We talked about lying to your kids and toilet training this morning on ABC612. Listen here.
And just because…
We talked about lying to your kids and toilet training this morning on ABC612. Listen here.
And just because…
Here’s my own personal checklist. A layperson’s Edinburgh Scale if you will. If you tick off anything on this list, see your family doctor, or another doctor you like and trust, and talk. Please. It’s not supposed to be like this. I’m not a doctor or psychologist or a mental health professional of any kind. This list just comes from my own experience and I think a lot of women, like me, miss what’s really going on because they put themselves last all the time and they think well, parenting is just hard that’s all. Well, yeah it’s hard. But it’s also joyful and brilliant. Life is supposed to be a mix of both, not all one or the other.
1. Are you sad? Like really sad? If you are awfully, awfully sad, for no particular reason, 80% of the time and the sadness is like a great big hole that stretches into a dark tunnel that has no end? This is not normal sadness.
2. Do you look at your newborn/baby/toddler/child and feel…..nothing much? It takes lots of women a while to bond with their newborn babies, but if you just aren’t getting there and all it feels like is duty, it might be your chemicals out of whack, not your heart.
3. Is going out too much of a chore? Like obviously going out with a baby/toddler/kid is always a chore but if you are actively avoiding your social life, your friends and your family (where you didn’t used to) you may be experiencing a symptom of depression.
4. Is parenting absolutely no fun at all? Does the idea that it could actually be fun seem ridiculous to you? Is it all just duty and work and sadness and surviving? Call your doctor.
5. Do you feel like you missed something when you watch TV ads for baby products? Like, hang on, aren’t I supposed to be wearing a white bathrobe (with no stains) while gazing adoringly into my baby’s face while standing by a window overlooking paradise? Should I shake my head with good natured humour as my baby wakes for a feed in the night for the eleventh time but adore the bonding time such a feeding session affords me as a mother? Why don’t I quiver with motherly thrill as I softly caress my baby’s skin which is as soft as, um, a baby’s? Should I perhaps be taking more time to lovingly rub that expensive baby lotion into my baby’s post bath skin, as seen on TV? Actually no. If you relate to this one you’re actually pretty normal. Note to self: TV representations of motherhood are pretty much without exception, bullshit.
And while I’m at it, TV representations of motherhood do not help those of us who think we are failing miserably because we don’t measure up to some unattainable image. It’s like thinking that the airbrushed images on magazine covers are actually of real people. It’s the stupid idea of the yummy mummy. What? I have to be an organic, earth mothering, homeschooler AND sexy too?
Depressed or not, stop looking at crap about mothers and reading crap about motherhood. Love yourself and your imperfect bumbling attempts at raising your child. Laugh when you screw it up. Laugh at others who reckon they don’t. Cry if you need to. Say sorry to your kids and forgive yourself. Know that you are the only person who is qualified to be the mother to your child. And rock your stained and slightly grey used-to-be-white bathrobe. All day if you want.
Steph Turner, I think, is the author of the above poem, and she has a Facebook page called My Children Mean Everything to Me. This is the best I could come up with after a lot of googling and I am sincerely sorry if I’ve got it wrong. The poem has gone viral and meme versions of it such as the above are all over the internet so, who knows.
It has probably been around for years, but it came across my radar after a particularly hard weekend during which the twins painted a room in poo. Again. This time, it was their bedroom. Walls. Floor. Curtains. Beds. Bedsheets. Teddies. Ground in between floor board cracks. In the tracks for the sliding closet doors. Clothes in the closet. Behind the door. Under the bed. And of course, all over themselves. This time, I smacked. I smacked and I put their stinky, pooey, naked little butts in the bathtub. This was purely for containment. There was no water in it. I wasn’t going to let them enjoy a moment’s fun having a bath, they could sit there naked and stinky until I was good and ready to deal with them. I looked at them with that withering death stare (teachers and mothers know the one) and said in my lowest, angriest voice, don’t you move. My husband was out helping a friend. In tears, and alone, I crawled on my hands and knees and cleaned up shit for an hour. I threw everything washable into garbage bags. Every now and then I would look at the guilty culprits in the bathtub and repeat my warning. Do. Not. Move. After cleaning the room, I switched the shower head to ‘jet’ and hosed the twins down with a sense of mild satisfaction as they screamed with indignation.
My husband arrived home and I walked out. It was our seventh rainy weekend in a row and we had no dryer. I had two garbage bags full of shit covered laundry that would not wait for a sunny day. I felt bad for leaving him, but I really had to get out of the house. I thought about driving down the highway and not coming back. I really did. Close to three hours (and $17) at the laundromat, and one large coffee by the river later, and I was almost able to form sentences again. I went home. I didn’t speak to the twins that night. Immature I know, I am supposed to be the adult.
