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I Hate Having Kids

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Sorry if I hold your hand too tight when we cross the street. Sorry if hover too much. Sorry if I ask you, “are you alright?” a few too many times. Sorry if I check all night long that you’re breathing. Sorry that I over react sometimes when I think you might get hurt.

What’s that cough? What’s that bump? Am I saying and doing the right things? I know I have to let you go and I have to have faith that you’ll be safe. But deep down, there’s always that nagging thought… I’ve learned to quiet that thought, but it’s still there. I’m not an anxious person, but you do something to me that defies everything I thought I knew about myself.

The same thing that brings you joy can also make you miserable. I KNOW this. If you told me this knowledge on life about anything else, I can get it. A new car that brings you joy, makes you miserable when it gets scratched. An exciting new job can get mundane after some time. A new love will turn old. A young beautiful body will get old and wrinkled. I know all this and accept it… but when it comes to my babies, it’s so different. I love you, I worry. I can’t help it. I love you so much that I hate it!

Living 10,000 Miles Away From the Grandparents

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I signaled to Margo (7) to close her eyes and go back to sleep. Then, I heard a whimper that quickly turned into a full blown sob. I sat down next to her stroking her forehead. For ten minutes, she blubbered, “I miss grandma and poppop!”. I miss them too sweetie…

After an action packed two week visit from my parents, Margo and my husband had just come back from dropping them off at the airport in Brisbane. We were all so tired from running around with them for the last two weeks, that we all had a big mid-day nap. When we woke (and after Margo’s cry) we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening, in mourning, while we watched the online flight tracker take my mom and dad, in a perfect little trajectory, far away from us, across the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a loooong flight to LA… then it’s another six hours to Newark.

Back to the weekly Skype calls. Back to the three or four packages a year full of goodies from America. Back to no more hugs or books or meals together or drawing together… boo… hoo…

We’re not forced to live where we do. When my husband and I came to Australia, nine years ago, on my student visa, we had no clue we would end up loving it so much here and wanting to stay. Life just sort of happened (as it does) and in no time at all, we found ourselves with good jobs, three kids, a house, and a lifestyle that suits us perfectly. A lifestyle that would be impossible to recreate if we moved back to the east coast of the USA, where we both grew up.

Because of how far we live, it’s not exactly easy to hop on a plane back to visit all too often. We’ve done it twice in nine years, it’s exhausting. Buying plane tickets for a whole family while living on a reduced income is the limiting factor. One time, we went five years without seeing them! That was a tough one.

So, after years of bugging them, they finally came!!! For the first time since having children, I had some sort of extended family in MY home. It was so awesome. We drove each other nuts at times and did way too much sightseeing. The kid’s schedule was completely out of whack, and we were all tired, but it was also so good. They rented a holiday apartment in the same building as ours, just upstairs, so the kids and everyone could run back and forth.

It’s pretty crazy how efficient you get at surviving without the grandparents around. Now that I’ve had a taste, it makes me sad to think that it can’t happen more often. It’s nice to just have someone there. Another outlet of energy for the kids. A different adult to interact with. Of course, having my mama and daddy around is pretty cool too… even though I haven’t seen them much in the past decade, who knows you better then your own parents?

Oh yeah… we were all so so sad when they left. It hurt, there were lots of tears.

I think it’s human nature to be on the move and to want to find a place to live that suits your needs. Our ancestors populated the planet somehow, and that would have been done by leaving ‘home‘. I always think of my husband’s grandmother, who came alone to America from Russia in the early 1900’s. It was a one way ticket back then. No hoping on a plane to visit your parents for the holidays. No Skype. If you were lucky, a letter here and there, until the wars came and you never heard from your parents or extended family again. So… we are lucky in this day and age that we can visit and stay in close contact. Moving to the other side of the globe is not the end of the story these days!

The one good thing about having a condensed visit was that everyone cleared their schedule (almost) and we all had nothing to do except hang out with each other. We probably had more quality family time in two weeks than we would have had in an entire year, had we been living only a few hours away. And, since we rarely get to see each other, everyone was on their best behavior to make the time as enjoyable as possible. We all had so much fun because we had to make every day, minute and second count!

