Parenting

Parenting: All behaviour is communication

16 June, 2016

We went round to our friend’s house for dinner on Saturday. I had baked a chocolate cake using sweet potato instead of flour and it was looking SO AMAZING! I had decorated it with tiny delicate mandarin slices. I am not a baker in anyway, everything I’ve ever tried to bake has come out as kind of pancake. I was feeling sublimely chuffed.

So, get this.

When I hopped out of the car at the gate, our neighbours were there moving their bull into a paddock. (Hehe. Our friends these days.) I was out of the car for about three minutes.

When I got back in again Ramona, 5, had hopped in the front seat and WAS EATING THE CAKE!

SHE. WAS. EATING. THE. CAKE.

EATING IT! MY CHOCOLATE CAKE! WITH HER HANDS! PUTTING IN HER MOUTH!

ARGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, let’s cut a long story short.

I went apeshit.

Inside and out.

And I stewed for about 12 hours.

I was feeling like super UGH about it. About her eating it (are we bringing up a child with no respect??!!!) and about my reaction (I had a right to let her know I was upset, but I didn’t have to say I’M NOT SPEAKING TO YOU! In a sulk. I actually said that. ugh.) 

 I had a chat with a friend. And reflected for a day.

And then we took a course of action.

And do you know what it was?

 It was to seek out a way for Ramona to make more friends.

Because, deep down, I was aware that for a few weeks Ramona has been expressing a need to me. A need to connect with people her age, in the way she loves, in an equal manner (we have plenty of friends but not many that Ramona finds a sort of equilibrium with, do you know what I mean?)

And I honestly think that eating my chocolate cake was the culmination of her expressing that need.

Every behaviour, every misbehaviour, is communication from our children.

We get a chance to meet the need they are expressing, or punish them for expressing that need in a way that we didn’t like.

What is especially funny (erm, or not) is that the VERY DAY of CakeGate I had just published a brand new post all about not exploding and being empathetic with our kids over on Parent.co and had recorded a vlog about why we don’t punish, and why we aim for peaceful communicaiton with our kids.

UGH.

It didn’t occur to me that Ramona would eat that cake. We do generally have a fairly mutually respectful relationship. My mettle was tested and I failed initially. My meltdown wasn’t helped by Ramona piping up “You are mad now mummy but tomorrow morning you will say you are sorry!”

But then I didn’t fail! Ramona asked something of us with that behaviour, we took some time instead of acting punitively and then we stepped up.

We went along to an unschooling meet up in another town the next day, and another the next day, where there were no less than FIVE FEISTY FEMALE FIVE YEAR OLDS!!! And Ramona has been a ball of wonder and non-cake-eating delight since.

Argh. So there you go. Learning. ALWAYS LEARNING.

We went ahead and ate the cake. I didn’t mention it to my friends, I just recalled the story my mum told me of when my Nana was hosting a party and the cat got on the table moments before the guests arrived and ate half the cake. My Nana just picked out the worst bits and put a bit more cream on top. I did a Nana and budged my choccy cake all into the centre a bit. (*waves to friends* sorry guys, it was yum though aye?!)

writing

From the courthouse to Brazil

9 June, 2016

This is a bit of a “here, there, and everywhere” sort of post.

Brazil! And Portugal! And other (?) Portugese speaking places!
Most excitingly, Happy Hair has now been translated into Portugese WHOOP! This is epically exciting – we are a third of the way through the world’s Top Ten most spoken languages! I am massively grateful to Marcelle de Costa Santos (er, like most Brazillian name everrrrr) for so passionately stepping up to the project and getting it done so well and so quickly. If you are a Portugese speaking reader head to Amazon to get your copy and please help me spread the word using this promotional link. (Love you forevs) Buy Happy Hair in English, in Spanish and, as of today, Portugese.

The Courthouse
The next exciting thing is that I AM NOT IN PRISON! (Got arrested etc) I don’t know yet if they are actually going to give me diversion (it is a little bit like dropping the charges apart from it comes with an enormous fee) – I’ve been in the dock twice already for sentencing and am back in court on 22nd. And meanwhile I have to have an interview with the police in order to “show great remorse.” I guess they keep giving you various appointments so you think “man, being a crim is a bit of a faff, isn’t it?”

