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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?

I hate cleaning, I hate tidying, I hate scrubbing my shower but I love washing my clothes. As a mum, there’s a lot of expectation on us to be clean, neat-freaks. We’re supposed to have our house, finances, children in order and if we’re not, then we’re failing.

This is an unspoken rule, of course. It’s not as if you pop out your baby and the midwife says, “Oh, by the way, now that you’re a mum, your house must be stylish, clean and tidy each and everyday. Even when this little muppet becomes a toddler.” But there is an expectation the basic dusting, vacuuming and cleaning will be done weekly but in my house (gulp) I must admit it often gets left until it’s so gross that I can’t stand it anymore and out come the rubber gloves and tub of Gumption!

Let me propose that cleanliness is not the bee’s knees; that it is not the most important thing in life. I have wooden floors and I cannot remember the last time I mopped them but they don’t stink and they still look relatively clean when I bother to vacuum them. And some would say that cleaning too much is actually bad for our health; that anti-bacterial cleaners actually do away with the good bacteria as well as the bad, leaving us at the mercy of any bug that would walk through our doors.

In fact, would it be better for our hair and skin if we didn’t wash it as much? The natural oils would come pouring through and do their God-given job on their own, without any help from those nasty chemicals in our shampoo and skin cleansers. Have you ever gone for days without a shower? Sure, you stink but a quick swim will wash away any truly nasty odours, would it not?

I’m not saying that we should all embrace the hippy lifestyle and grow dreadlocks and eat mung beans but I just think it’s crazy how obsessed we are about how we present ourselves to others. Why do we care so much? I think that a clean toilet is a MUST and that showers are fantastic but the rest of the stuff, the surface stuff, who do we do that for? And what are we missing out on when we’re on our hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor?

To me, relationships are so important. So, if someone needs me or if my kids want to talk to me, I’d rather roll around on my dusty floor and listen to who pushed who at school, than be vacuuming while they stare at me with sad little faces. I think we should all be free to spend as much time with people and less time scurrying around making ourselves and our houses look perfect to impress those very people. Because, in the end, everyone loves to feel important, they love to be listened to, they love it when people show that they care and how can we do it when we are elbow-deep in Gumption?

And, that’s my excuse for having a messy, dusty house and I’m going to stick to it! Join me, why don’t you!

 

Ah, if only we could, if only we would… would we? There are so many parenting taboos out there. What would happen if we broke them all? Dream with me.

Kids being hassled at school? The Politically Incorrect Parent (PIP) would march into the playground and follow the bully around for the day. She (cos it would be the mother would it not?) would sit in the kid’s circle at recess, lunchtime, join in with a game or two of Star Wars and sit in a rather undersized chair in class. She would glare at the child and if she sees anything bully-wise, she would stand over the child, poke him or her in the shoulder and stand up for her own child, in a way that only she knows how.

A PIP will point out a booger on any child any time. And if a kid has two stripes of gooey green snot running out of the nose, watch out parents, our beady eyed PIP will call you on it pronto. And no, the PIP does not wipe other children’s noses, bottoms or ooey gooey eyes. And if your kid has nits, the PIP may buy you a nit comb or treatment just to get you going.

Before any playdate, the PIP will ask about the health of your child in the last 24 hours. She will need a doctor’s certificate saying that the kid is no longer contagious, especially when it comes to gastro. No, parents, 3 hours after the last vomit won’t do. The PIP requires a good 12-24 hours vomit free for her precious darling to hang out with your post-vomitous child.

The PIP teaches her child self-defense. This is divided into two sections: school and stranger danger. For school, the good old push on the shoulder is popular or, if it’s a girl, a drag by the hair if things get serious. Stranger danger focuses more on the ‘soft’ spots on the body where you can really get an attacker. She neatly choreographs it, so that it will come natural to her darlings. She also gives her children screaming lessons. When to scream high pitch and when to growl like a pit bull terrier.

A good PIP will provide a written document full of comebacks they can use in various situations in the school playground; such as: “Oh you are!” OR “My dad’s better than yours” OR “Is that your butt or your face?” OR “You must suck at baseball!” OR “You look like a moose!”. Very clever indeed. There’s nothing like a PIP family brainstorm to get the really good comebacks happening.

In the post-political world that we live in, it is vital for the PIP to take a stand and educate her fellow parents in the ways of the PIP. To all the PIPs out there, what have you done to teach your friends the art of Politically Incorrect Parenting? Do share (hands rubbing together excitedly).

I love a sunburnt beach town,
A land of beaching whales,
Of well dressed mums at pick up,
Of mokes and barefoot pain,
I love her star-filled houses,
I love her feeling free,
Her terror in her beauty,
The warm peach sand for me!

(Apologies to Dorothea Mackellar for butchering her fine poem, My Country).

Ah yes, my home town. A place of contrasts. Where multi millionaires mix it with the tradies, who mix with the inheritance set who mix it with the ‘been-here-for-50-years’ people. As time marches by, the trendy people make up more and more of the population. Which is fine but I have been noticing a worrying habit amongst those trendsetters. I will call it, The Philosophy of Denial.

