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Do children need a daily bath? 8 reasons to stop washing so much

23 March, 2015

Ramona has a blue scalp at the moment. I mean, entirely blue. Bright, glowing ocean blue. It happened last week, when a friend and I looked out the window to see both of our children with rainbow heads – every hair shaft stiff with thick, vibrant paint they’d discovered in a drawer. It looked cool, really punky. I felt like I got an almost-complete polaroid of what she might be like as a teen.

Anyway, baking soda and honey managed to get almost all the paint out of her hair, just not her scalp.

It doesn’t really look cool anymore (there’s a reason coloured scalps have never taken off, turns out) – it just sort of looks feral. It’s like reptile skin, weirdly host to beautiful, blonde hair.

I guess, if we washed everyday, the blue scalp might have dissapeared by now. But the thing is, we really don’t wash every day… I’m developing a pretty strong stance against daily baths, actually.

There are so many reasons children don’t need to bathe daily. If a quick dunk in the bath is a chore in your family read on and let liberation soak you through…

8 reasons to stop giving your children a bath

Ramona must have a thing for blue hair (this is a wig, hehe, not the paint!)

1- Baths aren’t a necessary “should”.  

Family life is hindered, rather than helped, by having a list of Things You Must Do. Brushing hair, having a bath, eating five vegetables- chuck your list out the window and find yourself BLOOMING with liberation!! We have enough things we REALLY have to do as parents- so let’s let go of the things that have ended up on an arbitrary “should” list. As my friend and parenting guru, Sue, says “Parents need to stop shoulding on themselves!” Hold tightly to the truly important things, and watch everything else just falls naturally into a hierarchy.

2- Cleanliness is overrated.

A fascinating Washington Post article mentions the role a bit of dirtiness can play in our healthiness:  “overly clean living can be bad for our immune systems, which need certain microbes and gut bacteria to function properly and to keep us healthy from the more dangerous pathogens.” Having a good healthy, uninterrupted layer of skin-plus-extras can actually promote health. So many families report skin conditions such as eczema dissapearing once they switch to a weekly rather than daily bath. 

3- Baths, if not forced, can be therapeutic.

The result of making sure baths are only ever autonomously chosen is that children take great pleasure in them. For our four year old, the bath is the place she retreats to when she needs to find calm or have some space. She can spend an hour in their just floating and singing- once she even fell asleep. (We are lucky to live in a tiny winy shack that Tim built next to our yurt so the bath is only ever a couple of metres away… Somehow it still has a cocoon like feel.)

4- Pheronomes.

Furry gnomes (as Tim and I call them) are actually a really important part of our instinct and our understanding of people. There has been a bit of work done on the role of pheremones in sexuality, but they have a role in all part of our lives. There is growing evidence that suggests these chemicals we release impact mother-infant recognition and bonding. So definitely don’t wash your newborn!

5- Forcing our kids to do anything interrupts the development of their intrinsic motivation.

I see one of my roles as a parent to protect some of the precious things my child was born with in order to cultivate her happiness now and ever more! I see so many unhappy people who live their lives according to other people’s rules and wishes. How harmonious the world would be if we were all able to trust our internal desires, and to be self determined. I won’t (I should say, we TRY NOT TO) make our daughters do anything because I am preserving their internal motivation. They shall be the conductors of their own symphony! 

6- Baths can be an actual activity, y’know.

BATHS CAN BE SO MUCH FUN! They count as an official activity in our house. We put food colouring in, and glow sticks, and paints. (Consider these if for some reason you really must help your child to bathe more.)

7- Regular bathing is a modern, newfangled thing.

You know, back in the day they’d bathe ONCE A YEAR, in May. Then they used to get married in June because they were still clean. I’m not really a traditionalist, but for this point I am. Daily bathing is basically like SnapChat… in the history of the world, it’ll be barely a blink of an eye. (Although…. a year…. pheweeeee…. that is SOME TIME. Don’t go that extreme, eh, friends. Just meet in the middle with “Whenever your children fancy one”…)

8- Lastly, and most importantly, they are not “yours” to put in the bath!

Give your child an amazing gift: the awareness that his body is HIS alone. Show her, by never making her do something with her body, that no one can do something to her without her consent. Sometimes we let “the hygiene myth” get in the way,  we allow it  to interrupt this crucial, protecting message. Let your child yelling “I am the boss of my body!!!” fill you with hope and happiness.

