Parenting

Life’s a peach

29 January, 2015

Ah, summer on a farm in New Zealand is a bit flipping delicious. Some dear friends and my folks are over from London, which is completely AMAZING, and we are meant to be off camping with them but I am finding it hard to leave the farm. IMG_5826.JPGEveryday a new vegetable will burst out of the garden, and all the fruits are ripening by the minute. We have been crunching nectarines, apricots, peaches, plums, raspberries and strawberries. It has been pretty lovely watching these tiny little blossoms turn into juicy baubles of goodness before our very eyes.

We have a picking ladder that stretches about 10 foot into the air, above the trees, so you can harvest the ripest fruit along the canopy. Everytime I turn my back Juno has scarpered up it, sitting merrily at the top, clutching at an armful of apricots. One of my parenting philosophies is “A broken limb is better than a lifetime lived in fear” but seeing our baby perched up there sets even my heart on edge!

We’ve swum almost every day… we found a tiny corner of paradise just down the road form us. The river is clear and the sand is soft and you can dive into the depths from the shore. We make clay from the rocks and clean our hair and our faces… except the girls mostly just leave it on their hair and faces. They can’t help but be quite a lot like the Croods.

So life has been a bit of a beach… peach… peachy beach.

Hmm… actually…part from the week that we were setting up our new yurt. That was pretty tough. We had to give our old one back as it was borrowed, but we bought our own secondhand one. *proud yurt owners* But getting it up took a serious amount of sweat, help from friends, and, yes, slightly manic tears.IMG_5777.JPG

I am always struck by how, even when you are living the dream (such a cliche but it drips off my lips) melancholy and stress sometimes come along for the ride. They creep up, with the bold stealth of bullies. Unwelcome companions, but hard to shake.

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We watched the brilliant documentary Happy the other week- and we became determined to put more effort into the practices that lead to well being – such as mindfullness and connection- rather than simply resting on our laurels of living the dream. (Circumstances don’t count towards happiness half as much as daily rhythms and habits, we are learning.)

IMG_5524.JPG in fact, I might have some MASSIVE news in regard to all that very soon…. EEEEKKK! *secretive eyebrow waggle*

We should really go off in our bus and park up at a beach and see the sites while my mum and dad are here… but the sweetcorn will be ready next week…

PS If you are on Instagram come and say hello for more photos like these.

Feminism

Here’s why I think female body hair is beautiful

19 January, 2015

I made a new friend recently, Del, a diminutive midwife. I have enjoyed quiet conversations over cups of tea (while my children decorate the bathroom walls with crayons), I’ve wondered at her unassuming, almost -but-not-quite-timidity and I’ve absorbed her mindful aura. Then, last week, she yawned and stretched and a shock of black hair gaped at me from her armpits.

ZOMG!

It was then that I realised that I LOVE HAIRY WOMEN!

Hairy Bride

I haven’t shaved regularly for about 15 years – I was even a hairy bride nine years ago.

But it has always been a political and cultural statement, begun very determinedly as a result of doing Women’s Studies at Uni and feeling like pulling out a razor was being beholden to an oppressive patriarchal society. I was gobsmacked that for years I had been so willing to do something every single day to my body purely to fit some image of what a women’s body should look like. For me there isn’t much else of this in my life- I sometimes wear make up, often don’t, sometimes wear nice clothes, mostly look like I’ve rolled through the local retro shop’s bargain bin. There is very little else that I think is so thoroughly embedded in our idea of womanhood as smooth, non- hairiness.

One of my lecturers told the story about how Gillette pretty much CREATED the concept of smooth legged women in order to have a female market for their products and I went home and boshed my razors in the bin, unwilling to have my body commodified.

I stopped shaving immediately and thenceforth, quavering only every so often on steaming hot summer days in London when I felt I didn’t have the internal reserves to sit on the tube having other commuters gawk at my wiry leg hairs.

Some days I didn’t want my body to be a statement. Hairy underarms are beautiful

Hairy pits are beautiful

Now, however, I realise my statement has become a part of who I am and what I love about my body- and, turns out, other people’s bodies!

I LOVE MY BODY HAIR. Hairy pits and hairy legs ARE a shrugging off of a sad, unnecessary expectation of women’s bodies but they are also SEXY.

Yup.

When I saw tiny Del’s ferocious pelts as she stretched I was struck by how much this made me feel like she was deeply in touch with her womanhood, that she was brave and even wild.

It is kind of superficial, and possibly could be almost an objectification, but I felt like her body hair signified a certain boldness and a brazen self-acceptance.

I’ve been ruminating about this all quite openly with my husband over the last few days. He made a confession.

When he was a teenager he had a young female maths teacher who didn’t shave. Every time she reached up to make a mark with her chalk all the students used to grimace, repelled by her hairiness, a symbol of her unwomanliness.

How sad is that? She would totally be my friend, these days.

