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Ahem. Before I had kids I would frown at the screaming baby. I would roll my eyes at parents serving babycinos to their toddlers in cafes, I would diss all the toys those spoilt kiddies had in their rooms! Excess people, excess.

Before I had kids I would scoff at the ways that parents allowed themselves to be sucked in by toy companies and brands: ‘Wiggles’ and ‘High Five’ and ‘Dora the Explorer’. I would scrunch my nose up at rude children that couldn’t say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ or the fussy kids who wouldn’t eat what was served to them.

I would look at the mums at the park and think how lucky they were, sitting there in the sunshine without a care in the world. Not like us in the ‘real’ world with the weight of money and things and time making us all hunch backed and pale of skin. I would dream about one day joining their ranks. I’d wear jeans everyday and no make up. I wouldn’t have to impress anyone or live up to the expectations of ‘the boss’. Freedom!

But then I had kids. Then I realised that not only was the pay pathetic, the uniform bland and the freedom – a myth, but that I still had a ‘boss’. This time the boss was tiny and oh so demanding. He/she didn’t use their big words or take a break at nighttime, they would scream for what they wanted, they would push me to breaking point and beyond, they would be sometimes rude, unappreciative, manipulative and constant.

The sunshine meant sunscreen, hats and shade cloth. I found myself buying the branded toys because that’s what made my little doe eyed kids smile. I would have babycinos in cafes with them! Loved it. And I would struggle to teach them to use their manners because they were so shy. And my kids are the fussiest eaters ever!

When you don’t have kids, the life of a stay at home mum seems breezy. But unless you do it yourself, you have no idea the pressures, the guilt and the weariness that these mummas carry around everyday. Yes, even on Sundays!!

 

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  1. Pick their nose in public
  2. Have a screaming tantrum in K Mart
  3. Walk around the beach completely naked on a busy summer’s day
  4. Point their finger like a gun and shoot at people
  5. Ask questions loudly while watching at the movies
  6. Wear weird clothes that don’t match ie: gumboots, board shorts, t-shirt and vest.
  7. Point out imperfections in adults – “That lady has a fat tummy” or “Your hair looks weird” or “Look at all the wrinkles on your face” or “Have you got a baby in your tummy?”
  8. Eat tomato sauce with a spoon for dinner
  9. Burp the alphabet
  10. Tell the truth without any filters
  11. Jump in puddles
  12. Fart loudly
  13. Cry when they’re disappointed
  14. Have public rumble sessions, all in good fun
  15. Toilet talk – poo poo, bum head, toilet wee, fart face
  16. Go to sleep in the car and be carried into bed, still asleep
  17. Sing the wrong words to songs at the top of their voice
  18. Touch their toes
  19. Have play dates where they actually play
  20. Have their teeth brushed by someone else
Oh to be a kid again. Or not! Go on be funny. What else can kids do that us adults miss out on?

There’s a song that kids sing at my daughter’s pre-school. It goes like this… “Rain, rain go away come on Julie’s washing day.” Julie is one of the teachers and all the kids think this song is so funny. Except one, my daughter. She thinks it is actually quite unkind to Julie and has since changed the way she sings the song. Now it goes like this “Rain, rain go away come on no one’s washing day.”

I’m not sure if it was my idea or hers. But she has taken it and run with it and I’m pretty happy about it. My daughty is a funny little lady, very strong and sure of herself with a big heart… I love how kids see things in black and white, especially when it comes to themselves. There are some things my little lass just cannot understand:

  1. Why she isn’t bigger than her older brother.
  2. Why I don’t believe her when she says she brought her toy to kindy when really he was in the car all the time which is why she couldn’t find it at kindy. “You don’t believe me!”
  3. Why she can’t hop out of the bath first every night.
  4. Why she can’t have the entire heater to herself.
  5. Why we don’t see her as calm when she’s screaming “I AM CALM!”
  6. Why she has to walk around the supermarket instead of riding in the baby seat.
  7. Why she has to drink milk and eat everything before she gets yummies.
  8. Why she has to go to kindy at all.
  9. Why we’re so horrible to her.
  10. Why she misbehaves. “I don’t understand why I am so naughty” my answer “You’re not, you’re just 4!”
Most of the time her heart of gold finds its way out of her chest, into her mouth and out the door. She’s a beautiful, funny bundle of loveliness with a touch of spice. Whenever anyone is sad she brings them a teddy or a drink to make them feel better. When I was sick she gave me some vitamin C. Oh… bless. She is a practical kid. Always fetching bandaids and bandages for our sores.
She is a planner. She’ll even plan her behaviour for the night: “Tonight I will lean over, sit properly on my chair and I won’t talk with food in my mouth.” Love it! She sets her toys out just the way she likes it and organises her brother until we think he’ll explode.
Most of the time I think she struggles with normal 4 year old selfishness and a deep desire to help others. I think she’s pure gold, entertaining and cuddly-lovely and I wouldn’t have her any other way.

