Growing Up Subtly

So I had a minor-major mum moment on Sunday where I realised, slightly tearfully, that my baby is well and truly growing up.

Horns Tails Spikes and Claws by J. Elizabeth Mills and Jef Czekaj was one of my opshop finds a few years ago. It’s one of those mix-and-match books you can flip different parts of it to make strange and funny combinations of stuff. I got it in the hopes that Iris would entertain herself with it. She never really got into it so a month ago just before my last blog post, I decided it could go in the giveaway pile  along with another similar book.

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Last week, I took the pile out ready to give away to friends and family. This particular one was going to a friend with boys who might appreciate such humour more. From about Thursday she started flipping through the book and had a bit of fun with it, which I thought was just her usual reluctance to give her stuff away thing.

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On Sunday morning she comes over while I’m having my morning cuppa to ask me to pick a favourite combination. When I looked at it I saw this:

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On. Every. Single. Page. IN INK.

Now anybody who loves books will surely understand my abject horror when I saw a previously perfect book being desecrated. I was livid but in a moment of supreme control, which still amazes me, I did not immediately yell but told her that she’d have to be punished by not getting her allowance the following week (more on financial matters later). I then said I was so angry I couldn’t even talk to her anymore and went upstairs to get ready for church.

Not sure if it’s a good or bad sign but it seemed that my not yelling indicated to Iris that it wasn’t a big deal, because 15 minutes later she seemed to have forgot the whole thing. So, still not quite yelling but perhaps a bit more hysterical, particularly with crazy eyes, I asked her, knowing that she should not have done it, to think about and tell me why she did what she did.

She went to her room to change and came back five minutes later to say: “I like the book and I didn’t want to give it away.”

It hit me like being bowled over by a 20-kilo six-year-old that not only had she grasped the true intent of her feelings, which to my mind is pretty mature for a kid, but she admitted it to me and expressed it like such a big girl that I started tearing up immediately.

I gave her a big hug and told her how proud and grateful I was that she was being so honest.

This is why husband and I still steal into her room every night to look at her sleeping because it is only then that she still looks and behaves like our little baby. It’s utterly hilarious that despite knowing (and often wanting) that our children will grow up, just like how we know we’re all going to die, we still react with such shock when we see it happening. So please excuse me while I go sniff and cuddle Iris’s baby clothes.

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Giving Thanks

So I think everyone can agree that 2016 has pretty much sucked. Starting right off with the deaths of major artistic talents, through to Brexit and Trump. For our family, we’ve also had the death of a beloved cat, who’s been there right from Iris’ birth and the passing of my 103-year-old grandmother. While we were sad at the passing of my grandmother, she was 103/4/5. She lived such a full life, I still feel bad every time I sit down for a cuppa or complain about how much housework/childcare/family administration I have to do. Here’s a VERY brief snippet of what she did: she had ten children to look after pretty much on her own, ran three sewing classes a day to supplement the family income and fed, not just her family, but the several workers in my grandfather’s tailor shop. All this while being very active in at least two churches.

With that in mind, for me, all this tragedy has reinforced the wonderful blessings we still have. In particular, the fact that we’ve FINALLY moved into our new house and while it’s not perfect, it’s felt like home right from the start. Here is THE LIBRARY. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Unfortunately, we ran out of space so Iris’ books are in the “craft room”. However, I’m hoping that there will be enough culling of things-kept-since-1980-by-the-husband, who says “I might need to refer to it” in response to why he’s kept his SECONDARY SCHOOL physics text books and notes, that we’ll be able to move her books over as well.

I decided to let her take the lead and clearly she hasn’t inherited my OCD-ness to quite the same degree as she said “just put them anyhow”. Let it go, let it go.

This is the first time in over 13 years that all my books have been housed together. Some of been culled because they were falling apart or not very good or not pretty enough. Some have been with me for nigh on three decades. Along the way, I decided I would only buy books I was going to keep. Unfortunately, that did not have the effect I intended. When Iris came, I had another reason to acquire more books, to amass a worthy library for her to intellectually sup on as she grew. As it stands, I’m pretty happy with how my collection has come along.

So it is with extreme pride that I unveil another treasure to add, which I absolutely could not resist when I saw it in Dymocks even though I am still on a self-induced book buying ban. Ha!

I’ve raved about Robert Sabuda previously so when I saw his version of The Christmas Story, I hesitated for about 5 seconds before trotting it to the cashier.

So this is the real Christmas story, no faffing with rotund elderly men with a penchant for satisfying children’s desires with merchandise.

Once again, I’m going to let the pictures do the amazing and wish everyone a better, more hopeful 2017!

Not That Kind of Mum

There are mums who never raise their voices or lose their temper. They take the time to get their children’s attention instead of yelling, then speak levelly with them and they never, ever resort to threats or bribery. I am NOT such a mum. But I try. Most of the time. Ok probably about 65% of the time. Or 60% depending on what kind of day it is.

