Category Archives: what I believe

Generally

IMG_9333.JPGI don’t usually like to label myself. I hate being hemmed in by a label. I like to think of myself as “generally” one way with splashes of the opposite thrown in for good measure.  Kind of like the yin and yang symbol you know? I guess it’s the rebel within me that doesn’t like such definitiveness.

I am however, generally some ways as I suspect we all are.  I’m generally an introvert who likes other people and a chat for instance.

And when I read this article on gentle parenting on The Conversation last week I nodded along with it. It’s generally the way I parent and I wish I’d known more about these ways when I first became a parent.  I would have done things differently for sure.

I did though, make the mistake of commenting on the post linking to this article on Facebook thereby opening myself up to criticism and contempt from complete strangers as to my parenting philosophies.  Fun times.

Yesterday I took my boys out for a school holiday treat and we stopped at a local cafe for a treat.  As happens, a nearby toddler had a meltdown. Mr 2 put down his spoon, stood up and said, “I be right back ok?”, index finger akimbo.

Fascinated, Mr 6 and I sat back and watched him.  He walked, with purpose, over to the little girl having her loud, vocal moment and said, “Excuse me, I show you my special dance now, it’s called the ‘chip dance’. You watch!” And he proceeded to do his very special, twirly, stompy dance, singing, “Do the chip dance! Do the chip dance! La la la la.” It’s a dance he usually reserves for his closest family.  It, of course, changed the little girl’s mood instantly.  That he recognised the stress in another child and did something within his power to “fix” the situation made me extremely proud.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing a good job of taking care of my family. I get stuck in the cycle of work, chores, school pick up and drop off.  My head feels explosion worthy more than occasionally.

Empathy, kindness, curiosity and creativity are qualities I want my children to have in abundance.  And in this one little scenario my baby bear showed me that, generally, we are on the right track.

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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.

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.

The problem with absolutes

I read another one of those holier than thou parenting articles the other day…I am sure you know the type, “I never rock my baby to sleep cos it sets up bad habits blah blah blah”. Worse, I read the comments. I don’t even know why I read it. I knew it would make my blood pressure rise.

This type of article isn’t unique to parenting either. When I was single there were plenty of, “don’t do this when you’re dating someone” articles.

As an aside, are any such articles aimed at men I wonder?

Anyway, I read the article and it wasn’t my first. When I became a parent I sought out every bit of information I could. People kept telling me, “listen to your instincts”. Well that’s very nice I thought, except often I didn’t have any!! I have since worked my way through all the advice and learned that my parenting instinct was actually not a voice in my head but a voice in my heart.

Here’s my problem with absolutes though….they leave you no room to change. They leave you with little room to experience the wide diaspora of life. For me it would have left me with no room to learn new things if I, “never ever” did some things in parenting. There is love and joy, fun and sometimes peace in going beyond your boundaries a bit. I truly think the beauty of life is lived in the grey areas. What I believe now is that a general philosophy of how I want my life to be, the type of parent and wife I want to b serves me better than an internal list of “never evers”.

Sure it’s safe to say I will, “never ever” be a bank robber but beyond avoiding criminal activities I don’t know what life will throw at me as I mosey down the road.

Are you a “never ever” person?

Loverly Food: Ricotta, spinach and tomato pie – aka KINDNESS pie

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I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I really only found a joy for cooking when Mr and I first moved in together more years ago than I can remember now.

When Bebito was born I began to focus more on making things from scratch. As much as I knew breast feeding would give him the best start I wanted his belly to be full of nutritious, tasty food. And he has rewarded me ten fold with his appreciation of what I set in front of him, his willingness to try new things. I never cook anything I don’t think he will enjoy eating. Little Lion can be hit and miss but I hope one day he too laps up all manner of different flavours. Mr too has an appreciation of good food. In giving my family good food I feel like I am giving them my love and care.

But there’s more to why I spend so much time in the kitchen. I find it meditative. Especially so when I am able to potter on my own. It is a time to think too. To process my feelings, thoughts, dreams and hopes and after an afternoon of cooking I often find myself revived or more at peace. I often think how I am connected to the generations of women before me in my kitchen labours.

Today I’ve baked a bunch of lunchbox items, dinner and some muesli. At the same time I’ve reflected on the news I heard earlier today of Charlotte Dawson. I know little of her, only that she was a woman who struggled with depression and she vigourously defended herself against online bullies. I also thought of the people in Kiev who are fighting – and dying – for what they believe in. For the asylum seekers on Manus Island who are trapped there, fleeing from horror only to be greeted with a different sort of horror – the horror of detention in limbo. And as I think of these people in their struggles I cannot help but wish that people could act with more kindness.

