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iPad Friendly Preschool Exercise Bikes and The Demise of Early Childhood “Learning”

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Why these things exist in the first place is a whole system fail. I do love Aldi, but when I flipped through their catalog and I saw this Fisher Price think and learn exercise bike for PRESCHOOLERS, I dropped a big ‘WTF‘, right in front of my whole family. My husband laughed and was like, “Oh… mummy needs her mouth washed out with soap.

The gimmicks out there are incredible and marketers work really hard on making innocent parents feel like guilty sacks of crap for, heaven forbid, letting their kids play without learning ‘something‘.

As if riding a bike weren’t hard enough for a preschooler, now we can learn our phonics while we ride! Actually, it’s pedalling a stationary bike that develops none of the decision skills, gross motor skills and vestibular system that riding a real bike would do.

Let’s making learning ‘fun‘ (insert vomit). This type of learning, where the learning has little to do with the game, is called ‘gamification‘ and gamification is a buzz word right now amongst big corporations who want your money. I wish there was a bullshit police who could stop companies from creating products that are designed to prey on well meaning parent consumers (we’re the biggest suckers of all)… but there isn’t. So, you need to monitor your own bull honkey. The educational tools that get kids to exercise while they learn are the biggest sack of baloney on the market.

Kids that age have energy. Yes, it’s true. They have an endless source of energy for bouncing off walls, floors, couches or anything else that they feel like bouncing on or off of. Kids that age NEED to move their bodies. They NEED unstructured playtime to learn how to figure out tricky things with their bodies. They need to do things like learn to use their hands to break their falls, or to learn how to balance walking on a log, curb or any other thing that requires balancing on. Even in places where the weather is horrible 85% of the time (I grew up in one such place), or if they live in a concrete jungle, kids that age still need to play outside (or indoors) as much as they can. For the long term health and mental well being of society, kids need to be active so that they’re healthier. It’s simple.

Of course, kids need to learn ‘stuff’ too. “Learn” as we like to think of ‘learning‘, as in ABC’s. And they will. At that age, you would have to try and physically stop a child from learning whatever they are developmentally capable of learning.

The complicated and stupid thing is to mix exercise with curriculum. When kids play and get exercise, they’re learning, but they’re not learning the things that the curriculum says they need to learn. A child who has had adequate exercise and meaningful connection time, will most likely be able to learn what the curriculum says he or she needs to learn.

Also, it’s been proven that multi tasking doesn’t improve performance. So, if you’re riding a stationary bike, or bouncing on a ball, or doing something else WHILE you’re trying to learn, you’re not really focusing 100% on either thing that you’re doing!

Now, I know some people will say that this toy could be very useful in the inner city, where it’s not safe for kids to go outside and play. Or, where the weather is rotten. Or, in low socio-economic areas, where kids don’t get enough time talking or reading with their parents. Or, in some other isolated scenarios. But, the price tag of this educational item doesn’t exactly fit the demographic, now does it??

Also, adults have these things in gyms, so why can’t kids? Kids will be playing on their iPads anyways, so why not?? Well… let’s not be the enabler, ok?

And, what about the kids who fidget too much while they’re sitting down? Another system fail because kids (especially kids this age) need more exercise and they’re not getting it.

I haven’t actually used this gadget. It could be cool…. Like really, it could be. Yes, it could be true. I may be more full of it than Fisher Price. I may actually have no idea what I’m talking about. But, I’m still not backing down on anything I’ve said until the research comes out proving that getting kids to ride, wobble, fidget, balance or spin, improves how they learn curriculum content. The whole idea of getting kids ready for kindergarten, and why it’s not neccesary, is a whole blog post in itself, but I’ll save that for another time.

Anywho… my rant is over. Let the kids ride bikes. Let the kids learn phonics. But, not at the same time.

You Can’t Suck At Being A Parent Every Day

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I have days when I’ve absolutely nailed it. Clean house. Calm and collected kids. Food on the table BEFORE people get hangry. Time for a craft or two and maybe even a packed lunch for a picnic.

It happens. Not every day. Like, maybe once a week. But, on those days, I FEEL it! I own those days!

See Kate, some days you’re winning.” I say to myself.

Our mind clings to the negative. If we have a handful of bad days (or months) of parenting, then we feel like we ALWAYS have bad days of parenting. If we feel like our kids are bonkers sometimes, then somehow we feel like our kids are ALWAYS out of control. If our kids don’t sleep well for a stretch of time, we feel like they ALWAYS sleep like crap. If we feel depressed, alone, forgotten, unappreciated some days, then our mind starts believing that we’re ALWAYS in that state of misery.

