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Category Archives: Parenting

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!

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)

Fit Your Own Oxygen Mask First: Parental Self-Care is More Important Than You Think

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What good can you be to your family, if you’re walking around drained and depleted?

I almost didn’t go. The timing, the money… And then, on the morning I was meant to fly to Sydney for The Art of Silence course, a four day silent meditation retreat, my nearly 4 year old woke up with a fever and a cough. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be mean to go away while she’s not feeling well?” Mega guilt trip.

I asked in one of my mother’s Facebook pages if I should go and there was a unanimous chorus of GO! One of the responses was, “This is a fit your own oxygen mask situation! 

The past six months, I had been grumpy, tired, and snapping at the kids. Stressed from work. About to move houses. Pregnant. You name it. It was only going to get worse if I didn’t do something about it.

When I said goodbye at the airport, the kids were sad. I was sad. Was this *really* worth it??? Read the rest of this entry

I Suck At Making The Facebook Pregnancy Announcement

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It’s not so much that I’m lacking the creativity, it’s just that I always think about who is going to see it.

I feel weird blabbing it on-line without looking directly into the face of the person I’m telling. I know, I blab everything else on-line, but this is different. I told most of the my friends I interact with in my day-to-day life, really early. I wanted them to know why I was flaking on meeting up with them, had barely enough energy to walk down the street and why I was repulsed by eating any food after 1 o’clock in the afternoon. But, we could talk about it. I could see their face. I knew their story. Read the rest of this entry

It Doesn’t Get Easier, Things Only Change

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ThngschangeFour years ago, I was chatting with a colleague about family life. Her husband was a fly in-fly out mine worker. Two weeks home, two weeks away. She admitted that the family was used to the schedule, but that it was still overwhelming for her when he went away.

I stupidly said, “At least your kids are older, so it must be easier.

Her kids were pre-teens and teenagers, you know, ones that could wipe their butts and weren’t asking to be carried every second and weren’t sucking on her boob all day. (That’s the phase of parenting I was going through at the moment with a 2 year old and a baby on the way).

She nicely said, “Actually…

And, went on to describe how things don’t really get easier, they only change.

Now I get it.

Yes, it does get easier in some ways.

They sleep better, need to be carried less, can speak more, etc.

But, the strain and shock of adjusting to a young child, and especially of being a new parent, morphs into something else… Something more mentally demanding. Something requiring more patience. Something more high maintenance and that is more refined.

The days when I thought I couldn’t lift another tiny human being have been replaced discussing how much and what sort of screen time is appropriate.

The days of little sleep, have been replaced with negotiating a million unreasonable and unusual requests.

We used to get by with one little walk outside a day, but now they need much more. Dance lessons, swimming, bike rides, you name it.

The days when I swear I could not wipe another butt, oh yeah.. sorry, I’m still in those days, let’s not go there.

And, over the years, MY needs have changed too!

When they were babies, I knew in my heart, I wanted to be no place but home. Now that they’re older, is this what I really want? How much of myself do I want to put back into the workforce? Is my outside-the-house-work fulfilling enough that it validates being away? And, if I am away, how much of the household and of the kid’s emotions should I be willing to sacrifice to do it? They still need me… but I need myself too.

And, do I really have an excuse to not have dinner on the table or a clean house? After all, I don’t have a baby anymore… so what do I do all day??? Can I justify my lack of ‘domestication‘ now that my kids are older. True, they’re older, but it doesn’t make it easier.

I’m sure one day it will get easier. Like really easier. Like, when they either move out, or turn 25 (arbitrary age, because that’s the age I seemed to sort myself out). But, for now, it’s not. Being a parent is a challenge, no matter how old the kids are!

Special Note: This post is not to leave new mothers feeling hopeless! If you are struggling in the early years, with physical pain, or emotional trauma, things will get better… be sure to seek the help you need.

