A little slice of heaven

The good times are here.

G and I are both in full time employment for the first time in 5 years. We are about to receive 2 full pay checks, which means paying bills on time this month, means no need for family to top up our income, means long overdue visits to the dentist, means buying some glasses and knick knacks for the house, a few spring clothes for the bairns, and going out for a celebratory lunch. Life is good.

Boychild has been away for the last 3 weeks in Cancun, and now in London doing all sorts of fun stuff like a parkour course for kids. We are incredibly lucky to have parents young enough, wealthy enough and willing enough to take him (and eventually girlchild and babyking) for amazing holidays. He is back in 3 days, and we have missed him.

Spring is here in all its glorious frivolity. The eggshell blue of the sky is brought into full contrast behind the sprays of tender green that have shot out in a matter of weeks, giving the city its leafy outdoor roof back. This living cover is one of the things I love about Barcelona.

I have spent the last week being a SAHM again, it’s Easter hols, and loved it. We have been to the beach, the zoo, the park, seen friends (mine and girlchild’s), baked (twice!), painted Easter themed stuff, watched The Neverending Story cuddled up together on the couch (and, oh, how I felt the solemn right of passage as we did so!), talked, laughed, connected.

And last but not least I have invented a new habit for myself. As G works most evenings now, and I don’t have boychild here, after I put the babyking and girlchild to bed and then tidied up, I set myself up in bed with tea, book, iPad, phone, food, nail kit or whatever else I think i might need and I CHILL, baby. OK, so some nights it doesn’t work out (i.e I fall asleep with them, or have a load of housework to do, or someone calls me and it just gets too late), but when it does, it looks something like this photo I whatsapped to my girls the other night….

In my books, it doesn’t get much better than this…

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A little slice of heaven

No TV is a good TV

If I had a euro for every time I’ve heard the words “too much TV” and “my kid(s)” in the same sentence… well, let’s just say I could probably buy a huge flatscreen TV with the proceeds.

But I wouldn’t, would I. ‘Cos TV is bad. Bad, Bad, BAD. Evil perhaps?

Literally all of the parents I know feel their kids watch too much TV and it is generally agreed that it has no merit. Yet we all continue to let them watch said amount and then moan about it (to them) and berate ourselves as not good enough parents.

First of all, what is too much? Every day? And what is the right amount? What would we be at peace with, once/twice a week, only on a Saturday morning, none?

And merit? Because our children couldn’t possibly be doing something, say “just for the fun of it”. If it doesn’t add to them in some way…well, what message is that, that people might do stuff just for fun?!

Personally I know I try to control the watching (we do screens/DVDs, TV I don’t do in my house purely and simply ‘cos of the advert bombardment plus here in Spain an innocent channel flick could lead to scarring for life by watching the uncensored news) and I almost always feel that they are watching too much.

I think I feel that the thing I don’t like is that they “should” be doing something else, something more constructive or play based, something enriching. The reality is they do do a lot of enriching stuff, when they aren’t watching they go to a brilliant school (all day!) where they are playing freely and exploring, they are drawing and cutting, or helping us cook, or let’s face it – fighting or getting underfoot when we have a million and one things to do, so the screens are pretty useful as well as in balance.

As for enriching, I’m not just saying this but I do think they have learned a lot from watching. Apart from the myriad of documentaries we have watched (at the mo’ we are getting through The Human Planet, it is ace) boychild is a total film buff. He will watch and enjoy anything from the usual (and, I know, completely unsuitable for an 8 year old…) transformers/spiderman, to black and white comedy classics like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keeton.

So why do I still feel guilty about it?

Well, partly to do with the studies that prove that on screen violence provokes violence in kids. I hold my hands up that boychild has watched waaaay to many violent scenes. So I feel it may make him violent or angry. But actually, he is less violent and angry than he used to be, so I should concur that it’s probably not the films but the family situation (DH and I are less angry and stressed than we used to be).

And then it’s the links with obesity. But none of them are obese and they do spend a load of time running about at school and we do stuff at the weekend like bike rides, walks etc.

And I think a WHOLE LOAD because I (and you, and you, and you) constantly feel like a not good enough parent and since TV has been vilified again and again we use it as a stick to beat ourselves.

Perhaps I should try to let them watch the same as they do now, and just be at peace with it? OR, let them watch (gasp) as much as they want and be at peace with it? Could I? Would they regulate in the end? People who un-school their kids would say that they do. But then again it would probably get waaay beyond my comfort zone before coming back and being regulated.

On a last note, I don’t remember being regulated by my parents at all for TV as a kid, and I wasn’t violent, obese, or stunted in any way. In fact I was an exceptionally creative child with great social skills and enjoyment in outside activities and nature. I don’t think any of this has got to do with time spent watching or not watching, but more to do with the way I was raised: lots of excursions, conversations, experiences and love. And TV, plenty of it!

