Jellybeans

There are many “wow” moments in parenthood. Sometimes they’re big ones, other times they’re beautiful bits of daily life that make you fall in love with your family just that little bit more. I had one the other day, and it was all over a packet of jellybeans.

Bodhi had been obsessed with jellybeans for a while. Obsessed in a way that a five year old does so well, with every supermarket trip spent running to the candy aisle and gazing at these mysterious sweets that he had never tasted but frequently imagined. He wanted those jellybeans with every fibre of his little being. 

Sweets are something we do very rarely, so I tried – and failed – to distract him. He asked about jellybeans several times a week, even telling me that he was dreaming about them and imagining holding them in his hand. 

Last week I found some vegan jellybeans – unhealthy enough to be sweet and colourful, but healthy enough to be free of anything artificial. He jumped up and down and cheered when I bought them, but waited patiently until a ‘junk food day’ before he could have them. 

On Monday, my wide-eyed little boy got his jellybeans. He flung himself into my arms bubbling with professions of love and clutched that packet with everything he had. His hands practically shook as he tasted the first one. His eyes closed and he sighed – they were “perfect”.

Then my boy gave me one of those wow moments.

In between savoring his jelly beans he came over to pop a few in my hand, then ran to the other side of the house to give some to daddy. Sebastian had been given four or five, and Bodhi the rest of the pile, but instead of eating his long awaited stash he looked at his brothers high chair tray with those few colourful beans and then at his own pile.

“No, that’s not fair, is it?” he said, then gathered up a handful of his precious sweets, placed them in front of his brother, and sat stroking Sebastian’s hair while he excitedly ate, saying “Here you go brother. You deserve good things.”

 After all his giving, Bodhi ended up with around a quarter of his jellybeans left. And he didn’t care. Not one bit.

After their treat Bodhi sat in the doorway to his room with Sebastian curled up on his lap, head over his heart, chubby toddler arms wrapped around his big brother.

This was my wow. Because it’s in these little moments that he shows me ‘him’. In these moments, while I still have the privilege of knowing him better than the world does I get to see who he is, and I love him all the more. 

I am blessed to have so many wows. Some are like this. Some happen at the dining room table when he announces “Every woman in the world is beautiful when she has heart love.”, or when my husband and I are grumpy at eachother and he walks up to his Dad with the courage of a lion and sticks up for his mum (even when I was probably at fault ;). Some are wows because we help eachother come back to the best of us at the times when we’re frustrated or angry or upset. Some are wows of beauty, others of rawness and trust.

Some push me, some catch me: all humble me.

Thank you jellybeans, you brought sweetness with you.

 

cuddles

 

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

 

More

We need to talk.

We really do. All of us. All the Mums and the Dads and the friends and the families. We need to talk to our kids, to the ones we love, the friends on Facebook that we rarely see, our neighbours and the strangers we get to know at the park.

We need to start talking about more. In between the chatter about the weather or our clothes or what we’re doing on the weekend – we need to talk beyond the conversation that fills the spaces.

Because there’s a lot going on in the world at the moment. There are bees dying in unprecedented numbers, killed by GMO’s and pesticides that are still being widely used and sold. The everyday diet that fills most of our supermarkets is contributing to huge numbers of preventable illnesses – and most of us know people who are being hurt by their habits. We are living a growing half-life captivated by electronic/social media – me too. I will humbly admit that I have a love hate relationship with my smart phone. There is both good and bad happening all around the world on a grand scale and the majority of it is not covered by the mainstream media.

There is so very much to talk about.

Around us at any moment there are people who are inspired, depressed, lonely, or filled with potential. And more often than not – we just don’t know it.

The other night my husband and I lay down together and talked. Really, really talked about all of it. All the good and the bad and the inspiring and the maddening. The stuff that people just seem not to get, or at least, not out loud. I marvel at how rarely conversations like this happen between us – all of us. Not the laying down on the bed kind, the baring the soul kind. We all have SO much to say. Don’t you get curious?

We get caught up sometimes in the political correctness of what shouldn’t be said. Don’t talk about religion, sex or politics, they say, even though these are major forces that shape our world.  It’s easier to stay on the surface, but we really can’t afford to anymore.

Right now, we really are at a turning point on this amazing planet of ours. There are enormities of environment, diet, morals, and ethics that are pivotal to the way our story will turn out. We need to start talking about them. We need to start questioning beliefs, traditions, ethics, actions and everything in between.

