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There Are No Such Thing As Crocodile Tears

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Kids cry. Some of them seem to cry a lot more than others. And, their crying can be super annoying to us!

Especially when we feel like they’re crying over nothing. Or, if we think they’re crying to get attention. Or, if we think they’re crying just to get their way.

But, here’s the truth, and it’s not very convenient… Kids cry when they have an unmet need.

Some reasons kids cry:

  • Pain
  • Frustration/feeling of being incompetent
  • Seeking connection and comfort from a parent or carer
  • Fear or overstimulation
  • Accumulation of pent up emotions

While crying does indicate that something is ‘wrong‘, crying is not alway something we need to stop. Obviously, if see that they’re in pain or very sick, and maybe need medical attention we should respond appropriately. But other times, the reason for our child’s tears are not so obvious and we get annoyed because we think they’re crying over nothing and they should just shut up.

But… can you cry on demand? Unless you’re a well trained actor, chances are that you can’t. So, if an adult can’t cry on demand, a child can’t. Aletha Solter, the founder of Aware Parenting describes the need to cry similar to the need to defecate. If you don’t feel the urge to poo, you can’t just poo on demand! Similarly, a child who has no reason to cry, won’t just start crying.

What we can do when our child cries ‘crocodile’ tears

  • Listen
  • Observe how it triggers you
  • Don’t try to interrupt or distract their crying (think of it as better out than in, letting their emotions out now, will reduce whining later).
  • Understand that there’s likely an accumulation of emotions and the event or situation that they’re crying over (like cutting their sandwich into squares instead of triangles) was just the straw that broke the donkey’s back.

And, just as a reminder, we don’t have to feel bad when our child cries and we find it annoying. Crying triggers a response in us that probably comes from our past and/or our conditioning in society that leads us to believe that crying is ‘bad’. We don’t have to analyse our child’s every tear and wonder what we did wrong to cause them to cry. Even in the most attentive families, kids get upset or have an unmet needs. It just happens!

(My daughter was totally posing for this photo. So, I guess these were crocodile tears after all)

Society’s Screen and Social Media Obsession: It Will Change

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My husband and I were talking about kids and screens. He’s eighteen years older than me. I told him, “You know, I don’t think kids are going to be obsessed with screens and social media when they’re older, because even I’m getting sick of them.” He said, “Of course they won’t. There will be something new to take over!

He told me how when he was a kid, it was the phone. Then, it was TV.

Do you remember our mothers talking on the phone? They talked on the phone for HOURS!

They watched TV.

They read books and the newspapers.

Then, computers came along and they played solitaire. Then, chat rooms. Then mobile phones and texting with one hand holding the phone while driving (yikes, I used to all the time).

So, what’s so different about our usage of screens and social media we’re all obsessed with right now? Probably nothing, I predict. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in twenty years, the thought of posting about your dinner on facebook and instagram becomes laughable.

Having these super powerful tiny ‘computers‘ that do everything in the palm of our hands, is a new thing for now. Our society hasn’t fully gotten used to this new handheld omnipotent gadget yet. Actually, many of us are still learning that it’s not a smart idea to stare at your screen while you’re crossing the road! Sort of like how it took society a few years to realise that holding your phone while driving needed to be illegal…

Eventually, people will start realising, there’s nothing there… staring at a screen and posting photos of your life and looking at photos of other’s lives will eventually get old. I actually can’t wait for the hashtag to go out of style. Ha! Over time, the technology will change and the way we use the technology will change.

When I was about 12 years old, I remember shutting myself my room and playing this video game for hours a day! It’s all I wanted to do. A year or two later, I wouldn’t have spent a second playing it. It got old.

A lot of people have pre-digital technology nostalgia. Weren’t people were so much more ‘present‘ back in the ‘golden olden days‘… you know, when the dads used to hide behind newspapers at the breakfast table or smoking a pipe and listening to the radio. Yup… nope.

That tendency in society to disconnect from reality has always been there! Just in different forms. Smartphones are powerful tools. All at once, they instantly connect us with friends, family and the world. They’re our phone, our camera, our weather forecast, our email, entertainment, a calculator, a flashlight… and Siri has the answer for every werido question my 5 year old comes up with.

Eventually, most people will eventually learn to regulate, but right now, these toys are new and exciting. Read the rest of this entry

So, When Do You Do the ‘Lesson’?

