Tag Archive | mums

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

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.

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!

Creating myself some sunshine – 6 ideas!

What a dismal lack of sunshine we’ve had this summer. I feel my smile disintegrating! The prospect of longer nights without that

Fun makes for a dark evening; tissue paper flower and bunting!

Fun makes for a dark evening; tissue paper flower and bunting!

normal recharge of rays is rather frightening, especially suffering from SAD. I can feel my mood becoming heavier already and it’s only October. I know that it affects kids and families too, although parents can sometimes forget to acknowledge that their kids need outside time and daylight.

I’ll just have to manage as best I can, I’m thinking, and try and create my own sunny lift! So I’ve been inventing ways to do that and am recording them here in case you need some ideas for the family too. Here’s what I’ve come up with – I’ll let you know what works:

  • Getting outside every day – no excuses – as even the dullest daylight makes a difference. Find ways and means; walk instead of bus, go to park, whatever.
  • Painting one room in the house orange or yellow. Ours is the kitchen – it’s orange and makes you feel brighter instantly.
  • Making tomato and lentil soup. Or carrot and sweet potato. or butternut squash. Using sunny veg!
  • Wearing something bight, or warm in colour and texture.
  • Achieving something new – always gives me a lift that, whether it’s changing the room round, making something, artwork, crafting, planting, whatever.
  • Calling up my sunniest friends for a chat and keeping the conversation positive and forward looking. Can be tricky!!

Got any more ideas you could share? Meanwhile, I’m wishing you sunshine in your day! O look – the sun just came out here! 🙂

Forget forever busy – learn from nature!

One of our fledglings that'll be flying thousands of miles!

One of our fledglings that’ll be flying thousands of miles!

It won’t seem right without the swallows in the sky. They’re gathering to make their epic Autumn journey.

I see them swooping about the sky as if with pure enjoyment. If you live in a city it’s more likely to be the House Martins and Swifts you see flitting around, flexing their muscles for their long migration.

Nothing marks the turning of the seasons more than the summer visitors going – people and birds! And the harvest gratefully done, the fields a little quieter for a bit, fallow and golden, the garden dropping down to seed head slumber.

I won’t be tidying the dead stuff away. I leave it for all the little creatures and insects to overwinter in a duvet of fallen leaves. They can sleep in peace and shelter.

I’ve written about this fallow time before. How these seemingly fallow times can be so developmental and we shouldn’t worry about children having fallow times too. These are as instrumental to their progress as productive times. Just because there’s nothing tangible to show for it doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on in their minds. Intellect needs fallow on occasions; it’s a valuable to growth as stimulation is.

It’s the same for the parents actually. Parents, especially mums, mostly operate at high energy levels, whether running round after toddlers or finding new ways to negotiate teenhood, it’s all exhausting. Even twenty somethings can exhaust you with concerns, says she with experience!

And writing, or any creative pursuit, certainly exhausts you. You certainly need fallow times in order to recuperate some of the energy expended on a project to bring it to harvest.

So I wanted to say that whatever work you do, not to worry about fallow. It’s hard to sit and rest and cogitate in a culture that upholds forever busy. But forever busy is not the best way I’ve found, not for kids, nor parents, or for writers or workers.

All of us worry sometimes about the kids never doing anything, about us needing to constantly motivate them, about never being able to write anything again. And the guilt in doing nothing is paramount! The over emphasised work ethic that surrounds us heaps guilt on thicker than mayo on coleslaw.

But it’s best to push all that aside and enjoy a few fallow Autumn moments. For have you noticed, whilst nature’s settling into the season with a sigh, she has no guilt about lying dormant at all!

Neither should we. It’s what charges us all for future success.

Nature I find is often the best teacher. We can learn valuable lessons from her.

Born Naughty?

“Mum, there’s a programme on Channel 4 tonight you might like, I just saw a trailer,” says Charley as she comes through to where I’m working.

I look up from the keyboard and peer at her suspiciously. “Oh, yea? What’s that then?” She knows I’m not into watching telly much, especially fly-on-the-wall type programmes that turn people’s misery into dramatic telly just because it’s cheap to make!

“It’s apparently about children being naughty – whether it’s learned or genetic. Thought you’d be interested as I know how much you hate that word.” She grinned at me round the door frame. She’s heard me ranting over parenting programmes many a time, and use very bad language!

I’ve always hated the concept of ‘naughty’. It goes right back to when I worked in schools back in the dark ages when parents instructed me to not worry about ‘givin ‘im a belt round the ear, cos he’ll need it, he’s so naughty’. A parent actually said that to me on one occasion.

