Feb 25, 2011

Copernicus for Five Year Olds

Don't you love it when you have a really good conversation with your kids about Life, The Universe and Everything?
My kids are five and are only three weeks in school, but they seem suddenly to have streaked ahead of where they were a month ago.

Feb 21, 2011

Sign Language Secrets

Here is an interesting article for anyone like me, who has watched an interpreter on the ABC news doing simultaneous translation into AUSLAN and wondered how they do it - fascinating.

Answer: they make it up as they go along! (not really, read the article).

Feb 10, 2011

Fair sharing of housework and childcare

There's a fantastic conversation going on at Mama Mia today in the comments under an article about whether men "should" help with bath-time and child-rearing tasks in general.
The question posed by the article is odd but refers to a study from Ohio State University that suggests that couples who share parenting and housework tasks experience more conflict than couples where one parent does it all.
(What's worse - conflict? Or simmering resentment and unhappiness?  Yes I know conflict at home is bad - have lived it, seen my kids suffer for it, suffered for it ourselves. But resentment is also bad. So yes both are bad).

Image: Korat, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Filomena Scalise, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 The comments are coming thick and fast, and what's interesting is reading how much in common we all have. Basically, everyone struggles with this, the women want the men to do their share, and these days, thankfully, most of them do.  A common theme is how it has taken a few years to reach the point where the man does enough and the woman is accepting of the different way in which he does it.

Another thing I note is that this is an equal problem whether parents are working full-time, part-time or whether one parent is full-time home with the kids.

As a full-time worker who has found it all overwhelming at times, it is tempting to think that women who don't do paid work, or who do paid work part-time, have all this a bit easier. Not so - as my mother often reminds me, many of the woes and the occasional difficulties I have with my kids which I attribute to my working full-time, are in fact common to kids and parents everywhere. She knows - she was a "housewife" most of her life.

In our house, we both work full-time, but different days, and my husband sometimes works evenings, so we split the work depending on the day. Also because we have twins we both did everything when they were babies. I do sometimes still feel resentful that I do "more" and he can sit around the house on his downtime and the kids leave him alone, but then again I am guilty of being too controlling sometimes and have to consciously remind myself not to say anything when my husband does things his way. I do think sometimes men completely disagree with women's beliefs on parenting but won't speak up, instead will just passively resist or just do the opposite of what the woman has "instructed". This can be annoying but mostly if you want them to continue then you just have to put up with it. Most of the time it's not actually important, and the kids do well with the benefit of both parenting styles.

The single parents I know do an amazing job and cope with way more than we have to so again you have to remind yourself sometimes to just let stuff go!

The article in Mama Mia tells of a woman who is obsessed about the fact her husband is not home early enough in the evenings to do bath-time. I have had this discussion with other mums and know it is a common theme.

As someone whose partner was often working in the evenings when our twins were babies and I was alone with two crying bubs after getting through dinner, baths etc, I can relate to the women who just want dad home for bath-time. I know it's a bit delusional but it can feel like sometimes that's all you want. My husband works shifts effectively and has a fairly physical job and sometimes has to lie down for half an hour when he gets home to unwind. Yes, in the middle of "witching hour". For a long time this made me incandescent with rage, but after five years we have reached a workable compromise where he lies down sometimes but not every day; most days he sits instead and talks to the kids and feeds them fruit while I am getting the dinner done. 
(Yes I know what you're thinking - I did too - but if they fill up on some extra fruit and eat a bit less dinner than they would have, but all of us are relaxed and some dinner does actually pass their lips, then that's a win in my book).

He also tends to clean up the house in the evenings after I've done the dinner and baths and put the kids to bed. I sometimes feel guilty he is doing more of the "chore" stuff instead of the "bonding" stuff in the evenings, but as he looks after them 2 days a week without me he does plenty of that too, and he plays with or talks to them while I am getting the dinner done, so it all works well for us - now. After five years!

Bottom line, most families are not the "traditional" model anymore - and thank goodness for that in all honesty, however much we may think we want that from time to time (yes I am guilty) - so each family has to find what works for them and just do it.

