Posts Tagged With: parenting

No experience necessary. Must have strong stomach.

Job-Vacancy-DetailsIf I were writing an advertisement for a position as a parent, this would be my headline. Back in 1996 BC (Before Children), I naively listed out the qualities I thought a parent would require. These included a sense of humour. Patience. Love. An ability to play. And you know what? All of those things are true and wonderful if you have them. But after 17-odd years parenting, I would require the following skills and attributes for anyone applying for the position of parent. And yes, this is in order, with #1 being the most important.

#7 High tolerance for dirt and mess

Yep, there’s a lot of this. You need to be able to cope with it. You can wash kids. And their clothes. And your house. Dirt is not the end of the world.

#6 Willingness to perform repetitive tasks

Laundry. Dishes. Tidying. Laundry. Dishes. Tidying. Hairy McLary stories. Nursery rhymes. Movies and songs on endless repeat. Enough said.

#5 Physical robustness

I don’t necessarily mean huge, although when I had twins, being tall and strong was a huge help, both during the pregnancy and when I was carrying around and feeding two babies at the same time. Strength has also been useful for those children of mine who occasionally need assistance getting to their bedroom to have some calming down time. When they’re wrestling, struggling, screaming and hitting and they don’t want to be removed from the situation and calm down, it can really help if you can physically move them. As my children tend to be tall and sturdy, this is a huge help! And endurance is useful. Think of those long family outings where you are the one carrying the backpack with the food, sunscreen, water and necessities because YOU are the parent (even when your children are bigger than you are). Endurance, stamina and strength are very useful.

#4 First Aid Certificate

It is very helpful to know if you need to take your child to the doctor, the emergency clinic which has an x-ray machine or the hospital. A First Aid Certificate will give you the ability to run triage. You can then also intelligently tell the medical professionals the cause of the accident, what treatment you have already applied and you can maintain your calm demeanour while they stitch, plaster or otherwise fix your broken child.

#3 The germ resistance of a cockroach

CockroachFrankly, the amount of germs your wee darlings bring home, and the strength of those germs mean that you need to be like the prehistoric cockroach to survive. Each new environment that your child enters will produce new and progressively more vile illnesses. The positive side of this is that your children inherit your germ resistance. Our oldest child was our sickest, and we were the most susceptible to her germs. By the time we got to numbers 5 and 6, not only were they almost never ill (we can count the number of days off daycare and school on the fingers of one hand, and they are seven now) but neither were we.

#2 The ability to sleep, anywhere, anyhow

This comes in handy in three ways. You need to be able to go to sleep quickly and easily. You need to be able to go BACK to sleep easily after being woken up. And you need to be able to make whatever hours of sleep you get, count. Seriously folks, they use sleep deprivation as a torture method. In the main, I go to sleep easily, wake easily and go back to sleep easily. Phew. I once was in bed feeding the twins when they were babies and woke up to discover I had LOST one! Turns out that one of the babies and I had gone to sleep and the other was still feeding. My husband had woken and noticed the sleeping baby and moved him off the feeding pillow back to the cot. Took several years off my life. I have been known to go to sleep standing up. And after years of sleep deprivation, going to an observatory, or even the movies at times, leads only to sleep. You know, I’m relaxed, leaning back and it’s warm and dark.  Turns out this is exactly what I needed to survive the early years. Needless to say, insomniacs should not apply.

#1 A strong stomach

I cannot overrate this. From the post-labour messiness (let’s not go into detail here) to meconium (green runny poo for those not already in the know) to poo which escapes up your divine infant’s back to the smelly milk which “spilly” babies chuck up all the time (and half of our kids were this way inclined) and then to the far more repellent full on projectile vomiting as the wee darlings get older. If you have a weak stomach, life is much more difficult. Our oldest three were all spilly. I remember putting daughter number 1 on one shoulder, and she chucked all over me. I changed my shirt and she promptly chucked again. I handed Daughter number 2 to a cousin of her father’s (who was wearing an especially nice shirt) and recommended that he put a cloth nappy over his shoulder. He uttered the unforgettable phrase “she won’t be sick on me”. I’m sure I don’t need to detail the next few minutes. As she got older, the same daughter had a predilection for being very ill just before she came down with something like an ear infection, and then again on the last day of said illness. Unfortunately, until she was about 3, she would only do this sitting on my knee. I wised up and moved to the bathroom after the first couple of times, but I have to say it was a red letter day the first time she realised she felt sick and was ill in the toilet. I was reminded of this tonight as my youngest suddenly sprinted for the bathroom, saying “I’m going to throw up” and proceeded to be violently ill. Everywhere. That’s what prompted this post actually. I was completed unmoved by the mess as I cleaned him, the toilet and the bathroom up, and thought how lucky I was. A side note is that at 3am, his twin brother woke me up to announce that he felt like being sick too…

I spent a lot of time right next to these the other day...

