Happiness insomnia

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Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. I wasn’t worried about anything. I hadn’t had too much caffeine. I was excited about today.

Why today? It’s not my birthday. It’s not Christmas. I’m not even going out for a fancy lunch.

I was excited about today because I wanted to see what new things my babies would do.

Pords is eight and a half months. What an age to be alive. She is much more mobile, getting into everything. Perhaps today will be the day she gets up on her hands and knees crawls properly.

She’s also understanding more, vocalising more, trying to say words. I remember getting this same level of excitement about tomorrows when Pickles was about this age. Every day brings new wonder.

Pickles has been trying to sell me tickets for a couple of days now. He’s been saying something very enthusiastically over and over again but I haven’t been understanding him. Then yesterday I got it:

“Welcome! Welcome, everyone, to the Pickles show! Tickets please!”

Every day he does a little performance, or comes out with a new word or phrase, or is excited to learn something. I’ll always buy tickets to the Pickles show. Front and centre.

Our days aren’t always sunshine and lollipops. Sometimes we all drive each other crazy. But this is just a little post about this moment in my life when I have trouble sleeping because life is just so wonderful. Hopefully when the world turns and I’m losing sleep for a less joyful reason, I’ll be able to look back at this time of happiness insomnia and smile.

Little Hearts, Big Love


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Top 7 Books in Rhyme

Hey Diddle Dum

For the third week of Booktober, I have a compiled a list of our Top 7 books in rhyme, or poetry books. This was always going to be the hardest one for me to narrow down. I love poetry and I think rhyming picture books are just the greatest.

I agonised over what would make the final cut. It’s amazing how many great poems there are to read to kids. Early childhood is probably the time in most people’s lives when they are exposed to the most poetry. From songs and nursery rhymes, to the multitude of amazing books in rhyme. There are definitely some masterpieces that have been unfairly missed from this too short list.

But, in the end, I’m pretty happy with this list because it represents the books that are most special to us.

1. The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and Jan Brett

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Anyone who regularly reads this blog (hi mum!) could probably have guessed this one was going to make the list. The Owl and the Pussycat was my favourite poem as a child and is my favourite to read (or sing) to my children. Pickles already knows it pretty much by heart.

The lyrical quality of Edward Lear’s writing is hypnotic. You can get lost in his words. And what wonderful words they are. Some of them are completely made up but they all fit together perfectly.

The story itself is great too. A sweet tale of love between an owl and a pussycat.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The board book version that we have is illustrated by Jan Brett. The illustrations are really magical. You see the owl and the pussycat adrift on their boat on top of the water. You also see all of the sea life under the water.

Pickles can’t get enough of the pictures. He particularly likes the fact that the owl and the pussycat have a fish in a bowl on their boat who escapes right at the end to join her love in the ocean. He loves to find her on each page.

The pictures tell their own separate but related story, which is always a wonderful thing in picture books as it opens up ongoing exploration and discussion of the book.

2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

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To be honest, this whole list could have been all Julia Donaldson books. Her books are all wonderful. But, oh, Room on the Room! Could this be the perfect picture book?

The book tells the story of a witch and her cat. They are quite content, just the two of them, riding around on their broom. One stormy day, the wind blows off the witch’s hat and so begins a series of events that sees the pair meet some new friends and face one terrifying foe.

I love this story because the witch is always happy to make room for new friends. Sometimes if I see Pickles determinedly heading outside on an adventure into the backyard, I will ask him: “Is there room on the broom for a mummy like me.” Invariably he will look delighted and shout “Yes!” And so off we’ll go together.

This was the first story he knew well enough to be able to talk about in detail. It is a great one for testing memory because I can ask him who found the witch’s hat, or wand, or bow. I am always surprised at how well he can remember.

Donaldson’s rhymes are always terrific. This is so much fun to read aloud. Scheffler’s pictures, too, are delightful. He is really able to bring the characters to life.

Just as with another one of Donaldson and Scheffler’s classics, The Gruffalo, this book also has an animated version which to date is the only “movie” that Pickles has watched all the way through. He may not have seen many but he’s seen this one dozens of times. It’s fabulous.

3. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

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I have had the rhyme from this book stuck in my head since primary school. I kid you not.

That is a lot of years; one severe case of ear worm.

I’ll be just be cooking a meal when suddenly I’ll have the urge to say: “Cinderella on the stairs I spy the three bears.” Or Pords will be crying and I’ll be thinking: “Baby Bunting fast asleep I spy Bo-Peep.” Or I’ll be asked the key question at a really important job interview and all I’ll be able to think is: “Wicked witch over the wood I spy Robin Hood.”

I really don’t know why this has stuck in my head the way it has for so many years, except for the fact that it’s so simple yet effective, and I read it over and over as a child. Now, as I read it over and over to my own children and I don’t even have to look at the words. I know the whole thing by heart.

The words aren’t even the best part of this book though. There is a built in game of I Spy in the pictures. So kids need to try and find the character to be spied in each picture. For older children this is a snap, but for toddlers, especially those who haven’t read it fifty times already, it can be challenging and fun.

The use of well known nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters makes it even more amusing for children. Pickles is going through a bit of a three bears craze a the moment so he especially likes the pages that feature them. These inclusions prompt further discussions about other books and stories that we’ve shared and make the book even more interactive and engaging.

This book has stood the test of time and it’s easy to see why. A definite must for sharing with toddlers.

4.  The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

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Without fail, the ending of this book makes me smile every single time.

Four animal friends want to take shelter from a rainy day inside a snug cave. Unfortunately, a very cranky bear has already had the same idea. Three of the friends believe they have the solution by giving the bear the attributes of themselves of which they are most proud. They all think of the fourth friend, the sheep, as rather plain. However, in the end it is the sheep that has the answer when she makes a pillow for the bear from her wool.

“Well, thank you very much,” said Bear and soon he fell asleep. Maybe he was dreaming of a plain, but thoughtful sheep.

See, I’m smiling again. Well, let’s face it, if you can see me that’s a wee bit creepy. Hopefully you can’t in fact see me. Trust me, there’s a smile.

The book is a sheer pleasure. The pictures are vibrant and appealing. The clever use of rhyme makes it easy and enjoyable to read. It’s fun to do voices for all the different animals. There is everything to like about this book. Even better is that the cranky bear also features in other books. He’s itchy, hungry, noisy, and brave. He’s always a favourite in our house.

5. I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Theo LeSieg

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My mum, who spent a long career working with young children, reported this as a favourite with pre-schoolers. She said that in one particular child care centre that she worked at, as soon as the children saw her they would run over and demand it be read. Part of that, no doubt, was that she has an exceptionally marvellous voice for reading children’s books aloud. The other part is the magic of Seuss (writing here as Theo LeSieg). It seems that even as he becomes dated he is timeless.

One of the magical things about Seuss books is their ability to get stuck in your head, much as a song might. When my toddler is being fussy about eating I often find myself thinking (and sometimes saying!) “Hay, just hay two times a day is all [you’ll] get to eat!” Such is the fabulous cadence of Seuss.

Particularly loveable about this book is that it follows the imaginings of a young child. The ideas might be silly, but the child is nothing but earnest. Earnest nonsense is nothing if not delightful. You can talk to your own children about what it might be like to have duck feet, or a long nose, or tail, or deer horns, or a whale spout on their head. Your children might imagine other additions that would be fun to have.

It is a perfect book for reading aloud and for sharing over and over again.

6. Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester

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My husband and I once spent a great weekend away with dear friends of ours at Waratah Bay, which happens to be the home of Noni the Pony. So we feel a special connection with her.

This book shows the pure joy of a day spent at the beach with friends. In fact, often after reading it Pickles will say: “Go beach now” and that’s exactly how I feel too. The happiness of the characters leaps off the page through the bouncing rhyme and the gorgeous pictures, and just makes me want to go beach now.