While it is sad living so far away, it’s definitely possible. You have to sort of create your own family for the times when you can’t have your real family around. And, when you do get the chance to see your family, it’s usually short and sweet!

The Day After Daddy’s Days Off

The day we spend in recovery…. This is the day the house is its biggest wreck. Don’t ask me how or why, because we haven’t actually spent much time at home to mess it up. We’re always out, running around having fun. But, without fail, the day after my husband’s weekend, the dishes are piled high, there’s crap all over the floor, I’m up to my armpits in dirty laundry and the kids are absolutely knackered. We need an entire day off just to recover!

Luckily, I don’t have to go to work on those days, (or most days for that matter)! What do mothers do who have to go to work, ‘the day after’?! How do they survive??? When do they find time to clean up the nuclear fallout, because it takes me almost the entire day! (I wonder if it’s the same for stay at home dads the day after their wife has the day off?)

We homeschool and I work part time and casual. The days I’m home with the kids, we seem to enjoy a good rhythm. We usually do just enough to not get exhausted, we stay pretty emotionally connected and tidy up at least enough to clear a path.

But, when daddy’s home, it’s too exciting!!! All the rhythm and the rest and the order that the kids and I follow all week, gets thrown out the window! It’s a tricky thing to negotiate everyone’s needs on a normal the day. But on a daddy’s ‘off’ day, everything just goes ballistic. It’s just not fair! There isn’t enough time!

My husband works really hard, has really long hours and is always too exhausted to do much when he comes home from work. So, on his days off, it’s tempting to do as much fun stuff as possible. He’s not the type of person to lounge around (nor am I). We do like to have our fun,,, but there’s always hell to pay the next day.

So, here I am writing this, it’s the evening of the last day of my husband’s weekend. The kids have collapsed in bed, in an exhausted pile of unmet needs combined with too much excitement. If you need me tomorrow, I’ll be in my pajamas, wading knee deep through debris and wiping away tears…

But, we did have fun.

Let Them Throw Sand! (Sometimes)

We were on the beach and it was very windy. There was nobody close by. My girls were throwing sand and pretending to be Elsa, blasting their magical powers and creating ice! The sand (ice) was flying through the air for a good distance. We live in Australia, what do you expect, they’re desperate to see snow!

I let them do it because there was no one standing down wind. But, a little nagging voice in my head said, “If you let them do it once, they’ll always want to do it!

*Shut up little voice!*

I remember so clearly being told as a kid that: “If we let you do it once, you’ll think you always have a license to do it! So NO!” Whatever it was that I was asking for, I forget now, but I always remember that response.

Oh, how I used to get so outraged! The feeling that I wasn’t trusted to use my own judgement, made me furious and frustrated!

And, I understand why adults used to say it, I mean, nobody gives adults a child rearing manual with step-by-step instructions on how to handle every scenario. So, ‘no‘ is often a safe answer…

The truth is, behaviour that is undesirable in one setting, may be perfectly acceptable in another. I realised that my daughters had an amazing ability to use their better judgement, providing that their needs for connection and understanding had been met.

If I always try to control their every move, when the time comes that I really need them to listen, they might not, because they’re so sick of me always saying ‘no‘!

So, when I say ‘no‘, there’s generally a good reason why. If I can let them do whatever it is that they’re asking to do (throw sand for example), then I certainly do. If it’s not appropriate to throw sand, I tell them not to.

I also allow my kids to complain, cry and rage when I say ‘no‘, but the answer  is still ‘no‘. Allowing them to express their feelings about the answer is an important part of the process of democratic parenting.

My kids can’t throw sand at people, but I let them throw sand sometimes.

They have to hold my hand across the street sometimes and other times I let them walk across by without holding hands, if it’s not busy.

Most of the time, they can wear whatever crazy outfit they picked out, but I just won’t let my four year old wear a sweaty poofy dress-up when we go out, only because then I can’t clip her into her car seat!

I let my kids binge on junk and sometimes I say no.

Sometimes, I let them buy whatever they want at the shops and sometimes I say ‘No‘.

