DIY Peg Wonderwoman (because children need more female superheros)

I was putting together some materials into a jar for a little friend’s fifth birthday- it was to be a DIY Peg Doll. “Perhaps I’ll make it a DIY Peg Fairy Doll, or a DIY Peg Ballerina” I contemplated… followed immediately by “WHAT KIND OF FEMINIST AM I?!”

She shall be a SUPERHERO, my better self decreed. Because, yes, those pointy pins do naturally evoke pirouetting ballerinas and flying fairies, but they are also, clearly, the strong, mighty legs of a Wonderwoman – and I bet most five year old girls have quite enough fairies and princesses in their lives.DIY Superhero Peg Doll

I put in some fabrics and buttons and bottle tops and also a glow stick to snap (her magical sword, obviously.) I also drew up an Instruction sheet and folded that in and presented it in a nice little jar.DIY Superhero Peg Doll

Do I genuinely believe fairies and ballerinas and princesses are against equal rights for women? No. I like ‘em. Ramona spends most of each day as the “Pirate Princess” and I happily don a crown alongside her. I *do* think boys and girls will benefit however from a wider range of female characters in their lives. I *do* think that many toys are very limiting and offer only stereotyped versions of a female.

I welcome Legos decision to creative a female scientist. And I was happy to transform my peg into Wonderwoman, because if we want our girls to set their sights on being the head of CERN or Rescuing the World wearing Pants and a Cape these figures need to EXIST to them when they are small. They need to be able to touch and feel and play with them.

Behold! Peggy the Wonderwoman is here to save the day!

(She will begin by taking on that sexist Murdoch alongside the No More Page 3 campaign. Hehehe.)

Posted in Feminism | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Emotional Memory – explaining a child’s and a parent’s raw reactions

A few months ago, one of our last days in UK, the four of us rocked up to a park, eager to get some air after being stuck in a bit of gnarly traffic. It was a crazy windy day, perfect for kite flying. As we unfolded our kite our three year old daughter began to scream. She threw herself on the floor, thrashing about, her face purple, her arms and legs crashing onto the muddy grass. “PUT THE KITE AWAY” she screamed. “PUT IT AWAY AWAY AWAY AWAY” through heaving sobs.

We were astonished! We were at the park, one of her favourite places. And I was really excited about flying the kite. I’d been belting out Mary Poppins’ “Let’s go fly a kite! Up to the highest heights! LALALALALALALAAAAA!” all the way through the London traffic, to my whole family’s obvious delight.

We validated her rage and distress and then we, a bit reluctantly, folded the kite back up and put it away.

She calmed down, crying quietly. Once the kite was back in the van she cheered up and we got back to the important task of chasing each other around trees.

As I ran through the wild winds contemplating Ramona’s meltdown I was struck by the fact that the very last time the kite had been played with Tim had broken his ankle. It had gotten caught in a tree and as Tim leapt from the branch after untangling it, he fractured his bone. One of the kids in the garden had come to get me and as I ran out I just saw Tim flat on his back with pain – a rare, rare sight. Ramona was just standing there, flummoxed by her indestructible dad on the ground.

For Ramona, the kite holds a memory of her dad being hurt, disappearing into A and E for several hours and then hobbling about in a cast for a few weeks. Of course she didn’t want the kite out! Of course her way to communicate the trauma she felt was through an epic meltdown!

It is not often that our children’s big emotions can be so directly traced to a past memory, but over the last week I have become convinced that this possibly explains quite a few of the most random tantrums. Emotional Memory - explaining a parent's and a child's raw emotions
(Photos from before the kitegate!)

Emotional Memory in Children

Robin Grille is an author and psychologist with over 25 years experience and he spoke convincingly last week of the power of emotional memory. Our bodies and minds can hold on to trauma from many years ago and, without us even being able to recall the incident, we can have a huge reaction when something stirs that body memory within us. Cognitive neuroscientists have discovered that we have body memories even from birth, and it is possible that some of the intense emotions children experience could be linked to their entry into the world.

Sometimes it seems as if “tantrums” (that word seems quite disrespectful in light of all of this, eh?) are triggered by the most trivial, insignificant thing (i.e the Reasons my Son Is Crying meme) when there is a good chance the trivial thing has triggered a body memory of something big.

