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.

 

IMG_9877

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2015

Hey Mumma, You’re Doing Fine

 

I hope you had a great day today. One of those days where you’re woken with a kiss and your coffee tastes just right. One of those days where the sun is particularly warming and your kids make you laugh over breakfast. An easy day. A day where you walk down the street and people see you. The relaxed you, the real you, the you that radiates all the good stuff and makes everyone smile back.

I hope it was one of those days where strangers took a moment to tell you what a good job you’re doing with your beautiful kids, or where family gave you an extra hug and told you how valued you are.

But days can be fickle sometimes, just like people.

Maybe you didn’t get your dose of wonderful today, so let me share some with you now.

Mumma, you’re doing great. Amazing. Freakin’ fantastic. And no tantrum in the supermarket or homework disaster can change that. The messy kitchen, unfolded laundry or weeds in the garden? They don’t matter. Trust me. They don’t. You’ll get to them, you always do. But you rocked at today Mumma, because you loved fiercely today. Not perfectly, but that’s ok, we don’t aim for that, perfect’s too stiff, real is better. You loved your family today in that real fierce Mumma love where you saw the good stuff in them even if they were hiding it.

You took time to explain kindly, even if you wanted to yell. You were patient, even if you felt rushed.  You found time for a game, even if you were busy. You made them smile even if they were making you frown. And you also probably stuffed up Mumma and that was the best bit of all, because NO ONE gets it right all the time, not you or your kids and when you picked yourself back up again and owned it you taught them courage, and humility and that it’s ok for them to be human too.

Some days you’re going to be adventures and crafts and freshly baked muffins and other days you’re going to be pajama pants and baked beans. It doesn’t matter. Life has its rhythms and you’re allowed to as well. But you laughed with them today, didn’t you? And you probably danced, or sang or made an animal noise at least once. You found something that was impossibly lost forever in their room or turned balled up socks into a football.

You gave them something good today. You. And they love you to the moon and back for it.

Yep, even during the tantrum in the supermarket.

So sleep sweetly Mumma, because if life didn’t show you how beautiful you are today it will tomorrow.

You’re doing fine.

 

DSC00758

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.

Toddler 2

  • 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….

Toddler 3

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The Push – a homeschooling post

(I am part of a beautiful homeschooling community that is based on mutual respect as well as a love of our kids. What I’m about to write is my opinion, yours may differ, and that’s ok. I respect you for the path you choose, and I trust that you feel the same xx)

I often hear in homeschooling circles the idea that children should never be coerced to study. That learning should only happen when, where and how, the child chooses. Tied in with this is the idea that we should never teach, only provide opportunities for learning. Apparently, this is trusting our children.

The thing is, we need to trust ourselves too.

There is a focus on being child lead, and rightly so. My son and I regularly explore his random questions to their conclusions, and we love learning together. Going on the treasure hunt for answers together is one of the joys of homeschooling, along with education fitting in with life’s adventures, rather than the other way around. But part of my respect for him is respecting that he is a child, and just as I have learned what he needs when he’s hungry, tired, or sick, it’s also up to me to learn what he needs when it comes to education.

Sometimes that’s freedom; other times it’s a gentle push.

You see my five year old is as beautiful and complex as any other kid out there, and part of that is that new things scare him. He is not the child who will find the workbook and begin trying to figure out the exercises, or the child who will pickup a notepad and try to write, just as he’s not the kid who will try to master a new skill at the playground or to figure out his bike. For him there is joy in learning something only when he feels like he can do it.

He also possesses a unique laziness. He’s proud of it, so wouldn’t mind me telling you that. Be it a long walk or writing a letter it is often ‘work’ best avoided. The other day at the zoo he walked joyfully for three hours before reaching the car, when his face dropped and anger filled his voice “Oh no!” he breathed, as though about to deliver terrible news “I just exercised by accident! I hate exercise.” Exercise too, as you can imagine, is ‘work’.

So if left entirely to his own devices he would avoid school work all together. He’d also avoid brushing his teeth, making his bed or exploring new places that he now adores. He is my gorgeous boy and his positive qualities are endless, but get up and go and mastering the new are not amongst them.

That’s why I’m allowing my child to lead me to what he needs. He needs a Mum who will tell him to make his bed and go and brush his teeth, he needs a Mum who sets rules and boundaries, and he needs a Mum who will tell him it’s time to sit down and do school for a bit – even if he’d rather be playing LEGO.

