Category Archives: love

The joyful child

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I try hard not to compare my children with each other. I’m very conscious of letting them be the people they are without trying to label them. It isn’t easy of course as it’s human nature to try to label things so we can understand them.

I have two very strong of mind children however. Actually, all four of us are very strong of mind. It makes for interesting times and will continue to do so as they grow and want to exercise their own opinions more.

As I watched Mr 3 joyfully run up and down the beach yesterday though, squealing happily as sand was tossed towards us by the wind, I was struck with just how joyful he is. And he is full of joy. He has a lightness that the rest of us don’t have. He’s quick to laugh, will find the silly in a situation in order to lighten the mood. He is full of love and wonder.

I was also caught in thought about the baby he was – fair to say he was a pretty miserable baby. He screamed a lot and loud. We walked laps of the backyard under the stars singing to him nightly for months. Until perhaps six months ago suffered from incredible separation anxiety. I tried a lot of things to make him happier. I had people tell me it wasn’t “normal” for a child to be this way. And though I questioned myself as a result of these comments my internal voice took it as a sign he needed my extra reassurance and did whatever it took to let him know he was loved. I left for work many a morning in tears as he screamed behind me, knowing the screaming would not in fact stop for perhaps hours to come.

Over time my reassurances that I would always be back seemed to work and he became happier to be left. But it took a long time for that to happen.

And so….My joyful child worked hard to be so. And so did I.

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Space (subtitle: observations of a Term 3 School Mama)

IMG_9101.JPGMonday morning Mr 5 woke with a mild fever and complained of a sore stomach. Mr Be Loverly and I passed a knowing glance at one another and in that look we knew we would play along.

My Mr 5 is a beautiful child.  Everyone thinks their children are awesome but our first born is an insightful, wise, sensitive, funny and incredibly clever child.  His observations astound us regularly.  We knew this complaint was his way of telling us, “I am going through some stuff and I don’t know how to process it.”

Though this seems to be a thing that happens just before his birthday every year (the amazing Planning with Kids blog posts on half ages gave me incredible insight in to this – read here on the characteristics around this). This year though, is different….it’s the first real time he’s had peer influences.  He’s in the third term of his school journey and though he’s made friendships before he’s really been thrust out in to the world this year.  Something I have mixed feelings about.  Five is just, still, so young.  And five days a week just seems so much for a small child to be in the formal school environment (how I would LOVE to have the French model where children go to school four days a week!).

It’s also the first time that we, as a family, have encountered people whose ideas about how to raise a family are different to ours and so it’s a lesson to us all.  We are quite mindful of our principles as a family and we talk openly about what we believe in – kindness, learning, love of each other, loyalty, humour, self awareness.  It’s firmly entrenched in Mr 5’s mind and he knows himself well.  We are a household full of strong characters.

BUT he is only five and the unkindness he is experiencing from his peers is wearing him down a little.  He has been torn between wanting to play with his friends and disengaging from play he knows to be wrong.  He needed space to talk about this, to ask questions and process how this all fits together. The tantrums we’ve experienced the last week or so are evidence of this. His teacher is marvelous and we trust the school to deal appropriately but it’s not possible for them to see everything and be everywhere and besides, resilience is an important lesson.

And so, we sat together, around our table and I gave him room to just be himself…..I asked if there was anything he would like to tell me and the words, and tears, came flooding out.  I let him speak and when he was finished, the sheer act of naming the words, sharing them with me made him visibly lighter.  Mr 2, who understands much, said to him, “You are a very nice boy and I loves you and Mama loves you and Dada loves you. We always here for you.”

Though he will grow and experience much that is out of our influence he will always have space in our home to just be, talk, be angry, laugh, cry, play.  And it is our greatest hope that both our boys will understand that on every level.

White picket fences

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Image by Amelia O’Connor

When we were looking at houses all those years ago we missed out on many lovely ones….everything seemed just that little bit out of our reach financially.  When we spied our now home we felt a sense of urgency with it.  One we’d never felt before.  We stalked every open inspection and willed the people going through not to see it’s potential.  It needed love, lots of it….and we spent every weekend for months tending to it before we moved in.  It’s still half renovated and we have plans for an extension in some years when the boys are bigger.  I can’t stomach the idea of another project at this point but we will run out of space soon enough as the boys limbs grow more gangly and their minds grow bigger.

Our house is not perfect.  Just like the people who live within it are not perfect.  It’s lived in and battered but it stands (very) tall and strong.  And surrounding our home we have a white picket fence.  A boundary between us and the rest of the world.  The white picket fence of family life.

You never really know what goes on inside the four walls of a home, no more than you ever really know what someone’s internal world is like.  That we come together, form friendships and family, love and like one another in spite of that is a wonderful thing.  The white picket fence of internal life.

When I leave home I feel like I’m weaving a thread from an infinite ball of wool.  As I return home I spy our battered white picket fence and it all just feels right.

