Tag Archive | Motherhood

The parenting endurance test!

January can feel like an endurance test!

I find it hard to keep my spirits on the bright side when my daily walk, which I take for that very reason – keeping bright, becomes grueling rather than graceful at this time of the year.

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The best bit of a wet January morning; shiny droplets on the winter flowering cherry

Recording my pictures on Instagram helps me focus on the charms rather than the challenges, even if I have to seek them sometimes.

But that’s a good way to get through all challenges; remind yourself of the best bits among life’s barrage.

A parent asked me recently how I managed to get through the challenge of the years home educating with such ‘patience and grace’?

The short answer is; I didn’t all the time!

For, although it is mostly the best bits I write about to encourage and inspire – and it is an inspiring thing to do – it is certainly a challenge, verging on an endurance test sometimes. But isn’t all parenting like that – not just home educating?

The thing is; you know your kids are absolutely delightful beings. You know you completely love them to bits. You know home educating is totally the best thing you’ve ever done. And you know you don’t want it any other way.

BUT…..

There are times you are inevitably going to shout ‘FFS’!!!

I had those times too.

You would also have those times if the children were in school – believe me!

The longer answer to the above question was that I built strategies to help me through the grueling bits. We need that with both parenting and home education.

You’ll need to take deep breaths – often.

You’ll need to step back and let be – often.

You’ll need to stop worrying – that’s a decision as much as any.

You’ll need to trust that time will sort it.

Get outside – often.

You’ll need to look after yourself – as much as the children. Your mental and spiritual well being is included in that; build strategies to help refocus when needed (like me with the Instagram).

And you need to winkle out the best bits. There are always good bits.

Seasons change. January passes. Kids grow. Family life changes rapidly. All challenges change just as rapidly too.

All will be well.

(For more enduring comfort and reassurance try my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. Or just for mum support; ‘Mumhood’. See the books page for details)

Help with Mumhood and why it matters

“Oh! Have you written a motherhood book too?” said a new friend in surprise.

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‘Mumhood…’ Find it on Amazon; see the link below or read about it on the ‘My Books’ page

I suppose she wasn’t to know I had as we’d made the connection through home educating. And parents visiting here may think home schooling is my first love.

But actually, it isn’t. Parenting, and how important it is, must really be my first love and home education is generally an extension of that. (See my previous post). Therefore championing mums and the essential work they do is very close to my heart.

Mums are among the most important people on the planet. Although I think few acknowledge that fact. But mums do essential work.

What’s that then – some still ask?

Well; it’s only raising the next custodians of the planet, the next generation of scientists or surgeons who may well find the cure for cancer – who knows what their children will do. They may be raising the next politician who’ll find the answer to world peace. Or the next creators who’ll invent a facility as great as the Internet has become. Equally important are the mums raising the children who’ll do other vital jobs like caring or cleaning or teaching or farming, all of whom play a necessary and valid role in our lives. Not to mention the other essential roles mums play in showing children how to care, communicate, be considerate, grow respect, so that those children in turn will contribute to creating caring, respectful societies.

The role mums play in doing that requires time and attention and an example of love. Only by receiving those things will children learn what it they are and how to pass them on. And despite our enlightened age of equality, the truth is that it is mainly the mums who play the biggest part in that.

That’s what mums do. Fantastic or what?

Mums’ roles are constantly changing, as societies and culture and consequently human beings constantly evolve. So we need to be regularly updating our roles as mums and how we want to play them out within the new family group we are creating.

This is something we rarely give a thought to, dropping into our mumhood life, sometimes a little shocked after the birth and often so infatuated with this beautiful new being there’s no time to think! And sometimes, through neglecting to think that stuff out, we lose some of the satisfarction of being mums under the weight of hidden roles that come with it like; laundry maid, cleaning lady, skyvy to partner, general carer and dog’s body. All of which can conspire to make us less than optimistic about this lovely new mum job.

This book investigates these feelings and roles, poses some questions to ask yourself, and makes suggestions in the hope of leading these important mums towards experiencing the most fulfilling and love filled time in our life that being a mum can be!

Find it on Amazon here

A visit and a tribute

The lovely Chelsea – not often I get a picture!

Getting all excited about having a few days away and visiting my eldest tomorrow.

It’s so long since she’s been under this roof and we all miss each other. Although we speak regularly on the phone there’s nothing like sharing moments in physical space close enough to hug!