Democratic Parenting: The Beautiful Middle Path of Meeting The Whole Family’s Needs

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I recently read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about how overly permissive parents are raising terrorizing, entitled, narcissistic entitled teenagers and young adults. The article waves a finger at permissive parenting, but does not offer any solutions towards raising nurtured and skillfully guided children. Upon reading such an article, one might think that parents should go hard on the route of discipline and control…

The Problem with Conventional Discipline, Authoritarian (Dictator) Parenting

Punishment, strict rules, sticker charts, rewards, time outs, threats, etc. are what more authoritarian style parents use in order to elicit desirable behavior in their children.

  • Authoritarian parenting trains a child to obey, but is that what you really want? Swiss sociologist, Alice Miller, studied the early childhoods of Nazis high in power, and she found they all came from very strict, authoritarian households. As children, they were trained to follow orders. It sounds good to get immediate compliance from a child… but there are long term repercussions. Questioning morality, pushing limits, and standing up for fairness is a quality in our children that we want to encourage, in order to make our society a better place to live in.
  • Authoritarian parenting leaves children feeling powerless. How do you feel when you feel powerless? It’s awful, isn’t it? It makes you desperate. It makes you go on seeking attention where you shouldn’t have to. That’s why kids who are raised with punishment as a repercussion for ‘bad‘ behavior, often go on repeating their offenses.
  • Loving communication and open dialogue between a parent and the child becomes severed. Discipline appears to work when a child is younger, but often starts failing as the child grows up. Think you can send a teenager to time out? Even the fear of a threat won’t stop the child from acting out. The child keeps desperately looking for ways to connect (in ways that appear to be bad behavior). Or, the child starts hiding things from the parents to keep from getting into trouble. Children who are raised with punishment as a consequence, most likely, will stop confiding in the parents and start lying as they grow older. The lack of trust and inability to safely communicate is something that these children can carry with them when they become adults.
  • Authoritarian parenting is exhausting for the parent. As a school teacher, I often have to resort to a more authoritarian approach, and it really sucks the life out of you. You can’t just let one thing slide one day and not the next. Authoritarian parenting is an enormous amount of work for a parent, with little guaruntee that you are going to get a positive result.

If punishment worked, our prisons would be empty, nobody would commit any crimes because the fear of going to jail should be so great that it would stop anyone from committing a crime…

The Problem with Permissive Parenting 

Permissive parenting means that you are almost always setting aside your own needs to meet the wants and needs of the child. I’ve dipped into extremely permissive parenting, and I can tell you that it wasn’t fun.  I found myself feeling very insecure, questioning my every action and my needs became neglected. I watched as my kids became confused in my moments of allowing them to do anything they wanted. It’s one thing to open our boundaries and stop being so over-controlling of our children’s activities, but there needs to be some common sense and reasonable limits in place.

  • Permissive parenting can be dangerous and can make others feel very uncomfortable. My 3 year old loves to go really far out in the ocean, even when it’s rough. I have to tell her “No” sometimes because if I let her go as far as she wanted, I wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on her big sister, who likes to hang back in the shallows. Social norms are often bent past the ‘pushing it‘ boundary when parents are overly permissive. You can see people around get very uncomfortable and are not sure if they need to step in and interfere.
  • Permissive parenting can leave you feeling burnt out and neglected. It will start off with a little voice crying, “What about me?!” You try to rationalize the little voice as you overcoming your own limitations, but then, that little voice may turn into exhaustion, desperation, depression, anger and even violence. Permissive parenting leaves your needs being unmet.
  • Permissive parenting leaves a child feeling unheard. The other day at IKEA, I was on shopping rampage. I wanted to buy something ridiculous and my husband looked me in the eye and said, “Kate, that’s too much, it’s not a good idea.” I felt sad for a moment, but he was right. I was so happy later, that he said “No.” He was really listening to ME and what was looking out for what was best for us and our family. The same goes for our children. We don’t have to be mean about it, but we should pull in the reigns when things get unreasonable because a child’s request might not reflect his or her true need.
  • Permissive Parenting does not truly meet the child’s needs. Sometimes it’s the loving limit that is what the child needs in the moment. Some days, my 5 year old will ask for 5 different things in one minute! I look her in the eye, get down on her level and say “No” (nicely) and she cries. That release of emotions and connection, was exactly what she needed in that moment. Something was bothering her much more than needing those ‘things‘. If I had been in permissive mode, I would have tried to make her happy by giving her each one of those things, but I wouldn’t have been meeting her emotional need to express her emotions and connect.