If I can give them a good back scratch before bed, I do it, and if on other nights I can’t, then so be it.

Sometimes I let them run amuck… and sometimes I don’t.

What’s interesting is that allowing for variety seems to create more cooperative children!

My kids are never really confused by this apparent change of rules or inconsistency. If anything, they’re relieved that the answer isn’t always ‘no‘. In fact, they almost always ask my permission before doing something, even if they know there’s a chance I’ll say ‘no‘… because often there’s a chance that I’ll say ‘yes‘.

They won’t lie or hide things because they know that I’m mostly fair when it comes to their requests. They don’t feel so desperate when I do have to say “no“, so they’re less likely to act out.

Allowing for variety does make parenting a little more tricky in the short term. If the answer isn’t always ‘no‘, that means there’s room for negotiation, and negotiation takes effort. BUT, I imagine them as adults. Imagine they’re given a situation that’s unfair, do I want them to sulk away thinking they have no chance?? No way! I want them have the skills to use their voice and to understand when to speak up and possibly when to shut up.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we had to eat the same foods every day?? Well, that’s how I feel about rules at home. There needs to be some variety. There needs to be times when we can let our kids do things that they normally can’t do. That way, when the time comes when we need their coperation, they’re more likely to give it.

 

Elimination Communication Four Month Update

Elimination Communication update, for those who are interest in following this part of my journey.

My little guy is four months old and I can safely say that the early months of doing EC have been very similar to doing EC with my two girls. I usually use nappies as a back up (saves the stress in case in case I miss something). I found that right between the 3-4 month mark they will not poo in their nappy anymore. Hooray! This happened with all three kids and it makes using cloth much MUCH easier. Read the rest of this entry

How I Honored The Fourth Trimester

I didn’t leave my house at all for the first six weeks after my son was born at home. Staying home during the early post partum period was one of the most profoundly healing and beautiful experiences of my life. I wrote about my experience here. Often, the post partum experience is expected to end at six weeks, but I feel like my full post partum recovery lasted until about 3 months.

The fourth trimester is a term I only heard about after the birth of my second, but it basically means the time period, about 3 months, after birth when you and your baby are recovering from pregnancy and birth. You take time to nourish your body and soul. And, you spend time bonding with your new child and responding to the baby’s needs. Looking back on my previous babies, I think it took a similar amount of time to adjust to new life when they were born.

After my six weeks without leaving the house, I was very reluctant to go out. The world was big and fast and seemed like it was waiting to devour me. I was surprised at how very fragile, both physically and emotionally, I felt.

The six weeks didn’t just end and I took my first step back into ‘reality‘ and that was that. Oh no… after entering the world, it took at least another 6 or 7 weeks to adjust. Keep in mind, this was with my THIRD baby, no longer a rookie parent, and it still took time.

At first, I had to be very careful when choosing which activities to do. I tried not to do anything too stimulating, (especially for the baby’s sake) and I avoided the elements as much as possible. It was entering summer in Australia when I started to leave the house, so it was hot and sunny. The temptation to take the bigger kids to the beach every day was so inviting (and they begged me)… but I generally had to say no. Doing that would have made me so tired and hot and would have not been enjoyable for my baby. The wind was especially annoying to be out in. Instead, we walked around the cool air conditioning at the shopping centers near our house. And, in the afternoons, we all had big cuddly naps. The few days when I did too much (hello, when we went to IKEA??) I almost always landed myself a massive headache the next day and got easily grumpy with the kids. I had to really watch it and not over-do it!

My son grew very big, very fast, and my body was not strong enough to carry him around for long periods of time. I’m usually as strong as an ox, so it was a shock to me that I was feeling sore from something as simple as babywearing a newborn! But, at six weeks, he was already over 6 kilos (13 pounds). I remember after only taking a short walk one day, with him in the baby carrier, that my feet and joints became sore. This happened for a couple of weeks until I got strong enough to carrying him around. After the three month mark, I noticed that I could carry him for much longer and I didn’t feel so tired.