Parent.co
I have been doing a lot of writing for Parent.Co – a website I am absolutely loving. You might have seen this one, as it spread like wildfire. (5 Phrases that help Protect Your Child From Abuse) Here’s the other stuff I’ve been writing for them.

The Tube
I’ve been plodding away on the Youtube for a while now but I have decided I am going to put more effort in! So if you’ve seen my channel and so far thought YAWNBURGERS please give me another chance! Harhahahaha.

Here’s one from today. It’s about housework and me being a lazy feminist minger. And proud of it.

Facebook
I’m sure you’ve already found me on Facebook, but if not NOW IS THE TIME. I’m keeping up with it all a bit more and I quite like it – I can put photos like this up and not have to worry that it doesn’t fit with Instagrams fancy, boring, minimalist style guide. ha.
Lulastic blog
Ramona and Juno were silent for quite some time – turned out Ramona was giving Juno a new look. this is “a butterfly with a beard”

Happy Hair for you!
We began with tresses, so let’s finish with them. It is fun having a whole site dedicated to No Poo. It is frivolous and earth loving all at the same time. My latest post there has a bunch of photos that I reckon will totally convince people that giving up shampoo gives you beautiful hair.

So, me hearties. How are you doing?

unschooling

Unschooling: 7 things you need to know about enrolling in the School of Awesome

31 May, 2016

We have just returned from one of New Zealand’s brilliant unschooling camps. One of the conversations we had there was about how, as soon as your kid hits five, everyone asks them “What school do you go to?” It’s nice, you know, people just want to strike up a conversation with kids and this is the go to. Ramona is the kind of staunch kid who just puffs out her chest and says “I learn my own self!” but we were having a little laugh about the fun your kids could have with this, if you were to rename your home…

“What school do you go to, dear?”

“The School of Rainbow Laughter!”

“Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”

or just:

“The School of Awesome”

Heeehheeeee.

(Guess you had to be there.)

I have only ever done a few personal sharing posts on unschooling, describing the very beginnings of our unschool journey and that sort of thing. And have never specifically said “Why not consider unschooling?” to readers. It seemed to me like a fairly extreme thing to do, something I just knew wasn’t for everyone.

But this current climate of diabolical education policy, appalling testing, and a real dis-ease with the schooling system is begging for an alternative. Millions of parents sense that kids should all get the chance to just be kids, and some of the best, passionate teachers are throwing in the towel. It might be time to ask:

Why not consider unschooling?

The more you do it, the less extreme it is. The more people you know doing it the more you think “why isn’t everyone doing this!”

I honestly think that unschooling could be for far more people than just the radical few. And I think that if more people were to do it then small, informal unschooling collectives could be formed, where neighbourhood families could get together and foster an awesome creative environment together.
Unschooling - 7 things you need to know
Here’s a few things you need to know about unschooling.

You set?

What is unschooling?

So I guess the first thing you need to know is what unschooling is. HA. It is not gonna be this basic all the way though, promise. In fact, I’m not even gonna count this as one of the things. This is just a little bonus.

I made this video at the recent unschooling retreat and I think it pretty much covers it all! Unschooling is about freedom, about enjoying life with our kids, about stepping back, about learning in nature, learning without the confines of structure, without a curriculum, learning anywhere, anyhow, anytime. It is about supporting our children to follow their passions, delving into curiosity, about having fun, about everyone living the life they love.
I talk more about what unschooling is for us here.

But, like, who are these people that do this crazy unschooling biz?

More like, who is NOT unschooling? ha! Oh, like, millions of people. Oh yeah. Okay Whatevs. Look, my point is that the unschooling paradigm is one that floats across all sectors of society. Turn up at an unschooling camp and you will find wealthy ones, feminists, hippies, doctors, families on the bones of their bums, entrepreneurs, lawyers, lefties, farmers.

Diverse experiences and perspectives on unschooling can be found at Radical Selfie and the Mahogony Way and Living Outside the Box 

Unschooling Curriculum is all around you.

