Monthly Archives: May 2012

Playing favourites – of course I don’t! Yeah right!

I love all my children equally. Yes, I really do. I love my bonus daughter for her amazing compassion, her pragmatic nature and her constant (and oft-stated belief) that she is awesome. I love my bonus son for his dirty sense of humour, his unexpected bursts of maturity and self-awareness and his wry comments on life. I love my daughter for her steel fist in a velvet glove approach to life, because she sings in the shower and because she never gives up. And I think because she is the easiest of children – when you are rarely pissed at a child, it’s very easy to love them. I love my older son because he is so totally lovable; for his boundless enthusiasm for everything he undertakes and for the true self-confidence that allows him to befriend everyone and sail through life’s troughs and peaks. I love one of my small boys for his affectionate nature, his imagination and his imperiousness; for his elephantine memory and his empathy. I love my other small boy for his appreciation of beauty in the world around him, for his open, generous soul and his so-far-outside-of-the-box-that-it’s-practically-perpindicular thinking. But do I have a favourite? I like to think that I don’t have one favourite. I have six.

I understand as an adult that there are some people in our lives with whom we have an instant connection, a bond forged not by reason but by an instinctive gut-feel that we know this person inside and out. I have friends like this – half a minute into our first meeting, we’ve been friends forever and we will be friends forever and we know each other inside and out. And I think the same holds true for parents and children. Sometimes a personality match just happens and it is easier for a parent to love one child than it is for them to love another. We saw this in my family. My mother and my brother just fit better. They always have and they always will.

I look at my children with their grandparents and can see that there are one or two who have a special bond with a grandparent – by dint of similar natures, openness of personality, sociability, their brains working the same way – call it what you will, there is an extra dimension of connection, even though they are all well-loved by them all.

There are parts of me which respond to specific things in my children, and definitely parts of me which are repelled by other parts of them (I use the word repelled in a scientific way – much like a magnet repels a similar pole, the things in my children I don’t always like are the things I don’t much like in myself). But do I have a favourite?

I would have to say yes, I do – but my favourite constantly changes, depending on the day, my mood, their behaviour, or even just the moment. There’s the small boy slipping an arm around my neck and whispering how much he loves me; the young woman who shows me the depth of her feelings in a rare glimpse of her true self; the young man who appreciates that his younger cousin knows more than him and is prepared to learn from him. There’s the sudden realisation that this child can see beauty; that this one has so much empathy; that this one needs a little more guidance and help just now and that this one has just stepped up and showed that they will not be a bystander in life by breaking up a classroom fight that everyone else was just watching (this was a daughter by the way and I am very proud of her).

Some of it is pride in them and in the personalities that they are growing into. Some of it is because the traits they are showing are amazing ones to possess. Some of it is wonder at their amazing diversity and rich characters. And sometimes, it’s just because they love me.

Will I ever tell them that they are my favourite in this moment? No, because I don’t ever want the others to feel that they are not equally special to me. But just as they are all very different people, there are times when one of them is more special. And as I am an inconsistent and flawed person, there are times when I just like one more than the others.

So yes, I have favourites. But I prefer that my children never know who that is at any given time. I hope that as a parent, I can make each of them feel special, each of them wanted and that each of them are a blessing to me. Not every moment, that is just unrealistic! But I hope that when they are grown and looking back on our relationship, all that they see is that they have a unique connection with me; a connection which reflects who they are, and who I am when I am with them. Because they make me better, mostly! Even when they bring out the worst in me! Actually, they probably make me better when they push to me to my limits, and for that, they are all my favourites.

This photo is a few years old now, but how could I choose between these gorgeous faces?

How do you find it in your family when it comes to instant bonds, playing favourites and keeping things fair and equitable?

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My Top 10 time saving and organisational tips

I follow a “Time Guru” – New Zealander Robyn Pearce. She recently posted a request for tips in dealing with time management in family life. This started out as time savers and organisational tips, but ended up being money saving ideas as well. These are in no particular order and are a bit of an organic list. It would be great to hear any ideas or suggestions you have.

