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

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

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

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

To Have Shyness

In English they say you are something, as though your state at that moment defines you, you are thirsty, you are hungry, when in truth you’re not – they’re moments that pass, some delicious, some unpleasant, but you are so much more than any of them. In Italian and Spanish and probably many other languages I’m not wise enough to know they say you have thirst, you have hunger, right now, maybe not in an hour or a year or even tomorrow. It doesn’t define you, its just part of you in this very moment.

My little one has shyness. Eyes cast downwards in timid moments, stock still or running back to Mumma when it all gets too much, arms wide, crying that cry that seems to come straight from the baby still inside the walking talking little one.

And it’s frustrating sometimes. Because when it eases I see how beautifully he plays with other kids, I see the delight he takes in the interactions with others and the stories he tells us afterwards. So I put him out there – enough for all the scary bits to seem not so scary anymore, from the vantage point that feels most like home, be it mummas hip or just in the aura of someone who makes the world seem a little smaller.

Tonight, like so many nights, my boy ran around the house pushing his pink stroller, Peppa Pig tucked in neatly. He sang, he talked about his day, he made jokes, he played in the bath with me laughing so sweetly and freely that it made me soar. He talked to the stars, marvelled at a spider, tore around the house squealing with glee playing chasey and covered Daddy and I with kisses.

And I felt so intensely grateful for this little boy. This boy that has shyness right now. Because soon the world wont seem so big to him, people wont seem worth hiding from, my hip will seem too limiting, the urge to explore will get too much, he will chase others with that same gleeful squeal that he chases his family and they will be lucky enough to hear all the stories that bubble out of him.

I’m excited for him, for every one of those bits to come. I also feel blessed, because right now, when my shoulder is still a safe place to nuzzle into and when “Mumma” is still whispered like comfort, we know this boy, this fascinating little person, in a way that others don’t yet. Like a really amazing secret.  And in this moment, he is ours in a way that only the ones who have shyness are.

We have his jokes, his quirks, his funny faces that he pulls to make us laugh. We have the raw moments and the joyful moments and the moments of wild toddler abandon. Sometimes he lets others glimpse them too, before deciding that maybe our secret is best kept a little longer.

I am blessed to be the mother of a little boy who has shyness, just as I am to be the mother of a big boy who has none. As time passes they will have many other things, many other parts of themselves that wont define them any more than these ones do, they’ll just become pieces of the puzzle of who they are. For now I’ll just aim to be the one who has balance for them when they need it, and I’ll enjoy all the little moments that are ours to keep.

Sebastian

The things you teach me

My babies,

Before me you are growing every day. Now and again I go a week or so without noticing just how much, then I stroke your head or hold your hand and the weight of it is different in mine, your hair wilder, your fingers stronger as they entwine with my own, your sigh deeper as you lean in for a hug. I wish I could take a snapshot in those times, photos I could feel back to, to remember your scent, your lopsided grin or the oh too many kisses you assault me with while the housework mounts just outside of our moment.

I am struck by so much about this time, and even with this I know there is more I’ll find later, like a treasure hunt you set up every day without me knowing. There is wisdom and laughter in this and it’s right there for years to come when the deepening of my perspective makes it obvious to look back on.

There are many things I’m learning from you now, from both of you. I’m learning that you are my mirrors – much kinder, wiser and more honest than the ones under harsh lighting in the bathroom. I am learning to accept the flowers and sticky fingered cuddles and whispers of “you’re my princess” like gifts, and to cherish that view of myself through your wide eyes. I am humbled by that love, and try to tell you the same every day with actions and laughter as much as the words I whisper into your soft hair.

I am learning that your bad moments are just as much of a gift to me as your good ones. That the hard is just as good as the easy, even if it doesn’t feel as smooth at the time. As I teach you about life you teach me right back. You teach me not to lose myself in overwhelm if you scream in a tantrum, you teach me to be aware of each moment so I can piece your preferences together like a jigsaw, and that more often than not, your state is a reflection of my own. Even when it isn’t, me being in a place of ease and happiness relaxes you like a hug you probably wouldn’t want me to give you at the time.

I have learned that minds are naturally hungry, but are picky as the eaters they are attached to, and that information, properly prepared can be just as sweet as your favourite dish. You teach me that mischief is actually curiosity, ‘getting into things’ is actually exploration, and that looking me in the eye while you do what you shouldn’t is actually learning the arts of persuasion.

You teach me to be patient, even when I’m not.

I see every day from you that we learn what we love, so love is the thing most worth fostering because learning follows impossibly close behind without fail.

I am discovering that the magic I find in words may be hidden for you in patterns of lego or the great outdoors, so not to try to force my own magic on you, but rather follow, heart in my throat, hoping to catch a glimpse of what I can learn of yours.

I am discovering that good and bad, tired and relaxed, stressed and happy can and often do coexist in the same moment, but that we choose which one we see. This is such an important lesson that we’re teaching each other a little of it each day.

I am learning to stretch, with you, because of you and for you. And I am better for it.