Of course, I also reckon some children are simply pissed off a lot of the time because they have so little say over their lives.

Emotional Memory for Parents
Traumatic memories of childhood also stay with us and inform our parenting. Do you ever find your self having a quite irrational, emotional response to your child’s behaviour? You find yourself triggered by their meltdowns, or mess, or their lack of appreciation? It is possible that that is because of memories of your own childhood are brought to the surface by your child.

During one seminar last week – “When Parent’s were children” – Robin had us all close our eyes and focus on the behaviour in our child that “triggers” us. We then imagined ourselves at that age and dwelt on what was going on for us at that time. It was incredible how, with a bit of help, we were able to see how much our own childhood impacts our parenting.

If we want to support our children through their own emotions, without our own baggage getting in the way, we need to take a look inside and find some healing for any childhood trauma we are carrying.

As Robin put it, we need to look out with one eye and in with the other.

There is also a possibility that we can’t cope with our child’s emotions because we are unsupported.
If I was unsupported as a parent I could easily have looked at Ramona’s kite-triggered meltdown in the park and taken a picture and sent it into Reasons My Son is Crying with the tag “We got the kite out at the park.”

We need to try and find a small tribe of parents who understand and can hold our hand through tricky spots. (Perhaps that it what the people involved in that meme are trying to do – but I’d argue it is very much at the expense of their children’s dignity.)Emotional Memory and a child's tantrums

Responding to a possible emotional memory

So, the next time your child goes for the nuclear reaction, welcome it (they are possibly working through past pain) and validate it (“You feel so angry, it is okay to feel angry.”) and give some space for your own feelings (“Is this bringing anything up?”) and find some support (be it a whisper in your friend’s ear “Eeek, this is a bit embarrassing but my child really needs me right now!” or a respectful recount of the incidence in a private Facebook forum – do you have one of these? I think they are very useful.)

I think awareness about the concept of “emotional memory” could be an incredible tool in enabling us to support our children through their emotional explosiveness and in stopping the baton of childhood trauma being passed from one generation to the next.

I’m fairly sure that experience with the kite in the park, as we held Ramona through her trauma, had a sort of healing effect on her. I hope so – we are going to a kite festival in a couple of weeks so we are going to find out! *nervous face*

(Mind you, me being unable to to refrain from skipping around the crowds singing Mary Poppins might set her up with another, altogether more traumatic, Emotional Memory.)

PS Come and connect with us on Facebook for more peaceful parenting and thrift blogging & discussion!

Posted in Attachment parenting, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bitesize Inspiration for Peaceful Parenting

Friends, things are utterly bonkers about this place. Next week parenting author and speaker, Robin Grille, is coming to town and I am hosting FOUR events for parents, speakers and policymakers. I am currently up to my eyeballs in the hiring of table clothes and flower arrangements. (It is these silly, mundane tasks that I never think of until days before and they, well, they do mine headeth in.)

In an effort to inspire my “own self” (as Ramona says) I have dug out some of my absolute favourite quotes from Robin’s book, Parenting for a Peaceful World.

The organic basis of any individual’s will power comes from having been respectfully allowed, in these early years, one’s own rhythm around vital bodily functions such as toileting, feeding and sleeping. If the child is not excessively controlled around these functions, a strong sense of autonomy will be rooted in a healthy trust of her own body and internal biological rhythms.

peaceful parenting quote

This image is from Pennie Brownlee’s incredible Facebook page, Dance with me in the heart.

Might we, as parents, wonder at the astonishing emotional potency of our children — something that for most of us has been buried long ago. When a child defies us, resists and protests, she needs to be given some space to do so. Her self-confidence depends on being allowed this strength. She doesn’t need parental capitulation, just her freedom to express her feelings, and to be heard. When the focus is on listening and empathy, neither parent nor child need be the victor.

Peaceful Parenting Quote

The wellbeing of our own children can only be secured when the wellbeing of all other peoples’ children is also secure.

Peaceful Parenting quotes

World peace is not only an entirely attainable goal, it is a modest one. The conditions that would bring it about require but a small fraction of the effort and expense we devote to fighting wars and fighting crime. A continued social evolution is quite possible, but it depends entirely on our collected efforts to keep improving the emotional lives of children. Our commitment to children’s emotional health will ensure our rapid evolution toward a peaceful, just, sustainable and enjoyable existence for all of humanity.

