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To My Boys,

I heard a Mumma talking today as she cradled her little ones on her lap. “I can’t wait until they move out.” she said, full of enthusiasm. “I’m going to make sure they leave home as soon as they possibly physically can.”

She wasn’t having a hard week or feeling tired or overwhelmed, she just wanted them gone, she explained, and couldn’t wait to have her home back.

All of us love differently, and none of us perfectly. This Mumma loved her kids her way, and that’s alright, but it made me realize how much I’m looking forward to the future – a very different one than she has planned.

Home to me is not just a place, it’s a feeling. It’s the breath you let out when you walk in the door on tired legs at the end of a long day. It’s where you wear comfy track pants and savor moments of silence surrounded by the treasures you’ve collected along the way.

It’s the pencil marks that measure height on the kitchen wall. It’s the dints on the floor from dropped toys and secret spots used over and over again for hide and seek.

It’s noisy games of chasey and giggling kids jumping between fresh sheets as the bed is made. It’s toys in a pile on the couch right where I want to sit every single night.

It’s a kitchen bench full of flowers picked by little hands from the garden, and that mysterious orange juice stain on the ceiling.

It’s love. Messy, beautiful perfect love.

Home, for me, is family.

And I want you to know that life is going to give you so many adventures. It might take you around the world, or to your dream job in our own neighbourhood. Maybe you’ll be social butterflies or crave solitude. You might move into an apartment with friends or choose to live at home longer and save your money for a car or a house or a trip around Australia.  Perhaps you’ll study, here or abroad. Maybe you’ll fall madly in love with someone as a teenager and follow them… or maybe you’ll wait a while and take the time to fall in love with yourselves first.

The thing is boys, it’s your adventure, not mine. And I have no right to tell you how it’s going to go. I’ll dream with you, plan with you, listen to you and be excited for it every step along the way, but I am not going to plan out your future for you.

I just want you to know that no matter where your adventures take you – you have this place, wherever we are. I want you to know that you always have a home with us, no matter what.

You’re going to make a lot of places special in your lives, but this place, this family – you’ve brought it to life – and you are always welcome here. There’s no expiry date, no caveat, just a space to call your own for as long as you want it, and a home that will evolve, change, and grow along with you.

One day the orange juice stain will be long forgotten, the pencil marks on the wall faded, and the enormous piles of lego packed away. I wont be woken in the middle of the night by little arms wrapping around my neck for a hug, or called in at bedtime to check under the bed for monsters. The games of hide and seek will be replaced with board games, and I’ll get to put those sheets on the bed without anyone jumping in between them.

A lot is going to change around here over time, and as you grow into men I’ll grow older and my grey hairs will be a little harder to pluck out without going bald ;)

But you have a home here, whenever, however and for whatever reason you need. We built this home out of family together, and it’s yours as long as you want it.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2014

Thoughts on child safety from a ‘Helicopter Mum’

I hate that term, but I’m going to use it here anyway. I’m going to use it because it’s become the supposed antitheses of everything we want to be as parents. The idea of sheltering our kids is frowned on, as if this shelter – which is our very job as parents to provide for this short time – is automatically synonymous with suffocating them. I call bullshit. Our parenting styles – just like our children’s development – is a spectrum of possibilities. A good parent worries less about the labels and more about reading their child and their needs at that time.

This isn’t about not hovering, or even hovering at all, it’s about responding to your child and the situation.

First of all let’s deal with the negative associations with being protective. You’re meant to be. That’s kind of the point of this parenting gig. Your child is, and should be, innocent and vulnerable (to a degree) when they’re young. It’s the age of rose coloured glasses and seeing the adventure in everything. It isn’t, and shouldn’t be, about seeing the danger in every situation, the monster in every stranger.

A lot of growing up is about becoming responsible, and as children grow it makes sense to make them aware of their own safety. From spatial awareness to observing their surroundings, to following their feelings about new people they meet (or those they’ve known for years), but we need to be careful not to put that full responsibility on shoulders too young to carry it.

Your three year old, six year old, nine year old or twelve year old is not an adult, and nor should they be taking on the world of adult dangers alone.  Watch them, listen to them, be there – even if you’re watching from a distance. The time when you’re needed like this will be so brief, but the more you support their freedom by protecting their innocent adventures will give them wings as they grow rather than baggage that might take a lifetime trying to unpack.