Kindness. It’s such an easy place to start. And yet so many are not kind.

Perhaps if everyone spent some time cooking for the people they care about, an act of service in which they put the needs of others before there own there could be more kindness?

What say you?

Here’s my recipe…

You could buy some pastry – shortcrust or puff, your call entirely but I made my own using Maggie Beer’s rough puff recipe here

I actually used half of the pastry and froze the other half. Our local supermarkets don’t stock decent premade pastry and I make mine in batches, then freeze for another day.

400 grams ricotta
Half cup Parmesan cheese, grated
A cup of baby spinach leaves
A small handful basil leaves, chopped
1 cup cream
3 eggs
Pinch grated nutmeg
4 tomatoes, sliced

Grease a 30cm x 20cm pie or flan dish. Actually, any will do but just make sure you have enough pastry to cover your tin.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Blind bake the pastry first – I did mine 10 minutes lined with baking paper and pastry weights then 10 minutes without. Make sure it’s quite golden as the top won’t get much cooking when you put the filling in … But not too golden. If you’re using puff pastry let it settle a bit and not be so puffed before you put the filling in.
At the same time as your baking the pastry, place your sliced tomatoes on an oven tray and bake with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Remove from oven and set aside.
Combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.
Pour filling ingredients over your pastry and top with the sliced tomatoes.
Bake about 25 minutes, or until golden.

We will be enjoying it with a rocket, nashi pear, walnut and balsamic vinegar salad tonight.

Share with your loved ones for most enjoyment.

“Real” people

When I was pregnant with Bebito, I was told at our initial scan that he was a girl. I cried with relief. Daft right? Hang with me a second though….all the oldest children in my family have been women for generations. I felt like this was part of the tradition continued. But it was more than that. I felt like I could model being a woman. That was accessible to me. I was worried I wouldn’t have the strength to raise a boy in the same way. And I was worried…peer pressure for teenage boys was far more intense than the peer pressure I felt as a teenage girl. Like I said, daft. We soon found out the technician had made a mistake and got on with things. When I was pregnant with Little Lion I had no such misgivings.

I read this article this morning and I agree that there is no such thing as a real man. The statistics about addiction, suicide, depression are sure to be mirrored in Australia.

Before Christmas I had the privilege to read Richard Flanagan’s, “The Narrow Road to the Deep South”. It is, in short, a masterpiece and it really spoke to me in spades. Not just because of the beautiful prose but because, from my own, very female perspective, it taps in to the deeper parts of male relationships. If you haven’t read it, do. And buy a copy for every man you know who would read it.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me even a little that I’m a card carrying feminist.

But now, as a Mama to boys I am acutely aware that the MOST important thing by far, is that we know ourselves. That we understand that being “real” to our character, the voice that guides our actions is the only important thing. That it’s important to give our children the opportunity and skills to be sensitive, strong, the right amount of impulsive, love with all their heart, treat themselves and everyone else with respect, to listen to their own voice rather than be crowded with the voices of their peers, to know when to take advice but to discard said advice if it isn’t right for them, to be kind, to pursue their interests and live with respect for the resources of the earth.

We are all real people. Men. Women.

Quietly, really, me

ImageMy lovely friend Amelia took this photo of me almost a year ago now. I don’t normally post photos of myself here. I much prefer to be behind the camera which is part of the reason we have decided to semi-regularly document our family life with Amelia. This is really, quietly, me.

This week I had a pretty big set back.  I no longer have paid work.  It’s hit me to the core – I’ve felt sick in the stomach all week – as it’s work I foresaw myself doing for a long time to come. I have worked hard at it, I’ve put myself in to learning how to teach and I have really enjoyed it.  Additionally, it has been the perfect fit for our family life.  I had decided this was what I wanted.  It may work out in the future but for now, it’s not possible.

I’ve had setbacks of all types before – a broken heart, disappointments, real grief – my life’s been a windy road. I find myself having to adjust my expectations, look for new work, juggle things financially.  And so I open myself up to possibility….change…and hardest of all, trust. In my 30s I’ve really learned to trust that all will work out in the end. I still have to trust that. I was reminded of this – a focus on trust by another Amelia who has been blessed with incredible amounts of insight and wisdom.

In the meantime, I shall focus on my boys, look for signs of my new direction and remind myself to trust the outcome.  I’m still, quietly, really me after all.