It’s scrawled in graffiti on the walls of the city, it sounds like birdsong floating on the breeze, it’s in code in the Minecraft app…

Unschooling families don’t use curriculums but instead are directed by our child’s interest and inspired by the world around us. We see the spark of of curiosity in our child and then open all the doors and say “Peek in here and see if you like it!” Ramona has loved horses for years so over the last few months she has begun taking lessons in natural horsepersonship. We read all the books we can, and if she so wanted could potentially use her love of horses to incorporate history (how have horses been used in the past?), cultural studies (where have horses come from? How are horses valued in different societies?) plus the sciences (let’s check out the inner workings of a horse and watch some vet videos) – this way not only is our kid learning a WHOLE heap of stuff but it all comes from a place of fascination so it is fun and it is sticking and it provides a whole platform for leaping off into other interests.

Also, some days, you just laze around in the sun, learning about being present and falling in love with nature. (Which is worth an equal amount to all that brain stuff, when it comes to a life of happiness.)

Easy like Sunday mornings…. every morning.

My goodness gracious. Here is something I never banked on. Mornings are quite nice! We just hang around in our pyjamas eating breakfast one, two and three, with cups of tea dotted inbetween. Playing games and sitting around and with nothing to go to until 10:30 or until the mood takes us.

For a while last year Ramona went to Kindy and I got a brief chomp at the School Run three times a week. While I was in it I didn’t resent it, it just became the new normal. But since we have moved and we have found other ways of Ramona getting all her extrovert, social party animal needs met, I have realised how much that frantic rush around packing lunches and spare clothes and cramming everyone in the car to get to a certain place before nine o clock, how much it Wore. Me. Down.

Sometimes we go a whole day and we are still in our pyjamas and we have had the absolute best day ever. It is like Sunday Mornings all day every day.

More time with your kids when they are “at their best”

This is entirely anecdotal, but something I notice on Social Media is that unschooling parents generally have a lot of fun with their kids, while nonunschooling (??!) parents write things like “Staring Down The Barrel Of Six Weeks of Summer Holidays” alot.

Now, I don’t think unschooling parents are better people. No way. They loose their shiz too. And have anxiety and get bored and all that. But I do think they know how to enjoy their kids more.

And I think a lot of that is to do with spending a lot of time with their kids and seeing them in all their awesomeness. Whereas a lot of families get an hour of pre-9am stress together and then get their kid spat back at them after a long, arduous day at school when their kid is hungry and tired and fed up with following someone elses rules and has tomorrow’s homework hanging over them. Moreoever there isn’t enough time in the day for the kid to indulge their passions and hobbies so they seem a bit, well, lifeless. No one can enjoy each other’s company under those conditions.

So then summer hols come round and parents think “Ugh. I don’t really wanna hang out with my kid who is grumpier and more boring than me.”

Highly self-motivated and self directed adults

One of the things that first got me onto unschooling was wanting my children to be far less externally motivated than my husband and I! Very early on in our parenting journey I became aware that our kids have these deep down primal urges and that quite a lot of their development came down to giving them chance to follow up those urges.

I don’t really care about success, I just care about happiness and I feel like happiness lies in following your heart. Peter Gray and Gina Riley surveyed adults who were unschooled as children and seventy percent of them said that being unschooled led them to become highly self motivated and self directed adults. This is pretty much the main thing I would like to see in my kids. It is a really interesting piece of research, read it here. 

Unschooling is about support

One of the myths I want to address is that unschooling leaves kids floundering.  I have heard it said that unschooling, because of the value of freedom, is about letting your kids go feral/ get away with anything. I would say nope, nope, not at all. Unschooling IS about freedom, about granting autonomy over life and learning, but is about doing this in a spirit of support and connection.  This point is dear to me because I think one of the best things for our parent child relationship is maintaining our connection. Over on Rethinking Parenting Emma describes this as a partnership paradigm:
“An unschooling parent grows to know their child and has a relationship based on trust and understanding their child’s individual needs and personal preferences.

