It’s not you, it’s me.

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I heard myself defensively saying “we go to lots of playgroups, classes and play dates” before I could stop myself. It was only afterwards that I reflected and realised that the “preschool is good for them socially” wasn’t about my choices, it was about her’s. That a smile was enough. That she was nice. That just like me, she has worries in the back of her head about whether she has done / is doing the right thing.

I’m yet to meet a mum who doesn’t want to feel good about her choices or who doesn’t try to make them for all the right reasons.

I haven’t sent T to preschool because I wanted him to have what I had and because I am lucky enough to be in a position where it is possible. Because I feel I have been able to offer him everything he needs with what is on offer for preschoolers in my area. Because it felt like the right thing for him. Because it fits my skills set (most of the time…) and I enjoy it. And that’s fine.

And the lady I chatted too would have made her choice for different reasons; social reasons obviously and probably a whole host of other good reasons too. And that’s fine too.

And the relative/friend/neighbour who tells you how she got her children to sleep/behave/eat probably aren’t judging you either. Even if it feels like it. And even if they are, the overriding thing they’ll be doing is reassuring themselves. They need to feel that what they did/are doing was the right thing for their children. Because nothing is closer to their hearts than their children. Because they have never done anything before or since that matters as much.

So next time I will try and just smile…

 

 

 

 

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Meltdown mindset

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I’ve got a new mindset to try and jump into when I’m having a tough five minutes (or so….) whilst in the company of my kids.  It could do with a catchier name but for now it is my “Let me show you” meltdown mindset.

This is how it went today when I found myself in a Post Office at 12pm (what idiot does that pre lunch?).  Anyway…..M starts having a complete meltdown; let me show you how to be compassionate, kind and patient.  He wants two toy magazines; let me show you how to be gently assertive, quietly persistent and patient.  He is really asserting himself back now; let me show you how to give him space.  People can’t get in the Post Office to post their letters; let me show you how to deal with embarrassment and bum shuffle with a two year old under your arm.  He is really losing his rag (insert your own); let me show you real patience.  He is getting quite animated (again please do insert your own); let me show you how long you have to be &£;!&£@ patient for sometimes.  He says he’ll be happy if we go to a playarea; let me show you what relief looks like and how to admit defeat (we will call it compromise).  And so we ate our lunch in a cold playarea because I said we would (let me show you how to keep your word).  Let me £&@£@@£ show you.  I don’t say the “Let me show you” bit btw.

Joking apart it did help and it does help me regularly.  I think I go a bit out of body, maybe even a bit professional.  I don’t feel professional but you know what I mean.  They get me back when they calm down.  And I guess they want me back because the let me show you woman is alright, but she doesn’t half grate after a while.

To help our children deal with the world I have come to accept a bit of adversity is needed.  They need to see you working hard at being patient; they need to know that it is hard and it feels hard, but that there are benefits.  That it is worth it. That things recover quicker and people may never say thank you but do appreciate and benefit from it.  That its the right thing.  That it can make you calmer and happier.  The firmness that goes with the patience can be quiet, kind and almost hiding.

The kindness is so important but make sure that it includes you; they’re modelling themselves on you afterall and you want their future self to be kind to themselves and happy.  And you want to be happy!  I think they benefit from hearing you say something kind to yourself outloud – sounds strange I know.  Let them hear you going easy on yourself when you make a questionable choice or forget something.  And just as importantly be kind to yourself when patience escapes you – like it does us all.  At least I assume it does.

Your children will probably find their own way of dealing with the sunshine and happy side of things quite easily.  Although having said that, it is perhaps not instinctive to share, be graceful and grateful.  I can do sharing but am only just growing out of my competitive streak, so I am not sure where they’ll get the grace from.  Dad I expect.  (Although he does run by them at ‘park run’ shouting “Yes I’m winning” when he is not even winning.  Never mind gracefully winning.  We may have to outsource grace.)