Because we love to spend time at the beach, this book is a really good one for us in terms of incorporating connections to things that we have done. As I often stress, reading the actual text in the book is only part of reading with your children. Talking about the story, the characters, and the pictures is also key in terms of helping with your child’s language and other social development. Choosing books that things that your child loves can be useful in promoting this contextual discussion.

There are many things to love about this book. I love the special friendship between the pony, the cat, and the dog. I also love that the cows are referred to as “the ladies next door.” The whole thing is really adorable. Perfect for sharing.

7. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot and Axel Scheffler

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This is a collection of poems rather than one story like the others on this list, but it is one of our favourites. Before Cats The Musical there were the T.S. Eliot poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. It has such wonderful characters: Skimbleshanks, Macavity, Mr Mistoffelees, and all the others.

This is a great book to have if you want to introduce your children to poetry at a young age. You can pick it up and just read one of the poems at a time, or as many as you like. I used to read them all the time to my babies as newborns.

Each of the poems tells a fantastic story. Some funny, some poignant, all a joy to read. They are especially great if you love cats or have cats as pets.

I think at its heart, this book is also about the magic of things. Children love elves and fairies and so on, but they also love to consider the lives of animals. It is not such a leap for them to imagine that the cat that spends all day asleep on the floor might at night have some wildly adventurous life.

Our copy of the book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who has already appeared in this list for his work on Room on the Broom. His quirky and amusing pictures are a perfect pairing for these poems.

So there’s my list. What others would you add?

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A Partly Eaten Pear

A partly eaten pear,
Lies wasting on the floor.
I wonder what distracted you
And stopped you eating more

Did you suddenly remember
Your ball out in the sun?
Eating fruit’s delicious,
But football’s much more fun.

Was your sister crying?
Did you want to check on her?
We could always come and join you
While you eat if you’d prefer.

Perhaps you heard me coming
And thought I’d catch you out.
But eating healthy food
Is what mummy’s all about!

If you’re ever hungry
You know the bowl’s in reach.
You can always eat an apple,
A banana, or a peach.

You can even eat a lemon,
Since I know you like the taste.
The problem’s not the eating,
The problem is the waste.

Many things don’t faze me,
But some I just can’t bear.
Like the sight of yet another
Partly eaten pear.

Prose for Thought
http://www.reflectionsfromme.com



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7 tips for teaching gratitude at Christmas

It’s official. The marketers of Christmas have taken October. My two year old has already asked for our Christmas tree to be put up. Multiple times. Every time we go to the shops there seems to be more and more Christmas stuff.

I’d like this not to be a thing. But since it is a thing, I’ve been thinking about how to use this whole ridiculously long festive build up as a chance to teach gratitude rather than gluttony.

7. Notes in your Advent calendar

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You know Advent calendars? You take a little chocolate out for every day of Advent as you count down the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We’ve got a wooden one so we can fill it ourselves and avoid the supermarket variety, which seem to become ever tackier. My husband loves it and has suggested we keep it out year round to count down to other things. Birthdays. The new Game of Thrones season. The start of Advent.

I’m probably not going to keep it out all year, but I am happy to prolong its time on the wall for this one. During Advent as you take something out, put a little note with a word about what you were grateful for today. Maybe it was sunshine, or friends, or dinner. Then use the days following Christmas to open each of the windows again and rediscover those moments of gratitude.

6. Donate to a wishing tree

Lots of stores set up trees that you leave presents under for children who would otherwise miss out at Christmas. Talk to your children about this. Let them choose something that they would like to receive themselves and gift it to someone else. Talk about how that child might feel opening the present. Talk about how your child feels giving the gift. Let your child explore the spirit of giving.

If you have time, you might also like to do some volunteering as a family. Lots of services need extra help around the Christmas season.

5. Make gifts, cards, and wrapping paper

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As much as possible, encourage your children to make their gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. Show them that you don’t have to buy everything, and sometimes the most special gifts are those that are homemade with love.

4. Write thank you notes

If your children receive presents from other family or friends, a nice idea is to save the wrapping paper with a note as to who it was from. Then your children can use the paper later to write thank you notes. Re-using the paper, a craft activity, encouraging gratitude, thanking someone for a gift – so many wins.

