These lessons that we learn again

 

He’s seven now, my eldest. It seems a lifetime from my age and yet I remember it like the toys I held close and the certainty that I could fly if I just wished hard enough.

He’s at the age now where it’s all coming together. Not always well, not always easily, but reality is creeping in in a way that it hasn’t for him before. Things are becoming more gloriously complicated. The shades of grey are there more than they were and we question together.

This age is full of lessons that life imparts and that I try to help him put into words. He learns them for the first time of many, and I remember them, knowing that I will again.

There are many different ways to learn

One is not better or more worthy than another. Faster is not better than slower. What you’re learning matters less than the fact that you are. Discover the way that clicks for you. If you do nothing else, do this. Find the way of learning that makes you hungry to keep doing it. No matter how hard you try you will never know everything, isn’t that exciting? But try. Try fiercely. Because if you try you are already winning.

 

Time management is important

We all have the same amount of time in a given day and all of it is precious. It’s up to you how you use it. Learn this now while you’re young. Be prepared to relearn it as you get busier and older. 

 

People want to feel good

Most things they do are round about ways to get to this end. If you’re enjoyable to be around people will want to be around you. If you’re kind people will admire you. If you see the good in people it will lift them up, and everyone needs lifting up from time to time. The world will forgive naivety, awkwardness and uncertainty. It will forgive most anything if there is a spark in you that makes others remember their own. 

 

The villain and the hero are in you

Not just in the story books and movies. They’re archetypes of parts of yourself and they battle in you quietly. The bully is not a cruel child without light, and the good samaritan is not an angel without darkness, they’re people who make choices when they feel too much. The small choices win the battle.

 

Don’t underestimate the power of walking away

It gets to be a lot sometimes. A lot of noise or a lot of closeness or a lot of emotion. Anger burns, sadness twists your heart and overwhelm makes you panic. Take a minute. Walk away. Breathe. Nothing is too big or little for this. Space, even for a moment, makes you remember who you were before ‘a lot’ got in your way. Space lets you choose wisely.

 

Life is both

Life is hard: it always will be. Life is beautiful: it always will be. It will exhaust you to your very soul and make you fly with joy. I hope you have enough of both so that you can experience their richness.

 

Remember the gates when you speak

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

You will forget these a million times over when ‘a lot’ gets in your way, but try to come back to them. These gates will define how others see you. And they will define how you see yourself.

 

Gifts are often disguised as challenges

Everyone has something that feels hard. Everyone has something that feels easy. Your hard things aren’t in your way; they’re gifts. They’re opportunities to be brave. You don’t know all the people you’ll meet in your life just yet, but that bravery will help them. There are so many different kinds of courage in the world and your special brand of it is perfect.

 

You don’t have to be good at everything, you just need to feel good doing what makes you happy

Don’t give in to the pressure of the world that’s always waiting with a never-ending to do list. You don’t need to be good at sports and music and art and cooking and acting and dance. You can be. You can put your mind to any of it and make it beautiful. But no ‘shoulds’ apply here. The world is full of people trying to do everything and not feeling any of it deeply. You might go through life with a hundred passions or a handful. They are your loves, no one can choose them for you. Fall into them joyfully and trust your heart.

 

There will always be have to’s

That’s okay. They make the want to’s so much sweeter.

 

Always question

Question your parents and society and the rules. Follow them, by all means, but question, because anything or anyone worth following will welcome your questions and get stronger with the answers. 

 

You can’t control the things outside yourself

Isn’t it scary? Isn’t it wonderful? 

 

Take holidays in your imagination

No matter how old or young you are. There are worlds waiting for you there. Beautiful and terrible and exciting and calm. You can control them… but you may choose to let them take you on a journey from time to time.

 

Motherhood is a strange creature, both tiring and wonderful. And a perfect time to dig your toes in to the present and let the lessons you’ve forgotten to wash over you. I’m grateful to learn and learn again.

 

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2015

Missing the obvious

There is nothing unusual about missing the obvious. We forget that sometimes as adults, especially as parents. So determined to be examples for our kids we lose sight of the frequency of our stumbles. We forget, in our strength, to be humble.

