Comment: Dads get their day - but what about mum?

Watford Observer: Picture from stock Picture from stock

I only came because my wife made me, but it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done." 

These were the words I kept hearing last Saturday when I met several dads and their children on a Me And My Dad (MMD) camp organised by the charity Restore Hope just outside Chorleywood. (They’re also just the sort of words I’d like to bottle for when my husband moans about being dragged round a stately home or art gallery). 

The charity has been running MMD weekends at its breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful riverside site for nearly three years and every year, even those participants who had to be nudged by Her Indoors to take part, beg to come back.

According to one dad, recent Watford resident Colin Brookes, "the formula is surprisingly simple, but utterly brilliant".

The idea is to allow dads to spend 24 hours camping by the River Chess, with just one of their children (son or daughter), in the company of some 25 other dads and their one child.

As well as braving the elements, the dads and kids get to play the sort of games they can easily play in their own back garden or local park: making a kite from bin liners, catching eggs, building a den or guiding dad blindfolded through the trees.

The spirit is one of co-operation, not competition.

Restore Hope director James Ray describes MMD as "a space and time for dads and their children, for the dads to remind themselves they are good dads".

In an age when many fathers are absent or take a passive role in their children’s upbringing, he says it is exciting to see fathers "stepping up", getting to know their child better and making friendships with other men, away from siblings, mums and the demands of work and home.

Listening to James and chatting to several dads and kids, I concluded a MMD weekend must be every dad’s and child’s dream:  no shopping or cooking (all meals are provided in the barn), optional showers (none were taken last weekend) and no wife or mum to ask you to do the vacuuming.

Restore Hope is running another MMD camp this weekend, but better still, I think it should run MMD camps for mums.

Not MMM camps you understand, rather MMD camps that allow fathers to take all their children with them, not just one.

That way, mums would get to spend the weekend on their own.

Never mind Father’s Day - a MMD weekend would make the perfect gift for Mothering Sunday. Bring it on.

For details of MMD camps (£25 per person), call Restore Hope Latimer on 01494 765555 or visit www.restorehope.co.uk.

Regular readers of my column will know that as the mother of two adolescent girls and one pre-teen daughter, I am on a never-ending quest to discover if teenagers are human.

In my bid to get inside my daughters’ heads I leave no stone unturned; I read the self-help books, go on courses, allow my daughters to borrow (i.e. use up) my foundation as a spot concealer, turn a blind eye to the occasional peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich, play Adele CDs in the car . . . you name it, I’ll try it.

Yet despite all my research and attempts at "empathy", I still haven’t worked out why hormones get the blame for everything.

You see, we didn’t have hormones when I was growing up in the 1970s; we hadn’t even heard of them.  Sure we had pimples, greasy hair, insolent replies to everything and stroppy "refusenik" moods - for the former we had cheap shampoo and soap and in return for the latter two, we were given detentions at school and strong reprimands at home.

What we didn’t do - or rather our parents and teachers didn’t do - is make allowances for rude, disrespectful behaviour or laziness on account of hormone fluctuations.

We were expected to treat others with courtesy, however rubbish we felt.

I’ve told my children this many a time, but to listen to them, you would think I am the only mother who feels this way.

In fact, I had become to believe it myself until Monday, when I went to a brilliantly enlightening and reassuring talk on raising responsible, respectful and confident teens at the wonderfully named Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting in West Hampstead.

The speaker was Noël Janis-Norton, author of the very readable parenting manual, also called Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting (price £14.99).

Hormones? Mood swings? The wonderfully calm Noël was having none of it.

"Would your children speak to their teachers the way they speak to you?" she demanded of one mother (me) who admitted to being more indulgent than she should be.

"No? Then they’re capable of treating you and their belongings just as they are required to at school."

What a vindication for my theory about hormones. And woe betide any teenager who misbehaves with Noël.

For details of talks and courses at Calmer Easier Happier Parenting, telephone 020 7794 0321 or email admin@calmerparenting.co.uk.

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