What an awesome collection of quotes to get you through these tired old days of parenting the whole wide world, eh?!!

You can probably see now why I am so STOKED to be hosting these events. Hoorah! If you are in New Zealand it isn’t too late to come along to one of these events – see the listings here-  and please spread the word! 

Posted in Activism, Attachment parenting, Parenting | 2 Comments

Some beautiful poetry on mothering & breastfeeding (and a giveaway)

I’ve sort of given up on pithy titles for my posts, can you tell? After a gnarly couple of posts on the blog (with some incredible discussion in the comments – do read them! And thank you for joining in with such honesty and with such open hearts…) I felt like today would be a perfect day for four beautiful poems on mothering and womanhood. They are penned by the brilliant poet Cathy Bryant in her new book Look At All the Women. There are poems on love to make you fall in love again, funny ones (Wonder Woman hitting menopause made me laugh out loud) and stirring, political ones (she takes on the Bedroom Tax and climate change in one chapter.)  I was always going to be drawn to the poetry on breastfeeding though, eh?

At Last
She feeds her baby
and it is the first loving touch
she has ever felt
in her bruised and battered life.
She strengthens and nourishes
her little one,
and introduces him to love and trust
and he does the same for her.
He thrives, and so does she,
for the first time;
for the first time, and forever.

Poetry on motherhood

Unbreakable
Hard to believe now
that we are such separate beings —
you a great strapping
toddler of three, all-knowing,
I a hopeful extemporising
mother.
Thankfully, when you were born
and we parted for the first time,
we kept that close touch.
Feeding fed us both
with love and care
and slowly, only when ready,
you drew away to other
sources of nourishment.
But the everyday miracle
is still there in my memory
of the closeness between us
and of us and in us
and the sweetest, most gentle
bonds are unbreakable.

Poetry on Motherhood

Child and the Future
Little one, your hurts, though deep, are fleeting.
You always hope for better, tomorrow.
Not like me, too knowing, slug heart beating
while yours pounds swiftly in joy or sorrow.
As the doors of dreams slam finally shut
and knee grazes become heart’s dragging wounds,
one copes with haircut, pay cut, paper cut;
music no longer magic, just nice sounds.
It’s not all bad. You keep some illusions.
The drawn-out years become flashing seasons.
You can smile at popular delusions
and settle with your comfortable reasons.
Yet, child of mine, keep hope for better things.
Innocence should shape what the future brings.

Poetry on Motherhood

Look At All The Women
Look at that woman breastfeeding in public!
I think it’s absolutely disgusting

the way people give her a hard time.

Look at that lass in a minidress!
Whore! Slag! Bitch! Slut!

are just some of the things she’ll be called
by prejudiced strangers.

Look at that grandmother!
A lot of support is needed

from her for all her friends and relatives,
but she still finds time to lead a vibrant, balanced life.

Look at that campaigner!
She should get to the kitchen,

have a glass of wine and put her feet up,
later on, after standing up for us all.

Look at that woman writer!
It’ll be all flowers, dresses and chocolates

at her many literary award ceremonies.

Look at that sister!
She’s arguing with her siblings again

which, done with affection and a willingness
to compromise, is a really useful life skill.

Look at that stay-at-home mother!
She doesn’t work, of course

apart from 24 hours a day, seven days a week
doing one of the most important jobs there is.

Look at that woman scientist!
She’s outside her natural environment

analysing soil samples from the planet Mars.

Look at me!
Ill and unable to work again

but still making people laugh, and still giving
the best hugs in Manchester.

Look at that cleaner!
The lowest of the low

will sneer at her, as she makes our lives pleasanter
for a pittance.

Look at that daughter!
Disappointing, really

that she still has so much sexism to face.

Look at that lesbian!
You can tell what she needs

— equality, and recognition of
her voice that enriches us all.

Look at that schoolgirl!
They shouldn’t be educated

differently from boys.

Look at all the women!

What a waste of time

life would be without them.

***GIVEAWAY***
The publishers, Mother’s Milk Books, would like to send a paperback version of Look At All The Women to a reader somewhere in the world. Simply leave a comment to be entered. I’ll draw the winner of the giveaway at random at 9pm June 9th. I’ll redraw two days later if I don’t get a response to my email. 