Now Tim tells me that he feels the opposite, that all of my body, including my hair, is alluring.

He married me hairy, and loved me hairy, partly because I was prepared to stand out from the shiny skinned crowd. But now he has come to appreciate body hair, and the way it oozes sensual pheromones, in itself. Hairy women are beautiful

Hairy pits are natural – just not that normal

Don’t stop shaving because I tell you to. That would possibly put me on a par with the teenage boys who talk disgustedly about their female classmates as “having a bush” if they don’t shave. I’m not interested in being another voice telling women what to do with their own bodies. Do what you want with your body, it is yours, in all its awe-inspiring glory.

But do consider that we somewhat perpetuate the normality of bare vulvas, underarms, and legs by shaving them ourselves. We can make what is natural (hairiness) normal, by doing it. (I enjoyed this recent post by a mother and why she has quit her razor due to what she thinks it does to her daughter’s perception of body image.)

But then take that slightly “feminist social obligation” idea a liberating step further and consider the fact that hairiness can come to be loved, both by you, and your partner.

There is a radical self-acceptance in casting aside your razor.

And I reckon there is nothing more wondrous or beautiful than a woman who revels in every natural inch of her body.

I am fortunate to be surrounded right now by glowing women who haven’t touched a razor in years, and being embraced by this crowd seems to almost have retrained my mind about smoothness being normal. I don’t feel shy about my body hair, or like I am making a statement, when in a more mainstream place. I stand tall, basking in the liberated contentment I feel within my body temple. I am miles, MILES, apart from my eating disordered, self conscious teenage self.

Body Hair
I did laugh my socks off at this cartoon but it doesn’t QUITE back up my point that hairy women are sexy!!!

Spread the word, folks. Body hair is making a comeback and it is beautiful.

DIY, Finding things

You won’t BELIEVE what she upcycled this breadbin into

12 January, 2015

Harhahahaha. Everytime I write a blog post I have the sensationalist Upworthy title spring into my head first. I couldn’t resist actually leaving this one in because, for real, how else can you make a post about a bread bin sound read-able?

And, LOOK! It IS pretty cool, c’mon. It is a well easy way to make small storage to niftily fit into the corners of your kitchen/ bathroom/ bedroom. And it is super thrifty too as every single charity shop in the whole world has about 17 billion old bread bins for sale, along with the breadmaking machines and the Mr Bean VHSs. Oracles of the nineties, reminding us of an era of scrunchies and homemade velvet chokers. (In fact, heck, I’m going to link up, for the first time in FOREVER (argghhh so. much. Frozen.) with Magpie Monday.

Upcycled breadbin
BEFORE

We began by screwing them in- we have three with space in between for pretty teapots.

Upcycled breadbin

Anyone else all about the neon at the moment? SO good. With grey? So, So, SO GOOD.

Upcycle your breadbin

I cut a triangle out of a potato to make some stamps for the side… a bit wibblywobbly, but that way it gives rise to the conversation about how perfect potatos are for stamping.

Handy and stylish upcycled breadbin

Done any upcycling lately?

collaborative

Flower Art

9 January, 2015

I am a massive fan of nature in the home. I am worse (better?) than the kids at gathering bits and bobs when we are on a walk and schlepping around with them in the hope of finding a nook at home to show them off in. I remember doing a walk in Germany last year, a 2 mile walk with a bunch of under 5s, it was amazing. One little girl found a lump of moss at the start and carried it, in her two upturned palms THE WHOLE WAY. Legend. I bet her mama put in lovingly on display. (Lol. Oooh! How wonderful dear!!!!)

We have colourful weeds, feathers, shells, crab legs and leaves all crumbling away in various spots around the house. If I was any more onto it I would make an effort with fresh flowers. They are so good for the soul. When I was madly overdue with Juno I went every single day to the local Supermarket to pick up their soggy looking carnations. I was determined to give birth surrounded by vases of flowers. I’d get them home and revive them with cold water and sugar. I love to see how Lucy brings the most stunning flowers in to her home and uses them so creatively. And I am getting set to really join in with the gorgeous StylingTheSeasons hashtag on Instagram.

I have been sent a beautiful How To from SenataFlowers with an idea for using flowers for art. It looks so lovely and I plan on using pressed flowers in all sorts of creative ways when I have done the first 783 things on my To Make list!

Sometimes buying a birthday gift for someone you love and care about can seem extremely impersonal – making something for them can make a huge difference.

Well, here is how you can create your very own pressed flower coaster set. Your friend will absolutely love this birthday present– and it’s a wonderful way to use your beautiful flowers. The flowers you choose is completely up to you; although it is recommended you choose the flowers that your friend will like. White roses from serenataflowers.com can work really well, depending on the colour theme you are opting for of course.