One of the most important things we can do for our child’s safety is to encourage them to listen to their feelings – and to do the same. You don’t want to give Mummy a kiss before bed? That’s ok. You don’t want to go out and play with the neighbour’s kids? That’s alright. The man chatting to us in the park makes you feel uneasy? We’ll move away. You don’t want daddy to tickle you today? He won’t. Encourage your kids to stay in touch with their gut and teach them how to listen to it by listening to them. Even if it’s not logical to you, even if it’s inconvenient, even if it doesn’t make sense a thousand times over. The more you trust them, the more they’ll trust themselves.

More often than not the monsters we’re protecting our kids from aren’t the men asking them to get into cars by the side of the road or lurking in shadows. They’re the ones at BBQ’s that we never would have suspected. They’re the friends of the family that push the boundaries but are oh so likeable.

What bothers me most about cases of child abuse is that often the child said something early on. They talked about having a feeling about the person, they told someone that they’d been touched or hurt and their protectors didn’t listen.

The more we respect “I don’t want to be tickled” etc the more our children will feel strong to tell us what makes them worried or scared, and the more familiar we’ll be with listening and responding.

That’s the responsibility we should be giving our kids – far more than the ‘don’t talk to strangers’ speech. Strangers, more often than not, are friends we haven’t met yet, and they piece together the social world for our kids.

I’m a protective mother, but I also respond to my kids. I stand back if they’re climbing the ladder safely – but I step in if it’s not safe for them. I love the chats my kids have with the neighbours or people at the shops – but I’m never far away either.

Maybe you’re fiercely independent. Maybe your child is too. That’s great. But still keep an eye on them Mumma. Listen to your gut as you listen to your kids, and make sure you’re responding to them rather than the people around or the media you who tell you what you should be doing.

You might be accused of sheltering them – don’t worry, there’s plenty of storms to deal with in life, this will just help keep the rain outside them. You might get accused of being over protective – don’t worry, you can find your balance in this and your kids will naturally reach for space when they don’t need your safety quite so much.

I’m going to give my kids a childhood rich with experience, adventure, and inadvertently a little scattering of life’s stresses too. But in doing so I will respect that they are children, and let them keep their impulsiveness and innocence as long as they can. I am determined that they will go into adolescence and adulthood with no more angst than necessary. And if that means I’m the crazy Mumma who’s keeping an eye on her kids while everyone else is enjoying a latte so be it. They deserve that, and their strength will come from not having to carry any burdens that shouldn’t be theirs.

thoughts onCopyright Nirvana Dawson 2014

The Thing About Birth

I’m pregnant. As I type this I am aware of a precious little person moving around in my swelling tummy. It’s such a strange feeling, but so primally comforting too.

My sons were delivered by cesarean. “That’s strange,” said my Doctor “I never would have picked you as a cesarean kind of person.” I’m not sure who a cesarean kind of person is, but I can see his point. The idea of birth has always been joyous to me, the idea of labour empowering rather than frightening. I passionately want to birth my babies naturally.

But now, as I plan my third delivery- which will hopefully wont be through the sunroof this time – I’m feeling grateful. Those births, so different to how I’d imagined them, gave me not just babies but a better understanding of myself.

I’ve learned that denying fear doesn’t make it go away.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to be afraid and it’s only when you can look at that fear without shame or panic that it begins to fall away.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to trust your way. If you need to just let go, do. If you need information, get it. If you need to control, that’s ok.

I’ve learned that birth matters. As a society we spend too much time telling new mothers how “lucky” they are after difficult deliveries and not enough time saying “how are you?”

I’ve learned that there’s nothing I can do to guarantee how a birth will turn out, but I can surround myself with joy and support.

I’ve learned that being informed, educated and empowered about childbirth and how the body works is essential.

I’ve learned that I know myself, my body and my baby far better than any care provider.

I’ve learned to trust my intuition.

I’ve learned that bonding happens differently for everyone, and every birth. Sometimes you fall in love instantly, sometimes slowly. Both are beautiful in different ways.

I’ve learned that birth makes you braver than you thought you could be – then motherhood kicks your butt and you get braver still.