Posted in Parenting, Reviews & sponsored posts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

A day in the life of a family challenging adultism

WOW. So I wasn’t expecting THAT!

Yesterday I wrote a post, Could adultism be the concept that transforms relationships between adults and children?

And it appears I left many readers behind. Across Twitter, in the comments, and on Facebook, people were just like “Wha-at?!” People didn’t get it.

I thought it was going to be one of those “lightbulb” posts – where readers go “Aha! Yes! We must extend our love of fairness to our children!” If anything it was a post that threw people into darkness.

And then, this morning I remembered how I felt when I first read about these ideas. The idea that a child should be respected, allowed autonomy, choice and rights. I can remember being at a party and describing to my friend “I feel nervous…  like I am entering a rabbit hole!” I felt like this idea would change our whole life.

And in some ways it has. And in some ways it hasn’t.

I wonder if it will be helpful to go through an average day of ours. To show how we try and interact and respond in certain circumstances. Because I am not sure our day will look entirely different to yours. (Or maybe it will.) The biggest difference is probably the amount of dialogue and the amount of time afforded it.

So here it is, A day in the life of a rights-respecting/ uschooling/ adultism aware family!

Before we begin I need to say how NEW I am to all of this, months in, really. And I still have a real struggle with some areas – I default on control, for example, when it comes to TV. However, I am learning, with my children… It is slow but everyday we are asking questions and discussing and granting more freedom…

7:30 am We wake up, bundle together for morning cuddles.

7:40 am “Can I watch a movie?” Ramona’s request comes earlier than normal as she has spied me sneaking away to check my blog comments. So often she is prompted to watch movies only when spotting the lap top and ipad. I am reminded how one of the crucial ideas for this whole thing is MODELLING our values. If I want her to value life away from a screen I need to model it. But then, it kind of IS my job and passion. But then it is HER passion. But what about how manipulative movies are, how they lump emotions on to people, how they are like the ultimate school. But Ramona might become the queen of code and write world-changing programs one day! And thus begins my first internal monologue about control…

8:00 am The battery on the ipad runs out after only 20 mins of movie watching. Ramona suggests she watches it once it has charged again.  (Having only solar energy imposes natural limits that Ramona finds really easy to accept.)

The morning passes in porridge eating, bumbling about.

11:00 am I had been working on the lap top while Juno (1) has a snooze but I know Ramona and Tim will be back from a trip soon so I pack up and head outside to the mandarin orchard. If I want my children to love the outdoors then I need to improve my relationship with it. When they get home Ramona joins me and Juno and we eat mandarins and follow beetles and play Doctors and Nurses for aaaages.

At one stage Ramona looks through the window of our neighbour’s house (neighbours but they are also like family) and wants to go in. “I don’t think we should go in as they are not there and we need to be invited in.” I say. Ramona replies “But I can see the thing!” She dashes through their door and dashes straight back out with a toy she bought Juno from the charity shop. I consider how I would have gone in their house if there was something in there of mine that I needed and I am glad I didn’t “put my foot down!”

This kind of thing happens a fair bit. It seems a child has an irrational/ strange need or request but actually there is something important behind it, if we listen, or give them space to explore it.

12:00 pm – “I am a bit hungry shall we go in for lunch?” I ask. We start making our way to the house. I am glad I pre-empted my massive hunger pangs as this takes ages. Juno is learning to walk and wants to walk/ fall/ scramble/ crawl the whole way. It is really muddy and she is bare legged but I think she can have a bath in a bit so who cares. Juno pauses by the strawberry patch and reaches for an unripe strawberry. I find her a big juicy red one and pass it to her. (“I know all about ripe strawberries! Let me teach you!”) She takes a bite and discards it, reaching for another greenish- red one, enjoying it much more. It is like she is telling me that it is the foraging and eating that she enjoys and she knows what she likes, right?! We hang about the strawberry patch for a while.

12:45 pm Ramona want eggs for lunch so I crack them in a bowl. She wants to help so I set her up with the whisk and she whisks them. She loves to help so I make room as much as possible for that in our day.  She wants to cook them but I like my scrambled eggs cooked a certain way so I explain that I want to do it my way. (I’m not some kind of unschooling goddess, okay? I like my eggs creamy.)

