Category Archives: things i’m learning

Tears at breakfast

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Pic by Mr 6 which has little to do with the post but much to do with the child and his awesomeness

There were tears at the breakfast table this morning. At the outset let me say there are often tears at the breakfast table at ours. I was, I think, wholly unprepared for the sheer number of tears my children would shed and over so many different issues before becoming a parent. But toddlers and preschoolers cry a lot it turns out. Even my highly verbal ones.

But I digress. This morning’s tears were the sad type. The type of crying we adults do in varying degrees depending on our propensity to leak from the eyes. I leak from the eyes regularly by the way. But I digress. Again.

Mr 3 had sought out one of his favourite presents, a torch and it wasn’t working. He cried. Nothing new there. I cuddled him and said it was most likely the batteries and we would seek out a new set and do that as soon as we were finished with breakfast. Of course he wanted it done immediately but before I could say anything further Mr 6 burst in to sobs. Loud sobs at that because the drama king is strong in him. I handed Mr 3 over to Mr and scooped up Mr 6 in my arms. As Mr 6 was crying so much it set his brother off in to deeper tears. Because though they constantly battle over whose way will prevail they genuinely care for one another it seems.

I hugged him and stroked my beautiful big boy’s hair. He calmed enough to tell me, through sobs, that the torch not working was his fault. It turns out he had dropped it and had heard a, “really quite crazy tinkly smash sound” (I told you highly verbal right?)….”and because dad had asked me to put the torch down but I ignored him and it broke” he hadn’t wanted to admit it to us. Because really, who hasn’t been there? Not wanting to admit you’ve done a wrong to avoid trouble is something we have all done.

And the next thing he said, “I am really, terribly sorry I did it in the first place and I am especially sorry because look how upset my brother is now.”

There are moments in parenting that feel like a test. This was one. And instead of getting angry with him, as I might have done had he admitted it at the time, I spoke to him instead of how important it is that he tell me things, even if he feels they’re wrong or he will get in trouble. Because he is six after all. I had let him accept his wrongdoing and reassured him I would love him anyway. His internal compass is what I want him to be able to listen to after all.

Parenting test 1034 navigated, I wonder what 1035 will have in store?

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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.

Work in progress

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Image by Kelli Trontel

I like to think I’m good at change. And in the main I am, so long as I know what that change is going to result in. What I’m not good at as patience and finding my way through the forest so to speak. It’s the uncertainty thing I’m not good at. I never have been and though I have learned to trust that the outcome will be ok I still struggle with the process. The limbo space.

That’s why this year has been hard for me. I haven’t been able to see what the outcome will be. I think, though, that I have a plan for what I will do going forward in taking on some study towards being a primary school teacher. I need some help in finalising the decision, to have the support of my loved ones in moving on this. I will need to continue paid work whilst studying. It’s going to be hard and it will take a long time. And in making this decision I know that it’s something I would love to do for paid work BUT a not-so-niggly part of me knows that what I really want to do is write. And I need a way to create a life that encompasses all of the things that I want it to have as part of it.

I’m ready though to move in to the next phase of my life. My boys are growing but they still need me. They will likely be the central focus of my life for a long time to come. Sometimes the weight of that is a lot to bear.

I can’t do everything all at once. The inner voice telling me I haven’t reached my potential won’t shush. I don’t want to let go of the dream but I need to stop judging myself against an invisible checklist of achievements. I don’t do it to anyone else so why do I do that to myself? I have some years ahead of me that are the probably the best to come and that all the small things will equal a life well lived. An interesting life that I’ve learned so much from in navigating….and maybe that has been the learning for me over the last six months. To accept I am a work in progress.

Stasis induced cake

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Image source

I’m in a holding pattern. I have been for most of the year. I’ve talked to people I know and trust. I have some options but none of them are singing to me as “the one”. I get on and do, I’m busy. Always busy. I am mindful in my busy so I like it in it’s own way.

I’ve begun focusing on health and energy as that feels like the right thing to do.  Making the odd day for myself here to do things I love – visit the Art Gallery, catch a movie and even read a book for half an hour.

And of course I’ve been focusing on my family and food.  The two things that I always come back to.

The question of what to “do” professionally is still bothering me.  I read this great article yesterday and I know it’s part of who I am.  I am a better person now than I was 10 years ago in every way.

I know that “a” decision is what is needed but I’m paralysed by the options ahead of me. Further study is a certainty but so much depends on the type of paid work I am able to find. History tells me that it’ll be ok, I’ll make it work whatever happens but I’m still waiting for the right path to make itself known.  And patience has never been my strong point.

I have a dream I want to pursue but am not ready to name….one that I will kick myself for not attempting if in fact I don’t.  How I can get this to work with the realities of the rest of my life I do not yet know.

In the meantime, loved ones, you can count on a lot of cake!

When you’re unsure of a way forward what do you “do”?

The news

I wake to the news and I’m saddened. I never thought the government of this country could be so heartless.