I’ve learned that this will pass. Be it a beautiful afternoon, a dizzying case of morning sickness, a painful contraction or a sleepless night with a crying baby. It will all pass.

I’ve learned not to worry too much about what ‘they’ say. Be it well meaning advice, statistics or stories. Trust what you feel in the silence between thoughts and rationalizations. You know your truth better than anyone.

I don’t know how this birth will go. That’s strangely freeing to admit. My first pregnancy I was awash with images of what I’d convinced myself would be the perfect birth. My second I was sure that if I just did all the right things it would go perfectly.

This time I don’t know. And I love how ok I am with that. Instead I feel peaceful that my baby knows how to be born and I trust myself to allow it to happen as it’s meant to.

Cesarean’s often get referred to as the “easy way out” and I can tell you they’re not, but then again, no birth is. Each birth changes us in its own way. As my baby girl kicks against my sides I feel excited… I wonder what she has in store.

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Remember

 

Please Mum, as you watch me grow, remember who I am. Remember that I am not my brother, I am not my sister, I am not the child in the café, on the beach or in the magazine. 

Remember Mum, even over the noise of my growing up or the blur of my constant activity, how perfect I am. 

Remember who smiles up at you in the quiet moments and who makes you laugh from the bottom of your soul.

Life gets so crowded sometimes Mum, that it’s easy to forget how unique my path is. Sometimes you might find yourself comparing my strengths and challenges to someone else’s. It can be easy to lose sight of how amazing every one of my differences are, especially now when I’m small and I’m still learning how to use them as tools to create the life I’m meant to have.

Don’t convince yourself that you need to see things my way to respect who I am. We’re meant to see things differently. Just give me your time, listen, play and love me for my mysteries.

Sometimes parenting techniques sound like recipes, like a list to be followed to produce a predictable result, a result to be proud of. There is nothing predictable about me Mum and you should be proud of that. I came here with my journey and my challenges and they are as unique as my fingerprints. The only list you really need to follow on this journey is to be kind, be loving and not take it all too seriously. Don’t worry, I wont let you take it seriously even if you try.

Teach me along the way Mum, I need that, but also learn from me, you need that just as much. My differences aren’t just here as a gift for me Mum, they’re here as a gift for you. Soulmates aren’t always easy, they’re not meant to be, they’re meant to push you, stretch you and turn your world inside out in the most wonderful way. 

I chose you because we’re soulmates in a way Mum, and not just in the easy moments, in the hard ones too. You might not realise what a gift all those moments are yet, but you will one day – I’m not the only one growing here.

I know you get tired sometimes Mum and there are times when you’re not the best of yourself. That’s ok. I love you in those times just as much as any others, because I remember who you are. I remember how perfect you are too.

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Drawers full of stories

I never planned on hand me downs. I felt certain, in that over confident new parent kind of way, that I wanted my children to have things chosen just for them. Things that would express the individuality of who they were, rather than fitting into someone else’s. We would be rich enough, I reasoned.

I can’t quite recall how long that idea lasted, but it did involve passing on piles of toys and clothes. Somewhere along the way I began keeping things, and packed them away, unsure of their value. Still certain that my next little person would be so very much themselves that they would need clothes and toys to match.

How I ever thought my little ones individuality could be lessened by anything is beyond me.

Sebastian is almost two now. He has new clothes, bought fresh and just for him – he also has hand me downs.

Not just drawers of clothes but drawers of stories. They’re not just the shorts he’s wearing to the beach this morning, they’re the shorts we picked out in Zurich on a hot summers day, that his brother wore when his hair was still blond and his voice still small. The Viking t-shirt isn’t just cute, it’s days at the park filled with giggles before he was born, and hide and seek when his brother always used to hide in the same place. The red pajamas are him, but they’re also his brother making cubby houses under the sheets, they’re nursery rhymes sung back the front by a little boy who came before him who fiercely wished for a brother of his own (and had christened him “Mashtoe”). Sebastian isn’t any less himself when he wears his hand me downs, but he is a little more “them”. And in my naivety I couldn’t have comprehended the beauty of that.

