The turtle’s approach to parenthood

6 05 2013


It has been a pretty intense Bank Holiday Monday.

I have spent just the better part of 9 hours, in the baking heat, at work, rehearsing with my GCSE Drama class. They will be taking their final GCSE exam tomorrow.

As a result, this evening I need a bit of a mental diversion, so for tonights post, I have taken as my stimulus: the humble turtle.

I found the following key facts about turtles:

  • Turtles are reptiles.
  • They have a hard shell or ‘carapace’ that protects them from danger.
  • Turtles retreat into their shells when attacked by predators.
  • The species has existed for around 215 million years.
  • Turtles are cold blooded.
  • Turtles lay eggs in the sand and leave them to hatch on their own.
  • Newborn turtles make their way to the top of the sand and scramble to the water while trying to avoid predators.
  • Many turtle species are endangered.

When in Mexico last summer,  FFOMC and I bought a turtle ornament as a souviner. We were enchanted by the story of how they hatch their eggs on the sandy beaches and horrified by the risks they face on their journey back to the sea. Their eggs face enormous pressure from footfall and even worse by sun loungers, which can cause them to fracture and break. The hotel and tourist industry also causes extraneous light at night time; this can be mistaken by baby turtles for moonlight, causing them to go off their course. Another risk they face in the modern world is having to cross roads near the beaches where they hatch and having to avoid traffic as they make their way to the safety of the sea.

FFOMC and I also learnt that turtles are a powerful symbol of fertility. Inspired by this we bought a fertility turtle for someone very dear to us who has been trying to start a family. Turtles are symbolic of fertility (amongst other things) in a range of cultures, but I was particularly struck by the maths behind this and the idea that turtles are linked with the lunar cycle and female menstruation.

On our ornament there are thirteen sections marked out on the turtles shell. This represents the lunar calendar in which there are thirteen full moons or thirteen new moons, (this alternates each year). Although I cannot remember the exact details; if you apply certain mathematical equations to the sections on the shell, if equates to the number of days a child develops in a womans womb before she goes into labour.

I have spent today coaching and mentoring other peoples offspring – as a result I have in my head my own mathematical equations designed to compare and contrast how much more of my time than theirs is devoted to worrying about their exam. I can calculate the disproportionate hours I put in (often unpaid) to those spent by students rehearsing and I am very aware of the low percentage of students and parents who thank me for my pains. But I digress…

Modern parenting is not unlike the terrifying journey turtles impose on their newly hatches offspring.

Modern parents must send their children out into the world and hope that they will avoid the threats and hazards awaiting them and make their way safely to their correct course. They must trust that their children will not succumb to the many pressures placed on them and accept that they will succeed or fail based on their own instincts and talents. Children, like turtles may be seduced and tempted to follow the bright lights rather than rely on tried and tested traditional routes used by those who have gone before them. Parents can only hope that they make their way safely to the sea where they will be patiently waiting.

I am trying to put tomorrows exam from my mind this evening as much as possible but I am also keeping everything crossed that all my students all achieve their full potential. One day, I may have my own little turtle to nurture and guide and I hope that he or she will have sufficient direction and guidance to place them on the correct path in life; even if that sometimes means their teachers givng up the occassional beautiful, sunny, bank holiday weekend when his/her spouse is off work and also in need of attention.




2 responses

6 05 2013

Good luck to your students. I am sure they will appreciate the extra mile that you go for them. 🙂

6 05 2013

Thank you for your kind words 🙂
It sounds like you also have your hands full right now. However hard my job is I don’t think I could swap places with you and, as is the case with my own head teacher, however imperfect he is perceiveds to be, you guys have my admiration for taking the lead and supporting your team through difficult times.

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