I watch the news unfold during the day and I’m angered. The lack of empathy, a distinct lack of kindness. It’s rotten.

When I was younger I thought that living an important life was what I was destined for. And that important life would make a difference in a big way.

I turned 39 last week and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don’t have a big important life. I have a little, quiet life. And my ability to affect change seems minimal.

What I have come to see though is that a quiet life can still be an important life. That small kindness, an open mind and empathy can make a difference. That as a Mama I can instil these important values in my boys. That I can live by example. And that if everyone for in with living a life with a lens of kindness and empathy the news would be very different.

Games you can’t win

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I read this article, Stop being busy by Oliver Burkeman (who I rate quite highly) some weeks ago and like all good articles, it has had me thinking.

We live in a world where busy is either glorified (have you had a conversation lately where someone doesn’t say – “things are just so busy!” or similar?) or crucified.

I am busy, busier than I’ve ever been actually.  Part-time work, full-time Mama, being a good partner to my darling Mr, chief cook, cleaner, study, the craft biz, exercise, extend family time, time with friends, even things like this blog….that’s let alone carving out space to think and be and do the things I enjoy like read.  I asked a friend yesterday if it’s even possible to achieve all these things without exhaustion setting in…it’s not of course. Not unless I can clone myself or stop time to catch up. Sometimes I feel like my head is spinning faster than the world itself is.

Of the book he reviews in the article, Burkeman says:

Most time management advice rests on the unspoken assumption that it’s possible to win the game: to find a slot for everything that matters. But if the game’s designed to be unwinnable, Schulte suggests, you can permit yourself to stop trying. There’s only one viable time management approach left (and even that’s only really an option for the better-off). Step one: identify what seem to be, right now, the most meaningful ways to spend your life. Step two: schedule time for those things. There is no step three. Everything else just has to fit around them – or not.

This idea that the “game” is unwinnable though is new to me. I had previously thought if I were organised enough I would find the time to fit it all in….but it’s just not possible and I was setting myself up to fail in thinking that way.

The word I wanted to focus on this year was “peace”. And in so doing, what I really meant was avoiding overwhelm and accepting things for what they are.  In finding this advice and letting it sit I’m realising that the peace is going to be found, for me, in the “or not” stuff.  The real challenge for me is in stopping the guilt or the “should” feelings when the “or not” happens.

There’s more though….isn’t there always? Recently, Mr 5 and I have been chatting about how it’s important to run our own race, be the best version of ourselves we can be and not worry about what others are doing.  Like all good advice we give our children, it’s the truth but not quite as easy as that. And then, reading Dr Seuss together the other night, we read the quote pictured above….he said to me, “I think I understand Mama, we never really win the game do we? We just have to keep trying harder to make ourselves better, forever don’t we?”

Games we can’t win cos we play against ourselves. There’s no scorecard beyond what our internal voice tells us and we may as well stop worrying about the “or not” right?

I am not afraid of storms

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One of my earliest memories is of crouching beneath my Nonna’s kitchen table with my cousin as a storm hit the house. Lightning had come in through the kitchen window and hit the stove and it was alight. My cousin was screaming. I held her hand tightly and told her it would all be ok.

When I was around 27 I went through a quarter life crisis. I didn’t quite like the path I was on and so I changed things up. Went back to study, focused for the first time in years on what I wanted to do and I got there. I achieved what I wanted, worked hard and it saw me head down a path, towards teaching, that surprised me but I enjoyed. The key things being – I kind of knew, I worked hard and I left myself open to opportunity. I made some dumb mistakes along the way. Things I wouldn’t do again. But heck they’re the best kind of mistakes.

Now, at almost 40 I feel the ground being unsteady beneath me again. I need to make some decisions about where to from here. There are two big differences now – I am a Mama and I don’t have a fixed idea of what I want next for myself. I was discussing this with my favourite girl recently and she said I should look for the recurring themes of what I have loved always. For me, it is always books and words. How this can be something I centre my work life around I am as yet unsure.

I’m reading Barracuda by Christos Tsolkias at the moment. It’s an uncomfortable read but beautiful at the same time. I can identify with much in spite of not having much in common with Dan/Danny. I can feel the need to shed skin, move beyond what has been, let go of what might have been.

I was walking with my boys the other day and my Mr 5 randomly said, “I am going to let you sleep in on Mother’s Day Mum. Mother’s Day is about thinking about what your Mum would like.” When I asked him what he knows I like he said, “You like sleeping, you love your family, butterflies, pretty China and books.” A simple response but one that shows he has thought about me and observed me.

I see (only a few) people who are clearly living their proper lives, the ones they were intended for and I feel far from there.

In some ways I trust all will be as it should one day. In more ways I know that it takes hard work to create the life I want. And in more again I wish I bloody well knew what that life looked like already.

In the meantime, I will remain open to possibility, consider much and try not to drive myself too crazy because I don’t have the answers. And I will remember I have a family I love and that I am not afraid of storms.