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The Day I Stopped Answering All of My Daughter’s Questions

Margosquestions

My older daughter is nearly 5 years old and man, she likes to ask questions. Every day. From the moment she wakes, ’til the moment she drifts off to sleep at night, this kid has her mouth open.

A couple years ago, I thought it was my duty to answer all these questions. I thought it was up to me to share all of my acquired knowledge with her. This sort of talking and explaining is EXHAUSTING! Being the school teacher that I am, I felt it was my all-important job to help her understand, and for me to explain.

But one day, I heard something so refreshing that completely changed everything. I heard someone say “Don’t answer all of her questions, if she asks too many questions, put the question back on her.

Oh, yes! *facepalm* All of this time and I had been robbing her of opportunities to make sense of her world in her own terms. I had been interfering with her complex thought process. I had been preventing her from the natural learning that comes through misunderstanding and then understanding of things. I had been stealing all of her own ‘lightbulb‘ moments. I had been stomping out the wonder.

So, I stopped explaining so much. Now, when she asks me a question, I looked at the question and how she is asking. If it’s a genuine simple question that requires a simple answer, of course I give the answer. There’s no need to artificially induce investigation when it’s not necessary. If she asks the same question 10 times in a row, and no matter how many times I explain, she keeps asking again and again, then I know she’s not really looking for an answer, but probably has some emotional need to be met.

But, if it’s a question full of wonder, I get her to come up with her own answer. Today, she asked me about gravity, so I told her to jump up and down and I asked her what happened. I didn’t care if she was right or wrong. When she’s old enough for it to matter, she can google the answer and find out for herself, or we can talk in more detail about physics. But, for now, it’s more important for me to engage her thought process. For now, she can simply EXPERIENCE gravity and the explanation can come later.

Every parent has had that moment when their kids say something that blows them away.

One time she asked me, “Where was I before I was born.” I stuttered, “Um… where do you think?” She replied, “Oh, I was hiding in the trees.” That answer is absolute gold and I’ll remember it forever.

Often what happens is that certain questions only lead to more questions. These ‘wonder‘ questions are the ones that are worth leaving for her to sort out. Even if she gets it wrong. Even if she fails to make connections and doesn’t see the big picture ‘yet‘. It’s not the answer to the question that is important, but it’s her fine thought process that is.

Many kids today are too scared to make mistakes. They’re scared to make guesses and to use their imagination because they’re embarassed that they’ll get something wrong. I’ll never forget one day I was teaching a high school science class and I asked the class to write a paragraph explaining something in their own words. A girl in the back, raised her hand and said, “Miss, can you come here?” I said, “Yes, sure, what is it?” She whispered, “I don’t know how to start my paragraph, I can’t even write the first line because I’m afraid I’ll mess up.

My heart broke at that moment because I realized that the whole class/the whole school/most kids are struggling with this same dilemma. Too scared to use their own thoughts and their own words. I started watching my students and realized that these kids didn’t want to be asked questions. Maybe a few kids were keen, but most had shut that part of their brain off long ago. They simply wanted to be told what to do and to be told how to do it. They didn’t want to use their own expression. They were not stupid kids! Just scared of being told they were doing something wrong.

Ever since I stopped answering my daughter’s questions, I feel like our relationship has expanded. I also feel relieved because now I don’t waste my energy explaining something every five seconds.

It’s exhausting to answer ‘wonder‘ question after ‘wonder‘ question. It’s so much better when either she can come up with her own answer, or we can take the time to explore the possibilities of an answer together. Or, sometimes, there is no need for an answer at all, it’s ok to leave it as a wonder.

The other day, she asked me how many seconds are in three days. Instead of asking Siri on my iPhone, or using my calculator to give her an exact answer, I first asked her to take a stab at it. She guessed, “eight trillion million seconds!” We laughed. She was satisfied with her answer and so was I. One day, when she wants to really know the answer, she can ask Siri herself.

 

Getting Kids to Cooperate In One Simple Step

 

 

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Think about how many times you ask or tell a child to do something throughout the day…

I bet it’s a lot.

Do you ever think they get sick of hearing you tell them what to do all day?

You betcha.

A lot of times we can just lay off on all the orders and let them be, but sometimes you really need them to do something. And for those times, there’s a quick and easy solution that helps. It’s simple.

Give them a choice. 

Would you like to brush your teeth using the blue toothbrush or the red toothbrush?

Would you like to wear the green shirt or the pink shirt?

Would you like mummy to put you in the car, or would you like daddy to put you in the car?

Would you like to ride to the playground on your bike or ride your scooter?

Do you want to take a shower or a bath?

Do you want to walk this way home, or go the other way (if you have the option).

