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