There is the myth that homeschooled kids live in a perpetual bubble of joy about learning. Life is learning, and they get more time to explore the richness of it so in a lot of ways they do, but they’re still kids, and there will likely be days when they tell you school is BORING, or RIDICULOUS, or RUBBISH and that it should be thrown in the BIN.

This is not an idyllic world and it’s unfair on each other to pretend that.

More often than not my son runs to his desk when it’s time to do his school work, he sits down and he giggles and he focuses and he tries hard. He has a ball. But other days it just doesn’t go like that, and those are the ones when I need to dig my heels in a little. We don’t do as much on those days, but we still do school, and it’s because of that that his enthusiasm for the rest of it grows. It’s because of the consistency that he’s finding reading and writing and spelling and math become easier – he likes easy.

The more he learns, the more he wants to. He’s bubbling with ‘I can do it!’ But because of who he is I will probably always have to push a little from time to time. I will probably need to take a deep breath here and there when he decides he HATES his books one day and ADORES the very same ones the next.

My son is very lucky, not only because he has the better part of his days to follow his passions and interests and explore the world, but because he has before him the gift of an education. And it matters. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t.

Around the world, hundreds of thousands of children would give anything for the opportunities our kids have. Some walk for hours to sit in dusty classrooms just to gain a little of this precious gift of knowledge and the skills that make it possible.

This reading and writing business? That’s the access code for everything they could ever want to know. In giving them that you’re opening up a bit more of the world for them that they couldn’t have accessed otherwise. The grammar matters, the spelling matters, the vocabulary allows them to wonder a little more vastly than they could have otherwise.

This maths business? Those are the numbers that underlie our finances, our sciences and the schedules of our days. They are not only useful, but exciting, and our mastery of them can lead us to places we can only imagine.

When you give your child an education you give them a gift that is probably too big for them to unwrap right now, so don’t be surprised if they don’t always appreciate the magnitude of it. They will in time, just as the skills you help them build and the virtues you encourage in them will help shape their world.

By all means give them opportunities for self-learning, but don’t be afraid to teach any more than you’re afraid to be taught.  A child needs to learn the value of listening, of focus, of gaining knowledge from another. You don’t go to a language class and have the teacher sit down and say “Ok, now you figure it out.”

Being taught is a skill, just as self-driven learning is.

I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out, but I am saying that I’ve been there. I’ve been an intelligent child in an environment that went out of its way not to teach (I attended a democratic unschooling style school for four years as a child) and as smart as I was there was a MASSIVE amount I missed out on learning before I moved to a more structured approach at home.

You wont harm the thirst for knowledge in your child by setting a little structure for an hour or two a day, you may even spark more of a thirst in them, or give them more tools to explore their wonderings. A child who knows little of history cannot find their passion in it, a child who knows nothing of geography may miss out on fascinations about the world.

A child who picks up a book and teaches themselves how to read is remarkable. But so is a child who needs a bit of encouragement to give it a go. Both will have strengths, weaknesses, challenges and joys. It’s our job to help them navigate those.

When you home educate your child you are taking on something amazing. I commend that. And I admire anyone who trusts their child to guide their education… but more so those who put the same trust in themselves.

 IMG_9179

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!

DSC06285

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

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.

 

DSC06270

Point made, little one, point made.

Bodhi on parenting

“I don’t want him to follow me!” Bodhi protested as Sebastian took off after him down the hall, all squeals, giggles and mischief.

“He’s just trying to play with you.” I explained (again) “He doesn’t know how to play your games yet, so we need to be patient and teach him.”

Apparently this wasn’t convincing. “Why?” Bodhi asked.

“That’s what we do for babies. When you were little you couldn’t do much at all, but we helped teach you to roll over, sit up, eat, walk, talk and play games. We had to help you learn how to do everything you do now.”

“Seriously?” He looked horrified. “You must have been BORED out of your MIND!!”

(Maybe I shouldn’t hurry to teach Sebastian *too* much anyway, Bodhi has spent the week repeatedly trying to arrest him. Whenever I point out that he’s not a villain – like in his games – he responds “He’ll probably be one when he grows up. You can’t be too careful.” Best not grow up too fast then!)

 

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012