Democratic Parenting, the beautiful middle path (sometimes known as Authoritative parenting)

Democratic parenting is when you do your best to accommodate everyone’s wants and needs. I first heard of the term when I was reading one of Aletha Solter’s books on parenting. Although, the idea is nothing radicle, I felt that it so deeply resonated within me and I had finally found something that made perfect sense.

  • Democratic parenting is fun and fair. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it goes my way. Life is too fun to get stuck in strict rules and rigid routines. We all get a chance. Today, we have to walk past the ice cream shop, because I’m tired and have a headache. But, it doesn’t mean that tomorrow we can’t stop and get an ice cream. It’s never ok to cross a busy street without holding my hand, but if it’s a very quiet street, then yes, please go for it, just check with me first. It’s never ok to hit a person, but it’s ok to get angry, go punch the pillow.
  • Democratic parenting is dynamic. My needs change on a day to day basis and so do my children’s. Some days they eat like horses, other days not. Some days we really need rest and order, and some days we can go out and be all crazy. Some days we can play and mess the house up into oblivion. Other days, we need to spend time cleaning and being tidy. Some nights we hurry up to bed, other nights, we stay up late and read books, giggle and tell stories. But, if a set bed time makes everyone’s life easier, then so be it. Some days we have to do what daddy wants because it’s his day off from work and. Other days, we can do whatever you want to do. Some days, when the ocean is calm, the little one can go out really far. Some days, I can see that you’re self regulating your use of screens very well, but other days, I can see that you’re using screens as a distraction to some unpleasant emotions. Let’s deal with the emotions and put away the screens please. Life is ever changing and so are our needs. Let’s let common sense prevail.
  • The Consistency in democratic parenting is that we are aware and always listen. Kids and adults like consistency. But, we don’t have to get stuck in the same routine, rigid rules, actions, and rules every day. The consistency can be that I will do my best to listen to you. I hear that your needs are changing on a day to day basis, because my needs are changing too. The rules stay roughly the same, but we can be flexible too.
  • Democratic parenting and loving limits. If I have to say “No“, I ask myself these questions first.
    Are my child’s request reasonable?
    Are my expectations fair?
    Am I doing my best to eventually meet everyone’s needs?
  • Keep Your Decision AND accept the emotional response. If you do have to say “No” and your child protests about it, it’s ok to be firm in your answer, but be soft in your actions. My girls love buying frilly dresses. If they’re cheap, and we haven’t bought one in a while, I say ‘yes‘. But, if it’s unreasonably priced or we’ve accumulated too many, I just say ‘no‘. They cry. I say, “I know you’re upset, but we can’t buy that dress.” You can say no AND accept their reaction to your decision.

There’s no need to go extreme in either direction of parenting. You can do your best to meet everyone’s needs. You can say “No“, yet still be loving and fair. We don’t have to give up our own needs for the sake of our children. We also don’t have to be so strict and rigid that we suck all the love out of life. Have fun. Relax. Listen to your needs, and to the needs of your family.

I highly recommend reading Aletha Solter’s book called ‘Attachment Play‘ for gentle and fun ideas on how to get children to cooperate.

 

 

Please Stop Saying I Don’t Know How

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My nearly 6 year old was begging me to let her roll out the cookie dough. I told her I was busy. “Not now, it will be messy, I have to show you, it’s tricky...” I didn’t have time to drop what I was doing to help her. She kept asking, I kept saying “Not now” She yelled, “Why are you saying I don’t know how, I DO know how!”