It’s like this: nothing bad happens here, nothing ever will and it is a golden town locked in a bubble of glorious rainbows. I am a bit of a stickler for rules and safety but in my lovely town such thinking is passe. I feel a little bit old fashioned in my thinking (which I am hoping will create a new fashion!)

Yesterday, my son’s school received a letter from someone observing the school kids from a cafe. He was so happy to see that all the kiddies were wearing helmets! He said he has worked in emergency medicine for 20 years and has seen some terrible head injuries from people not donning the old stack hat. Go kids! But then you see the teens, the adults, the parents riding their bikes willy-nilly, hair flying free in the breeze, sun on their face without a care in the world and without a helmet. Bah-bow.

How can primary age kids be so vigilant about bike safety and the parents not give two hoots? Denial. I was talking to my kids about this phenomenon and my daughter said, “I’ll never fall off my bike onto my head”. Hopefully not but helmets are there just in case, like seatbelts. Serious car accidents are thankfully rare around here too but people still wear seatbelts! Huh. Whaddya think?

We live in a spoilt area. Great food, views, community, money (mostly), health, schools and facilities. But it is like we take it all for granted. Like nothing will destroy our piece of paradise. I hope it doesn’t take a huge disaster to burst our bubble. So, northern beachers, safety first, right? Safety first!

I must say outright that my little girl is gorgeous. Nearly every time I take her out in public some one will comment on how beautiful her hair is or what she is wearing. I know people mean well but I don’t want her to think that is all she has to offer.

I just read a great article on the topic of how adults relate to little girls and here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html?ref=fb&src=sp. This is a humbling read. I’m sure many of us have seen a cutie patootie of a little girl and said how beautiful they look or how gorgeous their dress was or something similar. I have. Heaps of times. But it’s time to get smart.

When I was a kid, I grew up thinking that the most important gift I had was that I was pretty (without being too vain). My brother was a great artist and I was the passably good looking out-there kid. In the end that’s all I felt I had to offer. I did ok at school but I was no child genius so I thought I was dumb. But, at least I had my looks… right?

This is something I don’t want for any kid. The pressure of fitting in, wearing the right clothes and hanging with the right people can be downright disastrous for anyone, let alone an awkward teenager or child. Our culture is drowning in this message. We still put make up on kids in the school dance groups. They are eight years old for goodness sake. I know it’s tradition but what are we teaching our kids?

I want my daughter to know that beauty is all about your heart, your words, your actions and how you live your life. Roald Dahl puts it perfectly in his book The Twits. He says,

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly…if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

I do not want my daughter growing up with the pressure to be something hollow. I want her to be a whole person using every gift she has to make her mark on the world. I want her to understand that in some countries people spend hours walking to get water. They don’t have the luxury to be self obsessed.

It’s time we taught our kids that some of the ‘littlest’ people in the world are the best. I want her not to judge others by what they look like but how they live their life. And I want her to look in the mirror and see more that a mouth, nose, eyes and that amazing hair.

So, Lisa Bloom, I will try to change my ways. I will try not to just compliment girls on their looks. I will dig deeper so that they know that there is more to life than what they see in the mirror.

Image by Duncan Kenneth Winter

  1. My daughter has confused freckles with nipples. So she thinks random people have nipples on their face.
  2. On the same subject, my son once pointed to his chest and said, “What are these, mum.” I replied, “Nipples”. He said “Oh like Nanny’s nipples. Um… uh huh!
  3. My son was running around in the house with no undies on, like all kids like to do. I said to him, “What would people say if they saw Daddy running around with no undies on.” The reply, “Wow, you’re a handsome Daddy!”
  4. One day my daughter was admiring my new haircut. She said, “Oh, Mum, you’ve had a haircut. You look just like Darth Vader.” She wasn’t joking.
  5. The same daughty calls Chewbacca from Star Wars, ‘Funny Monkey Jarmies’.
  6. I said to my son that I wasn’t going to be home for dinner. His response? “I’ll miss you as much as I can.”
  7. Daughter, expressing her opinion of the news, “I don’t like news. It’s ewwwwww. It’s so newsy.”
  8. We were having a deep existential conversation at the dinner table, as you do with two small children. And when there was a break in conversation, daughter said, “After this, do you want me to show you my belly?”
  9. When asked what God is saying when he puts a rainbow in the sky, my son, in a deep voice said, “Wow, that’s a nice rainbow.”
  10. From one of my kids, a moment to treasure, “Mum, I love you too much!” Awwwwww

Image by David Masters

It’s not often I am horrified by the action (or inaction) of other parents. I try to be gracious, keeping the judgemental side of me on a tight reign, guiding it to happy pastures where it can eat and run free. But today I must admit I was taken aback by a 1 year old sitting in a trolley, eating BUTTER straight from the packet. Mind you it was organic but that just makes more startling.

