*New book published today* 30 Days of Rewilding – find your place in nature and watch your family bloom!

31 August, 2015

Super Duper POOPER excited about my NEW BOOK that comes out todaaaaaayyyyy!!!!!!!

*starts again, tries to sound like a grown up*

I am delighted to announce the release of my second book. 30 Days of Rewilding was published this morning on Amazon and takes the form of thirty short chapters, easily digested on the fly, to help you find a sense of home in the natural world. I am so sure that these stories of people who have been transformed and restored by connecting with the wild will inspire you to dive into a love affair with nature, and take your family with you.

30 days of rewilding book

From a brick house in Peckham to a yurt in a forest in New Zealand
30 Days of Rewilding is motivated by our own story and the move we made two years ago with our young children from our (awesome, messy) Victorian terrace house in South London to a (beautiful, chaotic) yurt in a forest in New Zealand. It is a massive change, but the most significant part of it, for me, has been getting in touch with my wilderness DNA.

Through conversations with a variety of people from authors to CEOs and visits to projects around the world from a Forest School in Germany’s Black Forest to a playgroup in South London, people are invited to restore their connection with nature.

There are the mothers who find deep well-being as a result of meeting under each new moon, youth at risk who have had their feet set back on track through wilderness trails, and families who have begun a life-long fling with the wild.

Their stories will make you want to re-discover the ancient pact with nature written on your bones.

Why 30 Daily Readings? 
I was inescapably drawn to write this book because it is something we have found happening to us over the last two years; a rewilding. But as I was writing it I began to believe in the concept of the book more and more – daily readings for busy parents. Because there are TONS of books out there telling us about how sad it is that children can name more Dr Who characters than native birds, and we KNOW that sucks. But the only way children fall in love with nature is when adults nurture an environment where this can happen. Deep, happy-making connections are made between adults and children, and people and earth, when we together go out to poke the moss, watch the beetles, count the stars.

The idea of the book is that over the month readers gradually, through the different activities and stories, discover a sense of belonging in nature. 

Early Reviews Say

“Oh my, it’s so amazing! I love it so, so much. A heart palpitating amount. I just read this in one sitting because I couldn’t stop, I was too busy fist pumping and nodding vigorously. I am now itching to plant some spring bulbs, walk through the woods and run into the sea. All of the links made between being outside and having good mental health are sobering and brilliant and SO TRUE- for both children and adults. I am sending it to everyone I know.” Hannah,

“I loved your book! I feel totally motivated to re-wild us all- to get out in nature and take on some of your ideas. Today we just sat in the grass in our barefeet and I wiggled our toes and talked about what we could do. Wonderful inspired ideas and a lovely way to get kids away from screens!” Becky,

Kindle People: 30 Days of Rewilding is released through Amazon with the special Bank Holiday price of £1.99.

For Non Kindle People: Also available as a simple PDF which can be read on any Ereader or computer. (For Ereaders I advocate the use of Nook, free to download and comes with a cheeky freebie mag already downloaded.) Download 30 Days of Rewilding as a PDF here.

I would be stoked if you could share this post around and give some reviews on Amazon, help me spreadeth the word. And if you are a twittery type, join me tomorrow night on Twitter at 7pm BST for a chat with the hashtag #30DaysOfRewilding

Thank You
It is you readers that keep me motivated to write, you know? I feel so, SO privileged to have you and your encouragement. *sends a blooming blossom your way*

THAAAANKS!!!  And enjoy your bank holiday if you are getting one!30 Days of Rewilding Zenobia


“Hey!” says the sea, “come and PLAY!”

27 August, 2015

It’s pouring down with rain… Guess where we are… Last week’s blog post is a clue… YES you betcha baby, we are on the south coast of England camping in the rain again!!  If it wasn’t so ridonkulous we’d cry! 

We are here with the whole fandamiliy for my mama’s birthday, it’s been planned for many a month, otherwise we’d have all sacked it off once they started issuing weather warnings y’know? But here we are! Making the most of it! 

As we walked through the town today, I was composing a blog post in my head called “Things to do on a rainy summer holiday in Britain” featuring things like “Go to the pet shop and stare at the gerbils” and then we turned the corner to the sea and everything changed. 

It was like the whole earth went TADDDAAAA! PRESENTING: Vast Magnificent Sea and Thunderous Make-Your-Problems-Seem-Tiny Clouds.

And there were kids swimming! HA! It is not just rainy, my friends, but freezing, three-jumper-freezing, and there, so determinedly on summer hols, were loads and loads of kids swimming. 

The waves leapt in, towards the concrete promenade, rambunctious and teasing. All the grown ups stood under bright brollies, miserable about the weather, but all the children had answered the call and had stripped off and followed the foaming water in, larking about together. 

 Our five started with their be-wellied feet, then shook those off. Then got their leggings soaked so legs were unwrapped, and then dresses wet, so they were untangled from them too. (Strip poker without the booze and cards.) Then that was it, they crashed right on in and jumped and splashed and swam. 

There was a fizzy energy on the shore, a catching happiness, an almost-giggle that spread from person to person like it did in a stern school assembly when somebody did a fart.  

 It was a giddiness, frankly. I think it was bought on by just watching so many children be utterly delighted in the sea. (It could also have been because for a few seconds we could spy where the sun was in the sky… a faint glow over to the west, behind a few less layers of cloud. The rain became just a faint mist for a few magical moments there.)  

 But I think it was the children taking up the invitation from the sea. The waves had drawn them into a complete ability to be In. This. Moment. Only this one, now, right here. And by watching it, we caught a bit of it, that presence, that being here with every bit of ourselves. It was joy combusted all over the beach like a busted open glow stick that has shaken its neon around. 

Nature is powerful like that. 

And I reckon children are still sensitive to this call of the wild. They can hear it and attend to it, without the inner voice grown-ups have, we’ll be warmer and comfier if we just stay sitting down in our cagoules, checking out other people’s holidays on Facebook. 

Yeah, we will. But we won’t be happier. 

Our kids seasided today like Bosses. There were quite inevitable tears when there wasn’t enough dry clothing to get on to their red, clammy bodies, but they’d had this huge happy connection with earth, each other, themselves- it was so worth it and they  would do it all over again tomorrow, no regrets. 

*checks weather forecast* Ah, yep, we will be doing it all over again tomorrow.

So that’s good! *smiles brightly*   

   PS I have just finished my book! All about this ancient, broken connection with nature, and the invitation extended to us to restore it, and to come alive through it. They are short chapters for busy parents who want to help their family begin a life long love affair with the wild. It’s out on Monday, hooray! Keep your eyes peeled: Thirty Days of Rewilding (or #30DaysOfRewilding because something doesn’t exist unless it has a hashtag right?) 


The expectation vs reality of camping

21 August, 2015

We are on a summer camping holiday on the South Coast of England right now. That is to say we are actually in a traffic jam in the pouring rain on our way to slot an endless amount of copper coins into the two penny machines in a smelly arcade on the end of a pier with a million other families at their wit’s end.

We have had a good few days, where we were living a dreamlike life where camping fully met our grand expectations. And then the rain set in, and now it feels like it has been raining solidly for a year, even though it’s only really been three days.

