The Quiet Corner

This is my space, my quiet space,
Where I can come to breathe.
I don’t need noise, and I don’t need toys,
All I need is me.

I rest my feet and I’m grateful,
For the places they’ve helped me to go.
But now is a time for stillness,
Now is a time for slow.

I rest my legs and I’m grateful,
That they’ve helped me to walk so far.
But now is no time for movement,
Now is a time for calm.

I rest my arms and I’m grateful,
For all the balls they’ve thrown.
But now is no time for games with friends,
Now is just time for alone.

I rest my hands and I’m grateful,
For all that they’ve helped me to make.
But now I feel them nice and still,
Now is their time for a break.

I rest my eyes and I’m grateful,
For all that they’ve helped me to see.
But now is no time for the big, wide world,
Now is just time for me.

Prose for Thought
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Top 7 Dads from Children’s Books

In my part of the world, tomorrow is Father’s Day. In honour of that occasion, I have created my list of the top 7 dads from children’s books. Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments! Who is your favourite father from a kids’ book? Have I missed out on a great dad from children’s literature?

7. Father William (from the poem recited by Alice in her adventures in Wonderland)

He may have been old, but that didn’t mean he lacked wit:

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”
– You Are Old, Father William – Lewis Carroll

6. The Gruffalo (from the book of the same name, and the gripping sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child)

That’s right, it turns out that the big, bad Gruffalo is a pretty good dad. He’s protective, but he’s still raising a kid who is adventurous and brave. He’s also a sweet reminder that sometimes the sound of daddy’s snores is the safest sound in the world:

The footprints led to the Gruffalo cave where the Gruffalo’s child was a bit less brave. The Gruffalo’s child was a bit less bored. And the Gruffalo snored… And snored, and snored.
– The Gruffalo’s Child

5. Mr Darling (father of Wendy, John and Michael of Peter Pan fame)

The book may have been about flying away to a magical land where there were no parents to deal with at all, but Mr Darling certainly loved his family:

Mrs Darling: There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before one’s self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.
Michael: Where did he put them?
Mrs Darling: He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.
– Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

4. Baloo the Bear (the loveable bear father-figure from The Jungle Book, you may remember him from the Disney adaptation)

Baloo the Bear helps a pack of wolves to raise Mowgli, a human boy, and teaches him the law of the jungle. He is a reminder that being a good father isn’t all about biology. One of his maxims says:

Oppress not the cubs of the stranger, but hail them as Sister and Brother,
For though they are little and fubsy, it may be the bear is their mother.
– The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

3. Big Nutbrown Hare (from Guess How Much I Love You)

My husband actually thinks Big Nutbrown Hare is a bit of a jerk because he always has to one-up his son. I love this competitiveness because it reminds me of my own Dad and it’s clear that even though he always has to win, he has a great big heart of gold:

Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him good night. Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, “I love you right up to the moon – and back.”
– Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney

2. Caractacus Pott (Jeremy and Jemima’s father, inventor of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

Aside from being a pretty awesome inventor, anyone who gives the following advice to his children has got to be an excellent dad:

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.
– Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ian Fleming

1. William (Father of Danny the Champion of the World)

Through the eyes of Danny, William is “the most marvellous and exciting father any boy ever had.” Roald Dahl has crafted a truly special dad:

I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be a phony.
– Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl

Happy Father’s Day!

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The Worst Best Advice

Enjoy every minuteIt was mid-afternoon. Both the kids were fed, rested, and happy. This, I thought, was a perfect opportunity to load them into the double pram and walk to the supermarket to pick up a few things that we needed.

Except the toddler insisted on walking. That’s ok, I thought, if he wears himself out this afternoon it will make bedtime easier. It might take a bit longer but we’re all still happy so let’s go with it. He stopped to watch caterpillars, smell flowers, and walk along walls. It was turning out to be a delightful walk.

Except the slow pace made the baby frustrated and want to get out of the pram too. That’s ok, I thought, I can carry her in one arm and push the pram with the other hand while we’re walking at this pace.

Except then the toddler insisted on holding the hand that was being used to push the pram. That’s ok, I thought, I knew my body was holding onto that baby weight around my tummy for a reason. I can hold the baby in one arm, hold my toddler’s hand with the other, and push the pram along with my perfectly padded belly.

It was not as easy as I imagined. The walk was becoming less delightful by the second. I was red faced and flustered, cursing my hubris with every step. My hair was blowing in my face but I didn’t have a spare hand to brush it back. One of my sneakers came untied. By the time we got to the shops all I could think about was finding a bench to stop at. I needed to get myself together.

So when I saw the woman making a beeline towards me I tried to avoid eye contact. But this one was not for turning. “Oh aren’t they precious,” She gushed. “It goes so fast. Make sure you enjoy every minute.” There it was. Enjoy every minute.

I hear that phrase, or a version of it, so very often now. It started right back during my first pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness right up until labour when I was so dehydrated from the constant vomiting that they put me straight on a drip. Labour was easily the least difficult part of that first pregnancy. Yet as soon as someone saw the bump, they would ignore the green face and say: “It’s such a special time. Enjoy every minute.”

Then again when I had a newborn. Cards and messages, friends and well-meaning strangers were all telling me to enjoy every minute. When I was so tired that I forgot that I was sterilising my breast pump in boiling water, only realising when I smelled the melting plastic (a smell that lingered on for days), I wanted to scream “What about this minute?!” When I had mastitis and couldn’t get out of bed. “What about this minute?!” When my baby was screaming and I couldn’t figure out why. “What about this minute?!” Sure he’s the greatest thing ever in the history of the entire universe but what about this minute and this minute and this minute?!?

Of course, people don’t actually mean that they think that you will, or even should, enjoy every minute. They just want to emphasise that time goes by so fast and that children grow up before you know it. The thing is, when people keep telling you something over and over you really start to believe it. Then when you are not in fact enjoying every minute you begin to question yourself.

This is the fourteenth nappy I’ve changed today, I’m getting a bit over it. No, no, wait, I should be appreciating this moment, one day I won’t have any nappies to change.

My toddler’s been pinching me incessantly while I’ve been trying to cook dinner. I should relish the pinching now because when he’s all grown up there’ll be no one to pinch me while I chop carrots.

I’ve got a headache this morning, I’d love nothing more than just to go back to bed. Hang on now, I should embrace the tiredness, one day I’ll get all the sleep I want and wish for nothing more than a return of that extreme fatigue.

Not enjoying every minute – one more thing to add to the list of things that makes me a terrible person. Worst advice ever.

On the other hand, when taken as it is intended it really is the best advice. I do try to remember it during the rough times because I know that most of the these parenting-young-children times are good times. More than good. That crazy, indescribable soaring of the heart wonder. I know I’ll miss so very much about this time. One day maybe I’ll even genuinely miss everything about this time. I have no doubt that many of the people who give me this worst best advice are in fact missing everything about this time in their own lives.

So I looked at the kindly, well-meaning woman at the shops who was looking at my children but seeing her own, smiled and said: “Thank you. I will.” Then I thrust my belly back out and pushed the pram away from her as fast as I could.

Advice From The Heart
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