So I’m going to try to make peace with the screens in our lives, and just kick back and be grateful for the relative peace it provides. Happy watching!

 

 

No TV is a good TV

Encouragment and praise

Reading an interesting parenting book at the mo’, aptly titled “Children: the challenge” (too right!). It was written by Rudolf Dreikurs in 1964, but seriously is more modern and ‘right on’ than many of the simplified (yet oh so lucrative…) behaviorist tendencies of today.

One thing I’m ruminating on right now is the difference he draws between encouragement and praise. There has been quite a lot of writing recently about how not to praise children too much, lest they become praise ‘junkies’ or ‘addicted to praise’ or, even worse, won’t do anything unless praised/rewarded. My response to this has been that limiting praise in this way is like the icing on the cake of perfect parenting in a perfect environment. In other words most kids in this world don’t get enough positive feedback, so it’s a bit irresponsible to suggest limiting it even more. Children need love, praise, positive feedback and encouragement in abundance to feel worthy and secure.

Now I’ve read this book, it has clarified my stance a bit. Rather then praise, what we want to aim for is encouragement, and plenty of it.

Praise: Well done! Brilliant! You are amazing/fantastic/the bees knees etc. (I do this all the time…)

encouragement: You did it! You must feel proud of yourself! I see a tidy room, how does that feel?! You got all A’s, I’m glad you enjoy learning so much.

encouragement is literally ‘giving courage’, so not over protecting a child to the point that they feel they cannot do things. Let a baby try and try and try again to scramble up the step, without helping (you did it!). Letting the small child pour that milk even if it spills – the sense of satisfaction of doing it for herself outweighs the wastage of a bit of milk (you poured the milk all by yourself!), with practice she sill get it right but not if discouraged the whole time. Trusting that older child to go to the shops alone. Giving kids the thumbs up for things they may not be able to do yet and not spoiling it with a ‘be careful’ (suggesting they will fail). Giving courage, having courage in them, having faith in them and transmitting it. You can do it. En-couragement.

I still think that this technique is a bit ‘parenting PhD’, it’s like there are so many other things to be worrying about, can we really worry about the way we word positive feedback to our kids…yawn. I think there’s no harm in bigging up your kids from time to time, showing them with words and hugs that they are the best things since sliced bread.

But I like the idea of encouragment…giving them courage, strength and skills to feel “I can do it”! Bit of both scenario, methinks.

 

 

 

Encouragment and praise

Safe from harm

I have this weird thing, this weird feeling every time a close friend approaches her due date. It’s a kind of excited but fretting feeling, watching her prepare for the (lets face it) unknown realm of birth and postpartum… we have all been there, it’s like trying to pack for a surprise holiday with no idea how long you will be there, what the weather will be like, or if the locals will be friendly.

The apprehension felt is totally subjective if you are already a mum. It’s either “I hope it goes as well as…” or “I hope it’s not as bad as…”.

I have been both of the above. After my first child (homebirth, empowering, very whole experience. Postpartum: like being on the best drug in the world, pure heaven!) I was keen to ‘help’ friends to have the same. I advised, spoke about natural birth, baby bonding, breastfeeding, I tried to help. It was about wanting to share a good experience, to share the love. (This of course didn’t always work out and in one instance that plus my intrusive full on breastfeeding “support” left a friendship in tatters).

After my second birth (homebirth, exhausting, defeating, hollowing. Postpartum: unravelling, slight PPD) I wanted to help people to avoid this experience. So all my pregnant friends got the warnings and advice about how to handle the second time round, as if they hadn’t heard enough moaning already.

I had this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to protect them at all costs. (In fact, I wrote about it a few years ago here). I wished that what had happened to me would not happen to my friends. Around due dates I would get really jumpy and overinvolved (just for the record…sorry!) and also in the postpartum…I didn’t know if I should call, or stay away. Sometimes it even brought on flashbacks of the hard times I had been through, quite painful.

I wanted to support them and protect them from their possible pain….as if, even if I could (oh, the lofty ideals), that that would be desirable…

Yes, pain hurts, but pain makes you grow as well. My second experience was tough, but it shifted emotions and feelings in me and forced me to grow in ways I will always be grateful for. Imagine if someone had cushioned me from that experience (how?), I wouldn’t be the same person I am today…

Even if it hurts, we get through, and we grow, and we all have a right to own that and walk it for ourselves.

I’m writing this with someone in mind, you know who you are. May your impending birth be empowering in it’s delight but also in its sorrow, for birth is the ultimate portal through which we have the privilege of higher knowledge. And really, I wouldn’t want to take that away from you, even if it hurts.

