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Hands up who’s tired of the nightly nagging session? You know how it goes: ” Sit up straight, lean over, use your fork, put some clothes on for goodness sake, sit down in your chair –  you don’t have to act out every part of your day, and for the love of Pete, stop talking with (chew chew) food (bite) in your (swallow) mouth.”

My kids are getting to the stage where they’re old enough to do this stuff without the nightly nag so hubby and I have devised a cunning plan to get them to remember all their manners at the table without a high pitched, frustrated reminder from any of us.

It’s all about consequences and it goes like this:

* If you don’t lean over, you get to clean up the floor after dinner

* If you talk with food in your mouth we won’t listen to you

* If you use your fingers to eat your dinner, you’ll have to use your fingers for every part of the meal, even ice cream (although some kids would love to do this, mine HATE getting gooey fingers… I hope!)

* If you don’t sit down you’ll lose your chair

 

It sounds harsh but seriously, I’ve spent the last eight or so years telling my kids over and over and over again how to have table manners and according to Jamie Oliver it’s important. So if it’s good enough for Jamie’s kids, it’s good enough for mine.

 

How do you get your kids to remember their manners?

Check out these other posts why don’t you!

Things I might have forgotten to teach you

Before I had kids 

How to produce the perfect child

 

 

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Most of us parents try so hard to give our kids the best start in life. We may invest in their education, take them to soccer training or teach them how to cook, but somewhere along the way we stuff up. There are those little moments in our busy lives where the cracks start appearing in our ‘perfect parenting plan’ or PPP for short. Sure, we’d love to always say the right thing to our kids but sometimes they just get under our skin even though they are as cute as two boots.

There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ childhood. As much as we try and try and try to be awesome parents, sometimes we just aren’t and I’ve realised that it’s ok if there’s a few moments of ‘reality’ flung in there because it keeps them grounded. Real life will not be such a shock when they’ve had a parent full of flaws, as long as I am humble enough to apologise when I’m in the wrong and as long as I can shake off the ‘perfectionistic parenting’ thing and the guilt that goes along with it. As long as they know I’m trying and that I love them, I can’t ruin them too much can I?

On certain days I feel like I’m at the top of the parenting scale; I’m ticking all the boxes, giving my kids the encouragement they need, and squatting down and looking them in the eyes as they tell me the detailed story of ducky and the garden full of bears for the umpteenth time. Ah, yes, those are the good days. But, as with most things, it can turn in an instant and I can go from super-mum to super-dud-mum depending on my mood and spitty-spatty words that somehow just come flowing out of my sometimes careless mouth. And then it’s like I’m hit with an anvil of guilt which hits my head and pounds me into the ground like a hammer to a nail. And it’s a bugger trying to climb out of that claustrophobic hole.

As much as I try not to ruin my kids, I know that somehow, sometimes I do hurt their feelings and build horrible walls between us that may last for a moment or longer, I’m not sure. But above everything else I’m just desperately in love with those two little souls and I tell them that every day which, I’m hoping, will cover over a multitude of sins…as they say.

Do you have those bad-parent moments as well or is it just me?

Image by Jeremy Kemp

Feeling dizzy? Getting confused? Running out of puff for no particular reason? Me too… I think. The whirr of life can make your head spin. ‘Round we go; another Tuesday almost done. Days filled with swimming lessons, soccer practice, lunches, dinners, crunch and sips’… endless stuff… and then there’s the holidays.

I love the holidays. But they, too, have their own circular motion. Here we go aaaagaaaiiiinnn! Spin! Sleep in late! Tough life. Watch a movie, make-a-tha-lunches, book in the cousins for a play, stay up late. Jeepers, it’s like we never stop. But that’s life and it’s a great life.

I love watching my kids grow up! I love that they still want me around (except when they’re playing some serious Lego and don’t want me to hear it). Yesterday my son asked my daughter who her best friend in the whole world was…are you ready for the answer…? She said, “Mummy!” Oh my goodness, stamp it, frame it and hang it in my bedroom why don’t you! Sweetest thing ever!

I love seeing their eyes sparkle with knowledge. Sounds a bit strange but I swear I can see them growing through their eyeballs. The light that grows in them as they grow is delightful. They grow in confidence as they grow in knowledge and they just love knowing more than their parents. And I love being ignorant!