Notice how you’re not asking if they will do something. You’re only asking them HOW they would like to do it.

If I simply ask my nearly 5 year old daughter if she has to go to the toilet before we leave the house, sometimes she’ll say, “No!” even if I know she’s busting. But, if I give her the option of how she would like to do it and make it just a little bit fun (would you like to race hoping on one leg or walk), then she feels a sense of power in the situation. She still gets to the toilet, but in her own fun way. Then, I’m not stopping twenty minutes later on the way to where we’re going because she never went to the toilet before we left.

It’s important to not overwhelm them with choices. Two options is plenty for a younger child. For an older child you can let them come up with their choices and maybe add in some more. You also don’t have to drive yourself crazy doing this every single time you need to get a kid to cooperate, I might use this method only once or twice a day and only for non-negotiable things. It’s just another tool up your sleeve.

This method works so beautifully because there is no bribery, no punishment and no rewards. It’s simply fun and gives the child that tiny taste of power that they so desperately want. It works so well for us adults, because our own needs get met as well without using too much energy.

There are some times when this method might not work. Sometimes a child might be feeling disconnected from you and will resist this choice thing, even though it’s something fun. At these times, a child would probably benefit from some serious laughter games to get communication pathways working better. If they are still resisting, they also may need to release some stress or tension in the form of tears or a temper tantrum. More on that here. There may also be times when they really don’t want to do what you’re suggesting, and it’s good to just let them say “no“, if the situation allows. Or sometimes they’ll say ‘neither‘ and have them make up their own option. Also be sure to give explanations when needed. Sometimes I’ll ask my 2 1/2 year old to choose her shirt and she says “No, I want my tutu!” Well, ok, of course, wear your tutu! I let her make her own decisions when I can.

More often than not, offering a choice really works. Try it and see!

What If We Stopped Calling it the ‘Pain of Childbirth’

Katelabors

I bumped into an acquaintance of mine who is attending medical school. Although I hadn’t seen him in some six months or so, and I don’t know him all that well, he started talking to me about how great epidurals were because they made the ‘pain of childbirth‘ bearable.  It was a bit awkward going from “Hi, How are you?” to talking about something that happens primarily from between your legs, but anyway…

I was so confused

a) because he had never and WOULD never have to push a baby out, himself, so how would know of this pain he was talking about?

b) because I never think about childbirth as being ‘painful‘.

When I think of pain, I think of stepping on legos in the middle of the night and getting lemon juice in a paper cut. I think of the time in 8th grade when I badly jammed my finger while I was playing basketball. I think of migrains and broken bones. When I think of pain, I remember the time I was racing sailboats for Salisbury University and a boat t-boned us and the nose of the other boat nailed me right in the spine. (Did you wince, because yeah, that HURT!).

When I think of labor and of birth, I might think of being uncomfortable, of wonder and of mystery. I think of excitement and endurance and sensations. I remember the longing for relief, as if I was running a marathon. I remember how I was uncertain of what was happening to my body, of divinity and Godly-like things. I probably wished that I could have just put it off and done it tomorrow… When I remember the birth of my daughters, I think of a lot of things, but pain is not really one of them.

My mother told me how it would sting like hell when the baby’s head came out. When my baby’s head finally did come out (after 36 hours of back labor), I laughed and thought, “Holy sh*t, so this is the burn she’s talking about!” But, was it painful? I don’t know… it was something, that is for sure. I wouldn’t call it pain.

The afterbirth pains and the tearing/grazing, yeah, that hurt and I was happy when the midwives handed me some codeine laced painkillers, but that was well after the birth, so I don’t really count that as the ‘pain of childbirth‘, more like the ‘side effects of birthing a human being‘.

When you scare people about ‘worst pain ever‘, a woman starts putting her confidence outside of her body. You start to instill fear.

A woman stops believing in herself.

But, I’ve talked to countless women who have said the same thing: “Childbirth is not painful, it’s a sensation unlike any other.” It’s BIG. It’s POWERFUL. But, it’s not painful…

This post is not to preach about natural childbirth, because there’s no point in having a natural birth if you also feel bullied into having a natural birth and are scared of it. The fear runs deep and it comes from years of hearing scary stories about childbirth. But, not all births are painful and scary. Many are beautiful, light and fun. Yes, even FUN!

Yes, doctors and hospitals and pain relief are a blessing to have around if we need them and they saves lives, without a doubt. But, those forms of medical technology should only be there to assist if necessary, not as the first way to ‘manage‘ labor. Because, in the majority of cases, birth is nothing to ‘manage‘ at all. Birth is a beautiful design of nature and of love.

