Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Why Lazy Parents Make Happy Families

This is the title of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today which says that kids and parents are getting exhausted from the myriad of extracurricular activities that parents feel their kids need to stay healthy, active and educated.

Now I wanted to read this article because I am a lazy parent.  I hate the idea of carting the kids around to call sorts of classes and sports.  I hear my friends with kids talking about the 4 hours they spend driving the kids to and from school every day - there is no way I could do that!  And how their Saturday was spent taking the son to cricket in the morning, the daughter to ballet, pick up the son and take him for his piano class, then pick up the daughter to take her to drama class, and then pick them both up for dinner, and then take them out to their friends' houses for some sort of birthday party etc.  Phew!

So here are the tips from that article:

1. Eat together as a family in the evening. It promotes easy conversation about everyone's day.
2. Limit your child's activities to one or two per week - or whatever gives you the right balance as a family.
3. Check in with yourself to assess if your routine is making you stressed, and to make sure you have enough time to give your children unstructured play.
4. Get creative. Leave a box of random household items in your child's room and change the objects regularly, or leave random objects (an old hockey stick, a tennis racket or a ball) in the garden, or kitchen utensils in the sandpit.
5. Turn off the TV or computer and send the kids outside instead.
6. Don't apply the same rules for all kids - they're often very different.
7. If you let your children do an activity, let them choose what they want to do.
8. Don't be afraid of saying no to your child to one activity, or telling them they need to compromise.
9. Prioritise sleep (especially if you have younger children). All families are happier if the parents are feeling good.
10. Go camping. There'll be no distractions and plenty of time, space and inspiration for some good child's play.

So how will this affect how I bring my kids?  I'm not sure if it will.  I have never felt the need to keep up with the Jones's (I have lots of friends taking their kids to dance class, Gymbaroo, playgroup, swim school), and I like to teach the kids to entertain themselve at home.  They like to go out in the garden and play with pebbles and pull up weeds (and put pebbles in the drain, in the outdoor heater... etc).  I want my kids to walk to school and catch the train to school when they are in high school.  However I will still structure their time a little - set times for meals, wakeup, bedtime.  It can't all be free reign!  And if I had to choose extra curricular activities?  Well, one thing I do love is going to the Australian Museum.  I would love if one of my kids would go with me and we could do things with nature, learning about science, or doing a Dinosnore (sleepover in the museum).  And the zoo too.  I love the zoo.  I think photography would be a great thing for the kids to get into.  I would love to go out with them doing nature photography.

But hey, am I pushing them too much?  They are only toddlers after all!  Should I do more lazy parenting? Haha, I think that article is just trying to say that we shouldn't feel guilty if we are lazy or if we are hyper parents, there are studies to support both.  Just as long as you are happy with what you do.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Julian at 22 months, Erika at 3.5 years

Julian seems now to understand almost everything I say to him.  Things like closing the door, give this item to Baba (dad), go and get your shoes...

He also has taken an interest in books now, which he didn't like last month.  He points at items in the picture books, and can even point to some of the correct items.  Chair, ball, aeroplane, car, helicopter, teddy bear, train, door are examples of the ones he can correctly point out in a book if asked to.  When I taught him door, I knocked on the picture of the door, and now he knocks on the door when I ask him to point to the door.

His toiletting is good now, and I often put him without a nappy during the day.   I still have the occasional accidnents, probably about once a day, but the rest of the time he does his wees and poos on the potty or toilet.

Erika has a good vocabulary and talks complete sentences and has quite a good memory for things.  She also says sorry appropriately now, in fact she says it a lot, quite sincerely.

She busted me the other day when I went up to get her out of bed when I was running late for work.  I opened her door with a cup of soy milk in my hand, and she was awake and she looked at me and said "Mama, you're not supposed to eat on the carpet.  Mama is not supposed to eat upstairs.  Mama is naughty!"  Oops!

She can get on the toilet herself and wipe after toiletting but she has to be supervised.  She doesn't do it on her own yet (I wish she would!)

Lying down with your kids to sleep - am I doing more harm than help?

We all get into that bad habit when the kids are babies where they settle when you carry them, and you get into the bad habit of carrying them to sleep.  My daughter was like that until about 15 months of age when I left her with my parents for a bit and they kept carrying her to sleep.  I was pregnant then and I did NOT want to carry her as she was getting heavy and so when I put her to bed I would lay down next to her and let her snuggle up to me and sleep.  Of course it started off with wailing, crying, climbing all over me, tossing and turning, doing 360s in the bed... but it would work and after a while everyone saw that it worked and stopped carrying her.