I couldn’t really understand it, for I never had reason to label that child, or any other, as ‘naughty’. I always took the approach; kids have reasons for what they do. I appreciate that small kids aren’t open to reason sometimes and parents could do with some guidance themselves. You get thrown in the deep end with parenting – how could we know how to deal with the more complex challenges it throws our way?

The programme, ‘Born Naughty’ was quite empathetic. But when it opened with a question; ‘Do these children need diagnosis or discipline?’ I quailed at the prospect of these kids like many others just being given pills to calm them down. And I certainly quivered at the images of frustrated, screaming and anxious kids and desperate parents in dire conflict with one another. I never had to deal with anything quite so upsetting or extreme.

But watching the parents my heart went out to them. Parents always get the blame when a child is a screaming whirlwind of tantrum, don’t they? But funny how you never seem to get the credit for when they’re beautiful little people who do all the right things!

We certainly saw some screaming whirlwinds on the programme and the parents said how sick they were of everyone pointing the finger at them when they’d tried their best to manage. But child behaviour is never, ever just the fault of parenting. It’s far more complex than that.

Everyone’s behaviour, our own included, is affected by a multitude of things; our genetic make up, personality and character, our environment and family life, even the food we eat and the opportunity for exercise and recreation to help us burn off stress, feel calm and relax. It is never just the parents’ fault in isolation.

The programme dealt very sensitively with all this and made several recommendations to help parents deal with the challenges they faced with the children’s behaviour. Interestingly it was observed how contact with animals helped one girl, which I talked about in my last blog post.

But the answers lay in a collection of influences that we as parents could not possibly know about if we hadn’t already experienced them. And when you’re parents of young children, you haven’t! It’s as simple as that.

There’s no loss of face in asking for help, asking those who’ve spent hours observing and working with different child behaviours who might have more of an insight that we do with our limited experience.

I’m not in favour of children being labelled, filled with drugs, or forcibly restrained. I never trust the so-called experts unquestioningly.

But sometimes you have to seek help and guidance in order to save the child from themselves. Youngsters cannot understand that their behaviour is what connects them to others which is one of the elements in life that make us most happy. It’s also what can destroy those connections, which benefits no one.

When children are immature they cannot control their impulses as we can. They cannot understand the awful feelings they have or how to manage them. They’re not interested in reasons.

So it’s up to us to try and understand these reasons behind their behaviour – it was extreme anxiety in one of the examples – and guide them towards overcoming it with patience and consistency, so that they can go on to enjoy connected and happy lives.

There is no such thing as ‘naughtiness’ – only reasons. That’s not an excuse. It’s a demand for greater understanding.

And to increase my understanding, I might watch the next one. For a fly-on-the-wall parenting programme, it wasn’t too bad!

Amazing shows and guinea pigs!

Well, it was amazing!20150511_122251

Their production sold all tickets which is a pretty incredible achievement for a fist venture, says she with just a teeny bit of pride. I am choked!

I am also choked because the snag with visiting loved ones is you have to leave them again! Tears threaten and throats go constricted and the journey home is beset with gloom.

I console myself that the girl I leave behind not only has the most loving partner to cuddle her now, where once only mum would do, but she also has guinea pigs!

You wouldn’t think guinea pigs would make such a difference. But there’s something in the deep emotive caring part of our being that flourishes through a connection with an animal.

There have been studies done on it apparently.

Studies or not there was something in my grown up girl that made her feel the need for an animal in her life again. She’d always had them when little when I gritted my teeth and got over my aversion to cages and we had a variety of furry things over the years. And seeing the children calm themselves with caressing a pet, put their cheeks to furry bodies as I held my cheek to infant hair, I knew it was worth it. I watched them virtually dissolve into bliss.

Ironically I’ve just seen the same sensation in my twenty four year old. Pets bring something to life that calms stress and ignites that loving side when it gets buried in the business of life.

I recently read the most beautiful book ‘The Gentle Barn’ about a special centre offering animal therapy to lost and troubled children. The connection to, looking after, and physical proximity of warm loving beings connects children to a loving core that may have been imprisoned by traumatic life experiences.

I think putting on a production for the first time ever may almost have felt like a traumatic life experience for my eldest and her partner! But afterwards I watched some of it leech away whilst holding a guinea pig!

I might try it and maybe I can heal some of the trauma a mum inevitably feels at wrenching partings from grown up girls by cuddling the cat!