I love their sweetness in their cuddles. I love that they still smell like babies, even though they’re both kids now. I love that they don’t smell like teenagers (no offence teens but that’s why people invented deodorant and air freshener). I love their lack of fashion sense: my daughter wore old tights with a sparkly singlet and and aged dress-up skirt to a party last week. Oh, with sparkly bangles too! Can’t forget that!

Ah how our heads spin with our never-ending ‘To do’ lists but look at what we get in return. Love! Magnificent, frustrating, incredible and unconditional love! You cannot buy such things.

Image by Keith Pomakis

“The World is Your Oyster”, what a peculiar saying.

It was coined by King wordsmith himself, William Shakespeare in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’.

Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny. 
Pistol: Why, then, the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open. 
(Act II, Scene II)

In popular culture (or in my mind) it means that there are endless possibilities out there for those with nothing else to do.

With both kidlets off to school, I can confidently say that the world is my oyster too. Though I’m hoping that it doesn’t mean that life will taste like day old fish and feel like boogers. That it won’t be dangerous or tricky to get off its shell and will be filled with the constant disappointment of not finding that elusive pearl.

No! I’m with Shakespeare on this one. The world is my oyster and with my sword I’ll crack open the darn thing and fish out the enormous pearl that is eagerly awaiting my cracking and finding! Yes! This is a great time of life with endless avenues to explore while my munchkins hammer away at their quality education.

How does one find an oyster? Firstly you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. You will need the right equipment for the job and you will need to know what you are seeking. If you’re not into eating those slimy critters, then the pearl oyster is for you (and me!). That means you need to be discerning.

You must know where to look for these as they are not as common as the booger oysters. You don’t want to settle for second best. When the world is your oyster, you want it to be filled with pearls, not smelly sea animals.

There are two ways to find a pearl. First is to go to a pearl farm where the little droplets are manufactured in a manmade kinda way. This is the well worn path that everyone who has the world as their oyster treads. Discovery rates are high, but perhaps you prefer quality over quantity?

Well you must be of the pearl diver persuasion. Adventurous, hopeful and determined, the pearl diver goes where no random pearl farmer would dare to tread. They go out to the sea, to the islands, to the dark places where the natural and priceless pearls are to be found. They are rare but oh so special. The pearl diver is the bravest of all oyster seekers. Their eyes are ever on the horizon, scanning for things of great worth, of eternal things, of the priceless treasure that is to be found in the depths of the ocean.

If you are in a season of the world being your oyster, you are not alone. Though they can slice, dice and injure, oysters also hold great treasure that you wouldn’t find if you stayed warm and dry at home.

So point your finger forward, raise your arm and be brave and the world will indeed be your (pearl) oyster!

Image by Bill Ebbesen

Tic, tic, tock. Time is a-ticking away to my daughty’s first day at school. I’m tired of the build up, the stress of getting everything ready, the geeing up of little gal… I just want to be in the routine. Then what?

Daughty is my last kid at school. It’s a big moment. Tears have already welled, as I push down the panic of what the heck is next for me. I’m sure she will be alright. Big bro will be around the playground for a bit of security. But as I look at my friends entering this new phase, it’s like we’re all looking at each other saying, “Whadda we do now?”

So, I’ve decided that after 7 ish years of stay at home mumming, I’m going to take the first couple of months reclaiming the fun in my life. Work can wait. I’m sure we’re all due some early long service leave. After all, parenting is 24/7 with bad pay and no real holidays so, ladies, live it up.

Plan 1: Go to the movies in the day time with a friend. Stuff this watching a movie by yourself idea. That just feels weird. I’m going to grab my nearest bud-dy and head off at midday for some popcorn and a girly movie AT THE CINEMA. Woweee.

Plan 2: Hire a canoe, boat, stand-up paddle board and get onto the water (or probably INTO the water knowing my poor boating skills). It’s a simple thing but there’s nothing more soothing that being gently rocked by the water as you look out into its sparkling vastness. You can’t help but breathe in the healthy, salty air and gain a little perspective.

Plan 3: Head to my buddy’s house, grab a floatation device and float around in her pool, perhaps sipping on an exotic drink and talk for hours about stuff without interruption. Bliss!

Plan 4: High Tea! Got it for Christmas so I’m going to sit, sip and enjoy some lovely delicacies while talking, once again uninterrupted, about STUFF!

Plan 5: Day trip. Finally I’m going to visit my friend that lives across the water. I’m going to catch the ferry and have a chat, hang out with her little bubba and reconnect. It’s going to be awesome.

The rest of the year can then begin. Hopefully I’ll be so full of ideas and zeal. You never know, I might just get some work done.