3. Learn to say no

If you get your children everything on their wish lists, odds are they will be less grateful than if you just get them one or two thoughtful gifts. It’s better to have something that will be treasured and played with (or, better still, read!), than a roomful of toys that are unwrapped and forgotten.

2. Nurture traditions that don’t revolve around presents

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This should really go without saying, but sometimes children (and their parents) can get caught up on the materialistic side of the season.

If you are a Christian, you might want to find a family service to attend to listen to the story of Christmas, or find a local carols event.

Spend time with family and friends. Try to make these events joyful and stress-free. Make them times that your children will cherish.

Think of other little things that you can do to build your own traditions. Maybe you spend a day decorating a tree, or watch a particular movie together, or go for a drive to see some Christmas lights. We always read Twas The Night Before Christmas together on Christmas Eve.

Whatever you choose, try to keep the focus and excitement around these things.

1. Model gratitude

If you find yourself complaining about the socks your partner got you, or the fact that you have to spend Christmas day with all the extended family, or that you have to make a big Christmas lunch – stop. Not only are you making your own life miserable, but you are modelling that for your children.

Be grateful that someone has thought of you, that you have people to spend time with, that you have food to cook. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to make Christmas special for someone else. And you might just find that you make it special for yourself too.

 What would you add? Do you find it hard to live gratitude at Christmas? Do you hate me for writing a Christmas post in October?


Happy Mama Happy Baby
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Top 7 Books to Read to Newborns

This week the eggs that our doves Montezuma and Daria have been sitting on finally hatched. So now there are tiny doves in a nest in our garden. The new parents are very protective of their babies and so we’ve only been able to catch little glimpses when they pop their heads up to feed. We’re looking forward to watching them learn to fly. I wonder if their mum and dad will feel any pangs of sadness to see them go.

In honour of the new arrivals, and also because several people have asked me questions about this recently, for the second week of Booktober, I’m sharing our Top 7 Books to Read to Newborns.

You may have heard that you should start reading to your new baby from the very start. It can feel strange to read to such a tiny little person. If you need some tips for reading to babies, check out this post. Even if you feel a bit mad doing it at first, reading to aloud to your baby can quickly become a special part of each day.

1. Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss

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When my bump was just starting to show when I was pregnant with Pickles, my hairdresser asked me if I had started reading to my belly. I had been very sick and it hadn’t even occurred to me yet. It wasn’t my first twinge of parental guilt; taking medication for my morning sickness had taken care of that. But it was close.

I went straight from the hairdresser to the bookshop and bought Oh! The Places You’ll Go! And I started reading it to the bump. Every single night.

Whenever I got to the part where it says “Kid, you’ll move mountains” I’d get teary and have to recompose before going on. Pregnancy hormones will do that. Imagining your unborn child out in the big wide world moving mountains will do that.

This is what makes this book a good one for new or expecting parents. When you are reading to a newborn, the content is as much for yourself as it is for them. A big part of it is them just hearing your voice. They become familiar with it, and it soothes them.

But babies can also be sensitive to emotion. When you are reading this, your voice will be infused with your love and hopes for them. It is a beautiful bonding experience.

It is also a book that will grow with them. It is often given as a graduation gift because the message is as applicable for a grown child as it is for a newborn.

But it will always be treasured in our home as the book that I first read to my bump.

2. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

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Mem Fox is a master of writing for babies and young children. Her use of simple, but clever, rhyme and repetition in this book make it easy for the reader, and soothing for the listener.

As your baby gets a bit older, this book is also excellent for introducing the concept of differences and similarities. You can use it as a starting point to talk about looking beyond what makes your child different from other people and thinking about what they have in common.

I loved reading this book to both of my kids when they were tiny babies because you can touch their fingers and toes over and again as the story goes on, and then give them three little kisses on the tip of their nose at the end. Not only does this help with building language development, but also with body awareness, which is a key area of development for a newborn. Of course, it is also perfect for nurturing your bond.