Tip 1: When you have washed sheets, duvet covers etc, if you are not putting them straight back on the beds, fold them all up and put them into one pillow case. This way, all you need to grab out of the linen cupboard is the full pillowcase, and you have a full set of bedding ready to go.

Tip 2: Lunchbox stuff. Make a double batch of muffins, quiches, etc. Use some of them while fresh, but take 5 minutes to wrap the remainder individually with gladwrap and throw them in the freezer. Then just grab them out in the morning for lunches, and they’ll be defrosted by lunchtime.

Tip 3: Buy in bulk when it’s on special and make double sized meals. Freeze half for another day. Alternately, split the whatever it is into normal sized portions, rewrap and freeze.

Tip 4: Leave the sandwich bread frozen and put the sandwiches into lunch boxes frozen. This way you’re only using the bread you need (no wastage) and especially in summer, keeping lunch meats and so on cooler.

Tip 5: Consider using a laundromat rather than a domestic drier over winter. You can dry 8-10 loads in 40 minutes in a commercial drier, it costs about $6, is much easier on your clothes and is far quicker. You can then just have one giant folding session a week, your power costs are kept down and you don’t have the dampness in your home from running the drier.

Tip 6: Maintain a “family diary” in a visible spot. Try and find something which does a week at a glance, but which you can flip the pages over to see upcoming weeks.  If anyone has a commitment – homework, a costume, after school commitments, an assignment and so on, it must be written in the diary. The second you get a school notice, have swimming or music lessons or sports or practices, write it in. Ensure that on a Sunday night, you flip over to the upcoming week and review your commitments.

Tip 7: Network. Build up a network of people with whom you can carpool to the inevitable practices, games etc. This saves time and money.

Tip 8: This is an old-fashioned one and something that our parents and grandparents always did. Make sure you have enough cans in your cupboard, meat in your freezer, flour in your pantry or so on, to be able to produce a meal or dish at a moment’s notice without having to shop, or expand out a meal for an unexpected guest. If my canned tomatoes get below 6 in the cupboard, I start to get nervous.

Tip 9: Do one large grocery shop every fortnight, and just top up fruit and veges as you need to. And even though I don’t do this, consider using a list (and sticking to it!) or ordering online. Although it is more expensive, you will save in time and you’re less likely to add items on impulse.

Tip 10: If you have the freezer space, freeze spare bottles of milk rather than having to buy more during the week. They take about 48 hours to defrost in the fridge, so require a little planning, but then you don’t have to do a midweek (or in our case Sunday morning) dash to the dairy. We also keep a UHT long-life milk in the cupboard for emergencies. Not the best on cereal, but fine in tea or coffee and in baking/ cooking.

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The Mommy Wars – an awesome post!

Like many of you, I’ve been reading about the various “mommy wars” around at the moment, with the latest being the furore over Time Magazine’s cover of a 3-year old being breast fed. I’m heartily sick of parents spending time putting each other down rather than supporting each other. Here’s a refreshing – and hardnosed – commentary on the Mommy Wars that we should concentrate on. I say “Hear! Hear!” to this article!

The only Mommy war worth waging.

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Since when did *I* become the grown-up?

I could have put a really gross picture here but chose to restrain my inner six year old

Here’s the scenario. I come downstairs in the morning and notice that the cat has been sick on the carpet. My first response? I look for the grown-up who is going to clean it up! My second response? Perhaps I can pretend I didn’t notice so that my husband will do it. Third response? The realisation that I am it. I am the grown-up who has to clean up the cat sick. This can be applied to tidying up, hard financial decisions, determining whether the children are sick or injured enough to need the emergency department at the hospital or if it can wait until the morning and even as far as what to make for dinner tonight and who is going to do it.

People who don’t know me might comment that my chronological age makes me middle-aged. In light of this, the whole wanting a grown-up situation seems a little silly. And those people who know me almost always describe me as practical, reliable and responsible. They know that they can rely on me; that I’ll be first in line to help out in times of crisis; that if I say I’ll be there, then I’ll be there.  I look like an adult, I sound like an adult, and my behaviour is generally that of an adult, and yet I still  find myself looking for the grown-up in my house.

