From Gigs To Grocery Shopping Alone

November 29, 2016

From Gigs To Grocery Shopping Alone - my new simple pleasuresRemember those pre kid things you did? The things that made you feel alive and free? I used to love sifting through op shops, going to gigs, travelling, and one of my all time favourites, drinking wine and eating chocolate while my housemates and I gave one another epic long massages. And I did them all without the slightest inkling that one day things would be different. Oh so different. 

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change things. I don’t regret this new life for even a split second. I honestly don’t wish I could trade the poopy nappies and little hands needing me almost constantly with a gig at the Northcote Social Club. 

These days are made up of changing nappies, helping kids in the bath, pulling apart stubborn Lego pieces and facilitating an outfit change for the tenth time. They mean that I enjoy new things, or perhaps appreciate is a more appropriate word for it. These days I appreciate simpler outings or events.
 
My simple pleasures look like this now…
* Grocery shopping alone

* Shopping online and getting excited by postal deliveries

* Having a shower

* Having a shower without kids in the bathroom

* Listening to my own music

* Reading, even if it’s with a sleeping bundle of baby in my arms

* Laying down in bed at night, worn out to my bones and feeling full in my heart

* My morning coffee

* Seeing the world through their eyes. Through their eyes of innocence and imagination. 

* Hanging out with my hubby of an evening watching a favourite show – we just finished Cold Feet. 

My heart is more alive than it’s ever been. 

My heart feels more than it’s ever felt.

My heart breaks more than it ever did.

My heart sings for joy and soars with love like never before. 

For now, these days don’t include late night gigs at bars, but rather late night snuggles with my babies. And that’s ok, it’s more than ok. I might be completely spent and have days where my only goal is to be kind to these little people amidst the daily grind and sleep deprivation, but my heart is full and I am exactly where I want to be. 
Written by Cath

Where are the Kids? Bringing Play Back to the Streets

November 17, 2016

three kids running in a field

 

We all know that play is the work of children.

If that is not already a given for you then you need to read THIS. And THIS. And watch THIS. And the many, many more studies and articles that point out the importance of play for kids and why we are causing serious damage by not giving them the time and space they need to just play. With other kids. Of all ages. Without extreme supervision. Like we did. When we were young.

Play.

It’s so simple. And yet, I am discovering it’s SO HARD to just let it happen.

It shouldn’t be so hard.

The neighbourhood kids have disappeared. They are busy at after school activities. And they are inside because their parents can’t come out front with them right now (and they aren’t allowed to go on their own). Play has become too organised. Text messages between parents setting up times and places. Park meet ups and scheduled play dates.

When I wax nostalgic and think about my childhood I remember what my street looked like after school. Probably a lot like yours did. There were kids. Big kids and young kids. Sisters and brothers. Bicycles and skateboards. Hockey sticks and soccer balls.

And somehow, we would very simply just find each other. My mom never called anyone to see if they could play with me. She didn’t organise meeting up with other kids at the park. We just went outside and there would be other kids out there. Or if there weren’t then we would knock on doors until we found someone. The two block radius around my house gave me almost all of my playmates until I was 11 years old. The parents in the neighbourhood would keep a collective eye on us without ever hovering. If someone got hurt we would go find an adult.

I think I was pretty typical of the kids growing up 30 years ago. I took piano lessons and a dance class for awhile but most of my after school afternoons were free. And my weekends too. Sometimes I watched TV but most of the time I played with neighbourhood kids. That was just a normal day.

I recently read this article and while the degree of risk described here may be beyond my comfort level, the concept of creating “playbourhoods” rings as very necessary to me in this isolationist era we live in.

We moved recently and our neighbourhood is full of kids but it’s taking us months to meet them. And this is a neighbourhood with a real sense of community already here. But no one ventures out front. I haven’t seen any kids playing on the street and the kids who walk by are almost always with their parents. My daughter is only 5 so I may not actually send her out front on her own to play quite yet but she’s not far off.

