Monday, 17 September 2012

Highlights of 2012- Europe Trip

Has it really been a year?

All I can say in my own defence is that I've been a tiny bit busy. Grad school, job, volunteer work, and all the other day to day stuff.  But, Oh, Man, have we had fun this year!!

I'll tell you bit by bit about the smaller things, but, the big news is, I realized a long-term dream, and took our kids for a trip to Europe. Yes, we went to Europe with our kids.  And I can't even begin to tell you how much fun we had.  But I'm going to try.

I had been dreaming of a year, or at least a summer, seeing several countries, maybe renting a villa and settling down to get to know people in one place. But that was not to be.

Just like in the rest of parenting, travelling with the kids required trimming my expectations to better fit with reality.  We have one income.  I am a student.  We could only get two weeks off.  But I was determined that we would go before my oldest graduates from high school.  And she's doing that this year.

So we flew to Amsterdam, spent a day racing around, saw the VanGogh museum (swoon) then jumped back on the plane and flew to Rome.  We were awake that day for 30+ hours, and experienced a kind of tiredness we hardly knew existed.  But we knew we would be, and we were so excited and happy, it just didn't matter.

Four wonderful days in Rome followed, and we saw pretty much everything. Turns out that I LOVE Rome.  My kids walked miles every day with only the mildest complaints. They were loving everything too much to care that their feet hurt.

Then on to Naples, Sorrento, Herculaneum and Pompeii, a fast flight to Venice, a few days in Florence, and sadly, home.

It was so much fun to travel together.  I can't imagine better company.  For all their lives, we've been doing the things WE think are fun together, which has always included museums and galleries and other cultural experiences.  They caught our enthusiasm, and were turned into art enthusiasts naturally.  At 16 and 13, they were delighted to go to the Uffizi, the Vatican, the Academia, the Van Gogh museum, the Galleria Borghese, etc, etc, etc.

Of course, we took breaks and balanced out the museum visits with gelato and pizza and shopping and hanging out at the Campo di fiori.  But the point is, that I have now proved to myself that whatever a parent is excited about can be fun for her kids, given enough time and encouragement.

So, two questions for you today.  1. What do your kids love because you do?  and 2.  What do you want to teach your kids to love?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Another reason to relax

The new therapy client

The July/August 2011 edition of The Atlantic included a very insightful article on "How To Land Your Child in Therapy". The author, Lori Gottlieb explains how obsessively good parenting can undermine the future happiness and resilience of children.

Not that I am encouraging you to be a BAD parent. But there is, as she explains, a big gap between June Cleaver and Mommy Dearest, and there is room for a lot of variety in between best and worst.

Apparently, a good parent can choose to be more relaxed, and less worried about shielding her child from every possible microdisaster.

Do you think Gottlieb is correct when she says:

". . . underlying all this parental angst is the hopeful belief that if we just make the right choices, that if we just do things a certain way, our kids will turn out to be not just happy adults, but adults that make us happy. This is a misguided notion, because while nurture certainly matters, it doesn’t completely trump nature, and different kinds of nurture work for different kinds of kids. . . "

Is it all right, then to just go ahead and nurture our kids a little less? And to do it our own way? What does that look like for you?

I think that when my kids were little, my friends would have called me an obsessive parent. And maybe I still am one. But now, one of the things I'm obsessing about is the need to let my kids take their own lumps, and make choices which are not perfectly safe. Is that a change for the better? I'm liking the results I see so far- I'll let you know if that changes :)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Back To School Rock

On the day that my daughter started to go to preschool, I wanted to take a nice picture of her.  She decided to go out and stand on an enormous rock in the garden. So I took a picture of her on the rock.  Turns out it's the same rock the neighbours stand on for their back to school pictures.

When the next kid started to school, we had to add a picture of the two of them together on the rock.  It became the annual tradition, an individual shot for each, and a shot of the two of them.

Flash forward to today, and a good laugh as my two enormous children clung to each other to stay perched on a rock which has shrunk significantly in the last 12 years. It makes a fun addition to a great series of photos.

I've heard of people who take a picture month by month and year by year of their child posed in the same chair, or with the same teddy bear, or football, or whatever means something to the family. Series of photos are a great way to keep track of how your child is growing (and, perhaps, how your garden rocks are shrinking :).

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Tooth Fairy (or bug) letters

Although it is a big exciting event when the first tooth falls out, and exciting to put the tooth under the pillow and find a shiny coin* in it's place in the morning, that thrill fades somewhat with repetition.

When my first opportunity to act as a fairy came up, I remembered something my Dad did. I had captured a ladybug (a big achievement for a bug-obsessed 4 year old) and he was feeling badly for it. So one night, he let it free, and put a tiny piece (stamp-sized) of paper in the jar, folded up and adressed to me. It explained (in microscopic handwriting) that the bug had heard her babies calling her,  so even though she had enjoyed her visit, she had to leave. It cushioned the pain of loss very nicely, and made me a happier kid. (And him a happier Dad)

So I cut a little square of stationery, and got out my sharpest pencil. I invented a fairy, and let her write a tiny thank-you note, introducing herself and hoping that she and my daughter would be able to become friends.  It went under the pillow with the dollar (I'm Canadian-we use dollar coins every day).