 

The offering

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They draw often, my children. They both love it and for Mr 5 in particular it is his peaceful place. When he is overwhelmed it is a place to which he quietly retreats and centres himself. That he knows how and when to do that makes me proud.

Of late, I have thought much about the (willing) sacrifice of mama-hood. It’s been a discussion point with friends. For me at least it is a dance of trying to find the quiet I need on occasion with the needs of my boys. Their seemingly boundless energy is something I have learned I can’t keep up with though I do try.

Sometimes though, there are moments where it is clear to me how much my little men show love in their own way.

Today they conspired to draw what is pictured above as I hung washing. “Come Mama, we did this for you!”

An offering for me. An offering of love.
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Ode to a soccer ball

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Of all the sports there are I’ve always warmed to soccer. As the least sporty kid around, even I didn’t mind playing soccer. My dad even coached our primary school team once.

Lots of things about being a Mama have stretched me. I’ve had to relax in to a lot of things and quashed my inner control freak … Hello painting with toddlers! Other things still have forced me out of my comfort zone and in to, literally, the outdoors. Mr 2 especially loves being outside and he has naturally taken to ball sports. I play outside a lot more than I would be naturally drawn to doing on my own. They are much better for it too.

My boys have an interesting relationship. They’re both incredibly strong of mind. Mr 2 especially has been blessed with oodles of strong will and cannot be forced to do anything. Mr 5 is more malleable but he frustrates easily. Because of this they often argue….sometimes I’m convinced screaming is the soundtrack to my life. I try not to interfere with their dynamic too much….unless it comes to fisticuffs.

Last week though, after school, I set up the soccer goals as I cooked their dinner. I left them to it and kept an eye on them from the kitchen window. And they played. Really, really played. Mr 5 tried to show Mr 2 how to dribble the ball – a skill I didn’t even know he had. And Mr 2 tried to copy. There were shrieks of laughter, shouts of, “red card”, goals scored and screaming of the happiest variety. They played together for 40 minutes. Then, they screamed unhappily as I beckoned them in for dinner.

Thank you Mr Soccer Ball. You will forever be in my heart.

Ignorance is not bliss

There has been a lot of hate (particularly woman hate) in the media the last few weeks. I don’t need to rehash the news here I’m sure but this post by John Birmingham sums it up perfectly I think. Frankly, I’m ashamed.

What I want to have my five cents worth about though is that these men were boys once. Boys as small as mine are now. What I want to know is where were the models of respect for women in their lives?

As parents it’s our responsibility to teach kindness, respect, love, acceptance? This is the type of young men we want to raise. It is the way we behave towards each other. It is the way we behave towards strangers too. I took my boys out yesterday and were sitting in a food court sharing lunch. A homeless woman was shuffling through the tables, clearly looking for leftover lunches. My Mr 4.5 asked what she was doing. I explained and he insisted he give his lunch to her and share his brother’s lunch. He also offered her a fruit muffin we had made and brought as a snack. I had to hide my eyes as I wept with pride.

Carly wrote a fantastic piece earlier in the week about teaching children to accept differences. She speaks honestly about how she has found dealing with kids.

It is not ok to look the other way in the face of wrong. It is not ok to not know how to deal with something bad and not educate yourself on how to do better.

I want a better world. I want a better world more now as a parent than I did ever before. I want my boys to live in a world that is better. I want a better world because people have chosen kindness. A world that accepts people for who they are, that finds homes for people who are old, sick, persecuted. A world that pays nurses and teachers more than the opening batsman for Australia. A world where children are able to reach their full potential regardless of their economic background.

Ignorance is not bliss. We have to do something to change ourselves, overcome our negativity, act with respect to our fellow women, men and children, to improve or understanding, teach our children.

Ignorance is not bliss.

Brush Strokes

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My “baby” is 20 months old today. I’ve heard it said that with small children the days are long and the years are short and I agree.

It’s been a beautiful, if somewhat tricky ride. I only just feel like I’m hitting my stride now with having two inquisitive and energetic children. I think it’s been a matter of giving in to the chaos and trying to maintain some order. I am simultaneously sticking my heels in on some issues and letting go of others.

Though I love the new, the shiny, the prospects that come with turning a new page I am terrible at saying goodbye to the old things. I love watching my boys grow, change and become bigger, more detailed versions of themselves.

I never wish away the stage they are in. They’ve taught me to be more in the moment than I’ve ever been before. I am not however, good at saying goodbye to the old stages. That there won’t be a fuzzy newborn head to smell. Each set of clothes outgrown is evidence of change and I wistfully pack them away – sorting them in to boxes, labelling them carefully – and in so doing pay respect to the time that has gone by, the stripes we have earned, the figurative and literal growth.

Being their Mama is like watching a masterpiece under construction. Their portraits are being filled in, brush stroke by brush stroke. And as I watch I am in constant awe.