Bodhi loved diggers when he was two. Unlike cars, which were a momentary curiosity, diggers enthralled him. Every day for almost a year he made us read his favourite book that talked about all kinds of heavy machinery in great detail. He would sit, fascinated, listening to the same facts and figures as he cradled his toys. He loved his digger toys. Some came from Switzerland, some Italy, some the shop down the road; little model diggers and graders, loaders and forklifts. He would carry them everywhere, even fall asleep with them clutched tightly in his hand.

He didn’t dug with them once.

They were held, admired, sometimes tentatively moved back and forth but never ever really played with. That was him. The idea of dirtying toys meant for dirt appalled him, so they sat in a box, paint only faded from endless caresses by sweaty toddler hands. Along with the cars he had barely registered he owned.

Sebastian ran around the house today, as he so often does, driving Bodhi’s old cars and trucks and diggers along tables, floors and shelves. He humms like an engine, crashes them, races them and makes tunnels from books. The diggers dig, the graders grade. The cars are parked in their freshly made garages. Those toys, the dusty forgotten vehicles are alive again. Alive for the first time really, because this is different in a way I was a fool to think it wouldn’t be. “Mine.” Sebastian says, hugging them, and they are. They are his, just as they were his brothers.

Those toys, those clothes, those things that make memories are both of them. They are their stories, waiting to be remembered.

Years ago I figured we would be rich enough not to use hand me downs. How wrong I was. The richness in this has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with memories best worn and played with. It has to do with sharing; laughs, cuddles and moments made together, played out years apart.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Toddler Tips to keep your parents on their toes

 (Inspired by my beloved almost two year old)

  • Any reason is a valid reason to be picked up. If you don’t feel like walking any more burst into tears and scream “Can’t walk!!! TOO LAZZZYYYY!!!!”
  • Parents can become complacent while driving if silence prevails for more than thirty seconds. Use a mixture of techniques to keep them on their toes. This week mine are:
  1. “Watch out!!! On the road!!!!!” “What’s on the road?” “HUGE CROCODILE!!! QUICK!!! BIG SHARP TEETH COMING TO EAT YOUR HEAD!!!” *pause for thirty seconds then repeat with another fierce beast of your choice*
  2. “Happy!” *insert maniacal laugh with head thrown back and mad flailing of arms then return to complete neutral* “Sad!!!” *drop lip and say, not cry “Wahhhh!” a few dozen times before reverting to happy*
  3. If anyone in the car looks too relaxed try accusing them of something. It doesn’t have to make sense. “No cows in there!! Just a man and pretty grass BODHI!” *glare fiercely at brother and shake head while jabbing a finger in his direction* Bodhi – “I’m not exactly sure what I did…”
  •  Singing is fun, but songs can get boring. To make them more interesting try replacing random words with “Poo”.
  • Your mother wants you to grow into a free spirited individual who thinks for himself. Remind her of this daily by ignoring her completely when she calls out to you.

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  • Diversion is the best form of defence. If you’re being naughty and your Mummy lovingly accuses you of being a troublemaker immediately accuse her of being a “chickenmaker”.  Her momentary pause will allow you to escape and wreak further havoc.
  • Parents love imagination. Show them that you have one by sharing stories with them. They also love adventure so make sure your stories feature volcanoes, lava raining from the sky, and fierce dinosaurs who like to eat Mummies and Daddies.
  • Love can be gentle and love can be fierce. Remind your Mummy of this while she’s putting you to bed by alternating between soft kisses and body slams to her face.
  • That is not breakfast, that is a physics experiment. Now see if you can make that sucker fly.Toddler 1
  • If your Mummy says anything you don’t like, such as come here, don’t touch that, listen etc just scream “Ow!!! Ow!!! Help!!” This is more effective if in public. Don’t let the fact that she hasn’t touched you put you off. For extra points smirk at her while you do it.
  • “Don’t do THAT!!!!” can, and should, be screamed at regular intervals regardless if anyone is doing anything or not.
  • That is not a Christmas tree, that’s a personal challenge. Aim for the glass baubles, the ones that bounce are boring.
  • Mummies like ladybugs so call everything you give her a ladybug, even if it’s actually a live roach. Her scream just means she’s excited.
  • Honesty is the best policy. If Mummy says “You’ve been a bit naughty this morning, are you going to be a good boy now?” say “No, but will be very cute.”
  • In tender moments stroke Mummy’s face gently and murmur “Aw, so old.” 
  • Ask for Daddy, then scream for Mummy when you get to him… then scream for Daddy when you get to her. It makes them both feel loved.
  • Everyone must be standing in your presence at all times. If Mummy offers you a hug while she’s sitting on the floor it is perfectly acceptable to throw back your head and wail in anguish while stamping your feet.Toddler 4
  • Flinging your arms around someone’s neck and saying “Love you SO MUCH!” makes them happy. Mix this in with the naughtiness to keep them on side.
  • If you’re feeling shy pretend you’re a statue. This works better if you’re in an odd posture at the time.
  • If Mummy tries to play peek a boo with you while you’re nude pretend that you heard poo instead and do one immediately. It will make the game memorable.
  • Snot is exciting and must be presented for inspection to everyone in the room.
  • Spontaneity is good. Having just done a pee in the potty is no reason not to pee on the floor 30 seconds later.
  • It’s good to appear in the know. If people are having an intelligent conversation interrupt frequently to say “Yeah of COURSE.”
  • Enthusiasm is everything. Soften the blow of waking Mummy up at 4am by leaping on her shouting “Hoorrrraaayyyy! Is morning!!!”
  • Last but not least, if you’re really cranky, just make this face….