8 reasons to stop giving your children daily baths

____

So, having a child with a glowing, colourful scalp, who looks so clearly like they need a good dunk in the bath, has, over this last week, in a funny sort of a way, made me become more sure, confident, that daily baths are one less SHOULD families need in their lives. And if people think Ramona is some kind of lizard child walking amongst us, so be it. We all need a little more magic in our lives, eh?!

PS- Any other reasons you can add? I’d love to hear if you’ve ditched any other parenting shoulds! 

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Parenting

100 Names for Breastfeeding

18 March, 2015

I am so excited about this post, I am sitting in a cafe using their rubbish (but existent) wifi beaming my face off. It has been such a pleasure pulling together all the names toddler have for breastfeeding out there. They cover different languages, most of them have been generated by the children themselves and a few have been passed down through generations. Some of them clearly come from similar meanings and then some of them are just totally wild. Olivia and Donald? Finky and Dumper? Unbridled imagination – (don’t crush it!!)

A child’s word for breastmilk and the act of feeding is very often one of their first, and often introduced into the family dictionary. It must feel pretty special for a child to have their own word, for something that is so important to them, taken on and used. How perfect to feel so valued and trusted and a part of things. I feel like this list symbolises some of that trust, and the trust inherent in the intimate breastfeeding relationship.

We live in a society where it is common to hear people say “I don’t mind breastfeeding- but as soon as a child is old enough to ask for it, then they are TOO OLD.”

This is a rebel anthology- declaring this position to be an untruth. The moment babies are born they find ways to ask for it, and the moment they find WORDS to ask for it is the doorway to a whole new amazing experience. Societies distaste for breastfeeding older children is totally misplaced- in fact,  *breaking news*, massive, longitudinal study just published seem to show that the longer a child is breastfed, the more “successful” she is. Let’s celebrate the connection, the emotional and physical needs that are met in breastfeeding, by revelling in this joyous list. MILKY BOOBIES, THE OTHER ONE: ROCK ON BREASTFEEDING TALKERS! You yell your milk cry across the room, go right ahead- show the world that it is normal and right and magnificent to be a breastfeeding child. what toddlers call breastmilk!

Commonalities
There were one or two variations on “mummy milk” present but without a doubt the one that came up over and over and over (ten times!) was “Other side”. This is funny and astonishing! It just shows how much our children tune in to everything from a youngest age. Obviously, we don’t tend to say “Milkies” throughout a nursing session but we far more frequently offer, during the act, “Other side?!” Brilliant.

Different Languages
Susu – Samoan word for milk/ breast (I am interested in the fact that Susu could be milk or breast? This doesn’t seem common?)
Maka- from the word Malako in Russian.
Leche – Spainish for milk
Lait- French for milk and Bord is French for other side.
Dudth is how the Hindi word for milk sounds.
Nyonya is remembered as Swahili slang.
Teta – Catalonion, for milk.

Stories
Here are a few of the accompanying stories…
Olivia and Donald: Lindsey explains “When he was 4 he started calling my boobs Olivia and Donald. Not really sure why. He’s a bit off the wall that one. “Olivia” was sometimes called “Big fat booby” due to the size discrepancy. Poor Donald wasn’t very popular…”
Dips: Abigail says “Because I had to undo the clip on my bra”
Feeju: Marnie “As in “Feed You””
Nulky nulky noo: Hanabee, “Her own poem dedicated to the joys of extended/ never ending breastfeeing.”
Booble: Mo says “This caused confusion one Christmas when we were looking at the wreath on the next door neighbour’s house and I said “That ones made of baubles!”

Big thanks to our brilliant Facebook community and Twitter peeps who collaborated and shared their lovely stories.

ALSO EXCITING: I AM ON YOUTUBE! AND HERE IS ONE OF MY FIRST VIDEOS:
You definitely didn’t think you could hack watching five minutes of someone breastfeeding their toddler, did you? Well, let’s just see if you can! I wanted to try and capture the frantic fun and mayhem involved with breastfeeding older children. I hit record and got it in five minutes straight off. Pahahaha. Breaking for a book. Yelling. All the laughter. Animal sounds. Hands up nostrils. Chest pummelling. It’s all there. Come and find me and subscribe on Youtube as I hope to be giving it a good bash this year.

Hehe, all the fun, eh.