The relationship between parent and child has been described as like a dance:

“Unschooling is more like a dance between partners who are so perfectly in synch with each other that it is hard to tell who is leading. The partners are sensitive to each others’ little indications, little movements, slight shifts and they respond. Sometimes one leads and sometimes the other”. Pam Sorooshian” “

Unschooled children will be the ones with a deep connection with their parents, the ones who are resilient and emotionally healthy because of this robust attachment.

And, yeah, feral isn’t quite the word but they might be wearing pyjamas at the museum.

Whole Life Unschooling or Radical Unschooling will hunt you down

Radical unschooling or whole life unschooling is often where unschoolers end up. It is the realisation that freedom over learning processes is just the START of things! And that actually we can grant freedom over all those things that we are scared of. We can do this because we are connected and we are in a supportive, creative environment.

It took me a long time to become radicalised in my unschooling. I was so indoctrinated into control style parenting that I hung on tightly to some of those boundaries.

But eventually my desire to uphold child rights in the home, my ambitions to respect my children and my attempts to unschool them (and myself) all ganged up together and beat the control paradigm out of me! And when I pulled myself out of those badlands I discovered I was on my way to being a radical unschooler. (Or just an unschooler. Depending on where you are at.)

Ha. Every day is a learning journey though, every day I try to be better and fail and then discover the next day I am actually a little better at being a mama than the day before. (Read here for a day in the life of a family tackling adultism for a glimpse at that!)

Unschooling made me see that I often acted out of fear. It is unschooling that made me embrace technology, celebrate the things my daughters love and say yes a whole lot more.

*Please note: easing slowly into unschooling is a GREAT IDEA. Wise. Letting go of control, stopping our teaching habits, giving freedom over things you’ve been afraid of, all these things need to be done gradually so we don’t leave our children (and ourselves) in the lurch. If you are currently not unschooling and think you might please read this about gradual change and start by saying yes a little more.*


Unschooling Reading

There are so many resources out there to help us think outside the box about how children learn, and about life with children. I’d love to point you in the direction of some people I have found inspiring….
Rethinking Parenting Fairly new blog with lots of food for thought on unschooling life
Sophie Christophy Another quite new blog covering unschooling in the context of the patriarchy – and other goodness!
Our Muddy Boots– I love this radical, free family life blog.
Sandra Dodd– one of the very first people who ever put into words my instinct for unschooling
Joyfully rejoicing– be challenged and get excited about all the potential!
Unschoolery.com – short snippets of inspo

Unschooling Books I have enjoyed:

Natural Born Learners by Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko – my favourite book. Little essays by unschooly peeps, covering the whole miltary-industrial complex our school system has roots in, to the everyday life of unschoolers.
Winning Parent, Winning Child by Jan Fortune – a nice little book to download, very practical.
How Children Learn by John Holt (anything by John Holt. He is often deemed the founder of unschooling and he has written a lot of books advocating for children.)
Free to Learn by Peter Gray. TOO GOOD.

Unschooling on Youtube

There is absolutely loads of amazing Unschooling resources on youtube. Use my Unschooling playlist as a spring board – filled with unschooled kids and Professors and inspiration:

Do you unschool? What is one thing you think people need to know? And, if you don’t unschool, do you have a question you’ve wanted answering? I have in mind to do an Unschooling FAQ…

Activism

Arrested

24 May, 2016

Yeeesh. So many thoughts in my head. How can I get them all down? Should I get them down? I’m appearing in court on two charges tomorrow, will they say “we saw on your “blog” that you made a gag about prison food so for that you can go down for LIFE”

A huge part of me is even reluctant to write about it. When my cousin saw someone had tagged me on Facebook saying “Lucy’s been arrested!!!” she typed something like “Can’t wait to hear about it on the blog!” and I recoiled a bit inside. Honestly, I would rather just be all noble and cool about it, not even really mention it, y’know, like man I’m always getting popped by the fuzz.

But, it’s not about me, is it? It’s about a mountain. And a morally bankrupt government. And a mining company that can’t see that exploitative industries belong to the past. And it’s about a beautiful, strong group of people who believe in a future where humankind and the earth live in harmony.Anti mining protesters occupy rig on mountain

What happened?

