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

 

 

 

Toddler Tips to keep your parents on their toes

 (Inspired by my beloved almost two year old)

  • Any reason is a valid reason to be picked up. If you don’t feel like walking any more burst into tears and scream “Can’t walk!!! TOO LAZZZYYYY!!!!”
  • Parents can become complacent while driving if silence prevails for more than thirty seconds. Use a mixture of techniques to keep them on their toes. This week mine are:
  1. “Watch out!!! On the road!!!!!” “What’s on the road?” “HUGE CROCODILE!!! QUICK!!! BIG SHARP TEETH COMING TO EAT YOUR HEAD!!!” *pause for thirty seconds then repeat with another fierce beast of your choice*
  2. “Happy!” *insert maniacal laugh with head thrown back and mad flailing of arms then return to complete neutral* “Sad!!!” *drop lip and say, not cry “Wahhhh!” a few dozen times before reverting to happy*
  3. If anyone in the car looks too relaxed try accusing them of something. It doesn’t have to make sense. “No cows in there!! Just a man and pretty grass BODHI!” *glare fiercely at brother and shake head while jabbing a finger in his direction* Bodhi – “I’m not exactly sure what I did…”
  •  Singing is fun, but songs can get boring. To make them more interesting try replacing random words with “Poo”.
  • Your mother wants you to grow into a free spirited individual who thinks for himself. Remind her of this daily by ignoring her completely when she calls out to you.

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  • Diversion is the best form of defence. If you’re being naughty and your Mummy lovingly accuses you of being a troublemaker immediately accuse her of being a “chickenmaker”.  Her momentary pause will allow you to escape and wreak further havoc.
  • Parents love imagination. Show them that you have one by sharing stories with them. They also love adventure so make sure your stories feature volcanoes, lava raining from the sky, and fierce dinosaurs who like to eat Mummies and Daddies.
  • Love can be gentle and love can be fierce. Remind your Mummy of this while she’s putting you to bed by alternating between soft kisses and body slams to her face.
  • That is not breakfast, that is a physics experiment. Now see if you can make that sucker fly.Toddler 1
  • If your Mummy says anything you don’t like, such as come here, don’t touch that, listen etc just scream “Ow!!! Ow!!! Help!!” This is more effective if in public. Don’t let the fact that she hasn’t touched you put you off. For extra points smirk at her while you do it.
  • “Don’t do THAT!!!!” can, and should, be screamed at regular intervals regardless if anyone is doing anything or not.
  • That is not a Christmas tree, that’s a personal challenge. Aim for the glass baubles, the ones that bounce are boring.
  • Mummies like ladybugs so call everything you give her a ladybug, even if it’s actually a live roach. Her scream just means she’s excited.
  • Honesty is the best policy. If Mummy says “You’ve been a bit naughty this morning, are you going to be a good boy now?” say “No, but will be very cute.”
  • In tender moments stroke Mummy’s face gently and murmur “Aw, so old.” 
  • Ask for Daddy, then scream for Mummy when you get to him… then scream for Daddy when you get to her. It makes them both feel loved.
  • Everyone must be standing in your presence at all times. If Mummy offers you a hug while she’s sitting on the floor it is perfectly acceptable to throw back your head and wail in anguish while stamping your feet.Toddler 4
  • Flinging your arms around someone’s neck and saying “Love you SO MUCH!” makes them happy. Mix this in with the naughtiness to keep them on side.
  • If you’re feeling shy pretend you’re a statue. This works better if you’re in an odd posture at the time.
  • If Mummy tries to play peek a boo with you while you’re nude pretend that you heard poo instead and do one immediately. It will make the game memorable.
  • Snot is exciting and must be presented for inspection to everyone in the room.
  • Spontaneity is good. Having just done a pee in the potty is no reason not to pee on the floor 30 seconds later.
  • It’s good to appear in the know. If people are having an intelligent conversation interrupt frequently to say “Yeah of COURSE.”
  • Enthusiasm is everything. Soften the blow of waking Mummy up at 4am by leaping on her shouting “Hoorrrraaayyyy! Is morning!!!”
  • Last but not least, if you’re really cranky, just make this face….

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

To the Dads

To the Dads,

Let me take a moment to remind you how important you are.

I’m sure you’ve had flashes of it, the practical importance of the hands on help, the cuddles, the giggles and secret jokes between you and your kids… but sometimes in amongst all the busyness you might miss the enormity of those moments.