Our kid’s minds are forming before us – the minds that are shaping the future. What are we giving them? Are we remembering to talk about the big stuff, even when the small stuff takes less work? I forget. I bet you do too sometimes when life gets busy and in the way. But all it takes is a little. It just takes asking them questions, picking up a book for ideas if you need to. Create an open forum for their thoughts – a safe space to wonder aloud. The world needs more wondering. It needs more theories and wild ideas. It needs more rebels with causes and more of the sensitive ones who aren’t afraid to feel what others brush off.

It needs us. Right now. Today. To talk, more. Ask someone what they believe, ask them about their dreams, ask them about what makes them angry or happy or what truly excites them. Reach beyond the beer and footy talk or the housework and kids talk. It’s hard, but it’s also necessary.

The great ones in this world, the ones who have changed things and awoken others, beyond anything else, spoke from their truth, whatever it was. They talked about the big stuff even when others didn’t understand why. Their minds might not have been any greater than yours, or your husband’s or your child’s, they just stretched a little more.

After that talk with my husband I came away with a lot more to say. It woke something up in me and I wanted to roar. I almost did, then realized that roaring wasn’t the answer to anything. The world is full of loud, it’s full of opinions trying to outdo eachother – that’s not how change happens, it’s not how people wake up in the way that the world needs them to. They wake up through dialogues that spark something in them, through ideas that come at the right time, when their mind is ready to stretch a little more and perspectives are shifting. When they feel safe to ‘be’ a little more than they were a moment ago.

All it takes is a conversation to start the ripple going. So ask questions, open dialogues, don’t be afraid of stepping on toes. Just do it from a good place, a place of curiosity and openness. It may even be your perspectives that shift – and that might create a wonderful ripple indeed.

ocean

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

 

Let’s be honest….

I stuffed up today. Not in any remarkable way, just in one of those everyday parenting moments that we have a tendency not to notice until we look back on them later.

I overreacted to something and snapped at Bodhi in the process. He responded with harsh words and upset. In the heat of the moment I started to get annoyed… I started to say something back… then I stopped myself. I took a breath, sat down and opened my arms to him. I did what I try to do whenever I don’t get it quite right -  I owned it. “You know what?” I said, to my red-eyed, angry boy. “I can understand why you’re feeling frustrated right now. I messed up didn’t I? I didn’t handle that well, but I’ll try to do better next time. I’m sorry.” And my boy, like he so often does in these little everyday honesties, wrapped his arms around me and said “No, that wasn’t nice. But I’ll help you do it better next time. I really love you. Mum, do you think you could help me respond nicer too?”

Sometimes I sit down at the end of a day and I reflect back on what we did. I think back on the moments that worked and the ones we didn’t, and I find that every day, every single one, has both. Along with the moments we’re proud of come the ones that we aren’t. I’m facing the fact that they’re likely to stick around. But the thing that makes some days better is when I remember to be honest with my kids – to own my little stumbles, even as I help them with theirs.

Bodhi struggles with emotional maturity at times, but when someone else lays their own struggles before him he steps up in a way that never fails to surprise me. It might be me just “needing a minute” (after intense toddler wrangling or general madness) and little hands bringing me a cold glass of water and a kiss as he slips away to build some lego, or me saying “Sorry I rushed you kids, I should have gotten us ready earlier.” and him replying “That’s ok Mum, remember you can ask me to help next time.”

An old idea lingers that for our children to respect us we need to be in control all the time. The thing is, no one is, not you, not me, and not our beautiful kids.

I want my kids to respect me not because I’m perfect or always in control, but because I’m authentic and kind. I want them to know that they can trust me to own my mistakes as much as I expect them to own theirs and that my advice means something because I’ve earned my lessons along the way.  I want them to know that their advice is just as important.

Bodhi and I talk about a lot of things together. We talk about space, dinosaurs, lego or what’s happening around the world. We skip down the street together sometimes and have ‘evil laugh’ competitions in the kitchen. But we also talk about the bits we could have done better. I want him to know that the obligatory stuff ups don’t take away from all the good that makes us who we are.

I find that when I’m a truth teller my son is more inclined to be too.

Shaming children is slowly becoming a thing of the past, but we forget that if we hold onto guilt or shame they learn to do it to themselves.

Today I have done a lot of things right. So have my kids. And we have all, at one moment or another – been jerks. That’s ok, because we’ll do it better next time. And even when we don’t quite get there, we’ll respect and love each other for trying.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Logically Illogical

Sebastian has always been quite logical. At 18 months he is entering the tantrum stage, but views them more as a planned expression rather than an emotional outburst.

Like this morning, when he burst into tears, stamped his feet, balled his fists by his side and screamed at the top of his lungs…. until he realized that his audience wasn’t paying quite enough attention. At that point he stopped cold and all anger *completely* disappeared while he said “Mumma, tantrum. Look. Watch tantrum.” then like a switch was flipped he thrashed around in fits of rage once more.