  Here are all the ways a camping holiday is different in reality from expectations.

Expectation: The campsite is only 100 miles from home- we shall set off at 9:30 am, arrive in the late morning, quickly set up camp and spend the rest of the day on the beach skimming stones, reading novels and revelling in our scout-like efficiency.

Reality: A multitude of external factors thwart our ability to get out of the house, and then when we are finally sitting in the car, little Juno finds a jar of tumeric (!) that has been last-minutely thrown in and rubs a fistful in her eye. After sorting that out, a full fifty minutes is then spent “just dashing in” to the house for those necessaties such as:
A deflated My Little Pony balloon

The barbie leg that fell off

The massive donkey on wheels

A spare Minnie Mouse onesie (hello? Don’t the kids know we are going on a seaside camping holiday and it’s going to be super hot the whole time?) (We will end up not regretting these mad-dash warm clothing runs…) 

The wooden flute that whistles like a train (we will regret this with every milimetre of our ear canals)  

We’ll be in traffic for almost the entirity of the M4, will arrive at dusk, panic about the best spot to pitch the tent and end up sticking it on a hill. 

Expectation: Erecting (huhuh you said erecting) the tent will be a family team building exercise- the girls will joyfully hand us the pegs, each one of us excelling at our appointed roles, spurring each other on through the darkening sky.

Reality: The girls go absolutely nuts with glee about the fact that mum and dad have so willingly, despite a day stuck in traffic and a quickly setting sun, put on the ultimate activity for their benefit- PARACHUTE GAMES! We know this one! We run under the flappy material and we try and grab it and hold the ages and run in circles then we sit on it and run over it and try and tear it from each other’s grasps thanks mum and dad oh thank you we LOVE THIS oh why are you crying? The whole thing made bearable only because we keep finding different reasons to say “erecting.”

Expectation: Meals are like “Jamie Oliver visits River Cottage” – we forage for some herbs and throw them in to the fish that we caught that’s baking on the embers of the fire we built.

Reality: The pan of pre-cooked rice mixed with baked beans and a tin of sweet corn topples off the precariously balanced Bunsen burner thingy and is scooped back into the saucepan because the three second rule is not a myth I don’t care what you say. 

Expectation: we fly a kite and sing the song from Mary Poppins and connect as a family in our kite flying joy.

Reality: the parrot kite we bought is neither ornament nor function and by the time we have it in the sky the girls have lost interest but in order to keep it in the sky I have to run with it and yet still, every 20 seconds it’s enormous carnival coloured head outweighs its body and it comes crashing down, narrowly missing small children.

Expectation: I’ll manage a few days without embarrassing myself. (How can this still be an ambition of mine? With everything I know?)

Reality: I walk past the loo in the middle of the field and notice that the foggy Perspex windows actually reveals an awful lot of what is going on and I’ll remember how just that morning I decided that I didn’t want to sit on the loo with my Kermit the frog onesie around my ankles because the floor looked wet in a dubious sort of a way so I took the whole thing off and then got tangled up as I put it back on a few minutes and stumbled around a bit. And I imagine other campers referring to me as Nudey Kermit or something.

Expectation: The sun is going to be so deliciously sunshiney that we’ll have to smother ourselves in this ludicrously expensive non toxic sun cream.

Reality: rain. The sort of rain that makes me think it might never stop. Like when I went overdue and I began to feel like I genuinely might be the first woman in the whole of history to be pregnant forever. This is definitely the start of The Everlasting Rains.

  Expectation: swimming in the sea at every chance, because genuinely the coast around here is as beautiful as any I’ve seen in the world. 

Reality: I swim once and although I LOVE it it takes me three hours to get warm despite putting every spare item we have on down there including a Dora The Explorer towel cloak. In fact, I only get warm back at the tent when I put on my Kermit onesie. 

Expectation: sitting around a fire as the sun sets.

Reality: sitting around a fire in the drizzle, the sun could be setting but who knows as we haven’t seen it for yonks, the smoke changes direction every time I move- who KNEW my face was such a smoke- magnet. There are marshmallows, caught alight and black on the outside, perfectly rubbery on the inside and campfire songs are replaced by the deep, raging howls of the children that missed out on the last marshmallow in the packet. 

Expectation: Balmy nights sitting on our hill top spot, counting shooting stars.

Reality: Falling asleep when the children go to bed because it takes too much energy to get up from the deflated air bed. 

Expectation: Lolling on fields filled with sunshine and wild flowers and fellow campers all drinking tea or locally brewed cider. Like a festival but without the expensive ticket and loud noises.

Reality: Fog. Fog so thick it is like a stew with lumps of canvas poking out of it. Dismembered limbs and heads appear calling for their children. The once-playful sound of kids shooting machine guns made of sticks becomes deeply sinister and the fog carries high cortisol levels from tent to tent until it actually feels like the start of Zombie Apocolypse: Camping in Britain. 

(The benefit of this fog is that I can’t see all those beautiful kites flying perfectly in the sky judging our pathetic parrot with their wistful tails.) 

Expectation: Packing down is a seamless affair because we are camping legends. Tim and I actually have arguments about who is the most legendary camper. However:

Reality: We pack up the tent and all of our gear into the car WITH OUR CAR KEYS STILL IN THE INTERNAL POCKET OF THE TENT. Twice in a row.

Funnily enough, despite all this terrible weather and real-life rubbishness we have totally enjoyed ourselves. We are camping with good friends and that helps. (Blimey, imagine this with bad friends.) I have felt our friendship deepen over the hardship in a way soldiers in a muddy trench might. The whole campsite seems to have a World War like camaraderie. Or perhaps we’re feeling the bond natural to those moments just before a Zombie Apocolypse. 

(I find myself deciding which of the other campers I’d like in my zombie fighting team. The older couple who are stealth camping in the bushes seem to have a survivalist mentality that would be handy. Perhaps other campers would choose me to be in their team because my Kermit suit means I’m probably fun and could lighten the mood in the moments of impending, gruesome zombie death.) 

There is a certain stoic sense of pride in our ability to weather a rainy summer. Unlike my experience of camping in other countries no one here is taken unawares by the stormy gales. Oh no. The campsite is like the Winter catalogue of but with more driving rain. Puffa jackets, woolly beanies, cagoules, cagoules for legs, welly boots, gaters, cagoule onesies. 
We raise our eyesbrows and laugh as the thunder rumbles around us and step in to help each other’s vehicles out of the swampy fields. 

And I guess that’s partly why we will be camping again next week, and at every opportunity. Because really, it wouldn’t be a proper camping holiday without the desperate misery of days of rain. I think we all love it, deep down. 

In lieu of the epic strawberry-and-pimms-summer joy we hoped for the parents are able to find joy in life’s true simple pleasures:

A dry picnic table 

A boiled egg that peels really easily

Narrowly missing stepping on dog poo

and without being able to wile away the hours splashing in a warm sea children discover the ability to delight in the small things:

Bouncing on the air beds until they spring a leak

Balancing biscuits on head

Swapping raincoats 

 So, high fives to all damp campers and other holidaymakers digging deep and making the most of one of Britains most cherished traditions: Belligerently Eating Ice Cream By The Seaside In the Pouring Rain. 