So, here is everything you need to know about how to make your very own coasters:

Materials needed:

 4 four inch square glass bevels

 4 four inch square single strength glass with pressed flowers and leaves

 Toothpick

 Craft glue

 Tape

 Copper foil tape craft stick

 Clear adhesive tape

 Ribbon

Before you begin ensure that all thick stems are removed and petals are separated.

Method:

1. Ensure all glass is cleaned thoroughly with no marks on. Arrange a group of petals and leaves onto a piece of glass and use your toothpick to spread a small amount of glue onto the glass to the back of each flower. You should then stick them to the glass one at a time.

2. Place one of the bevels on top of the positioned flowers.

3. Cut four small pieces of tape and place it on each corner of the glass – to temporarily hold the glass together.

4. Then cut a piece of copper foiled tape to 20 inches long. You should then peel the backing away and wrap the foil. Ensure it is adhesive side down and evenly over the edges of the

glass. Remove the masking tape away as you apply the foil.

5. Use your craft stick to ensure all corners and edges are smooth.

6. You should then repeat the above for the next three coasters.

7. You can then wrap the four coasters in ribbon and they are ready to be gifted.

Getting crafty with flowers can be great fun once you know how – it also doesn’t have to be too

expensive. Your friend will absolutely love their present!
coasters With thanks to http://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/how-to-make-a-pressed-flower-

coaster-set

This is a collaborative post.

No Poo

The hair you’ve always wanted (with Eggs and Soapnuts Shampoo)

9 January, 2015

I just opened an email that filled my heart with gladness! I get emails like this about once a fortnight and every single time I just about want to cry. In the last Chapter of my ebook, Happy Hair, I say something along the lines of how the No Poo movement is part of a wider movement – one that is standing up to the big corps that are flooding the earth with plastic and toxins and promising health and beauty to people that they just can’t provide. Emails like this are a reminder that this is so:

I read your Happy Hair book about 3 months ago, I was pretty desperate at the time having lost a lot of hair following the birth of my second daughter. I’d read The Modern Rapunzel before your book but although that book was helpful, your book addressed my problems; grease and dermatitis. 

Since then, I’ve had many awful hair days, it took a depressing two-and-a-half months to get there, and thank God braids were in fashion, but now I can get to 4 days fairly easily, it even still looks clean at the end of the 2nd day. This all feels like a major achievement after having been a wash-every-day addict since my teens (I’m 37 now). I use the shikakai shampoo you suggest too. I’ve even ditched having highlights and henna my hair now, thank you for giving me this idea, henna is very effective on my dermatitis, though I’m not sure whether its the lemon juice or the henna itself. I mix it with indigo so am now a very shiny dark brown. I even have quite a bit of new hair growth.

I wish I could tell my Grandma who died a few years ago, I have the same hair/scalp as her, she had very fine hair and I remember her saying how she would wash hers and the next day it would be flat and greasy. For many years I’d assumed this would be my future too.

Thanks for giving me an alternative.

HAPPY HAIR  - the definitive guide to giving up shampoo

I recently wrote up accounts of two of my favourite shampoo alternatives for Cosmo.

Eggs as an alternative to shampoo

This is my very, very favourite alternative. We had a hot day here yesterday and my hair was in need of a wash, I went into the garden, smashed an egg on my head, rubbed the slimeyness all over my head, grabbed a fistful of lemonbalm and squashed that into the mix too, and then hosed it off. I felt like a cavewoman, in a liberating kind of a way. And my hair looked like I’d stepped out of a salon, not a cave. Egg is an amazing alternative to shampoo

Here is my Cosmo article all about that.

Soapnuts as an alternative to shampoo

And then soapnuts, argh. They ROCK. Get them in your cupboard right now because they clean EVERYTHING!!! soapnuts are an amazing alternative to shampoo

(Yes: FRINGE!!!!)

Here is my Cosmo article all about that.

And here is the Wonderthrift guide to using Soapnuts as laundry powder. MASSIVE SAVINGS TO BE HAD!

So, yes, I continue to be wowed by all the potential of No Poo. If you are unhappy with your hair I urge you to consider trading traditional shampoo for other alternatives- you may well find the hair you’ve always wanted.

(Buy my comprehensive guide right here, in two clicks. And tell your grandma about it!)

Let me know if you’ve tried anything wacky in your hair- or as a beauty alternative. I’d love to experiment with it for Cosmo. If it involves me acting tribal in my garden it a bonus.

writing

The best of Lulastic and the Hippyshake 2014

5 January, 2015

As of tomorrow we have been in New Zealand for ONE WHOLE YEAR. What a simply bonkers year it has been. It has involved such a wonderful amount of travelling time- taking our bus on roadtrips a few times a month, it has involved a massive amount of family time – what with both of us being around for a lot of the week, on one hand it has been a year of fulfilling dreams (becoming a proper, paid writer, one of them) and also not quite achieving what we set out to do. (Buying some land and building a house of our own. Fortunately not achieving this has had the bonus of getting to reside in a beautiful yurt on land with two other incredible families.)