I was thinking the other day how little blogging there is about older kids – if kids is the right word for grown up ones. You read of all the beautiful babies and of mums paying tribute to their gorgeous little people, nestled as they are under the muddled motherhood roof. And shining out of the muddle and challenge of early parenting you read about the love and the intensity of feelings we have for them that accompanies it.

Is there anything so deep and consuming as the love parents feel for their children. anything that feels so complete as your baby’s head under your chin or that circle of love and protection that you can surround these small beings with as you enfold them on your lap.

Well, that feeling is just as strong when they are grown, when you can’t enfold them quite as easily and they don’t always want it anyway. But it’s not something that’s often written about. So with mine in mind I thought I’d equal that up a bit for parenting doesn’t just finish with age!

Although the children and the love matures, it is still there. And so is that loving connection even if it isn’t connected by a roof.

When you start with small kids, especially when you home educate them, you’ll no doubt have the hope, as I did, that your love will stay as precious even after you’ve inflicted your parenting on them! That your relationships will stay strong as it always was and you still stay friends.

Well, I’m just paying tribute here to my two closest friends, my two beautiful children who’ve grown into amazing twenty-somethings, who are just as revered as all those babies you read about, whom I admire and respect as never before. And with whom I perhaps have an even stronger bond simply because you have to let it go and trust that now you have no control over it like you did when you could keep them with you, wherever they go and whatever they choose to do, the bond becomes unbreakable simply because it is their choice – as much as it is mine – unlike when they were little.

My two continue to amaze and inspire me in the way they grow and grab at life, as much as they did when they were toddlers, in the way they work and laugh and love, their courage and their strength.

Toddlers teens or twenty-somethings, they have never ceased to amaze.

So I thought I’d write something about the adult children as they are just as precious and surprising as babies and toddlers, and remain forever awesome!

More when I get back!

Teaching the world

When I was a green young teacher I didn’t understand the most important thing about teaching. 20150529_144147

I thought I was there to instruct. That’s what teachers were employed to do, wasn’t it? And also, as a young person pre-parenting, I wasn’t aware of the impact you as a person have upon the children you’re teaching. Not to mention others too.

In fact, I guess you don’t even twig this when you first become a parent either. You’re too besotted with this bundle of delirium that’s just been delivered to the bed, transforming life as it formerly was into something a bit bewildering to say the least. Not only transforming life, but principles, priorities and purpose, as you grow into realisation that probably for the first time in the whole of your life you are accountable.

Your actions matter to someone else more important than you!

The other thing I didn’t spot which I have now is that when you become a parent you automatically become a teacher, but a completely different one to the one we recognise in schools. Everything this tiny being learns, right from its first few moments, weeks, early years, is down to you. You are suddenly accountable for teaching them things – through your example.

It can feel a bit overwhelming!

But it is also beautiful. And it is a beautiful thought that you can teach, and you are now a teacher too. For that’s what parents are, although ‘teacher’ is perhaps the wrong word because of its school associations.

But teaching is not necessarily to do with schools.

For, if you can take your view even broader, it is also a fairly magnificent thought that we are all, always, not only teachers of our own children, but also teachers of the other children we come into contact with, not to mention all the other parents and people with whom we meet and mix and share ideas.

What we do in our own homes is the beginnings of a way of teaching the world, through our demonstrations and ideas.

You can inspire and teach others through your parenting. You can teach yourself as you grow and parent your child. And you will definitely be teaching the child, as you interact, nurture, care for and show them everything. You will also more importantly be teaching them what it is to be human – the single most valuable lesson of all. And this all happens just by you being human and humane and caring in the way you parent.

I now understand that the academic teaching teachers do in classrooms is insignificant to the other messages they give through their behaviour and example, and less significant than parents teaching their children what it is to be human, to care, to have compassion and consideration, empathy and tolerance. All of which impacts on other children, who in turn pass it on, and so on. And it impacts on their education. A caring child reacts to learning far differently to one who doesn’t.

So, in such ways, you teach and parent the world. Your example teaches best of all.

And that’s the most important thing about it which I didn’t get before.

Thus we are all of us teachers too.

Kids and comfort zones

The recent storms were challenging weren’t they!

And I don’t even have to work out in it like some of the people I see on the land.

I can go out in it if I wish – or not. My work is otherwise snug and comfy at the computer in the warm.