Our mind is a funny thing.

We never doubt the negative, but we always doubt the positive. If someone tells me (or I think it) that I’m a shitty parent, man, I BELIEVE it! But, if someone says “Hey, you’re doing a great job.” I say, “Really?? You think so? No… you don’t know me… I suck.

Stop it.

It’s easy to catch yourself on a bad day and say that you suck. It’s much harder to catch yourself on one of those good days and remind yourself that there ARE days when you’re winning!

When I’m having a good day, I catch it. I remind myself. “See… I don’t suck EVERY day!

 

 

Elimination Communication: A Day in the Life of a 9 Month Old Using the Potty

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For those of you interested in following my journey in elimination communication, here’s my 9 month update. In case you’re new here, elimination communication (EC), also known as infant hygiene, is the practice of taking your baby to toilet. I wrote a more descriptive blog post on how to do it here. EC is not toilet training, although practicing EC often means that a child is toilet ‘trained’ at an earlier age. I’ve done elimination communication with all three of my kids since birth. I use light weigh cloth nappies most of the time as a back up, and sometimes disposables when we go out, especially in the colder months. I find using nappies to be less stressful and more practical in our modern world. Although, it is possible for a baby to be completely nappy free. I pick clothes that are easy to take on and off of a baby. No snaps on the crotch. At nine months, our little guy is showing similar EC progress/milestones/developmental skills (for lack of a better description) as his two older sisters when they were his age.

LOTS OF MISSES!

Misses seem to be a common theme when babies reach this age. He’s eating more, and getting bigger and he’s busy! I remember with my older daughters, at the same age, I was going through what seemed like a million cloth nappies a day, and with him, it’s the same. Throughout the day, I catch just as many as I miss. Although, thankfully always catch the poos (that’s the most important, right?). The pees are much bigger at his age. And if I don’t catch it, he doesn’t release all of it at once, and then I end up missing two or three mini squirts instead of catching one big one. It can be very annoying!

If I didn’t know any better, I would feel like I was getting nowhere. But, since I experienced this with my two older girls and they were toilet trained between 12-15 months, I’m not concerned at all. With children of this age, their skills and habits can literally change overnight. When mobility is new and playing with items around the house and exploring is all exciting, it’s hard to catch everything. And, catching everything is not what it’s all about, it’s all about building awareness. Some days I miss almost everything! On the days when I miss everything, that usually that means I’m doing too many things. If I have a day like that, the next day, we try to slow it down and I find that I’m able to focus more on him and start catching a lot more. Using nappies makes me lazy, and using disposables makes me SUPER lazy, so I use cloth as much as possible, or none if I’m feeling up for it. Also, using leggings or pants that are super easy to slip on and off make the process easier.

Crying and Protesting the Potty 

A baby of this age gets really engaged in playing and exploring. Babies at this age also get easily overwhelmed with their play, especially if they have been intensely focused for a while. If I stop him when he’s in the middle of doing something, he often cries. Many mothers would not take their babies to the eliminate if the baby seems to protest because they feel they are violating the baby’s desires, but I see the crying in a different light, due to my training in aware parenting. I still take him to the toilet when he cries. And, he often cries and sweats before a big poo! The crying is a release of emotions. Just like elimination is a release of toxins from the body, so is crying a release of emotions and toxins. When he’s content, he won’t cry and easily lets me take him to the potty. If he has some sort of emotions brewing, he cries and arches his back (usually arching the back indicates that the baby is finished eliminating), but in these situations, I still hold him in the position. After a little bit of crying and wiggling around, his body relaxes and he eliminates. I like taking him to a variety of places to eliminate. The potty, the big toilet, the bushes, tonight we accidentally did a poo on the beach, oops! Usually I know when he has to poo and we catch those at home. Oh well, the tide was coming in and it was almost dark out.

Starting to Signal that he needs to go

I could have kicked myself, because I didn’t pick up on his cues for a couple days. If he’s near one of the few potties I have scattered around the house, he crawls towards the potty and grabs it when he has to go. Silly me, I just thought he was trying to play with it, so I kept taking it away! Then, I realised that he was telling me that the had to pee Without fail, every time he grabs for the potty now, when I take him, he goes, or starts complaining because I already missed it, and then I get him dry right away (although he most certainly verbalises how pissed he is that I missed). How cool is that! Nine months old and already telling me. Who’s teaching who?