What are we teaching our kids? It’s ok to eat raw fat because we like the taste? Where on earth is that child going to end up? I have a ‘thing’ about obese kids and the like. And I’m going to try and express it in a self-controlled, calm and gracious way so as not to offend. But seriously, what are we doing to our kids? Simply because they like a food, they can have it? Perhaps because us Gen ‘X’s weren’t?

When I was in primary school, being obese was rare but these days, it’s not a shock to the system it’s a part of it. I know it’s hard to say no to the kids, especially this time of year when chocolate is dumped on their doorstep, but food is life… and death. If bad eating habits are formed early we put huge stumbling blocks in front of our kids. If they’re not taught, they won’t catch on to good nutrition until it’s almost too late.

Last night on 60 Minutes (Australia) they had a story on Lap Band Surgery for teenagers. This beautiful girl was hoeing into pizza and crap by the bucketful just before her surgery. She had always eaten like this and suffered for it, nearly going blind. I must admit I was torn. The surgery saves lives but it just seems like another ‘quick fix’ in our instant gratification society. Where’s the self control, where’s the knowledge of nutrition? The job of a parent is to guide and teach not be overly permissive. That’s not love. Letting your child get so big that they could go blind or die is not love. The heart may be in the right place but that doesn’t help the kids live healthy, happy lives!

The flip side of all this is bringing up kids who are so obsessed by what they are eating and what they look like that they suffer from eating disorders. It’s tricky. But all parenting is this way. My hope is that parents will feel more empowered and confident in their own life and with their own knowledge to guide their kids. That they would know what is good for them in the long term and not just give them snacks to shut them up or make them temporarily happy.

To those without kids or past the kid stage, a few tips, a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to parents and children.

DON’T… tell them their own child is tired or hungry when they are whinging. It’s not helpful, encouraging or insightful, just annoying.
DON’T… stare at parents when their kids are having a tantrum. Sometimes the little buggers just need to scream.
DON’T… hurry up a mother who is clearly struggling with her child. Just be patient and understand that sometimes, a mother is a pressure cooker, ready to explode at any moment and you don’t want to release that valve!
DON’T… expect children to be well behaved 24/7. They are not robots and sometimes they just have to bounce.
DON’T… be offended when children don’t answer your “Hello” with a polite and succinct answer. They are told not to talk to strangers so it can be quite confusing when you approach them out of the blue.
DON’T… stare at mothers with young babies bottle feeding. You don’t know the history or the reasons why so mind your own beeswax.

DO… help a mum with a stroller down/up the stairs
DO… compliment parents on their parenting… especially if you mean it!
DO… stand up on a bus/train for the pregnant and small childrened.
DO… give the benefit of the doubt. You never know, a child could have AD/HD or some other thing going on to make them misbehave.
DO… bring meals to friends or friends of friends who need a break. They may not readily admit to it but a free, yummy, hot meal at the end of a tiring day is more precious than gold!
DO… visit the mummies stuck at home and just sit, drink tea and don’t offer any advice unless it is requested

AND… in return, from those with kids we will try and…

NOT… let  our kids ruin your house with sticky hands and broken lamps
NOT… run amok and pull out your dvds out of their cases
NOT… ask you to babysit every second night
NOT… make you hold our babies unless you really want to
NOT… bore you to death with endless stories of Bestsie’s swimming lesson disasters and Rocko’s toilet training successes.
NOT… complain about our saggy boobs and tired eyes
NOT… fill our time with kids, kids, kids. There will be time for you!

Twenty minutes to get my blog done today. A small girl climbs on my shoulders. Many cuddles, how can I resist?  She cackles like a crow in my ear, interrupted only by ee-ii-o, her own version of ‘Old Macdonald’.

She is a talk-a-holic, according to her kindy teachers. Which is a little strange because there’s that shy side as well. She is known by many names: funny bunny, tropical, water, princess (of course), ballie-woo… Some say she is a mini me but she’s no carbon copy. Her face is part me part papa. She has inherited her father’s awesome eyebrows and possibly her grandmother’s mouth. Not sure where that nose has come from, though.

She is bright and focussed, great at fine motor and the like. As I watch my kids grow, it gets me thinking about the ups and downs of being a parent. One of the most rewarding and difficult parts of the job is watching your little munchkins grow. I love seeing hints of who they are going to be in the future. Their strengths and weaknesses and quirks. It’s great fun!

I love/hate the challenge of tantrums. It is exhausting but exhilarating when you get it right! Super mum moment here I come!!! I love being in the zone, saying the right thing at the right time. I love when they get it! When that hard earned and learned wisdom pays off. There is nothing better than using your painful experiences to help others. It is especially rewarding when those people are your kids.

Parenthood is hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I firmly believe that the best things are the hardest. So if you’re finding being a ma or pa a bit of a slug, you’re in good company. Keep that chin up and walk on. For, as Anne of Green Gables says, “Tomorrow is a new day without any mistakes in it yet!” (or something like that!)

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