Category Archives: Quality time with children

pretending

Stop pretending it is important when it isn’t

Pretending something is important to you just because it seems to be important to others is a highly misleading way of life. There are things considered to be important and substantial. Considered by whom? By the society, mamas and papas, teachers and preachers, friends and their mothers, brothers and sisters, authors and their granddads and many more.

Fresh moms, like I used to be once (I can still be refreshed), tend to fall into the trap of pretending something is important, because they were told it is important. For example,: you should always have breakfast, you should not go to sleep after midnight, kids should be sleeping by 8 p.m. and wake up accordingly, oatmeal is good, being angry is bad,  green tea is good smile when you say hello and so on and so forth. This list looks like a swollen jaw: it’s big, ugly and you don’t want to look at it. Well, I don’t know about you but I know that I don’t want to look at it. Because I no longer want to pretend that something is important when in fact it is not.

There are things that are valuable to me. My list, however, is elegant and shiny like a diamond ring. It’s not even a list, just a few things that turn in my head like a merry-go-round. Something like this: keep the balcony door closed when kids are unattended. Change socks. Eat fresh. Drink clean water. Breath.

Don’t lie to yourself about what is important

pretending

I remember when my first child was two I always put her to sleep around 22.00. It  was the convenient time for our family – we could enjoy the evening together, I didn’t have to be “half-asleep” after putting her to sleep at 20.00 just to find out at 20.30 that I’m already too sleepy for anything. I could dive with her at 22.00 for a full night’s sleep. She made her sleeping hours because a 2-year old doesn’t have to get up to work, and kindergartens are flexible with arrival time. I got my sleeping hours. Everyone was happy, until I discovered that I’m doing it all wrong and children must go to sleep at 20.00 otherwise… (you put the scary things that happen otherwise). Nobody could explain me why kids have to go to sleep early, it was stated more like an axiom.

The main disadvantage of being a young mom

Since I was a young mom and took advice to heart, I honestly did my best to ruin my schedule to shift the bedtime two hours earlier. It even worked once, and I was almost proud by my educational and parental achievements. Only it did not work for long and soon we were back to the old convenient regime. When the number of kids grew, however, the bedtime hour became, unlike before, something that matters. And it has naturally shifted to a mutually acceptable hour like 21.00 (plus bedtime stories and night conversations, but let’s not count that now for the sake of this brilliant example). Things have settled naturally when the time was right. 

This example had taught me a lesson, something I have been carrying with me all through the years. It’s so obvious, self-explanatory and yet – so many fall into the trap of trying to be “normal”. I myself was shocked when I discovered that a relative of mine (child, at that time) used to go to sleep at 1-2 a.m. during summer vacation. But then I caught myself being in this “shocked” state and said: hey, weren’t you the one, at the time, claiming to have learned the lesson that “to each his own”? After these words, my “shock” has killed itself at once.

When is it pretending and when is it real?

pretending

This is the question I’ve been asking myself – how do I know it is really important? How do I know I am pretending something is important? The answer is, again, so simple it’s a shame to write and I will do it nonetheless: it’s the mom’s intuition that tells her what really matters. It’s the reaction of the child to certain events and changes. It’s the overall  family atmosphere that changes for the good or for the bad.

Pretending it is important to wake up veeery early

For example: my children do not wake up easily in the morning on school days (let’s talk about it?) And the next big questions is: how important is it to wake them at 6.00 a.m. so they have “proper” morning with breakfast and all the other things that honest people do in the morning? If put another 30 minutes of sleep on one scale and breakfast and other organizational stuff on the other – what will weigh more?

Most parents I know do wake their kids early enough (at least about 40 minutes before going out of the house). Or at least this is the official version of most parents I know (I don’t really visit their houses at 6 a.m. to check things out). Therefore, my big doubt was – am I doing anything wrong when I dress my kids right in bed, help them brush their teeth on the way out and give them snacks instead of breakfast to devour while waiting for the bus?

