Browsing Tag

parents

Parenting

Avocados get pointed: On parents and making judgements

3 July, 2013

Not me at you, reader. I love you. I’d never point anything at you let alone an avocado.

But you know who I pointed my avocado at recently? The mum whose little girl was having a whale of a time on the swings at the park who got so annoyed with the kiddo’s wriggling and giggling that she yelled “IF YOU DON’T STOP PLAYING GAMES WE’RE GOING HOME!”. I chuckled mirthfully (“Games! At the park! Ha!”) then pointed my avocado.

Huh? You are going to make me explain all these references to my berry gesturing? (It’s true- an avocado is a berry. The Internet: blowing your mind since sometime in the nineties.)

This brilliant article Glennon Melton wrote on judgemental parents went viral on Monday and it is pretty clear that “avocado pointing” is now the new “judging.” I loved the article, it made me laugh and love wise dads and the world. I found it liberating- YES! It’s true! Thinking everyone is judging you IS meglomaniacal! Of course they aren’t!

I moved around on a Cloud of Feel Good for a few hours, floating right along to the park where I heard the mum and daughter interaction on the swing and fell off into a Puddle of Judge.

My thoughts- along the lines of “Blimey, if you can’t play games at the park where can you?! Poor kid, I wonder if she just gets bawled out constantly”- were uninvited and I worked hard to replace them with more gracious ones such as “I bet that mother’s having a tough day.” and “Ha, it is a bit like that time yesterday when Ramona wanted to dawdle home, and I, er, REALLY didn’t”.

But you know what? I did judge, and I do judge and I KNOW people judge me. Hello, I pull out some of the most strange parenting practices ever. People are DEFINITELY rolling their eyes and thinking I’m crackerjacks.

Hey, here’s a picture of last night’s delicious walk around the park. People probably weren’t judging me then. If they noticed us and DID judge it was a good kind of judgeyness. We were playing in the meadows, picking daisys, having fun.  Judgemental Parents

And then this happened:

pebble up nose

A sharp edged, little stone, the perfect fit for Ramona’s nostril.

And sure as the sun rises people were thinking what in the name is that mum doing to that child at a time WELL past bedtime, binding her hands tight, lying her down on that bench, probing around in her nose while that poor, POOR, toddler weeps and wails?!

And if they weren’t judging me then, well, they would if they had heard what I said a few moments earlier when Ramona showed me the pebble and showed me how perfectly it fitted. I couldn’t help myself, I was in a fabulous mood, high on life, I jovially exclaimed “Wahey, it’s the perfect fit!”  And in it went.

Right in, poked sooo far up. Truly, the perfect fit.

(Thank goodness for our wonderful friend who lives around the corner who is a paediatric A and E nurse. She showed us the Mothers Kiss – get that trick under your belt, parents.  Yes. The name is a little sexist. )

Sometimes we make mistakes. We have hard, tired days. We have days when we are rubbish and sweary.

Sometimes we make decisions that others don’t choose to make. People have different preferences and values and circumstances that require another choice.

Sometimes we live in a way that provokes curiousity and comment. Parenting or lifestyles that seem strange or just too different for people to handle.

All of these things do mean that people will judge. They’ll see something, weigh it up, and make a call about how they feel about it.

Of course, it’d be amazing if every initial judgement was followed up with an internal discussion about how that person is just trying their very best. We should all try and do that, as the world would be more beautiful.

Why do I feel the need to write this post? To encourage others to step off the cloud of Feel Good? I guess for two reasons;

The world probably does feel less heavy if you just pretend people aren’t judging. But it’s a much deeper liberation if you can acknowledge that you might be getting judged and still feel okay about your decisions.  When it comes to parenting, people need to think about what path is right for their family, and deliberately go for it, and be proud of it, and find a community of other’s doing it that way who can support you when criticism strikes. When you get a feeling of being judged,  those raised eyebrows or brazen remarks, you can stand tall knowing you’ve made the choices best for you.

Then I also think that the process of judging helps us figure all of that stuff out. Finding someone’s response to something weird has made me think about what I would do in that situation, and I’ve been ready for it. It’s also helped me understand my own instincts and value certain choices. And, you know what, conversations with people that have begun as a “I wouldn’t do THAT” have led me to come round to their way a little, to concede and feel okay about trying something out. (An example of this for me involves the Pikler/ RIE Freedom of Movement for babies thing- being so on board with The Continuum Concept I couldn’t understand the need to keep putting babies flat on their backs- they should be 100% of the time tucked up with their mamas! Now Juno has a little bit of time lying down, with me right there, and quite enjoys it. Yesterday she even went to sleep like it! YEAH I KNOW! Without a mammary gland IN SIGHT!)

So. Point your avo at me. I can handle it. I’ve made my bed and I’m lying in it. (Not literally. But crumbs, it is where I want to be right now. I love my bed.)   And if this helps you figure out your own way then grand. And if you can learn from my errors – you all know EXACTLY how not to respond when your kid is holding a tiny object up to their nostril hey?- then perfect.