I spent a lot of time right next to these the other day…

Now that’s not to say that I have coped with every poo or vomit disaster I have come across. In fact, there have been times when I have just LOOKED, jaws agape, and been completely overwhelmed. Sometimes a poo disaster has required two people to deal with it – and I have been the only one there! I have been known to take a poo or vomit covered baby into the shower with me in order to clean us both up. This doesn’t work when you are out of the house. So my biggest advice is have plenty of cloth nappies with you at all times, and take not only a change of clothes for the baby, but a change of clothes for you as well.

Sadly, it appears from this list that I might actually qualify for a job as a parent. Whilst this is no doubt a relief for my six children, it does appear that there is no way I can get out of it now. 17 years on-the-job experience probably counts for something as well. Now it seems I just need to master the extras – patience, spontaneity, an ability to play, a liking for housework. Maybe by the time grandchildren come along, I’ll be there.

What would you add to the employment advertisement for a parent?

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A Huckleberry Finn child

My boy would be in heaven if this was him!

My boy would be in heaven if this was him!

I have a Huckleberry Finn child. At first, I thought he was merely challenging, hard to manage and extreme.

Then a few years ago, I attended a Growing Great Boys talk presented by Ian Grant and he gave me an explanation for my boy. He’s Huckleberry Finn.  A Huckleberry Finn child is one who is uncivilised. He pushes the boundaries, is so far outside the box that there is no box. He doesn’t easily conform to the mores of society. He’s the kind of child who would have thrived a hundred years ago in an outdoor, hard work environment. He would have loved the freedoms I had in my childhood to roam, explore and discover. His mind is constantly busy and he’s not really interested in sitting down and passively learning. He likes to take things apart and put them back together or invent something completely new out of those old parts. He’s a delight – and some days a despair!

Ian Grant said he had four boyhood friends who were Huck Finns, and they have grown up to be leaders in industry, philanthropists, top flight businessmen – in other words, hugely successful in their chosen fields. Ian also commented wryly that these boys would probably be medicated in today’s society and pondered whether they would have reached the same dizzy heights if this had occurred.

Before anyone starts to climb on a bandwagon, I do think that there is a valid time and place to use medication – in some cases it is the only option. And I personally know parents who have agonised over this decision, and the positive changes medication has made to the lives of their children and by extension, their family know no bounds.

But my Huck Finn? He’s been assessed and it has been generally determined that he is a smart, high-energy, out there child. That’s it. And it has to be said, he comes by his Huck Finn tendencies honestly. I read back some of the things I have written above and a lot of them could have been applied to me, although asthma and a love of reading reined me in a little. My husband’s parents tell tales of his derring do and inventiveness as he was growing up, so my poor boy never stood a chance. In fact, it’s a wonder that we only have ONE outright Huck Finn (although a couple of the others certainly share a number of the tendencies above).

I look at my boy, and hope we can successfully guide him through the hoops that modern-day life requires, without crushing his spirit and his outlook on life.  And while we are still able to retain our hair! It’s a challenge, but I wouldn’t have him any other way. And I can see that he’s going to DO something with his life – he may be my only child who is a multi-millionaire or in jail. The jury is out on which one it may be.  At present, his ambition is to live in Africa and rescue animals from poachers. I could totally see him doing that too!

The niggling thing in the back of my mind is that I think MORE of us should be Huck FInns. I think we too easily conform to society’s rules, and we accept too many restrictions too complacently. Why aren’t we outside getting grubby? Why aren’t we trying to think of unusual solutions to problems? Why do we just accept that this is the way things are, without challenging them? Maybe we need to find that long-buried Huck Finn part of ourselves, embrace it, develop it and utilise it! Who knows what we could achieve if we did that?

