Who is teaching who here?

Posted in Life and Learning, On Resilience with tags , , on May 24, 2017 by racheljackson

You couldn’t make this up – but bear with me whilst I unfold the tale…

Last week a friend of ours bought a gift for our boys – a Star Wars construction kit to make a U-Wing. My eldest (6.6 – and yes the 0.6 is important) claimed this prize and between us we carefully inserted tabs and bent pieces until the model was complete…and I have to say pretty impressive.

Alas my youngest (nearly 5 – the ‘nearly’ is equally important) was upset – where was his model? I dutifully went onto Amazon and found the same brand but this time a model AT-AT. It arrived the next day – thanks Amazon – and whilst my eldest was in the bath, my youngest opened the package and filled with smiles. I suggested he keep it to himself until the morning as Leo would only want to play with it and he reluctantly agreed…only to sneak into the bathroom and wave it in front of his bathing brother with glee.
I put Ben to bed gripping his model-book ready for the morning….and went to put Leo to bed…who was now sad. “Why can’t I have an AT-AT?” comes the standard parental nightmare. “Do you think Ben would swap with me?”

Bedtime complete, I go downstairs and attend to my evening – helping my husband evaluate an umbrella (don’t ask) and watching the repeat Planet Earth II offered (the one with the snakes) to replace the Broken series we had planned to watch. We hear a few toilet trips upstairs but nothing really worth a walk up the stairs…until 10.15 when we are turning lights off to go to bed. I hear Benjamin’s door close, a quick dash across the landing and a hastily turned out light.

I find Leo with a fully completed AT-AT model in his hand sneaking into his brothers room to put it by his bed! It appears he has spent the last 2+hrs in his ‘bat cave’ with an angle poise lamp painstaking constructing what was in fact quite a tricky model. His eyes tell me he knows this may not have been the right choice…”I’m sorry – Ben wouldn’t have been able to make this so I did it for him…” he offers hopefully.
I do the necessary chat about “you’re going to be so tired for school” and “you should have asked first” but with secret pride in my heart I go downstairs to discuss how we should best handle this parenting dilemma. Between myself, my partner and two fellow mums over Messenger we agree that it could be an incredible act of love…or a devious lack of resistance to an envied toy. Either way it was clear that believing the former made us all feel better…and we went to bed – gently placing the completed AT-AT outside Ben’s door.

My youngest wakes at about 5.30 every day…and this morning comes into my room to update me on his wee colour (again – don’t ask!). Nothing is said about Star Wars or model making….

At 7am Ben comes downstairs and asks his dad whether he can help him to make his Star Wars model. Confused, dad reviews the presented model book – complete with all the pieces in their places as new….

It turns out that Ben had spent his morning carefully deconstructing the whole kit and painstakingly placing all the individual pieces back into their allotted places in the model book so that he could make it himself. There was no question about how it came to be made and outside his door – no complaints, no arguments, no pointy fingers or tears…he had simply fixed the problem…

…and we think we need to teach our children….

On a day where we are still reeling from a young person’s apparent decision to eliminate a number of other young people from this world at the Manchester Apollo please feel free to share this simple act of brotherly love with friends and colleagues.

Our children are born with the capacity for immense love, resilience and creativity…we need only nurture it.

It’s “Derbyshire Rain”!

Posted in Life and Learning, On Resilience with tags , , , , on June 14, 2016 by racheljackson

Last weekend was spent in a small three man pop-up tent in a field with a four year old and a five year old…in Derbyshire.  If I wanted to study resilience in practice I could have looked no further – but in fact it was a last minute response to a clash between a car service which resulted in no car and a need to attend a dear friend’s 40th birthday party.

It rained….a lot.  It specifically rained in the vital hour between my children waking up and everyone else waking up and making breakfast together.  This meant explaining patiently to my son who is lying on one side of me that the reason we can’t go out yet is that the raincoats are in the car…with the umbrella.  Simultaneously explaining to the other son on the other side of me that no, we can’t lie together and watch a film on the iPod because the iPod is also in the car…and we can’t get to the car…because the raincoats are in the car…and its raining.

Donning shorts and t-shirt I ran through the torrential downpour and associated mud to retrieve said supplies – only to find both iPods depleted and both children disappointed.  Time for Plan B.

Having entered the sensible people’s accommodation choice, I found a large number of small children playing  a box of varied musical instruments with gusto…to the terrified faces of non-parent partygoers struggling with hangovers and headaches. We were saved!

Throughout the weekend the rain continued in true Derbyshire style to the absolute disinterest of everyone attending the party.  We made multiple bees from Lego, enjoyed a very impressive (and quite miraculous) campfire, watched children in varying states of undress make and shoot lego pistols, chased chickens round the yard and laughed at my friend’s son Sonny joyfully standing under torrents of water pouring off the marquee with his mouth open.