Nighttime EC 

He always stirs if he has to pee. In fact, I feel like 90%, if not all of his night time waking and also waking during a nap, is because he has to eliminate. I keep a potty near the bed and do it all in the dark. No idea how I don’t make a big mess… ok, very occasionally I do make a mess, but I use my other senses to get us back to bed. I put a bigger cloth nappy on him at night, but change him straight away if I missed. Sometimes EC at night is actually easier than EC during the day. I catch way more at night than I do during the day. While my girls often fell back to sleep easily after night time EC, sometimes he takes a little longer. I think it’s because he sucks his thumb. This could be a whole different blog post, but the thumb sucking has to do with repressing emotions, which means he needs to do some emotional releases (crying), but that’s for another long blog post.

Anyway, Happy ECing!

The Kitchen’s Closed: Loving Limits in the Kitchen

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I’ve just spent an hour in the kitchen. Preparing, cooking, cleaning up. Then, one of them asks me to make them something (or to make it themselves). I say, “No.

They whine and complain. I listen without trying to reason with them. But it’s still “No, the kitchen’s closed“.

Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to do another thing. Can’t wash another dish. Can’t wipe up another mess. *Most* of the time, I let the kids eat whatever they want to, but sometimes, it’s just ‘no‘.

And, I get it, sometimes that meal you made just doesn’t quite cut it. Sometimes they want something else.

But, I feel like I have to meet my needs as well.

The past few years, I’ve been doing the dance of finding my balance in the kitchen. Meeting my need of not wanting to spend all my time and energy in the kitchen, while honouring the kid’s needs for autonomy in choosing the food they eat. And, it’s all just become easier since getting a dishwasher, yay! But still…

Being too restrictive on a child’s diet can backfire. Kids who are only allowed to eat certain foods at certain times, often rebel by sneaking food. And being too permissive with a child’s diet means you can accidentally end up missing ques that indicate there is a deeper issue going on besides them just wanting a certain food to eat.

Making ‘Special‘ Meals

To save my own sanity, my biggest rule is that I generally don’t make my children seperate meals at mealtime. Occasionally I do, if it fits. Otherwise, they eat what we’re eating. Even the baby. Even the toddler. I might modify what we’re having but no… not I’m not making a cheese sandwich after I just prepared a stir fry. They can make it themselves, but they have to clean it up afterwards. And, if they’re too little to clean it up adequately, then the answer is ‘no‘. It’s not because I’m mean and controlling or only care about their nutrition, it’s mostly because my capacity for doing work has exceeded its limit.

While I often say ‘no‘ to extra requests for food, I do understand that kids have their preferences and maybe they don’t feel like eating what I’ve made! I do my best to accomodate. We often discuss what we all want for dinner before hand, but it’s just not possible to always make what everyone wants.

Can Children Truly Self Regulate Their Diets?

Children have a great capacity to self regulate their diets! When kids are not clouded by stress or pent up negative emotions, they regulate their diet quite well. Even when they tend to binge on junk food, after a while, if they’re given just as many healthy options, and their emotional needs have been met, they will get sick of the junk, and start eating the healthy stuff. It can be tricky to get to the bottom of it all, and sometimes those underlying emotions are quite elusive, but I’ve witnessed my children and others, being allowed to self regulate their diet and it’s true! My oldest daughter can be offered any amount of junk food. The worst of it! And, she does a great job controlling herself.

The catch is that in order for children (and adults) to be able to self regulate their diets, their emotional and physical needs have to be met first. In other words, they need to have been able to cry when they wanted to cry, rage when they needed to rage and laugh when they needed to laugh. As well as feel connected to the people and places around them. (Imagine how you feel when you are upset and you’re not *allowed* to express it, that’s often when we tend to over or under eat). Not to mention, kids need to have had a decent amount of exercise in order to make them feel hungry.

Some kids are better at self regulating their diets than others. My younger daughter is not quite as good at self regulating. She gets a little off balance more easily and tends to not release her pent up emotions as freely. If she binges uncontrollably, or starts whining for a certain food, I stop her. She cries. I support her cry, and afterwards, she tends to stop eating the junk and will eat her healthy food. It’s very interesting if we really pay attention.

Sometimes, the only thing stopping a child from eating healthy food is a big emotional release. One day, I was making some yummy kitchari (Indian style of rice, veggies and beans). My older daughter was crying and having a temper tantrum because she wanted to go out to eat and the rest of us didn’t want to. She whined and cried for at least 5 minutes. After she cried and settled down, she happily sat down and ate her entire bowl of kitchari without any complaints. The cry was not about the type of food being cooked for dinner, it was that she was overstimulated from a big day and needed to release her emotions.

My Needs Are Important Too!