Due to the other 35-40%, I feel the need to remind Iris regularly, that I love her no matter what. Even when I’m angry with her or when she’s angry with me. And I often catch myself feeling selfish or thinking selfish thoughts. Especially at bed time when I just want her to GO TO BED so I can do my own thing. She usually does but there’s a lot more whingeing and dawdling than I have the patience for at the end of a long day. This is where I feel I fail her most, that I don’t think of her more, put her needs before mine more. It’s as if even after five years, I still haven’t got the hang of this mum thing, which to the world at large, means sacrificing almost every aspect of your life to your child(ren). I’ve given up getting drunk, locking the bathroom door and dreams of fame and riches (as if they were a real possibility) but I’m sorry I don’t like sharing my food, especially when it’s the best bit I’ve been saving to eat right at the end of the meal.

Then again, sometimes (more than I’d like) Iris behaves in a manner, which I will plainly label – being a brat. This shames me because I feel I may be contributing to that behaviour either by example or by lack of correct parenting. I don’t want my child to be that kind of kid. The one other parents stare at and shake their heads in disgust. I wonder if I am spoiling her. I don’t want her to constantly ask for stuff, to only think of herself and not consider the feelings of those around her. Sure she’s only five, but I don’t think it’s too early to start ingraining that sense of others. Especially in today’s world where we’re bombarded with messages that “we’re worth it” and “we have to look out for ourselves”. It’s too often about me, myself and I. Isn’t that why I’m more selfish than I should be?

 

I guess right from the start, we’ve been struggling to be better human beings and while we should strive to be more selfless, we shouldn’t berate ourselves or our kids when we some times fall short.

This topic has been playing on my mind, particularly in the lead up to Good Friday and Easter.

Very often, a great picture book can illustrate the important lessons in life better than we could ever try to explain.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

There hasn’t been a children’s book, nor, I think will there ever be one, that encapsulates the concept of unconditional love and generosity more than Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. I got a lot more emotional when I first read it than with any other picture book. This is more than a classic and one that every single child needs to read with their parents. In fact, parents probably need to read it more because it’s about accepting our children for who they are, continuing to love them even when they draw away from us, being there for them always and not blaming them for wanting to live their own lives. When the boy in the story grows up, he seems to be a rather selfish man, only ever taking from the tree and never giving anything back. Yet the story is about giving, not receiving. The tree is happy when she can give something, anything to the boy to make him happy. This is not how humans behave but perhaps it’s something we should aspire to. By giving of ourselves, and not material things, we show our children how to love.

Honestly, no summary can portray the utter wonderfulness of this book so just go and read it.

Home Alone

Now that Iris is in full time school, six hours a day, five days a week, I thought I’d have free time coming out my ears. Nope. In fact, I feel more busy than I was last year when she was in school a lot less. So let me just say for the record, especially to everyone who has ever even insinuated that stay-at-home-mums sit around on our arses all day long, WE DO NOT. In fact, speaking as a mum who has both worked full time with a child and is now staying at home, I am FAR busier now than I was when I was working. I do not want to go into a long argument but because I’m at home and I don’t feel entitled to pamper myself since we only have one income, I end up doing a lot more STUFF for the family and the house. Just look at how long it’s taken me to find time to write a blog since my last post. As a result, I am actually trying to find a job so I can, perhaps, actually sit on my arse for half a day.

So anyway, Iris is in pre-primary now. She really enjoys school and has all her bffs in her class again. Sometimes I look at her and think how big she’s grown and how much more independent she is. Then I’ll look at her and think, no she’s still so tiny and I just want to smother her with protectiveness. Yet I have to remind myself that she needs to be allowed to grow and do her own thing. I am reminded of this particularly when I notice her try and boss her father around. She even tried bossing me around but that didn’t last very long. Heh.

Ingenious Jean by Susan Chandler and Kate Leake was another op-shop find th    at I’ve grown to love. It encourages creativity, perseverance, resilience (to sarcasm) and individuality.

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While her brother and sister engage in common kid behaviour, Ingenious Jean loves inventing stuff from things she already has on hand (recycling!). The first three goes are not quite successful as she seems to have invented things that already exist.

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This is very politely and considerately pointed out by her siblings, which is a great lesson for us adults on how to handle our children’s creative output.

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Yet Jean doesn’t give up and is finally awarded inventive success.

Ingenious Jean

Ingenious Jean

Iris often surprises me with her intelligence and creativity and I give appropriately excited praise. However, I do need to remember to encourage her even when it’s a horse made of corks that has three legs and no head. I don’t believe in indiscriminate praise because I think kids need to know when something is not up to par, particularly when I know she hasn’t put in much effort. So encouragement refers to acknowledging their effort, however small, finding the positive and helping them to see how it could be better. Believe me, this is very hard for me as my default is sarcasm so this is what I’m aiming for, not what I actually do all the time.

Making Them Feel Special

So about a third of Iris’s library is made up of hand-me-downs from her cousins and among them is Max Lucado’s You Are Special.