I’m touching wood as I write this, as we all do I guess when we are feeling lucky.  I feel very very lucky that tough today was literally spilt milk, not having enough layers on at the park (me that is – brrrrrr) and a meltdown in the post office (that was M the two year old, meanwhile T the three year old – and me – enjoyed being all reasonable).  I also feel lucky that my mind although tired, is today a happy and upbeat one.

I am grateful for having an easy “Let me show you” day but hopeful that it helped the boys learn some hard to master skills.  Skills I am still working on.  I mean really. Ffs.

If it makes you happy…

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The pictures of the books are there to show that I really care about doing the right thing by my kids. I am not saying that you need to read books to care and/or do right by your kids. I guess my thinking is that most people who read parenting books are trying to do right by their kids, but obviously not all people that are trying to do right by their kids read parenting books. Phew.

This isn’t even what I’m trying to blog about today. Bear with me. Basically I think I might sound trivial so I want you to ‘get me’ a bit first. Essentially – despite what my two year old says – I am not a “doker”.

Aaaarggh. I digress, I digress, I digress. What I want to blog about is the importance of metaphorically throwing out the books and finding you and your connection to your kids.

I am lucky to have worked and to work with some awesome teachers. One quite recently said how he made sure that every lesson had something that he was looking forward to in it. Selfish? Maybe. Beneficial? Definitely. He is a Chemistry teacher so the something can be pretty cool and literally explosive. But more importantly it means the students get to see him happy, engaged, enthusiastic and relaxed; doing something that he loves. I don’t want to go down the teacher blog route and you can probably see where I am heading with this. Stopping parenting and doing something you love with them (ignoring the extra mess, noise and chaos essential) can let them know you that bit better, make everyone happier and help some of the day to day stresses melt away.

The thing ‘you love’ can be a big day out or a quick dance to a favourite song. Small things can have big effects. My two boys trash the place prove this every day in an amazingly small space of time.

I have read some amazing books* and taken something from each one but I can’t believe the authors are/were rigid parents. Surely they couldn’t have written such great books if they were?? You need to freestyle a bit to discover right? More importantly you need to freestyle for your sanity. I think we should be brave and not worry that everything will turn into a dreadful habit. I spent my early parenting months worrying that everything would become a habit. Now I just think sod it, I’ll adapt this solution when it stops working.

I would argue that it is okay to have ice cream for breakfast once in a while (we’ve only done this once…so far), abandon tea and let them have toast (it was minging experimental) or let them safely run amok. Indulging every now and then in an ‘end of term’ spirit is sometimes the best thing to do. Letting the bus go rather than chasing after it can give you an amazing feeling of calm control.

If something makes you happy (and stops you tearing your hair out) it has to be a good thing all round surely??

I just want to check the following with you as I think I’m being a bit naughty….

My two year old has this great thing at the moment where he asks me to “put his bogies back” when I wipe his nose. Its brilliant. Basically I get to have another go and another go and another while “putting them back”.   Meanwhile my three year old will only apologise if “someone else says sorry first” which means I get to air my frustrations with phrases like “I am sorry we have to go through this facade every time you need to apologise”. He looks as pleased as punch and my irritation regarding whatever he has just done to his brother evaporates so much quicker.

Basically I’m quite confident up to the bogies and apologies bit. This is okay isn’t it? I genuinely worry (a bit) that they may somehow be scarred if they work out (on some level) that I’m laughing at them. Is this bonkers or is there no place for infantile behaviour when you’re a parent?

What I tell myself is that a happy mum is so important and rightly or wrongly I thrive on this low level humour. Its born out of love and me wanting to keep my patience. But is low level humour ever an acceptable activity for the thing ‘I love’ for the day??

UPDATE** At tea tonight my two year old wanted me to pick out ALL the YUCKY BITS (basil) from his pasta sauce. Instead I covered it with cheese and told him it had gone. To quote my three year old again “I just can’t stop being naughty”.

 

 

Small Print

*I’ve not read them all yet!

**In my defence I was at work today so I am very zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I got lucky

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I wasn’t sure why everyone was smiling so much at M as I pushed him around the supermarket. Obviously I think he is cute but people seemed instantly taken with him.