This one’s going to be interesting!

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Awkward Family Photos

A couple of weeks ago I was looking online for some new PJ’s for the boys. I wanted those nice warm onesie style ones with feet. I ended up finding a site that sold adult ones too, and on that particular night that was *ridiculously* cold both Daniel and I thought that buying them for ourselves too would be the best idea ever.

They arrived today. Just in case the mental picture isn’t enough, this is us…

DSC06550Though I think Daniel does it better….

DSC06546On the bright side they are warm!

 

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

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 ;)

Things that shouldn’t raise eyebrows

My son hugged a boy at the playground the other day. He had been playing with him for all of five minutes and he swung him in the air, arms around him and exclaimed “You’re so hansome, I’m going to marry you one day!”

Now I should clarify that my son’s list of future spouses is extensive. He has proposed to more people than I can remember, from old ladies to babies, hippies with flowing hair to rough brickies with impressive beards, so this boy who played a game of dinosaur attack so very well was unremarkable in his proposal.

But I still turned around to several parents with their eyebrows raised. Mine were a little too. And I’m disappointed in that, just as I’m disappointed in myself for whispering that it might be best not to propose to boys for a while, at least unless he was certain he actually wanted to marry one.

I’m disappointed because my reaction was quite normal. And that’s a problem.

We have talked about love. We have talked about the kinds that exist between family, between friends, between pets, and between spouses. We have talked about why he cannot, even if he very much wants to, marry me. We have talked about falling in love and marriage, and different points of views on all of it, and my son, like the rest of our family, firmly believes in equality. To him the idea of certain types of love being considered less valid just because of gender is madness. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud that my five year old can grasp marriage equality better than a lot of politicians.

So I really should have applauded that impromptu proposal. But the raised eyebrows got me, and it’s occurred to me that that’s a bigger battle than the one being fought for those legal rights.

The more that we teach our kids to “accept” it, the more than we unwittingly make it strange. The more that we clarify it, the more that we isolate it. Love should be love, it really should. Our kids don’t need a commentary from us on what makes up the majority, they need the diversity we preach to become organic, because most of the time it is to them. It’s us that make it ‘strange’, even without meaning to.

Who my kids grow up to love will come from who they are, not from an innocent game at a park or playing with makeup, and I will be just as proud of that love no matter what form it takes. But it is my reaction, and yours, and everyone else’s that witnesses these little moments, that can keep it innocent.

The greatest steps towards equality don’t just happen in a courtroom, they happen in the home. They happen when our little girls can go play with trucks wearing boy clothes without a second thought, and our boys can paint their nails because they think it looks funky, without anyone looking at them as though it’s out of place. Its when we don’t bat an eyelid at little girls giggling and announcing they’re engaged any more than we would if it were a girl and a boy. Childhood games will not make them gay any more than they will make them straight. But our acceptance, our lightness about love, will help to raise a generation where equality doesn’t need to be fought for, it will be as normal as kids playing dinosaurs in the park.

love-is-love

When a picture says a thousand words…

We had a great day today, but in the late afternoon Bodhi was a bit… over it. I came into his room quietly and asked how he was feeling. He didn’t answer. “Can you show me?” I asked.

“Yes!” he replied… and did this.

 

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Point made, little one, point made.

Questioning the labels

We have a habit of labeling. Maybe it goes with our inherent need to belong, or maybe we find instinctively that we bond better with a common good and common enemy.

We see it in religion, when even Christianity is segregated within itself, we see it in generations, when whole groups of people are put into boxes they don’t fit.

And we see it in parenting.

This week I have been reading about different styles of parenting. Of peaceful parenting, though it had many names. And my first reaction to this is joy that people are questioning, thinking, trying to do the best that they can for their families. But then I found that what a lot of people perceived as clarity was beginning to look quite black and white. And we need those shades of grey.

Apparently from a psychological perspective we get them about age twelve. That’s when black and whites such as “stealing is wrong” gain perspective and we think “stealing is wrong, unless a person has to steal medicine to save their child” and so on. Most of us keep those new found hues and they serve us well as we navigate the truths before us. Until labeling encourages us to suspend them for a while.

I think it’s really important to question society, what’s put before us and even our own beliefs.

I don’t believe in control crying, neurological research aside I can’t get my head around it. But there are times out there when a mother may be desperate, she may not have help or family support, her exhaustion may get in the way of her taking care of her baby or other children, put her driving or health at risk. There may be times when it’s absolutely right in that situation.