Then, I thought, ‘Oh, whatever, the worst she’ll do is make a big mess… what’s new?’

So, I said, “Yes, go ahead.”

I started doing something in another part of the house, and when I came back, she had perfectly rolled out 10 Christmas cookies. She did indeed make a mess, but not a very big one. Then, she was so satisfied with her work that we high fived and she bounced off to go do something else.

The next day, at the beach, my 3 year old wanted to go beyond the safe lagoon and swim in the ocean. But, the ocean wasn’t looking too inviting. I told her, “No, we can’t, it’s too dangerous.” Here I am, a surfer, I have thousands of hours experience in the ocean. There were about a million people already swimming, she had an inflatable tube, and there were about 10 surf life savers on the beach watching us! But, I was hesitant because I thought she might get knocked around and scared. She kept bugging, so finally, I said, “Ok, let’s go!

She charged. She DID get knocked around. I stayed REALLY close to her. And, what happened? She was fine. She loved it. She begged for more.

Multiple times this week, my kids have asked me if they could do something that I wasn’t sure if they could handle. Ride a bike, go surfing, skateboard, turn the shower on without burning themselves, etc. And, each time, I was blown away over how much they could actually do!

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I’ve heard the saying that children are born with as much fear as there is salt in the food. In other words, they have just enough fear to keep them relatively safe. I mean, you have to use common sense. If it *really* wasn’t wise to roll out cookies or to swim in the shore pound, I would have said so. But, in those situations, it WAS fine! It was just the limitations in my own mind.

The desire for kids to learn and to investigate and to stretch their knowledged is about 100x more intense than it is in adults. Kids are natural learners. It’s how they learn how to walk, talk and do almost everything else without really being ‘taught‘. Haven’t you ever noticed it, kids just ‘do‘ things, with very little guidance. A child’s desire to learn to use their body, is much stronger than their desire to avoid a cut, bump or bruise.

And, what if they really can’t do it?

Let them figure that one out on their own terms. Let them feel the pinch of frustration and failure. We DON’T want our kids avoiding failures in life just for the sake of being too scared to try. In the past, the fear of their failure (of tears) really interfered with me allowing the natural learning process to take place.

And, Sometimes I’m too tired for the natural learning experiences. Learning through trial and error, or natural consequences, can be time consuming and can require a great deal of letting go and patience. If I had been too tired to chase the 3 year old in the ocean, I would have told her “No“. Or, if I had been feeling too bitter about having to clean up another mess in the kitchen that day, I would have told the big kid that she couldn’t roll the cookies.

But, I don’t want any child growing up thinking “I can’t, because I don’t know how“. I’ve seen it way too many times while teaching high school and university students, and it breaks my heart. After a lifetime of a child being told, “You don’t know how” that child starts believing it!

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So here, you go… You can! You can! Even if you fail, I’ll still let you have your learning experience with no judgement from me. I’ll shut up. And, if you fail, I’ll do my best to never say, “See, I told you that you wouldn’t be able to do it” because I know how crushing that feels when someone says that to me. Whether you are able to do it or not, is really not up to me, but I certainly don’t need to be the one there to plant that seed of doubt in you. You go for it! Not only should I stop saying you don’t know how, but I should stop thinking it too.

 

 

The Power of Frustration

FrustrationI heard a growl from the balcony. “Ugggghhhhhh!!!! This isn’t working!!!” my daughter yelled.

I came over to inspect. The day before, at a friend’s, she had seen a home made fairy house made from colored paddle pop sticks. She wanted to make one too and we already had the materials. I asked if she wanted to do a collaborative one. No, she wanted to make her own.

Initially, I had sat down with her. We chatted about the design of our houses while we built them. I finished mine in about 25 minutes, and then walked away to cook lunch. She remained, battling with the glue and the paddle pop sticks.