All kinds of alcohol were consumed in suitable (and to be fair unsuitable) quantities and the world, whilst damp, was well.

Yesterday my son sat beside me as we drove home from school watching the black sky finally dropping its payload over East Anglia.  He looked up with a smile and said “Look! It’s Derbyshire Rain!”.

I believe it is true to say that a memory has been made 😉

I did it again!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2016 by racheljackson

I enjoyed myself AGAIN at work.

I enjoyed listening to Radio Two announcing the sign up of Matt Le Blanc to co-host Top Gear with Chris Evans as I drove to just past Bury St Edmunds.  I enjoyed driving home listening to a debate about whether Sheffield trees should be cut down or whether butter is better. I enjoyed setting up my banner stand in the glorious lecture hall at Claas UK and chatting with Emma and Helen and the team from Waddington Brown…but most of all I enjoyed the company of 15 fabulous HR Directors from across the region as we explored the challenges to their resilience, the choices they are faced with to balance work and life and the pleasure they too feel when able to give their best work in the service of their organisations.

Having attended a brilliantly stimulating and inspiring day with Robertson Cooper a week or so ago up in Manchester learning about their passionate focus on A Great Day at Work, it made me once again reflect how much I love working in this field and how incredibly important it is that we continue with this drive to recognise our working days as not simply a means to an end – but an end in itself.

Most people spend most of 5 out of 7 days a week at work. If we want people, teams and organisations to thrive in an environment where there are so many more choices out there for every employee  – both in career terms and life choices – being at work HAS to be worth it at more than just a financial level. Meaning, and growth, and stimulation and satisfaction –  these are all part of building resilient people, in resilient teams, in resilient organisations – and I love being part of that.

Behaviour support

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2016 by racheljackson

I’m just waiting to pick up my son from a behaviour support centre in Ipswich. He’s been struggling to control his emotions and regularly hits out and hurts others – including me. As someone who trains others how to understand their own thinking and emotional acting out it’s hard to admit that I’m not sure where to go with helping my 5 year old son. It’s so much easier when we have words sufficient to explain our frustrations and fears clearly. But it does make me wonder how much of it we really learn to manage as adults and how many childlike rages we experience for what, in adulthood, would be considered petty concerns or irrational fears. How many of these infantile instincts do we simply learn to express in ‘adult’ ways through gossiping, moaning, resistance or oppression of others in subtle yet self -serving ways.

Next time you find yourself fuming in traffic, cursing in the supermarket or berating a well intentioned yet ultimately annoying act from friends or colleagues – get in touch with your inner child and ask it what it’s really trying to say. What are the words that effectively express your innermost gripes. See if you can find a way to hear yourself thinking and ask – what can I let go of here? What can I ‘grow up’ about and what would I tell a 5 year old to do?You might be surprised what you learn.

How to tell a “Not-Book”.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 9, 2016 by racheljackson

There comes a moment when I have to confess to my son, in words he may not understand, that I truly can’t read another Thomas the Tank engine story with feeling or real commitment.

Sadly, this confession generally falls on tired, deaf ears – so I have come up with an alternative, and it has become part of the language of my family. We do a ‘Not-Book’ – of which there are two main variants (lights on or lights off) and a multitude of permutations.

We begin, as tradition dictates, with “Once upon a time there was…” but from there on in we are co-creators to often devastating effect. Sometimes I weave in elements of the day – what did we learn, what did we struggle with, how did we feel. Other days Superman is locked in deadly combat with a chicken named John for the arm of a Chinese princess named Jenny. Leo generally weaves in Batman and the names of various friends and inevitably they all live happily ever after. The journey flows with gasps and giggles and “do you know what happened next?” and there are often parts where one of us loses track of what went before. It is always an eye to eye story. Nothing is written down or recorded.  It is always shared space. We both love it.

I am determined that in my house stories won’t be just something mum reads to us in books. Stories aren’t what other people invent and we absorb. We are the stories – even though many of us have forgotten how to craft the narrative. Our roots sit around camp fires and talking circles. Our customs and histories were passed for far longer by word of mouth than by printed words, kindles and audiobooks.

Find your story again and learn to tell it. Start a dialogue.


Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2015 by racheljackson

Well it’s here again – just over two weeks to go and the tree is up, the advent string hung, the wreaths made, the lights untangled and re-tangled and crowded onto overloaded extension cables. The cat has shredded tinsel all over the floor and the boys have dressed dad as an elf in an ohsoslightly tight Christmas t-shirt. The Christmas train is playing jingle bells as it chugs around the floor and we are ready.