Feb 8, 2011

Have you any concerns?

On the first day of school, the kids were given a parent survey to be filled in and returned to the teacher. The form started somehow inevitably with the same questions we had already answered in the pre-school survey and the school enrolment form, with parents' names, child living arrangements, child's favourite things, etc. (Coming from the corporate world, the repetitiveness and inefficiency of data gathering for schools, hospitals and other government institutions is still a sort of marvel no matter how often one encounters it).

At the end of the form, a small space was left for the last question: "Have you any concerns?"

I'm a modern parent aren't I?
Of course I do!

For M, I wrote:
"She often 'does her own thing' and doesn't always follow instructions. If she thinks she can't do something well she will avoid it and sometimes muck it up for others by creating a distraction, getting mad, etc."
The bit at the start of The Simpsons where Lisa is playing her saxophone and waltzes out the room playing her own tune instead of following the class, reminds me of my M. This part is a good trait - I remind myself - and not one we want to be drummed right out of her, but it won't do her any favours in her school career if she can't concentrate on a task and follow instructions, either.
Truth to tell I am not that concerned about M at the moment. From being my very shy and clingy little girl, who once couldn't make friends and relied so heavily on her sister, M has in the last year blossomed and become quite the social butterfly. My only social concern now is, still giddy from her newfound social success, she has tended of late to abandon her sister or a friend when someone better comes along, or has informed me haughtily that so-and-so is annoying her and always wants to play with her. We stress the importance of being nice and including everyone in games, and remembering your friends and your manners - and hope her behaviour is okay when we're not around. I think it is - mostly - but then I probably would, wouldn't I?

For A, I wrote:
"She seems to have lost a little confidence lately especially socially with other kids. Very easily upset, very sensitive to thinking others are laughing at or judging her. Not sure where this has come from."
My gorgeous, friendly, confident little A, seems to have had a couple of knocks of late. Suddenly the social roles seem to have reversed, and where once A was the friend-maker and M sat in the corner, it seems now A is more reliant on her sister than the other way around.
Actually that's not true - both are in fact heavily reliant on the other, and both also function very well on their own or one-on-one with someone else. But lately A seems to be much less socially confident and more sensitive to social snubs and dangers. Has something happened, or is this all part of socialising and growing up?
Her daycare teacher assures me the latter, and that A is fine, happy and completely normal, and that this sort of change is very normal for little girls in particular, as they transition from the familiar kinder/daycare to the big new world of school.
Just something for us to keep an eye on I suppose.

As a parent, it can be difficult sometimes to know what is normal behaviour and what is "red flag" behaviour.
Kids are strong and resilient, which we do sometimes forget - and no one grows up unscathed either; the knocks and shocks build us into the people we become.
But it is still hard watching them navigate all this and having to let them do a lot of it by themselves.

And yes, that's right - this is only day 2 of school. So when it comes to worry, clearly I am going to have to pace myself.

Feb 7, 2011


My kids' first day of school today - brought all my own school memories flooding back (the usual mix of good and bad).

My girls had a great time and were excited and happy after - but also exhausted and emotional, as both dissolved into tears for "no reason" a couple of times each as the afternoon wore on. A. got very upset over something I can't even exactly recall, and ran to my arms for a full body rocking cuddle until she calmed down. Times like these I fight back the tears as my child is so upset but also draw comfort and calm and strength in her surrender to my comfort and my ability to make her feel better. Is there any better feeling in the world?
Early bed-times were achieved without effort. I was exhausted myself - such an exciting and emotional day.
Here is a good story about mums and kids starting school, courtesy of Mama Mia.

Feb 2, 2011

Letter to our daycare centre

Photo: theseanster93 via Flickr Creative Commons
Today is the girls' last day at the daycare centre they have attended for more than four years. It feels weird - it's exciting but a bit sad as well, and suddenly hard to believe this day has come. So odd to think after today I won't be making this drive again, doing the mad freeway dash, heart pounding, trying to get there in time for pick-up, swapping hellos and commiserations with other parents, talking to the carers most of whom we have known for three or four years.