Not having internet in the yurt means I am getting WAY better at being really present, at zoning into family life, but it has meant that I rarely spend time promoting the posts I’ve written. Which is weird, why would I write them and then not go nuts sharing them? I guess because it is the writing I like the most.

Because I don’t get online that much, and because Facebook is like a big, unpredictable baboon in the way it lets you know  – well, NOT no- about new posts, it is quite possible that you have missed some of 2014’s top bits and bobs. Here is some of the most popular bits of Lulastic writing from the year:

My top three posts were all to do with giving up shampoo. Why go No Poo? and Shampoo Free For Two Years and
Happy Hair: the Definitive Guide to Giving Up Shampoo all totally rocked it, I think mostly because so many newspapers linked to them in “HAIR RAISING SHOCK OF WOMAN WHO DIDN’T WASH HER HAIR IN LIKE EVER” style articles. Seeing as I am hawking an ebook about giving up shampoo I am well glad that people are visiting here for information on that!

Aside from my posts about No Poo, the rest of my top ten were about parenting. I am stoked about this as it is my passion to support parents to live peacefully and communicate respectfully with their children.

Emotional Memory: Explaining a Child’s and a Parent’s Raw Reactions – so glad that this post about tantrums was so well read as I genuinely feel that if parent’s knew about this they would breathe a sigh of relief and feel much better able to cope with intense emotions.

Raising a Rebel – Why I am Glad My Child Isn’t Compliant – Here I discuss how compliancy is totally overrated! If you sometimes despair because your child never does what you say then give yourself a high five and tell yourself you are doing a WICKED JOB.

Did you know that the Lulastic Facebook community is the absolute bombdiggidy? They helped me crowdsource the 4th most popular post in 2014 – 40 Ways to Find Your Parenting Mojo – a list of creative and simple ways to break the cycle of grumpiness.

This post, Give a Child A Knife and You’ll Empower Them for a Lifetime, put me live on BBC radio where the host hit me with the first question “So, do you advocate giving GUNS to TODDLERS?!”  Pfft. I’m not advocating that, nope, but a knife? Yep.

Tandem Breastfeeding a one year old and a four year old was also up there- we can’t have ENOUGH pictures normalising extended (well, natural term) breastfeeding in my opinion. So THANKYOU for sharing this post.

One of my most intense posts, one that generated yards of discussion was about how we perpetuate a major ‘ism” everyday. Could the concept of adultism transform parent-child relationships? This was probably my least favourite post of the year as I felt that in my passion for sticking up for kids I fell into a role of accuser, and I never want to be this. I want to encourage and support parents to question the status quo through stories, not badgering. But it must have struck a bit of a chord, eh?

And the tenth most popular post is one in which I sum up my entire parenting-changes-the-world theory – Urge: Allowing our children’s yearnings to bloom. Increasingly I think that, after keeping our children safe and well fed and generally feeling really loved, if we have any leftover energy, we should focus on helping them listen to their internal voice. I think this is the key to a fairer, more beautiful world.

Let’s make 2015 a  fairer, more beautiful year, eh?best of Lulastic 2014

eatingout

Eat Like A Bear

5 January, 2015

I swear, at about 5:30pm everyday I go “It is time to cook ANOTHER MEAL?!?!” And I am blown away by how this has to happen every single day. Like 3 times. Seriously. I sometimes wish we were bears so that we could spend a few months gobbling up vulnerable prey and then the rest of the year not even thinking about food, but just napping instead.

And truly, I love to cook. Love it. Make a complete and utter warzone of the kitchen without fail but love the creativity involved in chucking ingredients together, hoping for the best.

It just sometimes feels like drudgery, don’t you think? Sometimes?

I know one mum who, last year, just resigned her job as household cook. She had just done one too many dinners and she said to her family “Enough, that is it. Dad is the chef du jour, every jour, from now.” And that is the way it is in their home.

We didn’t need an alternative like the above as we already have fairly deconstructed gender roles in our house but we have found our own solution to the incessant need for meals. And that is to budget for emergency meals out. For those days when instead of “It is time to cook ANOTHER MEAL?!?!” It is “ARGH IF I SEE ANOTHER SAUCEPAN EVER AGAIN I AM GOING TO SMASH IT INTO MY OWN FACE” and then we zip out for a kebab or a curry. We call it financing our sanity.

Quandoo have been making it easier and easier to do this, with their quick and simple restaurant finder and booker. It takes a few seconds to get your head around what can be a bit of a sanity-loosing experience. I have also spent an inordinate amount of time watching their Food Eaten In Real Timepage – laughing my socks off at how the pace of “Kilos of Fruit being Eaten” is matched almost EXACTLY by “Pints of Beer Drunk.”

