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15 seconds

20 December, 2016

I’m way too early for New Years Resolutions, but I am sharing one of mine now as I believe it might be handy over the coming few days.

We’ve experienced some huge changes over the last few years. My husband and I handed in our notice, we sold our house in London, and most of the stuff in it, and we packed ourselves into a campervan and travelled around Europe with our kids. We ended up in New Zealand.  Not only in New Zealand, but off grid, in a yurt, in a forest, in New Zealand.

And one of the things I have learnt over this time is… don’t laugh… happiness comes from the inside out.

A campervan can’t bring you happiness. A yurt can’t bring you happiness. A forest can’t bring you happiness.

(A caveat: I speak about happiness here from a very privileged position, as a white, wealthy, healthy, person. I recognise that what I have to say does not apply to everyone and that other people will have vastly different experiences of happiness to me. And I’d love for you to be a part of this conversation. Another caveat: whilst I think working on our own happiness framework is a good thing, I think this goes alongside activism, kindness in action; supporting our neighbours, raising kids with empathy, sending funds to good people who can help Aleppo, campaigning for socially just policies and more.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Campervans and yurts gave us great adventure. Buying a farm with others brings us community. Living amongst nature means we can do things like new moon women’s circles and family forest play; dreams of mine come true.  All of these things were like little bricks for my Happy House. Everyone’s bricks are different.But the house can’t stand, the bricks mean nothing lasting AT ALL, without the mortar. You just got a pile of bricks. They meant something once, but now they are just dusty and have bugs crawling in and out of them.

What I’m trying to say is that we did all these exciting things, but the single biggest factor in my happiness came only this year, when I figured out that the mortar is, and I decided to do the internal work towards happiness.

And I want to share one of these processes as I think there is a huge opportunity for mixing up our happiness mortar over this coming holiday period…

15 seconds to happiness

The concept

So, in normal life, happiness touches us fleetingly. We eat a delicious burger with friends and we get a bubble of joy and a second later it’s gone. What we need to do, what we need to work on, is savouring the moment, in order for it to add to our overall happiness.

Happiness isn’t how many happy moments you have in your life, but how deeply you allow happy moments to penetrate your life. 

I first became aware of this concept during my Endorphin Experiment  (still ongoing! See Endorphin Experiment Week 1, Endorphin Experiment Week 2, Endorphin Experiment Week 6) which I began as a result of reading William Bloom’s Endorphin Effect.

And then, as if to really strike home how much I needed to do it this Christmas, I was listening to a podcast this week that mentioned it again. (My new favourite thing! Doing dishes or jobs or anything, as long as the kids are occupied, I just listen away and it is so nice! Tell me your favourites.)

A neuro psychologist was talking about the human brain’s negativity bias. How bad thoughts act like velcro in the mind – clinging to one another and building up – whereas good thoughts are more like teflon, very slippery and harder to make stick, long term.

One of the secrets to happiness is the ability to make those positive thoughts stickier.

15 seconds to happiness

To make positive thoughts stickier we need to hold on to them longer. You know those nice little warm fuzzies you sometimes get, say, when your children are playing together (together!! and not fighting!) and you think “oh, my goodness, lovely children!” or if you get the chance to see a glorious sun setting over a majestic mountain, or when you are sitting with your ancient Nana, and she is holding your hand and you are singing a carol together.

Don’t let that warmth of happiness touch you for a second and move on. Hold on to it, let the warmth move through your body, close your eyes and savour the experience of your harmonious children, the majestic mountain, sweet joy of being with your Nana. Hang on to it for fifteen seconds! It shows your brain you want to keep this moment, and it then weaves that good thought into an overall picture of well being. Slowly, slowly we rewire our brains for happiness.

In the podcast the Neuroscience of Happiness, neuro psychologist, Rick Hanson, says

“The first step is to turn positive events into positive experiences. All kinds of good things happen in our daily life that we hardly notice at all, and if we do, we don’t feel it. Someone pays us a compliment, we hardly pay attention to it, or we deflect it. So instead of that, you turn positive events into positive experiences.

Second, really savor it. In other words, the way to remember something is to make it intense, felt in the body, and lasting. That’s how we give those neurons lots and lots time to fire together so they start wiring together. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it. Relish it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.

The third step is to sense and intend that this positive experience is sinking into you and becoming a part of you. In other words, it’s becoming woven into the fabric of your brain and yourself.”

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Solstice or nothing at all, these holidays often mean family gatherings and potential for these special moments. Remember the 15 second rule and harvest from these next few days a stack of good moments that will build up your overall happiness.

Halfway through this winter we began a forest play session for local home schoolers. It is a magical time, something we’ve dreamed of since visiting the Forest Kindergarten in Germany. We build huts, make soup, learn some primal skills. During our first session we sat around and talked about how to light a fire. “What can you start a fire with?” we asked the children. “Paper” “Twigs” “Cardboard” said some of them. “You can put a candle under the curtains” said another.

Indeed.

Happiness doesn’t come by doing something extreme like going off grid in New Zealand. It can very much come through the smaller stuff too.

Start with lighting your paper, before you set your curtains on fire.

Fifteen seconds to savour the goodness and spark your neurons for happiness.