Had it been 7 years earlier, I would have followed the common advice and would torture my kids with the commonly acceptable practices of morning routines. Since I am more aware of things now, I do what’s best for them. By the way, there is no need brag about it on every corner (bragging and sharing personal information will only lead  others  to misjudge, misunderstand, misinterpret and all the other “mis…”).  Since – to each his own.

What are the benefits of not pretending?

The benefits are immerse. The best part of living life in a comfy mode is, that benefits flow on you immediately. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year for dividends. Life turned out to be miraculously easy and almost fun when I started tailoring  and customizing every little bit of life according to my preferences. It works like magic and yet, it is nothing but a tedious conscious routine. Pretending that something is important to me while it isn’t is a huge vacuum hole that sucks life energy into nowhere.

However, only living by my own rules is not enough: I need to know, deep inside me, that what I’m doing is really good and has the best possible influence. Otherwise, it’s easy to go astray and shift back to the “acceptable” mode, blend with the crowd, start losing energy and individuality and, eventually, suffer from “cruelties” of life.

As a bottom line: each moment is a door to wisdom and truth. Pretending means taking a step back. Being true to oneself at least on milestones is a leap forward. It is vital to remind to oneself why I am doing it and whether this thing or another  (small things like waking up and big things like choosing a country to live in) derived from a conscious choice. Consciousness and affection, once again, yes.

third child

How not to spoil the third child?

This article is for parents whose children outnumber them by 1. Or, in other words, parents with three growing heirs. Turning the third child into mama’s boy or papa’s girl is easier than it may seem. No matter how busy and tired the parents are, unfortunately, they still find options to spoil the youngest offspring – their third child.

When number three comes into the world it changes the family life in its unique manner. The first child crushes mom’s familiar world into pieces of happiness, fear and other mixed emotions. The second child brings in this feeling of “now we are a big family”. A different mixture of emotions and, in a combination with the first one, a lot more pressure overall. The third child, however, comes into a calm laguna called experience. Mom and Dad are a team of Special Forces. Neither sleepless nights nor the hectic routines are able to really spoil the day. The big question is now, how to manage the entire team? How to stay afloat with the older kids’ activities, homework, conversations?

Depending on the age differences, older kids can help or become an unbearable burden. Either way, the third child has the highest chances among the other kids in the family to become the infantile little mama’s boy or girl.

I see two ways to prevent that from happening:

It’s not only between the mom and the third child

The new little creature draws a ton of attention (not sure attention is measured in tons but proportionally to its weight, the amount of noise the baby creates around itself is huge).

Remember, that the older kids are still kids . If they are under the age of 15 they are still young children (even if they pretend to be the coolest and most independent creatures on earth). They watch their mom doing all sort of things.

It’s not about what I say to them (how much she loves them etc.) but more about what I do: the mimics and expression on my face, the gestures of my hands or in one word – body language.

What is the constant thought that helps me balance the hugs-and-kisses between all the kids? The idea, that they are still very young and might be jealous. The idea, that this jealousy might reduce their appreciation of the new creature and life itself.

My solution: I let them, the older kids, do the hugs-kisses work. Sing, talk, change diapers, put to sleep, feed – they can do it all. I only let them. My role in this scenario, is to watch and supervise.

Spend enough time with the older kids

Yes, I know it sounds like sci-fi, and it’s quite impossible to keep on with the same routine in the first months after birth.  The phrase “getting back to normal” sounds awkward to me, so I won’t use it here. Instead let’s say, that after some time life is settled into some new form of normal. It happens naturally, but still requires mom’s attention.

Whatever relates to the kids’ education, homework and intellectual activities should be continued just the way it was. Not only after-school activities. Habits, that used to take place before the birth of the third child: book-reading, word games, creative time. The “educational” life of the older kids should stay pretty much the same. If, before, it used to be natural (we sit and read together, no one is disturbing), now, it’s a task to complete:

  • catch the quiet moments,
  • put on hold all other business,
  • organize the older kids,
  • ignore the desire to fall into the bed and die fatigue and
  • just do it.