(PS. For the record I have 3 kids. Number 3 birth was also at home: self directed, delightful, enjoyable (not quite orgasmic, but I can believe it!), satisfying, fast, healing, and a family affair witnessed by number 1&2). Postpartum: completing, whirlwind, precious, enjoyable, busy!)

 

 

 

 

 

Safe from harm

The phases of love

I’m having to leave the house early these days to get my stuff done. Too many kids at home, too much undone housework. I’m job hunting, serious stuff, and blogging, stuff of the heart. Today I promised myself I would start with the serious stuff…but here I am, couldn’t resist.

I was musing on my way to this quiet cafe, about loving our kids, how it feels, how it can wax and wane. I remember being told before having a baby that the bond may not be ‘instant’, that love takes time. For me it didn’t, my big boychild melted my heart right away, and the love just deepened in intensity over the first few months and up to about 3 years old.

Life became more complex at that point: logistics were tiring, money tight, relationship rocky, plus a baby, girlchild, came along. He acted out, I didn’t have the energy or support to deal with it properly. Our relationship became negative, a kind of spiral ensued and then there were years where I longed to be away from him, dreaded his arrival at home or picking him up from school. A hard day with him was loooong, tiring, aggravating. Our relationship (and his home persona) was difficult: breaking things, spitting, biting, hurting his sister, explosions of temper. I did things I regret, I hit, I shouted.

I jollied along, always the ‘dutiful mother’, I stayed at home, I worked hard on mothering, on thinking about his needs in every way, co-slept, cuddled, read to, facilitated his friendships, education, excursions and fun. I read behavioral books, went to some family therapy. It was intense, a slog. I felt angry with him, numb sometimes, felt it was unfair to have been dealt this hand, this difficult child.

I beat myself up, shouldn’t a mother’s love be unconditional? Love him…I have always loved him, I would lay down my life in an instant, sacrifice everything, do anything. But palpable love? When you miss someone, look forward to seeing them…I didn’t delight in him like I imagined I should.

Things improved a bit. In the meantime he grew, he bonded with friends, enjoyed school (at last!), everyone delighted in him except me it felt like.

He is now 7.5 and away for the summer. I miss him. I realise how much we have bonded this year…I had all of them at home part of this year (“homeschooling”, more like bedlam) and though it was hard, we all bonded in our adversity.

We now have another baby boychild, and big boychild is besotted. He has finally found his place on the world, in the family, and in my heart. I miss him, and I need him, and for the first time in a long time I can say from the bottom of my heart that I really, truly, love him.

Love takes time, love has phases, love teaches. I’m grateful to have this boychild teacher. Come back soon boychild… but not too soon….the house is kinda peaceful without you 😉

The phases of love

Some of these fools…

“Some of these fools are so deceptive/ Using my styles like a contraceptive”

Thus said Snoop Dogg in the early 90s while I nodded along in a bandana, hoops and pinrolled dungarees… little did I know how true this would be to 33 year old me…

OK, let me explain.

I went for a walk today with a childless friend and his dog (which btw DOESN’T COUNT). He divulged to me that one of the reasons he and his partner were no longer thinking of having kids was US, seeing how much we had given up and how much we had struggled.

That’s where I am, a one-woman contraceptive.

Though the comment was said in all delicacy and he is a true friend (really, he is), I can’t help feeling… dowdy, boring, poor, shabby…This is NOT the mum I wanted to be. I wanted to be the fun-look-at-me-yes it’s-hard-but-oh-so-much-love walking advert. The yes-the-money’s-tight-but-we-have-each-other type.The MILF, the yummy mummy, the Supermum.

And what did I say, yes what did I say, did I say “Oh come on, having kids is fantastic. The pure love you give and gets opens your heart in ways you can’t even imagine. My 3 homebirths were the most amazing ecstatic experiences of my and my partners lives. I am proud to put my kids first. I love watching them grow and learn and discover the world. I look forward to a future with them and by them and with my grandchildren after that” or even the blatant “at least I will have someone to look after me when I’m old”…

No, I said “Yes, well, I sometimes think that if people knew what having children really meant, they wouldn’t have them at all”.

THIS.FOOL.HAS.GOT.TO.CHANGE

(and I don’t mean him)

 

 

 

Some of these fools…

Go bananas, wasters!

A message to the banana wasters: banana wasting is no longer a problem as I now have a solution to turn your evil ways into delicious mama food…

Frozen banana ice cream!

Yes, that’s right, I now have a tupper in my freezer DEDICATED to leftover bits of banana. I know this is gonna make you have a 2-4 year old tantrum, but when I feel like a delicious, healthy, cold snack I just whizz ’em up in my trusty kenwood with some milk, straight up, or add chocolate, almonds or whatever the f*%$ else I feel like…and it’s sooooo good.

So, go on, “waste” away! The squidgier, the better!

Fools!

Go bananas, wasters!