~

So yeah, in an ideal setting Christmas is  a chance to build the framework for our happiness. And, also, sometimes with family gatherings, it’s, well, kind of the opposite! Tension can rise, particularly if you are parenting in a way that is different to others. My parents and my in laws are both respectful of the way we parent, even though they might not fully agree, but at different times over the last few years we have had people close to us make it clear that they don’t like what we are doing.

I have put some thought into how I can keep grounded, keep parenting the way I feel is right for us, all the way through the mayhem of Christmas. They ended up being 5 mantras which I share here. (YIKES I wish there was a better word than mantra! It just sounds so… so worthy. Ach. Who am I kidding? This whole post is worthy. Forgive me, I am obviously feeling very seriouspants today! I should at least call these Womantras.)

I would love to hear if you have any womantras (c’mon, let’s do it. Let’s literally just add WO to everything that starts with Man. Harhahahah.) Anyway, sorry, tell me what things help you stay strong and calm.

I just want to take a second too, to say THANK YOU HEAPS AND HEAPS for reading this year. I count it a complete privilege that I get to write and make videos and that people stick around to be a part of the conversation. Thank you x x x

Featured, Parenting

The beautiful side of your spirited child

6 October, 2016

Hey sleepyhead. Weary in your bones AND your mind?

I wonder if you are mama to a spirited child?

Some kids are wild ones. Exhausting, challenging, beautiful wild ones.

You will know you have one, if you have one.

You have been through the wringer and have spent whole days thinking you must be a terrible, terrible parent to be raising such a bombastic human.

They are completely themselves in all their wild beauty, but this wild beauty jars against societal norms and expectations.

They WON’T be quiet in the library, in fact, they might even take their volume to a new level because their whole mind and body is just urging them to do it.

They WON’T sit in the toddler seat in the trolley at the supermarket; they want to tear up and down the aisles.

They WON’T sit up at the dinner table, they can’t sit still and they don’t like that food and they want to be clear about how you should only ever cook pasta and broccoli, they especially want to be REALLY clear about that to sensitive old Grandpa, who slaved all afternoon on a Shepard’s Pie.

the beautiful side of your spirited child

I have a very spirited child, my firstborn, Ramona. First this made me feel like a terrible parent. I felt like she was uncooperative and it must be a result of my lack. I felt every public tantrum as a verdict on my poor skills.

It is not only my perception, either.

I have been judged as a parent as a result of Ramona’s refusal to do something she was asked to do. What a joy it would be to say “I felt judged, but now I realise that everyone understands that some children just happen to be hardcore rebels and every knows parent are all just trying to do their best!!”  The truth is that society does judge parents when their children don’t conform to expectations and we must stop that. PLEASE. Can we stop that? A spirited child is not an indication of poor parenting.

the beautiful side of your really wild child

The second stage was a huge journey of trying to discover what was going on – it sent me digging deep for patience and finding new ways to kind of upgrade my attachment parenting to toddler level. It made me write lots of things about defiant children and their urges and creating lots of space for autonomy even in toddlers. It was a process that broke me to bits, in a way, but also made me get really creative and set me firmly on a respectful parenting path.

This was awesome, because then when my far cruisier second child came along I found parenting an absolute breeze! I would ask her politely, human to equal human,  to keep her voice down in the library and she would say “okay, mama!” and I would be completely gobsmacked, and (because of the first stage) feel like one seriously awesome parent.

My heart contracts a bit at the idea of having children the other way round –  a spirited one second or third, so you think you have this parenting jazz all sorted and then WHAM BLAM.

There could at least be a tell tale sign in the womb, don’t you think? So we can prepare. Heartburn = spirited child on the way. Thank you, body!

All the things I learnt about whilst being with Ramona – the saying yes, the tips for connecting over small daily moments, all helped, really helped. They helped her keep a slightly more even keel, and helped me create space for her bigness. But she is still VERY likely to completely combust in a very public moment, when all eyes are on us. It is just her way.

You see, the final stage of having a spirited child is accepting them, just as they are. You might be able to change them, but you would crush their spirit in the process. And probably yours too.

And of course, our children are not ours to change. No one owns a child. It would be far outside our role to think we should change them.

You can only accept them and keep your eyes peeled for all the beauty in their wildness. They fight hard, but they love hard too, don’t they? the beautiful side of your spirited child

They might not ever, ever wear socks with seams, and they might ragingly insist on taking all their clothes off when they go to the toilet, they might not ever say “okay, mama” the first time you ask, and they might pour out their whole angst on the floor if you can’t immediately find Stick Man when they want to read it.

But when you see them in the scooter race with all that fierceness written on their face, doesn’t your heart squash your lungs against your chest?

When they laugh feverishly from their scalp to their toe nails, doesn’t it feel like a shower of shooting stars?

When they ball their fists and stand mighty as a lion to the kid that called their little sister a “baby” don’t you absolutely know that one day they will turn this sense of justice into world change?

When they whisper “I love you mama” into your neck as you cradle their body, weak from the crying and the screaming of “I hate you I hate it I hate everything”, don’t you know they mean that love badly, and don’t you know they need you to love them and accept them exactly as they are?

You know.

~

Oh, guardian of a spirited one. I know just what you are experiencing. I know the depths and heights. Don’t let anyone, anyone’s judgement or headshake or tutting, detract you from your path of loving your wild one one in the way they need to be loved.

Let your wild one be exactly who they are.