However, I did dash out in it at times, pushed myself out in the ripping storms and battalions of wet that blasted across the flatlands, one after the other. I ran from hedge to hedge whilst the worst passed over, coveting a bit of shelter for a while like the rabbits do judging by the droppings. The dog has got wise to this strategy and butts up to a bush with a miserable face, not understanding the value of pushing past the comfort line sometimes.

But I know it’s the best remedy for Indooritus. That disease which sludges up the soul when I’m shut inside, inactive, inert, for far too long.

Pushing beyond always being comfy develops so many parts of us we wouldn’t give it credit for, even confidence. It gives us different experiences, stimuli, sensations, which arouse parts of us which may go unused. You know what they say; use it or lose it. That goes for brain, muscles, heart, all organs and all senses.

And pushing ourselves through a bit of challenging discomfort is an example to the children that it is sometimes worth it. For, as parents, we spend quite a lot of our time following the opposite path.

It is the nature of our parenting to care and cherish. Feed and shelter. Protect and provide. Always look to their comfort, naturally, since they were babies, from their warm fed tummies to their shiny shod toes. We see to their needs, answer their demands, pander to their whims. Of course we do. Mums are genetically primed to do so; we almost can’t help it. We want them to be safe, happy, snug. Why on earth then, should we ever make them uncomfortable?

Well, the reason is that uncomfortable is going to be pushing their boundaries a bit, showing them parts of themselves that they maybe hadn’t known. Giving them opportunities for achieving things they never thought they could. And the consequence of achievement – whatever it is and however small – is feeling good. Building confidence.

It may not seem like it at the time. But sometimes we have to do the deeds for the feelings later.

It doesn’t have to be going out in a gale, although that’s very stimulating. It could be eating different

Nipped out at a time of day I'd usually be comfy indoors and was rewarded with a sight I normally miss - moonrise!

Nipped out in the descending dark when I’d usually be comfy indoors and was rewarded with a stirring sight that made it worth it – moonrise!

food, trying a new activity or exercise, meeting new people, going out at a time you wouldn’t normally, walking a different route, switching off the technology for a day! Examine your comfort routines and break out of them on occasion.

My cheeks were chilled and my clothes were wet by the time I got back in – and I was certainly glad to do so. But my soul was singing and excited. I rarely feel like that when I’m still. Or doing the same thing in the same way, day after day.

And it’s so worth showing your kids that pushing out from comfortable will on occasion make their soul sing too!

Another little word on worry…

People considering home schooling are often stopped by thinking it’s going to be too much of a worry! So I thought I’d repost some ideas here to try and put some of those to rest.

The worry that comes attached to parenting makes life pre-children look like a picnic. Add home schooling into the picture and it doubles.

However, if you think about it, there’s just as much worry attached to schooling isn’t there? There was for me.

The daft thing is; worry is pointless. It doesn’t help anything, it warps reasonable perspective, it wears you down and becomes counter-productive. So you might as well stop it.

The million dollar question is; how?

I’m a worrier and had to work hard at dealing with it so as not to spoil being a mum. Here are some of the ideas I came up with; perhaps they’ll work for you.

–          Look at your concern realistically. Usually worry is nothing more than us imagining the worst scenario. It’s not something that is actually happening. So try and switch your imagination off and focus on the reality now. Or…

–          Imagine instead the best scenario. Imagine how it looks when it’s positive – what you want to happen rather than thinking about the worst case. This is visualisation. It’s very powerful, but it’s ironic that we rarely imagine the best. Visualise what it looks like when everything is working perfectly, your children being angelic!

–          Worrying is nothing more than your thoughts – not events – just negative thinking. The best antidote to this I found was to stop thinking and start doing. Take action to change whatever is bothering you. Or if that’s not possible involve yourself in an activity that takes your mind off the worry and onto something else. This refreshes you, dilutes the worry, brings a new perspective.

–          Another point; worrying is about future events. You’re not there yet and you cannot predict what future is in store anyway – everything always changes. So stop living for the future, start making this moment the best it can be.

–          Obviously we want to do the best we can to secure our children’s future, whether that’s in the way we raise them or the way we educate them. But nothing can be secure really and sometimes we’re so busy doing that we forget that right now is what matters. Love matters. Happiness matters. Interest and fun matter. Putting those in place now is the best way to build a fulfilling, successful future – I don’t think fulfilment and success can happen without them.