No matter if my kids are self regulating their diet well or not, I need to feel like I’ve been loved and appreciated for my work in the kitchen. I can take some feedback, like, “Um, mama, this dinner was not so yummy, can I have something else?” If it’s no problem, I don’t mind making that extra something, or I don’t mind letting them make something themselves (as long as they agree to clean up the mess).  But, I have my limits for how much I can prepare and for how much effort I can exert. If it’s too much, I tell them the kitchen’s closed.

Grazing?

When kids graze, they’re often eating their food without much awareness. A little attention to food gives kids a sense of appreciation to what goes into their body. Food that we put into our body should be honoured. Food is life giving. It’s production takes time and costs not only money, but takes a toll on the planet. We put it into our body to keep our body functioning a certain way. In ayurveda (the ancient science of life), it’s said that you should eat your food with your knees bent (in other words sitting down). Eating with awareness helps with digestion and food choices. If a kid (or anyone) is running around while eating, there is not much awareness of what goes in the mouth.

When my kids graze all day (even on healthy food), then they won’t eat the meal I’ve cooked. I get annoyed. Like, why did I even bother cooking? Kid’s stomach’s are tiny! If they haven’t been grazing, when I put food on the table, they sit on that seat, no wandering around, and they eat, man, they EAT! It’s really lovely to have us all sitting there together enjoying a warm nourishing meal. They have quite a bit of free time the rest of the day, so having a few structured activities of eating together is a nice to way to all come together.

Bon appetite!

My Gray Hairs Freaking Sparkle

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My four year old told me that I have special hairs that sparkle.

A few weeks ago, I was standing on the beach with some of my mum friends and they were casually talking about boob jobs. What they’re going to get once they’re finished with kids, who’s had them already, etc. I was like, “Good, golly, here I am debating with myself if it’s morally wrong to dye the gray hairs that God gave me and they’re talking BOOB JOBS!” Apparently, gray hairs are so far from acceptable, it’s not even a topic anymore.

If a man my age (mid thirties) had some gray hairs, would anyone even bat an eyelash? No! Yet, when people see me, as a woman, with a handful of grays, I’m sure they’re wondering why I don’t ‘do something about it‘.

Since I came up with the idea of writing this post a few months ago, I’ve been watching the ladies out there to see if my perception is correct. Are gray hairs really that out of style?? Yes, sadly, it’s true. From what I’ve seen, hardly anyone has a natural head of hair anymore. And, I understand. Women have a hard enough time getting equality in the work place, with equality in general and with just about everything else. We can’t have a few gray hairs making it even harder for us!

I did see one mama rocking a gray mohawk (real gray, not dyed gray) and I wanted to hi-five her, she looked so rad. But, almost everyone dyes those grays away and also changes the colour of their hair relentlessly. I don’t get it… hair colour is the colour it is because it matches everything else about you (eyes, skin tone, etc)… right? But anyway… that’s another story.

I do enough for stupid society norms. I shave my legs and my armpits, wax this and wax that. I dress in an acceptable way. So, I’m just gonna sit here to let those gray hairs shine! I’m not going to spend hundreds of dollars (or any dollars) to cover them up. I’m not gonna pull them out one by one. It’s not even about the money or the time either. Our society has a problem with aging. We just cannot accept that beauty is anything other than what ‘looks‘ young. And, if society has a problem with woman going gray (and not men), well then, that’s a real problem. Not being able to accept aging by covering up the physical signs of it, is only the tip of the iceberg. The pshycological side of aging in our society is probably even more screwed up.

Have you ever seen an older man dye his hair to cover the gray?! I have, and to be honest, I find it looks a little silly. Yet, a woman, of almost any age is not, and I repeat, NOT allowed to show her age by the amount of gray hair she has.

I asked my husband if I should dye my hair to cover up the gray. He asked me cautiously, “Do you want to?” I said, “No“. He said, “Well, don’t be silly! You look great.

Ok, I don’t know, one day I might change my mind. I might want to have a full head of colourful hair again. Or, maybe one day I’ll decide I want to have purple hair. But, if I do dye my hair, I hope it’s not because I’m trying to hide the gray. I don’t have all that many gray hairs until you look close. But for now, I’m not touching it. I didn’t have a single gray hair until I had children. Yup, they’re the ones who did it. But, that’s life and I’ve got the gray hairs to prove it. I’m also not saying that I’m judging anyone for dying their hair, because, um, hello, then I’d be judging like 95% of my friends and family. But for me, I’ve been thinking a lot about it and this is where I stand on the gray.

Above is a photo of me giving my baby fairy floss. It’s rude not to share.

How to Take a Shower With a Baby

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It has come to my attention that many mothers with babies and young children often don’t get a chance to shower. So, I wanted to share how I shower with a baby. In case it isn’t obvious, my son and I don’t shower with our swim suits on! I only covered up so that Facebook doesn’t ban my video for indecency.