~

PS Brand new video on this very subject over on my Youtube Channel:

PPS  I generally try not to label kids, or even talk an enormous amount about their temperaments or characteristics. Who am I to try and describe or prescribe or put a structure upon my child’s personality when they still have so much blossoming to do?

But in not naming a child’s spiritedness in adult to adult discussion, we are in danger of perpetuating the myth that a child’s behaviour is a result of good or poor parenting.

Featured, Parenting

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids (that aren’t toys) 2016-2017

18 September, 2016

**This list of Gift Ideas for Kids has been Updated for 2016 – 2017**

We spent six months travelling around Europe in a campervan. We had a tiny stash of playthings and our three year old toddler Ramona thrived. She was a case study for how kids play in nature. She had a twig that would be a wand one minute, a baby the next, a spade in the morning and a guitar in the afternoon.

During that time I came to believe that too many toys can push a child’s imagination right under the bed and will eventually wreck the planet our children have got to enjoy for the rest of their lives. (Read my thoughts on that here.)

These days I think that rather than having such a negative view of toys we can just view them as one part of the big picture of childhood. As parents (or caring adults in a child’s life) we need to provide a nurturing environment that values fun, communal games, imagination play, art, creating, music, nature. Toys aren’t evil. They bring kids a whole heap of enjoyment, so let’s not be too harsh on them!

However, we all want to be that awesome adult that opens the doors a little more on a child’s imagination. We want to give a kid a gift that they will remember forever!BEST LIST EVER! Sixty Great gift Ideas for Kids- that aren't toys

Pin for later: Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

This list of gift ideas for kids is for you. Whether it is for Christmas or a special birthday, this list has a unique and awesome non-toy gift for every child.

This is a crowd sourced list of gift ideas for kids. Using Twitter and Facebook I asked 6000 people: What is the best non-toy present you ever received as a kid?

Here are sixty ways to show you care, and for the most part they fire a child’s imagination and cause less havoc for the environment. Many of them are free, or cheap and plenty of them can be found in charity shops or secondhand stores. There is a common theme of taking children seriously- of trusting them and their abilities, of giving them tools to create.

(When a celebration is coming up and it’s a pressie-giving kind of time, I reckon a good, frank chat is the best starting point. The child/ parents have a better idea about what the child would enjoy/ needs like a hole in the head. But the second port of call should be this list, for sure. Bookmark it and share it with your family members!)

**New video** Here I share my favourite things from this list and add a few extra ones to the list – including the present we had handmade for Ramona’s sixth birthday! 

Here we go….

Gift Ideas for Kids – Tools & Equipment

I am reading “Escape from Childhood” by John Holt at the moment and the thing he is really convincing me of is how much kids NEED to be useful. Exactly like adults! They love to be taken seriously, to have serious implements and to be able to truly, genuinely help and build and be busy working. When considering gift ideas for kids we should think about great it must feel for them to open up proper tools and equipment.

1-A small fruit tree to grow and nurture.

2- Same goes with a proper hammer and nails. Throw in some wheels and planks and they’ll be set for days. or perhaps a toolbox filled with things were a massive hit; rope, screws, pulleys etc.

3- Sew them a baby sling for their dolls. Here is a tutorial for an easy sling for your toddler’s doll – it has never failed to please a tot in my experience!

4- Gardening equipment- a proper trowel, some organic slug killer and some seeds.

5- A greenhouse. A reader says “When I was 9 I got a greenhouse. To this day it is still my best Christmas present ever as I spent hours with my Grandad learning how to grow food.”

6- A pocket knife. Every kid age 4+ needs a good simple pocket knife, a lesson in using it safely (sitting down, striking away from you, with an adult in range) and a bit of wood to carve.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for kids - that aren't toys

7 – Cress seeds were specified for very young children- imagine helping to feed your family at only age 2?! Plus they pop up all year round and don’t take as much patience. You can also make them a head to grow them in so it looks like hair! Classic!

8- My sister put together a survival kit for her six year old son- a good rope, pegs and a tarpaulin for den making, camo paint, a good torch. Flipping heck, that was a hit.

9 – A wind up torch. Sustainable and fascinating for children. They especially love head torches.

10 – A good baking bowl, a whisk, some scales. Show them you have faith in their ability to make something yummy.

11- The ingredients to make something yummy! One reader explains about the special thing she did for Christmas “I once gave my daughter’s friend a bag filled with the ingredients, Christmas cutters and the recipe to make their own Christmas gingerbread. They loved it.”

12 – Kitchen implements- one tweeter is getting her 2.5 year old son a peeler with a big handle as he genuinely loves helping in the kitchen. One reader received a sieve when she was young and it was her favourite present ever. I think I might get my three year old a good grater- they are so fulfilled when they are doing something worthwhile. A garlic press was another great suggestion. And every kid needs an apron.

13- Their own cookery book. Several times a week Ramona picks something out of her cookery book and bakes it. She is five.

14 – Something to pull apart- give them a screw driver and an old type writer and the afternoon to take it to bits and explore its inners.

15- A rock tumbler. A reader explains “I loved collecting rocks when I was about 9- it was so cool being able to polish them!”

16 – A magnifying glass and a book of native Insects.

17 – A microscope “I spent months finding things to look at and getting family members to guess what it was- the best was tiny slivers of onion skin.”