Helen Oxenbury’s pictures are just beautiful. They are bright and simple for little eyes, but also contain enough detail to create talking points. When you are reading beyond the text, and using your reading behaviour to engage your little person, the pictures open up a whole world of new stories. This gives you even more reason to return to the book over and over as your child grows.

3. I Love You So by Marianne Richmond

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I borrowed this book from the library when Pickles was a few weeks old. I read it to him over and over and then decided that I needed to buy it for him so I could keep on reading it to him.

The book describes how much a parent loves their child; as gigantic as a great lion’s roar, as silly as a puppy dog’s kiss, and as brilliant as each sparkling star. When I was a new mother reading it to my tiny baby, it was as if Marianne Richmond had reached into my brain and pulled out exactly what I was feeling about my little boy and turned it into a sweet little rhyme. I too would love my child forevermore, undeniably. I think most new parents would feel the same way. With its big, bold pictures, it would make a great gift for a baby shower.

I can also imagine giving this book to a grownup child who was about to go off travelling. I imagine myself pulling it out in twenty years time when one of my kids announces they are off on a grand adventure and reading them this bit:

Do you love me just as much
When I’m far from home?
Is your loving still the same
In distant lands I roam?

I love you near or far.
I love you high or low.
My love is there with you
Wherever you may go.

Now I’m getting sad imagining my babies far away from me. Although I’m proud that in my imagined future they are independent and adventurous. Good for you, imagined grown children of the future.

When I initially borrowed the book from the library it was a board book version. The copy I bought was a hardcover and the words and pictures are slightly different. For newborns it really doesn’t matter because you’re just reading to them rather than them being active participants, but I usually prefer board books for babies because they can hold them and chew them with much less damage. The hardcover makes a nice gift though, and if it survives the everything-in-the-mouth phase you too can pull it out when your own imagined grown children of the future go off on adventures.

4. Kissed By The Moon by Alison Lester

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This book is simply magical to read to babies. There are big, bright, beautiful pictures and not too many words. The words that are there read as a list of wishes for a new baby. It is a particularly good one for people who are in touch with nature and would want their baby to share in their love of all things outdoors.

It makes an excellent bedtime book, as it’s ending hopes that the baby will: “grow sleepy at sunset, sing to the stars, and drift into dreams. And may you, my baby, be kissed by the moon.” It gets me in the mood for a sleep every time I read it. Or that might just be that I’m always in the mood for a sleep these days and don’t need too much reminding. Either way, it’s a lovely one to read to your little person just before bed.

As your child grows older, this is also a great book for language development. Books like this where the pictures are the dominant feature are perfect for exploring with your older baby or toddler as they begin to learn new words. You could talk about different seasons and weather, different plants and fruits, or different places to visit. On many of the pages there are different creatures and animals to discover, so you could turn the reading into a game.

The more active a participant your child is able to be in the reading process, the more beneficial the reading will be for them, so this is a perfect book to share.

5. You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano Love and Satomi Ichikawa

DSCF4891This is a very cute book for a parent to share with their new baby, or any small child. The pictures show a day in the life of a parent and baby bear. They play inside and out, they eat, they have bath time, and finally the parent tucks the child into bed. The story arc in the pictures makes it a great book to share with a child at the end of the day because you can talk about all of the things that your own child has done throughout the day that the little bear is doing too. Using a book in this way to relate to your child’s own life is an important and useful way to make story time more interactive and enriching. It can also be a helpful part of a bedtime routine as the little bear ends up safe and snug in bed at the end.

In terms of the text itself, the authors use rhyme to juxtapose the role of the parent with the role of the child. The parent is the steady source of constancy and love in the life of their child, and the child adds a new brightness and wonder in the life of their parents.

I am your favourite book;
you are my new lines.
I am your night-light;
you are my starshine.

The use of rhyme and repetition make it an easy one to read over and over to a baby, and parents will no doubt find the words resonating with their own experience. You don’t just read the words, you actually tell your child, “I am your good-night kiss; you are my I love you.” It is a beautiful sentiment to share with your little person.

6. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita JeramDSCF4452

The Nutbrown Hares and I did not get off to a good start. I had heard only ever such fabulous things about this book and so I opened the copy of the board book that I had ordered online with much anticipation.

The first thing that happened was the board book gave me a paper cut. It takes a special kind of skill to get a paper cut from a book that is especially designed for little people to play with and chew on safely to their heart’s content. I thought the Nutbrown Hares must have it in for me.

Then, as I began to read, I thought that I actually wouldn’t put it passed that Big Nutbrown Hare to do something malevolent. He seemed trapped in an unhealthy cycle of one-upmanship with his very young son. It was pretty clear there were underlying psychological issues. My husband agreed. He thought, and still thinks, that Big Nutbrown Hare was a real jerk.

I got to the last line though, and realised that that’s what has made this book so wildly popular. “I love you right up to the moon – and back.” Everyone says it now. It’s on cards, t-shirts, and mugs. There is now a tv show based on the book. The more I read it to Pickles, and later to Pords, the more I came round to this enormously sweet core. Big Nutbrown Hare can’t help it if he’s hyper-competitive. He’s probably trying to make up for that one time he lost to the tortoise. In the end he really does love his son more than his son can even begin to imagine – a feeling most parents will relate to. I’ve become such a fan that I even included Big Nutbrown Hare in my list of the Top 7 Fathers from Children’s Books.

This is a great book for new parents to read to their new babies, as they struggle to find ways to describe just how much they really love this incredible new person who has entered their lives. As your child grows, it is a great book to read together. Pickles loves acting it out: stretching out his arms as wide as they can go, reaching them up as high as they can reach, and most especially tumbling upside down with his feet in the air. And now that he can say “I love you thiiiiisssss much” I reckon that I actually do love this book right up to the moon and back.

7. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

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Beatrix Potter wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902. More than a century later, Peter remains a much loved figure of childhood. My children have been gifted many books, clothes, and toys featuring Peter and his friends. A particularly treasured gift for Pickles from his grandparents when he was a newborn, was the complete set of original tales.

When Pickles was a newborn and we had hours together, just the two of us, I would read him these stories. We read all of them in those precious first newborn months, often while he was happily lying on the change table so I could stand and hold the books at his height.

The stories are charming, the characters endearing, and the language exquisite. They are wonderful because they are short enough to read through in one or two sittings even with a small baby. Plus they are interesting enough for the person doing the reading.

Peter Rabbit and friends are an enduring part of Pickles’ day to day adventures and imaginings. He often now brings me one of the books to read with him.

If you are close to someone who is having a baby and want to get them something special that will remain special to the child as they grow, a collection of books is a beautiful idea.

So, those were my favourites to read to my babies when they were newborn. What were your favourites?

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Playground trolls

I think I got trolled at the playground.

I was sitting in the middle of the playground with baby Pords. Pickles was running around with some friends. Climbing, sliding, swinging, spinning, and running. And running. And running. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t keep up with him while I had Pords with me.

But I didn’t want to keep up with him. He was having fun. My eyes were on him the whole time, the playground was one of those newly designed numbers, with all soft fall surfaces fully enclosed inside a fence, and I knew he was able to use all of the equipment unassisted; he’d been here plenty of times before.

Two women stood near me and started talking very loudly about Pickles. That he was very small. What was his mother thinking letting him play by himself? Anything could happen. Much too small. Needs his mother. Dangerous.

Now, as it happens, I’ve been reading quite a lot of academic articles about toddlers and risk taking lately. When I’ve read a bit more I’ll write a proper post about it. So far I’ve learnt that while risk taking can lead to trips to the emergency room when the carer has not properly assessed and managed the risks beforehand (and many times even when they have), it is also linked to gross motor development, as well as other social and cognitive development, such as the ability to independently assess risk and make decisions.

I know that a big part of the reason that Pickles is a good climber is because we have let him climb. I also know that, in letting him climb things from a young age, we have run the risk that he would fall.