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

What does your courage look like?

On any given day, across the country there are thousands of parks and playgrounds filled with children. And on any given day, in most of those parks, there is a familiar pattern. It doesn’t always look the same, in fact most people would miss it if they weren’t paying attention – but they should be.

In these playgrounds across the country there is a child or two, who is different. Maybe they’re rich, while the others are poor, or perhaps their clothes are old or out of fashion in a suburb accustomed to more. Maybe they have anxiety, or learning difficulties. Maybe they’re uncoordinated or speak with a lisp. Maybe they have Down Syndrome, Autism or Aspergers. Maybe they’re just bright, and more comfortable with books and computers than swing sets and slides.

While everyone else plays easily this child does something extraordinarily brave. They put whatever difference they feel is so obvious about them aside… and walk up to the others. They might say “Hi” or “How are you?” or “Would you like to play?” then they wait for a moment, on tenderhooks because this means a LOT to them… and more often than not, they are ignored.

It happened to me as a child all the time. It happened to my son today. He summoned everything he had to approach kids and it took ten children pretending he wasn’t even there before one even made them effort to smile and say hi back.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again and not just to my son either.

This week the media has been abuzz that our kids aren’t resilient enough anymore. That we need to toughen them up.

Bullshit.

What we need to do is raise them to be kind. We need to raise them to realize that everyone matters. We need to stop counting on the socialization of schools and parks to show our kids what it means to function in the community because it’s just not working. And we have the gall to say they should be more resilient?

Over protective school politics aside (some of the references in the media related to games/races etc) I think we focus too much on resilience and not enough on inclusion, acceptance and kindness. We expect from our kids things that we wouldn’t tolerate ourselves.

Honestly – if you walked in to a party and were completely ignored by ten people who you talked to how would you feel? At what point would that be ok for you? If you fell badly while walking and skinned your knee or hit your head would you always shrug it off? If you having lunch with a friend and you showed her your new phone or lipstick and she smashed it – would you be ok with that? Because we expect our kids not to care. We expect them to be hushed and pushed aside and sit still and do as they’re told and fit in and we don’t do it – if we do we shouldn’t. Life’s bigger than that. We’re far more interesting than arbitrary rules and social politics.

My son was fine today at the park. He told me that he found it upsetting but wasn’t overly bothered. He’s used to it, we talk about it. He’s not the one I’m worried about.

I’m actually just as bothered for those popular kids who pretended he wasn’t there. Because as they get older they’ll realize, like most of us do, that the kindest, most interesting, loyal and genuine people tend to be the unique ones. That quirks make friendships all the more delicious.

But it might take them a long time to get there. And that’s what we can change as parents. We can take our focus off resilience and put it on showing kids that they matter. That everyone matters. Even the people you don’t click with, or really want to play with. That everyone deserves good things – be it a smile or a greeting or a have a great day. Those things aren’t little, they’re huge.