Thank you for taking part in this breastfeeding anthology. If you missed out it isn’t too late- add it in the comments :D

PS – If you like this post share it all about – play a little part in normalising breastfeeding… !

Parenting, unschooling, yurt life

BIGGEST.NEWS.EVER.

26 February, 2015

I was making dinner yesterday and Ramona came in and was like “What you up to Mum?” and I said “Making a pie” and she took a good look inside my bowl and went “Worst. Pie. Ever.”

So… we do sort of, obviously, overuse that “Ever” thing rather a lot. But, truly, this is the

BIGGEST.NEWS.EVER.

You know how we moved to New Zealand for this sort of wild and free and outdoorsy life? And then we kept looking and looking for a bit of land to put our roots down? And then couldn’t find anywhere and it felt like things just weren’t really going to plan?

 Well, meanwhile, we were living in our yurt on an organic farm and learning an awful amount about farming and living sustainably, and how not to dye the chickens bright pink, and also making firm friends with the other families that live here. One of the families has a brood of children, and they unschool too, and we share many other values, and they have also been looking for a forever home. About halfway through last year we realised that we could, and should, do all of this together. 

 And then, exactly one year to the day that Tim and I moved here we looked at this piece of land on a river, in one of the North Island’s most spectacular spots, the Karangahake Gorge.



The local water feature

 And we were like; Woah. This is the one! It was ticking all the boxes we’d given up on – having a river to swim in, lots of forest, lots of flat, affordable. It is surrounded by Conservation Land, and a swing bridge from the corner of the property takes you over the river into some forest and small mountain ranges hundreds of miles big.

It's hard to capture - but here is a snap

It’s hard to capture – but here is a snap

So we bought it! Halfsies, with our friends. And today it goes unconditional! And we move there in the Spring! 

 It is funny though, this community living thing. It is like being heavily pregnant, when everyone wants to tell you their horrible – death defying birth stories, with all the gore and fears. And you are all “You are telling me this because ….. ?????” 

 When people hear we are going to be sharing this Dingly Dell they tell me about their best friends who bought together and then one of them chopped the other’s ear off, or that community that internally combusted due to communal mouldy potatoes. 

 I’m absolutely not denying it is hard, sharing life like this. We know so, so many people dream of it and it doesn’t work out. We realise it could well not last forever. But we are really committed to the idea, to bringing our children up in a tribe, to working together to live as sustainable life as possible, so we are going to really try and live this dream.

 (And at least we’ll never look back and wish we’d been more bold.)

 So YIKES AND YAY!!!!! We are planning now, and dreaming, and THIS SHIZZELMCNIZZEL JUST GOT REAL!

 (PS, I haven’t forgotten about the Social Justice and Parenting Series thingy it is just quite heavy and so I’ll be taking more frivolous breaks in between them…) 

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Parenting

A Breastfeeding Poem (also- I need your help!)

19 February, 2015

Milk-cry

“BOOBOO!” You shout
Less crass than “BAPS!”
– the milk-cry of your sister.

Entangled elsewhere,
Hands dirty, arms full,
You dissolve;
“Booboobooboobooboobooooo.”

Sometimes, instead of “Mama!”
You try “Booboo?”
My sense, that milk is all I am to you,
manifest.

Then you call “Booboo!”
When you mean “Weewee!”
And I know it simply
Drips from your lips.

As natural as breathing;
Oxygen in/ “Booboo” out.
Sung through the day
Hummed in the night.

Our own home’s cuckoo;
Your heart-burst for Booboo.

breastfeeding poetry

(Despite having written poetry since being able to scrawl letters, I’ve only one other time shared a poem with others and that was moons ago. So yeah, yikes. There it was.

My Grandad Harry, who is ninety, is a prolific poet, writing several verses every single day. He has had books of his beautiful poetry published and each Monday he shares a new poem on Facebook. How cool is that?

I’m not imagining emulating my Grandad, but when poet Natalie Goldberg wrote that writing doesn’t exist until it’s been heard or read, I felt that if I was going to give in to the urge of writing poetry then I must give fully to it, and hit publish every now and then.)

And now, I’d love your help

As I finished this poem I wondered about all the other milk-crys out there and thought I might like to make an anthology of them.