Would love, really would love,  to hear your thoughts….

PS Laters Google Reader! You can now follow on Blog Lovin or you can also enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Activism

Activist Parenthood- discovering hope and practicing peace

5 February, 2013

I took Ramona on her first protest march when she was a couple of months old. It was a rally calling for alternatives to the proposed government cuts.

She was snuggled up in the sling, complete with a sign that said “These cuts suck!” (Get it? Hehe.) Despite being behind a huge brass band from one of the Unions who honkytonked the whole way round the route Ramona managed to sleep through the nearly the whole thing!

I really believe that marching, speaking out, writing letters and occupying can bring about change. In fact, I am fairly sure it is the only thing that ever has. The frustrating thing is that the change so rarely comes as an instant response, but often many years later, very slowly, as all these form of protest take on an accumulative effect. We are where we are now in this country – with equal opportunities for women, employee standards, child rights, only because there has always been a faction of society calling for a better, fairer world.

We held family fun days at Occupy with arts and crafts and  a bouncy castle

So, as an activist, it was inevitable I was going to be an activist mum…

I spent a good couple of months of my maternity leave at the Occupy protest at St Pauls cathedral. We cycled up almost every day and met a few other parents and tots there. We had a huge toy box and the kids would play and we would talk about the society we dreamed of, and felt was possible.

Ramona even learnt to walk in that beautiful space, lumbering towards the manky pigeons and attempting to ascend that huge staircase.

I am sure it was a place where all the kids learnt something. They learnt hope – that whole crowds believe in an alternative to injustice. They witnessed zeal – that some people are prepared to seem foolish in order to hound these ideals. They discovered diversity and democracy, as people clung to new systems of decision making. There was a joy there, a happiness that can only be found in collective vision chasing, and also a raw anger, a peaceful kind of hunger for something different.

The Kids corner at Occupy- Tots with a Cause teehee!

These are things that are so often present in activist spaces. I felt them intensely at Occupy but experience them also when sewing with the Craftivist Collective or campaigning with the IF movement against hunger. I choose to bring her along and have her involved in these things and I am sure this is all shaping Ramona’s view of the world, helping her sense of “Can Do” and hope.

Recently I have been captured by the idea of parenting as being a potential spot for social justice and world change in itself. That bringing children up gently and respectfully can have a HUMONGOUS impact on society and global systems. Robin Grille charts this in his fascinating book “Parenting for a Peaceful World” – revealing just how exactly the correlation between peaceful child nurturing and peaceful society is – and the reverse, that the bloodiest times in history sit perfectly next to our most violent parenting practices.

I’m convinced these days that every time I opt for love and freedom and respect with Ramona, I am also making a choice about the world I want to live in. I can nurture peace-lovers or war-mongers! Fortunately, I think we are moving towards a place where parents are increasingly allowing their children to bloom and grow in absolute love. Hooray!

Bringing up our kids can be so vital for the future of a fair and beautiful society. But it doesn’t need to be a burden, this idea.“Ah, maaan?! Now I need to try and not bring up a violent dictator as well as making sure she gets Five a Day?” I hope instead it can be liberating- the sense of immense value put on our day to day lives; we are doing a job equal to that of the Prime Minister. (It IS a shame that the only thanks we get are in the form of snotty-nosed snuggles and the only pay is in the form of raisins tucked in to our bras.)

I am heading off on to my second round of maternity leave in a few weeks, with a Spring baby due, and I’m looking forward to having time to devote to even more activisty things with the little ones, confident that they will be learning about justice and hope. But for each day I am not campaigning on something I will reassure myself that my peaceful parenting is equally as important. Now I just need to dot some placards and a honkytonk brass band around the house to keep me motivated… Parenthood and activism

Have you taken your kids on a protest? How do you feel about the potential of parenthood as activism?

PS I originally wrote this for Story of Mum, a creative online network who are focusing on activism this month- go check out their fabulousness.

PPS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Attachment parenting, Cosleeping, Parenting

Eight approaches for happier sleep

5 November, 2012

Yesterday morning Ramona woke up at 4:30, full of beans. She planted some kisses on our faces, did a morning fart, followed by a belly full of giggles, and began climbing all over the bed. “Awake! Me! Pojo??” Pojo is her word for porridge, she was ready for breakfast and up for the day.

Grumpy is not the word. I was mad all day. Mentally flipping the bird at every stupid email I received, I stomped around the office, grizzled under my breath my whole cycle home. I was reminded what it is like to be deeply unhappy with a child’s sleep patterns.

I spent many of Ramona’s first months feeling this way. She’d take forever to go to sleep at the sensible time of 7 pm and then wake at the crack of dawn. I disliked spending an hour doing a night time routine and getting her to sleep, bobbing up and down the stairs to her throughout the evening, and then peering out of the bed covers at the clock and seeing 6 am shining back at me just a few hours after I rolled under them.