Over lunch she wants to put her eggs in a tortilla so she does. She makes a messy egg tortilla present all over her bit of the table. She only eats half the tortilla and the chooks get the rest.

We have always been trusting and nonplussed about eating. I want every meal to be only pleasure for everyone, so no rules or coercion allowed! Just lots of yummy goodness and a nice bit of fried stuff too.

1:15 pm I have to head to town before 2pm so I start preparing the way! TIME is one of the biggest factors in addressing adultism, I think. We are so unprepared to give our children the time to choose their clothes, put their own shoes on, pack their rucksack, find a snack, climb into their car seat themselves (etc) that we do it all for them in order to get to the place we need to be on time. And all the while we are undermining their abilities and their desires to pick up the caterpillar they saw on the way to the car. Allowing a buffer of about 45 minutes means we can all get our needs met.

Me to Ramona: “Oh, you want to bring turtle?”
Me to Ramona: “Oh, you forgot pony, huh? Better grab him!”
Me to Juno: “Ah, you’re not ready to get in your seat yet?”
Me to Ramona: “Oh, those shoes are uncomfortable. Do you want me to grab your wellies?”
Me to both: “Oops, wait there a sec, forgot my wallet.”
(Sometimes I feel we impose higher expectations on our kids than ourselves!!)

Let’s go!

1:50 pm We are driving into town and I am thinking about all getting our needs met. Once again I turn to Non Violent Communication. NVC works perfectly with this parenting philosophy as, sure, Ramona has needs and wants that must be respected- but so does Juno and so do I and so does my husband. If it ever came to it, would we all stay home for the day so that my daughter could watch television? No. But then it has never come to it – we are nearly always able to come up with a solution together for getting all of our needs met. Ramona will often say “I’ll pause this and watch it later, yeah?”

2:00 pm Uh oh. I am in the gift shop buying a card for a new baby where there are a million precious things all balanced precariously on low shelves and Ramona wants to touch them all. I bend down and talk about how precious everything is and how I want everything in the shop to stay safe. Ramona gets more wild and wants to run around. It is in perfect syncronisation with my increased anxiety! I hold her hand firmly and we leave the shop while I explain to her about my worries. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done this. I wish I had talked to her sensibly before going in. Perhaps I wish I hadn’t even gone in. I guess I do sort of believe that I should only go to places where Ramona can be fully, uncompromisingly herself. More questions….!

Later on, I apologise to Ramona for pulling her out of the shop. “It IS your body, and no one should do things to other people’s bodies that aren’t wanted. I’m sorry.” Sometimes I make mistakes and instead of brushing them under the carpet (“she’s only three! She will forget!”) I apologise.

3:00 pm A cup of tea with a friend in a cafe. Juno wants to climb this wobbly thing. I kneel while she does it. After 10 minutes she does actually tumble off. It isn’t far but I consider the phrase “Better a broken bone than a broken spirit.” But I’m also blushing as I think most mums wouldn’t have let their baby climb. Mostly I try and keep an environment that is fully open to Juno to explore but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes I take swift action if it seems like something quite dangerous. For example the time she ate some berries and I didn’t know what they were. “Juno, I am going to reach into your mouth and take the berries out as I am worried they are dangerous.” The explanation took 2 seconds and then I got the berries out. Even a baby deserves an explanation when we are going to do something to them. We moved away from the berry patch.

3:30 pm “Ramona, shall we go to the loo together?” “No” I am fairly sure she needs a wee but hey, it is her body.

3:40 pm “Mum, I need the loo and I already leaked a bit.” Me: “Oh, I find it a bit frustrating that you did a wee in your pants as now I need to do more laundry!” I think being open with our own negative emotions is healthy as I wouldn’t want the children to think we have to put on a false happy, brave face for the world.

However, as I am putting her spare leggings on (we carry spares everywhere because I will never, ever force her to go to the loo – what does that tell her about people in power being able to do anything they want to her body?) I consider how just that very morning I had been running about, busy in the house, reluctant to interrupt my flow to go to the loo. Yes, my friends, I had leaked too. I wish I hadn’t told her I was annoyed about the leak.

Ramona doesn’t want to leave the cafe when I do. “I want to get home to make tea. When shall we go?” I ask. “In five.” “Okay.”