Ramona loves to hear the story of her own word, BAPS! (Always yelled.) She asks how I knew she meant Mama Milk and I tell her how it was always accompanied by her extending her arms, pumping her hands like she was milking a cow, and then climbing on to my lap and stuffing her head down the neck of my jumper.

What have your little ones called breastfeeding? Is there a story about it? If you don’t mind me sharing it on this blog, please do leave a comment with your own kiddo’s milk-cry.

Thank you!

Activism, Featured, Parenting

Parenting for Social Justice: Non Violent Communication

16 February, 2015

This post goes out to a legend of our time who sadly passed away last week. Marshall Rosenberg dedicated his life to peace and created tools that resolved conflict in the most tricky of situations. I read his book, Non Violent Communication, and became sure that if everyone read it, and put it into practice, the world would be a much more harmonious, beautiful, just place.

I felt it had massive potential for use in the home, that the principles and methods of talking and listening could transform parent- child relationships, that it could restore connection where a disconnect had taken place.

So, I want to kick off a short blog series, Parenting for Social Justice, with Non Violent Communication. (NVC, because life’s too short.)

Who jake change begins at home- here's how

Not because I am amazing at it (I am pretty sure my beg, every early morning, “Let me sleeeeeeeeeep moooooooore because otherwise I will diiiiiieeeeeee” flouts all the NVC guidelines) but because I TRY to bring this kind of communication in my life, and I believe it is KEY in raising social justice loving children.

NVC is a strategy for communicating, but it can also be a lens through which we see life. The four components are observations, feelings, needs and requests.

First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life? The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without introducing any judgment or evaluation—to simply say what people are doing that we either like or don’t like. Next, we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated? And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified. An awareness of these three components is present when we use NVC to clearly and honestly express how we are.

For example, a mother might express these three pieces to her teenage son by saying, “Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share in common.” She would follow immediately with the fourth component—a very specific request: “Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?”

This picture shows how we can phrase what is going on for us using the four components- it is from a really helpful slideshow on NVC here.

NVC FOR PARENTING You can possibly also see how with small children, this could be a bit heavy, and you will need to be sensitive to that, and never, ever use the revealing of your feelings as a tool for manipulation.

NVC holds an awful lot of insight that I think is especially helpful for parents (well, like, on top of The Whole Thing):

Connection is the key to peace

It is the reason, the how, the why, the everything. Rosenberg is adamant that human connection is the way to unlock violent or angry situations. As parents our number one goal for each day should be connecting with our children. NVC shows us how to keep those doors of connection open no matter what.

The world needs more Empathy

“Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. We often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.”
NVC is a process that gets us into an empathetic place- it has been successfully used to nurture understanding in situations from warring street gangs to international conflict. When we parent with understanding and empathy we are likely to see our children showing understanding and empathy- things the world needs in order to prevent warring gangs and international conflict. The pathway to world peace begins in every home. (What’s good enough for the Gangs of New York is good enough for my Tribe in a Yurt.)

Our needs as parents are real

I love that NVC is about being real. Our feelings are valid and not to be hidden, and yet, yet, it asks us to take a breath and recognise what lies beneath our feelings and how we can actually get what we need. Sometimes I get the impression that attachment parenting relishes martyrdom…. The fact is, if the intense sacrifice of parenting a baby stretches into the toddler and older child years we are denying the importance of our own needs.

The world needs more Self Empathy

And therefore Rosenberg doesn’t just talk of giving empathy to others, but of receiving empathy. We can not keep being empathetic to our children if we aren’t getting dosed up ourselves. We need to find support people to top us up, but mostly we need to be empathetic to ourselves. Being kind to ourselves is one of the most important foundations for empathetic parenting. Funnily enough, I think it is the thing we struggle most with. We experience guilt piled upon guilt and give ourselves a break NEVER. Dive into self empathy, your children will love you for it!

Non violent communication for parents

Being a judgey judger doesn’t help us connect

Importantly, it asks us to not judge our children when they do things we find difficult. We asked constantly to put judgements on our kids- are they good, bad, naughty? And it is hard sometimes to take our judgemental specs off.

We have actually been working with an NVC trained mediator recently and she inspired me with the idea that there is very little “good” or “bad” in day to day situations…. What there IS are people with basic needs trying to get them met in a way that we don’t really like! Never is this more apparent with children. Most of the time children are just expressing a need – for connection or belonging or security- with a strategy that really grates! “MUM I DO NOT WANT YOUR DISGUSTING PASTA FOR TEA!!”