We need to teach our kids that courage doesn’t look the same for everyone. For some people it’s jumping out of a plane and for others it’s walking into a crowded room. For some it’s talking in front of a thousand people and for others it’s stringing to words together when they seem to stick in your throat.

This doesn’t just apply to kids, this applies to everyone in our lives. Your brave isn’t necessarily the same as theirs. Appreciate their courage, their strength, because the enormity of their victories are no less because yours don’t look the same.

The more we teach our kids that everyone matters the more they realize that they matter too – and what a big role they have in changing someones day. Maybe they’ll do something huge with it one day… or maybe they’ll do something even bigger with it today – they’ll smile back at someone who needs it, and acknowledge the courage others missed.

That’s strength, right there, and that’s where true resilience comes from. Not from becoming hard, but from realizing what strength and courage really is.

 

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Judgment

Once upon a time there was Someone…

Someone who was kind, gentle and smart, Someone who had a heart of gold. And wherever that Someone went, people saw the good in them and they recognized it.

Then maybe this Someone did something wrong because they were hurting. Or maybe they were having a bad day and didn’t shine like they usually do. Maybe they cried or they yelled or they melted down. Maybe they were carrying around secrets or confusion or pain and it came out wrong.

And maybe everyone stopped and they stared and they looked at that Someone like they didn’t know them anymore. As though that one day, or that one meltdown, or that one hurt that lead them somewhere they didn’t expect to be had dimmed their light. As though their good could be less for a little imperfection.

Someone felt heavy. They felt the weight of stares and voices real and imagined. Maybe it was in a supermarket, with a melting down child. Maybe it was an argument with a loved one that turned to wars of words. Maybe it was the worst of them sneaking out when they were tired, or aching on the inside. Maybe it was something stupid they did without thinking it through. And for a short while they allowed themselves to believe the doubt and judgment.

Then something shifted. It might have taken a moment, or a day, a week or a month, but Someone realized that it was OK.

They realized that they were OK. That their light was so bright there wasn’t a shadow in this world that could dim it. That their good was so big no amount of hurt or bad decisions could make it less.

They realized that they were in this life to learn, and grow, and that that involved falling down as much as getting up. That feeling low, no matter how long it lasted, was a perfect place to build a foundation for something higher.

And as Someone felt stronger and breathed easier they realized something. They realized that everyone who judged them was just as kind, gentle and smart as they were, but so lost in their own imperfections that they forgot sometimes, just like that Someone did. That all those people who judged them were also judging themselves, were also hurting and had gotten it wrong too many times to count.

It reminded Someone to be kind, as they sought kindness, to recognize the good in others even as they fought to recognize it in themselves.

Someone realized that they would always be judged, just as they would always judge. They would always have moments of feeling weak, but they’d look back on them and realize that those moments built their strength more than they could have imagined.

Maybe you know this Someone. Maybe you are this Someone. Maybe you’ve seen this Someone at their worst and thought you knew them because of a misplaced moment. You’re in this story somewhere – we all are.

Judgment affects all of us at sometime or another, from inside and out. But we’re bigger than it. As people and as a society we don’t need it. Each and every one of us is so much more than any moment, any choice, any high or any low.  The more we remember that, the more we can enjoy each others light rather than wasting time casting shadows.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The gift of misplaced words

To my Son,

You gave me a gift today, little one, and I almost didn’t notice.

We had been grocery shopping, a necessity despite you not being yourself due to a headcold… or the wind… or your teeth coming through… or maybe just getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

And I asked you to be good and to focus at a time when those ideas made as much sense to you as saving fish from drowning. So you tried, with your mind elsewhere and your hands all over your brother who was NOT in the mood to be your human stress ball. I asked you calmly to give him space, once, twice, probably five or six times before I announced the loss of a privilege for not listening. I’d handled all this pretty well so far, I was calm and in control and explained things peacefully enough for you to completely ignore.

Then you lost it, and so did I.

We all have challenges, and one of yours is magnifying life’s stresses when you’re not at your best. So this loss of privilege, which really wasn’t so bad, seemed ENORMOUS to you in that moment. You melted down, and as you did you said some really awful things.