One day we’ll have a summer where fleecey onesies and cagoules have no place. 

And we’ll discover it’s not all that. 


5 lessons in rewilding from Camp Bestival

11 August, 2015

Last weekend you might have found Ramona and I sitting in a tiny big top, watching a shadow puppet ghost show run by a mum and her two daughters, complete with piano accordion accompaniment and tap dancing. Or you might have found us capering about to a cover of Ice Ice Baby done by a skiffle band. Or making mud gargoles to stick on a collective mud mural. Or you might have spotted Tim, dressed as a giant croc getting started on by a giant tiger…

Because, OBVIOUSLY, we were at Camp Bestival. The only place you can hope to do all these sweet/ absurd things.

This year I attended partly as a blogger, intending to write about it, and partly as an artist.

I was the tantalizing gogo dancer for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Did you spot me?golden wings

I jest, I jest.  That would be my dream. Getting my proper super duper weirdo moves on in front of 30,000 people wearing 4 metre gold wings. HELLO.

In actual fact I took the stage in a bit more of a sit-downy fashion at the Guardian Literary Institute being interviewed by the (hilarious and brilliant) Scummy Mummies about my book Happy Hair (no golden wings but I did wear sequined hot pants.) It was so, so much fun and definitely a massive highlight for me and my book!

Camp Bestival also provided exactly the thing I needed for my next book; a ginormous dollop of motivation! This year Camp Bestival was all about being wild, which, perfectly, is exactly what my next book is about. A thirty day guide to rewilding our families, due out within the next 30 days. (Hehe.) That word rewilding is something I am really delving into. It speaks of restoring a part of us that has been lost, our wild selves.  I think you are going to LOVE it. Eeek, I have the biggest smile on my face just thinking about all these inspiring little stories in it… gah…. I so want to tell you more but I think I should save it for when it comes out… *internal struggle*

Let me crack on with a few of the things Camp Bestival inspired me about, when it comes to rewilding….

Many kids want time in the wild more than anything else
One of the most loved parts of Camp Bestival is the Dingly Dell- a collaboration between nature and artists. There are nature walks and activities, forest crafts to make and conservation knowledge to learn. Mostly there is mud. And where there is mud, children are happy. On Sunday afternoon we spent 4 HOURS playing in mud, along with a hundred other families also playing in mud. We had a mud tea party and made mud sculptures and some children covered their whole bodies in mud and others managed to make mud pies without getting any on their hands at all. It is funny that at a festival where there is every delight a child might possibly fancy, it is this muddy haven that remains the most captivating.

Here is a little video I made in the Dingly Dell – can I tempt you with a, erm, cake? A mud cake?

Native english moths and primates are basically twins
Talking with one or two of the organisations present (WWF and Wild Futures specifically) it became clear just how related the insects in our gardens are to those rare primates that are on the brink. Both are in decline as a result of human activity, and both can be restored if we take our role seriously and if children fall in love with nature. It is absolutely true that saving the world’s wildlife begins in our backyard. (More in the book!)

Nature has the power to suspend our cynicism
One of the most inspiring conversations I had over the weekend was with a chap from a little organisation that runs holiday camps for children, run by teenage volunteers. He was sharing story after story of how too cool-for-school teens came along to camp, who, by the end of it, had their stony facade broken down and were trusting themselves, and others, and nature again. Seeing the magic. Finding the space simply to be. He told me how on Saturday night a few of the teenagers ditched the Kaiser Chiefs and came to the Dingly Dell and simply sat in the dark, under the stars, weaving nettle braids.

We all want to secretly embrace our wild side
There are three things I love about Camp Bestival. Firstly, seeing families rocking out together. I love it. Teenage boys raving with their mums. Daddies and daughters busting their moves to Ella Eyre (who was one of the absolute stars of the weekend, as well as Crazy old Arthur Brown.) I actually get emosh seeing families dancing together. (Bit strange, I realise.) I also love the thought put into the festival creative- incredible installations and artwork everywhere you look. Finally, I love how people throw themselves into letting go – mostly in terms of dressing up. The amount of mums who had quite obviously said YES to their kids painting a rubbish animal mask on their face. Hilar. And onesies, and ears and tales and sparkles. No one really trying to look good, but everyone just embracing this little wild part of themselves, the bit that we normally kind of repress in order to stay sane on the daily commute. Hehehe. So great.

 The wild can transform us
I spent a lot of the weekend interviewing people from different projects and was overwhelmed by the stories people were sharing of how nature has transformed someone’s life. From the 3 year old preschooler who got a huge boost of self confidence from learning bushcraft, to the teacher who found a vocation in helping people see themselves as pivotal to the thriving of wildlife. I had a book partly written about the power of nature, and now I have one bustling with actual real life stories of it. So, so incredible.

So, yep, there goes Camp Bestival being legendary again! (If you want more Camp Bestival goodness do check out 76Sunflowers– who took the above picture of me and the Scummy Mummies- Mammasaurus, Kate Takes 5 and a whole bunch of official Camp B Bloggers.)

The only downside to it really was that I think it has grown up a bit quickly – it is like the adolescent boy who had a growth spurt and now his  trousers bash his ankles, revealing mismatched socks. On the Saturday afternoon the kid’s garden was utterly rammed and it was actually hard to move around. I hope they consider capping numbers or expanding the venue for another year. And, of course, the cost… it is absolutely stuffed with value, and worth every penny…. but still, I can’t help but feel a bit bummed about how prohibitive the ticket prices are, and the potential for things like this to become a middle class love in. So far it hasn’t, there is no rich-kid vibe at all. But perhaps for next year they can release the first 20,000 tickets at half price to bonafide socialists or something? Hehe.

Let me leave you with another video – a day in the life at Camp Bestival – see how many Ninja Dinos you can spot…

Have you been to a great family festival this year? Would love to hear from you, and any thoughts you have about rewilding…


5 reasons vulva is not a dirty word

5 August, 2015

“That woman has a vulva. And that one. She’s got one, probably, and her too. There are vulvas EVERYWHERE.” We were at the pool, in the changing room, and Ramona was quite accurately pointing out that there were vulvas all over the place.  Did I want the slippery, pube littered tiled floor to open up and swallow me? Just a little? Oh Yep. I had taught my daughter the word vulva on purpose… but I wasn’t ready for that.

I’ve come a long way since then, I like to think that these days I would barely bat an eye lid at the word vulva announced loudly across a public place. In fact, now when my children talk about vulvas I am pleased as punch. 

I read in the news at the weekend about a new entry into the Swedish dictionary “snippa” – a version of “willy” but for girls, because none of the nicknames or the anatomical words seemed to be good enough. 

I don’t know Swedish, and despite being a massive, MASSIVE fan of the Dime Bar cake they sell at IKEA,  I can’t comment on how worthy the Swedish version of vulva is.But I do hope we don’t create a new British word for female genitals as VULVA is a beaut. There are many reasons ‘vulva’ should be a part of our vocab, but the very last reason is vital, something every parent needs to know. 