Non Violent Communication in Parenting

What a change of perspective when we can see that our children are just working out the best ways of getting their needs met- and that we are able to have a sincere, kind discussion with them about this.

Non Violent communication in parenting

We need to find alternatives to R ewards and punishments

If there is anyone I going to listen to about how to avoid big, global conflict it is a dude who has dedicated his life to resolving it. Rosenberg says “Punishment is the root of all violence on the planet”and he isn’t referring just to institutional punishment but punitive measures taken in the home- smacking and shaming and bribing. He advocates more connection based, more empathetic ways of communicating with our children- only when children experience empathy will they be able to give it. When children act out of fear of punishment, or in order to receive a reward, they are not acting from the heart, which lessens the good will and peace in the world.

Here is Rosenberg with his dad hat on, using NVC in one of those really tricky situations (that I know too well) when your child hits another:
In such situations, I recommend first empathizing with the child who is behaving violently. For example, if I saw a child hit someone after being called a name, I might empathize, “I’m sensing that you’re feeling angry because you’d like to be treated with more respect.” If I guessed correctly, and the child acknowledges this to be true, I would then continue by expressing my own feelings, needs, and requests in the situation without insinuating blame: “I’m feeling sad because I want us to find ways to get respect that don’t turn people into enemies. I’d like you to tell me if you’d be willing to explore with me some other ways to get the respect you’re wanting.

Take a deep breath

And then, to finish, I think NVC holds one very practical tip that I reckon could be the big change from a volatile parent-child relationship to a peaceful one, and that is: taking a big deep, reflective breath before we react or reply.

Parenting can trigger an emotional response in us- sometimes my child’s behaviour unleashes a small, angry dragon in my belly. If I react from that dragon place out come the bribes and warnings and manipulation. But if I take a moment to understand my feelings, to empathise, to listen, then my fiery breath is much less fierce, and stinky.

NVC conversations are slow and quiet, they involve silent space, reflection and observation. Have a look at this Youtube video to get a sense of how softly, softly these parenting chats can go.

Non violent communication for parents

So there we have it, boom shack, a little overview of how NVC can work in the home. NVC has bought about so much peace worldwide- I believe if it is implemented between adults and children the impact will be multiplied a google times.

Parenting for Social Justice series

You know, I have an undergrad and post grad degree in social policy, and spent the majority of my career in policy and campaigns- determined that this was the way to a fair world.

Then I had children. I began to see that social justice begins in the home; that peaceful adult- child interaction has just as much a role as the UN, the NGOs, all the Nobel Peace Prize nominees. I will raise warring tyrants or peacemakers (or somewhere in between!) depending on how I treat my children.

This series has been on my mind for a year- I want to take a look at how common themes and concepts within the global social justice movement apply to childhood.

I’d love to explore this with you, if you have any ideas we can look at, it’d be awesome to hear from you.

A just and beautiful world is nurtured every time a child is loved and respected….

Activism, Parenting

Dear the Pope: There is no need to smack children, ever.

9 February, 2015

***I’ve just sent this letter off to the Pope (His Holiness, 00120 Via del Pellegrino, Citta del Vaticano) and thought I’d copy it onto the blogdiggidy in case any of you fancied letting him know about how real and possible a violence free family life can be. It lacks my usual absurd banter because, like, this dude is the MONK BOSS. His holy eyes don’t want to read my driftless jesting and made up words***

Dear Pope Francis

I want to paint you a picture of how some families live, because I have the impression that you think hitting children is normal – and that avoiding hitting them on the face is a step forward.

I believe a better (and more biblical) vision for you to cast would be one where all children can live a childhood free from harm at the hands of their parents.

It is a vision becoming tangible in some places.

There are millions of children growing up who have never experienced violence from the people entrusted with their lives. And they are growing into good and kind adults.

We have discovered that children can thrive through their early years and become upright citizens without ever feeling the harsh slap of a hand upon their bodies. We can resolve conflict peacefully, using words and not fists to work through difficulties. We find creative solutions to family problems; we dig deeper into connecting with our children when they are expressing a need we find tricky.

We hope for a kinder world, and know that the best thing we can do to achieve this is to treat our children kindly, and with understanding, rather than with physical punishment.