Here we were at 3 1/2 months, and I still felt a like big adventures were a little too much for us…

Another interesting experience I had during this time was hyper-sensitive senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. It was really bizarre, like I was on drugs or something. I remember craving weird things, just like when I was pregnant. The feeling of steaming my face with eucalyptus oil and hot water, was something I felt drawn to. Daily warm oil massage was something else I craved. On a hot day, getting in the car, smelling and feeling the air conditioning on my skin and breathing the cool air in, was almost orgasmic! I sort of wish those sensations would have lasted longer because it was fun, everything was new! I don’t remember feeling this way with my previous births, so I think it was because I had been at home for six weeks and had received some very deep rest. I was extra aware and in tune this time around.

Some things I DID NOT crave were things like exercise and socializing. I felt like I needed to save my energy for breastfeeding and things like having patience with my older kids! And, talking to people, even friends, made me really tired.

My daily activities were enough to make me strong. I did go surfing a little, after 2 1/2 months and that helped me to gain my strength again, but surfing is a sport that I’m used to doing, and it can be done sort of moderately. We made sure to take lots of naps and laid around reading books on some of the really hot days.

So that was the physical part of my return to normalcy, but there was also the emotional and mental recovery as well! Getting used to an extra kid, when out and about, took a while. Before, with two kids, my attention was divided, but with three, it felt scattered (even though the baby was usually asleep and in the baby carrier). So we tried to stick close to home that at I could feedback him comfortably at home. Not because I’m uncomfortable with feeding in public (if you only knew how many years of breastfeeding in public experience I have up my sleeve) but because it was much more relaxing that way.

Although I spent 6 weeks bonding with my son at home, I still had to get used to how he would respond to being out, in the car, etc. It wasn’t bad, but it was still something I had to get used to and it was pretty stressful the first few times.

I’m so glad that I honored the process of birth and recovery. Lots of my friends on social media had babies around the same time as me. It would have been easy to get worked up, comparing what they were doing and how they were looking, with my own experience. But, I wanted this post partum experience to be authentic and deep. For once, I felt the need to really listen to myself and to the true needs of my entire family.

Slowly leaving the fourth trimester is a little sad. I still get remnants of it here and there, as my son is only just under 4 months old and still holding on to those small baby qualities, but now he’s starting to change fast. And, I’m starting to change too! Slowly, my attention is being pulled away from the mother-baby bubble and is starting to focus on everyone else’s needs. Life is moving on. There’s no going back. The few months after a baby’s birth is a once in a life time opportunity to take it easy, simplify and tune in. It fills my heart with joy that I honored my needs, and the needs of our new little person, during the few months after his birth. I feel so complete, like I finished writing a chapter of my life and I couldn’t have written it better.

 

Dear Cotton, Oh Where Did You Go?!

When will the open shoulder sleeves go out of fashion? Soon please.

It’s summer. It’s Australia. It’s hot. After a big wardrobe cull last year and spending the better part of the year either pregnant or post partum, my wardrobe has been depleted, so I dragged the kids to the shops and began searching for a few cotton shirts to replenish what had been stretched out, puked on or torn.

I know that with a baby in the house, there’s no point in buying anything nice. Kmart, Target, Big W…. that was my scope at first. I mean, you can almost always find your basic cotton shirts there, right? And, with three kids in tow, I wanted to do a quick in and out, but I soon realised that I wasn’t going to easily find what I was looking for. Everything I found was either made from polyester, polyester/cotton blend or viscose. Hmmm… no thanks. I mean, in summer?! Read the rest of this entry

Nature vs. Nuture: How Much Does Our Parenting Matter?

Years before I had children, I went to a talk by the spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Somehow the question came up on parenting. Although he’s not a parent himself… he is an enlightened guru, so he gave some insightful advice.

He said that 50% of a person is just how they’re born, it’s their nature, you CANNOT change that. The other 50% is something that CAN be changed by their environment/parents/experiences/nurturing, etc.

This idea of nature vs. nature is not something new that he came up with, and lots of people have talked, researched and written about this topic. In fact, I’m sure there’s some expert out there could argue the exact contribution that our parenting makes towards the outcome of our children, but I like to think 50/50 is a good start. Anyone can observe that sometimes kids who come from even the most nurturing families still turn out a little um… like maybe they need a hug… While sometimes people who come from horrible, abusive or traumatic childoods, turn out to be outstanding citizens of their society.

