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Parenting

Don’t sweat the small stuff

I read a saying once that you should listen earnestly to anything your children tell you, no matter what, because if you don’t listen to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them it’s always been big stuff. In this world where there are so many dangers lurking around every corner, it resounded with me, because my children wanting to and being able to share every concern with me is definitely something I hope to achieve.

But this starts when they are young, and it’s hard to not sweat the small stuff. Perhaps understanding that to them it’s not so small will help us to understand next time. For example, while you may be worried about whether to take your toddler to the Dr because she’s had a snotty nose now for two weeks, or if you should phone insurance to lodge a report about the tree that fell in the heavy rain this past weekend, issues that seem big in your life, your toddler is trying to decide if she wants the Doc McStuffins mug or the Minnie Mouse mug, issues that seem big in her life. In the same vein, her choosing what top to wear to school is a big deal to her, even if you’re running late and she’s chosen a sleeveless summer top on a cold wintery day.

It’s not always easy to understand how a different juice mug can cause such an impact, especially when they are both pink after all, but just take a minute and see it from her perspective and perhaps you will understand. In our busy lives today with the pressures and stresses of daily living when a toddler starts to assert her independence and it’s over a juice mug tempers can flare I won’t lie. But it’s human nature for us to want to be in control of some aspect of our lives. Just imagine we tell our children what to eat, when to eat, when to bath, what to wear, and control so many aspects of their day to day life.

Let’s try to give them a little control of their color juice mug and be understanding and see where it gets us. Aside from the smile which will brighten your day, your child will see you understand how important the little things are to her, and one day will hopefully share the big things with you too. And that’s something to strive for, something to make sure we swallow our impatience over, and remember that we too were small once and the color juice mug was a big deal in our lives then too.

Parenting

Muddling through the messy toddler years

We’ve all seen the toddler year’s warnings, the ones that define a toddler as an “emotionally unstable, pint-sized dicator with the uncanny ability to know exactly how far to push you towards utter insanity before reverting to a lovable cuddle monster.” And we all look at our child and think we will be different. But until your little one actually turns into a toddler and you see it for yourself you won’t necessarily believe it, but you will find yourself scrambling for books to read on how to deal with the new delicate balance in your house.

Have you heard the phrase “hell hath no fury like a toddler who wanted the green cup instead of the orange one,” or “hell hath no fury like a toddler whose sandwich was cut into squares when he wanted triangles.” Yeah, it’s more like hell hath no fury, full stop.

No wanting a jersey put on, wanting to brush her teeth, not wanting dad to sit on her chair, wanting another banana, not wanting socks on, wanting to ride the dog, not wanting to eat her yoghurt, wanting yet another banana…the list goes on, and it’s additions of like and dislikes are in continual flux.

Of course if you’re reading this and your little one hasn’t hit the toddler stage just yet, you’re probably shaking your head and thinking this won’t ever happen to you. Well it most likely won’t happen in the same way with toothbrushes, bananas and jersey wearing (well it might, but that would be weird). But it will happen, and when it does, think of me hiding bananas, sneaking around with ninja-like jersey skills, and putting socks onto wriggling toes that have been cornered. If you’re lucky you’ll get a kiss after the messy meltdown and will soon forget the toddler’s list…good thing too, because it will all change tomorrow anyway.

Parenting

Take time to smell the flowers

Like most children at age three, my daughter Amy is an inquisitive soul, and loves to ask me questions. She is always wanting to know what day of the week it is, what the weather is predicted to do, what month it is, and what season we’re currently in. All these questions keep me on my toes, and I have to make sure I’m always up to date to keep little madam informed.

We have a ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’ bush next to our garage, and for the past few weeks Amy has been watching this bush with a keen interest. During the Winter months it hasn’t had flowers, and she has been monitoring it daily to check whether it’s still in fact Winter. But, as you know, Spring is in the air and the bush has been hard at work producing its first batch of flowers to present to the world. Just last week she came home from school, and when she climbed out of the car she spotted a few flowers on the bush.

Her excitement was so pure and real, that I couldn’t help but to be infected by it too. “Mom, Mom, is it Spring?” she asked, “the bush has flowers on it.” Once I confirmed that it was in fact almost Spring she started her happy dance along with a loud chorus of “yah, yah,yah!” She then asked if she could smell the flowers, to which I replied “of course.”

It served as a reminder to me to enjoy the little things in life, and, yes, to slow down and smell the flowers once in a while. The passion with which this little girl begs for more bedtime stories, hugs her baby brother, checks for post, dances to her music, negotiates for more treats for her dogs, and fiercely loves her friends and family inspires me on a daily basis. The other day we went to the shops and she said to me “let’s skip Mom.” And skip we did, which left me a little out of breath, but we both had big smiles on our faces and we were giggling together like, well, like little girls!

Today is a special day, it’s Spring Day! A day to celebrate with your children and always remember to be inspired by them, and to stop and smell the flowers.

Parenting

In the trenches

Chances are that if you’re a mom or a dad you’ve been in the trenches before.