Image by Teodoro S Gruhl

Lately my beautiful four year old delight has been screaming, hitting, kicking the be-jeez-wax out of me. Tiring for her and me! But not the end of the world.

She is a passionate little girl and to that I say “Hooray!”. There are so many qualities within this zeal that will ultimately make her a happy and successful person. But what to do with the moments of extreme emotion? As an emotional person myself, I kinda understand how it feels to be out of control. When you reach the pinnacle of anger you just lose all capacity to think clearly and it is extremely difficult to calm down.

Generally, I try to catch her before the explosion but sometimes that is impossible. She’s on a path and there’s no stopping it! Sometimes (just between you and me) I think it’s good that she pushes the boundaries. How else does a child learn right from wrong? But it is exhausting. So what to do? Here’a a few ideas for coping with the emotionally intelligent…

  1. Time out. This doesn’t always work but it is the first thing I do, just to give her space to calm down on her own. Sometimes it is impossible because she is still so little and needs guidance, so then I step in with my bag of tricks
  2. This one depends on the child, but my kiddo generally responds to touch. So I try and give her a cuddle,…if she lets me. I stroke her arm just to encourage the body to physically relax
  3. I have stolen this step from my smart as smart husband. He holds up five fingers, pretending it is a birthday cake with candles. Then the little one blows out the candles one by one. If she is still not calm, we do it again. A birthday cake is a happy thought too… Maria would be proud!
  4. Distraction. If the beloved birthday cake trick has run its course, the next thing is finding something to take her mind off the issue. For example; after a bout of kicking and hitting, getting all fired up, I threatened to take my daughter’s beloved ducky away for one night if she continued kicking me. She did! With a large gulp and added parental guilt I did it and all hell broke loose. All she could think about was the duck. Eventually, she was distracted with a bath and the promise of a bit of Barbie movie (promised before the big hoo-ha) and she calmed down. The consequence still stood but the thought of the Barbie movie calmed her down. She could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There are no recipes. It is completely trial and error, listening and understanding how your kid ticks. I have made my fair share of errors. In the end you have to respect who your kid is and walk with them through the ups and downs forever loving who they were made to be.

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!)

Hands up if you’re fed up with being told either what you have done wrong or what you need to do to make your child perfect. There have been two stories floating around the media this week about this very topic.

First it there was an article reporting on a study undertaken in the UK. It was all about the name of a child being an indicator of later behaviour. So, if you call your child Alexander, instead of Alex, there is a greater chance your little munchkin will be well behaved. Longer names, it said, seemed to produce nicer children. A weird theory, although I don’t think the study was taking itself too seriously. How do you study ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ in kids? (check out the full article at – http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/lifematters/beth-and-josh-top-naughty-list-20101207-18nik.html)

The second article was all about the effect of mobile phones on children’s behaviour. It also cited a study that found that,”foetuses regularly exposed to mobile phones in the womb had a 30 per cent greater chance of behavioural difficulties at the age of seven.” And that if you expose your kids to mobile phones post birth up to the age of seven (again) their behaviour will also be off the chart. Phew. Two things here. If mobile phones affect foetuses and kids so dramatically, can’t they cause cancer? And secondly, is our culture kidding? Are we simply looking for reasons for stroppy kids or is it really truly real scientifically proven fact? (Here it is – http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/controversial-study-finds-mobile-phones-a-risk-to-foetuses-20101208-18op3.html)

It seems we are looking for the answer for the perfect child. How do we manage behavioural problems? How do we produce angel children with serene, calm faces and manners; children with the right amount of courage and independence and drive? It cannot be done! What I love about being a mum are the colours of my life. Which means the absence of the BLAND! Yes my kids have meltdowns and yes it drives me crazy and YES I don’t always handle it the right way but isn’t that just life being colourful?

What we are looking for doesn’t exist. While it is great to know what can help parents manage their families more successfully, sometimes it just comes across as critical or it simply adds to the guilt basket we all carry around on our shoulders. “Oh crap, I shouldn’t have let my kid use the mobile phone, I shouldn’t have used it when I was pregnant, I shouldn’t have called my child Josh, but Joshua…. What was I thinking!!!!!? Bad, bad mother!”

We can get so wrapped up in the regrets of the past. Those clumsy, careless days when nothing you say or do could be classed as ‘perfect parent’ material. Remember that time in the car when you yelled and everyone was crying so you turned up the music to give yourself a moment to calm down? Remember when you were at the end of your tether and you lost it, stamped your feet and acted like a spoiled brat?

Regrets, shmegets! All you can do is your best and if, on one particularly bad day, it’s poor, then it’s poor! As one child psychologist said, “Don’t aim to be the perfect parent, aim to for ‘good enough'”.