A day in the life of an unschooling/ child right's respecting family

Juno sits on the toy Ramona is playing with. Ramona shoves her over. “Ramona, I need Juno to be safe around you.” It’s pretty rare that Ramona gets physically agro, but it is one of my limits. I listen into arguments with my ears (not eyes, which can aggravate tension, I reckon) and if I think the kids are fairly matched and could have a little bit of a push and sort it themselves then I leave them to it. However, if it is unfairly matched or I see Ramona really getting enraged, I hover and speak to Ramona,  ”I can see you’re mad and it is okay to be angry but I’m not going to let you bite him.” It is Ramona’s right to express herself but it is every kid’s right to be safe.

5:00 pm Home again. “Can I watch a movie please, mum?” Ramona is so polite, and always asks all the time, even though we have never told her to. When it comes to manners I am CONVINCED we just need to model what we want to see in our kids. If we are kind to them, they will be kind to us. And then also, sometimes they will shout. Just like we do.

Ramona is SO EXCITED to find bits of Frozen on Youtube. Seeing her so absolutely stoked with life makes me want to cry a little bit. How I love this wild one.

Mind you, I am glad she has found Frozen and not some other Disney princess crap. I would actually ask her not to watch that, I’d say “Can you find something else as that princess is well annoying.” I am worried about her getting Battered Wife Syndrome as a result of the princess propaganda that is marching stridently into our lives.  This is not unschooling and is probably adultist. I have issues. But then again, I want to provide an environment that promotes freedom and I think that the limited gender roles of Princess world is entirely inhibiting. *Thus begins 50 millionth internal monologue of the day*

5:30 pm The internet isn’t working so Ramona wanders about and finds a tub of my bentonite clay. She opens it and a bit spills “Oh, sorry mum! I’ll get a cloth!”  I am surprised every time when she is all polite and respectful like this. I don’t know where she gets it from, Tim and I are sweary louts. Ha. Just kidding. I sort of think it is just a case of her speaking to us in the way that we speak to her.

5:40 pm Tea is cooking but Ramona finds the chocolate “OOH LOOK CHOCOLATE I’LL HAVE ONE BIT NOW AND THEN ANOTHER BIT FOR PUDDING” During tea we have a chat about how caffeine in chocolate can keep you awake. I think it is worthwhile chatting to kids about the realities of things and then letting them make up their own minds.

6:00 pm Ramona only eats the kale on her plate. YUM, MORE PIE FOR ME! Juno puts pumpkin in her ear, on her head and squashes it into her toes. I think this way of life is basically like Baby Led Weaning but for the whole of life. Provide a good environment/ plate of grub, trust them with the rest.

7:00 pm “OOH REMEMBER THE CHOCOLATE! WOO! I really want a bit that is bigger than me… but I’ll just have one bit.” Would I have stopped her if she wanted a bit bigger than her? Actually, yeah… maybe.  Because then she would be awake at 10pm and Tim and I would have to be awake with her, even though we go to sleep at 9:30pm and we’d probably be grumpy about it which wouldn’t be nice for Ramona. I would have said “I’m worried this will keep you awake, can we come up with a way that leaves us all happy?” And she would have broken off a bit and hidden it in a secret place for her to have for breakfast. (This happened a few months ago.) When it comes to food… me and Tim LOVE CHOCOLATE AND CRISPS. We don’t often have it about but when we do we eat it all the time and at any time of day or night. So, if it is good enough for us, why not her? Seriously, why not?
(It’s not obvious that I am just typing out loud, is it?! Ha.)

7:30 pm “It is quite cold, do you want a jumper on Ramona?” “No.” Okay. Juno plays with a biro, covering her arm in ink. Ramona has a bath and turns the taps on cold. Would other parents stop their kid running cold into their bath, do you think? Why bother stopping that? “It’s cold!” “Do you want to put more hot in?” “Yeah.”

Ramona wanders about naked in the cold house. I just don’t agree with making kids wear clothes if they don’t want to. What is the worst that can happen? *thinks* Pneumonia? Really?  A cold that they were going to get anyway? Possibly.

8:00 pm “Mum, I want to go to bed!” Ramona has always just asked to go to bed when she is tired – is it possibly because we have never enforced bed time? Funnily enough it is nearly always around 7:30pm these days – classic bed time!