Two weeks ago our friends spotted a drilling rig up on the beautiful Mount Karangahake, a place so precious it has been given special protection by the government. We live right at the foot of this mountain- a mountain that made some people alot of money from the gold in its guts a long, long time ago. So the gold mining companies are always sniffing around. (I give a lot of context, and show off my little cross stich protest here in this post.) We made some calls, took a hike and confirmed that yes, it was a drilling rig, it was Newcrest Mining Ltd, prospecting for gold 100 metres away from conservation land.

We organised a bunch of trips up there. It is powerful, walking 2.5 hours through the forest to a protest at a drilling rig. You get the space to consider, how much does this rig matter? How far am I willing to go?

How much does it matter?

The rig is on a narrow bit of land that makes up a really important ecological corridor, connected Mount Karangahake to the rest of the Kamai Ranges. This drilling rig, although on private property, is more then welcome to dig down, change direction and then go right into the mountain itself.

Ecologically, this rig matters alot.Anti mining protesters occupy rig on mountain

The big picture too is that our government has actually sold the full mining rights for Mount Karangahake to another gold mining company – and this company is just awaiting official approval for their traffic management plan for their drilling this conservation land. Not kidding.

It belays the disturbing tendency of this government to chose business over sustainability. (I’d say “profit” but the fact is that very little comes into NZ by way of these industries- profit is exported and most jobs, apart from the most temporary and low paid, are given to experts from overseas.) It is about this government saying one thing and doing another. it is about this government acting utterly undemocratically.

So on a political level, this whole drilling around Karangahake matters alot.

Since the drilling began two weeks ago we’ve been hearing it night and day, feeling its vibrations. The day the drilling began all the ruru (little native owls, often called morepork) stopped singing and began to screech. They screeched for a few days, and then they went silent. We used to lie in bed listening to the sound of the ruru calling to each other. We haven’t heard their song since the day the drilling began.

We moved to this place so we would be surrounded by conservation land, so we could be amongst the beautiful native birds and wildlife. And gold mining, despite their talk of rehabilitation, has a devastating impact on the natural environment.

So, you know what? On a personal level, it matters alot.Anti mining protesters occupy rig on mountain

It matters enough to join with a crowd of bravehearts and sit it out in the wind and the hail and see them all trespassed and moved off the mountain. It matters enough to stay, when the police ask me to come down.

So on Sunday 25 people headed up the mountain together. We took wool and yarnbombed the rig. We sang and huddled against the wind. We took samples of the sludge dripping down the bank so we could test to see if they were leaking toxins into the earth. When the hail began some made their way down the mountain. Others stepped inside the rig and we awaited the police together. The police arrived. The drilling had been stopped for three hours. After being issued trespass notices, and court summons, the group had to leave the mountain.

I was still on top of the rig and felt so strongly that I didn’t want to move. I wanted to stay and bear witness to the hopelessness of destroying something so precious, something given to us to preserve.

The cops told me to come down, I refused and then my phone rang and it was NewstalkZB wanting a live interview for radio, so I tried to make as much sense as I could about the ecological corridor as the police officers climbed up the rig and began to hustle me down. One of them grabbed my phone and said Thank you for your call before he put it in his pocket. Good manners right there.

I was pretty emotional. I wanted to stay. I wanted to stick by the mountain, just for one more minute. They were some of the most intense, vulnerable, determined minutes of my life.

The drill workers were laughing and yelling and taking videos of my undignified descent so I sat down stubbornly in the mud.

Alas, police officers have their way of getting you into their car. (After pulling me off the rig the Police Officers, like so many of that trade, were awesome. They were kind and did their job well, they even seemed, dare I say it, supportive.)

We went to the police station for finger prints and a mugshot. It’s not really a process meant to make you feel human.

Tomorrow I’m in court for wilful trespass and resisting arrest.