I’ve taken my babies into the shower with me from when they were newborns. Please keep in mind your physical and emotional well being. If you’re recovering from birth, have any back problems, or feel anxious about holding a slippery baby in a shower, then this method might not work for you, but you can still take a shower and let your baby watch from the bouncer!

Babies are slippery when wet, so you do need a vice grip on them. If you feel a little hesitant the first time you try it, you can have your partner help you by passing the baby in and out of the shower.

Babies might pee in the bouncer! Try to take them in the shower just after they’ve gone, or if you’re not sure of when they went last, you can put a thick wash cloth down or leave their diaper under them, (just leave it open, so you can pick them up easily)

Same as with a bath, make sure the water temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, as baby skin is very delicate. You can also shower your other children at this time… imagine an assembly line…

Enjoy being clean! Share with your friends who have babies or are about to have babies… they might be struggling to take a shower too!

 

What It’s Been Like to Meditate Every Single Day for 15 Years

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Me and my husband with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in Melbourne, 2009

I guess you can say that I’m addicted to feeling good.

I understand that doing anything extracurricular for 15 years every day, sounds freakish and unattainable. Although… I never actually set out to ‘achieve‘ anything other than peace of mind.

I was 19 years old, and in my second year at Salisbury University, living on campus. Everyone kept talking about this cute guy who taught the yoga club every week and that I ought to come and try it. A few months later, and I was DATING the yoga instructor and also going to his classes. He told me that in a few weeks, someone named Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was coming to New York City, and that we needed to go see him. It wasn’t hard to convince me to go on a road trip to NYC, so I skipped my afternoon classes, and we drove from Maryland to New Jersey and hopped on the train into the city.

It was January, 2002, and Sri Sri was giving the talk somewhere in a hall in midtown Manhattan (?). I forget where exactly. We arrived late, but the lady at the door said it didn’t matter, as long as we got there in time for the meditation. There were a few hundred people there and we squeezed into some empty seats way up in the second floor balcony seating. From where I was sitting, I noticed that Sri Sri was Indian and dressed in a white robe. He had this sing-song voice and people were all bowing down to him. All I could think was, “What the HELL is going on?!” Keep in mind, I came from a small town in New Jersey. Very white. Very ‘normal‘. Nothing exotic. Ever. Sri Sri was giving a talk, of which, I recall not a single word, when he asked everyone to close their eyes for a meditation.

I tried it.

It was amazing.

I had never experienced anything like it in my whole entire life! All at once, I could ‘feel‘ everyone in the world. Everyone’s joy. Everyone’s suffering. Everyone’s everything… It was surreal. It was like the biggest drug trip ever… except, there were no drugs. I had found something! And, I hadn’t even been looking for anything to begin with.

All was quiet and I sort of forgot about the meditation thing, until a few months later, my boyfriend told me he was organising this program called the Art of Living course (now called the Happiness Program), a course that was designed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It cost money. I didn’t want to do it. To make matters complicated, my boyfriend’s ex-girlfried was helping to organise the course. Awkward… So, I came up with every excuse I could find to not do the course. Not enough time. Not enough money… But, eventually, I ran out of excuses and decided to just sign up.

I can’t remember much from the course, except that the teacher who came, was from somewhere out west, and he was really good looking, and that, most importantly, we learned this breathing technique and meditaiton that was out of this world. It was something that I could do every day, by myself.

The day after the course was over, I found a secluded spot in this secret garden part of the campus, early in the morning, and did my breathing. I was too embarrassed to do it in my dorm room with my roommates watching. You may not recall, but 15 years ago, not everyone was doing yoga and meditation. It was still something for the nutters. I felt really self conscious out there, like someone was going to catch me! But, I was willing to take my chances because that breathing and meditation had just been too good. For six months, I did my breathing and meditation every day. I found lots of new places to do it and that summer, I went to Washington state to teach at a summer sailing camp on this beautiful island in the Puget Sound.

The place was magical where I was staying, there were no people around, only me, in this this huge empty house, in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the water (the owners had gone cruising for the summer). I spent the summer this way, meditating before and after work. Doing lots of yoga too. This was also the summer that I stopped drinking alcohol and smoking pot. After so many months of purifying, I had a beer… it made me feel like total crap. I decided I would never drink again. The same happened when someone offered me a joint. Never again.

That autumn, I was back at uni. I didn’t have time to do my breathing and meditation one morning. The morning rolled on, and by lunch time, I was feeling a little… fuzzy… I couldn’t think so clearly. Then it hit me that I hadn’t done that breathing and meditation thingo and decided to go straight home before lunch so that I could do it. After I was finished, I felt so fresh again. It was then that I realised that I had learned something REALLY precious and that I needed to keep doing this. Every day. No matter what.