Hopefully it makes some of you reading this feel a little lighter. While we do have a big responsibility to do our best as parents, at the end of the day, we can only work with what we’ve got! Our kids are still little people who come with their own set of qualities. These qualities, are traits we might love or might drive us bonkers!

And, it does make me feel better to know, that when my kids are acting like lunatics, even after I’ve tried every trick up my sleeve, that I can just shrug my shoulders and leave as ‘just their nature’.

I Feel Like I Could Do This Forever

“It’s a thankless job“, said the elderly lady in the shopping center. She sat on a bench licking an ice cream cone while my kids ate some sushi roles next to her. She peeked at my 2 month old son, sleeping in the baby carrier, and complimented me on how well behaived my kids were acting.

I smiled back at her.

Thankless‘ I thought… what is she talking about?! I feel like I could do this shit forever!

There certainly are days when I wish the time away.  But right now, I’m so in the thick of it, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my time.

The good times make it easy for parenting to be a ‘thankless job‘. But, I also don’t mind too much wiping up messes, listening to cries, feeding mouths, cooking like it’s Groundhog’s Day, tackling Mt. Foldmore (not that I really fold my laundry anyway), picking someone up who needs to be carried, getting in the car and out of the car 800 times a week (if I had a dollar for every minute I spent waiting outside the car for a four year old to organise themselves, I would honstly be a millionaire). I mean, I could easily do without the challenging parts of parenting, but for now, I don’t mind them so much, it’s part of the package.

Children spend their lives so much in the present moment, it’s sort of contagious. I don’t find myself counting on my fingers the numbers of years left of hard work to be done, I just do it. And, most of the time, I do it with a half smile/borderline mad woman smirk on my face.

I realised that I don’t find myself wishing for ‘freedom‘. I’ve had that sort of ‘freedom‘ and I know that even living the most carefree life, in a tropical paradise, you can still make yourself miserable and stressed!

One thing that makes the thankless bits easier is that I take my self care seriously. Daily showers are a must (don’t laugh… unless you forget what it’s like to have your first newborn). Yoga and meditation every day, also a must. Exercise and getting out of the house for paid work occasionally is important for me. Staying at home is hard work, and it just happens to be unpaid.

Once every year or so, I do a silent meditation retreat to really get my energy back to par. I take my self care seriously so that I don’t burn out doing the mundane stuff that would otherwise be the end of me (dishes, wiping butts, etc). So, it’s not like I’m doing all this ‘thankless‘ stuff on an empty cup!

Maybe, one day, when I’m as old as the lady in the shopping centre, I’ll look around at all the young mothers and say that you couldn’t pay me to go back to those days… maybe… but for now, I’m doing it 100%, no regrets and no feelings that this will get boring any time soon.

They Can Know The Truth And Still Believe

When my oldest was 2 years old, she was petrified of the dudes dressed up as Santa in the shopping centres. It was real, legitimate fear.

Without thinking twice, I told her that anybody can dress up like Santa. It took her another year, but after a while, she wasn’t frightened anymore. She’s 6 1/2 now, and we still ‘do‘ Santa. On Christmas Eve, we put cookies and (rice) milk out for him (daddy). And, sparkly oats and carrots for the reindeer… My kids know the truth and it’s still fun. Something that adults often forget is that children have an amazing imagination. They can know something isn’t real and still play along with all the enthusiasm as if it were real.

I generally don’t lie to my children about anything, and let’s face it, telling kids that Santa is real, is actually a big fat lie. I know it’s a nice, sweet, well intentioned lie… but it’s still a lie.  I know a lot of my friends are conflicted about whether they should ‘keep the magic‘ of Santa, or tell the truth and then Santa is ruined. So, that’s why I’m sharing my experience. You can do both! Tell them the truth and still have the fun.

Not pictured is my 4 year old… for some reason, she was terrified of Santa this year. I’m not really into the pictures of crying kids on Santa’s lap and I mean… really, look at the dude, he does look pretty scary. (He was actually the nicest Santa ever)