I don’t want a clap. (Just chocolate in the post please)

Some of my heros are those who have embraced civil disobedience in the name of environmental and social justice. (I admire lots of non felons too)

Now I wonder if perhaps most people would be willing to risk arrest if they felt two things come together – anger or concern about something and a belief that you could bring change with a certain action.

What a great joy though! You don’t have to get arrested! You can simply head here and check out the Facebook page, share a few links and sign our petition:

Protect Karangahake on Facebook

Sign the petition to help protect the Karangahake Gorge from mining

So yeah. Arrested, hey? There’s a first time for everything…

Activism

This Update Is Very Important 

17 May, 2016

This time last week I was up the mountain with Tim and the girls and some other earth lovers, stopping a drilling rig prospecting for gold on the edge of Conservation land. I wrote about them trying to mine the mountain a couple of weeks ago, and a few days after that some friends spotted the rig high on a ridge over the river from us. (There is a time for writing and a time for civil disobedience.)
It’s a five hour return trip, so it’s a leg aching protest but there is something powerful in walking through the forest we are trying to protect. By the time you arrive at the rig you feel like the mountain is urging you on, strengthening your bones to stop the mining, whatever it takes. 

  
(Protect Karangahake is on Facebook if you want more info on those efforts) 

Right now I’m writing from a bus on the wild West coast of NZ. Our cups are all full to the brim after four days at the Autumn Unschooling Camp and we are having a bit of a holiday – it’s felt flat out for months now. 
We are parked up in a village with a few other families on the road in buses, unschooling with their kids. Lots of different ways of doing life, hey? Don’t believe any one who tells you contentment is only found in jobs and a mortgage… (Brick walls – so overrated hehe.)

We’ve still got a few basic amenities missing at our place, heating, hot water etc but we’re working on it. We do have a grand deck so at least we have an island floating on the mud that surrounds us. April has been a forgiving month of weather after rain-every-day March. We’ve had sun and warmth and we’ve felt so so so happy in our palatial tent at the foot of the mountain. The family we share the land with have fully moved in now and we are loving it, making plans for the farm and having a lot of fun together (although this fun pales in comparison to the fun our kids have as they spend hours on mud missions/ hanging upside down as Vampire Bats in their collective imagination…)

Do any of you get The Green Parent magazine? I’m stoked to tell you that I have a new column in there – each season I will be telling some stories about our off the grid lives here. I’ve always loved The Green Parent, in fact I did my apprenticeship in Attachment Parenting in the online GP discussion forums (or so it seems- I asked those good folks about three questions a day when I first became a mama) and it feels like a real *stars align* thing to be a part of that team. 

For a few days now I’ve had a chant (or something) floating around in my mind. I think it was spurred by a Momastry post- about how every day as you go about your life people will be calling “this is important!” “THIS is important” “look! This is important!” And you need to put your hand over your heart and say “no, THIS is important”… 
I thought it was totally lovely but a little bit of me did go “Oh, yikes, I am one of those people saying HEY LOOK IMPORTANT THING HERE!” All my life I’ve been one of those people.

But, thinking on it, we don’t need LESS people saying “This is important!” because there are lots of important things and all those people pointing out the important things are simply inviting others to join them in stuff that will often bring joy, peace, the privilege of knowledge/ changing someone’s life/ restoring dignity/ protecting the earth – all good things. 

What we need is MORE people putting their hand over their heart and following the lead in there. 

So the saying that has been tripping over my mind and laying itself down, draping itself over all the small actions of my day has been:

Pay attention and your heart will show you what is important. 

I’m so often away with the fairies, in one place with my head and another with my hands. Thinking about last year, next weekend, what I felt when this happened that time when I was 19 and how much stock I have left for tonight’s soup. 

More and more I’m trying to be faithful to each moment as it happens, to really be there in each now, to pay attention with my whole body and mind. I reckon that if I make a habit of this,  when it comes to making decisions about how much energy to give to each important thing, the way will be clear. When I am figuring out how many times to climb the mountain to stop the drilling, and exactly how much mischief to cause while up there, I will just know

So yay, for important things (mundane important things and adrenalin spiking important things) and hearts that can so clearly urge us into the right way.

Back soon with another Really Important Thing!

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.