People, we gotta eat more fruit.

And only drink beer if the alternative is to smash a saucepan into your face. Or if its after 6pm.

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Parenting, writing, yurt life

Here’s to you

24 December, 2014

We are on a bit of a road trip, bussing down to spend Christmas with Tim’s family in the central North Island. We parked up for the night halfway and went for a bush walk. 45 minutes to the waterfall? Easy!

We’d been cooped up for hours, surviving on the Peter Rabbit audiotape and lollipops- a hike in the wild was just what we needed.

We crossed a rickety bridge over a river and into the dark of the native bush, I was ready to be swallowed up by its calm and was set on a shower under the waterfall.

And then…

Ramona wanted to swim every time we rounded a corner and came upon the river, joyous and tedious in equal measure.
Juno wanted to walk, her mighty little legs thumping out steps but slowing our pace to a shuffle.
All the leaves kept getting stuck in between Ramona’s sandle and shoe.
Juno wanted to breastfeed AND walk.
A mist of mozzies followed us.
The shelter of the manuka trees couldn’t cut through the muggy heat.
The halterneck of my swimming cozzy stabbed into me and I imagined my bra, discarded on the seat of the bus, and I longed for it.

We veered, irascible, through the forest, anywhere but present. We stumbled for an hour and a half… And then we got to a sign saying “WATERFALL 25 MIN>>>”

We weren’t even half way. Not halfway!

It was actually comical, so we laughed, and our laughter saved the day.

We gave up on the waterfall and looked about us. We were inches deep in massive fallen fern leaves, each one the brightest gold, as if a hooligan had stalked into the forest with a can of metallic spray paint and covered each one, in a spirit of festivity.

We found a mini waterfall, not THE waterfall, but perfect for tiny clamberers, puddles pouring from one into the other. And a big angled rock, ideal to lean on and search for patches of blue sky through the forest canopy.

We were probably only a mile away from our bus but it was a remote, tropical place of rest for us, a snatched meditation before the crazy of a big family Christmas.

And happiness filled all our bellies.

~

I want to say an enormous big thank you for reading and sharing my blog. It is such a pleasure for me to write and I am grateful that there are people who read my words. Despite not having internet at our yurt (did I mention that? Hehe) this has been a massive year for Lulastic and the Hippyshake and I am quite blown way by it all.

Here’s to you.

I hope that you find a glade by clear waters to rest in, that you walk on steady feet as you find your path – sometimes with wilderness on your left and a cliff on your right. (Here’s to deliberate, intentional living, eh?)

May any hurt and pain you are carrying fade away, like leaving behind the cloud of stinging insects, until you come to the wide open sky of forgiveness.

May you know freedom from whatever oppression or oppressive thoughts you feel, freedom that feels like taking off all your clothes and swimming butt naked in a cool bend of a clear river. (And here’s to some actual skinny dipping too.)

I hope you can find joy and contentment, even though you might not ever, ever arrive at the waterfall. (And here’s to presence, really just being present.)

May you see the gold in the dead foliage and feel happy in your bowels.

And may your bra be ever comfy.

collaborative

A last minute Christmas present idea for animal lovers

24 December, 2014

Just squeezing in this last minute Christmas present idea, thanks to the RSPCA. We love animals, and are surrounded by them on the farm. Ramona often says “I love animals and I love to eat them!” She isn’t intending to sound like an unfunny Uncle to Vegetarian-Niece joke, it’s just she is figuring out all the things around having fallen in love two tiny new calves knowing that she will probably end up eating them and loving them that way. Anyway, anyway, she won’t eat your pets. Here is the RSPCA on why a few pounds can make such an enormous difference:

Your RSPCA donation could be an animal’s best Christmas present this year

Whether you’re trying to teach your children about the responsibilities that come with owning a pet or wish to help animals in need of aid, the RSPCA’s Snowglobe video and Christmas appeal could provide some real paws for thought this winter.

The video begins by showing the perfect Christmas scene … but is swiftly takes a turn for the worse. Soon, helpless animals are tossed about like toys inside a snowglobe controlled by our own hands.

The moving animation is sure to open your eyes to the animal cruelty issues that are still rife today and emphasise the great work that the RSPCA does to prevent this cruelty – but they still need our help. Without donations and support from the public, the RSPCA will struggle to save all the animals that depend on them for love, care and attention this Christmas.

Every little helps

Instead of focusing on material gifts this year, why not donate a small amount to our furry friends instead? As little as £3 could help an abused animal and put them on the road to recovery for the New Year – it’s not a lot of money but it could make a big difference.

Aside from housing neglected pets in secure, warm and caring homes, your donations will also help the RSPCA prosecute those who abuse animals and help them to stop any repeat reports from occurring; breaking this vicious cycle.

