Tag Archives: parenting

Another Year Older and What Do I Get?

I’m not sure which has been more exciting, sad, bittersweet, amazing: Ella turning one, or Cordelia turning one. Ella’s first birthday marked a major milestone. It meant many new things to come. But it didn’t mark the end of anything. Not really. She turned one and we had a new baby on the way. Cordelia turned one and it marks the end of so many things. As I type this, three girls stand in the kitchen helping pour, mix, and taste as they help daddy make muffins. There is no baby cuddled up on someone’s chest. There is no baby mewling to let us know what she needs. Instead we have a toddler screeching to let us know she’s excited, happy, or sad. Her words are tough to understand at times, but believe me she uses them all the time. Life is very different with a toddler, than it is with a baby.

A baby notices if it’s hungry, cold, tired…but it doesn’t notice the world around it. Cordelia notices.

She notices when her sisters run off to play without her. She notices when someone uses the iPod, explorer, remote, phone she copies. The first year is over. Time has flown and the years to come will be amazing to behold.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of her first birthday party. I didn’t really take pictures of the decorations, but maybe I will later. After all, a month later and they’re still up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Becoming a Mommy

Some people are born into families that love and respect them. They grow up knowing their self-worth. They know the worth of those around them. Some people are respectful of others because it doesn’t occur to them, even in moments of anger, not to be. Some people make great parents. I am not one of them.

I am the best me I can be. I am the best mother to my children I am capable of being. I would like to think that is good enough. And maybe for today it is. However, I want tomorrow to be better. I want to be better.

As we enter Lent and reflect on our lives and grow closer to God I look at the way I parent and know the most direct path to God is through my Children. Each moment I choose to be calm instead of yelling, respectful instead of spiteful, I move closer to God. And closer to my children.

Over the years, the actions of others impacted me greatly. Maybe not enough to instantly change the path my parents started me on, but enough that I knew an alternative path existed. When I was seventeen, I babysat for a wonderful family. Everyone was happy. It was plain to me that the children loved and respected, not feared, their parents. I didn’t have an opportunity to witness their parenting in action very often (I was the babysitter after all), but there were clues. An article on the fridge said children might feel shame or embarrassment if a parent corrected or disciplined in front of others. They used a secret word to let the children know they needed to talk in private. No spankings, no standing in the corner, no yelling, shaming, insulting.

Years later I was blessed to meet some wonderful people who have shown me that it doesn’t matter how a person parents so much as why they parent. These friends have parented in ways I said I never would. However it’s plain to me that their children are no worse for wear from the style of parenting. What’s the difference?

Respect.

As parents we don’t automatically deserve respect. We must earn it. One way of earning it is being respectful to our children. One parent may spank, another may talk, still another may use time-out. It doesn’t really matter (IMO). What matters is the feel of the exchange to both parties. Do both the parents and the children leave the exchange feeling loved and respected? If so, then everything will work out okay. But if the parents feel like they’ve given-in, then they leave resenting their child. If the child leaves feeling like his/her parents didn’t listen, didn’t understand, or did’t didn’t care, then they’ll be less inclined to talk to the parent in the future. That child will be less inclined to heed the parents advice, and will more likely go against the parent’s wishes in the future. Unless both parties feel respected there will be no real resolution and no real connection.

It’s a tricky road to walk. How does one learn to be respectful? It’s usaully pretty easy to see when I haven’t been respectful. Broken hearts glisten in tears rolling down sweet little faces. But choosing the gentler path can be difficult.

For me it starts by seeing the patterns. I know certain things will happen everyday. I’m in the middle of doing something and one of the girls needs me. I know she needs me before I provide my undivided attention. I know that every day, one of my girls will inadvertently hurt someone else. I know these things happen and I can choose how to respond before it happens. Having a plan in effect takes the stress from the situation and allows me to show my children how much they mean to me by not yelling. That plan gives me the opportunity to bypass my knee-jerk response. Now I need to work on moving that plan into other areas of my life. Into other relationships.