I don’t believe in smacking, but I have smacked. And every time I see it referred to as this horrible violence against children I wish that I could take a snapshot in time, of the few times I’ve done so, when nothing had reached my son, when he was so lost in a tantrum, so lost in the anguish of his own anger that everything I did would make it worse, even walk away. And those few times that in desperation I gave his hand or bottom a single smack and pop his spell was broken.  His anguish drained away in an instant. Then we hugged, we talked about it, he heard me. Because for my child, in those moments, that momentary tap was kinder than an hour of words or demonstration. I see people say that smacking teaches violence and from an adults perspective I absolutely 100% agree. But a child, more often than not, is in the moment and their perspective is different to ours, that’s how siblings fight but love each other just as fiercely a couple of moments later. I’m not suggesting you smack your child, not at all, just as I don’t plan to do so again, but I am suggesting that you don’t beat yourself up if you have. Just question it, like everything else.

I don’t believe in putting kids in situations that are likely to push their buttons – but sometimes I do, because life does. I read a comment the other day where a woman said something along the lines of “I thought my daughter was being naughty, then I realized that I had dropped the ball by talking on the phone. It was my fault not hers.”

See the thing is, sometimes life makes you wait – for a phone call or cookies to bake or something you want to buy, sometimes it makes you be quiet, sometimes you need to listen, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, sometimes you need to take a deep breath when you’re angry or you need to calm down when you’re sad.

I want to bless my kids with a life that involves them greatly and nurtures them as much as possible. But that life will involve phone calls, trips to the supermarket, waiting in line, cleaning up the toys and taking responsibility for themselves in that moment.

Peaceful parenting often focuses on our tone and language when we talk to our children. As it should, they’re extremely receptive to it. But I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that there are times that my child only hears me when I raise my voice. We laugh about it later, because it’s “Mummy being loud” but mummy has to be loud sometimes, because sometimes he’s being a dinosaur or a robot policeman and they don’t have very good listening ears.

Sometimes I snap at my son. Rarely, but I do. And though I try very hard not to, I’m not sorry. Because the times that it happens is when he has pushed and pushed and PUSHED, and my kind tone and language finally expires into a flustered snap. That snap is just as important to who he will become as the love we give him, because in life people respond to you how you treat them. And it’s much kinder to my beautiful boy for his Mum to occasionally bite, then explain why, than for him to believe that he has less of a duty to treat others with respect than they do him.

 Apparently we shouldn’t argue in front of our children, we should avoid being sad or angry in their presence.

When I was a child my parents tried not to argue in front of me. I’d feel something simmering between them all day, because kids are smart, they get that, then I’d hear hushed, angry voices from the living room while I lay in bed. My belly would twist in knots – what was this horrible secret that they were hiding from me? Those everyday disagreements, to me, became enormous. They became frightening because of their secrecy.

We try not to fight in front of our kids, but sometimes we do. And that’s ok. Because I want them to grow up knowing that conflict is alright sometimes. That love doesn’t diminish because of it. That it’s possible to disagree with someone, even for them to piss you right off, and to hug and make up five minutes later. I want them to see their parents say sorry too, and mean it. I want them to know that their family is safe in the calm and in the rough because it’s bigger than that.

Bodhi has seen me happy. A lot. He has seen me laugh and smile and joke around and dance a chicken dance in public to make him giggle. He has also seen me cry, real honest to God sadness that reaches the depth of my soul. And I’ve told him, in words that make sense to him, why. I’ve told him that it’s ok to feel sad sometimes, and it’s ok to cry. He has wrapped his arms around me and kissed it better. His sadness isn’t a scary thing to him, and neither is mine. I’m allowed to be strong for him and he’s allowed to be strong for me… or for a friend or a kid he doesn’t know at the park who needs someone to hug it out.

He has seen me angry. He’s seen Daniel angry too. And 99% of the time we’ve done a real good job of being angry. We’ve been the kind of angry we ask him to try. The kind where you take a deep breath and talk it out, or go for a walk or be alone until the fire eases. But he’s also seen me be angry badly (which equates to loudly in my case). He saw Daniel throw keys at a wall once. And we talked about it, and he got to tell us how we could do it better. He got to tell us how we should have handled it. And that let him be wise too. It let him know that everyone makes mistakes, so not to worry about his own.

Labels can bring people together, and I love that so many parents are coming together to peacefully parent their children. I love that old ways are being questioned and that compassion reins. But I just hope that we keep sight of those shades of grey in amongst it all, because they belong there just as much as anywhere else.