So where are all the 8 year olds, 9, 10, 11 and 12 year olds? Not to mention the 5, 6 and 7 year olds. Predetermined activities and after school care are where you will find most of them.

We haven’t got all the answers on how to create our own playbourhood but the things we are trying so far:

1. Being a presence outside. Particularly on the street, rather than the backyard. We may even put a picnic table out front next summer and eat meals there.
2. Making an effort to meet our neighbours.
3. Letting our 5 year old just go knock and see if her friends can come play rather than having to send a message first.

I’m sure there are many neighbourhoods in the world where the kids are still out playing, but I think there are too many like mine…where kids are too busy with organised activities, where a little mud and a little rain keeps people indoors far too often.

The biggest thing we need to do is get out of our kids’ way and give them their time back. It’s important to remember it’s THEIR time, it’s their childhood.

We unschool and one of the big perks is that we are never short on unscheduled time. My daughter attends a dance class and gymnastics class. If she were also in full time school, this would be too much structured time. Unschooling obviously isn’t a solution for everyone, and it comes with its own struggles, but rethinking how we appropriate our kids’ free time is an important conversation to have.

An easy place to start is to really think about whether your kids love their activities. Do they happily go or is it a battle to get them there? If it’s a battle then why are you having it? What about homework? Have you considered ‘saying no to homework‘ to open up more free time? If my kids ever go to regular school we will absolutely be opting out of homework. How about risk? Do you invite risk into their lives? The degree of risk each of us is comfortable with will vary greatly but at some point, at some age it needs to be ok for them to go knock on their friend’s door, maybe walk home from school on their own or with other kids. We need to trust them. And trust that the world is not a horrible place even though horrible things happen.

And then we just need to get out of their way.

Kids know how to play. All mammals play. Play is how we learn. I often wonder how many kids are put in multiple activities and after-school tutoring in the name of ‘real learning’ when really all they need is the OK to venture out front.

Playgrounds are fine but going to the park isn’t really necessary. Green spaces, patches of dirt, puddles, trees…kids can play anywhere. One of our go-to spots growing up was the ditch at the end of our street. Have you noticed how kids truly playing at a playground aren’t using it the way it was intended. They are creating worlds using the structures. They are climbing mountains by climbing the slide (and please, please just let them climb the slide). They use what’s around them to create their play, whether that is man made structures or a pile of sticks.

There are a few simple ways to help your child engage in real play (notice that it’s not our kids who need help learning to play, it’s ourselves who need to do the work):

1. Loosen your grip on the family schedule. Extra curricular activities don’t need to fill the calendar.
2. Let them get messy. Don’t shame them for getting their clothes dirty or their shoes wet. Embrace mud. If you care about the clothes they are getting dirty then they are wearing the wrong clothes.
3. Remember that playmates don’t (and shouldn’t) need to be the same age as your child. Mixed age play is much more beneficial to everyone involved.
4. Get out of their way and get out of their play.

To elaborate on my last point just listen the next time you go to the playground. Parents voices ring out with suggestions of what their kids can do:

Why don’t you go down the slide?”
“Have you tried climbing those bars over there?”
“You should build something in the sand!”

On and on it goes. Not to mention the cacophony of ‘good jobs‘ and ‘stop that nows‘ that fill the park airwaves. It’s too much. Too much input, all the time. Just leave them be. Let them explore and be in the moment, because they are experts at being in the moment if we aren’t always trying to pull them out of it to take a picture or point something out to them.

Shhhh. Be still. Take a few moments for yourself to meditate or just be.

Our kids know how to engage with the world in messy, simple, imaginative ways if we can just step back, schedule less and be outside more. If we can embrace messes and simply just stop talking. If we just step back even a little bit, maybe the kids will come back.

How “Parent Meditating” Can Change Your Life

November 16, 2016

parent meditating

How can “parent meditating” change your life? What is parent meditation?

Parent meditation is the simple act of completely focusing on your child in a specific moment; their essence; their features; their voice. It is the act of being fully present and aware of them in a completely evaluation and judgment-free zone.