And, that was pretty much all it took. I’ve never missed a day since the day I learned how to do it. That includes days I’ve been too sick to leave bed. Days I’ve had to wake up at 3am to travel. Days I’ve done NOTHING but travel (planes are great places to meditate). Days of boyfriend break ups and days of enormous stress (the yoga instructor and I never worked out). Graduations. Days I’ve worked from dawn til dusk. Days I’ve given BIRTH. And, all seven + years of me being a mother. I’ve never missed a day.

Nobody told me to not miss a day. It became sort of like taking a shower and brushing my teeth. Mental hygiene. Although… I’m pretty sure I’ve skipped some showers in the past 15 years… but never skipped my meditation. Priorities folks.

Do I still get angry?

Yes.

Stressed?

Yes.

Make mistakes?

Yes.

Do I worry?

Yes.

But, the anger doesn’t last as long. The stress is less intense. The mistakes are less stupid. The worry quickly dissolves.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed, especially after having three kids, is that I tire less easily and experience less burn out. I’m able to relax more easily and be more in tune with my kids. My intuition works better because when the mind is less clouded by stress, your thought process is more clear. I have more patience. I have less fear. I’m happier.

As the years have gone by, I feel my meditation practice is the one thing that I own. Anywhere. Any time. (ok, almost anywhere and anytime) I can close my eyes, and I’m there. I don’t need anything to do it. In fact, quite the opposite. I can literally drop EVERYTHING and do it.

Even if it’s 10 minutes before bed. Or, if right in the middle of my meditation, a voice yells out “Mom, I’m done, will you wipe me?!” It’s still worth it. Even if it cuts into my time of doing other things, it’s always worth it. Even if all it seems like I’m doing is ‘thinking‘ while I close my eyes, it’s worth it. Yes, even 15 years later, I still have meditations that seem to suck… although in reality, no meditation sucks. You can’t judge how good your meditation was by the experience you had. When people say they can’t meditate because they can’t stop thinking… well… it happens to the best of us some days, so don’t worry.

Daily meditation is like an umbrella. What ever garbage comes flying down around me, I’m safe.  Sure, I have days, weeks, maybe even months when I might be down in the dumps, but in general, with daily meditation, I have less days like that. I have more days of fun. Less days of worry. More days of health. Less days of stress. It’s something I hope to be doing for the next 15 years of my life.

Anger is Wasted On Children

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The kitchen renovation was the reason for most of it. Work, the full moon and the icing on the cake was when my 7 year old acquired new sassy back chat antics from hanging out with some friends. Her ‘new‘ attitude pushed me over the limit. I got angry. REALLY ANGRY! And, for days too! I did stuff I normally don’t do, like take away their toys and threaten that we wouldn’t go do the fun stuff they like to do, etc. Some people get angry more easily than others. I am one of those people!

Did my anger make them cooperate more?

Nope.

It was such a waste! And, I knowwwww better! But, that old record player somehow took over. That voice in your head that REACTS instead of responds.

After a few days of me being angry, and it getting me nowhere, I was ready to give up! Give up on what exactly… I’m not sure. But GIVE UP! And, I was sure that if I gave up and stopped being angry, that my children would walk all over me for the rest of my life.

I told them we were GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE (capital letters for my tone of voice), for a walk. They skipped ahead of me, laughing and blabbering away. We had just had a yelling/crying match a few minutes ago, and here they were oblivious to the fact that my mind was still reeling! I laughed at myself.

My anger meant nothing to them. It was not their anger and they would rather not have any part of it. At the moment of my epiphany, I took out my phone to take a picture of them walking down the path. When they saw me pull out the phone, they stuck out their butts, as if to rub it in my face that their joy had triumphed over my anger. The baby locked eyes with me and drooled. Awww….

Kids live in the present moment. Anger, to them, lasts for less time than it takes for a tear to dry. An adult’s anger doesn’t teacher a child ANYTHING worthwhile. An adult’s anger only confuses, creates fear and causes disconnect, which causes MORE undesirable behavior. A child who laughs at an adult’s anger is actually expressing fear. You might have experienced this and it’s infuriating! The more angry you get, the more they laugh and giggle! This happens because it’s too painful for children to bear the anger. It makes them scared. And, laughter is the antidote for fear.

I could see where if you didn’t know any other way of getting kids to cooperate, you would think that you needed to get more serious about your anger towards a child in order to get her to cooperate. But, it just doesn’t work!