I have to admit, I was SCARED during my first labor. And, I’m 100% certain, that because of that fear, it was long. I was uncomfortable and I had no idea what was going on. I really felt like I had little support or understanding of what was truly going on. The more scared I got, the worse my labor progressed. I was scared because all I had heard from other people was about how bad it hurt and how it was near impossible to get through it without any pain relief. (I also didn’t like the way the midwife on duty smelled, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) But some voice, deep inside of me said, “You can do this, you were designed to do this, just see if you can.” And so I did. When it was over, I tried to imagine why everyone had only told their horror stories or birth. While my labor was insanely long and uncomfortable, it wasn’t horrible-worst-ever! It was amazing and I felt empowered. It was after my second daughter’s birth that I fully understood how deeply rooted the fear had been in me.

Second time around, I was so comfortable and at ease. I was surrounded by people I loved and in a comfortable place (home). The birth was lickity split and pain was the last thing on my radar. I was laughing and smiling and crying all at the same time. It was intense, it was powerful… but not painful.

Emotional pain is way worse. A birth that doesn’t go as planned is probably far more worse than any physical pain a women can endure. And, sometimes there are injuries from birth that truly are painful and that require healing from. In fact, just today, my friend was telling me today about her own harrowing recovery from a c-section. But, just because something ‘can‘ happen doesn’t mean that it will. If we lived our lives this way, we would be too scared to even walk down the street!

We need to treat birth with all the respect and reverence it deservers, but without capitalizing on fear. Birth is sacred. In the majority of cases, it is nowhere near a medical emergency that it’s made out to be. The belief that doctors and medicine know more about birthing than a birthing mother does, is old fashioned. Even my own doctor told me that! Ok, I know it might hurt to birth a baby… but can’t we call it ‘The Joy of Childbirth‘, or something more positive? After all, it is a joy to bring a baby into this world… isn’t it?

This post is coming purely from my two natural birth experiences, which were without complications. I do understand that many women have traumatic birth experiences that include pain, drugs, surgery and loss and I’m not undermining those women’s experiences, just trying to balance the scales to write about a more positive experience. 

 

 

The Untimely Poos

Untimely Poo

You never knew your life revolved so much around poo until you have a child. If it happens when we’re hanging around the house, it’s all good. Even if it happens right before we leave the house, I’m like, “Phew, good timing.” But, just like when it rains it pours, sometimes the poo is equally untimely. Everyone’s buckled in the car, we’ve just spent 20 minutes packing hats, food, spare undies, water bottles, and chasing my 2 year old to get into the car and one of them whispers, “I have to POOOOOOO!

*eyeroll*

Really?!

Did your poo just manifest out of thin air?! Didn’t you feel it brewing?! (thinking silently in my head of course, don’t want to scar them for life by showing my frustration of when they have an untimely poo).

Ok, everybody out. Cause you can’t leave kids in the car, cause you might get arrested, or they might get kidnapped. Pile back in the house (or the shops, depending on where you are). Then the poo. Then you’re 10 minutes late and you have to explain that the reason you’re late is because of poo.  Usually my blog posts talk lovingly about how children are in the present moment, so it’s hard for them to think ahead. But, in this post, I’m complaining with awareness about their present moment-ness. Oh, yes I am!

Sometimes, we’ll be getting lunch at the food court in the shopping center. Everybody sits down. I unpack all the food. Carefully pour the soy sauce, or the ketchup or whatever messy, spilly condiments. Lay out the napkins. Dish out the food… and then… wait for it… “I have to POOOOOOO!

OMG!

Can you wait?

No!

Pack the food back up, pray that the spilly condiments don’t leak on my handbag. Toss the kids in the shopping trolley and wait for one to poo while I think about how gross it is that I’ve just brought our lunch into the parent’s toilet room.

The worst poos are the ones that they announce when you’re trapped in the middle of IKEA. I mean, seriously… there’s no quick and easy way out of that place. I keep a potty in the back of the car for emergencies, but those are usually reserved for the number ones.

I know I have no right to complain. My children were both toilet trained from a freakishly young age. I even did elimination communication with them, and past about 2 or 3 months, they would only poo in a toilet, bucket, or potty. And, by 15 months, or right around the time they could walk, they were fully toilet trained, both day and night.

So, while they’ve had very few accidents, I’ve made up for my potty karma in the number of untimely poos.

And, I wouldn’t mind so much if the poos were all short and sweet. Like, my little one. She poos so fast, I barely have to time to set her down before she announces, “All done!” Cleaning up after her is lickity split.