When you fully focus and fully appreciate your child in that moment for exactly who they are, and embrace them, you won’t have any head space to be thinking about anything that you fear. Some of those fears may include whether they are caught up to their peers, whether they are too sensitive, whether they will be scared of dogs for the rest of their life. Or you might feel like you aren’t doing too hot at this parenting gig, or maybe you fear that you will die before they grow up, or a deeper fear that you aren’t enough, or even a fear that they aren’t enough. Fears aren’t good or bad. Thoughts aren’t good or bad. They are just part of your mind; the comings and goings of emotions and thoughts that you have no control over. What you do have control over is whether you are going to engage with those thoughts and feelings or just let them float on by. If you find yourself ruminating a lot, here is a great list of ways to let go and be present.

Continue Reading…

Please Don’t Make Your Child Say “Sorry” To My Child

November 15, 2016

Please don't make your child say sorry to my childIf your child hurts my child, please don’t insist they apologise. And absolutely do not ask them to “kiss her all better.”

Little people push, hit, bite and lash out. This is completely natural and developmentally appropriate. Parents usually swoop in with embarrassed phrases like “tell ____ you’re sorry” or, even worse, “hug/kiss ____ all better”. 

No. Definitely not. I know it can be embarrassing when toddlers act like toddlers. I know it’s hard to resist saying what seems to be the socially acceptable expectation. But please, refrain from insisting your child apologise. And especially refrain from encouraging them to kiss or hug someone all better. I know for certainty, if someone hurts me, I definitely don’t want them in my space, uninvited, offering physical affection. It seems a little absurd I know, but to my own bewilderment, I’ve witnessed this interesting gesture. My daughter definitely does not want to be “kissed all better” by someone who has just hurt her. 

Kids will be kids and that’s ok. We aren’t responsible for their behaviour. It is, however, our responsibility to be nearby our little ones in order that we can ideally prevent such altercations. Toddlers and small children need adult support and supervision. They don’t know, nor should they be expected to know, how to negotiate with their peers, how to appropriately assert themselves or how to cope in a mature way with frustration. 

What can we do when our child hurts another child?
* Check the other child is ok. Demonstrate compassion and empathy towards the injured/upset child. 

* Apologise on behalf of your child.  You could say “I’m so sorry ____ hurt you, I wish that didn’t happen.”

* Support your child. Assess the situation. Does your child feel frustrated, intimidated, sad, tired, hungry etc. Stay beside or nearby him/her to ensure positive interactions with other children. 

Why isn’t it a good idea to tell a child to say “sorry”?
In a nutshell, it’s pointless. Aside from ticking an imaginary social etiquette box, it doesn’t teach either child anything. Forcing a child to apologise doesn’t teach empathy, remorse or connection. It’s easy to think that those feelings may follow. That perhaps after kids learn to parrot the words, they may also learn the associated emotions. However, children learn those emotions through modelling and when they are permitted to develop naturally. If anything, forcing a child to say “sorry” inhibits the natural development of these feelings. Instead of being allowed to feel that yuck, uncomfortable feeling of regret and sadness at another’s pain, they feel self protective and defensive when forced to apologise. Watching their parent say the appropriate words will both teach them to say “sorry”, and provide them with the freedom necessary to eventually feel those emotions. 

An aside, but also relevant, the hurt child doesn’t gain anything from a forced apology either. It’s empty and meaningless and doesn’t help them to feel better. 

We’ve never insisted our daughters say “sorry” following altercations. We immediately care for the sad or injured person and then check in with the one who’d committed the ‘crime’. Almost always they need some kind of support as they play, or one of them needs some down/quiet time. Despite never demanding our children apologise, they often do say “sorry” – and when they do, it is genuine, sincere and authentic. It might even be hours after the event that one of them will say something like “I’m sorry I pushed you. I didn’t want to hurt you.” Followed by a heartfelt and spontaneous hug. 