Making a difference

You may not think £3 is much but if every animal lover is able to part with this small amount then it will make a massive difference. Donations are even helping the RSPCA work towards changing the law to protect helpless animals by initiating special undercover operations to expose those who think the likes of bird trapping and dog fighting is acceptable.

An education worth investing in

We all associate the month of December with joy, festive cheer and good will and while the RSPCA’s video may be hard to watch when you’re enjoying the festivities with your family, it is important to educate children, friends and family on this subject.

The RSPCA have even launched an interactive website, linked to the national curriculum, which is designed to educate the next generation when caring for our furry little friends and this might be something you want to go through with your kids in the New Year.

Whether you choose to donate to the RSPCA now or set up a regular payment, choosing to do so could be the best present an animal receives this winter.

Say #NotToCruelty with the RSPCA this winter by donating to their Christmas Appeal. Whether you make a one-off payment or set up a regular deduction, your money could make a huge difference. Text RESCUE to 84010 to donate £3 now.

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Parenting

5 Steps to Help Children Say Goodbye During Holiday Visits or Whilst Travelling

22 December, 2014

When my sister and I were younger when it came to say farewell, or good night or even just See You In Five we used to give a full rendition of “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!” from the Sound of Music. Like, the whole song. Including bobbing up and down and running around the back of each other to pop out. I imagine it probably got a tiny bit tiresome.

Obviously, we had found a way, a slightly precocious way, of dealing with Goodbyes.

People often ask us how all the travelling we have done over the 18 months (from London to Europe and then on to NZ) has gone with Ramona. And my reply is that mostly it has been absolutely awesome, but that the constant Goodbyes have been really hard on her. To the extent that now, when it comes to say goodbye even to the boys that we share land with, who she spends all day with and can see at any point in about three seconds, she hates it. It is an ordeal. I think it is because for so long “Good Bye” was a pretty permanent thing.

When we met the Us in a Bus folk (remember that brilliant bus family?) I found that they had really invested in helping their children say goodbye, and it had really paid off for them.

Over Christmas so many of us are travelling to and from from family and friends and long lost Aunties and precious cousins and it can be so tough. I feel like they have some perfect advice here to make it all that much healthier. Over to them:Help your children say goodbye

We The Frasers; Mum, Dad and four boys aged 2-9yrs, have been on the road fulltime in New Zealand for the past year and have been engaging in many meet & greets, and goodbyes. Over this time we have had plenty of opportunity to practice and refine our family culture with goodbyes. We are sharing our found wisdom with the hope that it will assist others in their family connections, cohesiveness and ability to travel the world with happy children whether it be for a short term holiday or a long term lifestyle. We invite you to join in on our adventures on the road at usinabus.nz or Instagram.com/usinabus

It can be tough to say goodbye, incredibly tough. Not just the day to day goodbyes, or the result of death or dying but rather when leaving behind family, friends and special people because we are moving on, travelling, or going on/ending a holiday. It is so tough in fact that some of us find we are really bad at doing it; we string them out, (think: our own teenage phone conversations ‘you hang up , no you hang up , no you hang up….) we rush, (hurry up, we’re leaving!), we avoid (well it’s easier that way right?) and many other, not so healthy, habits. It can be a lost priority when it comes to thinking about how to enable our children to have a healthy relationship with goodbyes to friends and family as we are surrounded by so many other important decisions to be made, the best times to travel, who will feed the cat, how to fit all the gear in the car, and so on.
We may pay a moment’s attention to it thinking we have it covered, but then it’s not until we notice our child displaying signs of distress that it dawns on us the constant transitioning is having an impact. Or alternatively, we may not even embark on our travels because we worry about this situation too much and don’t feel equipped to handle it. Goodbyes are one of life’s inevitabilities and perhaps we adopt one of the above approaches to cope with it for ourselves but, how do we as parents assist our children through this process and help them to develop healthy habits of saying goodbye?

The whole family needs to be able to acknowledge, anticipate and participate in a methodology that will meet everybody’s needs. Incoporating the following five steps into our travel routines will create a family culture of healthy goodbyes, ultimately resulting in happier children, healthier relationships and easier transitions.

Step 1 – Discover, admit and become at ease with (or prepared to work on) our own style of saying goodbye as the Parent.
It is often not too hard to see where our own patterns of behaviour come from when we look at the wider family culture that we have grown up in. We need to think for a moment of how our family ‘did’ goodbyes? The long drawn out emotional clingy types? Or, the gruff, grunt, pat on the shoulder types? Or, perhaps something in between? Whatever it was, how we manage our goodbye rituals with others is the likely way our children will do theirs.

They are our best mirrors.
Helping your children say goodbye
The old “do as I say not as I do” saying doesn’t tend to work too well with this ritual. Children are very, very, good at seeing through our facades and will have no qualms about calling us out on it. We are their models and given that our ultimate outcome is to have happy settled children it is in our best interests to first work on ourselves and our own unmet needs. If we know we have unhealthy ways of saying goodbye it is important to be brave and confront these first. By being able to reflect, seek help and change ourselves and become comfortable about how we do our own goodbye ritual we are then more likely to be able to admit and share our vulnerabilities (in a way that is not over burdensome) with our children. All the other steps then flow from this basis of trust.