But, 2 years down the track, we are still lying down to put her to sleep, and we do that for my son also.  In fact neither of my children will lie down in their rooms to sleep on their own, they wail and cry and get hugely upset until they vomit if one of us doesn't lie down to sleep with them.  We do leave them once they are asleep though!

I have often wondered if I am doing more harm than good.  Everyone else has their kids sleeping in their own rooms, by themselves.  I read lots of books about self settling and being firm, and though I have tried it, I am not successful and end up with tears, stress and husband/wife fights.

All the great parenting books will tell you that encouraging children to sleep in their own rooms allows parents privacy (and sanity).  And I don't disagree!  But what are the effects on children?  Some studies say that there is an increase in cortisol when children sleep on their own (stress hormones).  An article by Jennifer Coburn outlined some interesting research points.
  • Babies who sleep alone are more susceptible to stress disorders (Michael Commons, Harvard psychiatrist).  When babies are left alone to cry by themselves, levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) rise, and constant stimulation by cortisol in infancy causes physical changes in the brain, making them more prone to the effects of stress, illness (including mental illness), and making it harder to recover from that illness.
  • McKenna showed that babies who co-sleep spend time in Phase III sleep (which is where the risk of apnoeas is increased), and they learn healthy breathing patterns from bunkmates (gee you hope that mum doesn't snore or have sleep apnoea!)
So co-sleeping with your infant is supposed to give them less stress and decrease the risk of SIDS.  Ok, so why does everyone say that you should put them in their own room to cry to sleep?

It is likely because of the Western valuing independence.  Children sleeping on their own, feeding themselves, is important in modern and Western values.  Also it is a relatively new thing, in the last 200 years, that sleeping separately for infants has emerged.  New psychologists say that parents need their time to themselves for the sake of their marriage, and that the children will develop abnormal sleeping habits if they sleep with their parents.

All this is very interesting, but it doesn't answer my question: Does sleeping with my kids to put them to sleep cause them to develop a bad habit or behaviour problem?  Does it cause more damage than good?  Because I am putting them to sleep so they know I'm there, but when they wake up they are alone.  However, the kids are free to join our bed or ask us to come to their bed if they wake up at night.  This is detrimental to my husband's sleep, but I don't find it too bad.  Julian can now open his door and when he wakes up too early, I go and lie down with him until he is asleep.  The same with Erika, she often comes to the room asking for me to sleep with her and I do.  Is this detrimental to their health?  It doesn't feel like it, but I can imagine for some families or parents who need more sleep than I do, that it can be detrimental for your sanity, rest, and wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of your marriage.

So I think I am tempted to say that lying down with my kids is NOT bad for them.  It is bad for the parent who is busy or for those who have fragile marriages.  I know that the one thing that I don't like about lying down with the kids is the amount of time it takes up.  In this day and age where we value our own time, using your time like that can be annoying.

I will keep researching, and perhaps I might receive comments as well about people who know of some reasearch that either proves or disproves my ideas.

    Wednesday, 10 August 2011

    Julian - Vocabulary Update

    In the last few days Julian started to say Poh Poh (Maternal grandmother)!  I thought it was just a fluke but he said it continuously while I was talking to my mother on the phone.  I swear it sounded like he said Hewo Poh Poh...

    He usually just says Ah Mah when he picks up the phone and holds it to his ear (Paternal Grandmother).  Hubby's mum thinks it's so cute.

    So now he is consistently saying Poh Poh when I am telling him who is on the phone.  I think my mum is quite chuffed with that.

    At the supermarket on the weekend, I picked up a box of Nutri grain and there was a soccerball on the back of the box.  Julian pointed at it and said ball.

    And this is cute - when he sees daddy he runs to him yelling Baba.  So cute.  I keep telling hubby that if he sees him doing that he has to pick him up or give him a cuddle and not ignore him!  Because that cute behaviour is only going to last a few more years.  I think I should try to video it so we can remember.

    Apple is one he sometimes says.  I am sure I have heard him vocalise it but I don't think he's said it in conjunction with an apple.  He does say nana when he sees Bananas though.  Not that we have many bananas lying around the house, since they're like $16 a kilo!  He gets them at Nanny M's house.

    So we're getting there, slowly but surely!

    Tuesday, 9 August 2011

    Like mother like son - up at the crack of dawn

    Julian has stopped waking up at 6am and now is rising at 4.30-5.30 am.  It is driving my husband crazy (he is not a morning person).  Fortunately for me I don't mind because I don't sleep much.