I was frustrated this week by my son’s struggle to learn what seemed like a simple case of cause and effect. Obviously this choice will lead to that outcome, I mean why wouldn’t it? It has hundreds of times before. We had talked about it, explained it, acted it out and tried every other version of making it click. It was so simple really, wasn’t it?

Then I thought about myself. About how many times I have repeated choices whose outcomes I knew with my eyes closed.

I thought about us, all of us, and how many times we have made choices that have affected our health – what we put in our mouth every day even as we lament our weight or energy levels, the choice to procrastinate precious time away when we could be moving, sweating, breathing more fully.

How many people have chosen to get drunk, wasting their bank accounts, their pride and precious brain cells only to spend nights they can’t remember with people they don’t particularly like.

How all of us have wasted – our money, our time, our friendships, our love, before we learned how to choose experiences with value.

How often we still act with instinct, rather than the minds and hearts we pride ourselves on, only to end up exactly where we expected and nowhere near where we wanted to be.

And how many of us, right in this very moment, could change so many things if we chose, and revolutionise our lives.

None of us are victims, not of habit, not of circumstance and not of fortune. We’re a beautiful messy collection of choices and we’re creating ourselves, right now.

I don’t expect you to get this today, don’t worry, I probably wont either, not totally. I’ll think I will, with the false confidence of being an adult, until the next time little boys playing duplo remind me to be humble.

One day they’ll be tall enough and wise enough to call me on my choices, just as I help guide them through theirs. Until then I’m thankful for the push parenting gives me. The way it reminds me how very much growing up we all have to do, and how simple our beautiful messy choices really are.

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 Copyright 2014 Nirvana Dawson

 

 

 

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

And then I took a photo of…

Bodhi picked up my camera today for the second time ever and informed me that he was going to teach himself to use it and take some pictures. Sebastian thought this was a wonderful idea and followed him around crying “Cheese!!! Cheeeeeeesssseee!!!” as often as possible. Which resulted in snaps like this…

DSC06350He then went outside to capture some “art” which resulted in snaps like this…

DSC06378“Light” which resulted in snaps like this…

DSC06395and “Close ups” which resulted in shots like this (that’s our dog by the way)…

DSC06402After he had been outside for a while I decided to check on him. “How are you doing?” I asked, just before stepping outside. “Last photo!” he replied happily.

The last photo was this…

DSC06412In case you’re wondering, that’s the seam of his pants. His last photo was of his butt.

I think he lost the “art” factor at the end ;)

Every day has a flavour: today was nuts.

 Bodhi is different. I see it sometimes as a flicker of recognition as it passes stranger’s faces, sometimes a look of delight, other times a look of confusion or shock – depending on the type of different he wears that day. Depending on if he has stopped someone on the street to tell them what a beautiful person they are or if he has spent the duration of a haircut rolling his eyes back and snarling like a velociraptor (bless the hairdresser for snarling along with him).

Suffice to say he has quirks, and they demand to be noticed. Sometimes his difference is subtle, it lingers in the background, like a ray of light on good says, or like a shadow on days when he got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Other times it seems all consuming, the hard days feel like they must always be like this, and on the good days the difference is so damn beautiful I wonder how I noticed anything else.

I used to tell myself he’d grow out of some of his difference, knowing full well that he was born with it, as much part of him as his gorgeous smile. Those would be the times I’d see him playing with kids and watch things just not click for him like they did for others, or be out with him and get the feeling that we were residing in entirely different worlds and mine didn’t make any more sense to him than his did to me. When he had no problem with huge concepts but the ABC song was all too impossible. But I told myself he’d grow out of it, because that made sense at the time.

Today was one of the shadow days. The days where a shopping trip was interrupted by a tearful cry of “Mum! Seba grabbed my tongue!” “How did he get your tongue?” “I was trying to see if I could shove his whole fist in my mouth and he grabbed it!!!”  A day where a beautiful swim in a gorgeous pool was, in his world, somehow agonizingly difficult in some way or another. A day when at a crowded checkout, amidst a sea of feet and trolleys he decided to lay down on the floor and yell at anyone who came near him.

These are the days when I deep breathe a lot to keep my patience. Sometimes it still escapes me. Chocolate usually lures it back. And if I do feel my temper fraying as I remind him something for the 237th time that’s when he will squeeze my hand and tell me he loves me, then ask, as though it’s an obvious question, if I’m going to turn into a dragon anytime soon.