We use our role as parents to protect the human rights of our children – the right to be safe, to be free from violence. Research shows that children who are smacked are more likely to exhibit criminal and delinquent behaviour later on, and have their mental health destroyed.

Children have the right to dignity, which you correctly recognized. Simply hitting a child on the body instead of the face doesn’t defend dignity. Dignity is defended when parents treat their children with compassion, gently guiding them through the ins and outs of living together, when we speak to them, and treat them, as we would want to be treated.

Shame, manipulation, punishment and violence- every one of these strips our children of dignity, and corrodes their sense of being unconditionally loved.

Some of us have found a way to live in harmony with our children. We believe it is possible for all families to find this way.

Another world is possible, Pope Francis. And your role, as a representative of one of the world’s dominant religions, as someone whose words are reordered and aired throughout the whole globe, is to herald it in.

Please, publically defend the rights of children as you have begun to with other minorities. They are a people group that deserve to experience fairness and safety and kindness, just like every human on earth.

Yours truly,

Lucy

Dear Pope Francis

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.

IMG_5699.JPG

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.

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.

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.

Parenting

Stuck in a Parenting Rut? 40 Unconventional Tips for Finding Your Mojo

25 November, 2014

We woke up grumpy yesterday. Not just on the wrong side of the bed, but the wrong side of the stratosphere. Ramona was snapping at me, I couldn’t appease her. I was getting impatient, Juno was clinging to my knees like moss on a log.

I plonked on the sofa and looked at the clock. 8.05 A.M. EIGHT OH FIVE AM?!? Give me strength.

“Shiver my timbers, children o mine. We are grumpy. Can you think of anything we can do to shake these blues away?” Without even a moment’s pause Ramona said “Have a bath, put my pyjamas on and bake chocolate biscuits.”

So, that is what we did. (Well, we tried to make biscuits but we got all maverick, slopping in some milk, and then it turned into a cake which meant we then made butter icing and shook sprinkles all over and then we sat down and ate the whole thing ourselves. It was decadent and perfect.)

And that good mood has lasted us a solid 24 hours.

It was however, the first time Ramona has been able to identify and articulate her own fug remedy. And I’m definitely crap at soothing myself out of a mood. It made me want to make a list of all the potential mood lifters for families who encounter that stuck in a rut syndrome. (A list! Yes, a list will solve everything!)

It goes without saying, that the first steps for cranky kids and cross parents is validation. Everyone needs to know it is okay to be angry, grumpy, sad or to have rubbish days. Children need to hear that their big feelings are accepted and that there is room for their bad selves. That is unconditional parenting.

But when bad moods are due to disconnection, or getting in a cycle of bad communication, or simply feeling stuck in a rut as a parent, there are some things that we can do in order to get through it, to reconnect, to laugh our socks off and feel at peace again.

So, with the help of marvellous Lulastic readers on Facebook (come and say hello), here are FORTY ways to re-connect, shake the grumps, and start having fun.

Forty ways to find your parenting mojo again

Madness
We have always relied on a little bit of the ludicrous to break a bad mood.

1 Dance. We will stick on the loudest, bassiest, most fun music we can find (actually, we have a playlist for it- Grumps Begone) and then we just GET DOWN. Reader, Lorella says these mini discos always start with this favourite song.

2 Facepaint. A new face, a new mood. I have a whole bunch of face painted faces in an album on my iPad and we chose one of those and rock our animal selves for a while. It normally ends in Ramona painting my face in her signature style- red all over.

3 Fancy Dress. We all tumble into the dress ups and become flamboyant mermaid ninjas.

4 Pots and Pans. LOUD NOISES. We bang and crash them and and chant and shout a sing and let it all out in a rhythmic way.

5 Roar. A reader explains that they let it all out with a lion roar. I very much like that sense that our bodies can perfectly capture our feelings- if we are feeling fierce we can BE FIERCE.

6 Epic den. In your lounge, as big as you can make it. The perfect spot to sit out chicken pox. See Tinker Studio for diy teepee inspo.

forty ways to reconnect with your children

7 Pulling faces. Bex and Missie Lizzie both rely on face pulling contests. It is silly and fun and will end in giggles, but perhaps more importantly it involves eye contact- one of the fundamentals for reconnecting.

The great outdoors
The outdoors, isn’t it great? It is the one stop shop for the irascible. Readers share about the almost immediate impact of soaking in Vitamin D on moods.

