April 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
Every parent knows well the rule of thumb that you must be disciplined with antibiotics. You administer them one time, effectively, and deliver the full dose. Fearful consequences have been drilled into every parent’s head that if you are not precise in following this rule, the result is that the germs will become used to the antibiotics and no longer respond to their impact.
It dawned upon me today that reminding your kids to do stuff works the same way!
We recently re-started our kids piano lessons. They went on hiatus when we moved across the country and took back burner to the many other items on our list required to get settled in (find a doctor, dentist, school, etc.). Through a friend’s referral, we landed a fantastic piano teacher. The kids love him and we love that he comes to the house – everybody wins. Except my kids don’t practice.
What good are lessons without the daily practice – nada. So I nag, and I remind, and offer conditions. Everything you’d find in the What-Not-To-Do Parenting Manual (there isn’t one manual actually, there are loads, but you get my point). Even so, in the absence of a better solution, here we are.
As I tried to coax my two younger children out of the sprinkler on this unusually warm spring day, and into the hottest room in the house to practice their piano, I could hardly blame them for resisting. I reminded them several times, but it had no real intention behind it, and like the germs that have become immune to the antibiotics, my words had no effect.
Then the epiphany came. It’s like antibiotics. If I am constantly asking for the same thing over and over, the kids never know when action is truly required. They also learn no self-management for themselves. When they need to do something, it needs to be delivered one time, strong and true and with a full dose, just like antiobiotics!
It was one of those moments when you wonder how you got this far into parenting without realizing sooner what seems so obvious now. The metaphor of me standing on a mountain top proclaiming the news quickly fills my brain….”And my voice will be like antiobiotics!”
April 4, 2014 § 1 Comment
I ran into a friend at a coffee shop recently, who commented on the busyness of my schedule, exclaiming that she didn’t know how I did it all. I always find it ironic when I hear these words, because I often feel the same way about the person with whom I am speaking, which quickly led me to the conclusion that all parents are busy, and we all find a way to do it! Falling into the trap that most of us seem to, I quickly discounted any element of praise and insisted that I simply have mastered “the illusion” that it is all getting done.
Contemplating it afterwards, I thought about how fantastic it would be if we all shared our “tricks” of getting it all done. You know, the ones that we’d rarely admit to, except to our closest friends, for fear of being criticized as a poor parent. So I am wading out into those judgement-filled waters, and offering you two time-tested tricks from my own parenting bag of tricks:
Contrary to popular judgements, TV really is a terrific babysitter in a pinch. I have used this solution countless times when needing a shower, taking a phone call, or securing a much-needed, sanity-saving time out for myself. Most frequently however, I use this twice a day at bus time. We live at the end of a very long driveway. Despite repeated requests for the school bus to come to the house, alas, we have to catch it at the end of the laneway like everyone else. In the nicer weather, the kids love riding their bikes or skipping down the laneway taking in the warm breezes and bright sunshine. In fouler weather however, of which we have had more than our share this winter, I drive them. It has always been the case, however, that I have had younger non-school age children with me at home while the older children go off to school. Instead of struggling though the tug of war to get a young, uninterested and decidedly strong-headed child to bundle up in their outerwear and get into the car, I turn to the warm, entertaining and immobilizing effects of a trusted friend: Samsung. Convenient, centrally located, and always available!
At an event I was at last week with a collection of mothers, we were discussing the undeniable effectiveness of bribery as a parenting tool. Some were quick to point out that their tool is actually called “motivation”, but I have yet to successfully distinguish the two. And if it weren’t already self-evident in the successful completion of toy clean-up each night before bed (or no bedtime snack!), one could also consider the number one technique my children have learned to use on each other when they can’t get their sibling to do what they want: “Please, please, please, I’ll give you my best Pokeman card! No? How about the remaining candy in the loot bag I got last week? Alright deal.” While I don’t recommend this parenting technique for influencing moral decision-making in our children, it does work like a charm to keep the daily operations flowing smoothly.
And here is one more: despite everything that has happened, or will happen, you are a good parent. So steer away from the duality of deciding if your decisions were good or bad, right or wrong, and instead assess your instincts, rely on your gut, and realize what you are doing is always what you think best for your children given the scenario. Well done, my friend!
February 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
My 6 year old is playing with his stuffies on the floor, offering a snack to the homeless one and speaking emphatically to the others about helping people who need help.
Flash back a few hours, when I received a BBM from a friend that she saw a wolf in the countryside near our home, compassionately making me aware of the potential danger it might pose.
As I sit down with my tea to begin my Facebook review for the morning, I see a post from another friend about how How Wolves Save Rivers. Having recently received a BBM on wolves in my neighborhood, I click on it. Unveiled to me, is the most beautiful impact the introduction of wolves has had on Yellowstone National Park. This video was done by a YouTube channel called Sustainable Man.