It was only when Ramona was a year old that I realised I wanted to take a more relaxed, less structured approach to her sleep, and since then we have all been much happier. Of course, we still have the odd terrible night, an evening with a wired tot who won’t sleep, or a crack of dawn morning. But on the whole my mind is free of sleep anguish, and that deserves a celebratory doughnut.

I’d say adopting eight different approaches helped me feel much happier about our sleep situation.

  • I got the “sensible bedtime” idea out of my head. The most sensible bedtime for a child is when they are tired. Sometimes, due to a late start or long nap this is ten pm. Mostly for us it is somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30. It took me a while to get this, even 8:30 pm seemed outrageous to me, so I’d try and try and try to get Ramona in bed at The World Will Approve O Clock. Once I let go of this, our evenings got a whole load more relaxed.
  • I decided that beds were overrated. For a year, Ramona took her naps on me in the sling or on the sofa, but always began her night time sleep in bed. Once I realised she was often much happier falling to sleep at night time on the sofa I began to see the benefits. We’ll cuddle up amongst the cushions, then after she has drifted off, while my husband and I read or chat, we can put a film on, or continue the get-together with our friends. Because she is right with us she’ll rarely stir much and then I just take her to bed when we go.
  • We abandoned the routine. Sometimes the bath, songs, story schedule worked. Mostly though, Ramona hated the idea of going upstairs and leaving behind her crate of toys, the lovely people in the lounge and a kitchen of food. She’d be upset about being carted off somewhere else, or we’d end up doing story after story until she was ready to snuggle down. Not making such a palava of bedtime made the transition to sleep so much more natural
  • I watch her cues and set the scene. Sometimes Ramona will ask for “bed”, sometimes she’ll just ask for “mummy milk” (as opposed to “Daddy milk” which is what she she calls dairy! Mahaha…) or sometimes she may yawn, get a bit angsty. At this stage I will put the lamp on, quieten down the house and settle on the sofa with her. This transition is much easier for her mind to cope with!

  • I accepted that kids all have different sleep needs, and they are fairly good at meeting that need if we allow them. Ramona can rarely sleep more than 11 hours at night. If she goes to bed at 7 then that is a 6 am wake up call. ER, NO THANKS! Getting up at 8am makes us all happier but that does mean I have to accept that traditional bedtimes don’t suit us! She still naps for an hour, an hour and a half. But if she has a few short naps then she might go for a number 14 hour night sleep!! I just trust her in all of this and shrug off the concept of a 12 hour night.
  • I accepted our new normal. Once I got used to the idea that Ramona would continue to stir at night, and would continue to need me, my mind calmed down and my new state of contentment really helped! Instead of waking up and thinking “She woke 4 times and she is nearly two!!!” And being appalled at my poor parenting, I now simply recognise that she just has superior survival skills….because obviously, we are built to stir all night so we can respond to danger and stoke the cave fire! Also, perversely, the few times she has slept all night I’ve had a rubbish sleep due to a lack of lovely nursing hormones. Wrong, that is, I tell you!
  • I rejected the “creating good sleep habits” rhetoric. Mainstream parenting advice claims routines, sleeping through, self-soothing and sleeping in a separate space sets our children up for a lifetime of excellent sleep. Erm. There is an MAJOR flaw in this in that we have been repeating this record for decades and we are some of the worst sleepers in the world!!! Nearly 40% of us suffer from insomnia. Mainstream advice is clearly doing something wrong.
  • I embraced a “live intuitively” philosophy. I try as much as possible to let Ramona be self-directed, to eat when hungry, cuddle when she needs it, jump on the bed if she fancies it, and sleep when she is tired. I hope all of this stuff will allow her own gut to be the loudest voice when it comes to making important decisions, that she will be less reliant on the sways of peers and external evaluation. Learning to respond to her body and its need will surely give her a confidence and a wholeness that will give her a much needed resilience. Knowing that I may be suffering a little less undisturbed sleep than others for the big picture, the future well being of my daughter, makes it a tiny, insignificant suffering!

These ways aren’t for everyone, I know.  If you are content with the fixed way you do thing, please, don’t change a dot!!! But maybe some of you are like us, and do want to take a more abandoned approach to sleep and parenting, and I hope our story will encourage you to do that. For me, stumbling across other families that did this gave me the freedom I needed to parent this way boldly, and not secretly! I liked these two pages, especially…

This collection of quotes from homeschool families who just roll with it, sleepwise. 

Letting kids find their own sleep patterns

Finding a bit of freedom around this whole sleep situation has been a part of my attachment parenting journey. For me attachment parenting is all about choosing connection, over control.  I am down with boundaries- i.e, I wouldn’t give Ramona sweets before bedish time, or have a massively exciting game of tickles just as she began to yawn, but integral to my parenting is a relinquishment of my need for high control. Allowing Ramona a certain amount of autonomy is important to me, and these approaches to sleep extend that philosophy to her bedtime.

So… *asks timidly, trying to be brave* … what do you reckon?!