8 Find a spot of grass, your lawn or a patch of park, throw down a thick rug and lie on your backs and watch the clouds. Spot the dragons and alligators and candy floss. (That last one is WELL EASY.)

9 Pack a picnic and eat outside. On your balcony, at the beach. A picnic, for us, involves no caramelised onion tarte- but a can of sweet corn and a can of tuna, and crisps with which to shovel them in.

10 Find a place to run and race and leap about. After running races we can usually be found collapsed in a heap of giggles. Mary says “Sometimes you just the grumps! And kids need to understand that people have mood changes, bad days, sad days etc and that its ok to feel that way. Love support and time and then an epic round of puddle jumping and tree climbing followed by lots of hugs.”

11 Follow My Leader is also a temper shifter- and particularly ideal if a child’s anger comes as a result of feeling powerless.

12 Teddy Bear’s Picnic… All the cuddly toys shoved in an ikea basket, plus a packet of hobnobs. A tree to sit under= winner.

13 Barefoot babies. Whatever the season, shake off those shoes and socks and connect with the earth beneath your feet. Sarah says “We go outside and walk barefoot on the grass – grab some of that great earth energy!”

14 Go to your local beach, woodland or river, whatever the weather. Victoria says “We did it a couple of weekends ago in the rain and sat on a grey pebble beach having hot soup out of a thermos & eating cheese & tomato sandwiches…”

Water
A wise old sage once said “Cranky kids need to get in the water”. Find a way…

15 Bath. You have to turn the taps on, and then help your child in the water and stuff. (Hehe. It is so easy, but it is our absolute first resort.) Crank the connection up by getting in yourself and washing each other’s hair.

16 A colourful bath. Depending on the depth of the bad mood, you may need more help. We stick a few drops of food colouring in to make it extra awesome. (Um, in case you are wondering, and you don’t have food colouring on hand, sliced up beetroot also works a treat…)

17 Bath paints. They are crazily simple but combine the pleasures of being in water with being messy and creating something. Recipe here.

18 Pool. If you aren’t the irritable one than consider a swim at the pool. If you ARE the irritable one STAY AWAY. Those tangled cossies, sweaty legs, pubes stuck to your feet will be way, waaaay too much.

19 Water play. Perhaps you need five minutes to hide in a room and east your secret stash of maltesers. Get out the pots and pans again, several towels, and let your kids have a riot on the lino. Thalia says “Outside water play. ‘Go and get drenched. Sure you can take your soft toys…’

Eat

Speaking of secret stashes… Kids need to know that comfort can be found in eating. Ha, I jest. Sort of. Hey, no disorder is going to come of pulling out the pizzas at times of immovable grizzliness. (Don’t quote me on that.)

Anyway, anyway…. LOOK, PIZZA!!!

20 We have saved the day with DIY pizza. I don’t know what it is about it, but my children absolutely love the awesomeness of designing their own dinner. (Which we have sometimes eaten at 3pm.) Ramona’s speciality is with sprinkles of popcorn.

21 Get an ice cream. This is probably our second resort… It involves a famous chain that prey on the whole word with their scary clown man and addictive sugary substances with extra msg…. One I avoided for TWO DECADES. Then I had kids and realised that their ice creams cost 30p and if you go through the drive thru YOU DONT EVEN HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR. OR, THEREFORE, YOUR PYJAMAS. 60p buys both my children so much happiness- I actually feel like it is US exploiting THEM.

22 Chocolate cake! Or biscuits. (Whatever.) Eating something so rich, on the best china has an opulence that feels like a snatched magic moment. (*Maggggic moooooments….*)

23 A chocolate platter. Bring it all out man. Come on…Help the kids think that they have struck gold. You will love it too, and that is partly what the list is for. Finding things that will lift the mood of everyone. It’s legit, anyway. There is Valium in chocolate… I mean endorphins…. Or oxytocin…. Or something….

Make a plan

If you are lucky you might also have time to execute it….

24 We have planned lantern works for the evening…. We made lanterns and then went for the most basic little stroll carrying our lanterns as soon as dusk settled.

25 We have planned movie nights, with tickets and bags of popcorn.

26 We have planned, and done, treasure hunts. For preschoolers, they actually enjoy the planning as much as the hunt. Ruth says “Sometimes I’ll make up a treasure hunt and leave clues around the house.”