When I tell people that we homeschool, one of the first things they ask me is, “So, when do you do the ‘lesson?
 
What they mean is, “When do you sit down at the table and make them read and write?
 
The way we do home education in our family, there is no ‘lesson‘. Learning is incidental. We learn everywhere we go. At the grocery store, while we’re baking brownies, while we’re driving in the car (so many good conversations in the car!) walking to the park, sitting on a comfy couch while I read them library books and yes, occasionally sitting down at the table doing some written stuff (although that’s the rarest activity we do!).
Here’s how one conversation went in our house or you could say, this is how one ‘lesson‘ went, since lots of people want to know.
 
Margo (7) looks at her undies that have a big four leaf clover on the front: “What’s the day after my birthday called again?”
 
Me: “Saint Patrick’s Day”
 
Margo: “And, what’s the day before my birthday?”
 
Me: “The Ides of March.”
 
Margo: “What’s the Ides of March?”

Read the rest of this entry

What Not To Say To Your Child Instead of Saying Anything

Say this.

Don’t say this.

Say _____ instead of ____.

Praise like this, not like this.

Memes, lectures, blog posts, books, videos.

It can get very confusing!!

At the height of self proclamation that I was an unschooler, I started questioning EVERYTHING I said to my kids. And, you know what happened? I started getting confused. I started getting permissive (mostly because I had no idea what to say that sounded more evolved than what I was used to saying.) I started getting resentful (because I wasn’t listening to my needs). I started getting STRESSED! So, I had to stop with all the crazy ‘word watching’

And, I admit, I’ve written a few articles about how we speak to our children! Because, it’s true that we should be mindful of what we say. For example, I was saying, “Be careful” like 800 times a day… So, I became more aware of how I used ‘be careful’, because I realised my kids were going to have to learn their limits under reasonable safe circumstances.

It’s important to speak with awareness, yes!

But when does it get to be too much?

When we feel guilty and confused about everything that comes out of our mouths… that’s when it’s too much.

Oops! Did I just use a mild threat to get my kid to brush her teeth? Well… yes, yes, I just did… But, do I always use threats? 99% of the time, no!

Oops! Did I just tell my daughter that I loved her painting because it’s beautiful?! Why yes, what a shallow empty crapload full of praise! Haha! But… it’s the first thing that came out and it felt true and it felt authentic and she was happy. And, then we hung the picture on the fridge and we moved on with our day.

It’s all about being natural with our children and realistic with ourselves.

It’s one thing to be mindful of what we say and to try and break that record playing of things that come flying out of our mouth without any awareness, but we also have to relax and be kind to ourselves.

A few months ago, there was a meme about what to say to children instead of ‘stop crying‘. While the post was really thoughtful and helpful, it also didn’t offer any suggestions for parents who struggle to listen to crying. And it didn’t explain that sometimes you just can’t have a crying child because it’s not the right time or place. I wondered how many parents were feeling guilty and stressed by that meme? That sometimes it’s really ok to get a child to stop crying, if there are other more urgent issues at hand. That sometimes crying in our children triggers something so deep and hurtful in us, that we can’t handle it and that we need a lot of inner work to be able to listen to crying.

All we can do is do our best. Children like when we act natural around them. They don’t want artificial words coming out of our mouths. Being authentic is something that our children love about their parents! At any given moment, there are the million variables in life! Sometimes it’s ok to say one thing, and other times, we have to say another thing. And, sometimes, I’ve found that saying no words at all is the most powerful thing I can do for my kids.

So, before you get too confused about the right way to communicate with our children, just relax. There is always imperfection in words! ALWAYS! Words have the ability to spoil everything, so don’t worry too much if you’re saying right or wrong! Just relax, be natural and have fun!

Photo: Art Baltrotsky

Dear America, What Exactly Are Y’all Praying For?

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My husband woke up before me and showed me the screen of his phone. “What the hell.” He said. “What the fuck.” I said. We don’t swear much. But this news check required swearing.

Another shooting. More people praying.

Praying for the victim’s peace. Praying for the victom’s families. Praying that another act of ‘senseless violence’ (ahem, domestic terrorism/murder) won’t happen again.