I enjoyed the video, so I click on some of the others they have created and posted. As I am watching the video Reimagining Investment for the Whole Human, also by Sustainable Man, my 6 year old son wanders up and is watching the screen, listening to the words. He asks me why I watch videos that are boring. Realizing he doesn’t understand many of the words that are being used, I begin to translate into a 6-year-old dialect.
I explain that there is a portion of the world’s people that have a lot (a lot of money, a lot of toys, a lot of food, a lot of clothes) and there is another portion of the world that doesn’t (doesn’t eat enough, isn’t clothed, has no money, no toys). He responds to all of this with his observation that the “donation” box I put in our hallway for my children to contribute to as they are cleaning their rooms, is almost empty still.
Marveling at the connection he has just made I affirm the link, suggesting “perhaps we should change that?”. Without comment he leaves my side to return to his game, and I continue watching the video. A few minutes later he draws my attention to him putting two toys in the donation box. I share my gratitude with him for his action and we both return to what we are doing, me, watching these wonderful messages suggesting we take action for the betterment of all people, and he to his toys. And that’s when I realize it.
My 6 year old is playing with his stuffies on the floor, offering a snack to the homeless one and speaking emphatically to the others about helping people who need help.
December 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
I felt like I won the lottery as I came back down the driveway! I started singing and smiling and feeling my spirit lift!
Lately my youngest has had a strong hesitation to go to school. When asked why, she replies “because there are no parents there!”. Can’t say I blame her. On her alternate days she enjoys dance classes, Tim Horton’s, shopping with Mommy, and snuggling on the couch surrounded by Christmas twinkly lights, watching Holiday Specials on TV. Even with snack time and recess, how can school compete?
Anyways, today was the first day in two weeks that she decided school would be okay, without coaxing, without bribery, without striking any deals, she happily hopped on the school bus. So, back to my lottery….
After leaping for joy several times (quite literally, try it and try not to feel joy afterwards!), I settled into my favourite meditation chair and breathed the silence in deeply. Long exhale. Ah, there it is. Bliss.
Permission To Rest.
I was not resting because I felt ill and my body demanded it. I was not resting because my body could not function any longer without it. And I was not resting because I felt I deserved a moment of luxury. I was resting because when I give myself these moments, I am never disappointed that I did.
Contrary to what we have come to believe, Rest and Play are not luxuries. They are fundamental. For our growth spiritually, for our good health, and for our happiness.
Ever been in the shower and all of a sudden had an amazing idea? Ever been laying comfortably in bed, almost asleep and suddenly remembered something truly important? It is no coincidence. When you rest, you are opening doors previously closed by the pace we keep these days. You are allowing, instead of resisting.
Dedication is not putting more work hours in a day. Dedication is bringing your best.
My best is achieved when I approach my day from a place of peace and inner knowing that I am loved, I have purpose, and we are all one. My best is achieved when I let bliss be my guide.
With love and light during the holiday season, I wish you all permission to rest ❤
October 8, 2013 § Leave a comment
I recently hit the long-coveted milestone of having all my children in school at the same time <insert cartwheel, and a lengthy “WOOOHOOOOO” here>. My youngest child started Junior Kindergarten this year, which means that for two, sometimes even three days each week, I have the entire school day to be me. Not someone’s chauffeur, not someone’s referee, not someone’s nurse, maid, or cook. Just me. For 6 hours. Also not to be confused with “free time”, (these days are often more packed than when I have children at home), but they are truly a little slice of heaven . The first day it happened, I felt like I won the lottery!
I have since discovered however, that every rose has its thorns. And if you do not wish to experience the thorns, certain precautions must be taken. I may have had the most perfect day of being me, being uber- productive without my entourage, even daring to wear high- heeled boots cause there is no one to chase after, but the culture shock when the kids re-entered the house was a far larger hit than I expected! All the sudden I was grumpy and resentful of the multiple questions being fired at me from four different directions. And the spontaneous din arising from the presence of four excited children was suddenly louder than I could tolerate. As I responded with impatience and irritable remarks, my husband asks me, “did you have a bad day?”, and I reply in a bewildered tone “no, actually, I didn’t”, suddenly baffled at how it all went south.
And then it hits me. It’s the contrast.
And so a new lesson in parenting is born: It is important to provide a buffer between “me time” and “mom time”. It is a more significant shift than I had ever considered before. My husband and I have been away without the kids lots of times, and I had never experienced this kind of reaction, but then again, we’ve always had the flight home and the car ride back from the airport to prepare ourselves for “re-entry”. A buffer.
I shared my realization with my husband and his response? “Well you’d better have less days to yourself then, I guess, eh? Chuckle, Chuckle”. Hysterical. Not a chance. But I will be carving out a few of those precious moments with a little buffer time from here on in.
September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
The question I am most often asked after revealing that I am a mother of four, is “how do you do it?”
Almost always this question comes from parents of two or less children, or individuals who have not yet experienced parenthood. Their comments fall just short of putting me in the “full-out-crazy” category (that apparently is reserved for those amazing families with more than five children), often placing me firmly in a category that they profess as incapable of ever joining: “ I can barely manage two, how do you do it with four?”
