November 21, 2016
I learned a lesson last night. Way after bedtime, one of our kids came out saying “I don’t know why, but I don’t feel well”. Now 90% of the time, I would just usher the kid back to bed, but something about her phrasing made me pause.
We went to her room and after the perfunctory checking of her temperature and making sure she was hydrated and didn’t need the bathroom, I asked her if anything was on her mind.
No, she said.
I looked at her favourate stuffed toy and asked, “How about Nightsky, does she have anything on her mind?”
Turns out, Nightsky did have a lot on her mind. Soon our kid was opening up to me about some very big feelings and important thoughts she had that were troubling her. We ended up spending lots more time together where I listened to her worries and did my best to validate and reassure her. Sometimes, all I could do was offer a cuddle but I think it helped.
Like most parents, I have many days where my patience is thin and where I struggle to be a compassionate parent, particular when it is way past their bedtime and approaching my own.
But sometimes, like last night, I get it pretty right.
May 5, 2012
Earlier this week I went to the final performance of ‘A Memory, a monologue, a rant and a prayer’. It was sold out and the place was packed. The performances were amazing and the audience was moved and clapped and clapped. You can read some great reviews and descriptions, here, here and here.
I was moved during the performance. These stories were new to me, but the content they cover was not. I found myself swallowing hard during almost all of the performances.
The story of the young girls in the Congo hiding in barrels of fermenting banana beer, while rebels raped their mother was particularly haunting. But the one that struck a particular chord was the woman who made the wish; ‘May all your daughters’ first kiss be anticipated and wanted.’ Afterwards, I chatted polite chit-chat and then said my good-byes.
It was only once I left, that the tears came. Hot and salty and fierce.
My face twisted into that I’m-not-crying face as I walked down the street and I was pretty snotty by the time I got to my car.
All I could think about was my daughters.
I can’t protect them, I thought, completely overwhelmed.
My stories were suddenly irrelevant and all I could feel was rage. The rage I feel at the injustice of the assault, abuse and violence my daughters are going to be touched by.
My daughters, with their soft bodies, reaching for me, eyes and face wide open, love spilling out of them like over-ripe fruit. So quick to laugh and cry and love and live.
Life will be so cruel to them. It will hurt them. Forcing them to close their hearts and guard their souls. I’m sure most parents fear the day that their children experience true hurt and disappointment for the first time. But this fear, the fear of violation, abuse, violence and molestation is particularly awful.
My heart breaks for all the people who have had this experience thrust upon them.
I think that as a parent and having birthed these children, that I am unequivocally physically engaged in their wellbeing. I most certainly would take a bullet for them, without thinking even, I suspect.
But I rage when I think of how helpless I am to protect them from this reality. There are no words or actions which would adequately illustrate this feeling of frustration and helplessness, except perhaps pulling my hair completely out of my scalp.
Their innocence and trust and willingness to be kind and giving. It will shrivel away.
Maybe… that says more about me. About how I see the world, how I feel the world, how I move in the world and how I survive the world.
This left me feeling raw and I crawled into bed and distracted myself with old episodes of Mighty Boosh. Because most days and nights I have the strength to deal and to cope and to fight and support others. And other nights, I don’t.
That night, was just was one those nights.
But I realised this was not a good way to be, nor a good way to leave readers, so while I blogged this blog relatively soon, I waited to publish until I could add some resources.
November 26, 2011
Just watching the Inside Child Poverty Doco. It’s really good. Not flawless, but good.
When I got to the part where the Swedish doctors said they haven’t seen child ill health due to preventative diseases since the 70s I cried.
We could do so much better in this country.
Imagine a world where children and the environment were prioritised. Where we asked ourselves, is this good for our kids, before we did everything. And if the answer is no, we didn’t do it.
A world where children are guaranteed to receive free quality health care, where and when they need it. A world where children are the beneficiaries of state funding, which helps create a stable healthy environment for them so they can play and learn and develop well.
As parents we shouldn’t abdicate our responsibilities. For example we should stop smoking because it’s killing us and those around us slowly and painfully. We should do what we reasonably can to ensure our kids grow up in a healthy safe environment and we should love them unconditionally. (Something the doco left out)
But we should be able to expect help when we need it.
If money and the lack thereof is genuinely preventing people from feeding their kids well, taking them to the doctor when needed and keeping them in substandard housing, then we can and should change this.
The question is: What are we going to do about it?
What are you going to do?
I’m going to have a think about that question and I’ll get back to you. But I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts too….
August 27, 2011
I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids.
If I repeat it enough times, will it sink in?
I got a big shock today. It had been a yelly kind of day, particularly Anabelle was crying at the slightest hint of resistance (read: boundary) from Dad or I. Kadie had done well escaping our notice. That is, until she dropped a bowl of soapy water in the kitchen (slippery fingers you see) and to be fair to me, I had warned them both, twice, not to carry the bowls around. So when she dropped it and I saw the soapy mess, all the good advice and intellectual theory of how to speak to your kids so they will listen went out of my head and I yelled. Loud.
There weren’t any tears but I heard Kadie walk into her room to change her wet pants muttering to herself and to my horror I heard her say: ‘I’m stupid’. My heart dropped. Is that what I’ve been doing? Am I slowly creating a sense of low self-esteem? Destroying her wee spirit with my insanely unnecessary yelling?
I went in to her room and cuddled her, listened to what she had to say, which was something along the lines of: ‘I’m stupid and my arms are too weak and… and… I couldn’t hold the bowl, it was too big and now I’m all wet and.. and waaaahh) That’s when the tears came. I held her and just felt numb with shame.
This parenting gig is so hard. I had no idea that I would struggle with basic skills like being patient and understanding. In the rest of my life I am the Queen of Understanding but in my own home, where it really matters, I can be so mean.
Yes, it’s been a slightly off day. One of those days where you and your partner snap at each other and instantly regret it, but don’t apologise. I’ve been home all week with Anabelle while she’s been sick and that’s a challenge for this usually full-time working mum. Yes, I need a break and the fact that things build up may be a reason for my yelling, but they are not a justification. It’s not ok that I made my kid feel stupid.
So now what?
I need to try harder. Perhaps try harder to remember that my kids do not belong to me. They are people with the same rights as any other person. I wouldn’t yell at any adult that way, so why is it ok to yell at them like that? If I don’t role model respect then why should they in turn respect me?
I’ve read dozens of books and loads of articles, watched programmes about nannies and psychologist taming wild kids, but the single thing I remember most was this one particular dude who was working with a couple who had a defiant child. He absolutely refused to meet the child. (He said that it wasn’t the child’s fault that her parents couldn’t control her.) His simple act of dealing only with the parents was a strong message that stayed with me. It’s up to the parents to nurture values and cultivate desired behaviour.
This works in the other direction as well. As much as I ‘blame’ myself for any negative behaviour from my kids, I can equally take credit for the positive behaviour, like kindness, intelligence and humour. And to my relief, there is way more of that present.
I should take my own advice sometimes which is that as a parent, the trick is to get it mostly right, most of the time. That’s sounds pretty human to me.