I think so far we’ve tread a pretty good line on this one, but when I heard the women talking I immediately questioned every parenting decision I’d ever made. I quickly picked Pords up and rushed over to Pickles. “Are you ok? Do you need help?” He looked mortified and gave me a little push on the leg. “Shoo mummy!”

Still I hovered. Nervous. Eyes darting back to my judges.

Now that they had smoked me out, one of them strode straight over. “He’s very brave for someone so little isn’t he?” Her insincerity was sickly sweet. I wondered what pearls of wisdom from her own brilliant parenting career she was about to bestow. “Now, I personally would never have children of my own. There’s too much sadness in the world. But you’ve got to be careful. Anything could happen.”

What. The. Actual. Bazoolies.

Now I don’t object to people without kids having an opinion on parenting in general, or even on my parenting specifically. But just like online comment, there is a time and a place and a tone.

If you spit venom anonymously online just to get a stir, people might label you an internet troll.

And if you hang out inside an enclosed children’s play area without children of your own, just to criticise other people’s parenting, I might just label you a playground troll.

So what do you think? Were they just playground trolls or were their criticisms legitimate? How do you manage risks with your kids?

The Dad Network
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Worst. Parents. Ever.

You asked for one and I said: “Fine,”
“One but then no more.”
But then you smiled so sweetly
And said you’d rather four.

I said “No. You don’t need more,
That one will more than do.
Try these carrot sticks instead,
Or a strawberry or two.”

You shook your head and stomped your feet
And said I was the worst.
Your little face went bright red,
You looked like you would burst.

But I was standing firm this time,
Mummy can be tough.
I let you have that one,
And that one was quite enough.

So you tried a different trick
And called out for your dad.
Maybe he would give in
If your eyes looked extra sad

But sorry pal, Daddy’s not
As soft as he might seem.
He and Mummy made a vow
To do this as a team.

So now the both of us
Are vapid, mean and shallow.
All because I let you have
One fluffy white marshmallow.

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A letter to the guy who ran a red light

To the guy who ran a red light and nearly smashed into my double pram,

Re: Why I’m not hunting you down. (But I might next time).

I have a baby and a two year old. When I cross roads with them I’m conscious of the fact that I’m not just crossing the road. I’m also modelling how to cross a road. So I model caution. We always stop, look, and listen. When there are lights, I get my toddler to watch for the green and let me know when it is safe to cross. It annoys my husband when we’re stopped waiting for a light to change with no car in sight. But I figure if we wait now, the little people are more likely to wait when we’re not with them. (Not that they’ll be crossing roads on their own any time soon, but good habits start young!)

Today I was out for a walk with the kids in a double pram. We stopped at a light. We waited for a couple of minutes and then the light turned green for us to cross. My toddler shouted: “Green!” I went to step out but noticed your car just in time. You went straight through the red. You and your passenger glared at me as you drove passed. I was the woman giving you my fiercest looking shake of the head. That shake of the head will surely haunt your nightmares.

And maybe it should.

If I had stepped straight out with the green signal, you would have collected the pram. In an instant the two most precious little lives in my world might have been taken from me. It made me sick to the stomach to think about at the time. I wanted to hunt you down. I wanted to shake you until you realised what you had done and what might have been. To realise that you were a menace to society and shouldn’t be driving.

But as I walked on, I started to wonder if you frequently have near misses with double prams, or if maybe driving through that red light was the worst lapse of concentration you’ve ever had behind the wheel.

Maybe you’re usually an exemplary driver. Maybe you have kids and when you take them for walks you make sure they stop, look, and listen. Maybe you think that people who run red lights shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

I started to think about the fact that so many of our encounters with other people are only moments. We only catch a glimpse of what they are like as a driver, or as a parent, or as a person.

Most people don’t see us most of the time.

Most of the time I spend 29 hours a day (at least) chopping vegetables and preparing healthy food for my kids to snack on. But to the couple who saw me at the park last sunny Sunday afternoon, I am the mother who feeds her two year old ice cream.

Most of the time I’ll smile and have a chat with strangers. But to the woman at the shops who wanted to engage me in conversation when I’d had a terrible day and just wanted to run in and out with two sick children, I am the rude mother who doesn’t stop.