Tonight, for about half an hour, we sat and played the silliest game of Snap. We were cheating and lying and laughing and laughing. Kids RESPOND to laughter. They RESPOND to fairness and silliness. It was only me. It was ALL me! As soon as my attitude changed, they were back to ‘normal‘. After the game, I quickly brushed their teeth and they fell asleep, without a complaint and with their total cooperation. Without a worry. Without any fear. Their cups were full. They were happy to have me back. And, I was happy to be back too!

Luckily, kids live in the present moment, so they’ll easily forget about the turd I was to them for a couple days.

To get more ideas on how to use play to get more cooperation from your children, I highly recommend reading the book, “Attachment Play” by Aletha Solter. 

Don’t Sit a Baby Up? Natural Gross Motor Skill Development in Babies

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Baby #1, sitting with no way to get back up if she fell.

Without a second thought, I used to prop my first baby up, and by about 5 1/2 months old, she was sitting well. She would sit there and happily play with her toys. I would build a circle of cushions around her, in case she toppled over (which she often did). I was proud that she could sit so early and used to compare her with other babies who were ‘late sitters’.

While she was happy to sit and play, she didn’t crawl until she was about 9 months old and if I recall correctly, she couldn’t push herself into a seated position until about 9 1/2 months. You see, tummy time and independent play virtually stopped when she was able to sit, because she seemed so content to view the world from a new perspective. But, she could ONLY sit if I placed her in that position… and she could ONLY play with the toys I placed in front of her.

It was my second daughter, Goldie, who really taught me about the natural progression of gross motor skills in babies. She absolutely would not let me prop her up. If I tried to, she would slump over and slither onto her belly, where she felt confident and safe. At 7 months, she learned to crawl and to sit at the same time, but only because it was then that she had learned the skill to do so.

My friend from Germany was visiting when Goldie was going through that developmental phase and I mentioned to her that I thought Goldie was a ‘late sitter’. She then told me about the natural development of gross motor skills in babies and why sitting before crawling (or creeping) is actually sort of backwards. Babies should be able to push themselves up to sitting before they can truly sit.

My son is 7 months old at the time of writing this and no way can I prop him up. If I try to, his breathing gets all funny and he slumps over on purpose to get to safety (the floor). He started proficiently commando crawling at six months, and he can pretty much get to anywhere he wants. He stays busy for a long time creeping around the room and hardly needs any help from anyone. But, he still does not sit.

My son, exploring freely, at the same age, without needing much help.

What Does it Mean in the Long Run?

I’ve only read what others have said and I’ve observed my own children and their gross motor development. Please note, I am not an expert on infant development, and we all know how very different every child is! My older daughter is now 7 and the younger one is almost 5. Do I notice a difference in their gross motor skills now? Not really. But, I do notice a difference in the way they acquire new skills and in the way they play.

In general, pushing babies to sit before they’re ready is probably just one thing of many that parents get their children to do before the child is developmentally ready. I’ve pushed my older daughter to do lots of things before she was developmentally ready! Getting her to sit early was just the beginning.

Confidence is another reason not to sit a baby up. If a baby falls, she can’t put herself back in that position. She gets upset and then you rush to come help her… you prop her back up and then she learns that maybe she can’t do it herself… I see this tendency a lot with my older daughter still! Although it’s less now that I don’t push her to do other things before she’s developmentally ready.

It could be purely coincidental, but, my middle child is much more confident in some ways. She will only try something once she knows she’s developmentally ready for it. And, you can’t talk her into doing ANYTHING! She is much better at independent play. Whereas, my older one always seems to need me to do stuff with her constantly… could it have been those months when my first was a baby and I was always sitting her up and bringing things to her? Could that have prevented her from naturally developing the skill to play confidently? I wonder…

Interestingly, my older daughter is always trying to get her baby brother to sit! Even though I never say that he needs to. It must be something stored in her consciousness from when she was a baby. The middle daughter, the one who learned to sit on her own, never tries to get him to sit.

Vestibular System

Young babies are developing what’s called their vestibular system. That system is a sensory system that has to do with balance, equilibrium, coordination, hand eye coordination, muscle tone, etc. Many people would say that by sitting a baby up, you’re interfering with the natural development of a baby’s vestibular system.

Sitting babies in ‘baby seats’, like bumbos and walkers seems to make life easier, but it’s best to let babies roll around on the floor. I used a bumbo seat a few times when my daughter was about 5 or 6 months old (pictured below) and I imagined how it would feel if I had been sitting in it myself and I realized it would have been very uncomfortable, the way you have to hold your neck and head up without having a strong core yet. And, the way her legs were sticking straight out, instead of folded in a sort of ‘seat’ underneath of her. I do use a bouncer now, sometimes, as it’s not always possible to let my son roll around. But as soon as my son started enjoying being on his tummy, I set him down on the floor much more than in the bouncer. Of course, there are times when he ‘sits’, usually in my lap, occasionally in the high chair, but I can tell that he doesn’t really like the high chair, because he starts to slump over. 