I reckon it just needs a campaign team. I’m here and I am stepping up as the Alistair Campbell of Team Vulva. 

Vulva is powerful

Would it have been better if Ramona had pointed out all the “minis” or “nonnys” or “fuffs”? I wonder if it would have felt cuter, and I think that’s partly why I feel those are not good words for female genitals. They reduce these powerful parts of a woman to a strange little collection of fairy syllables. 

Where as “vulva” – it sounds powerful. Like it could be the entrance way to a portal of intense pleasure and the exit for a ten pound human. Or something. 

A mother once told me her child refers to hers as a “Volvo” – which perhaps sums up partly why it feels like a good word- like the car, it is solid, reliable, hard to break. Even by a baby the size of a watermelon. (Okay, it can sometimes feel broken, but nothing that a few stitches, a bag of prunes and a gallon load of birth hormones can’t fix.)

Vulvas themselves are rarely dirty

Sometimes we might be tempted to discourage vulva- exploration because we have a feeling it is genuinely a bit grubby. Well, guess what. The mighty vagina is self-cleansing, and the vulva needs only the most very basic of water washes to keep the whole thing spick and span. (For a funny diagram about not getting the V’s mixed up see here.)  It has the perfect balance of microbes to keep it healthy and clean and in a good environment it will thrive without any effort at all. 

One small child I know for a while there would thrust a finger under any nostril and shout YUMMY! It was, of course, laden with vulva microbes. Fortunately the parents knew enough about this stuff to simply explain, without any shame or horror, that “Yummy Finger” was just for her nose.  Little children often know more truth than adults, for a healthy genitalia is designed to smell good- jam packed with appealing pheremones and things.

There really doesn’t have to be any EW GROSS factor about vulvas. 

Vulva-talk is natural and an important part of development

Talk of vulvas is rife in our family at the moment- exactly as it should be, according to natural, healthy child development. Intrigue, exploration, play and learning about genitals happens between the ages of three and, well, I guess, forever, really, and these can be precious moments for a child picking up a sense of being okay, of shamelessness, about their private parts and their sexuality. 
There was one part of the article about Spinnas that I enjoyed. The creator of it suggested that when parents see their child touching their vulva to “smile encouragingly”- how inspiringly different to world where children are shamed when they show a healthy curiosity about a part of their body. 

The origins of the word are perfect 

Do you know “vulva” most likely comes from the Old Latin “volvere” meaning to roll it or, more literally “wrapper”- our vulva is the wrapping on one jolly bonanza of a gift. Women’s bodies are the vessel of humanity! The genesis of generations! Our wombs BIRTH THE FUTURE! And our vulvas are the golden ribbon around the present and the icing on the cake.

Knowing the words “vulva”and “penis” are critical for child sexual abuse prevention

And here is the most important, the really serious case for why “fanny” and “vajay” don’t cut it. People who work in child sexual abuse prevention understand that knowing the anatomical terms for genitals can actually protect children from abuse. It is three pronged- children knowing anatomical terms for private parts usually indicates that there is healthy communication about genitals meaning children are more likely to discuss any scared feelings/ scary situations they experience with their parents or carers. Using these words also deters predators as it shows an understanding, and finally it helps specialists in the aftermath of child sexual abuse as children can accurately describe what happened. 

In The Atlantic Laura Palumbo, a prevention specialist with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), explains how teaching the words vagina, penis and vulva promotes positive body image, self confidence, and parent-child communication; discourages perpetrators; and, in the event of abuse, helps children and adults navigate the disclosure and forensic interview process. 

Are you on Team Vulva?


Keeping it real

30 July, 2015

Isn’t the internet a strange old beast? I am, personally, in love with it. We are lovers. I’d like to cover it in Nutella and lick it. We are having an intense tryst at the moment because: UNLIMITED WIFI HERE IN THE UK! YEAH BABY!  After 18 months of being in an internet-less yurt in New Zealand, we are sucking the life out of all the wwws over here.

But how much does it skew everyone’s perception of what is real? I mean. What family life is like, how exhausting parenthood is, how hard it is to just recycle the little boxes that the takeaway you’ve resorted to came in?

Everything is a showreel. Facebook and Instagram – white, white, walls and children not wearing their pyjamas. Even when I livestream on periscope I tilt the camera so you can’t see the morning’s cereal bowls with the crunchy nut cornflakes that haven’t been crunchy for hours. Not very many people are upfront about the shitty bits, eh?

I wonder if this blog lately has been a bit like that “oh we are going on a big trip! Having a lovely time in Thailand with the baby elephants! We are REALLY respecting our children’s rights! Now we are in London and we have shiny hair that is really growing fast thanks to this nice brush!”

A lovely family walk amongst the nature no stress here folks move right along

A lovely family walk amongst the nature no stress here folks move right along

When I post a blog, I usually am feeling all the happies. I tend not to be very public with my woes, ever. (I’m British.) And I don’t like to talk about difficulties my kids are facing with people on the internet. My blog isn’t a facade at all, I don’t mean to give a false impression – I just wouldn’t flip open my laptop if I was feeling really mega bummed about something.

So I’m making a concerted effort to do that right now… because right now we are having some HARD days.

We watched the new Pixar movie, Inside Out, yesterday because we happen to be in Peckham, home to the legendary Peckham Plex where every film is a fiver all day every day. Yeah the carpet is so sticky that it pulled my sandal off and yeah there tends to be a culture of shouting at the screen but a fiver is well cheap.

I was almost on the cusp of tears the whole time. Thinking about how all the change we have brought on to our family in the last 18 months and how that must be so epically intense for our children to deal with.

And they are really dealing with it right now.

(At least I think that is what is going on. I think it’s the change. We’ll never know unless we can get Pixar involved to take a peep in our kid’s head… that’s how it works right?)

It is emotion central round here. The epicenter of rage and the source of all tears. We are every slammed door and every overthrown chair.

And then there’s the children.

(Jokes… I’m too lazy to overthrow a chair.) Me and Tim seem to take it in turns over who gets to run away from the sadness and shut ourselves in the toilet.

All the emotions are triggering things in us and we are trying to figure out what we need and how to get it whilst helping our children meet theirs and not really feeling like we are doing that very well at all.

On days like this, parenting this way doesn’t seem like the path to harmony one bit. There are little shivers of doubt and a sense that families who Put Their Foot Down probably never have bad days.

We are all just on. the. verge. All day. (And all night.)

It takes a village to raise a child, eh? And I guess we have left ours for a few months, and we are sort of popping in to our old one and our kids don’t remember the neighbours and the friendly village dog that used to lick their knees now seems like a strange menace.  And did a poo right by the swings.

All the normal things have gone, the daily rituals and things we could all rely on and yes, there is lots of fun and joy involved, but we are floundering a bit. The framework on which we hang our lives is back on a parcel of land in New Zealand and we are just bumping along from thing to thing. (I like to think we carry this framework around with us, in our family culture but I’ve totally misplaced it. It’s probably somewhere in my hand bag with my sunglasses, a mouldy sock, a half eaten apple, a small furry penguin, a few of those orange things that kinder egg toys come in, two Frubes and a mooncup but gosh darn I can’t find iiiiiiiiittttttt…)

In between little (freezing) picnics catching up with old friends we are rampaging drama queens; moody and explosive.