Hers wasn’t working. I suggested using another binding material. “How about sticky tape?

Ugggghhhhhh! This STILL isn’t working!

Try using some blue tack maybe?” I sang out, while chopping my veggies.

She tried, it failed again. And again. She was getting really frustrated!

It would have been easy for me to go over and ‘save‘ her. But, I could see that she was still determined to figure this thing out, so I hung back. Meanwhile, her 3 year old sister was getting frustrated that her Duplo tower kept breaking. There was a whole lot of whining. A whole lot of tears.

I was making myself available, but since the two of them weren’t necessary asking me to do it for them, I only offered my advice and stayed a good distance back. Knowing when to step in and when to stand back is a delicate dance. I’m getting better at it as the years go by.

People usually hate hearing when kids get frustrated. It doesn’t sound pleasant. The whining, the raging, the stomping, the tears. We want to stop them from expressing those emotions, so we either tell them to stop with the ruckus, or we come and ‘save‘ them. But the tears of frustration build something in us that make us incredible strong. These tears also release negative emotions, so we should not stop these tears from coming.

When I think of all the things that I really love to do now, there was a considerable amount of tears and frustration involved in learning how to do them. For example, surfing. It took me almost an entire YEAR to learn how to properly paddle, catch and stand up on a wave. Even then, I really sucked for a long time. But, once I got better, surfing became MINE. I wanted it. It was that thing that I had worked so hard to learn how to do and I felt proud. Five years later, after a frustrating start to surfing, I won the USA Women’s Longboard Championships in California. Would I have been so interested in surfing if it had come easily? Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway… Eventually, the little one figured out the Duplos, after a tiny suggestion from me to use a more stable platform. She was thrilled with her tower and stayed engaged in building and knocking down her tower, over and over, for a long time.

Meanwhile, her big sister was tackling the fairy house with little success.

I made my house, but now the fairy is too big to fit!!!” she yelled

*Stomps feet and cries*

I asked her if she had any dolls that might fit.

But, they’re not FAIRIES!” She hollered.

I smiled, “It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

YESSSS!!!” she screamed.

She went back to building. I went back to cooking. Ten minutes later, when I announced that lunch was ready, she called me to come look what she had created. A beach shack with Duplo figurines that fit. All up, she had stayed engaged with that fairy house building for an hour and a half! The rest of the day, the two of them were on fire. Somehow, their cognitive thinking skills had been ignited. I could see the confidence in their behavior, their speech and their play.

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The final product. With Duplos instead of fairies.

Not all frustrating situations end so happily, and that’s ok too.

Allowing a child to get frustrated can teach a valuable lesson of when to give up. If the fruit of your action is not in your best interest, and you have no desire to complete an activity… then maybe it’s better to reassess your commitment and stop doing it without thinking you are a failure. Maybe you are wasting your time. Maybe there really is no hope. The whole idea of ‘never never ever give up‘ can be really stupid sometimes! My kids often get too frustrated and give up and it’s fine. But, I find they give up more easily if I come and save them.

Allowing frustration builds confidence, character, resilience, thinking skills and awareness. It teaches kids when to seek help and when to try and work things through. As a parent, I have to assess the situation… Is the frustrating situation something that I should interfere with? Or, should I let the learning process take its natural course? Sometimes I’m too busy to help (like when driving), so there’s nothing I can do anyway! And, some days, I just can’t deal with the whining, so I come and ‘save‘ them. But, most of the time, if I can just let them be with their frustration, a whole lot of positive learning experiences can happen.

 

The One Thing Always True About Parenting

Change

What works one day might not work the next.

 

The only thing that remains consistent about parenting is change. This should come as no big shock, because, if you notice, life, itself, is always changing. Every day. All the time.

The developmental phases that we coo and fuss over, will transform.

The habits and behaviors we can’t stand, will not be the same forever.

What works, might work for a while, but then the child’s needs change, and so you have to change your approach.

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