Step 2 – Preparing our Children for the Approaching Change.
Some children need days to prepare for change/transitions and goodbyes, others only need 5 minutes. It is about really knowing our children and not being afraid to talk with them, observe them, then experiment with different tactics and if one doesn’t work, admit it, not be too tough on ourselves; trying is the main thing, reflect on it and then try a different one next time.
For children, as is for adults, there is not a one size fits all way to prepare them and meet their needs when it comes to saying goodbye. In our family our 3 eldest sons have 3 very different personalities and ways of dealing with goodbyes.

One is an external processor, ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’ (likes to work things out by talking, lets us know all he is thinking and feeling), is quick to decide but then slow to integrate and engage into a new situation. This child does not need much preparation for the goodbye, but does need a lot of time reflecting, discussing and processing once the goodbyes have happened.
Another is also an external processor, but is very slow to decide and does not like surprises. But, once he has decided, he is quick to engage and integrate into a new situation. He also highly values loyalty. He requires a large amount of time to prepare for the goodbyes that are coming up; plenty of time to discuss, think through and question prior to the goodbye and a lot of security around knowing how the relationship will be continued once the goodbye has happened. Anything less is considered a violation of trust, and a breach of loyalty, to him.

The next child is an internal processor (it is easy to miss what he really thinks or feels as he is easy-going also), but not given the right amount of information or time he will turn into a little pressure cooker that eventually explodes. He requires quality, rather than quantity, time spent with him preparing for the goodbyes. Time where the goodbyes are properly explained, the future plans spelled out using visual props such as maps, and the chance given to reflect on this and then ask any questions. If done right he requires little follow up other than the occasional revisit of memories.

Because of these personality and value differences, how we respond as parents and meet each of their needs with learning to say goodbye, is different for each one. It can be difficult to identify these things, and for us, has come with trial, much error and time. And we still get it wrong often, when we rush, get lazy, or forget. But the consequences of doing so pulls us up quick and thrusts us back into better habits!

Having worked out our own needs in Step 1 as parents, we are then required to be respectful of our children’s needs and differences, in order to be able to respond to them in a meaningful way. Once we have identified these needs in our children we have a much better chance of then going on to create a successful ritual around doing the actual goodbye.

Having the correct language to use for the goodbyes can be part of the ritual. It can be easy for us to assume that our children know what to say but often they don’t and it can be helpful to offer them alternatives and a chance to practise these in a safe situation as preparation.

Step 3 – Establishing follow up
Pausing for a moment and taking a longer term view of how the relationship is going to be maintained in the future prior to the goodbye can be essential. It can be beneficial to be very proactive in this step ensuring it is done prior to the actual goodbye for two main reasons. One, it is easy to forget to do amongst the flurry of goodbyes and future planning. And two, it provides an anchor, assistance and assurance in the goodbye ritual i.e. “we have got your email so we’ll definitely be in touch”.

For some people, especially those with strong values of loyalty, like one of our sons, it is vital to provide practical measures and assurance of follow up. This can be done by;
• Talking about possible times and places we will reunite with one another (they can be hypothetical as even this can be better than nothing for some children).
• Discussing ways to keep in touch, with our child present.
• Writing down details, mark on calendars,
• Wherever possible giving tangible children friendly timeframes i.e. “x number of sleeps until you can Skype each other.”
• Swapping emails, phone numbers, addresses, social media names.

If the relationship is important to our child we will need to work hard to find a way to keep it alive. This may seem difficult amongst all the changes being experienced as a family but it can be hugely beneficial to the level of engagement and enjoyment our child will have in the ongoing travel experiences.

Step 4 – Initiating a Ritual around Participating in the Goodbye.
Being connected with others is our fundamental drive as humans, and as children we have a fundamental need for connection with our parents; to feel in all ways safe and supported. When this ever evolving connection is strong, gently responded to, and actively sought out, we can blossom as our authentic selves.