One of us needs to take a chill pill and it should probably be me… have any? *hopeful*

If I was updating Instagram today there would be a picture of me hiding under the covers with a book while Juno tries to put a toy screwdriver into my ears brrrrrrrrr and Ramona will be yelling for someone to play tag with her for the fifty billionth time and Tim will be asking if we are bringing our children up all wrong.

So… no feedback needed. I just wanted to make it very, very clear that our life isn’t some romantical, respectful, nomadic dream. We are trying, really trying, to embrace joy and freedom but some days… some days are just shit.

No Poo

How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth

21 July, 2015

As you know, I haven’t washed my hair for YONKS. Three and a half years, to be precise. In those years, particularly during the months that I was researching my Happy Hair book, I learnt an awful lot about hair. And there is a lot that I learnt that applies not *just* for those who have given up shampoo completely, but for everyone who would like healthy hair.

Since giving up shampoo my hair has become a lot more shiny and has seen a lot more natural growth. It is like it is unburdened by all the toxins I was sticking in it and just wildly shimmying around up there. However, there is one thing that has impacted this shiny hair and growth the most, folks. How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth - the one tip you need!

How to get shiny hair
The internet is full of tips for healthy hair – but nearly all of them involve more chemical heavy stuff to stick on your hair. The last thing you need on your hair is MORE chemicals. Your scalp produces this awesome stuff called sebum. We often refer to it as grease, which is a dirty word, so I am on a mission to reclaim SEBUM as the natural, glorious, protective oil that it is! It is there for our own good, to coat our hair shaft and make it smooth shiny and to protect it from the elements.

Sebum will get you shiny hair- but you need to help move it along. And this is where my one hair secret rises above all the other healthy hair tips! *da dad di daaaaaaaaa* (Dramatic drum rolly thing)

It is a boar bristle brush.

Everyone who dreams of shiny, healthy hair should have one of these in their cupboard!

A few nights of brushing properly and your hair just goes BLING DIGGIDY BLING.

A boar bristle brush conditions and nourishes, improves the texture and can cut down the need for any other styling products. 

Natural Hair Growth Tips
I have always longed for fast growing hair. I can remember trying to make my hair touch my bum as a kid, I’d lean back, practically in half and be like LOOK MY HAIR GOES DOWN TO MY BUM! But I also act on my fancies quite regularly too – so even as a teenager I’d be looking in the mirror and think, ooh, this hair needs a chop. And then I’d chop it all off. And then I’d be back to square one.

How to increase hair growth became a bit of an obsession of mine, and I learnt that eating healthier (lots and lots of good oils and oily fish) can really help. As can some of those folk tips for hair growth such a rosemary tea and lavender tea.

But since giving up shampoo and using my boar bristle brush every night my hair has been growing at a rate of knots. It stimulates the scalp and your hair is just like LET’S DO IT!  Which means I can whimsically chop it whenever I want. In fact *wanders off the find the scissors*

Boar Bristle Brush (or a BBB. Yeah you know me.)
There is a wide spectrum for the old natural boar bristle brush. You have a Mason Pearson on one end which can run into hundreds of dollars worth – and lots of people think they are worth every penny. Then there is a Denman, which you can pick up on the high street for a few quid. In between there are many others and I reckon a mid range one is the way to go. I have used my Nana’s old Kent Brush (do ask an elderly relative if they have a spare- these old boar bristle brushes are a real winner) but just began using a new Spornette and am really pleased.How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth- the one thing you need

Cut down your washes
I don’t know many women that didn’t wish they weren’t so completely locked into their once a day or once-every-two-days shampoo cycle. It does feel a bit of a trap, shampooing your hair only for it to create a load of sebum again. Did you know that is your hair freaking out? It is your scalp going CRIKEY JIM SHE’S STRIPPED OFF OUR SEBUM QUICK PRODUCE SOME MORE GO GO GO GO GO!!!!

Using a boar bristle brush in between washes – every night, very thoroughly – can help you stretch out your days. It will train your scalp not to produce so much sebum, you are working with it, helping move the sebum from your scalp down your hair shaft.

In the olden days the average woman washed hair a few times a year and it was the nightly brushing that kept it clean and conditioned inbetween times.

For those whose use no shampoo
Lots of people give No Shampoo a crack – but they just can’t break through to the healthy hair nirvana they dream of. I reckon a good boar bristle brush can make or break someone’s no poo journey. Don’t try and give up shampoo without one. Promise?How to get shiny hair and natural hair growth  - the one tip you need

Brushing for hair growth and shiny hair – and other benefits
Hard city water, silicones and preservatives in shampoo all make your hair dull and stunted. By using a boar bristle brush regularly you can expose your hair way less to this stuff and let your sebum do the work.

A brush like this Spornette is called a porcupine- it has longer bristles that really get down and grizzly. In fact, the first time you use it you sort of unhearth a load of, um, extras. Dandruff, flakes, gunk.

Using it regularly combats dandruff and itchy scalp by keep your brilliant acid mantel (the protective layer that covers your scalp and body) clear and healthy.

I have curly hair- brushing? Really?
Curly haired friends are divided on this one. It must depend on the type of curl or porosity of the hair.
There are loads of curly haired peeps that have never brushed their hair, and then when they start on this journey, they discover they can use a boar bristle brush to great effect – if done in the evening so their hair has time to calm down again.

And then there are curly haired people who don’t even need it – just the odd scritch and preen every now and then.

With all the people I’ve worked with on this, I’d say curly haired people find giving up shampoo sooooo much easier- as long as it is kept untangled with argan/jojoba/coconut oil.

Extra Brushing Tips

  • Brush section by section
  • Hold the hair from the scalp to the ends as long as you can.
  • Brush at night so that the redistributed sebum has time to settle
  • Keep your brushes super clean by swishing in a baking soda mixture while you shower. (Bristles only, not the handles.)

Here is a video with me talking about the powers of the boar bristle brush, demo-ing brushing techniques and cleaning methods.

I realise I sound absurdly like a salesperson.  (You can see there are no affiliate links of anything here!) I am simply passionate about people finding natural ways to care for their hair and body, and I am a bit of an evangelist for cutting down all those carcinogenic chemicals that are jammed in our shampoo and conditioners.

And if there is something that can get you shiny hair and hair growth, that will last your whole life, has no chemicals and works WITH your amazing, magnificent body? I want to shout about it. Yahoo for the boar bristle brush. *waves pom poms*

PS If you want more loads more information about getting super healthy hair by giving up shampoo, the science of shampoo and a ton of tips and recipes for scalp and hair please do check out my book and join this global movement.

PPS And if you are really quite daunted by the idea but want to give it a crack let me properly hold your hand through the process. My E-Course, Happy Hair Detox, has helped 20 students get started on this journey so far and you are very much invited to join them! Click here for more info and a discounted price- use the code LulasticReader. 