You likely grew up in a time where ‘boys don’t cry’ and we should ‘toughen them up’. You likely were told to quit it or cut it out when your heart ached, or to pull it together when you needed to be held. Maybe over time your walls went up. Maybe it changed you, even if you were loved beyond measure, to grow up  when ‘good’ meant quiet or stoic, not sad, not vulnerable, not needing more.

And maybe your walls get in the way sometimes, when you try to connect to those close to you. Maybe they divide you and your wife, or even the parts of who you are. Maybe they’ve been there so long that you fail to notice them, until someone breaks them down just enough for you realize that it’s ok to feel what you’re feeling. That you’re worth it just as much in your angst as your joy.

Your kids are building right now, Dads, they’re building themselves. Allow them to chip away at your walls with you, so they don’t feel the need to build their own. Every hug, every ounce of compassion and connection, every ‘are you ok?’ ‘it’s ok to feel like that’, every ‘I love you’ helps shape them. Every time they feel like you’re their safe place, where it’s ok to be soft even if the world feels hard, moulds them into someone to be proud of.

You see they learn a lot from you, and most of it happens when you don’t think they’re watching.

Your sons are watching you and learning what it means to be a man. Over the years the world and their peers will bombard them with images, ideas and falsehoods, but right now, when they look at you, you’re it. You’re their first example of the richness of growing up. In you they see strength, love, commitment, hard work, laughter, and romance. Let them see the hand holding and the arms around your wife or partner. Let them see the thoughtful gestures between you and the dancing in the kitchen or snuggles on the couch.

Every time you help in the home your sons learn a little about responsibility, every time you treat someone with respect they learn a little about integrity, every time you show them how precious they are, even if they might be driving you mad in that moment, you show them the fierceness and beauty of love.

Your daughters are learning about men from you. Before the friends and the boyfriends, TV shows and romance novels they see you. They see how you live your life, treat their mother (or your partner), and value yourself and them. They learn about body image from remarks you make, about true compliments when you see the wonders in them, and from hugs that ask for nothing. Because as they grow up they will be flattered, and the authenticity of your interactions with them will ground them. They will hurt, as we all do, and they will remember the strength and love you showed them and accept nothing less from those around them.

Life is busy, especially with work, and sometimes the conversations, connections, board games and adventures feel like they may take the last out of you at the end of a long day. But remember that these aren’t small things for your little ones. These are their memories. Those bedtime stories, lego building, bush walks, sword fights, star gazing or cubby houses will feel all the more rich to both of you as time passes, and it does pass oh so quickly. One day, all too soon, they’ll be too busy for silly games or adventure stories read by lamp light. One day they wont want to hold your hands as you jump on the trampoline, and they wont need that push on the swing.

And now, the time that they do? That matters. You matter. So much more than you realize.

They’re building themselves right now out of moments Dads, and your moments with them hold it all together.

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Copyright 2013 Nirvana Dawson

Treasure hunting

These past couple of weeks have been a blur of sick kids, sick parents and the general chaos that goes with it. A teething toddler squealing if he wasn’t velcro attached to a hip at all times and mess, so spectacularly much of it, breeding like the germs we have been trying to fight.

In amongst it all there has been a lot of tiredness, frustration, and, well… sneezing. There haven’t been a lot of ‘wow’ moments.

Or at least that’s what I thought. It occurred to me today in the midst of a pile of laundry that I had forgotten about the game in this. That every day, be it filled with snot and old cartoons or beaches and laughter – they’re all treasure hunts.

In this day there was gratitude to be found. There were so very many things to be thankful for. So I started being aware of the treasure hunt. I started looking a little harder….

I found a beautiful home behind the newly applied pencil marks on the walls (thanks little one). I found the unmistakable smell of ‘baby’ still clinging to the toddler than clung to me. I found new angles to my five year olds face – just a little – the sign of a growth spurt in progress and the proud squeals when he marked his new height on the wall by the fridge. I realized that my enormous laundry pile meant abundance – so many clothes. So many beautiful colours, fabrics and styles all ours. I found options in the ‘I don’t know what to cook’… healthy ones, lots of them, with fresh broccoli and silverbeet and basil from the garden – scents that I could still smell through my blocked nose. I even found appreciation in my tiredness, and realized how deliciously good sitting down felt today in those moments when I had the chance.

We get so caught up in the tired or the busy or the stressed or the sick that we miss all the wonderful holding it together. There is always gratitude to be found in the day you have… sometimes, you just need to take a little more notice.

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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.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

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

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