–          There is no guarantee you can make for your child’s future except that. By doing that each day, but being aware of the way you are, by being relaxed, attentive, busy and FUN you can show your child how to build a life the same!

–          Worry also occurs when we’re focussing intensely on the smaller picture. Often a blinkered picture – an inaccurate one. Like your child not being able to achieve something that others can like sharing for example. It’s easy to get obsessed about it – this puts pressure on which makes it worse, creates an intensity which communicates itself to the child which prevents them from sharing because they know it’s something you’re worried about …etc…etc. To stop this take your mind’s eye out from the intensity of this small picture to the whole of your child’s life– I bet your child will be as considerate over sharing as anyone else by the time they’re twenty. So be patient – children are all different and are allowed to be. Look at the bigger picture.

–          Keep contact with others to help your perspective. Talk about your concerns – then stop and talk about something else – something positive! Don’t measure your child against your friend’s. If you must, measure instead against the millions and millions of children who started out with these noticeable differences then by adulthood have become insignificant.

–          Look after yourself! Worry is increased by tiredness, frustration, stress, unhappiness. Your needs as a parent are as important as the child’s. Happy parent equals happy child. Some of the things I did to help myself with this were; reading inspirational books, regular exercise, getting outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty, meeting with others,  avoided too much junk food (food affects your mind), attention to my mental/spiritual wellbeing.

–          If your child sees you doing this you’ll be teaching them how to look after themselves as they grow which is a far better lesson to be teaching them than how to worry!

I’ve suggested other ways of looking after yourself as a mum in my new book ‘Mumhood How to handle it Why it matters’. And there are ideas about dealing with worry if you’re a home educating parent in ‘Learning Without School’. But for a read to give you a giggle and a lift away from it all try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. All the details are on my book page.

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5 elements of parenting (and education) that are important

The two little girls from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ in a rare academic moment!

I often think back to our Home educating days when the children were younger and things seemed a little simpler.

Yea – I know it’s hard to believe it’s simple right now if you’ve got a complex life with younger ones. And maybe those former days weren’t simpler as I imagine – they were just different!

Anyway, instead of the parent/child relationships we had then we now have parent/adult relationships, with best friend thrown in too.

These adult relationships, with those little girls featured in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, are something I truly treasure. We love spending time together, we have a giggle together, they still share, and trust my support and – dare I say – wisdom! And I theirs; they teach me a lot too!

Recently someone sent me a lovely comment and expressed the hope that their own relationship with their little ones would turn into the adult ones we have now.

It made me wonder what it was that got us to this point, whether there were particular elements of parenting that aid the process.

I would say the answer lies in the elements of any relationships and is not necessarily to do with children; there’s not one rule for kids and another for grown-ups, as some seem to think. It’s just about being together and caring for one another in respectful ways.

So I came up with what I considered to be the five most important elements of our parenting, and home educating, in fact, of any relationship:

Respect – Children learn this by demonstration, by your respectful behaviour. They need to be shown the same respect as you expect from them, as you’d wish them to show to others, as you show to others. It’s derived from listening, responding, care, compromise, tolerance, talking, give and take and understanding on a mutual basis. Also from self-respect. And it has to be consistent.

Honesty – Children know when we are not honest. They learn their honesty from us. They need to be able to trust us. You have to be brave to be honest, find ways to explain even if it’s difficult. We are all human; make mistakes, get it wrong. We can admit it. Apologies work wonders. But you always have to be fair even when it’s hard. This will earn their respect too.

Communication – Always communicate, share, explain, inquire, request, listen. All relationships are based on communication whoever they’re between. Even the tiniest moments of communication can have enormous impacts. They also show you care for and respect them.

Space – It’s okay to have space from the children, as we would want space from any family members! It is not a reflection of how much we love our kids if we want to have some time away from them, just as it’s not a reflection of love for a partner if we want time apart! Space from each other helps each identify who they are.

Balance – I don’t think extremes in any aspect of life are healthy. Rules are sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Everything we do with our children – or with any relationship – should always be up for scrutiny, review and refreshment within the perspective of what we learn as we all grow together. We need to balance things like saying no with saying yes, being firm when it’s important with being able to compromise, being a playmate, being a protector. You balance many hats as a parent, the way you behave as you do so can make or break your relationship with your children and the adults they’ll become.

And of course everything here is based in LOVE. I took it for granted that element would be there anyway!