Despite sneaking away for Christmas this year I can’t help but reflect on the usual annual festivities we will be missing this year by choice and consider those families up north suffering a less chosen deletion of Christmas due to the insertion of a foot of water into their preparations for the season. I simply can’t imagine watching sodden tinsel merge with river mud and tree branches as the sparkling lights fizz out under a deluge of water. This season can be stressful enough for many families without such catastrophic events intervening.

So when you cringe at yet another appealing cracker joke, grimace as you enter yet another sale-ridden shopping experience or gulp as your mother in law piles another soggy sprout onto your plate – spare a thought for some. They won’t be enjoying Christmas choices like yours until at least 2016


Nature’s weirdest events – Paris

Posted in Life and Learning with tags , on November 14, 2015 by racheljackson

I’ve just watched Chris Packham’s smiley and apparently ageless face talking animatedly about nature’s weirdest events; ants circling in an ever tightening ring until they literally die of exhaustion, parasites exercising mind control over snails and worms emerging from beetles.

As the credits rolled there was a reminder that Newsnight tonight will focus on the horrendous attacks that took place yesterday in Paris.

For just a brief moment I wondered if some higher body, deity, God if you like, was sitting watching their childhood favourite presenter express similarly gruesome fascination and unanswered questions over events in the human natural world – if that isn’t a misnomer in itself.

Can I actually say this…out loud?

Posted in Life and Learning, On Women in Work with tags , , , , , on November 11, 2015 by racheljackson

Yesterday I had the most appalling afternoon with my son. Everything was melodrama and catastrophe from me refusing to play with his racing cars after he threw one at me, to the bread falling to pieces when he tried to make a sandwich. It was like a rollercoaster with all the bolts removed and how I stayed on until 7pm I do not know!
At about 3pm a friend came over and casually shared with me the highlight of her eldest son’s 7th birthday party when his 6 year old brother hit an 11 year old over the head and refused to allow him near any of his toys.
Whilst we shared these halcyon glories of motherhood with a wry smile, the undercurrent of ‘WHY THE HELL DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF’ came through in the round of our shoulders and the exhausted roll of our eyes…and the depth of our friendship rang true as we both admitted to each other that we would think twice about embarking on this journey given our time again.

I reflected as I sat down to continue working on my Recovering from Motherhood programme how infrequently we feel the space, courage and trust to let down that uncomfortable facade of parenting to admit to ourselves, let alone others, that we are not breezing through child rearing with picture postcard memories, instinctive boundary-setting and jam packed star charts – we are crawling through it with postcard memories of travels we used to be able to do, we are battling through it with wet-batteried flickering light-sabres and HSE regulated pellet-guns….we are struggling – and (yes…lets say it out loud) we aren’t sure if its actually worth it….

I do love you...although...

I do love you…although…

My friend reflected that if people like us went to talk to those teenagers in school, those twenty somethings…even some of those thirty-somethings who see the need to find the right man, settle down and have a family as vital to success and who still feel the pressure not to be ‘left on the shelf’…we could probably have a pretty big impact on rising population levels….but have we come far enough that schools and colleges would let us pass such revolutionary information to the ears of our future…would we be branded as selfish, egocentric…for daring to say out loud and in public…that you may in fact come to regret having kids….

She suggested, despite there being no way either of us can go back to where we once were – thus rendering our discussion pointless….that I should write a blog about our confession…so I did…

And if you are happy to share your totally anonymous view…I’d love you to deepen – or maybe even share my shame….

Open Space postponed

Posted in Commentary, Ipswich with tags , , , on November 6, 2015 by racheljackson

Based on the feedback from the Open Space survey I have decided to postpone the event scheduled for 19th November 2015.

Whilst most of the respondents who gave their views wanted the event to continue in 2015 to enable a discussion which other forums do not represent, the level of response suggested that the timing is not right for this stage of the dialogue to begin.
That said it has opened some new conversations and sparked some new activities and I do not expect this event to go away – far from it I would love to see you signed up to come along when we reschedule in Q1/2 2016. Until then – keep talking.

Forgive me….

Posted in Life and Learning, Motivation, On Resilience with tags , , , , on November 5, 2015 by racheljackson

…because I’ve just REALLY enjoyed my work!  Two weeks ago I ran my first free resilience seminar at Suffolk Food Hall for a great group of HR experts from a wide range of local businesses and it was FUN!

Today I ran another workshop at the CEFAS labs in Lowestoft courtesy of the lovely Karin Rundle who gave us her great lecture theatre for the morning – and I had FUN again.

90% of people are dissatisfied with their job and many are stressed and frustrated and unable to see the way out. If you want to get back the FUN and bounce in your role, maybe these words from an old old source will resonate with you. image