 

Ah the baby days. Early mornings in front of Kochie and Mel. The smell of dusty sunshine flowing through the window as your small, helpless baby lies on the play mat. The feeds, the sleeps, the politics of breastfeeding, the sharp looks from the non-baby set when baby cries. The nappies, the weight gain (or not) the routine vs whatever it is and when to put the little darling on solids.

Then there’s the baby fashion, the wrapping, the heat, the stroller/pram, the cooing, the limitations, the slow saturday nights. My oh my, it seems a world away now my babies are a little bigger. I’m in the post post baby season. I’m past nappies and dummies and nearly through the tantrum stage and life is looking rosy. I have moved on to readers and swimming lessons, to sport or not to sport, to dance or not to dance, deep conversations about a certain small man’s need for ‘alone’ time (that is, from his sister) and where to go for our next holiday.

Work is now coming back into view. A lump in the throat, terror in the bloodshot eyes as well as a growing sense of purpose and vision. The mum to work transition is terrifying. You have to pretend you’ve been doing something socially and culturally meaningful for the past 6 ish years to qualify yourself for life in work world. You feel sheepish putting ‘motherhood’ down as a job because, well, you can guess the response. A lift of the eyebrows, a straightening of the mouth and perhaps a muffled, “hmmmmmm”. ‘Tis sad days people.

The working mother is incredible. Up, feed, clothe the children and get them off to school. Find something decent to wear and perhaps make your own lunch. Bus it, car it, train it to work, pretend you know what the heck is going on and head on home. Pick up children, take them to activities, bath them, feed them, dress them, into bed and then what!?! I am not there yet. In fact working from home sounds ideal, even a bit luxurious. To all the working mums out there, two thumbs up and a toe. You’re amazing.


The post, post baby stage is a rocket ride, not a rollercoaster ride. It requires ‘balls’ of steel. You have to push down the fear of failure, of being labelled ‘just’ a mum, or ‘just’ an anything and project an image you haven’t seen for a good 6 ish years. It is laying the foundations for the school or high school years when those bubbies will be out there being their own people, and driving themselves to their own activities. Can you imagine? I dare not.

My philosophy is you can only do what you can do. You cannot bow to pressure from our society, other ‘supermums’ or expectations of anyone else. Whether you be an awesome stay-at-home mum, an incredible worker mum, or a bit of both, we just gotta love those kids silly and enjoy our lives no matter what season we are in.

 

image by Luis Garcia (Zaqarbal)

We all hear stories about the ‘bad’ kid. What they get up to, the lack of discipline in the family unit, the shock, the horror, the blame. But what about the ‘good’ kids? How does our world see them? And what effect does this have on our little ones?

Our culture loves to label people, whether it be good or bad. These, labels or  boxes are difficult to handle, even when you find yourself in a sparkly container with neon flashing lights. A box is still a box. You see, being a good kid, means expectations are high and your parents are seen as super duper ‘good’ or incredibly ‘controlling’. To quote Gloria Estefan, “it cuts both ways”.

I have pretty good kids. My son is well-behaved, sensitive, kind and not really a crazy boy. My daughter is spirited but on the whole, loving, kind and shy-ish. Sometimes various parental types will describe my kids to other parentals as well-behaved, good! It’s funny, you know, because I almost take offense to this. Not because they mean it as a criticism but it is as if they are saying that I’m lucky, I’ve got it easy or I’m some kind of super-mum. Which, by the way, is a complete myth! I quickly jump in with an embarrassed, “Oh they have their moments, don’t you worry.”

I don’t like being boxed in and I think it is unfair to label kids anything, even good! Because, I’m afraid that some kids, under that kind of pressure, go BAD! I love the idea that I fail. I have to, because I do it so often. It is a terrible thing for anyone to fear failure. Bring it on. My confession: I am not a perfect mother. I make ridiculous mistakes, I lose it, I have tantrums, (that equal my 4 year old’s sometimes). I get stroppy, cranky, I throw things, slam things and cry. I don’t know why my kids are well behaved and I definitely do not take credit for them. They are beautiful gifts and I’m so proud of them both. I love their personalities, their variety, their passions and beautiful hearts.

I never want them to live in a sparkley box; no one can ever live up to that glitter. It’s just not realistic. Everyone needs to have the freedom to fail and even to misbehave (or else how do you learn?). Otherwise, you have to live up to a perfect reputation which is impossible. It will drive them bonkers and make them miserable.

Maybe I have been strict or particular or whatever with my kids. But most of all I hope they remember that I love them, just as they are, even though sometimes, in those ‘fail’ moments, I wish they were more resilient or more sensitive or more aware or more tidy or ate with their mouth shut or ate dinner with gusto. Seriously, though, it is time we found our box cutters and set our kids and ourselves FREE!

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