27 We have planned camping trips… Making lists (they fix everything) of what we will do and what we will need to take.

It is about dreaming… Of thinking of another day, a different day.

Get your needs met

If you, as the parent, are not coping, do something immediately that will give you hope.

28 Phone a friend. Share your sadness but move on to happiness. Discuss your real feelings, but take a moment to remember some things you have to be thankful for.

29 Dream of sea wind. Plan a trip for your own mental health. Perhaps you all need to get away for one night in order to feel the sea wind in your hair.

30 Book it an afternoon in. Email your other half and discuss an afternoon in the next week that you are going to book in in order to go solo to the cinema.

31 Swap your kids. Call your friend and organise a child swap for the very next day… You have two kids while the other rests and then swap.

32 Start a jar of awesome. My friend was telling me about her friend (it sounds like an urban legend, but I’m sure it’s true) who has a jar of awesome. Every single day she puts something in there, either a little note of something she is thankful for or a trinket to remind her of something special. And then whenever she feels blue she raids the jar, for something to give her the warm fuzzies.

Stop

33 Cancel. Can you cancel the appointment, quit any agenda? Swap the dentist for a trip to the beach. Sometimes these decisions feel irresponsible… But they can be the key to happiness.

34 Hands Free. Adele says “Recently what’s helped is me forcing myself not to look at the phone or computer for the whole day or at least most of it. I’ve realised that my being distracted makes us ALL grumpy.” THIS. SO MUCH!

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

36 Stop hanging out together. Ha. You know, as much as possible. Adrienne says “Making ‘cubbies’ out of overturned chairs, blankets, under beds or tables, wherever. Separate cubbies for each child (and even for mummy) if we’re all getting scratchy. I realised when my children were quite young that they are all introverted and time alone is really important for each of them. I tried to help them identify their feelings when they were overwhelmed by too much people – and I would ask them ‘do you need some time by yourself?’ NOT as a punishment but as an option for them to choose.”

Emergency Supplies

Sometimes, if we are on our way home and the girls and I are cranky pants I will pray that there is a package from my family awaiting us. Well… Better than God, or my family:

37 Secret Parcel. The next time you find something awesome in a charity shop, be it a box of fuzzy felts or a puzzle. Squirrel it away on top of the wardrobe for when you need a trick.

38 Unknown craft materials. A tiny packet of new modelling clay, a new stamp, some stickers. Something small and as yet destroyed turned into art will give you a breather and your children some fun.

39 Unseen fancy dress. Again, it is all about the stealth supply. The next time you see a flouncy dress in a charity shop, tuck it away and pull it out when you are down in the dumps.

40 ideas for reconnecting with your children

40 The parent’s stuff. Oh yes, I have been known to willingly hand down to my 18 month old an entire bits and bobs draw so that I can cook dinner. Some people call these “treasure baskets“… I call it “the things I don’t have a home for draw”- key rings, touristy fridge magnets (things usually sent in a parcel from my family), the camera case, a lighter… (Jokes.) You get the idea. Grown up stuff… They love it.

BONUS FEATURE!!!

The Four Healing Salves

I heard today of this ancient shamanic concept and feel it is a perfect one to remember, particularly for those of us for whom these bad days happen all too often. I hope it isn’t cultural appropriation to share it with you.

There are four activities that, if we can incorporate them into our weekly rhythm will keep us whole. I see that nearly all of them are present in the above list in some way, so they have a beautiful restorative impact too.

Singing. Be it listening to music, or belting out anthems on our way to work, singing releases all sorts of goodness for our soul.

Movement. Busting the moves, jiggling at the lights, yoga or sports.

Story. Being enthralled in the magic of a story, phoning our friends simply to share stories, catching up with people.

Silence. Sitting on the beach with the whisper of the wind, twenty minutes of meditation, stilling our minds as we cuddle our children to sleep.

How are you doing with those? I see these salves as an invitation to self care, to meet the needs of my own soul so that the next day I can get covered in facepaint whilst dancing to the Monkey song and stuffing cake in my gob at a Teddy Bear’s picnic on the beach.

I really believe that we don’t have to get stuck in a rut – that we all have the power to change things. I reckon these ideas could help break the cycle of disconnect, get you all laughing and rocking your awesome parenting mojo again.

Do any of these work a treat for your family? Do you have any other suggestions? As always,I looooove to hear from you…