How about we start praying for GUN LAW REFORM?!?! Now there’s a thought! It’s mighty kind of us to pray for victims and their families, but by the time we’re praying for the victims and the families is too late!!!

What if, instead of waiting for these things to happen, and then praying later, American politicians did something to STOP mass shootings from happening.

Don’t pull your bullshit, “People shoot people”. I moved away from America ten years ago and I live in a country with people too. Crazy people, sane people, rich people, poor people. The difference is that in the country I live in now, people don’t have access to guns like they used to. In 1996, there was a mass shooting in Australia and the politicians said enough is enough. They changed the gun laws. They made a gun buy back program to get guns out do the hands of civilians. And guess what? No more mass shootings.

There was no praying. (Ok, maybe there was). Quite simply, the laws were changed. There was no fluffing around. The Australian politicians decided that the right to live was greater than the right to own a gun.

And, people here can still own guns. And, we still have gun violence. It’s stupid. I wish the laws were even stricter. When you do hear of gun related violence, it’s usually associated with some sort of domestic violence.

But no lunatic pulling out a semi automatic weapon killing 50 people and injuring 500 more!

So, America, pray all you want, because I know you’re a prayin’ nation, but please pray for the right thing. Pray that your politicians will keep the guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. The second amendment does not apply to phsycopaths with semi automatic rifles! I’ll pray for you too. And for your husbands and wives and for your children, that your politicians will do the right thing.

 

When Babies and Toddlers Go on Strike! An Aware Parent Perspective

My ten month old son was getting a new tooth, and while it wasn’t causing him pain, his latch must have felt different. One day, he sort of chomped/grazed me while he was feeding. I jumped and let out a ‘YELP!‘ On the surface, he showed no obvious response to my reaction. But, when we started having extreme difficulties feeding for the next few days, I knew that he had been upset by my reaction to his bite.

It’s very common for babies and toddlers to ‘strike‘. Most common are breastfeeding ‘strikes‘, or if you’re doing elimination communication, it could be a potty ‘strike‘. (If you haven’t heard of elimination communication, it’s taking your baby to the potty, I wrote a blog post about it here.) Other ‘strikes‘ could be sitting still for a nappy change, getting in the carseat, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc. I lumped all the ‘strikes‘ together, because while the reason for the ‘strike‘ may be different, the remedies for the ‘strikes‘ are generally the same!

Sometimes the ‘strike‘ seems to resolve itself, while other times, the ‘strike‘ seems to go on forever.

I put the term ‘strike‘ in quotation marks, because it’s not really that the baby doesn’t want to continue with the activity. Rather, babies at this age go on ‘strike‘ because of some sort of unmet need or pent up emotions. This post will talk about WHY a baby goes on ‘strike‘ and what actions you can take to resolve the issue, all while staying emotionally available and connected to your baby. Read the rest of this entry

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!

Nothing Can Disturb You More Than Your Own Mind

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I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I have a house, car, clothes, beautiful family, all that. But, I’m telling you, none of that matters.Even if you have everything you need, if your mind is upset, you can’t enjoy any of it!

Some days, I walk down the beach and watch the sunset and I’m in awe of life’s beauty. And, some days, I walk on the SAME beach. I have the SAME house to go home to and have the SAME beautiful things in my life, but if my mind is a mess, I can’t see a thing.

Luckily, I’ve been meditating for that many years that I usually catch my mind wandering and I can quickly snap out of it. And, over the years, I have far far less of the disturbing days than I used to have.

When I do snap out of it, it reminds me. It doesn’t matter what you have. No amount of money. No amount of things. No amount of beautiful scenery. No amount of relationships or success at work. NONE of it will make you happy if your mind is disturbed! This crazy mind jumps from here to there and there to here and back again. It will drive you insane!

So, we need to take care of that silly old mind of ours.

The funny thing about the mind is that you can’t control the mind with the mind. You can’t just negotiate with an anxious mind to make it calm. You can’t just tell your mind to stop planding so that you can drift off to sleep. You can’t just tell your mind to stop broofing over the past.

This mind is tricky!

You can practice mindfulness and awareness, but it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to control the mind that way.

The fastest and easiest way to keep the mind in balance is through breathing and meditation. I’ve been meditating every day for 15 years, and trust me, it works. It really works to help keep you happy.

Why?