18 – Binoculars – plus a guide to bird and wildlife. We just bought a pair for our eight year old neighbour and you have pretty much never seen a kid more excited!!!!

19 – A calligraphy pen, nibs and ink. “I was given these age ten, and shown how to use it. I still have it!”

20 – A DIY science kit. Or DIY anything kit really!

Gift Ideas for Kids – Art and creating

The emphasis here is on good quality stuff. Just like adults, children deserve to work with good quality materials. It is frustrating scrawling on crap paper with crayons that barely make a mark. Seeing the vivid colours of acrylic paint on canvas is much more likely to stoke a child’s passion for creating art, no? These gift ideas for kids might just stoke your own memories of receiving creative crafty pressies.

21- A ball of bright coloured, good wool and instructions for finger knitting will open up a whole new meditative world.

22- Ingredients for DIY porcelain clay- a little box with corn flour and bicarb and instructions. They’ll love the making and the shaping.

23- Proper non toxic acrylic paint, high quality watercolours, and proper paintbrushes.

24 – A good quality sketch book. These are unbeatable in terms of art – acrylic and watercolours just feel and look magical with beautiful thick absorbent paper.

25- A selection of blank canvases and an easel.

26- A candle making kit. (I have made candles since I was 11 when I got my first kit and loved it. And the only fire I caused was when I was 22 and being VERY experimental. Just a shame the fire happened on my future in laws dining table.)

27 – More kits: A perfume making kit – what a cool way to learn about chemicals and stuff.

28 – A sewing machine. I got my first when I was 12 and after a fairly quick lesson from my Aunty have seen ever since. Or even just a hand sewing kit with fabric, needles and threads.

29 – How about these wonderful chalkboard puppets? Handmake some chalkboard blocks and give them along with some chalk and then, the best bit, PLAY TOGETHER!

30 -A box of craft materials that is all their own- ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads, buttons, fimo etc. Red Ted Art has a lot of gift ideas for kids in the form of arts and craft gift boxes.

31 – Jars of homemade playdough and a box of cutters and tools (found in secondhand shops.)

32 – A box. It was the third best gift, suggested by over thirty people! The best explanation comes from reader, Clare “The best ‘present’ I ever got was a great big cardboard box. I made it into a house and played in it for YEARS. The best thing about it was that my parents got really involved in it- my mum made curtains for it and they never complained about having a tatty old hoc in the living room and let me keep it as long as I wanted.”

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

Gift Ideas for Kids – Music and Culture

33- A mixtape – burn a cd with a selection of fun songs. Ramona has been given some of these and they are her favourite gift by a mile. I have gone on to make them for other children and my kids have helped select the tunes. So cool.

34 – Audiobooks- Roald Dahl stories are fantastic and tantalise imaginative minds.

35- A subscription to a magazine such as National Geographic. A reader explains how she felt about her subscription given to her by her neighbour age six, “At first, we just looked at the pictures but I read more each year as I grew. In our sleepy village,nit was a very welcome window into different cultures. And I always felt very grown up and acknowledged when I read them.”

36- Instruments! A good drum, maracas, a ukelele. A good xylophone. The brain patterns used in music are the same as those used in maths so giving kids the tools to create music is important. And fun. But make sure they are GOOD- in tune etc or children will lose interest.

37 – A song. Rope people in to help you, friends to strum chords on the guitar. Record it on YouTube and send it to them! We have done this a few times, it’s weird and fun. Write your own or just change a few lyrics to an existing one.

38 – Investment in a creative venture- for example Hadar Manor is crowd funding her new album and in return for contributing you can get anything from a shout out on the album to a personalised song, written sung and recorded for you.

39 – A poem. No, really, really! How special, for a kid to have their own poem. Written on beautiful paper. For them to treasure.

40 – A story. Ramona and Juno’s Grandad has written them both a story, printing it out into a book and gluing in photos.  It was about cats. They LOVE their personalised stories! How about writing a story about them? Or drawing a comic featuring them? It doesn’t need to be about them.

41- Lost My Name team sent Ramona and Juno personalised books featuring their name. The stories are totally unique, funny and the illustration is cracking without any rubbish gender stereotypes.

42- Books, books and more books. This was the most popular response by miles. The child especially enjoys receiving a book with meaning- one mum explains “her eyes light up when I say “this is something I loved when I was little, and I thought you’d like me to read it to you.”

43- Last Christmas we were living on the other side of the world to my husbands family. They sent over a book that they had recorded the story into- Ramona loves hearing the voices of her Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles reading to her.

44- A photo album or scrap book. Reader Sally explains that her three year old loves these.

Sixty Great Gift Ideas For Kids - that aren't toys!

Gift Ideas for Kids- Experiences

Days out were probably the second top answer after “box!” Kids love hanging out doing stuff with people who love them, and memories last WAY longer than toys. If giving an experience that doesn’t already come in the form of a card or voucher, draw them up a personalised one that they can open. It feels so much more exciting! These are gift ideas for kids that keep on giving WAY after they have been cashed in.

45 – A season pass or vouchers to something- an outdoor play area, a private woods such as Westonburt or a wildlife lark or donkey sanctuary.

46- A micro love bomb- let them have a whole evening hanging out with you, doing WHATEVER they want. Like, really, anything. (Based on Oliver James’ miraculous Love Bomb idea- a whole weekend to reset connection and attachment.)