I hope that when we parent, we make it our philosophy above all else to be kind. To be kind to our babies, our kids, our partners and ourselves. They deserve it and so do we, because as long as we keep questioning and doing our best it’s ok not to be perfect.

As I peacefully parent, I’m also going to be at peace with that.

 

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012

Educating Us

We will be homeschooling.

It’s something I’ve hesitated to blog about, because people have a habit of mistaking passion for my truth as judgment of theirs. But that’s not it. There isn’t one right choice, just as there isn’t one type of person or a single kind of joy – they’re all valid and any choice made in the best interest of the child and family unit is the right choice for them. I smile just as much hearing about a friend’s child enjoying school as I do about mine enjoying freedom. So having said that, I’ll say a little more.

Sometimes I call myself an attachment parent, but that’s not entirely true. I instinctively parent. I do what feels right for my kids. That includes breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, not leaving them cry, feeding them healthy food… and how we educate.

A couple of years ago now I was looking into schools for Bodhi. I had been homeschooled from age nine onwards and had gotten so much from that. In that time I had I found so much of me, I found a hunger for knowledge, self-motivation, creativity and exploration of the world around me. But it would be too hard to homeschool my kids, I decided, and I found myself sliding uncomfortably into the norm.

I planned to send my son to school. The thing was that the more I looked at these schools – these good schools – I couldn’t get past the fact that this was thirty hours of my child’s week (not including homework). The best thirty hours. The thirty hours where the sun was out and his mind was fresh and that these thirty hours a week for thirteen years would be spent in an institution. And it struck me that it didn’t matter how good this institution was, or how dedicated his teachers would be – that was a huge part of his life that he would be away from the life he was being raised to be part of. And for that huge part of his life the child I was so passionate about raising would not be raised by me at all.

It wouldn’t really be the teachers either, because they are amazing, but in the ratios of children to teachers he would be raised just as much, if not more, by peer pressure.

A feeling of unease sat in my belly.

I began to read. I read random books on homeschooling, I read Holt and Gatto. A lightbulb went off. I decided that I could homeschool my kids. It would be hard at times, and it would challenge me, but that would be ok, because I could do hard things, I could be challenged.

Bodhi often tells people that we’re homeschooling before I do. He radiates confidence and he owns it – as much of it as he understands. And the responses we get are interesting. We get admiration. We get sharp intakes of breath and brows drawn together as people mutter “why???”. And we get “there’s still time to change your mind.” Or “but if he wants to go to school you’ll send him right?” We get those two a lot.

I don’t have any intention of changing my mind. That sounds defiantly naive from someone whose child is yet to start ‘prep’, but I know this one, not just because I’ve been homeschooled, but because it makes sense for us. It feels right. It feels exciting. I have no doubt that we’ll make mistakes, and that we’ll learn from them as much as we do the successes. For all the highs and lows that will undoubtedly come my children will have the world as their classroom, they will be taught by someone who loves them more than anyone, and their needs, challenges and strengths will drive this thing before us.

What about if he wants to go to school? See here’s the thing; he wants to eat chips for every meal, except when there’s chocolate. He wants to have custard for desert every night and icecream every day and never, ever brush his teeth. As his parent it’s my job to guide him for what’s best for him, until he has gained the wisdom to make those choices for himself. So if he wanted to go to school would I send him? No, not now. I’d see why, and I’d make changes and fill gaps that might not be being filled. I’d put his happiness first, without question, but I’d encourage him to take this time. If he was older and he decided school was right for him then I would support him all the way.

This thing before us is big, but it’s also awesome. And I don’t plan to do it alone. He will have many teachers in his life, he will pursue hobbies, languages, probably martial arts, sports or dance. He will be surrounded by friends of his choosing, of all ages, and he will also enjoy the peace of solitude that he craves.  Sometimes he will be bored, and from that he will find his own motivation. He will have opportunities laid out for him and have to pursue others himself.

We will explore rockpools and textbooks. Some days we will play and wander until the sun goes down and others we will get lost in study.

He will get a great education – and so will we. His family. We’ll learn together. Not just about phonics and science and history and art but about each other. We will learn what makes each other tick, what drives each other mad, and what makes each other hungry for more.

Some links of interest…

Csilla is a homeschooling consultant (see Too Cool 4 School on facebook) and has just written an amazing book about her family’s journey. I was fortunate enough to be asked to write the foreword Love Learn Live

John Taylor Gatto – All his work is brilliant, but this speech connected so much for us The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher

SunnyHomeschool on facebook is a wonderful resource and run by a very special homeschooling Mum, Heather.

Sir Ken RobinsonChanging Education Paradigms

A thought provoking video Why I hate school but love education

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012