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my husband and i feel like we’re walking on eggshells. for me, it’s like i’m holding my breath all day, shoulders tensing at every turn. this feeling, the waiting for the other shoe to drop, is invasive and has no place in our lives.
it lurks while we are deep in play mode laughing away, tainting the good times. it hangs over every moment, every question. we can’t be making decisions just to avoid an episode. we’ve seen first hand that kids are quick learners and it’ll only hurt them in the long run. so how do we stop walking on eggshells? how do i make this feeling go away?
the first step is always recognition and acknowledgement, right? a wise friend often reminds me “you’re the parent.” maybe it’s as simple as believing in that fact, believing in myself. yesterday, at the end of a lovely day, i actually answered a why not question with an explanation that ended with “…and because i’m the mom and i said so.” never thought i’d use those words, but i did and it was a satisfactory response, according to my four year old who accepted my no and moved on.
maybe we can just make everyday like yesterday. we sat through story time, got through a ten minute wait at the chemist, breezed through the checkout at the supermarket and played at the park for three hours without any dramas.
the day was so good, i thought i’d push my luck and aim for a quiet meal with all of us at the table i recently stumbled upon a quote by charlotte mason “…the mother that takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.”
during the day, i told j how much we enjoyed sitting and talking with him at dinner. i asked him if he would sit with us for ten minutes when it was dinner time and he agreed. come dinner, he actually sat with us for ten minutes not right off the bat, but we eventually found a topic that drew him to the table. if j sits, f follows so i’d say day one was a success. baby steps, right?
invisible – that often tops my superpower wish list. i was super shy, hated social anything and was happy to have one or two close friends. i probably went to all of one house party in my teens. the only school dance i attended was grad. on days where i had a presentation i’d wish with all my might for a minor accident that would get me out of it. some kid called me fat when i was ten, from that point on until recently, i avoided wearing shorts and skirts, even on the hottest days, not wanting to feel exposed. i’d go to the beach in overalls (when they were still somewhat fashionable), although that probably garnered more looks than anything.
having boys as lively as mine makes it hard to go about unnoticed, but i’ve come to believe motherhood gives one superpowers of sorts. the other day, i thought f, m, and i were prepared for our little mall outing, but when best laid plans go awry and we past the point of reason,… enter superpowers.
superblinders made me impervious to the stares and glares of many as i left kicking and screaming f to lie flat out on the floor by my feet in the checkout lane while i paid for our purchases (said child wanted a truck wickedly placed on the lower shelves by the till). superarms allowed me to carry my flailing child with one arm while using the other to steer the pram with a bub and multiple purchases balanced on top. the superpower that surprised me most was the one that all the while shielded me from any feelings of embarrassment, anger, or frustration. perhaps motherhood gives one the powers of patience and perspective. the two hundred meter, ten minute “episode” was just a small blip in our lives. f fell asleep a few minutes later and woke with a smile two hours later – tantrums are hard work.
although i have no desire to shop with f again anytime in the near future, that wasn’t the highlight of our day. the highlight was watching f light up at the sight of other children, sitting back while he made friends with the boy sitting beside us at mcdonald’s, and laughing while he managed to find one older child after another to lead him through the play area.
things with j seem to be escalating and i am constantly feeling like a failure as a parent, but we had a “win” the other night and it felt great.
j wanted to bring a sippy cup full of milk to bed, something he’s never requested before. this was a non-negotiable no for me (bottle rot scares me), and i knew that no amount of positive spinning would please j, so i readied myself for another “episode.” i could see his emotions escalating as i was explaining the why behind my no. luckily, i had a lightbulb moment and asked if he wanted to see pictures of bottle rot. he nodded and immediately stopped protesting. we spent ages looking through horrible pictures of teeth in various stages of decay with j wanting the story behind each picture, which ended up being a great opportunity to tell stories about the evil plaque monster. the pictures, along with my embellishments, spoke volumes and j went to bed with his usual water-filled sippy cup. he even let us brush his teeth for him AND we’ve been able to cross it off our list of daily battles.
in case you’re wondering, f sat alongside looking at rotting teeth, but it hasn’t been as effective, whether it be a matter of age or learning styles. for now, we’ll let him chew through as many toothbrushes as it takes to keep the plaque monsters at bay.
it doesn’t seem like much, but i’ve always been a sucker for the small things in life, and tonight, standing over my child with his mouth wide open waiting for me to attack the plaque monsters, gave me hope that things are going to be ok.
i’m not sure when i became so lazy and unmotivated, but i was in a slump of some sort and needed to get out of it. i think my kids were beginning to “miss” me. it’d been ages since i’d actively joined in on their play like chasing them endlessly around our living room in a game of “you can’t catch me!” sure, i watched while they played, took them to the park, sat with them and read books, but i was becoming a very lazy parent.
it is surprisingly easy to make sure they entertain themselves without having to be an active participant, especially when they have each other. there is something to be said about the bonds built through play and it was time to reconnect with the boys, especially j and all our recent challenges. before m was born, when i needed j to be quiet while i settled f down for a nap, it was easy because we’d always have “quiet time” once f was asleep. we’d do whatever j wanted – bake, mini science experiments, arts and crafts. i think we both looked forward to our quiet time together. that somehow got lost in the shuffle, along with me actively engaging in playtime.
so i have made a commitment to at least 15 minutes of daily active play time; and it is now routine for t to come home from work and play with the kids before dinner. 15 minutes may not be much and playing with ones kids should come naturally, and this really should be nothing to write home about, but there are books on this subject so maybe i’m not the only one out there who needed a little kick in the butt to get active.
my boys are rough nuts. a hug can easily turn into a wrestling match. i have a brother, but we never roughhoused growing up, so this is unfamiliar territory. i wanted in on the action so i went out and borrowed a book called “the art of roughhousing – good old-fashioned horseplay and why every kid needs it” by anthony debenedet, m.d. and lawrence cohen, ph.d. i really believe in what they have to say, how play “…makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, loveable and likeable…” and am hoping that we can work and laugh our way through the rough patches with more and more play.