I wondered if I was getting sympathy smiles as I was really working the bedraggled look, having thrown a mac over an already brave outfit choice.  It was one of those ‘get out and get him to sleep now before he meltdowns’ rush exits.

As it turns out I had forgotten I’d handed him a potato in the veg aisle and he was still holding/cuddling/being strangely fascinated by it.  Like he had never come so close to a vegetable before. This lasted for nearly the whole shopping trip (before the potato came to sad end but I’ll gloss over that).

Since having kids I have often thought how different you and your life must look over the course of any given day, all because toddlers swing so easily and readily from highs to lows. Sometimes my day seems to be in tatters moments after we’ve all been walking on sunshine and vice versa.

Today I got lucky and I treated myself – I walked like a woman who had it all sorted, who knew when to give her son a potato to keep him happy.  Who had positive parenting down to a fine art.  I was down with the kids.  I didn’t pay him to get in the buggy ten minutes ago.  And it certainly wasn’t me who only yesterday had a very similar looking child climb out of a very similar coloured buggy, covered in snot and scream “put my bogies back on” as I wiped his nose.

So today I got lucky.  And the next time I feel a bit crappy looking at a serene family scene (while mine shout “I want to bite all grown ups” or something similar) I’ll try not to feel too jealous/inadequate.  Afterall, who knows what was happening ten minutes ago.

The power of the positive.

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Today may not be the best day for me to write a post with the title “The Power of Positive”, given that it started with my two year old biting my three year old and ended with the same two year old dancing in the three year old’s wee (having emptied the potty’s entire contents on the lounge rug). I am going to stick with it though as I need the positive energy and because there was no poo. Also as our happiest moments come out of the positive, if I am going to start my ramblings anywhere it has got to be with the positive. And what is usually my pursuit as opposed to mastery of it.

I am not going to ramble too much about those times when it’s easy to be positive, when it happens without you noticing. You know. Like every….so often. The first afternoon of the year spent pottering in a warm back garden. The spontaneous laughter of little friends/siblings sharing a joke. The random relaxed days when everything just clicks into place. Instead I want to strengthen my positive resolve for when my offspring dance in each other’s wee. For the I won’t eat my cereal because you didn’t let me pour 4 pints of milk on it “by myself” moments. Or the, I am going to take thirty minutes to get into this car seat and there is nothing you can do about it scenario. (And there’s no point trying as I will Houdini myself out of it even if you briefly manage it moments.)

So here I am chasing down the positive. Often failing, normally laughing, sometimes crying. Here is my list so far….

(1) Never put a child down

One of the best bits of advice I have had was in 2000 during my first year of teaching. “Never put a child down”. Thanks Pat! Pat was no mug. Kids behaved for Pat. Whilst keeping their self esteem intact. No mean feat.

(2) Close the windows of opportunity

Another gem from an old head of department. I guess with regards to a toddler it might be moving an object out of sight or emptying the potty pronto.

(3) 5 to 1 praise ratio – at least!

I regularly have to remind myself (and my husband – I don’t know how he puts up with my constant feedback on rearing our offspring) to think about how things seem from their viewpoint. I tell myself to think about how hacked off I would be with an email in my inbox (or a colleague in my face) that asks for this and that, but doesn’t seem to appreciate or thank me for what I have done. A cliche but “catch them being good”.

(4) Empathy

How hard must it be to have your whole day dictated and planned out for you with constant instructions. And to be so dependent. I would be vile if the boot was on the other foot. Bet I was. Sorry Mum. No wonder my two year old, who is mastering more and more words, is trying to own me the whole time! Charlie Taylor in his book “Dictators and Divas” advocated letting them be the boss in play sometimes to give them an outlet for this frustration. Sometimes I try this. Sometimes I “like” to take it further and “let” them be the boss in real life.