47- A micro adventure- grab a tent, pack a little gas cooker and have a night in the local woods. Even London has accessible woods you can do this in.

48 – A visit to stables to ride on a horse- Ramona adored this for her third birthday. A reader adds that when she was seven she was given a Shetland pony-owning day “7 year old heaven!”

49 – Sew them something magnificent for their fancy dress box –  a mermaid outfit or a pair of wings- see a tutorial for easy toddler wings here, you could make them any size.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

50 – A tent and sleeping bags to camp out in the garden.

51 – A day out in a big city- the museums, a picnic, feeding the skanky pigeons, climbing the towers.

52- A voucher for a den building afternoon. Take wood, hammers and nails and build a fort together in the local woods.

53- A course. Six weeks of a children’s photography or pottery or dance classes.

54- Adopt a whale/ dog/ monkey. This is a delightful idea, the child has a sense of investment with an animal and they can make a real difference for a charity.

55- A box of second hand clothes and costume jewellery for a fancy dress department. One Tweeter said the stash she was given included a WEDDING DRESS. Brilliant.

56- An experience for a baby- a jar of threaded beads, jewels and shells for them to shake and look at.

57- And another idea for a baby- a box of tissues entirely theirs to pull out. (This is probably my favourite of them all- even at seven months old Juno has worked out how to undo the lid of the baby wipes and delights in pulling them out.)

58 – Organise a visit with a local craftsperson or skilled person.Imagine spending an hour with a beekeeper or on a tractor or hammering nails with a builder or watching an artist blowing glass or making cheese or something more specific the child loves! You could give a box of beers to the tradesperson in exchange! One reader had a day of work experience at a farm when she was a child and she cherishes that memory.

59- Car booting/ junk store shopping. Write a voucher and include ten smackeroonies and set a date and go and find the most obscure antiques you can! We bought tap shoes at a junk store for both our kids- unbelievable amounts of entertainment!!!

60- Fruit picking. One of my most treasured childhood memories is of going strawberry picking with my Nana and Grandad when I was small. I remember my Nana stuffing her face, the red juice dribbling down her chin. She was an upright, honest citizen but I think she thought eating them as you go was part of the deal! Traditional activities like this are magical – I could almost make a list of gift ideas for kids based entirely on old skool chores. Ha!

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

***

What an epic, epic list of gift ideas for kids. Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas and stories. I am inspired and have my kid’s Christmas gifts sorted: a grater for Ramona and a box for Juno.

May your Christmas and birthday celebrations be ever imaginative and may you become a gift rockstar in the eyes of the children in your life!!!

PS We are blogging from a yurt in a forest in NZ these days – follow through Facebook or Instagram and keep up with our Youtube updates:


PPS If you are looking for creative gifts for mums and dad please check out my book 30 Days of Rewilding – designed to help families find their place amongst nature.
PPPS Check out the comments below for more gift ideas for kids – this is an organic, evolving list with people adding to it constantly via the comments!

Pin for Later:Sixty Gifts for kids that aren't toys. Amazing ideas for non toy gifts.

Sixty Great Gift ideas for Kids - that aren't toys!

Featured, Parenting

She lets her kids get away with whatever they want!

7 September, 2016

A modern child respecting parent’s job is a balancing act.

In any split second we are juggling body autonomy, the desire to respect people around us, a critical analysis of the rules or the status quo, safety or well being and the fact that our children are actual people with minds and bodies of their own.

To some people this balancing act may look like “letting her kids do whatever they want” when actually it is “letting her kids do whatever they want – because they are free human beings with autonomy and will- as long as it isn’t harming anyone, physically or mentally.”

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa – quick assessment: causing harm, no… ROLY POLYS ARE AGOGO!

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa at GREAT AUNTY SHEILA’S house- quick assessment : causing physical harm, no, challenging normal sofa behaviour, yes, therefore causing mental harm for Great Aunty Sheila, yes… ROLY POLY’S ON SOFA ARE EMBARGOED! Or, we might get that judgment wrong and believe Aunty Sheila’s happiness isn’t dependant on normal sofa behaviour and say ROLY POLY’S ARE AGOGO when really they should have been EMBARGOED and now Aunty Sheila is cross and parents these days let their kids get away with anything!!!!!!

Arghhhh….

But I think it requires consideration, the mental harm thing. We are standing up for children and their right to be themselves in this strange, rule bound world. But we may need to take time with them to explain that sometimes grown ups don’t cope very well when rules are broken or when things don’t go their way. (Sometimes we need to tread gently this way, and then sometimes we might need to say to a grown up “This child is doing nothing wrong! She is harming no thing! Why do you desire to control her or this situation?”)

The mental and physical harm goes for mamas and papas too- it’s why the activities I don’t interfere with look different to yours, or even my husband’s. If my kids want to make a potion out of bits of food and mud and soap I won’t stop them because I can’t see the harm in it (but I can see the joy and learning they are getting from it.)

My husband, however, has different parameters and he would say that mentally he is not up to that free style potion making, so he is far more likely to step in and redirect (in an ideal world still allowing that urge to flourish, but in a less messy place/ more limited ingredients.)

Personally, I feel like I have seen urged squashed and joy diminished by breaking a child’s working bee, so I try to just let things flow for them. But I’m not going to judge people’d different parameter – especially if they are working on expanding them! (I feel like that needs a *wink* emoji!)She lets her kids get away with anything!