The ultimate goal with creating ritual around doing the goodbye is to allow our child the chance to shift the focus of a connection from those that they are saying goodbye to, back to their connection with us as their parent. While the child is making and playing with a new friend all day their connection temporarily focuses on that relationship. But when that friendship is ended with goodbyes, if a connection is not sufficiently refocused back to the child-parent relationship it can be left floundering causing disconnection; a pining for that fulfilment. As well as the usual tools for transition such as giving time countdowns, pre-warnings etc. there are further very practical and simple ways to create ritual around shifting the focus of connection when saying goodbye that will allow smooth transition and stronger relationships. These include:

• Taking at least 5 minutes, before we need to say goodbye to those we are with, and spending it directly interacting with our child; including eye contact, gentle voice, & purposeful close contact. It is a chance to get alongside, and start the reconnection process. Perhaps read a story together, or just sit and have a cuddle and/or a chat, discussing with them and their friend their favourite things allowing the conversation to be real.
• From here we can implement any number of tactics that are appropriate to us and our child, perhaps:
– do a round robin of telling a story of the goodbye and what each person is going to do when the other leaves, keeping it light hearted and fun.
– sing a silly made up goodbye song to everything as we wander around the area our child has been playing; each room, each animal, each person.
– allow our child to draw a picture of saying goodbye
– take a photo or short video.
Then by asking our child if they are ready to leave we are giving them a chance to equalise some power over an otherwise tough situation. If they are not then we tell them we are willing to wait with them, asking what it is they need to do to make them ready. Provided we have articulated the plans and our own needs clearly enough i.e. we need to be here by this time and I’m getting worried we will miss the plane”, and we have invested in the reconnection process, we most likely will be pleasantly surprised how the child will generally always be willing to support the need to leave at that point. The key to this tactic being successful is being prepared and allowing sufficient time. Start the process with this step in mind and plan time accordingly.

Once we feel our child has begun to make that transition back to being connected with us, we can give them the language needed to say goodbye as discussed with them in Step 2 so they have it ready for the moment.

• Things such as; goodbye I will miss you, I had a really great time, I’m sad to go and I’ll miss you, see you later, see you next time, bye, thanks for having us, see you on the other side, I can’t wait until we meet again etc. whatever is appropriate to that situation.
Then allow them to give the appropriate farewell gesture to which they feel comfortable:
• Perhaps it is a wave
• A high five
• A hug.

Just be sure to make it is something they are comfortable with and consent to freely. Respect and protect – it is horrible for a child to be forced to give someone a hug when a wave is all they wanted, just as it is for an adult.

Then leave, don’t delay or stand around talking more, or start packing the car, whatever excuse. Instead actually, physically, leave. It is difficult for a child (and ourselves!) to go through the routine of saying goodbye the first time only to have to repeat it all again in an hour’s time because the ‘adults’ didn’t stop talking!

The key is support, support, support. And we can expect emotion. This energy in motion can be normal and healthy. Trusting our intuition is vital on this as we will know if it is disproportionate to the situation and thus need further help from a professional or not. It can look like dramatic tears to total ambivalence depending on the child’s age and temperament. It is all just emotion. We shouldn’t shut it down, instead gently validate it, (‘I can see you’re really sad you have to leave? It can be really hard to leave when you have been having fun”). And why not validate our own emotion while we are at it, no harm in giving ourselves a break while we’re on a roll!

Step 5 – Time and Space to Think and Reminisce
As we begin to regroup and reconnect as a family after we have said our goodbyes and left, we need to be prepared to allow our children time to adjust. It can take time to move back into the rhythm of family life again. Talk about it, acknowledge it, and validate it. Allow our children the chance to process it all.
Practical things we can do to assist this time include:
• Provide hope for the future and reminders of follow up
• Discuss funny moments, favourite times and worst times they had together.
• Make a photo scrapbook and read it together
• Allow them to flick through digital photos/ videos,
• Follow through on promised follow ups, keep them regular and planned where possible
• Acknowledge the person they said goodbye to through activities such as;
– lighting a candle
– mentioning them in a time of gratitude or prayer
– telling a story…’remember the time when”
We may need to do these things 10x a day for the next 100+ days or we may need to do them only once ever. Each child will be different, take their lead, we need to be attuned to this and attempt to be patient with them and ourselves.

Summary
It may feel that the steps described require too much time and effort, particularly when we have so many other things to juggle, particularly if travelling, such as; packing, transport, bookings etc. But, by understanding the 5 steps and applying and practising them as appropriate to our children’s maturity and abilities it is possible to integrate them into becoming a regular practice and natural family culture that will save us time in the long run.
From personal experience and the observation of others, it seems in the West that we don’t take a lot of time to acknowledge the needs of children particularly when it comes to goodbyes and this can be hugely detrimental to the connection we need to maintain with our children, especially in times of strain that can be prevalent when travelling.
Children can experience compounding disconnections and a significant sense of powerlessness when we adults make all the decisions related to where we go, how long we stay and when and who we say goodbye to. It is often in response to this disconnection and powerlessness, which at a critical moment such as needing to board a plane, they decide to burst open their justifiable pent up frustrations and fears. Had we taken the chance to properly prepare them and implement the strategies available to us, prior to this spectacular display of raw emotion, it may have saved us a load of grief not to mention time and frustration.
By being prepared to work on our own practises of saying goodbye we are better positioned to assist our children through theirs, and together create a way forward that meets all our needs and provides an enjoyable & sustainable travelling experience.