to complete to find his ‘love language’. Everyone else I know who’s tried it has found it very helpful. But the questions assume your child thinks touch is a good thing and wants more rather than less attention from his family. Twelve years in, and other than defending him from the contact-driven love of his siblings, and helping him with his homework, I’m still at sea as to what exactly he needs from me. But he’s obviously thought about it and decided that to feel loved, his mother needs his time. Hence the hot chocolate. I am very proud of him.