    It started about 2-3 weeks ago, and it happened to coincide with him being able to reach the door handle and open the door on his own.  So now instead of knocking on the door to be let out of his room when he woke up in the morning, he opens his own door, comes into my room and makes that Nghhh sound (a grunty sound when you're trying to poop!) to let me know he needs to go to the toilet.  Though I suspect that he makes that sound to get me to take off his nappy, because I put him on the toilet and nothing happens.

    At first I was lying in his room and trying to coax him back to sleep, but now I am taking him downstairs and sitting with me while I get on World of Warcraft and do my boring rares hunting in Outland and Northrend.  He watches Baby Einstein videos on the other monitor and snacks on some breakfast cereal.  That occupies him for about half an hour.

    Tried and tested - 3 years of MCN - What lasts the distance

    I spent a lot of money on cloth nappies!  It is hard to know what works until you tried it and I tried so many nappies but ended up using only a few after the 6 month age.  Here are my experiences and recommendations (including vendor interactions!)

    Longest lasting nappies

    Baby Beehinds - in fact all of my BBH have had excellent wear and use over 3 years and I would say they still had one more baby in them!  The Bamboo fitteds were fantastic and hardy, the inserts last ages and don't fray or decay, and I found them the best in terms of leakage protection (but then again I had a cover on them).  I had one Hemp fitted which is a little bit coarse but still a decent nappy.  I used lots of the trifold boosters inside the nappies leaving my kids with huge bums but great absorbency.  I had a few magicalls which were fantastic for carers/nannies/grandparents as they are so simple and they also were excellent wear - I think the velcro was better than the snaps though in terms of fit.  And the Baby Beehind Nights are fantastic, if I could buy just one night nappy it would probably be these, because the really are absorbent and hard wearing. The Baby Beehind Petites are good for quick out and abouts but they don't last long, but at least they are slim and fit well under clothes. The I think that you could satsify all your nappying needs with just Baby Beehinds.  And did I mention they are great value too?  Davina the founder was who I dealt with when I did a lot of my orders and she probably now has such a big business that she doesn't so much sales or promos anymore but the BBH sales and service has always been friendly and helpful.

    Most beautiful nappies

    Wild child nappies - I really love my Wild Childs - a shame that the inserts didn't last that long!  I had to have them replaced after a year, and then they were looking tatty again recently.  I'm not sure if it's because I use them a lot or whether the kids just have toxic wee!  I had one all in one but I didn't really like it that much, the fit was ok but the design was not that great with the leg part curling outwards a lot.  However the fitteds and night nappies were superb and I would often reach for these.  Though Michelle at WC was courteous I often got the feeling that she thought I was a pain in the butt (though maybe I was being sensitive).  I would highly recommend this nappy.

    Best customer Service

    Sustainable Hemp Products - I bought the Sandman night nappies and some of the newborn nappies which were great up to 6 months.  Michelle was the best salesperson of the lot - friendly and helpful and really made me want to go back and get more.  Though her nappies weren't the best fit ( I did have a lot of issues with wing droops but when it's in a nappy cover who notices right?), she always seemed to remember me and send such lovely emails and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say about her product.  The bamboo night nappies were the best night nappies I think!  And they have lasted for a long time - good wear and tear nappies these ones!

    Easiest to use nappies

    Ittibitti nappies - These were great nappies but didn't absorb much, even with that tiny little booster in them.  However the earlier versions seemed to better made in my opinion!  The later versions started to fray a lot earlier and have issues with snaps coming off and inserts wearing out and that crunchy funny feeling that you get when the PUL starts to peel off from inside the nappy.  However, they were trim and always sat really well on my kids.  Great under jeans!  I would have to recommend the medium size, they had the longest wear in my opinion.

    Honourable mentions

    Cute Tooshies - these nappies though not very absorbent seemed to last from birth till toilet training for us, even though lots of people said they had issues with low rise and plumber's crack but it wasn't much of an issue in my family.  I bought a whole bunch of them cheap too, and I did boost them rather heavily.  By the end of 3 years they did start to show their wear and tear though.  These were one of the first nappies I bought!  I never got any blue ones ut I had the plain and the pinks.

    Blueberry - My favourite pocket nappies, I found these are the only pocket nappies that I didn't have leaks out of.  Excellent for carers and fast drying - I only had minky ones and they were really good nappies.  They are American so they are a bit pricey but I think they were well worth it.  You can buy them at Baby Blossom, The Weewuns, and Baby Soft Landings.  And they are one size fit all, so you can use them for 2 years!  I wish I had bought more of these, I think I only had 3.  I bought a few as gifts for friends with new babies, but I was SOOO tempted to keep them for myself.