The girls are wrestling with the fact they will no longer see their friends or come to the place that has been their second home for so long. Most of the "kinders" are going through the same things - even while they are excited and impatient to start school as well.

Sadly most of the kids are in the same boat as our girls, starting at a school where none of their daycare friends will be (there are a lot of schools in my area...). All the parents and the kids at our daycare centre are great - it has been wonderful spending time with such a nice bunch of kids and their parents, over weekend playdates and birthday parties and at the centre.  I would love to keep in touch with some of them, but also know that with all of us working and kids going to different schools that's not likely.
As a kid I moved around a lot and yes kids always "make new friends" - but they also always miss and remember the ones they left behind.
But my kids are not me. Their experience is not mine. I must not project!

Here is the letter I have written to the wonderful and dedicated people at our daycare centre. WITH THANKS.

Dear T, S, E, C, C, J, D, C, and EVERYONE at Happy Lambs*,

Today is our daughters’ last day at Happy Lambs, and we want to say THANK YOU. Thank you for the wonderful care you have given our girls and the very best start they could ever have had in life. You have enriched their lives and experience in ways we could not have provided them by ourselves. Your differing styles, viewpoints and experiences, all blended with a consistent approach, common goals and excellent common sense, have been wonderful for our kids.

In four plus years at Happy Lambs, I can honestly remember maybe three occasions where we heard “I don’t want to go…” The girls have loved every day here and they have bonded with friends and carers and soaked up every experience.

Before we started daycare I had some trepidation – and some misconceptions about daycare from the negative and inaccurate picture painted in the papers and in movies (mostly by people who don’t have the experience to judge). I can honestly say, and have told everyone I know, it has been NOTHING like any negative aspect I have ever heard. Yes the first few weeks (months?!) were hard, as the girls did cry a lot and got sick about every week for six months!! But even in those times they were having fun and being nurtured and cuddled and played with and we always felt we had made the right choice as to where we placed our kids. I know not every daycare centre is the same and I looked at five before choosing Happy Lambs. Though I had no idea what to look for or what it would be like, there were only two of the five I looked at that I would consider and Happy Lambs was by far my first choice. It felt “right” as soon as I walked in the door, and it has ever since.

Every carer has been amazing; everyone has been beyond anything we could have expected or hoped for. I know you are all doing your jobs, but I have been blown away by how caring and dedicated everyone is, and how my kids have felt “loved” by every carer.

From their first carers in the baby room - C who was wonderful and helped them settle in; F who was lovely and had so much humour and energy; T who started each morning sitting cross-legged on the floor and hugging both babies to transition them into their daycare day; C in the toddler room who the girls loved and missed dearly when they changed rooms; T who they absolutely adored and still talk about to this day; “big R” who was so much fun and they loved as well; C, C, R and S who have spent so much time with them in the mornings, and T and S and now E in the kinder room.

The girls loved the hairstyles S gave them. I also loved watching her coach the kinders in learning the complete song “Give me a home among the gum trees” – very impressive!

T has been absolutely fantastic – she has taught the girls so much and we have really valued her updates and advice and answers to our questions. C and J have also provided some excellent commentary and advice to us and in general the contribution of everyone has been consistent, caring, and helpful.

T’s approach has been wonderful, it is great how much the girls have learned and we are grateful too for the “socialising” aspects of learning that T has managed with the girls for things like manners, hygiene and relationships which perfectly complement what we do at home (though we are not as strict so it’s good to have that balance! I will admit to pulling out the old “I’ll tell T!” warning if all else fails – it works a treat and I’ll bet we are not the only parents to use it!)

The girls are in awe of T and they love her as well, and they LOVE Happy Lambs.

Though they and we are looking forward to school and the next phase in their lives, it will also be a bit of a sad and hard-to-believe day for us all, to say our last good-byes at Happy Lambs.

THANK YOU for everything.

*Not the real daycare centre name. But if anyone needs a daycare centre in my area, I will happily give you the centre details.

And now I have to go, because I'm choking up!


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