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Realizing Science

Motion: A change in the position of an object in relation to time.

Velocity: Speed in a given direction

Displacement: The shortest distance from the initial to the final position of a point. Or the volume or weight of fluid displaced by a floating body of equal weight.

Acceleration: The rate of change of velocity over time; or an increase in speed.

Time: A measuring system used to sequence events.

Consistency: A degree of density, firmness, viscosity.

Our life provides endless opportunities to learn about the way our world works. From the moment Ella/Agatha wakes up in the morning (time), until she goes to bed at night, she’s in constant motion. At times she merely wiggles while she sits and reads a book, or watches a show(velocity). At other times she jumps up and races around the house (acceleration), only to slow down (deceleration) long enough to grab a bite to eat. She might be sitting at the table and need a glass of water from the counter, but instead of taking the shortest possible route, she first runs to the living room, then passed the front door, throughout the pantry, and back in to the kitchen to get the water that had been only 3 feet away from her in the first place (displacement).

As she’s drinking her water, she drops an ice-cube into it. Then she might spy a strawberry and decide to drop that in as well. After each addition she tastes it and observes for changes in colour and consistency. With each addition she also makes note of the water level in the glass (Displacement).

Periodically she’ll make note of how dark it’s getting (Time) or reference some past or future event that has meaning to her.

Science is all a round us. We don’t need to force it on our children, but we can bring it to their attention. A few well asked questions can do more than hours of instruction in a school setting. Right now, I don’t usually mention definitions, unless it really does help the understanding or discussion, those can come with time. Once she’s explored a subject and understands it, then a definition would broaden her perspective without offering more confusion.

During the day, I may point out something to see if the girls noticed it – for instance  the water level rising with each addition to the glass. But other times I won’t bother. A lot has to do with how many times an experiment’s taken place. The first few times I won’t interfere – after all, they need to test, test, and re-test to see if they get the same result each time. However, there comes a point where I like to see if they’re actually getting anything from the mess they’re making.

“What do you think will happen when you drop the potatoes in to the glass?” Depending on the answer, I may encourage them to consider other alternatives. “Will there still be the same amount of water in the glass? Will it still be the same colour?”

“What happened when you dropped the potatoes into your milk?”

“Was that what you expected?”

“Wow, what caused your water to turn grey?”

“I filled your cup half full, that means there was as much water in the glass as empty space, so how did it get so full?”

“How did the carrots get on the ceiling?”

I don’t need to drill my children to make the lessons ‘stick’. But a few questions here and there can help broaden their world as well as lead me in new directions for fun activities for us to do together. For instance, hmm they really like mixing things together – and throwing what they mix. I can find all kinds of things to mix together cornstarch, food colouring and water – then bring them to the park and let them fling it all over – the snow will cover it up soon enough. And hopefully the carrots will remain on their plates next time.

Science is all around us. Sometimes we just need to realize it.

 

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Sibling Bonding

Everywhere I turn I hear parents lamenting sibling rivalry. I hear them asking how to get one child to leave the other alone. I hear them saying they don’t want the four year old to touch the baby, but then in two years they get upset when the six year old doesn’t want the two year old around.

When Agatha was born, we had our fair share of ‘problems’ as we navigated from one child to two. Our poor little Agatha was bumped and bruised, cut and scraped so many times. But she was so in love with her big sister (when she wasn’t afraid). We eventually figured things out and the relationship improved.

Now that Cordelia’s here things could be very difficult, but instead we find things even better than before. Our two big girls are so excited to help and share, and Cordelia is so in love with her sisters. She can’t get enough of them. There is no fear, there are no cuts or bruises, just love.

How did this happen?

First, the girls were involved with the pregnancy. They came to appointments, they helped us choose names, they touched my belly, they talked to the baby, they hugged and kissed her while she was still inside. They were present at her birth, and were invited to hold her as soon as I was willing to let my baby out of my arms for the first time.