(5) Collecting rewards

Another Charlie golden nugget – collecting pebbles in a jar, although I tend to use ball pool balls in a jug. They don’t hurt if you throw them. Close that window. He advises just focussing on one behaviour that you want to change – for me it was kindness between siblings. The idea is that every time they do the positive behaviour they get a ball and put it in the jug and when the jar/jug is full they get a treat (for us it’s normally letting them wash up or pretend to drive the car). You aren’t meant to take balls away (although my husband likes to) but maybe take a break from collecting the balls / awarding rewards if things go awry. This method works SO well as it focuses you and them – you are looking for the positive and as a result see more of it. Can’t recommend it enough. It has given us happy days. Even if the kindness was saccharin sweet and hideously exaggerated.

(6) The little things

He also promotes the use of little rewards. ONE chocolate button for a tidy table after a meal. In our house it would have to include floor, walls, head and me but you get the idea. I NEED to buy a tidy tube of chocolate buttons; this idea of his worked an absolute treat a couple of years ago on my then nearly two year old. Second children definitely get it easier as I am currently just waiting for number 2 to grow out of it. Going to buy that tube.

(7) Celebrate!

I think sometimes you just need one fun thing like balls in a jug to set the tone for your day. After all children love to hear about how good they’ve been so relive it and repeat it. Let them overhear you telling your other half or Grandma about it. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Celebrate! My three year old loves it when I tell him he has made my nose go all tingly as he was so kind / gentle / thoughtful to his brother.

(8) Descriptive Praise

I LOVE “How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. A fantastic read and potentially life changing book on how to get the best out of children. I especially love their take on descriptive praise, which is basically you running a commentary on the positive behaviour displayed, describing what you like.  The idea is that the indirect praise feels more genuine as they know what it’s for, which also might make them more likely to repeat the good behaviour.  It can also be used subtlety so children copy each other rather than feel put out that they’re not getting the “well done”.

(9) Let them problem solve

Adele and Elaine’s book “Siblings no Rivalry” is another book well worth some time and I often draw on their idea that you don’t have to resolve all their conflicts for them. Obviously you want and need to keep them safe, but who gets the car they both want can be a problem that you help them solve.  Ask them to solve.  Over-acting definitely helps. “Oh no, you both want this car, there is only one car, what will we do?”

They make the point well that negotiation and getting along with each other are life skills that need to be taught and we don’t need to wade in as the judge; we can instead help them to build the life skills needed to resolve conflict.

A truly great book, worth reading for the odd gem that is bound to ring true for you.

(10) Re-direction

Before we all go off to do something else a big shout out for re-direction.  Don’t give the behaviour you don’t like much air time.  Children, especially little ones, seem to hear everything as an instruction.  You may feel you have to say what you don’t like once, but move swiftly on; tell them what you want them to do. And repeat this as many times as you need, perhaps with some re-phrasing. Act as though this is what is about to happen, is happening, carry them along in the moment! If you can make re-direction happen even before the event has taken place, it can be even more positive and powerful. I was surprised at how well my three year old responded to being told that rather than push his little brother he should ask me for a cuddle as I loved cuddling him, but when he pushes his brother over I have to instead comfort him.  I just need to remind him of this when I see things brewing, which is not always easy to spot in the changeable world of a little person!

I think I’ve almost finished my first ever blog post. I hope that it helps someone somewhere. It has at least helped me gather my thoughts and any ideas to add into the pot would be gratefully received! You can’t have too many tricks up your sleeves in this game.

The thing with bringing up children is that you aren’t going to know if you’ve done a good job for a fair few years. Even then you won’t know what caused what. What if this doesn’t pay off? What if you don’t do it well enough? The best bit of advice probably in both books is not to give yourself a hard time, when the resolve weakens or you make a mistake, accept you are human, move on and try again. As both of the above authors allude to; children benefit from seeing you being kind to yourself and forgiving your own mistakes. Being kind to yourself is being kind to their future selves. They are modelling themselves on you so treat yourself how you want them to treat their future, grown up selves. So if you were looking for an excuse for putting your feet up with that magazine or taking that nice, warm bath….