Me: “Shall we put pyjamas on as I am worried it will get even colder in the night and they you will wake us up because you are cold?” Am I imposing my need to not wake up in the night an extra time on her and thwarting her will? Maybe. If Ramona doesn’t want to wear pyjamas, and it seems like a big, emotional issue for her then I will let it rest. But it is always worth expressing my needs because we can so often come up with the answer to both, together.

“I want to wear my superhero suit to bed.”

“Okay.”

And thus ends the day of a family living in the middle ground between neglect and control!

Yes, there is a lot of internal monologue and daily discussions with my husband. There are mistakes, where we have moved closer to neglect and close to control at times.  Each day we are trying to find a better balance.  (Read this on finding that balance!)

I believe this journey we are on is an important one. I believe it is the one most likely to further social justice in the world, and the one most likely to result in a respectful child. (Read this lovely account of a mum to a teenager who raised her son this way.)

Now tell me- have I gone so far down the rabbit hole that I’m talking nonsense to you? Or is this not so different from the way you do things?

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , | 42 Comments

Could the concept of “adultism” transform relationships between adults and children?

“Isms” are rare in my circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Nearly everyone I know is involved in a journey of eradicating any sexism, racism or other prejudice in their lives. We are all aware that NO ONE should be treated worse because they are different.

Apart from children.

They are different and they are treated poorly because of it.

20140514-121657.jpg

Consider how happily we humiliate children in public- forcing them to say “please” and “thank you” before giving them the item they want.

We treat their bodies like our property – taking stuff out of their hands without invitation, moving them aside without an “Excuse me”, forcing clothes on them.

We talk about children while they are right there “How old is she?” “Is she a good girl?”

We fail to take their conversation seriously – a toddler will be explaining something, or telling a story, and so often, instead of listening and responding sensibly, we chuckle, and interrupt with “Hehe, you are TOO CUTE!” And we catch other adult’s eyes to laugh at this funny little thing’s wild story of a broken leg and a horse called Shakira.

We don’t trust a child’s judgement- frequently over ruling their own ideas and solutions, often just with one word “No” or four words, “Because I said so!”

We question their feelings – “You’re not scared” and we tell them to stop feeling them “Don’t be sad!” in a way that I have never heard one adult say to another.

We give children no say in their activities and force them to tug along with out agenda “Right, time to go!” or “You don’t want that mobile phone, here have this maraca instead!”

We tell children not to listen to their own bodies, but to trust US because we ACTUALLY know what they’re bodies are saying “You haven’t eaten enough! You can’t possible be full!” Or “Come on, it is 8pm you must be tired.” Or “It is freezing! You must keep your jumper on!”

There are many more ways we oppress children because of their age- I could go on and on; they are tripping out of my typing fingers because I know them too well. I am guilty of at least a couple of these every single day.

And all of these examples, if we were to change “child” to “woman” or “disabled person” would be completely and utterly OUTRAGEOUS. But we feel free to treat children this way simply because they are young and often don’t have the words to protest. (Or they do protest and we call it a tantrum.)

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Adultism, as defined by Dr Checkoway is “…all of the behaviors and attitudes that flow from the assumption that adults are better than young people, and are entitled to act upon young people in many ways without their agreement.”

I believe that awareness is the first, crucial step towards change. It was reading Parenting for Social Change by Teresa Brett and Escape from Childhood by John Holt that opened my eyes to the way I was allowing a corrupt power relationship to perpetuate injustice in my own home. Despite being utterly committed to a fair world, free from any “isms” I was allowing this massive “ism” to happen under my own roof.

(I’m not sure how served we are by the term “adultism” as opposed to “ageism” which seems a more technically accurate term, and one that already has some traction due to older generation having their rights overlooked. It is possible that ageism, in relation to young people, might be a more palatable phrase.)

Gosh, this is all sounding a bit heavy, isn’t it? I have woken up all fired up about it this morning!

I also feel really positive though as awareness is happening, all over the world. Just as so many people in the world are challenging, and defeating, racism and sexism, I believe we are beginning the journey to challenging ageism against young people.

One day childhood will be experienced differently- we will treat children with respect and they will be free to enjoy their full plethora of rights.

What do YOU think? 

Read more about adultism in this amazing article by Teresa Brett.