When Cordelia came home with us, we encouraged the girls to hold her as much as they wanted. We’d sit them at the couch and hover. After all a newborn baby is rather floppy. As Cordelia became stronger, we hovered less. Now Agatha holds Cordelia on her own all the time, Ella carries Cordelia around the house. Whenever they want to do something with each other, or the baby, we try to find a way to help them play together, to accomplish their goals.

Some ways we do that include: playing tag with the girls, and tackle games. I carry Cordelia and chase the girls around the house. I’m sure to give all of them plenty of chance to see each others faces. In the beginning, I’d point out the huge smile, the look of intense pleasure, on Cordelia’s face, now we just play. They all have so much fun together. They all get a chance to be on an even playing field. As Cordelia gets bigger I’ll add in soccer. I carry her (when she’s bigger I’ll hold her hands) while she runs and kicks the ball, and the big girls try to get the ball away, or Cordelia tries to get the ball from them. They aren’t competition games because there is no win or lose. The whole entire point is to have fun. It doesn’t matter who has the ball because everyone’s playing together. As they get older these games could translate into competition, but for now it’s bonding.

During the day I spend a lot of time interpreting for the big girls. They rush over and pick Cordelia up and she whimpers. I point out the sounds, and let them know she doesn’t like that. I then offer a suggestion for what they could do that’d she’d likely enjoy. As she gets bigger, I’ll also help her figure out words to use so she can let them know on her own that she’s unhappy with a particular turn of events.

Right now it seems as though the most important part of having a positive experience with their sisters is me helping them figure out what the other means. They don’t have the knowledge base to figure out on their own that certain faces or sounds mean someone else isn’t having fun. They also don’t have the ability to put someone else’s needs or desires above their own. It’s my job to advocate for each of my children.

It doesn’t matter, for the most part, what happened, who started it, why someone’s crying, or anything else that divides the children. What matters is figuring out how to find a solution that preserves respect. It matters that they learn new methods of communicating, and playing together.

One day they won’t need me to step in as often as I do, one day they won’t need me to point out when someone else cries. One day they’ll take these skills and use them on their own, in the ‘real’ world. But for now they’re little girls playing together, loving each other, and loving life.

Is there something your family did – or does – that helps promote bonding between children, particularly children of vastly different ages and abilities?

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The Genius of Max & Ruby

I’ve yet to meet a parent that likes the show Max & Ruby. In fact I’m probably the only parent that actually finds the show cute and funny. Of course I’ve talked to the girls and they see it the same as I do, so I’m not concerned.

Two little bunnies, Max and big sister Ruby. Live (seemingly) alone. There’s a grandmother close as well as friends, and some adult bunnies. The beginning of the show Max wants to do something, but Ruby wants to do something else. Inevitably Ruby either doesn’t understand Max, or ignores him. At the end of the show Ruby figures out what Max tried to convey and everyone’s happy.

Most parents don’t like how bossy Ruby is, they also don’t like how she puts her wants over Max’s, they don’t like how she ignores him while she pursues her own desires. They don’t like that the majority of the program shows Ruby being mean and only the last few moments show a better way to meet everyone’s needs.

Ella and Agatha think it’s funny that Max knows what’s going on, that he tries to tell Ruby, but she doesn’t stop to listen and gets into one problem after another because of it, but if she just listened to the younger, smaller Max, then everything would’ve been okay from the start.

I suspect many parents don’t like the show because subconsciously they’re aware that the show mirrors their own actions and words. Max wakes up and Ruby’s eating yummy strawberries for breakfast. Max wants them, but Ruby has an egg for Max. He refuses. She threatens “No strawberries until your plate is empty”. She eats the strawberries in front of him, “Oh these are yummy, if you just ate your egg, you could have some too.”

It hits a little close to home. Especially when the show makes it very plain that it doesn’t matter if he really eats his egg or not, it doesn’t matter if he gets dirty. It’s easier to clean him up, than get upset.