I think that deep inside, I still feel like a kid.  I still play, I still have the ability to be ridiculous and find the ridiculous. I don’t feel very old at all, and certainly not like the grown-up. And yet the dichotomy is that I am the one who cleans up the cat sick, or the baby vomit or triages the kids. (I should say at this juncture that there is another grown-up in my house – my husband – and he is very good about doing all of these things as well. However he seems oddly reluctant to be “the” only grown-up in our house).

Perhaps it’s just that I am lazy. Or maybe that my inner 6-year old is lazy. I find myself wishing for a stay at home wife (not sure how the husband would react to that!) who could help out with being the grown-up. When I think of my parents (and other people’s parents), they always seemed so sure of themselves – even when they were making bad choices.

Does everyone feel this way? Once we reach so-called adulthood, do we all still feel as though we are kids inside, just pretending to be adults? Is everyone waiting for the grown-up to magically appear and do all the hard stuff for us? And where would we be if we did all have a grown-up? Isn’t it the doing the hard stuff that helps us to grow into the people we have the potential to be?

I do accept all this, but no doubt the next time a cat, or a child is sick, or we find a dead rat in the compost (that was today’s little shocker, and both the husband and I completely abdicated all grown-up responsibility and just left the revolting thing there), I’ll still be looking for the grown-up in the house.

My inner six year old running wild and free

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It’s my hair and I’ll mohawk if I want to…aka the consequences of letting your 5-year olds watch Glee.

Wii Sing: Glee (Sweet Caroline of course!) – early indicators that they wanted to be like Puck!

Conal: “Mum, I want to look like Puck!”

Me (absently): “Um, why?”

Conal: “Because he’s cool and I like his hair” (breaks into “Sweet Caroline”)

Me: “You want a haircut like Puck’s? Puck from Glee?”

Conal: “Sweeeeeeet Caroline, bah, bah, bah. Yes, just like Puck’s. Good times never seemed so good…

When I was young, I had very fine, very curly hair. The hairdresser our family used decreed that my hair must always be short. For nearly 10 years I had exactly the same hairstyle – very short and curly. I loathed it. At fourteen, I finally put my foot down and didn’t have my hair cut for 3 years. The end result was that I had something that resembled a large, fluffy shrub on my head, g0ing upwards and outwards by the same amount. I vowed at fourteen that I would NEVER insist on a particular hairstyle for my children and that they could choose their own styles. I’ve maintained this with the older children, with the proviso that whatever style they have, they must take care of their hair (or allow us to do so). So, a haircut like Puck’s? A large gulp, followed by a  “Sure thing.” Conal was very happy.

The reason for my hesitation? Puck has a mohawk. Shaved sides, spiked up centre piece. Puck is clearly a bad boy. My small boy has the most glorious mop of curls. Every day through the week before his haircut, I check again “Are you sure you want your hair like Puck’s? It’s winter now, so you might get cold ears.” Each time, I am confidently assured that yes, the hair is to be like Puck’s. I try explaining that the hairdresser will need to use the clippers. No problems this time apparently, although he has hated them in the past.

We get to the hairdressers, and although she winces every time she cuts the curls off, off they come. And then the sides of his head are shaved. He’s thrilled – huge smile all over his face. There are curls all over the floor. She spikes up the centre part of his hair and he can’t stop grinning. He’s a happy boy.

Conal aka Puck at age 5

Then, disaster. Zac, also with a head of beautiful curls, announces that he loves Conal’s hair, and “I want hair like Puck’s too.” Now I have boys who are the same size, and obviously brothers, who have the same hairstyle. It looks like I’m trying to clone them. Next thing you know I’ll be dressing them alike and calling them the twinnies. Three of our big kids adore it and think the small boys look awesome. The fourth is on the verge of tears at the loss of the curls.

Puck II

Friends are slightly shocked. I tell them the story of my bad hair years, and why I am letting the children make their own choices. At the end of the day, hair grows back. And of all the battles I could fight with my children, this is not an important one. We take photos of our two Puck-lookalikes, belting out “Sweet Caroline”, faces wreathed with smiles. I am happy that I have let the children make their own decision on this one. I admit to the big kids that perhaps the boys do look adorable. Even as I quietly mourn those beautiful curls.

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