Because breathing and meditation bring your mind to the present moment…. and if your mind is in the present moment, then you don’t worry as much. And, if your mind isn’t worrying as much, then it’s less disturbed and that means you’re more happy.

If you’re more happy, the people around you are happy. And, if you’re happy, the sunsets always look better!

A good meditation app I use sometimes is called ‘Sattva’ there are lots of free meditations on there. Also, the Art of Living foundation’s ‘Happiness Program’ will teach you the most amazing breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya. The organization runs programs all over the world.

Respecting a Baby’s Space

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Babies are so cute! They’re so innocent and non-judging… they make lots of people feel the love, belongingness and connection that we all crave.

And, babies need to be picked up, handled and held for just about every activity they do! As an attachment style parent, I’ve had very close contact with my babies all day and night. Physical touch and connection is vital for a baby’s well being.

But where do we draw the line as to what is respectful to a baby’s body or what may be unintentionally violating a baby’s space? Shouldn’t there be a difference in how a stranger enters your baby’s space as opposed to someone the baby knows? And, just because a baby is smiling, does it mean that he’s enjoying the interaction?

I know, I know, again, baby’s are so cute! It’s hard to not want to tickle them or stroke their soft skin or ask to hold them or to squeeze them and poke all their round delicious parts. My son is just about to turn six months old at the time I’m writing this, and man, is he a ham! It’s hard for people to keep their hands off him!

But… babies are people, let’s not forget. Small adorable people, who can’t talk. Would it be ok to go around stroking a stranger’s cheeks? Or, if you saw a cute looking guy in the shops, would it be alright to stick your finger in his hand? No…

I don’t have the right to tickle, poke and prod or do anything that might make my baby feel uncomfortable. And, I feel like I need to protect my small person from other well-meaning people who can’t help but want to do the same.

I’ve had countless strangers approach my babies and try to get a squeeze, or a poke or a kiss! Even when my babies have been tucked away in the baby carrier, and I try to turn away, I’ve had people touch my baby’s toes, plant a kisses on my baby’s head, put a finger in my baby’s soft hand or stroke my baby’s cheeks (their cheeks are amazing, I admit).

Then, people ask for cuddles…

If the baby is tucked away in the carrier, they won’t ask (thank goodness). But, if the baby’s out of the carrier and they ask, I don’t always know what to say. Saying ‘no‘ seems rude. If they could ask my baby and he could answer, then the answer would be straight forward. But, how do I know if HE wants you to hold him? This is not a game of ‘pass the baby‘, this is a little person with feelings!

How would I feel if a giant stranger, who looked, felt and smelled very different from my mother, picked me up? I’m not sure I would like it…

I love the most when people interact with my son by smiling at him and talking. That way, he can simply snuggle his head into my chest if he doesn’t feel like interacting. Or, he can choose to respond by smiling back. Sometimes my son smiles during an interaction with someone, but I have to look at his body language to know if he’s enjoying the interaction. Is he smiling, but tense and pulling and squirming away? Or, is he smiling with his body relaxed? If he’s relaxed, then I know he feels safe and comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, other people have definitely held my babies, I’m not that uptight and it’s beautiful when the holding is done with awareness. My parents just came to visit from America and my son spent tons of time on their laps. And, some of my good friends, that I see on a regular basis, get cuddles. But, people whom I don’t see often, I just don’t feel comfortable saying ‘yes‘ to when they ask for a casual cuddle. A cuddle is a very intimate thing, in my opinion!

It’s not just strangers who want to poke and prod babies, I think about how often my husband and daughters (or even I) may accidentally invade my son’s body space. My girls love him so much, tthe second I put him down, they’re all over him like white on rice! It’s a tough one, like I said, because babies need to be picked up, interacted with and helped all day long… and we do love to play with him. So, I try my best to nicely remind everyone to look and listen carefully at his cues to see if he starts feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

The whole idea of respecting a baby’s body in the way I’m talking about, is a very subtle concept. It’s not to say that we limit the touching or holding of our babies, because babies absolutely need lots of closeness. And, we should act natural around babies! But, is the touching and holding done with awareness? And, does the baby feel safe and comfortable?

We just don’t know what strong impressions are being made in a baby’s brain at such a young age. True, they won’t remember individual events, but they do remember the feeling. I want to make sure that down the track, my children grow up with the feeling that they have felt safe and respected.