    Cloth wipes

    I started out cutting out squares of flannel, but what worked really well was these baby face towels you can buy from Woolworths or BigW (I think they are called Little Wishes or something) and I used those for bum wiping.  However, the BEST cloth wipes I got were bought on (now called by beautbots, and they are the BEST wipes ever, I use them for wiping snotty noses and dirty food covered faces, and in the shower/bath.  I also pack them for taking out.  They are cute flannel print one side and sherpa cotton the other side, and I must have bought 3 lots of 5 because I loved them so much!

    Images are courtesy of all the shops that I've linked, and I just had to say that this post was inspired by my nappy cleanout!  I culled my huge pile down recently to what I like to use and these are the ones which made it into the keepers (whoops, except the Cute Tooshies which all had to be retired because of wear and tear)

    Heroes and what it means to me

    After watching Captain America, I got thinking to superheroes and how I have always admired superheroes.  I feel like these days, kids don't really have superheroes or even heroes that they can look up to from the entertainment point of view.

    When I was growing up, I loved cartoons about superheroes, comic book characters, secret identities.  My favourite superhero then (and even now) is Spiderman.  I could really relate to Spidey, he was a nerdy sciency kid who was bitten by a radioactive spider and turned into an amazing Spiderman, with superhuman abilities.  And of course what do we do with new found abilities?  We use it for money and glory.  But he learned his lesson the hard way with the loss of his uncle when a criminal escaped that he could have stopped, gunned down his beloved Uncle Ben.  And the words his uncle spoke to him:

    With great power, comes great responsibility.

    I really looked up to Spidey, I wanted to be Spiderman!  I wanted to be nerdy by day and a superhero by night, with nobody knowing who I was and being your "friendly neighbourhood Spiderman".  Perhaps I am still naive with the wholesome look that he had, but at least I had my hero.

    So, watching Captain America, I was really moved by the character.  I never really read the comic but I knew how he came to be, a nerdy sickly kid who wanted to join the army, used as a human experiment to create a supersoldier.  But when I watched the movie, I saw the hero that he was within, not just the meat shield that he was on the outside.

    This is why you were chosen. Because a strong man, who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power. But a weak man knows the value of strength. And knows compassion.

    God what a great line!  And it totally makes a hero in my book!

    Batman, another great hero.  No super powers, just intelligent, aloof, dark.  And he doesn't use guns.  I love intelligent superheroes.  A superhero who hides beneath the playboy exterior, a total opposite to the hero that he really is.

     It's not who I am underneath, but what I *do* that defines me.

    I miss those days of the superhero.  Where we would imagine that we could be like them, be great like them, and yet keep our accomplishments hidden, not doing it for the glory but for your own sense of good and justice.  I don't see the same qualities in any of the modern day heroes.  But perhaps it's because these days the hero is the ordinary man, doing extraordinary things.  Maybe it's wrong to believe in the fantastic, or wish for the unachievable, and perhaps focus more on reality.  More on the real heroes.  People who work hard for the community.  People who do things for the sickly.  People who take care of those less fortunate than them.
    But they are all heroes.  They all have a sense of duty, a sense of doing what is right.  And that is what I want my kids to learn - to do what is right, and not do it for the glory, but do it in secret for yourself.

    Monday, 8 August 2011

    Bad parent moment!

    I had a bad parent moment today.

    Julian and Erika were playing at the front door like they often do, banging away on the security screen, looking at cars and trucks and what not.  Julian had taken the chair to the front door to open it.

    So I was on my computer, looking at healing logs on Worldoflogs for Baleroc, and suddenly I realised that it was suspiciously quiet.  So I went to go look at what they were doing and my heart nearly stopped.

    The security door was wide open and there were no kids in sight.

    I was wearing my pyjamas (the leopard print flannie!) and no shoes and I ran out screaming "Erika! Julian!" and thinking "please please don't be dead, please don't be lost, please let me find them!" because they were not in the yard, and they weren't across the street.  I ran to the footpath (and the workmen who were outside just looked at me like I was a crazy person) and looked to the left and saw my children walking along the footpath, wearing their gumboots.  I yelled their names and ran to them, scooping Julian up and holding Erika's hand.

    "You're not supposed to go outside without mama!" I exclaimed.

    "We're going to see the fountain, mama," said Erika.

    "You scared me!  Come on let's go inside the house."

    "But I want to see the fountain!"

    So I promised I would take them to the fountain, but first we had to put a nappy on Julian because he can't go outside without a nappy.  And so off we went once I got the kids all sorted out for a long walk, while I sat there and thought about how bad I was for not checking that the security door was locked...

    I'm just glad that nothing bad happened.  My lucky stars must have been shining today.