What are your plans for post school days?

Us mummas are a colourful bunch. Some are energetic and resourceful, others cruisy and relaxed. And the rest, well, we’re a little in between.

Whatever ‘mother’ you are, you have to know that you have the most important job in the world. There is nothing more satisfying, difficult or meaningful than sowing into the next generation. It really brings out your true colours, tests you in all sorts of interesting ways and reveals a depth of love you may not have realised existed.

Mothers can be tough on each other. This perhaps stems from our own insecurities or guilt from past failures or simply because we are stuck in our own ways. I am a routine mum. I liked the control crying thing, I like boundaries and in the past I may have come across a little judgemental of others who didn’t quite do things my way.

Ah. Now I am a sort of grown up mumma, I can sit back and laugh at my audacity. Like I know what’s best for someone else’s child! Nowadays I appreciate the variety of mothers, I can empathise a little better and it has dawned on me that what us mums need most is encouragement.

So, I try my hardest to pop in encouragement (always has to be genuine) into my conversations with my  mum friends. They are usually pleasantly surprised to receive a compliment, especially when it comes to their parenting techniques. Because, let’s face it, we all  have our closed doors yelling, stomping moments. And the feedback from our pathetic attempt at parenting is often negative or condemning. There just isn’t enough encouragement flung around from mum to mum! Shame!

It’s easy to do and it makes such a difference. When mums feel appreciated, they tend to do a better job. It’s easier to feel patient when someone has told you how much they respect your parenting. When someone believes in you, it makes you want to try harder. When everyone is telling you that you’re a failure, it’s easy to drop the ball and start losing the plot with the kids, cos you’re already (apparently) a failure so it doesn’t matter!

So, my rambling thoughts summarised are: be kind to each other, speak the positive, encouraging things you think  and remember that we’re all in it together doing the best we can! Isn’t that cool?

Another year down! And again, we can hardly believe how fast it has flown. For us Aussies, it means Summer fun begins with outdoor Christmas carols, lazy days at the beach and a long, long school holidays to fill with incredible activities to keep our kids from saying, “Mu-arm… we’re bored!”

The transition from school routine to holiday cruisy bliss can be a little daunting. So much time, so little money, so little energy, so many demands. Parents still have to balance the earning of the money, the household chores and the keeping the children happy and entertained. It’s a tough gig.

It comes down to the same old question of how much time ‘should’ a parent play with their kids, entertain them, how much time is ok for a parent to spend on their own stuff, and how much should they work/do the household boring duties. I don’t want to fake play; ie play because I think I should, I’d rather have quality, side-splitting fun times than be at their beck and call every moment of every day out of guilt. But at the same time I don’t want them to think that they’re not important or fun… = dilemma.

My answer? Plan fun stuff that all of us can genuinely enjoy together: swimming, movies, play dates with all our friends, cafes, op shops, shopping, cooking and family time with cousins/grandparents! This fills the guilt void and leaves them time to play on their own, or together at home, while mumma gets to blog or read or swing in the hammock. Good times.

Do you have any holiday advice for the likes of me and a coupla thousand other stay at home mummas?

 

December. A time for parties, Christmas, sun, sand and holidays. It’s also the time of farewells and new challenges… for me anyway.

My littlest kiddo is off to school next year, which means the Christmas concert at her kindy will also be a graduation. After 4 years at the one preschool, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. But it is time, the little lass has to grow up and we have to move on.

This limbo time before big school must be a funny one for our 5 year olds. Their crazy mums are tearing up when they try on their new uniforms and the teachers at kindy start talking letters and numbers, not just painting and craft! What the…?

In this time, the pre-schoolers may start to get a little over-emotional. Screaming, tears and airborne toys may drain us mums of our energy as we explain for the umpteenth time why they can’t have it, eat it, do it, say it, throw it. I keep saying to myself that little girl is just overwhelmed with all the changes. Her skin is mighty thin and some wise old tiptoeing is needed to keep some semblance of peace in the house.

My son went through a similar thing before school. There’s such a long build up before the big day and then a sense of normality, a routine sets in and they seem to settle down… in a tired kinda way. I’m hoping this will be the case for my daughty. She is so very very nice when she wants to be but extremely high maintenance when she doesn’t. Hmmmmm I wonder who she gets that from?

Next week is a big one. End of year concerts and those tearful farewells. Oh how will I cope with 2 kids at school? Will somebody please pause time so I can keep them at this age of innocence, joy and snuggliness?