It may have been when illness popped into your house for a visit, but then seemed to put in an application for permanent residence. You know the kind, it circles around to make sure that it introduces itself to everyone in your house, until one day you wake up from the cycle of re-infection and realise it’s been few weeks of being quite miserable and housebound.

It feels as if you’re emerging from a cocoon, the scales fall off your eyes, the sun feels warm on your skin, and you feel happy again. Not just the kind of happy that your kid’s nose has stopped running, or that your other kid has their appetite back again either…the real kind of happy. The kind of happy that makes you want to go and smash a piece of cake into your face, or high-five a stranger to say you survived.

But only one will know, only one will truly understand what you have endured and what you have survived. And that will be your partner in the trenches, for me it’s my husband. The person who stayed up all night with you to monitor your child’s fever, who helped you to battle the onslaught of vomit attacks with bowls and towels, waited with you at night for your child to be seen at the emergency room at the hospital, travelled far and wide to find a chemist open after-hours, held down crying children to administer medicine, reassured them together that it would help them feel better, slept perched on the edge of your daughter’s bed to help her sleep, fell out of said bed, debated whether you were doing the right thing, and then debated it some more.

In the trenches of this parenting war together. Fighting bravely against tantrums for triangle toast, meltdowns for brushing knotty hair, misunderstandings about new favourite foods, and outfit malfunctions.  Fighting for patience over shoes and socks, vegetables being tasty, sharing with siblings, stronger immune systems, a lower volume level.  The small things, and the big things, all rolled up into one. This is life in the trenches.

Thanks partner, I got your back.

Parenting

On grief and sadness, and having that talk

From the moment my children entered this world there has been nothing more important to me as a mother than to keep them safe. That saying from Elizabeth Stone that says “making the decision to have a baby is momentous, it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body” is so very true and resonates with me daily. In the world we live in today there are so many dangers and you really have to just trust your faith to keep your children safe.

I’ve tried to keep my children protected from the concept of death, believing it best to not expose them to the harsh realities of the frailty of life until it was necessary to do so. We have been fortunate as a family not to suffer any direct losses within our close circle, and so I haven’t had to shatter my daughter’s innocence about the insect being ‘asleep.’ I still remember the day I overheard my mom telling Amy that an insect had died, I was shocked to hear her say this to my little girl, but realized my protection could only last for so long.

This past weekend the gentleman who tends to the gardens at Amy’s school passed away unexpectedly. He was someone that Amy knew, who she spoke of as being a kind man who helped the kids at the school, specifically after he was highlighted at Helper’s Day recently.  Tomorrow the whole school will gather to plant a tree in his memory and say a prayer to remember him and his family. The school has encouraged us to talk to our children beforehand if we choose to.

It’s been weighing heavy on my heart since I heard the sad news. He was a friendly soul who I often encountered while collecting art for Amy in the afternoons. He was a part of our children’s lives, and now he is gone, and I’m left wondering if I should discuss the concept of death with her. She seems so small still at the age of three, and my instinct is to protect her. But I also don’t want her caught off guard tomorrow at the ceremony, confused and without her mom there to wrap her so tight in a safe hug.

Tonight, my heart is sore. The world is a tough place and we can’t protect our children from grief and sadness forever, even though we want to. Have you had a discussion about death with your children?

Parenting

Sad dad moment

My husband was pretty upset yesterday morning when on the way to school my daughter told him that all he ever does is moan at her. He messaged me once he had dropped her to say he’d had this ‘sad dad moment.’

Anyone with kids will know what a rush it is getting them out of the house in the morning and to school on time. Good intentions, planning, it all goes out the window when little people are involved!

You didn’t choose their favourite breakfast cereal, shoes can’t be found, toothbrushes are wielded as swords, the postbox must be checked, dogs hugged, instructions given to take care of the little mister because he will miss her while she’s at school, another round of high-fives, forgotten library book bags, recycling day, and yet another round of hugs for everyone. It’s a logistical nightmare, and as a result I will admit there is a fair share of moaning in the mornings.

Yesterday afternoon I set out the clothes for the morning, and I packed the school bag with her ballet gear for today too. Now if only I could find that missing shoe we may just be on track for less moaning and a more timely departure!

Do you have any tips or tricks that help your family get ready in the morning?

Parenting

Don’t let them dull your sparkle

Christmas this year with my two kiddies was magical. Ethan’s first Christmas last year he was way too small to understand any of what was going on, but this year he was so excited by the Christmas decorations and absolutely loved opening his presents on Christmas morning. Jenny was just old enough to finally really enjoy all of the amazing lead-up to the big day. We kicked off our Christmas Elf tradition, and that really added a fun new element to our festivities (more on this and meeting Santa another day).

Another thing that Jenny loved was learning and singing Christmas carols. She learned a few fun tunes from school which she taught Ethan and I, but we also learned more traditional Christmas carols from our lovely Christmas CD from Pan Macmillan. During the weeks before Christmas, I would often hear her singing quietly to herself or more loudly for all of us. Even when we were out at the shops she could often be heard belting out Christmas tunes from the shopping aisles. A number of times we had people following us and I’m sure it was so that they could listen to her beautiful singing.