Interestingly enough, I rarely get this response from parents with three children. This is easily explained by the simple fact that it all gets easier after three. No joke! Two was the hardest stage for me. Once we got to three, that’s when all the parenting puzzle pieces started falling into place. Just goes to show if you practice something long enough you are bound to develop some level of skill.
That being said, there are some areas of having four children that are distinctly different than just two.
- Laundry. Nuff said.
- Food. We have not yet entered the teenage years but based on how much our grocery bills have increased already, we are bracing ourselves. It’s easy to buy Costco size snacks and “family-size” food items, and don’t get me wrong, we definitely do, but seeing first-hand the impact that healthy, fresh food can have on balancing out energy levels, we are compelled to follow the uphill climb to moving the whole family towards fresh food: a feat that is both expensive and time consuming, but worth it.
- One-on-one time. When I was pregnant with my third child someone said to me, “you are now going to have to move from man-to-man, to man-to-zone”, to which I responded, “they still haven’t out-numbered our arms”. Kidding aside, it was now true that one-on-one time was going to need a new approach. It is a myth that spending time with your child needs to be organized and planned. My husband and I have each had some amazing and surprisingly revealing conversations with our children, simply running errands or grocery shopping with them. Add to that bedtime chats and prepping-dinner-discussions and you can really connect with a kid and learn a lot about what it important to them while the hands are busy but the mind is not.
- Personalities – one of my favourite things to chat about with other parents is how different their children’s dispositions and personalities can be, given that they share the same gene pool, formative-years environment and parenting experience. Across four children, the diversity is remarkable. Defaulting to a one-size-fits-all parenting style is met with immense resistance, compelling a much more conscious approach.
- Helping each child find their way back to their heart, instead of looking outside themselves for happiness. Each child will follow a different path to happiness, resonating to a different vibration in their own unique way. Impossible to do it for them, but so important to recognize those moments when they are revealing numbers to the combination. And putting the brakes on the expectations we ourselves grew up understanding, so we can allow them to flourish without arbitrary limitations – now that’s a handful.
I read a terrific article recently, entitled “The Sweet Spot”, which is exactly where we are at with our family. We have graduated out of diapers, strollers and sippy cups, but our kids are not yet teenagers, so they are still keen to spend time with us. And it is sweet. Sweet nostalgia of breastfeeding and that newborn smell, as all the memories of sleepless nights fade away. Sweet gratitude that we have these precious moments to shape and understand our kids before they insist on making their way independently as teenagers. And sweet opportunity to live in these moments as they are, surrounded by four amazing souls in little bodies.
That’s how I do it.
July 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
We arrived home from a morning of swimming lessons and after hanging up the towels and bathing suits to dry, I prepare a snack for the kids and put the kettle on for a cup of tea for myself. While I’m waiting for the kettle, I unload the dishwasher, wash up the dishes that don’t go in the dishwasher, wipe down all the counters and table, wipe my toddlers bum, and refill the honey container so I will have some for my tea. By the time I get back to my steeping tea, it has gone cold, and my ten year old says to me “Mom, what’s for lunch?” I begin to lose my cool, about to unleash the martyr speech about doing everything for everyone else and I can’t even get a warm cup of tea!, when I am suddenly reminded of the L.P Lunch Program.
A few months ago, while enjoying dinner out with some of my favourite gals, we were commenting on the differences between kids in school and kids home for the summer, and I groaned about having to prepare snacks and lunches several times a day. I asked the group what they prepare for lunch for their kids, hoping to get some ideas beyond grilled cheese, chicken nuggets and Kraft Dinner. One of the Supermoms at the table (we’ll call her L.P.) looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “I don’t”. Not seeing how it was possible for this mom of four to respond this way, I pulled up my chair and asked for her to share her secret.
She explained that she puts all the things she wants her kids to eat, down in the reachable positions, and the things she doesn’t want them to eat, up high where they need your help to get at them. This includes cupboards and refrigerator shelves. The kids help themselves and she doesn’t have to drop what she’s doing every time the kids get hungry. “And I’ll bet she gets her tea hot, too” I thought to myself.
So back to my cold tea and the kids wanting lunch. I take a deep breath, exhale, and explain that they no longer get to ask me what is for lunch. I explain, very calmly, that if they would like to suggest a lunch idea to me, that is encouraged, or better yet, if they would like to prepare something for themselves, they are permitted, just as long as whatever mess is made in creating their lunch, is also looked after by them.
Much to my surprise their eyes got real big, they looked at each other, and cheered! They darted off in all different directions like a firework exploding, running for their favourite thing to eat. The eldest made Kraft Dinner for the younger two, and my eight year old heated up leftovers.
“Well look at that”, I said, placing my tea in the microwave to re-heat. I grabbed a pen and jotted down on my to do list – re-arrange the food for the L.P Lunch Program.