These are the days that it’s harder to stay in love with his difference, but they’re also the days he needs it more. Because his little world doesn’t have to make sense to me, it just has to matter – really matter.

It might be the same for someone in your life. You might have the adventure of someone different in your family, your friends or your work. Their version of different might not be the same as Bodhi’s… but they might still fill your week with their fair share of light and shadow days. They might fascinate and inspire you with their perspective, or madden you with their quirks. What’s that saying? “Blessed are the cracked, for they let the light in.” Their difference lets the light in, even in the times it drives you crazy. It challenges you, pushes you, makes you question.

My boys fell asleep in the car as I drove home today. Two angelic faces, eyes closed, free of worries and wonder, just at peace. And for the first time I let go of the notion that he’d grow out of his difference. He won’t. He’ll grow INTO it. And he’ll fill it in the most wonderful way.

He woke up bright and happy from that nap, rested and smiling, as if to confirm the peace I felt. He read books, practiced writing on his ipad, then came and grabbed my hand. “Lets play Lego” he said, “you can be the dragon.”

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012

The Leaf Fish

The other day as we were leaving a park my son passed me a crinkled yellow leaf that we simply had to take home. This was a daily occurrence, and that day my patience was waning.

“We’ll leave this one,” I said “it’s just a leaf.”

There was fire in his eyes as he responded “It’s not a leaf at all Mummy, can’t you see? It’s a beautiful yellow fish.” He said this as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Do you understand why it’s so important now?”

“Yeah baby,” I told him “I see it now.”

This post is to us mothers, all of us, for the moments we forget to see that fish.

Dear Mummas,

I know sometimes we’re tired, and that it’s a little harder to be a dreamer without sleep.

This grown up world we live in is all about reality, but try not to let reality obscure the view today. Peek past it when you can. We’ll do it together.

Pretty much every day small hands thrust treasures at us to take home – a pile of sticks, a leaf, a seedpod or branch. They look like more ‘stuff’, more mess to clean up. But you see the thing is, they’re not sticks, leaves, seedpods or branches at all. The leaves are a school of fish swimming to escape a shark (that frayed leaf was bitten by it), the branches are swords or magic wands… except for that one right there… that one’s a tranquilizer gun to shoot carnivorous dinosaurs. The seedpods are rockets, the seeds the passengers that they’re taking to Mars.

The spilled puddle of water little fingers are tracing around the table is a river, the biro hole in the papaya is an escape hatch for a passing worm. And to a child’s eyes that furniture, oh it is simply aching to be climbed.

Try not to get frustrated by the random moments beautiful mums, like when the ball keeps being sat on during a game of kicking – because it’s obviously not a ball. It’s a blue egg laid by the dragon that lives just over the hill. Your little one is just trying to keep it warm so it can hatch. You would too if you’d seen that dragons fire.

Don’t get so focused on driving to the grocery store today that you fail to notice the magical time portal that just transported you to the Cretaceous period – I bet you understand the importance of that tranquilizer gun now, don’t you?

I know the stories get old when we’ve heard them a thousand times, or the questions have been answered to the point of madness, but they’re still being told because they’re loved, they’re classics. And the answers to those questions – our children colour in their wonderings with them a little more each time.

 There are days when we crave silence like we’re hungry for it, when our kids sound like they’re talking just to bury the peace beneath noise. But that’s their music, for now, it’s how their rhythm is found.

Lets be patient today, with our kids and also with ourselves. Because it is hard, it is tiring, and we really have to grab onto that wonder to stop from sliding into monotony.

Sometimes we forget how big this job is – how important our role is right now. Because when we’re helping a baby open and close drawers, soothing tantrums or wrestling a child into a pair of pajamas it doesn’t feel like we’re changing the world. It’s easy to forget how many lives our little ones will touch, how many people they’ll make laugh, inspire or love. But they will – they do.

Some days reality clouds the view too much for us grown ups, and we fail to see the snowstorm in the dishwashing bubbles or the boat in the laundry basket. We can though, and our kids know it – their imagination is bright enough to spark our own. That’s their job, and it’s just as important as ours. Just as important as the leaf fish.

 

 Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012