But it’s easy to say one child shouldn’t treat another in such a way. Adults are different. It’s okay for a parent to tell their child one day they can’t get muddy, they can’t play with a certain toy, they can’t do what they want, but the next day (when the parent wants to do something quietly) the parent encourages the child to do exactly what the parent says ‘no’ to the rest of the time. Then the parent gets mad when the child comes over to see what’s happening. The parent doesn’t need to find out why the child comes over, they’re the parent. But if one child treats another in such a manner, then it’s considered rude, impolite.

I find it amazing that parents expect children to learn to cooperate, to share, to listen to other’s views, yet as adults they don’t bother.

Don’t get me wrong, I know many parents who do. But I also know how difficult it is to spend the majority of your life with someone else as boss, and now that we’re no longer children with someone else dictating to us, it’s really difficult to let go of the little bit of power we have.

However, I believe it’s very important that we do. We need to model to children how to behave. Show them that all people deserve respectful treatment, including those smaller and weaker than ourselves.

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Unschool Life

When someone walks into our house, they see a home well lived in. Some people may see the paint on the floor, or the million-and-one pom-poms scattered from wall to wall. But others race in, unaware of the clutter. Instead they find one station or another and begin working.

 

At the dinning table we have crafts of one sort or another. Right now we have popsicle sticks, pom-poms, paint, feathers, and the glue-gun. We’re all working on a structure of sorts. We hope anyone who comes to visit will help build it. Though so far no one’s really shown that much interest in the crafts.

We have crafts supplies in various places around the house. We believe availability will increase the girl’s desire to create, as well as their ability to express. Right now the girls enjoy working at the kitchen table. It’s close to where I spend the majority of my day. There’s also easy access to food, music, and shows.

Over the past few months we’ve seen our girls blossom in their ability to create masterpieces using the materials available to them.

We try to keep snacks available at all times.

Beyond the stuff we strew around for the girls to use, they also find other items to play with, and new uses for old toys. Here are the scissors and Ariel wig Ella first used to practice hair cutting on.

 

 

 

We’ve moved bean-bags to the living room so the girls have a comfortable place to sit while watching shows or playing Wii. They also provide a place for the girls to climb and jump. Otherwise they climb on our recliners – I really don’t want our recliners broken, and I don’t want someone hurt by them flipping over the back. Now there’s a place for their BIG activities right there in the heart of the home.

 

 

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Permission Granted

Yesterday the girls cut their hair. Today they did it again. Ella more so than Agatha.

She had a great time cutting it. And I think it actually looks pretty good. There are a few patches that are a bit too close to her scalp and the back has a few cuts that are pretty obvious. But overall it suits her.

Ryan was really upset. When she first started cutting again he started to say ‘No.’ He wanted to tell her we’d go to a salon instead. He wanted to teach her when to stop, to know when enough was enough.

I stepped in. After all, saying No, really wouldn’t give her a reason to stop. But what was our reason? Because we didn’t like it so short.

I asked Ryan to consider a few points. If she were 16, would we tell her she couldn’t cut her own hair. He said maybe. But when I was 16, I cut my own hair; it turned out better than when my mom cut my hair. If she were 16, would it be our place to tell her how she can or can’t wear her hair? Would it be good for her if we did?

In the end she asked our opinion, and looked in the mirror. When it was all done, her smile faltered, it was too short. But it can grow again, and now she knows to look in the mirror, and keep her hair just the length she wants.

It really doesn’t matter what the girls want to do, if our knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘no’, then we need to stop and examine why. Is there a valid reason, or should we step back and allow, even assist them in reaching their objective?

Do we really know more about them and their bodies than they do? Maybe it’s time parents stepped back and allowed their children enough freedom to discover their own desires and limits.

Should Ella ask permission to cut her hair in the future? Does it really matter? I did tell her we have hair scissors, and if she wanted to cut her hair, she could ask for the proper scissors. But whether to actually cut her hair or not? No, I don’t think it’s my place to either deny or grant permission.

 

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