Sit all together and read some book, as before. Take out colored paper and cut shapes, as before. You get the idea. The older kids should not feel unnatural freedom in this sense, and the little one will slowly get used to the fact that she, sometimes, may enjoy the freedom – meaning, not eliciting the attention of the entire family after a single squeak.

This is the healthy balance that creates healthy dynamics. It teaches the teens, the toddlers and the newborns how things are run in the house. Mom’s attention and energy are precious assets that must not be wasted. This is what kids should be taught from the very beginning, in a loving and caring way of course. This is what the author of this post is trying to master.

What is the best present for a modern child?

Here’s a riddle: where hides the best present for the modern child who has nearly everything? To put it short: my children don’t enjoy the sweet small gifts for the new year that I put into their socks at night. They show signs of disappointment if it’s not some shiny model of a trophy tank or a mermaid who solves double integrals. They show almost no interest if it’s a simple thing like a set of color markers or stickers for room decoration – something I would enjoy tremendously in my childhood.

Spoiled? Maybe. But I believe it’s more of a trend, that has to do with the growing addiction to the digital devices: smartphones, tablets and so forth.

Every time a problem pops up, I like to analyze, look for reasons and come up with a smart and elegant solution and feel very smart. But this time I admit – I only see the phenomena but no way to get rid of it.

Children of the digital age – my children, in particular, obviously have different set of priorities than I used to have in my childhood around 30 years ago. I’m more than OK with the digital age but yet – I still read thick paper books, appreciate moments of total silence boredom? and make sure I do not become too addicted to the smartphone. But how come, that my little people have lost a great part of appreciation of material things called toys?

This is a cry into the void. Yet, I have come up with observations and ways to turn the old-fashioned toys into best presents.

Listen to your child – she will tell you everything

Children often tell us directly what kind of presents they wish for. It’s parents, who systematically choose to ignore or forget. Busy, tired, distracted – there are many reasons why moms don’t hear the messages that are poured directly into their ears.

I make a conscious effort to hear them. I struggle to create a space somewhere between the nerve cells of my brain, sort and store the most important information. It ranges between casual after-school conversations to serious evening talks about global social issues. It’s about getting used to being there when your child talks. (Even if that means answering with an “uh-huh” because you are too tired to stir the muscles of your jaws). Then you both may find yourselves in a better place of mutual understanding.

Ask them

Yes, the element of surprise will disappear. However, asking a direct question will save the guess work and will ensure you give them something they genuinely crave for. By the way, it often happens that kids forget they had told you what they had told you, so the element of surprise might reappear if you wait long enough.

Surprising or not – the conclusion:

Despite the said above, once the digital devices are put away for a while, a magic thing happens – my children become children again: creatures happy from just being there at home with their mom and dad. They jump on sofas, mold with play-dough, stand on their heads and write stories (on paper). Plush dogs and cats become best presents again. My straightforward conclusion: it’s us, parents, who allow children to hang an endless amount of time with the devices, because it’s us, parents, who crave for the quiet hours moments. Which means, that it’s all up to the mom – how long can she last (work, rest) without her kids being fixed on the monitor?

mom and children

How to allocate mom’s attention between several kids

 

Having many kids around means mom needs to allocate her time, energy and attention between them efficiently. By efficiently, I mean, that each kid will feel loved and appreciated in their own unique way. Some kids love to talk to their mom, asking questions and listening to long lectures. Other kids like to play and construct, build and create things – being together in the process of making stuff. There are also kids, who just need long hugs and flows of energy without too much other activities going on.

One of my kids is the talking kind. We exchange a few thousands words per day and it does not seem to be enough. I find myself being exhausted of these conversations but,on the other hand, I realize, that this is the way of my kid to get their share of me. Any other ways won’t work as well.

My other kid is the hug-and-play kind, who chooses to stay close while I work, cook, read or knit. Talking is less of a priority, which gives me more space to concentrate on other things while sending rays of mom’s energy at the same time.

Is it that simple? Well, not really.