Ethan picked up a few tunes too. It really made my heart warm to hear the two of them humming carols or singing them together even. It usually sounded like this….Jenny: Father Christmas, Father Christmas, he got stuck (Ethan: stuck). Jenny: Climbing down the chimney, climbing down the chimney, what bad luck (Ethan: luck). And yes, Jenny does also celebrate the real reason for the season, so I loved that ‘Away in a Manger’ was one of her favorite songs. I felt like she was being a little missionary in her own right, spreading joy and love.

Christmas has passed for this year, the tree is packed away and the presents have all been opened, but her Christmas cheer is still here! She’s still belting out the Christmas tunes and carols, and I have to admit I still love it. I love that she loves to sing, I love that she’s a happy girl. I once read that a child who sings is a happy child. And I’m happy to know that my little girl is happy, because boy does she sing!

The other day she was singing yet another carol when a friend told her Christmas is over, you can’t sing carols anymore. She asked me about it that evening, and I saw her spark was shining a little dimmer. I told her you can sing whatever you want, whenever you want. Christmas carols spread cheer, and I sure do love to hear my little girl singing with all her happy heart and spreading a little cheer, even though Christmas is over for now. Just think of it as practicing for this year!

Don’t ever let anyone dull your sparkle girl, keep on shining your light bright.

Parenting

We’re going on an adventure

A little while ago we went away on a family holiday to the Berg. I’ve often heard it said that “each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” This was such a special time together and I am so happy to know that we made so many new memories for our children to treasure.

The weather wasn’t so great, it was a bit chilly and even rainy on some days. Yet for the first time in my life, this didn’t worry me. We were all together, we were relaxed, and we still had fun indoors when it was miserable out. We built a fire, we played board games, we read books, and we even caught up on a few naps.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more of a conservative mom when it comes to the weather conditions. Life is just so much harder with two small littlies when they are sick. So when my daughter asks me if she can play outside and it’s windy, I rather suggest something to do inside, and when she wants to splash in the puddles I say maybe later. It comes from a place of love, of wanting to protect her from being ill. It also comes from a place of self-preservation, from acknowledging a struggle some days to keep my head above water with juggling the demands of my two young children. But that doesn’t mean I miss seeing the disappointed look on her face and feel my heart break a little to see her sadness. That doesn’t mean I wish I was more of the cool mom, the happy go lucky mom who bundles her kids up and lets them play outside even when it’s windy, or pops some boots on and says sure go jump in the puddles.

So when we were away and Amy asked if she could go and jump in the puddles, I thought why not and kitted her and Ethan out in their gumboots and let them go splash a little in the muddy puddles. That evening I asked her what her favorite thing about that day had been, and I felt my heart grow when she said splashing in the puddles. I have fond memories of when I was younger and went for dips in the mountain streams that run through this area. Inspired by her enjoyment of the puddles the day before I decided to go looking for a stream. I packed a change of clothes and some towels and we set off. Unfortunately, because there had been heavy rain during the night the streams were now big rivers that were now running too fast to have a dip.

But while walking back to our chalet we discovered a smaller stream and I stripped them down and they went for a quick dip. Squeals of delight at the surprise of the chilly water and squelching mud were more than enough to know this was now the new highlight of their day. A quick walk back to the chalet and into a warm bath with more happy laughter and then some hot chocolate in front of the fire inside made this day extra special, and one that will live on forever in my memory bank too.

Parenting

Cardboard box dreams

We bought a new vacuum this past weekend. It came packaged in a new cardboard box, a big one just waiting to spark little people’s imaginations and kickstart their dreams to life.

After jokingly popping Amy right inside the box amidst howls of giggling and half-hearted protests, I took her out again (more howls of giggling and half-hearted protests), tipped the box on its side on the floor and waited for the magic to start.

It didn’t take long for Amy to try sit on the box, but after toppling over as it collapsed she decided it was safer to crawl inside. Of course once she was inside it didn’t take long for Ethan to wander over and take advantage of having his sister’s head exposed but arms mostly tucked away inside the box and legs definitely secured against any retaliation. More shouts of laughter and genuine surprise as he nuzzled her, and then quickly crawled inside as she surrendered her space in the box.

As we were getting ready for school this morning it seemed a little quiet, a bit too quiet in fact. Before long Amy came to us and very sadly told us that she had been playing hide and seek with Ethan, but he hadn’t come to find her. I’m guessing she was tucked up nice and tight inside the box and he had lost interest, but unwittingly given us an extra five minutes to get back on schedule.

We were supposed to put the recycling out this morning, but we decided to keep the box for another week. It was just begging to be transformed into an aeroplane or a race car, and it was definitely a step up from the usual nappy box cars we use to roar around the kitchen with. I’m betting it’s not long before the Labradors go investigate inside it either, and then even more fun will be had as the fort will need to be defended.

I guess it’s true what they say. You really do have more fun with the box, even when you’re all grown up.