There is something about these big moments of emotional loss of one’s mind that really clears your head. I was dipping back down to baseline when I saw this poem. I tried to read it out to my husband and cried like a crazy person. It was a plea, straight from my little guys to me, to please, please, try to understand us. Please don’t give up on us mummy, and we’re sorry that we’re so not there yet. I heard them saying straight to my heart how much they just need me to hang in there, love them without stopping and to never ever drive away and not come back.
The whole thing was a shock that resulted in a new connection with the littleness of them. A new love of that littleness and a new effort to just look at the little faces and remember that yes, one day, they won’t be this small. That day will be good in many ways, but they also may not cuddle as tight or as often, they may not hold my hand as we walk and they may not shower my face with a thousand kisses a day. They won’t redecorate in poo, but they may not want me snuggling in close at bedtime. They’ll eat their food not wear it, but they may have secrets they won’t share with me. Their incessant chatter may be replaced with teenage male grunting. And it’s OK, all of it is OK.
We talked about this and other parenting wake up calls this week on ABC612, listen here.
A difficult topic this week. Parents of bullied children want bullies stopped with a magic bullet. When/if the time comes that my child is the victim of a bully I’ll be that parent too. I’ll want the bully excluded, the family taken to task and my child protected at any cost. If I knew how to stop the bully, I’d be making a lot more money than I am now. All I know is that I do have a plan for my own kids and I have given it a lot of thought. For what it’s worth, here’s my theory. I don’t believe the bully has anywhere to go if he or she has nobody to bully. I believe that bullies bully because somebody picks up the other end of the tug-of-war rope. That’s not to say that the victim is in any way responsible. What I mean is that the bully gets a reaction. That may be fear, tears, a fightback, some kind of reward that sustains the behaviour. I gently and respectfully put my view here, as I am aware of the unthinkable pain that some families have experienced because of bullying, and I know that for many my words will be a hollow sound. I haven’t walked in your shoes. Here is my plan to build resilience in my kids. I have no power over who they will encounter in their lives, but I can teach.
1. Understand that you can’t change the behaviour of others.
If they understand this, they may understand that the power is in their own hands only. They either change their own behaviour, environment or reactions or everything stays the same. The truth about behaviour is that it is a reaction to the environment and the people around the person. Change the environment, change the relationship, change the triggers = change the behaviour.
2. Friends in multiple places.
If school is the only place my kids have friends, and school suddenly becomes a scary place, a whole resource becomes inaccessible to them. If they have groups of friends in other places who remind them that they are valuable, fun to be with and good to have as a friend they have multiple sources of affirmation. They get the message that they are liked by many, and have a safe haven to run to when needed.
3. Skill in different areas.
I want to build skill and a sense of self-efficiacy in my children. If they believe that they are good at <insert childhood hobby here>, I believe that they are less likely to buy into the bullshit that if the school bully says you’re a loser you must be. Yes, I also want them to have an internal sense of value (you are valuable because you are), but giving them the gift of learning to be good at something is just another way to remind them that they are multi-facted people with all sorts of value to all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.
4. Assertiveness to break rules when necessary.
If they’ve had enough, copped as much as they can take, I want them to be confident that it is OK to scream back in the face of injustice. They don’t have to mind their manners if they just want to shout loud enough to be heard and push hard enough to get action. This includes standing up to adults who bully them. As children and adults I hope they will be able to stand up to oppression and slap it right in the face if necessary.
5. A who cares attitude.
What I really hope they will learn to do is simply to say, well, who cares? I think this is impotence to bullies. So what? Just because you say it, doesn’t mean it’s true. I’ll just go over here and play with someone else. Join us when you’re ready to be civil. To be quite honest I really don’t care what you think or say about me. I’m freaking awesome.
We read Have you filled a bucket today? to our kids. This book puts the onus on us to acknowledge that we can have a positive effect on people, all people (even bullies) by simply being kind. A bully bullies because their bucket is empty. You can fill a bucket by being kind. I want my kids to learn that the bullying is not about them. If they are able to see bullying behaviour objectively, as a function of an empty bucket, then they are less likely to see it as being directly related to them being inferior in some way. It is not to excuse bullying behaviour, it is to humanise the bully and enable my child to distance himself from the bullying. As much as I hate the behaviour, I can’t forget that there is a child in there somewhere.
7. Remembering that lots of people love you.
In my last post I wrote that we need a village. Having an extended group of family and/or friends who show love to your children is so valuable. It is another way to build resilience by reminding them that they are so valuable that people love them even if they aren’t obliged to. Their family is their main soft place to fall. But if they are having a tough time and need to do a fair bit of falling, it’s nice to know they can fall all over town and land easy.
We had a great chat about bullying and having a favourite child on ABC612 this week.
And just because….
Dance O’Clock at our place!