Made in Britain with love

19 July, 2015

8 years ago me and my friends were sitting on the tube in London when we came up with a killer idea. A fair trade fair on Oxford Street! At Christmas! A Christmas Fayre with ethical stuff on the busiest shopping street in the world! And do you know what, we pulled it off and it is still running today. That is the power of collective dreaming, I reckon!

👌Change happens when we dream collectively 👊 #streetart #bristol

A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on

(I’d change the name though, even though we honestly thought it was genius when we came up with it. Fair Christmas Fayre! Like fair, y’know wow what a winner! Now I just think yikes, what a mouthful.)

We had stall holders come from all over the UK with handmade, certified fair trade and Made in Britain stuff. Only once did a dodgy one sneak in – someone turned up with non stick frying pans made in China. Pfft. Who let them in? *blushes*

It was an inspiring day, apart from when you tuned in to what Oxford St shoppers would say. They’d pick up an item and turn it over and say “OMG I can get this for a tenth of that up the street!” They were completely oblivious about slave labour conditions and all the issues surrounding pound shop tat.

The worst was when they stuck their heads in the market just to ask where Primark was. I wanted to bop them on the head with a beautiful fair trade cushion.
Keep It In The Ground Blog
My Voucher Codes have just released some encouraging research about whether people would prefer to buy “Made in Britain” items or from abroad, discovering that 58% would buy from Britain, and 40% would pay extra to do so. You can read a bit more about the findings here.

I think this represents a real change in our shopping habits. People are becoming aware that buying Made in Britain is more likely to support small business rather than huge corporates, better working conditions and a regulated minimum wage standard.

We are finally getting that the way we spend our money is a vote for, or against, a better world.

*high fives*

PS For more ethical shopping check out my affiliate chummos Ethical Superstore for tons of Made in Britain and fair trade stuff.

Activism, Featured, Parenting

10 habits that infringe on Rights of Children (and how to change them)

14 July, 2015

Do you dream of a fairer world, a cherished earth, a more peaceful community? And do you interact with children? As a parent or teacher or aunty or kind member of the public?

Nuzzle in, you. This post has your very name on it.

A few years ago, during my Masters at LSE, I spent three months studying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child under the tireless child rights advocate, Peter Townsend. The course was heavy but inspiring and I vowed to work on child rights for the rest of my life.

I went on to work for Oxfam as a campaigner, and imagined I would end up working on the rights of children through social policy.

And it would be easy to see me now, sitting in my pyjamas drinking tea, and wonder what happened to that vow.

But in actual fact,when it comes to human rights and social change, I feel as powerful in my role as a parent as I did as a campaigner.

When we studied the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) we covered poverty, child labour, hunger, trafficking, homelessness, but we didn’t ever look at the home and family life.

I’ve come to believe that the UNCRC can inspire us to observe children’s rights as parents and teachers and neighbours, and that this in turn this will lead to societal change that makes all those huge, global issues, much less likely to occur.  And, if we can raise a generation who have had their rights observed, the impact on global social justice will be boundless. 

Unicef say “The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.”

Unicef is slightly optimistic when it uses past tense here  – I think we are in the process of changing our view on children, but things haven’t quite got there yet. This post is going to take 10 everyday, simple habits that impede children’s rights, and consider a way to change them.

I did begin by going through the Convention, article by article, and pulling out the relevant bits – freedom to express views (article 12) and to impart information and ideas (article 13) and the right to dignity (article 23) but it got almost as heavy as my Masters, so I stopped that.

Instead, the guiding principles of the Convention, cover most bases:

All rights apply to all children without exception.

  • It is the State’s obligation to protect children from any form of discrimination and to take positive action to promote their rights.

  • All actions concerning the child shall take full account of his or her best interests. The State shall provide the child with adequate care when parents, or others charged with that responsibility, fail to do so.

  • Every child has the inherent right to life, and the State has an obligation to ensure the child’s survival and development.

  •  The child has the right to express his or her opinion freely and to have that opinion taken into account in any matter or procedure affecting the child.

And actually, these guiding principles can be distilled even further, I reckon. I think most adults have a good sense of what their rights are, and when their rights are being abused or repressed. This means that it might be helpful to think about upholding child rights simply by asking the question “how would I hope to be treated in this situation?” 

Here are ten things lovers of human rights and warriors of social justice do regularly to impede the rights of children.  We can break habits, and form new ones, humans are amazing like that. Let’s do this….Habits that impede rights of child in the home (and how to change them)

1 – Taking things off children. We do it in the name of safety sometimes; snatch scissors from a toddler or a phone from a baby. Sometimes we just do it absentmindedly- we want something they have, so we just take it. This act is discriminatory – excluding children from using something that they would like to.

What to do instead: Even with the very smallest child we can ask for something back, and explain why we would like it. If we are patient, and allow them to fully process the request (for young children this can take longer than you think!) with our hand out, it is highly likely that they will return it. We can explain things to children just as we do other adults.

We can also question our motivation for taking it – is it really unsafe for a toddler to use sharp things? I don’t believe so. At all. Juno has been picking up knives with our supervision since she could first handle any items. She has learnt to use sharp things very carefully as a result. Being committed to child rights means questioning a lot of assumptions we have about our children’s abilities!

2 – Talking about children in front of them. “Ah, yeah Ramona, woke up so early this morning!” – it is such a seemingly harmless conversation to have, sharing stories about our children while they are there. But would we EVER do this to an adult? Can you even imagine it? Being in a room with a friend, discussing the toilet habits / sleeping problems/ hilarious anecdote about another friend sitting next to you? It doesn’t protect dignity and privacy and you can stop it!

What to do instead: Weigh up the reasons for sharing that anecdote. If you need advice or support, consider sharing it in private, away from your children. But you can also ask your child, if they are there, if they mind you sharing a story. Or, you can include your child in it “Oh, Ramona, you woke up early this morning didn’t you – were you super keen to get up?” – involve them in the conversation as we would an adult.  This goes even for the tiniest baby. Defend your newborns dignity and it will be a parental habit formed for their whole life.

3 – Laughing at children.  Children can be hilarious, sometimes in a purposeful way – laugh right along to their jokes. But they are also funny sometimes in an intriguing, surprising way – and I’d you to consider not laughing at children. Sometimes, adults  find it hard not to smirk, to catch each others eyes and laugh at our children as they go about their lives. Just yesterday Ramona said “Don’t laugh at me, mum!” when I had giggled at something in a kind hearted way. It pulled me up short – even our loving chuckles as they fumble a word infringe on their personhood. I love laughter and joyfulness – it has to be up to you to discern whether your laughter fits with the idea of your child as a rights bearer.

What to do instead: Consider things from their point of view . It is tough not being able to reach things you need, learning all the unwritten rules of society, figuring out who you are. The very last thing they need is “kind hearted” adults giggling along. Dwell on this and it should help you hold it together when you want to snort-in-love.

4 – Picking babies up We get rights all mixed up on this one – we think it is our right to pick up our baby. Well, erm, your baby isn’t really, exactly, yours, you see. You don’t own her. She is not a possession. She is a person. With her own body.