The interesting part begins when all the kids are tearing their mom apart sitting together each trying to get her unique attention – and my role here, as I see it, is to be able to quickly switch from one kind of attention to another.

The competition for mom’s attention does not end regardless of the kids’ age. I guess it’s something that lasts all the way through and never actually stops, maybe until full adulthood. Not sure I will still be running this blog when I get there, but if so, I will let you know.

Ta-dam! A newborn joins a family with older kids

Every time a new child is born into a family with older kids, mom needs to reallocate her attention, so that the change will not be so drastic. Quite a challenge, I should say. The competition is tough, each sibling is trying to prove himself as best of everything – especially when it comes to helping mom with the newborn. The balance is so delicate here, that I weigh almost every word that comes out of my mouth. Praising one child too much might mean hurting another. Judging or criticizing actions or behaviors might be interpreted in the wrong way given the sensitive circumstances.

Having thought about it for a while I developed my strategy of not simply praising but creating a system of roles and niches.

A winning niche for every kid

Here is a situation from real life:

An older kid helps mom by staying next to the newborn while mom is taking a shower. The middle kid does not really find a way to help and feels being out. Mom creates two niches: the older one is the “top-nanny” while the middle one is the “top-messenger” (delivering messages and items such as diapers, napkins etc. when needed). With this strategy every kid fills a niche where they are on top – beyond feeling appreciated, now each knows exactly what duties and responsibilities are expected of him.

As a bottom line – the delicate balance of attention is not subject to formulas or rules – it’s an ongoing process, a changing strategy, something, that requires live reaction. From my own experience, the niche strategy works best. Each kid fills a space where they feel kings. Each kid is a small rules of its sovereign virtual territory of rights and duties, expectations and rewards. On top of that, of course, there is the great mom’s appreciation, spraying ike an air-purifier above all. 

inspiration

The unknown school girl who inspires me

Every time I take my daughter back from school I see school children from older classes (about 13-14 years old) who share the same bus and we always sit opposite to each other. Two girls and two boys. I like watching them laugh, joke and flirt with each other. It’s refreshing to remember oneself in this age and I wonder where it has gone.

One of the girls looks like a potential movie star:– ideal face features, tanned skin, sunny smile. Of course she is fully aware of it and uses the opportunity to spread the light of youth and energy to every direction (my direction gets the most since I sit quite close).

So every time I feel like an “old”, heavy mom burdened with endless duties, the image of this happy girl emerges in my imagination. I see her spotless, untouched joy of life and some portion of it gets inside me, too. I become her for a while.This is what I call positive inspiration.

Mom needs a constant source of inspiration, even if she is a bookkeeper.

Life with children is a marathon with dubious reward in the end. Expecting dividends of any kind is very wrong at its basics (my opinion), but we still secretly do, don’t we? We expect our kids to be this and that, we expect our life to look this and that. Some of us even think that we actually deserve something. This is where disappointment hits the most. Who knows what waits for an elderly mom:– caring, loving kids or dispassionate, indifferent adults who sometimes share the same last name with her.

That’s why I reach the obvious conclusion time and time again: it’s best to cherish the present, to dive into every given moment I spend with my children here and now. To worry less about the future and care more about what I do today to make our moments together vivid and memorable.

Every one of us can find these little sources of inspiration – if we only look closer. You don’t have to work hard: the muse of joy is light and natural, it will find you if you let it.

Once my current source of inspiration fades, I will surely find another.

“

Two men looked out from prison bars,

One saw the mud, the other saw stars.”

Dale Carnegie

fairy

All the good things about painful childhood memories

No matter how tough you are, no matter how grown up and mature you are, there is a little girl living in every mother. A little girl that wants love and attention, that wants to be hugged and listened to, a little girl that has her own very sacred wishes, dreams, fears and emotions.
Who is that little girl and should we, moms, do anything about her?
Especially, when there is so little time to take care of our own children.

I think this little girl deserves attention. The kind of attention she was deprived of in her real childhood. The kind of understanding she never received (lucky you, who did). She deserves to get answers to her childhood questions (lucky you, whose parents always answered your questions as honestly and openly as they could).