But, my older one, she takes so long she could tell her entire life story. each. and. every. time. Then, instead of one clean wipe, it takes and eternity. I even have this hose thing, I like to call it my ‘poor man’s bidet‘ and I recommend it to anyone who likes a really clean butt. It attaches to my sink and I can spray her down and STILL it takes forever! It looks like this:

toiletsprayerkatesurfs

 

I don’t get it. Same gene pool from the same set of parents, yet, the process for each is like night and day.

The little one’s are short and sweet, and she goes like 10 times a day. The older one’s are slow and messy and are once every day or two. So, really it all evens out. I don’t get away with anything here folks.

I’m actually quite happy that they don’t hold their poos. Because, that would suck. Better out than in.  When my older daughter went to daycare, she used to hold her poos in all day until she got home. These days, thankfully, my kids will poo in any toilet they can get their butts on to.

According to Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, good digestion is the key to health. So, I guess if my kids get the urge and they need to let it go immediately, I probably should be grateful. It still doesn’t make the poos any more convenient to think of it that way. But, at least it makes me feel better to know that they’re in tune with… um… their bodies. Hooray for untimely poos!

Now, you’re just read 784 words about poo. Have a great day!

 

 

Home School: The Rolls-Royce of Education

Home Education

We overheard this conversation at the beach, just about a week before school holidays were over:

Boy: “Mummy… I don’t want to go back to school! It’s so boring!
Mother: “Now, don’t be silly, when you get back to school, you’re going to be so happy to see all your friends.”
Boy: “I don’t care about my friends, I just want to stay home! I hate school!
Mother: “But, I have to go back to work, you can’t stay home with me!
Boy: “I hate school! It’s so boring, all we do is work work work and we never ever get to play! I don’t want to go to year 1!
Mother: “So, do you want to go back to kindergarten?
Boy: “No!!! I don’t want to go to kindergarten OR go to year 1! I want to stay home with you!Read the rest of this entry

Why I Let My Kids Interrupt My Conversations

Interruptme_Katesurfs

A while back, I read this meme that said, “Stop your child from interrupting in 1 simple (and respectful) step.

I thought, oh wow, great! I mean, it’s so annoying when you’re trying to talk and your kid comes up to you and just HAS to tell you about the most unimportant and irrelevant thing! Ugh!

The method is to simply take the hand of your child when they want to say something and you’re having a conversation. You teach them not to speak until you’re ready, but you still hold their hand, letting them know that you will be available for them shortly. It seemed gentle enough, and I didn’t think it wouldn’t hurt to try it… Read the rest of this entry

The Red Thing in My Freezer

what's in my freezer

I promise you, this is not something out of a horror movie… but, if you come over my house, please let me warn you before you open the freezer.

You see, it happens a lot to us ladies who have home births (sometimes hospital births too), and it’s a big question… What do you do with the placenta?

The questions comes up quite a lot in natural parenting circles. Many people (gasp) toss it in the bin, like I did with my first, in the hospital. Well, that’s not a very nice thing to do to the organ that brought a human being into the world and gave somebody a life… now is it? Read the rest of this entry

Sibling Arguments: Why I Do Nothing When My Kids Fight With Each Other

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If I had an argument with a friend or co-worker, chances are, I would feel really awkward around that person the next time I saw them. But, I’ve had countless arguments with my immediate family members, and you know what… it doesn’t really matter. We argue and stomp around with steam coming out of our ears. Then, we get over it and everything is back to ‘normal‘. I’m not getting rid of them. I know it’s not the same for everyone, but for me, they’re my family and they’re not going anywhere. It’s no different when my own kids fight. Read the rest of this entry

This New Year: Stop Postponing Your Happiness!

Happiness_Katesurfs

For myself and many others, this year seems to have been tough, compared to the previous years of relative smooth sailing. It’s been a year of limbo. Of waiting. Of exhaustion. Something stressful mixed with a whole lot of confusion. I mean, it just happens sometimes and I’ve had truly miserable years as well, this wasn’t too bad. You have some good years and some not so good years. If all the years were good ones, we would have nothing to compare with, so how would never even know what a good year really is! From our failures, our troubles, our growing pains and even from our devastation, we can take the good things with us and see how strong our experiences have made us. But… you’ve already heard this right? What I really want to know is… are you happy? Read the rest of this entry

The Art of Slowing Down

Slowdown

It was hot. Steamy summer stinking hot. No breeze. And, I, had to walk 4km (2.5 miles) totting two kids to get to playgroup because I was the one with the key and I had to open the building up.

If I had gone in my usual fashion, which is to rush out the door at the last possible minute and walk as fast as I can, I would have arrived at playgroup in an frantic puddle of sweat. So, on this particular day, I left five minutes early and called a friend of mine who could intercept me on the way to grab the key off me if I didn’t make it in time.

On this day, I refused to be in a hurry. Read the rest of this entry