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A Poo in a Shoe: Elimination Communication with a One Year Old

One morning last week as Juno march-crawled past me (it is technically a crawl but it evokes the resolute marching of an army of fearless soldiers) I spied a bit of tell-tale poo on her little bare bottom.  I scanned the space around me but couldn’t spot a turd anywhere, I looked under her rocking horse (“Going on a poo hunt!”) and, with dread, on the sofa. No poo. Hmm. I had the quick senseless conversation only a pre-coffee mind can have with itself about Ghost Poos and then gave up looking.

About an hour later Tim bent down to put on his shoes and WOAH THERE! He got a bit of a fright because that missing poo? Well, that poo was in Tim’s shoe.  TIM’S SHOE!

Juno is one and we have been doing Elimination Communication (EC) since birth. Some people call it Nappy Free (I do too sometimes as EC is technically correct but creates much more puzzlement) but Juno has worn a nappy a fair bit more than Ramona. We’ve been travelling for so much of her life and when we have been in friend’s houses or in the car seat we have put a nappy on her. Elimination Communication  One Year Old

In other ways Juno’s EC story is different too.

By this time with Ramona we were able to say that we catch all poos in the potty and 9/10 wees. This is SO not the case with Juno. We have hardly any idea how many wees we catch – sometimes as little as 2 a day (normally the after sleep ones which are pretty much guaranteed.) And with poos, well Juno really LOVES to poo standing up. I guess it is the ergonomically superior way to do your business. But does make this EC malarkey a bit trickier!

We have also been on a bit of a journey with Juno on the body autonomy of a baby. With Ramona I grew in understanding of how important autonomy is to children – I began giving her every chance to be in control of what happens to her own body. It took a workshop from the magnificent Pennie Brownlee who talks on the Pikler Institute to really realise that this autonomy begins with a newborn. An example used is with nappy changes – the Pikler movement shows that it is possible to ask a newborn permission to change her nappy, and by the time they are toddling, to wait for them to be ready before changing their nappy. The nappy change can be a beautiful example of respect and connection, and should begin at birth!

This really resonated with me as EC is really about believing that babies can communicate their needs to eliminate from birth and Pikler insists they can communicate their readiness for a change.

So we are far more hands off with Juno – if we see she needs to go we always offer the potty but we don’t insist up on it-  unlike with Ramona where we would sing and dance to keep her on there! We feel it is Juno’s right to chose where she wants to go, and in time, we know she will chose the toilet or potty. Elimination Communication

Juno has been SO conscious of doing her poos and wees- I think spending enormous amounts of time without a nappy on is key for this. She has responded to key words for months and months and has been climbing on the potty to do her business (every so often) since ten months old.  She also helps wipe up her own wee (by choice, not in an angry “You did it, you clean it!” kind of a way!)- and if Juno does a wee with her nappy on she brushes the floor in front of her as if to say “Look, it isn’t THERE?!”

We are miles more relaxed with EC this time round (hey, with EVERY PARENTY THING second time, eh?)

I think with Ramona we REALLY wanted it to “work” so that people didn’t think we were completely bonkers doing it. Where as with Juno we KNOW it works (they do communicate their needs from birth, and they can be in normal underwear from a very early age) so feel less pressure to prove it and can just enjoy all the benefits of it. Such as ease of pooing for the baby (I think some baby angst is to do with not being able to find the best position for pooing) and way less pooey nappies and much more awareness of bodily functions.

We are really lucky to live largely in an environment that is really supportive of natural parenting things like this and I think this really helps. We can just roll with it and we don’t feel any need to follow up every missed wee with an apology and excuse “So sorry! We do normally catch all her water works!”

It makes me wish a little for a much more supportive society for this kind of thing. Where bare bums weren’t gasped at with disgust and where even the thought of baby wee is terrifying. (Surely, SURELY, giving a baby a chance to wee by a bush is the same as a dog doing a wee wherever it likes in public?)

I do feel that more people are getting on board with the EC thing. Over a couple of years the London group I used to be a part of grew tripled in size and I’ve met a few women already in NZ who do it.

I think as more parents experiment with nappy free time we will become much less afraid of our babies BUTT CRACKS (as Ramona insists on calling bottoms) and much more used to the odd poo in a shoe!

(Hehe, not really, I do see that that isn’t a very compelling or ambitious vision for society.)

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