I should be used to your use of words as weapons, and remember how quickly they fall when the moment passes. I should remember that your attempts to hurt with them just mean that you’re hurting and you need to get it outside of you as quickly as you can to lessen the burn.

But we all have challenges, and one of mine is taking what is said at face value. So I got hurt along with you. I got loud along with you. And as you fought to get all your anger out I fought right on back. Not in the same way, of course, and to an outsider I probably handled it just fine… but the truth was I lost myself in those words of yours, and that wasn’t fine at all.

We drove home with both of us fuming and not much talking going on. After a while calm returned and we talked about the reasons why what you said wasn’t ok. That was true, it wasn’t, but neither was my response.

Most of us go around as adults thinking we’re doing pretty alright. We learn to play to our strengths and push our weaknesses aside or justify them. We make beautiful masks to wear for the world and they hide a myriad of faults.

And you, little boy, are particularly skilled at making my mask slip.

Taking words at face value is fine, it’s not a fault as such, but it misses a LOT. A lot that you deserve and that I do too. It reaches to other relationships and to my marriage. Responding to someone losing their cool and over reacting by losing my cool and over reacting… well, that doesn’t work.

Your gift to me today was reminding me of something I could do better. Reminding me that sad doesn’t always have tears, and hurt doesn’t always shrink back. Reminding me that small things to me can be huge things to someone else, and that grown up concepts and instructions sometimes don’t fit little people whose minds are in the clouds that day. You showed me that anger is not always about the one who receives it, but sometimes about just getting something out before it hurts you more, and that a moment and a deep breath can change everything.

I snuggled you in bed shortly before you went to sleep tonight and we talked about today. I reminded you that just as Dad and I talk to you about things you could do better you have every right to do the same to us, because we’re all learning no matter how old we are. I acknowledged your feelings from earlier than you’d hidden behind your anger, and asked you how I could have handled it better. I reminded you that just as you owe others respect they absolutely owe it right back. Your lip trembled as you told me how I could have handled it better, and I promised you I would try my hardest next time.

Growing up isn’t easy, and the truth is we never really stop. We will get it right together so much of the time and we will get it wrong an awful lot too. It’s all part of pulling off the mask I guess. And each time we’ll get to know ourselves a little more, become more patient, more kind, more humbled by this huge life thing we’re doing together. It’s just about being honest, really, and the trust that goes with it.

So thank you for your gift of misplaced words today little one, they made my mask slip perfectly.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Spending Habits

Not long ago a friend of mine posted an image on Facebook. It was a screenshot of a spreadsheet her husband was working on to ensure that the way they were spending their time was in alignment with their core values. It was late, I scrolled past it, my brain registering a quiet grumble of protest that that sounded way too structured for me.

But my mind keeps coming back to it.

We talk to our children a lot about the spending of money. About the value we place on things. As a society we focus on a lot on those numbers, those figures we associate with value and happiness, security, intelligence. There’s a huge focus on dollars, which is interesting, because you can earn more.

You can’t earn more time, you can’t even borrow it.

We enjoy the luxury of believing we have a certain amount of it, but the truth is we don’t know. No one does. What we have with certainty is now – this day. The sad person, happy person, unfit person, healthy person, rich person and poor person, the bored person and busy person – they all have this. Their experience of it differs greatly, but we all build what we have from these moments.

We get caught up in the idea that we are what we think, that we’re our ideas, concepts and wants. It’s true, in part, but in a bigger part: we are this day. 

We’re what we do with the time we have.

How we spend it is our truth. The rest is words, assurances or excuses we use to build ourselves up or tear our dreams down. I’m talking about you, about me, about all of us.

Our time doesn’t lie, what we do with it is the most honest reflection of what matters to us.

When I was growing up my mother used to say “Whatever you’re doing, do it well. If you’re working, work hard, if you’re relaxing, relax fully.” I’m still getting the hang of this, most of us are.

I’ve admitted to myself in the past couple of weeks that I need to work on my spending habits, and not the wallet kind. I spend the most part of my days joyfully focused on my children, and I wouldn’t change that for the world, but there are still wonderful little pockets of time that I don’t use to lift myself up – and I can. There will always been housework, study or work, but in every day time exists that’s yours. How are you spending it?

That spreadsheet doesn’t seem like a bad idea after all….

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013