Do you have a Huck Finn in your brood? How do you encourage and help them? I’d love your tips!

He'd be happy doing this too!

Doesn’t this look like fun?

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When is it time to throw out the baby spoons?

Your kitchen cupboards still have security locks on them and are organised so as to give little ones a place to play safely, but all the breakable/ dangerous stuff is safely locked away. In your kitchen drawers, you can find plastic baby spoons, small baby cutlery and baby medicine spoons. In the medicine cabinet, there is Bonjela (well past its use-by date) and those tiny nail clippers you use on babies. You still have the plastic Thomas the Tank Engine/ Barbie plates, bowls and cups in the cupboard. You may even still have the bottle steam steriliser up on the top shelf.  And yet you have no babies. Or even toddlers. Does this sound familiar to you? Because until fairly recently, this was the state of my kitchen.

I should note here that the baby factory in our house is firmly and permanently shut. Not only because I am getting a little long in the tooth for more babies, but also because six is really our limit. And our youngest children have just turned six years old. And they were twins, which given my age and now our family history would mean a significantly higher chance of having another set of twins. They are somewhat past the baby gear stage. But does our kitchen actually reflect the ages of our youngest children? Not so much.

Why is this? I hear you ask. I trot out the convenient “oh some of our friends have younger children and it’s nice to have everything available/safe for them” and to a certain extent, this is true. Except that our friends’ younger children are now three years old, so no longer babies, and mostly past the age of trying to permanently damage either themselves or our dinner set. “I haven’t really had time to get to it” is another excuse I use, and this is also true, but actually is just an excuse.

So why the reluctance? I guess it’s that whilst you give away or sell the big baby items – the cots, push chairs, high chairs, car seats and so on – because they take up room you simply don’t have, the kitchen can stay the way it is without significant inconvenience. After a couple of years, you’re probably accustomed to pushing that latch down before getting into your cupboards. And once you give away the last of your baby stuff, you’re admitting to yourself that there will be no more babies. Even when there are six children in the house, and you’ve made the joint and very sensible decision that for the way your life is there will be no additional children, there’s still a small part of you that says “Maybe there’s room for one more”.

It’s also admitting to yourself that your smallest child (or children in our case) aren’t babies any longer. They aren’t even toddlers. Nope, they’re fully fledged school-age children, off to playdates, learning to swim and play soccer and able to read the rules at the McDonald’s playgrounds for themselves (and break them of course, but that’s another post entirely). There’s a sadness to that admission, even through the pride you feel as they become ever more capable and independent. A parent’s heart will always hold the echo of those little baby on the shoulder hugs, those moments where the toddler clung to your neck, and where the small child reached for you for comfort.

Change is never easy. And sometimes, the only thing that pushes you through is having an agent of change. Last year, my lovely mother-in-law stayed at our house for six months. After she’d been here a month, she  suggested that the kitchen didn’t make sense, we didn’t need all the child proofing, and surely the boys were past the plastic plate stage. My first response was to dig my heels in, trot out all the excuses above, and say that I liked it that way. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised she was right. So one Saturday morning, the bonus daughter and I pulled the kitchen apart and put it back together again. I also used the opportunity for my annual blast at the pantry. My mother-in-law still couldn’t find anything, but at least could get all the cupboards open without help from the children.

I will confess that I didn’t throw away or pass on the plastic plates or the baby spoons. They’ve been relegated to a cupboard in the garage and are used when those three year olds come to visit, or if we’re going on picnics . Who knew baby plates could be so versatile? Of course at a flash vineyard picnic listening to Diana Krall as the sun set, our dining neighbours looked a little askance at the Thomas the Tank Engine plates…

So when is it time to throw out the baby spoons? I guess it’s when you’re ready. This will be different times for different people. For me, it wasn’t until I was given that nudge. But then I’m a complete hoarder (let’s not go into the memory boxes for each of the children in the garage – let’s just say there will be plenty of 21st material in there!). There are still a few security locks  on the doors with no catches on them, some socket safety plates in the power sockets, and a few baby spoons in the top drawer, but the kitchen is largely set for our current needs. I’ve even given away the steam steriliser!

When you did relinquish the trappings of babyhood? And what made you do it?

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