So please, when dealing with the aftermath of an altercation between toddlers, don’t insist your child politely parrot “sorry”. And especially don’t ask them to hug or kiss my child as a means to fix what happened. Simply, check on the injured party, say you are sorry they got hurt, and then support your child in whatever way they need you. 

The quest for quality child care: The au pair program explained

November 11, 2016

family-1784371_960_720

As any working parent knows, finding the right child care is a daunting task. That goes double for attachment parents. We have spent countless hours holding our babies, wearing them, and sleeping next to them. We have nursed and rocked them for ages. We’ve researched diapers and baby-led weaning. We have set up yes environments. And now we are supposed to hand them over to someone else to care for? The thought of it makes giving birth sound easy.

With two kids and two careers in our family, we have looked into every option for child care and tried several. We toured what felt like every daycare in town. We’ve hired nannies. We did Waldorf preschool for two years. Our current arrangement, and the one we love most, is hosting an au pair.

What is an au pair?
The au pair program provides full-time live-in child care combined with cultural exchange. Your family gets a responsible and fun big sister or big brother figure to take care of your children and provide some light help around the house for 45 hours per week, and an 18-26 year old from another country gets the chance to experience life in the US. Continue Reading…

How To Snap Out Of Snapping At Your Kids

November 8, 2016

how to snap out of snapping at your kids

This past week I’ve been struggling a lot. Struggling with balance, with taking care of my body (like eating because I’ve got too many other things that I want to do so I forget to eat), with taking my emotional temperature frequently, or with being distracted and detached from my kids.

The biggest cause of snapping at my kids is distraction. I’m working on something important to me and fail to recognize something important to them. This leads to a constant flow of, “Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama! Mama!” Screaming and tears and me feeling like, “WHAT??” And Momzilla comes out. Instead of that playful, gentle person that I strive to be. Continue Reading…

10 Ways To Simplify & Enjoy Life More

November 7, 2016

Ten ways to simplify and enjoy life more

Parenting is a tough gig. Now that I have three kids, I look back to the days of being a one child family and envisage how much easier it was. But you know what, it actually wasn’t. Nor was it any easier when we only had two sweet treasures. Sure, there are new demands and extra little people thrown into the daily juggle of meeting needs, getting the basics done and trying to enjoy life along the way. But we somehow adjust to each change, to the addition of another person and to altered demands and expectations. The goal posts shift and we somehow become even more skilled at juggling a hundred and one things, and more efficient at managing our full calendars.

I was chatting with friends the other day and we were all commiserating that we, as humans, tend to push ourselves and our resources to the limit.

We fill up every minute of our time.

We spend close to our exact income.

For some reason, it seems that it is human nature to operate at “full capacity”, instead of keeping any stores in reserve. Stores of money, time or energy.

It’s important for anyone, but it’s especially important for our kids, to experience life at a slower pace. A slower and more enjoyable pace. I’m pretty certain these two things go hand in hand…slowing down and enjoying life more. Continue Reading…

How to Help Children Cope With a Move

November 4, 2016

Help Children Cope with a move

Whether you are moving across the street, across the city, across the country, or across the world, a move is a big deal; a huge transition; a gargantuan adjustment. It’s an adjustment for the adults and most definitely an adjustment for the kids. We’ve moved a lot since our babies were born and I would love to share our tips and tricks that have helped the transition go smoother.
There are tons of ways to help children with this major transition. Here are some of ours. Continue Reading…

Are You Suffering From Parenting Burnout?

October 24, 2016

parenting burnout

“I’m so over this.”

“I give up.”

“I don’t care.”

“Do what you want.”

Are you feeling trapped by your life? Do you feel weighed down by the demands and responsibilities that are placed on your shoulders? Do you feel resentful and exhausted; like you can’t ever get a break? Are you impatient? Irritable? Depressed?

You may be suffering from parenting burnout. Here is an extensive list of some of the tell tale signs. Some of them include:

  • Insomnia.
  • Depression.
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Detachment and cynicism.
  • A feeling of inadequacy.
  • Anger.

Continue Reading…