Or we think we are helping when we pick up another child when they’ve fallen or  a baby when they are crying. Would you like a stranger to come up to you and pick you up? Nope. It’s the same. It is.

What to do instead: The alternative isn’t not picking babies up. Babies love to be in arms, it is one of the biggest ways babies and adults connect. PICK UP BABIES! But, do what you would like to be done to you: ASK THEM! Yep, even a newborn. If babies are spoken to this way they soon respond. The “I’m going to pick you up now” spoken to a baby soon becomes “Can I give you a cuddle?” to a young child. This practice of consent from birth could change the world. 

5 – Wiping children’s noses Sometimes we do things to kids in the name of health and hygiene. Sweeping in to wipe their nose for example – I used to pride myself on a swipe that came from behind Ramona’s head, cleared all snot that wouldn’t interfere with her play time.  Yep: stepping all over her right to influence decisions that affect her.

What to do instead: Say “I see you have a wet nose, can I wipe it for you, or would you like to wipe it yourself? and then wait.  It was Pennie Brownlee that opened my eyes to the possibility that most children, if given the option to not have a huge slimeball of snot dripping into their mouth would take it! Same goes with dirty nappies- in a respectful relationship, giving the child the option to come and get their nose wiped or their nappy changed, and given time to process it, is likely to result in them coming over for a wipe/ change themselves.

6 – Deciding things without their input “Right! We are off! Let’s go, COME ON!”  The amount of times I have seen parents suddenly decide it is time to leave the park and expect their children with no warning to come right along happily! We plan our days, our holidays, our visits, our lunches, our leaving times, every thing with very little input from our children because we think we know best. And it is a complete flouting of their human right to have a say in things that impact them.

What to do instead: Give them an opportunity to influence plans. This grows with the child; they are VERY good at letting people know when they are ready to have a say! It might start with a two year old choosing what friends to have a playdate with, and then can grow into a four year old helping the family decide where to go on holiday. Contrary to what people may think, having children as fully fledged decision makers is not a burden – it is a great joy, and it leads to a far, far more harmonious family life. 

7 – Photographing (and sharing) them without permission This one that really challenges me, and I have been on quite a journey with it. (In fact, you can see that my Instagram pictures are far less frequent as I try and do this 100% consensually.  When we are snap happy and post these photos publically we are in danger of disregarding children’s right to privacy. And don’t get me started on when we use those photos to publically shame our children… *ragey face*

What to do instead I do have a couple of friends who have sworn never to post anything about their children online ever…. I, erm, am clearly not there! I simply ask their permission to take a photo, and then ask them if I can share it online.Habits that impede rights of child in the home (and how to change them)

8 – Putting children in Time Out Yeah baby I’m calling it! Time Out is a Human Right’s Abuse! Putting a child on a step and not letting them move does not allow our children to experience the right to be a full participant of the community, it erodes their dignity and suppresses their right to have a say in things that are important to them. It just shuts things down according to an adult’s, often quite arbitrary, rules.

What to do instead  In our family, we generally feel that if a hiccup has occurred, it is because the child needs MORE connection, not less. Not to be excluded from our love, but to be encompassed in it.  So we go for something that is highly connecting. Some families however, might have found Time Out to be helpful in cultivating a thinking space.  If you like rules and things, you could consider coming up with rules that EVERYONE agrees with, and then coming up with the matching consequence. A family guide book by consensus – whole schools are run on this principle. (Personally, we go for less rules, more connection.)

9 – Telling them to stop crying It is hard to hear our children crying, either because we are sad for them, or triggered by them, or because we think its not worthy of tears. We “Shush” our babies and say “Don’t be silly, cheer up” to our kids. It’s probably not surprising to hear but: every child has the right to cry, to feel things, and to express their feelings as they wish. (Even if it was because their nutella wrap got torn in two.)

What to do instead: The HuffPost recently published a great article about how accepting feelings is the last frontier in parenting. But it doesn’t have to be a huge one to change. Firstly, if we are being triggered, we need to deal with that.  And then we need to cultivate the practice of validation. “I hear you.” “You are upset”. “You wanted that.”  “It sounds like you are feeling sad.” These words of validation, of letting your child express themselves, becomes second nature when faced with tears.

10 – Telling them what to wear. I would LOVE to have kids that wear cool retro style, ironically sloganned tee shirts with perfect pineaple print shorts. Instead, Ramona and Juno tend to opt for either fourth hand pilled fleecey onesies, bright pink tutus or nothing at all. But, it is more important to me that they know they are in charge of their clothes and their body and things that effect them. Their bodies, their choice, right?

What to do instead: Create more time in the mornings for them to choose their own clothes – with support if needed, particularly at the start. And mostly stop having an opinion on what you think they should wear. It is minutiae that doesn’t impact you in the least (as far as I can see) but very much impacts a child’s perception of himself in the world.

Supporting child rights doesn’t have to mean throwing things we know to be good out the window- but we do need to make the rights of children the framework for which we hang our family life on. 

I think there are quite a lot more – for example, not forcing them to eat certain things, not forcing them to kiss or cuddle. But I feel like this list of ten is a good starting point – possibly the easiest to change. Do you have any that you are working on at the moment?

And also, before I sign off, I want to disclose fully that I am not able to say “I am a true upholder of child rights!” – some days I am great at it, and other times my only aim is to try and stay sane.  But I have absolutely seen my own child rights record improve by being committed to working on these everyday interactions between myself and the children in my life.

I want to live in a world where everyone can experience human rights – and I believe this world is being built not only in UN offices but also within kitchens, playgrounds, schools. Places where children play, where they have their rights observed. Where adults change ingrained habits and children take their place as fully human, with all the rights attached.

A fairer world begins in the home! 

This is part of my slow burning Parenting for Social Justice series. Read all about Non Violent Communication for Parents here and pop your email address down here to make sure you don’t miss another post. 

Featured, Parenting

What makes us explode? Parenting Triggers and the Mother’s Wound

7 July, 2015

I realised last month that I was jealous of my four year old daughter.

Not her clothes – she wears My Little Pony pyjamas most days and whilst they are comfty my look is more vintage, y’know?

Not her running skills- she is fast, but I’d crush her in a race for sure. (Not that we do winning as such, our new motto is “If you had fun you WON!”) But I’d definitely come first.

Not her hair – she is growing it long, but is very anti-brush, so it mostly hangs in a big dreadlock. Clump-chic.

This is what I’m jealous of:

I am jealous of the way she is fully able to be 100% herself. I am jealous of the way she expresses her massive emotions with her whole body and voice and every drop of energy. I am jealous of the freedom in which she occupies her place in the world.

It’s a huge word, jealousy.

It doesn’t mark our relationship in a big way. Not like how I was jealous of my best friend when I was 14 for getting to go out with the boy we had both fancied for two years. We used to have competitions about how much we fancied him; “I love him so much I would steal one of his sweaty socks and sleep with it on my pillow” and I’d say “Well I would eat his bogies!” and now she is his GIRLFRIEND? I was consumed with this whole body ache. I’d wake up jealous and go to sleep jealous and inbetween times think about his bogies jealously.

It’s not like that with my daughter.

We are deeply connected, we shower each other in kisses, we laugh until we cry, we play hard.