A little sidetracked, but totally related is babywearing and carrying your baby. Carrying your baby around has so many benefits, but a big one is that carrying your baby helps to strengthen a baby’s upper body muscles. When you walk around carrying a baby, it’s a vestibular motion that your baby experiences and he really has to hang on and learn to use his muscles. My mother told me that she used to manhandle us when we were newborns and sling us over her shoulder to get stuff done. And, we got strong really fast because of it!

I was trying to get a shot of how much of a big hot mess I looked like… but we sort of look cute.

So anyway, it’s not really the end of the world, but it’s something very interesting that many people don’t know about, or never question. Could it be that some babies prefer to sit before they crawl? Yes, probably. But, I think it’s good to know about the natural progression of a baby’s gross motor skills. I never questioned if I should prop a baby up, but when I heard about the reasons for not doing it, it instantly made sense to me!

4 Easy Steps to Raising Earth Conscious Kids

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The environmental impact of raising a child in a western country is like 10 times greater than raising a child in a developing nation (I’m not entirely sure on that statistic, but you know what I mean). Our kids eat more, they have more stuff, own more clothes, they waste more and travel more than kids ever have before. I personally know many people who have made the choice not to have children mainly because they feel guilty about the carbon footprint their offspring leave behind.

I’ve realized that teaching children to care for the environment goes beyond telling them to switch off the lights when they leave the room or taking shorter showers. It goes beyond using cloth nappies and toilet training early. It’s about creating long-term environmentally conscious citizens of the planet. Its about every one of us contributing to a solution.

1. Teach children about consumerism.

It’s nice to buy second hand toys and clothes, but tell kids why you’re doing it. Yes, you save money, but you’re also recycling! And, when you buy something new, where will it be in a week? A month? A year? Where did the thing you’re buying come from? Do you really need it? Was it made ethically or not? Who made it and in which country was it manufactured in? There’s some great topics of conversation here. What you’re doing in the long run is educating little conscious consumers by bringing up these questions. You don’t need to overwhelm kids and guilt trip them every time they want sometime. But, it’s good to raise their awareness.

2. Eat less meat and grow a veggie patch and buy local.

Kids are naturally curious about their food. The meat (and dairy) industry is estimated to contribute about 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Believe it or not, scientists say that the meat and dairy industry contributes more to global green house gasses than the automobile industry! Plus, there is a lot of waste produced by farming animals. Even people who reduced their consumption of meat, significantly reduced their carbon footprint. Eating vegetarian food is really easy these days. Our family is vegetarian and it’s really no biggie. Also, kids LOVE growing food. It’s not about being able to grow enough food to make it worthwhile, it’s more about planting the seed of consumer awareness. Even a small veggie patch can produce a lot of food. And, I’ve grown a lot on just my balcony. Or, see if your town has a community garden. Kids who play and work outside have a greater respect for the planet too.

3. Take up less ‘space’.

We’re a 5 person family and we live in a 2 bedroom apartment in a town. By living where we do, we take up less space and leave more space for wildlife and nature. We have less paved surface areas (like driveways) because we share our living space (our building) with 9 other families. I know not everyone is jumping up and down to squash their family into a small apartment, and many people already have their homes, but how much space do human beings really need? The dream always seem to be a bigger house. But, do we need a bigger house to fit everything? Or, maybe do we just need to get rid of some stuff we already have and we would fit comfortably in the space we’re already using.

4. Cultivate a sense of sharing and belongingness.

When my kids ask me for the last bite of my food, that I was looking forward to eating, I usually give it to them. Why? Because I want them to feel like ‘what’s mine is yours’. When they’re about to finish the last cookie, they’ve learned to first ask everyone if it’s ok if they have the last one, and if not, they break it into pieces to share. Of course, it doesn’t always happen as beautifully as that, but that’s general idea. When we see a piece of trash on the beach, we pick it up. If there’s a community service clean-up project we can get involved with, we sign up. If we see someone who needs help, we stop to see what we can do.

Sharing and belonging are what every human being craves in this world. We all want connection and understanding. We all want to know that we are all sharing the same responsibilities. Caring for the environment starts with that feeling of belonging to the whole world and to all the people who live here! If kids are raised with a sense of connection and belonging, there’s no way they can grow up to trash the planet.