The next morning, we discovered and read the note together, and then I got to watch her "read" it to her baby brother, her Dad, my Dad (who reminded me happily of the ladybug incident) and several others.

I'll return to this topic one day, explaining how it evolved with her, and totally failed with my son.

*Before the first tooth falls, it it important to determine what the local going rate is for tooth fairy payments.  Our neighbour once gave a $5 payment for a tooth and became very unpopular for a little while with the other fairies who did not like the 500% inflation that represented.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cherry Earrings

My friend Lisa taught me to look for cherries that are joined together at the top of their stems (cherry twins are surprisingly common). Hang them over the tops of your ears so one hangs down in front of your lobe, and one in back. Try to act nonchalant. When the kids notice, say "Oh, these are just my cherry earrings.  Do you want some?"
Or, if you have raspberries, offer your kid a snack, then put one on the end of each fingertip.  It's a treat, and a manicure in one!
And don't forget the old stand-by bananaphone.  Of course, our kids think phones look like a pack of cards, but they will humor you and talk to you on their banana anyway.

Do you have any silly food tricks?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Laughing Baby

I remember learning in Developmental Psych that a baby's first real laugh usually comes out a moment of fear.  She thinks a bad thing is about to happen, then it doesn't.
You can test this out with a young baby (when she is in a receptive mood :) by holding her in in your arms so she is facing you, then quickly lowering your arms by six inches or so, coming to a sudden stop. Make a big surprised face, then smile. Do it again, if she didn't mind too much. It's kind of like telling her a joke. Some babies find this kind of thing hysterically funny.  Others, just hysterical.

Or you could just try ripping some paper.

My daughter's first big laughing session happened when a four year old boy was visiting. We would sometimes put her soother in her mouth upside down because it amused us to watch her rotate it back to it's proper position without moving a muscle in her face. Well, he had never seen anything so funny, and his laugh was so contagious that soon she caught on, too. We kept up the cycle of upside down soother, popping right-side up, he laughs, she laughs until her soother falls out, put it back in upside-down until we were all exhausted.

Baby laughs are good for whatever is bothering you. If you haven't seen these, they will lift your heart.

Why I Became a Parent - and a Blogger

It took me a while. I was 30 by the time my daughter made her grand appearance.  But I'd been thinking about it for a long time.
Maybe working as an Early Childhood Educator made me hesitate a little. I'd changed hundreds of diapers, and wiped many noses, and put kids down for innumerable naps. I was an expert in childhood diseases and developmental stages. I thought I knew a lot about raising (I do know I should say rearing, but it sounds so archaic!) children.

And then there came a little girl.  Her name was Claire, and it was her first day at Day Care. She was 6 months old, with very round cheeks (like mine), and very dark hair (also like mine). She was perfect.
Her Mother was understandably heartbroken at leaving her for the first time, and I promised to look after her.  And I fell in love.  I carried her around in a sling all day, close to my heart, and she seemed to find me comforting.  I made the cardinal error of allowing myself to breathe deeply of the fragrance of her hair.
And that was it for me.  My heart was converted from a teacher's to a Mother's in one day by one sweet bundle.

So I began to prepare myself, and my Husband, for parenthood.  I was a little frightened by the irrationally strong urge I felt to have children, and I thought a lot about why I wanted them.  I knew it wasn't about legacy or insurance for my old age, or anything like that.
One day I came across a book called "The Pleasure of Their Company".* It expressed the simple idea that the best reason to have kids is to enjoy them- to enjoy their company.  I thought about my own parents, and the fun they had with their kids, and about the best parents I knew, and one thing they seemed to have in common was the simple joy of being together as a family.

So we went ahead, and had a couple of kids to enjoy. Their scents were just as lovely, and their cheeks just as chubby as Claire's, and it was very easy to fall in love with them.  For 16 years (so far) we have been enjoying their company every day.  Yes, there is a lot of work in parenting, but there is an equal measure of joy. Our children turned out to be wonderful friends that we have been privileged to accompany through their early lives, celebrating each milestone, collecting the memories.

I hope you can have the same experience with your children, and that is why I am creating this blog.  I'll share some ideas we have had fun with, or cool thoughts from others, and provide resources and inspiration for your family.
You don't have to do anything special, though, to enjoy your kids. Just take a minute, sit with them, listen to them talk, join in with what they are doing.  And if you get a chance, breathe in their uniqueness. They are a gift to you, given to bring you joy.

* I remember very little about this book, except that it was very positive and encouraging about the relationship between parents and kids.  Have you read it?

Question of the Day: Tell me, if you became a parent by choice, why did you do it?