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We always say the year has flown by at the end of it but somehow this year really has gone quicker than previous years. This is probably because so much has happened and how busy we’ve all been. For Iris it has been a tremendous year! She’s formed her first girl posse; learned to read; learned to swing herself on the swing; had her first successful ballet concert in front of a big audience on a real stage; AND stopped sucking her finger (this one is huge and I will do another post just on this later). I try to let her know just how proud of her I am but words really cannot express it all. What I fear is for her to lose her sense of self-worth for whatever reason because I know the world, and especially other kids, can be cruel.

This is why a story like this is so important.

In the world of the Wemmicks, small wooden people carved by a woodworker named Eli, they rate each other with dots and stars. Those with lots of stars are admired for their looks or talents. Those with dots are looked down on because they’re not pretty enough or good enough at anything. One Wemmick with lots of dots is Punchinello. No matter how hard he tries, he couldn’t seem to stop getting dots. And he believed he deserved them.

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Then one day, he meets Lucia who has no dots or stars at all. When other Wemmicks tried to give her a star or dot, it would just fall off. Punchinello wanted that too so Lucia told him to go see Eli.

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Filled with self-doubt, Punchinello did.

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There, Eli told him he shouldn’t care what the other Wemmicks thought of him because he thought Punchinello was special.  If Punchinello focused on what Eli thought of him, it wouldn’t matter what anyone else thought.  “Why don’t the stickers stay on her (Lucia)?” “The stickers only stick if they matter to you.” “I’m not sure I understand.” “You will, but it will take time. For now, come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care.” As Punchinello began to believe Eli, a dot fell off.

You Are Special

It’s not just about God, everyone should feel special because we all are. No matter your race, religion, colour of eyes or whether your hair is straight or curly. Everyone is entitled to feel unique, beautiful and worthwhile as a human being. As a parent, it’s so important that we help our children retain their sense of self-worth and for the most part I think I do okay. There are times when I feel like I don’t deserve to be a mum and that’s why I’m really glad Iris has someone else, far more qualified than me, to fall back on to tell her how wonderful she is. This is my Christmas wish for her and all kids, that they’ll always have someone to tell them they are beautifully and wonderfully made and no one has a right to make them feel bad for being who they are.

XOXO

My Baby Can Read!

This reading mum is so bursting with pride I just had to post this. Iris read her first book on her own!

Now, she has been sounding out words for several months already but it’s never been a sustained length of text, just random words. In the last few months, she’s grown familiar with all the letter sounds and can more easily piece them together. She can recognise many two-letter sounds as well like th and sh. So on Sunday, I took out the stack of classic Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme books that were gifted and have been sitting around thinking she might want to try.

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I started the process with the first one, helping her sound out the words. After that, she took off and read the whole book by herself!

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Then the next morning, I woke up and found her reading the next in the series. I stood outside the door barely able to contain the tears, grinning like a monkey. Then of course I had to grab my phone and take a video. #mybabysnotababyanymore #happyandproudbutsadtoo

Morning read

Does this mean an end to my enjoyment of children’s books? Are you kidding me? She can read but can she do the voices?

AND THEN after that uber intellectual start to the day, in the evening, I heard, “Mama, can you help me? I’m stuck.” She had wedged her head, arm and other hand into the little curve at the end of the banister and was balancing precariously on the stair railing. Nice. #monkeyswillbemonkeys

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Embracing Everything

I knew Iris would be an active child because of her constant movement in utero. However, I never expected her to be so, super, duper, ridiculously, chatty. Ever since she was about 10 months, it has been relentless. That’s what I called her then and it hasn’t changed. Except that before it was cute baby babbling, easily ignored if necessary. Now she actually expects a response, especially when I’m driving. If she’s not singing, making up stories, playing pretend with a piece of fluff and stray raisin, she’s arguing with me, over everything. Argh does not begin to describe how I feel. I admit, this results in a lot of yelling, particularly in the car when I’m trying to navigate roundabouts.

Yet I also love watching and listening to her. She’s so creative and happy. It’s amazing how two people so reserved and the exact opposite of exuberant could produce something so bubbly and full of life. I love her to bits, even when she asks me what the weather’s like while sitting outside. Then argues with me that it is NOT sunny because there is a puff of cloud in the sky.

The old man who love to sing by award winning artist John Winch was another brilliant op shop find. Yes it was FIFTY CENTS.

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It’s about embracing nature and not being afraid to sing aloud. It’s about getting old and being loved.

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A nameless old man left the noise and smog of the city to live gloriously in nature, singing his heart out whenever he felt like it.

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His musical zest  grew on the animals around him and they came to accept him and love him for it.

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So when the time comes and the old man’s oldness catches up with him, they help him to remember.

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Iris helps me remember to find joy in the littlest things and not be afraid to be myself or dance in the middle of the street. If everyone was as unselfconscious and non-judgemental, it’d be a much happier world. Nosier, yes, but infinitely more joyous.