I wonder what people mean, when they talk about kids getting away with whatever they want? Is seeing a kid in flow upsetting?

I sometimes wonder if grumpy grown ups (myself included) when they try and quench a child’s energy or enthusiasm are being triggered by their own controlled childhood. A child’s exuberance brings up, in a deep unconscious way, all the times we were made to sit on our hands and not make a peep because we were children in an adult’s world.

I love to hang out with grown ups who celebrate a child’s wildness. Who have come to terms with their own childhood oppression and are now able to take full delight in a child’s desire to stick their fingers in a jar, climb in the furniture, pick the petals. These grown ups are the greatest!

I am laughing inside a bit, because don’t you think it’s true that children go wilder when they are in an environment that tries to control them?

A few weeks ago we went to a new friend’s home. It was filled with bits of art and sculptures and beautiful, breakable things I was a little bit terrified inside. I knew one of us was gonna shatter something.

But we were all so welcome. The children were treated with the respect and honour we were given, as guests in their home. They relished it when Ramona reached in and grabbed the last two mussels from the bowl.

After dinner, instead of rushing from corner to corner, picking every piece of pottery up and eventually breaking something, Ramona and Juno curled up on the couch and fell asleep!!! Harhahahahahaha. It was as if they just floated into dreamland on a cloud of welcome and inclusion.

I couldn’t help but compare this to other situations where it seems my children ride a wave of tension… the weight of expectation is so heavy upon their shoulders that they crumple into every bad behaviour expected of them!

But of course… we know really there is no bad behaviour…

There are only children yielding to the urges inside of them, and there are only adults finding these urges an inconvenience.

There are only children with needs unmet, trying to communicate and connect in a way that makes us uncomfortable.

How hard it must be for kids, trying to figure out this ridiculous adult world.

Where saying the word “thank you” trumps a grateful smile, or where even the word “thank you” bossed out of you opens the door to receiving something, or where you don’t see adults constantly badgering magic words out of each other…

So I won’t let the children hurt people… (but if they do hurt someone or do something unsafe you won’t find me reprimanding them or punishing them. You will -on a good day as opposed to those grumpy stressed out days that pop up- see me intervene to stop it happening, and requesting that we keep things kind and safe, then you probably won’t see anything. Because the follow up to that is an empathetic conversation and an acknowledgement of needs unmet, it’s decisions made together about how we can make sure everyone stays safe in the future. Long term, punishment impacts well being, compared to an empathetic response that promote the development of empathy… so I’m not gonna forsake their well being even if it looks like they’re getting away with something…)

Where was I?! Ah yes! We won’t let the children hurt people … and I will probably try and stop them breaking precious things… and I will absolutely ensure their safety. Aside from that, I am simply here to help them navigate this strange place, to create space for them to follow up their wishes, to personally, mentally rise to the challenge of letting kids be kids for a while.

If that is letting them get away with whatever they want….

so be it.

***
PS New Youtube video from today; non violent parenting, child shaming and unmet needs…

Featured, Parenting

5 Tips to Boost the Connection in Your Parent Child Relationship

9 May, 2016

If I’ve learnt anything about a good parent child relationship I’ve learnt it all, every miniscule morsel, from my children.

Take this, from yesterday.

I was nursing Juno, while Ramona, her older sister, was sat next to me reading. I murmured “I love you” into Juno’s hair, she looked up and, for the first time in her life, said it back. Except that it sounded like “By Bub Bu” because she still had the whole of my nipple in her mouth. Hearing her say by Bub Bu felt so lovely, and I was so overcome and curious about her understanding of this phrase that I said “Do you know what I love you means, Juno?” I was hoping for something enlightening, something upon which I might write a poem, something that might ping into my mind for the rest of my life, even. She thought for a moment and answered; “Redbush!”, our favourite kind of tea.

Fortunately Ramona piped up, right into my bafflement. “I love you means when you feel really, really, really, really, really connected to someone.”

Wowzers.

She is five and a half and with that explanation nails one of the discrepancies that can haunt a potentially magnificent parent child relationship. 

As Gabor Mate in all his brilliance puts it:

“Love felt by the parent does not automatically translate into love experienced by the child.”

We love our children with every bit of ourselves yet can spend so much of the day disconnected from them.

Surely the love that swells our heart as we gaze at their sleeping bodies before we head to bed is enough? I want to say it is, but it sort of isn’t.

(When I say “we” here I very much mean “I”- the pauper “we”!) 

We need to take the time and put the effort into making sure this love we feel is experienced by our kids as connection.5 tips to restore and maintain your parent child relationship

But you want to know something awesome? I totally believe we can make connection a habit.

Here are five things that will restore the connection in a parent child relationship:

1- Make loo time me and you time

This is my best tip. BEST TIP. I know it sounds weird, especially if you like to take a dump solo (but it is good to start lists with low expectations.) This isn’t about your dump, but the dump of your kids. Hold on, it’s actually not about anyone’s dump. Let’s start again:

What do you do when you have to accompany your children to the toilet? Do you squeeze blackheads in the mirror? Check your phone? That’s exactly what I used to do!

But now I do this instead:

Squat in front of them (good for your thighs! See it as a micro multifunctional Aerobics class) and ask how their day is going. Keep tuned in, keep the conversation flowing. Even if they are only 18 months and can only babble. Soon they will be done, you can wipe their bum, and move along.