What’s a family focused blog without a recipe or two thrown in?
Last september, we moved from Canada to Australia. J was three, and F nearly two. F showed the most distress at the beginning, but seems to have settled in here nicely, except for the lack of playmates, which I need to work on. Eleven months later, J still asks when we are going back to Canada.
To help with the transition, we tried to bring a few familiar things with us, like their favourite toys, books, and food they ate every day. F was still nursing at the time; as long as I was there, he was happy. Two staples in J’s diet include his nighttime cereal (Nutrios) and Canada cereal (Nature’s Path Organic Hemp Plus Granola). We’ve been lucky enough to have visitors bring suitcases full of Nutrios, but we had been struggling to fill the granola void so I started experimenting with different recipes. Here is one which I’ve been able to pass off as Canada cereal. It’s nothing like Nature’s Path, but J likes it so it must be worth sharing. You can use whatever nuts you like and even throw in dried fruit after it’s come out of the oven, but J has a sensitivity to some tree nuts and I am not a fan of dried fruit mixed in anything so I’ve left them out.
2.5 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1.5 cup slivered almonds
750 g rolled oats
1.5 cups flour
3/4 cup wheat germ
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
150 gram (2/3 cup) butter
Preheat oven to 165 C / 330 F
1) Mix first eight ingredients together in large mixing bowl
2) Stir last six ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat until butter melted
3) Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix well
4) Spread out evenly onto two baking trays lined with parchment paper
5) Bake at 165 C / 325 F for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes
6) Let cool and transfer to air tight container
I made about 6 batches of this and J didn’t really like until I added the cinnamon, it may have coincided with me selling it as Canada Cereal, but either way, I’d like to give credit here to the recipe I found which uses cinnamon.
I’d long ago learned that time outs were a faux pas according to many parenting experts. This didn’t stop me from using them, but they rarely served their purpose and may have been more damaging to my relationship with our boys as a spanking would. I wasn’t doing them right. With J, a time out would often escalate to me threatening, or actually, locking himself somewhere just so he would stay put, like in the bathroom, or on a chair under the pergola. He would vehemently oppose being locked away from us, beg and plead to be given another chance, which we would, but then end right back there two minutes later because he’d come out and refuse to serve his time out sentence. I always felt bad about locking him away, tried to convince myself it was for his own good, and usually lost sight of the why behind it all. The times he did sit, I’d wait with baited breath hoping the timer would beep before he decided enough was enough.
I don’t believe a child should be punished and want to be a champion of natural consequences, a focus I first learned about in Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids Are Worth It!” I need to constantly remind myself of this belief. Like when J kicks his brother and I take away the toy he is playing with and put him on a time out, that’s punishment. The kick was J telling his brother he wasn’t happy with him. It’s my job to help him communicate this more appropriately, but nothing I do or say in the heat of the moment will matter.
Enter time-ins. I’ve always known that J doesn’t like to be alone, from day one, he knew the difference between his bed and mine. As an infant, he’d cry whenever he wasn’t being held. For us, time in means not abandoning the boys when they need us most. Instead of making J sit by himself and fighting him tooth and nail to get him to do so when he’s already worked up, I stay with him and help him calm down. The other day, when J started to misbehave after I said he couldn’t have any more chocolate, I asked J how I could help him work through being upset. To my surprise, instead of ignoring me and continuing his usual course of throwing things, he actually asked me for a hug. Finding the best way to calm him down is still a work in progress, but using a time in feels right.
Judy Arnall talks about time-in in “Discipline Without Distress,” and here’s one other article I came across.
j is four going on fourteen. he wants to grow his hair long, loves to drink coffee (a very weak decaf latte), wrestle, watch footy, listen to rock music, etc. etc. he is also challenging us in ways in ways i thought would only come when he became a teenager. if my husband and i are feeling this way now, what are we going to do when he really does become a teenager? i’ve felt anger like never before. the last time he hit m, our youngest, i felt an uncontrollable urge to hit him back and had to give myself a time out by locking m and myself inside my room. don’t get me wrong, he is beautiful and loving, but it’s getting to a point where his misbehaviour is beginning to overshadow all. he doesn’t randomly hurt others, and i can always see the why, but it’s the intensity of his anger that frightens me. is it normal to wonder if your child may one day become a sociopath? is he just a spirited child and we are overreacting? have i watched one too many episodes of dexter and criminal minds? when thinking about your child’s actions keeps you up at night googling “child angry” “child violent,” perhaps it’s time to seek outside counsel, which is what we’ll be doing when monday rolls around. my husband and i have said this before, usually after a particularly upsetting episode, so i am also hoping that by writing and posting this blog, i will actually take the first step in getting help.
until “monday” rolls around, i’ll continue reading a book that is giving me hope that we’ll be able to raise j to be a happy, healthy person and maybe one day i will no longer feel like “that parent,” the one always feeling the need to apologize for her child, the recipient of angry stares and shaking heads.
(the book is judy arnall’s “discipline without distress,” which came highly recommended by a close friend and is completely in line with how i’d like my husband and i to parent.)
i need a renewed sense of spirit to parenting, my children need it. my hope is that this blog will help me. it’ll be a place i can go to and be selfish, use “i” a hundred times and try and not to feel the need to apologize for doing so. my hope is that subsequent posts will be ones born out of challenges, but end in triumph, or lots of cuddles, kisses, and laughter.