Of course, some things are more excusable than others. If I know I am already cranky, I probably shouldn’t attempt a shopping trip with a toddler and baby.

And if you know you are too tired, or otherwise distracted, to drive, you definitely shouldn’t be driving.

For all the many, many moments when I fall short of perfection and have to hope that people realise that they are only seeing a glimpse of me, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one. I’m not going to hunt you down.

But watch out Mister, because if I ever see you doing something like that again, I just might.

Yours in hope that I never see you again.

Kyles

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Toddler dinnertime: Resolution in Rhyme

I really don’t love cooking,
But I really do love you.
For you I would do anything,
Even learn to cook a stew.

In my head I keep a list
Of foods that you prefer.
I know you like to help,
So I always let you stir.

I cook for health and taste,
Put a rainbow on your plate.
I time it oh so carefully,
Not too early, not too late.

Finally the moment comes
To call you to your chair.
We start the meal with such high hopes
But soon there comes despair.

It makes your mama sad
To see salmon on the floor;
Mashed potato on the walls,
Peas rolling out the door.

I know that before bedtime
You just want to have more fun.
But you haven’t even had one bite,
When I hear you shout “All done!”

So I’ve decided in the future,
I’m going to save my time.
You can have a sandwich.
Mummy’s having wine.

Prose for Thought
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Fighting fires: Toddler discipline

Firestarter

When I was a kid there was a public service announcement that used to run on tv about what to do if your house was on fire. I don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember Ronald McDonald telling me to: “Get down low and go, go, go!” I’m sure it was good advice for getting out while avoiding as much smoke as possible, but I wonder how many kids had nightmares about crazed clowns starting grease fires in their bedrooms. Just me? Thought so.

Fast forward to today and there’s a new fire starter in my house. He’s not a junk peddling clown but a feisty two year old. I hasten to say that he hasn’t actually started any actual fires yet (although when I am tied up feeding or changing the baby, I do sometimes wonder if the noise is him lighting small ones in the next room).

Hunger and tiredness, however, are two sticks rubbing together. It only takes the tiniest spark for the fire to ignite. Maybe I’ll say that ice cream is not a breakfast food. Maybe he’ll notice that one of his pictures has been moved from the fridge. Maybe I’ll tell him that he has to wear pants to the library.

And then… Kaboom! The fire has started.

The fire burns in an unpredictable manner. Often, all that needs to happen to douse it is some food, or a nap, or a hug. Usually we know the warning signs well enough to have avoided public places. Don’t take a hungry or tired toddler to a supermarket. If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.

But then there are the other times. When the fire spreads out of control. How do you douse the raging flames of cranky, crazy defiance?

There are several schools of thought on toddler discipline. And I have been reading the books, as is my wont. As with all parenting advice, there are some pieces of information that just don’t fit right for me or our family. There are other things that I have taken on board to adapt and implement. I’m sure our methods for discipline and setting boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour will need to change over time.

In amongst it all, there is one piece of advice that has stood out for me and that has had an almost immediate impact; when you want to change the way your toddler is behaving you need to physically get down to their level.

Sometimes my toddler drives me crazy. Sometimes I want to yell. But this doesn’t get us anywhere. I feel myself looming over him. My voice is thunder. The power imbalance is enormous. It is intimidating and unfair. It also tends to only add extra fuel to the fire.

When I get down on his level he sees me. He hears me. He listens.

When I get down on his level I see him. I hear him. I listen.

When we are face to face I can’t be angry. I realise that the world is still big and new and scary. I remember that when I’m hungry I get “hangry”. I remember that when I haven’t had enough sleep little upsets are devastation. I remember that he’s small and I’m big and it’s my job to help him through this tough business of growing up and learning about the world as best I can.

So now when I see the toddler fire starting to burn, I remember Ronald McDonald, that wise old sage. I get down low, and I go, go, go. And we can usually escape unharmed.

Digital Parents

 

Happy Mama Happy Baby



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