If I learn to take care of that girl, I will be able to better listen to my own children and become a better mom. The painful memoirs from our childhood, the insults, the moments when our parents hurt us (intentionally or not) – all this is our personal “stairway to heaven”, the key to reach a better understanding and deeper awareness in our conscious adult life.

water-drop

In these moments of painful childhood memories, it helps me to make a short list of main things that hurt me most. When I shared a secret that was revealed to the whole world. When I was looking for a helpful advice but remained alone with my own doubts and fears. When I was looking for solitude but instead was disturbed and questioned. This is not a list of “things I will never do to my children”. This is only a list to remind us how wrong parents can be, how blind and insensitive they can behave, how deaf they can be to their kids.

And eventually, when I remember all the “bad” things, now, as a grown up, I feel grateful. I know it sounds weird but I do. Had it not been that sour experience of childhood betrayal, sorrow and all the big, unanswered Why’s –- –I would never become who I am now. I could have become rude and inattentive. I could have given these auto-pilot answers to my children’s questions or ask these silly auto-pilot questions and lead the most meaningless conversations with my kids. (“So, how was school today?” “Normal”).

But instead, every painful memory is a reminder, that the little girl is still there. Every time my child asks something I look in their eyes and listen carefully (even if I’m tired). Every time my child tells me something, I put my phone face down and it’s just us in the universe. My child, myself and the little girl in me, who grabs some attention on the way.

The do’s and the don’t’s of an outdoor activity – how to save mom’s energy

The most challenging thing for lazy moms like me during outdoor activities with kids is not to collapse and die. Really. I get exhausted so fast, no matter how much water I consume, no matter what. It’s not a health problem; I suspect it’s some sort of low level of energy or maybe lack of exercise (we will reach that point in later posts).

But no matter what type of personality you are (introvert or extrovert, sleeping beauty or energizer), if you have kids and family the outdoor activities are a must-have part on your to-do list, and you’d better like it.

lazy mom

So if you are an energizer, this article might bore you. But if you are an underground mole who works nights, who appreciates her time alone, who likes to cook, knit, meditate and does manicure at home (to avoid excessive socialization and save time and money on other things), then this piece might be very helpful.

What do I always do and what do I never do before, during and after any outdoor activity.

The three ALWAYS-DOs:

  • Always prepare ahead thinking about every smallest detail. Forget spontaneity. Plan everything as much as possible: weather, location, plan of activities company (not to take kids’ friends without parents at the last moment, it will add stress).
  • Always get enough sleep the night before. If you are planning a busy Sunday morning in the pool, park, zoo or wherever give up your Saturday night romantic event and forget about working on your freelance projects through Saturday night.
  • Always prepare all the bags in advance. Food, water, equipment, whatever else you are planning to take with you to make it an exhausting unforgettable family day should be accurately piled near the entrance or in the refrigerator (you can leave the bike out of the refrigerator).

The two NEVER-DOs:

  • Never grab-n-go: as said above – planning is rewarding. Once you plan ahead you are more organized, feel more confident, calm and positive that everything will be ok. (Ok, let me put a disclaimer: it’s an illusion, you can’t really plan everything, not with kids, but you can at least try and make it as near to the utopia as possoutdoor familyible).
  • Never procrastinate. What I mean by this is, that some families cannot kick themselves through the doorway on time, always get dragged by silly obstacles that keep them at home for at least another hour. (I know one such family in person, they are nice people but not when it comes to spending time together. I hate them never go out with them). I’m not talking about families with newborns, with seven kids or and so on. I’m talking about parents who are like “oops, I forgot my phone, so what that we are in the middle of the way, let’s turn around”. Or “what time is it? Almost noon and we should have been there two hour ago? It’s ok, nobody is waiting for us. Oh, ARE they already waiting for us?”

I’m sure we all can find at least one person in our phone contact list who behaves like the world can wait can never ever do ANYTHING on time. Ouch.