But every so often, when I am analysing the moment that I exploded into a shout after asking her to stop doing something 7 gazillion times, I discover that the blast came out of this deep place rooted in my childhood.

Here’s a list of the sorts of things that, once or twice a month, will give rise to a deep bubble of anger in my belly:

  • The zip on my dress being undone 8 times a day
  • Bouncing on Grandma’s bed
  • Bouncing on our bed whilst I’m trying to get Juno to nap
  • Insisting on changing her outfit for the 7th time before 9am as we’re about to leave
  • Refusing to move out of her seat after the aeroplane has landed
  • Emptying a whole jar of my homemade sunscreen into the sink
  • Crunching on a load of vitamin Cs when she usually helps herself to one
  • Needing to take all her clothes off to go to the toilet, in a public loo

Now nearly all of these are wholly natural, fully understandable urges – irresistible things kids are almost created to want to do. I love urges, I love creating space for them to happen. Furthermore, a lot of these things are a child’s RIGHT. It is her right to change her clothes, to take them off, to stay sitting when I want her to stay. And you know how I love children’s rights.

So I am pretty generally okay at just sitting back and not getting cross and creating space and getting joy out of their joy when all these things happen. Not a drop of annoyance in sight – just pleasure in connection, or curiosity about the way she has chosen to connect. Like, with my zip.
I'm jealous of my daughter! Healing the mother woundBut sometimes I’m not. Every so often my rational mind that loves urges and rights just leaves me hanging and my stomach fells with the big balloon of fury. And a lot of the time I can breathe and deal with it and then sometimes I just. get. mad.

And I am beginning to realise that this is the four year old Lucy, inside, saying HEY WHAAAAT?!  THATS SO NOT FAIR I NEVER GOT TO MAKE A POTION OUT OF SUNCREAM OR JUMP ON THE BEDS OR BE MY FULL EXUBERANT SELF…

(I was a bit precocious as a kid. Well read. I probably would have said exuberant.)

Teresa Brett, author of Parenting for Social Change, calls these “parenting triggers”. We can also get triggered when we are faced with a child’s experiences that remind us of something that happened to us as a kid. For example, when I see another kid being cruel to Ramona? My little inner 4 years wants to bust out yelling NO! YOU ARE THE POO AROUND HERE THANKS VERY MUCH! A BIG SMELLY POO HEAD! My inner 4 year old is totally unreasonable.

Last year Robin Grille came to New Zealand and he did a fantastic talk about emotional memory. (I write about emotional memory in our children, and as parents, here.) He advised us to look in with one eye, and out with another. Because unless we deal with emotional baggage from our own childhood we won’t be able to support our children with their own emotions.

At the heart of people not being able to cope with a child’s loud noises, their huge will and determination, their sheer physicality,  there is a little wounded child, feeling a bit jealous and wishing their own childhood could have been so free and so fun.

The bloody patriarchy 

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this recently, particularly in the way mothers carry it. Because as women, we have been trying to thrive in an oppressive patriarchal culture, and must, to some extent, carry around baggage handed down through our lineage.

My friend sent me an article recently by Bethany Webster, Healing the Mother Wound, that articulated so perfectly some of my feelings. It discusses the role that living for generations upon generations within a patriarchal society can have on women, their daughters, and their daughter’s daughters, in a never ending game of pass-the-pain.

The hangover of women having to fulfil certain roles and expectations for so many years can leave us feeling like we are not quite good enough, that there is something wrong with us, that we must be a certain way to be loved, or plagued by guilt for wanting more than we have.

It gave me a how and a why for some of the deep emotions I have felt as a mother.

How I can be one minute sitting at the table doing crafts with my two girls, full of peace and joy, and the next minute battling a deep feeling of offense at how they want to push the ink pads directly on the paper, rather than using the stamps? WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO WASTE INK THIS WAY? IT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE COOL DINOSAUR SHAPES JUST BIG WET BLOBBY SQUARES. I have to sit, breathing with myself for a while, telling myself it doesn’t matter about the ink pads, they were only from the charity shop.

Webster says;

“In our society, there is no safe place for a mother to vent her rage. And so often it comes out unconsciously to one’s children. A daughter is a very potent target for a mother’s rage because the daughter has not yet had to give up her personhood for motherhood. The young daughter may remind the mother of her un-lived potential. And if the daughter feels worthy enough to reject some of the patriarchal mandates that the mother has had to swallow, then she can easily trigger that underground rage for the mother.”

Is it possible that when I see my daughters being so liberated and wild, so completely able to be themselves,  a small part of me remembers that phase in my teenage years, when I acted like an idiot, a classic bimbo, because I thought that’s how I, a pretty blond teenage girl needed to be in the world? My sister sat me down one day and said “Lucy you are intelligent. Stop pretending to be an idiot.” I did snap out of it, but I still sometimes recede into that place, perhaps to make people feel comfortable, or to like me, because somewhere along the line I’ve picked up that women need to be somewhat small. And this, eventually, is rage making. I'm jealous of my daughter! healing the mothers wound
My sister and I with our mum

I’m not happy with this rage. It isn’t fair on my daughters, for them to bear the brunt of thousands of years of gender inequality! Doesn’t that just take the mick? We’ve had the suffragette movement, women’s lib, and yet our daughter’s suffer because of a mother’s deep unhealed wounds.

The most important thing we can do as parents is acknowledge and validate our own pain, either from society, or childhood. It is a gift to become aware of how deep, untended to stuff can impact our relationship with our children.

A safe place to vent

The week I read about the Mother’s Wound I got involved in a small, very private women’s circle. A place to be honest, to acknowledge pain and rant and rave if necessary. I think it is a crucial step to dealing with these strange, unwelcome, unconscious feelings I have, a safe place to vent my rage.

Writing this has made me think of other ways to deal with emotional pain from childhood that I’ve found helpful – I thought I’d share these:

  • Finding a place to talk is so key – do you have a group you can form? Or an online place?
  • It sounds a little, er, quirky, but can you write a letter to you as a child? Address the pain you still carry.
  • Talk to yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself you are worthy of love, you are a good parent, you are kind. I recently had a very sad week, 3 things happened to me to make me question my work as a writer and general onliney person. I ended up going for a big rambly walk in the dark and began an inner monologue with someone I felt needed to trust themselves more. I began saying it over and over, like a mantra, and then realised I was talking to myself; “Trust yourself. You are a good person. Trust yourself.” It was really healing.
  • Change your brain. I know, it is like a proper insult. But it is science! Our brain acts like a muscle. With practice we can form new neural pathways. Keep doing something and you will get better. When you feel the bubble of rage, take a step back, count to ten, breath deeply, acknowledge and validate your feelings, and then address your children with love in your heart.  Eventually this will become your default. You can totally do this. You can change your shoutiness.

That best friend I had? When I was 14? She is still my best friend, two decades later. If I can get over the kind of jealousy that saw me madly eating bogies in my dreams, I am SURE I can address this subtle mother kind.

For my daughters’s sake, and my daughter’s daughters sake, I want to heal my mother wound, and show my inner 4 year old some love.

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