That the best example I can give you is to be the best of who I am, which doesn’t mean being perfect, it means being wildly curious, joyful, playful and kind.

You show me the absurd in the world around us, and the fierceness in myself as I rise to protect you from anything less than you deserve. All the while we find the good together in places we often didn’t expect.

You are both so whole and fascinating before me, and I am relaxing into seeing you with the richness of now, rather than the hopes, pressures and fears of the future. I do not need to see the men in you in right now, that’s not my role, my role is to see the spark in you right now and let it light something of your future each day.

So thank you, little boys, for the muchness of all that you are.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The Paradox of Positive Thinking

We read a lot these days that our thoughts create our reality. I believe that. But I also believe that the positive thinking concept has got it a little backwards.

Our thoughts are born of feelings. They flow from where we’re at, a silent dialogue of the emotion that birthed them.

Moments of peace create peaceful thoughts, moments of joy, joyful imaginings and moments of anguish naturally give way to darker wanderings of mind.

Trying to change the natural flow of this dialogue while you’re amongst it is like standing in the rain and affirming that it’s sunny. It is wholly unauthentic to where you’re at.

Maybe, instead of pushing to think positively we should allow our minds to quiet for a moment instead. We should take a walk outside or a hot shower or drink a warm cup of tea and just breathe. Maybe we should meditate and watch our breath and let our feelings ease.

It’s from that place of ease that we come back to ourselves. We come back to the best of us, the place where we think better because our feelings naturally create the dialogue we were pushing for.

From that place of ease we can choose our thoughts authentically, or just explore where clarity takes them. This is allowing, and all you need is that moment of silence within yourself to make it happen.

Positive thinking naturally evolves from positive feelings. So next time you feel down take a breath – don’t struggle to get away from where you are. Just ease into a better feeling place however works for you… and see where that takes you.

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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.

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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

Seeing the same things differently

Yesterday I was flat. Flat for a whole number of reasons that I couldn’t quite place. I had to think about what was missing even as its absence gnawed at me.

Connection was missing, between myself and my husband, which came down to busyness and tiredness rather than lack of love.

Variety was missing, or at least I couldn’t find it under the piles of mess I was sure I’d cleaned up yesterday.

Exercise was missing, in amongst all that needed to be done, I felt sluggish, and that sluggishness kept propelling me towards chocolate.

Chocolate was, sadly, not missing.

I felt, when it really came down to it, that I was missing. Like I had misplaced myself somewhere amongst the “to do” list of every day, and the nightly preparation for it to start again.

You see, every day, mothers and fathers do something quite remarkable… they care about someone else more than themselves. They find themselves noticing things that their kids would like, preparing things to make them smile, finding things that will help them feel fulfilled. They hide wonder in every day and help their child find it.

There is so much joy in caring for others. SO MUCH. There is a gift of perspective in it, of patience, of belonging. It’s a role without comparison and it gives me immeasurable happiness. But sometimes, just sometimes, I miss the days when I was only looking after me.

When I would wake early to run on the beach and swim even in the winter, when I would have a clean house and car free of popcorn and stray socks, when I could safely pee without a toddler dismantling something in the next room, when my nights would be spent laughing with friends, lost in books or dancing the tango. When I had enough spare time to read textbooks just because, or to write endless emails in languages I didn’t quite understand.

I missed that me yesterday, because from where I was in my flatness the grass back then seemed so much greener.

Then late at night, with my babies in bed, I watched a clip called “This is Water”. It was about perspective. And I needed it. Because it reminded me that the ‘me’ I was missing that day, used to ache for everything I have now.

It reminded me how much I wanted this gorgeous family, this wonderful husband, this beautiful house. How much I wanted these messy, smelly dogs and the couches now piled with the washing of the people I love. It reminded me how much I wanted to grow and learn, and how I had learned more from these past five years of motherhood than I ever learned in a book or a yoga class.

The frustration at my son’s cranky mood faded, when I remembered how I had always thought I wasn’t a patient person. And here I was, being one, even when I’d rather not be.

I woke up this morning with the pile of washing still to fold, and the dishes still in the sink. My husband and I were still busy and my kids still did their best to push my buttons.

But I wasn’t missing anymore. I was back here in the thick of it. Frustrated and happy and inspired and wanting more. I’d made a decision to make more time for the things that mattered, but also not to worry so much about all the stuff that didn’t.

Because we’re like chameleons, all of us. We might not look the same as we did a week ago, or a year ago, or as we will in the future. We might not have the same things to say or the same group of friends, but that’s kind of the point. Because we change to fit in with where we are, without ever really changing at all. We are us, vibrant and whole, and able to take this day before us on with gusto.

It cannot make us less.

And every bit of ourselves we have given our children, every ounce of patience we have earned, every mess we have cleaned up as though this time it will actually STAY clean, has given us more perspective, more richness to the colours we can wear whenever the situation calls for them.

There is a story in every day, and every one has a moral, every one has a challenge, every one has humour and every single one has a happy ending hidden in there somewhere. Sometimes it’s easy to see, and sometimes you need to try a little harder… but you can. The days that have come before it have taught you how.tomorrow