Your kid goes to the toilet a few times a day, right? So this is instantly a few minutes everyday spent just hearing from your kid, looking into their eyes and connecting.

This is totally inspired by the incredible Emmi Pikler and her emphasis on doing Nappy Changes with total care and attention. Doing nappy changes with love and respect can be a foundation for a parent child relationship, and I reckon the same principle can carry you right through until they go to the toilet on their own. (Herald the day.)

We did Elimination Communication – more on doing that with respect here.

And more on loving nappy changes here.

2- Turn tension into play

Play is our children’s language, the way they connect, the thing they understand. When they poke your bum while you make the tea – that is them telling you they love you and they want to connect with you! (You used to do that too, you know.) Dig deep and turn tense moments into a play moment. It might feel like more effort than you have but I genuinely believe that putting the effort in here actually takes way less time and energy then yelling I’M GONNA COUNT TO THREE AND IF YOU HAVEN’T DONE IT I’M GOING TO PUT ALL YOUR TOYS ON EBAY and the huge fall out from that. 

What are the areas in your parent child relationship that are always a bit tense?

Teeth cleaning? Put a teddy bear glove on and get the teddy bear to clean their teeth.

Getting dressed? Put all their clothes on you first, they will literally be rolling around on the floor in giggles as you try and put their legging over your head.

Juno needed to put some cream on her face this week and really didn’t like it – until I drew a face on my fingers and put on a funny accent. HELLO! She was like WOO CREAM ON MY FACE!

This principle, of speaking a child’s language of play can start early – read more here, playful parenting with a baby. 

3- Love what they love

Oh, this is SO HUGE. Take an interest in the things they love, ask them about it, play it, dress up as it, open the doors to their interest, blow them away with the wonders of their interest.

Do they love tutus? YOU KNOW YOU NEED ONE. Spend the whole day wearing a tutu and you will feel the connection with your child palpably. And you know you will rock it like Darcey Bussel.

Do they love playing on the ipad? Sit down with them and try and make the cakes for each other or build the town or secret machines for each other.

Do they love dinosaurs? Bury bones in the garden and spend the afternoon at your dig, draw a massive dinosaur on the pavement, east meat off the bone for dinner.

Even if it is stuff you fear (I’m thinking princesses for the feminist parent!) use it as a platform for connection.

4- Say it with your eyeballs

Eye contact is the first point of connection, an ancient, powerful, subconscious method of building a relationship with someone. In all our busyness it is easy to just chat to them while we drive/ cook/ clean/ walk and go a whole day without having eyeballed each other.

“Eye contact produces a powerful, subconscious sense of connection that extends even to drawn or photographed eyes.”

It is pretty well documented that eye contact is one of the pillars of good healthy connection.

There is a well known Zulu greeting; I see you. As with many indigenous phrases it hard to capture the full depth of its meaning. But it is something about being fully present with your being, shown through your eyes.

We see you is

“an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. This greeting forms an agreement to affirm and investigate the mutual potential and obligation that is present in a given moment.”

When you speak to your child take that one step further to get on her level and look at her with your loving gawpers.

5- Don’t let a bad day take over

AH! How easy it is to relinquish a day into the gloomy depths of unrecoverablity! Some days are just really freaking bad, aye? And you just think “F*ck this Sh*t.” (Sorry Grandad.)

Somehow, SOMEHOW, we have to press reset. It is up to us to do that. I’m sorry. It’s called adulting and sometimes it just totally sucks. So. Chuck back an espresso. Scream into your armpit. Eat a bar of chocolate and then FIND YOUR MOJO! You can do it.

Here is my favourite post on this blog ever, a list created by Lulastic readers that I turn to constantly on days like this.

My absolute favourite for getting out of a horrible rut and restoring that parent child relationship is number 35, it is insanely simple but works a treat:

Quit the now, for a few moments. Becca says “Looking at baby photos with them. Remembering that innocence and vulnerability – that we are the caretakers of (hard to remember at times of extremis.)”

Children LOVE looking at their baby photos and as well as entertainment for them it helps you remember that they are truly small, and you are responsible for their happiness and it is hard for them too. (Such a great blog post in that link.)

Also, more great, honest reading on pare child relationship stuff: things to remember on hard days with kids and tips for tired parents.Restore your Parent Child Relationship with these five tips

The most important thing we can do for our children isn’t in the DOING. It is in the BEING.

It is prioritising connection with our children over all the other things we “should” be busying ourselves with for the sake of our children.

It is in the simple sitting with, the joining in, the loving gaze shared from eye to eye.

It is strewing a fully present “I see you” throughout each day.

Take the time to make sure the love you feel for your children is experienced by them, and you, in turn will have all the joy of a fully restored connection.

And maybe even all the joy of an adult sized tutu to wear anytime you feel like it.

Cosleeping, Featured, Parenting

The Family Bed gets you more sleep (and other benefits)

27 April, 2016

Our family bed has grown alongside our children and our views on sleep. We began tentatively with just a king sized mattress, unsure of cosleeping but feeling in our gut we wanted to do it.

By the time our second child came along we had read Three in a Bed and quelled the myths of bed sharing danger and moved onto two doubles – we were in a campervan and me and the newborn took the upstairs and husband and Ramona took the bottom.