Before I know it my little man will be a stinky old teenager with a limited vocab and a scratchy beard. His room will smell musty and he’ll start to look at me like I’m a crazy, naggy old lady. Frown. And then there’ll be the hormone battles, woman against miniature woman. Screaming, crying, foul words and slamming doors. Boyfriends I don’t approve of and skirts that are a little too high for my liking. Or maybe my kids will both be quiet, lovely nerds whose idea of a great Saturday night is to stay home with the family and play Monopoly. (Tell her she’s dreaming!)

But back to reality. Back to the countdown of yet another milestone. Will I survive without copious amounts of tears and lumps in throat? Will my little girl get a great teacher or be in the same class as her bestie? What will be will be I guess. It’s another motherly challenge to conquer. I’m just hoping and praying for the best! Eeeeek.

When you become a parent there are certain things you have to teach your kids: how to eat, how to use the toilet, how to shave… But as they grow older, there are other subtle things that you may miss on the way.

My kids are almost all at school now… sigh. They know how to bath, feed, toilet and dress themselves. They know how to pack away their toys, how they’re supposed to talk to each other and us, how to tell a good yarn. But, sometimes I have an ‘uh-o’ moment where I think, “was I supposed to teach you that already?”

Crossing the road is one of those things. Do you take them to a variety of roads, make them sit, wait, look and cross? (or is that just for dogs?). It’s kinda a no-brainer in my mind. If you’re on the side of the road, you wait until all the cars are long gone and then walk sensibly across a clear section of bitumen. I just don’t think kids think like that. So, sorry kids, oops forgot to teach you that one, I’ll try and sneak it in the next time we’re at a road.

Food glorious food! Yes, another lesson I think I missed. How not to be a fussy child. This is a tricky one because I am naturally fussy with my food… and my spoons for that matter (no I don’t want to use a soup spoon with my cereal thank you very much!). Instead of just encouraging them to like a variety of foods from an early age, we gave in to the simple foods such as carrot, cucumber, sausages and bread. So you can imagine how exotic our meals are now! Glum.

Communication with strangers. It is all well and good to have the stranger danger antenna out there but when it comes to manners, sometimes our kids are a little shy or unsure of what is expected of them. They are almost too scared to speak to a stranger… even with us at their sides. I feel I have overdone the warnings and haven’t given them enough confidence and skills to say a cheery old ‘Hello’ to an adult that greets them first. Now, they get the nudge, the winking eyes, the verbal ‘say hello’ from me because I’ve forgotten to explain to them that you have to be courteous as well as cautious. Confusing stuff, really.

So, my dear kiddies I’m sorry for the little/big things that I have failed to teach you. Hopefully, we’ll make it up as we go along and all will be hunky dory. Forgiven? Alright!

<a href="Father And Daughter by Petr Kratochvil”>

Image by Petr Kratochvil

I have made a conscious decision not to lie to my kids. Having said that, there have been a few occasions when I have lied… a little. There are just some things kids don’t need to know… stuff that is way too much information.

An example? Ok. Men, block your ears. Some one once told me of a mum who was busted wearing a tampon by her 4 year old. She must have been nude and the little string was poking out. Her curious daughter, thinking that her mum was some kind of cool puppet or something, asked what that little string was for. Now, what would you have said?

The mother, being an honest kinda gal, started to tell her little girl about the joys of womanhood. I.e that once a month women bleed and you catch it with something like a wad of rolled up tissues and this goes up into the nether regions to stem the flow! Can you imagine the face on the little girl? White, ashen skin, eyes wide and a little teary, dreading the day she becomes a woman.

I had a less full on experience with my son who saw something unmentionable in the toilet. Just a little tiny bit. He asked what it was… and I, super-honest parent that I am, lied to him. I said it was toilet cleaner. Now, I was operating on adrenalin here and I could have distracted him but I was so horrified that a lie seemed appropriate.

I also tell my kids that everything on TV is pretend. Which is kinda true. I just don’t want them to get too freaked out about the unpleasant aspects of this world before they have to.

This is a story from the incredible life of Concentration Camp survivor, Corrie Ten Boom. An excerpt from her autobiography:

“(From a ten year old child) “Father, what is sexsin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. “It’s too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.” And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions. For now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”

There are just some things our kids cannot understand or deal with at such a young age. Ultimately I think lying to your kids is wrong and teaches them to lie to get out of uncomfortable situations (slap on wrist for me) but I think blatant honesty is not always helpful either.

What do you think?

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