These days, with a three year old and a five year old and knowing we are partaking in a healthy, ancient sleep tradition, we all bunk together in a loft, with a super king and a single pushed together to make one enormous sleeping platform.

I’ve written much on our family bed – from the benefits of cosleeping to the practicalities of cosleeping but am only just now really coming round to the idea that cosleeping began as a Thing We Did, a thing I thought would last for a period, whereas the Family Bed is more of a concept that cosleeping has lead to. Are you with me?

Here are a few benefits of embracing the Family Bed as part of your parenting philosophy…The Family bed! Cosleeping and its many benefits

The Family Bed promotes sleep

Juno was poorly last night and woke a lot. At one point I came to and she was walking two fingers across the bridge of my nose and I heard her murmuring “Mummy wolf walks over the mountain… Baby wolf walks over the mountain…” Cuteness. But my point is that I was actually sleeping while she got comfort from my presence! Since sleep sharing I have had this idea that I’m getting more sleep than others,  that if I were to be getting up and down all night going to a cot, I would be far more exhausted than I currently am. And turns out, it’s not just a feeling. When cosleeping, although mother and baby wake more, they wake together, in rhythm, so that it ends up that the pair of them get more sleep. (Read more on this at Dr Momma.)

The Family Bed is a continuation of connection-focused daytime parenting

My primary aim as a mother is connection. I feel that if my children can trust me, communicate with me, feel secure in our relationship, then I know they can get through anything. They will have a resilience for life. This parenting philosophy carries on after sundown. They will feel my breathing as they stir from a bad dream, they will hear my validation as they murmur their upsets, all until they are ready not to. When I went back to work cosleeping was a way I could reconnect with toddler Ramona, even when I was away for long hours during the day. At that time I wrote:

“Ramona sleeps in the middle of the two of us, so if she wakes one of us can cuddle her back into dreamland. This time she woke up instantly, and gleefully, and she shouted “LEEEG! Where ARE YOUUUU? There you are! Other leg?! Where aaare youuuu?? FOUND you!”

Yes, YES, my friends. She was playing hide and seek with her limbs.

After stifling my giggles I stroked her head and she snuggled back down into a deep sleep.”

Such a minor thing, a 30 second interaction, but it was part of a bigger feeling. Despite being away all day I was still getting to know my toddler and all her beautiful. hilarious parts of her personality.

The Family Bed fosters a more trusting, less controlling attitude towards sleep

Until Ramona was a few months old, despite cosleeping, I still had a lot of anxiety about sleep. I had seen charts that said she ought to sleep from 7pm to 7am and had been told she shouldn’t nurse to sleep or stir in the night. Then I spent some time reading and reflecting and came to feel that I am not the boss of her sleep! I can create the conditions for sleep, but it is up to her if she wants to and for how long. In short, I came to trust her and it was the key to feeling about a billion time happier with bedtime and nighttime. (Read more on these approaches that led to happier sleep here.)

We get so hung up on “independent sleeping” that we coerce and manipulate and bribe and even threaten. We forget to say “We trust you to know when you are ready.”

For me the Family Bed seems to stand for that trust. It says “When you are ready for independence you’ll get your own bed- until then there is a space on this mattress with your name on it!”

The Family Bed is intentional, safe cosleeping

The Family Bed is a solid, practical thing. You have deliberately organised enough room for all of you to sleep safely together. There is no slumping on the sofa with your newborn because there isn’t enough room for you in her crib. There is no danger of suffocation or squashing, SIDS and the Family Bed are completely unrelated. (Please read my research packed post here about the safety of cosleeping and SIDS.)

If we can normalise the image of all the family hunkering down together it is far less likely that people will cobble together something unsafe, or collapse in exhaustion.

Read more from an “accidental attachment parenting” family – including a Dr daddy who came to believe in cosleeping as best. *not just for hippies*The benefits of the Family bed - cosleeping for five years!

Sometimes the girls find each other’s warmth in the middle of the night…

The Family Bed reasserts sleep as a collective activity

Our kids shouldn’t have to face their nightmares alone. In most of history they haven’t had to do that, yet modernity seems to think it is a good idea! It has been normal for the longest time to sleep together in one room, not just families, but sometimes whole communities (don’t worry husband, I’m not suggesting that…)

Historically, nighttime has been a vulnerable situation for humans, so doing it together meant more protection. This emotional/ DNA memory is still within us on some level, making us feel stressed or fearful in the dark or scared of shadows. It’s totally natural. It’s understandable that kids feel terror at night, and entirely sensible that being together makes for a far less stressful night. (And, y’know, science etc – Babies that cosleep produce less cortisol – the stress hormone- than their isolated buddies.)

Last week I heard about the term the Japanese use for cosleeping, where the Family Bed is the norm until kids are quite old; it is “Kawa”. Kawa is the same character used for a river cascading between between two banks; they see parents as the strong, supportive edges, the life-giving river child flowing through them.

So, the truth it, hand on heart, I didn’t think that half a decade into parenting I’d be crashed out in bed with my husband, two tiny bodies between us. But here we are, and I’d have it no other way.

PS Little video on cosleeping – including EXCLUSIVE footage of our own massive, messy Family Bed… (Yeah, I am TOTALLY wishing I had made it properly right now. But. Y’know. Just keeping it real.)