Tag Archives: parenting

Birds? I’m driving . . .

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Australian Wood Duck

Australian Wood Duck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week, I’ve learned three things:
1. Don’t let the bird-watcher drive the car;
2. If the track looks like no-one uses it, there’s probably a reason; and
3. You’re never too old to be car sick.

I’m writing this now, so you can rest assured, it didn’t end too badly. But there was a moment I thought we were coming unstuck.

It was meant to be a pleasant country drive. A few hours out in the bush looking for birds and finding that perfect picnic spot. The reality became a mixture of terror, frustration and shallow breathing.

The so-called ‘track’ provided a perfect view over the nearby river. All good. Unfortunately, my husband was busy looking at the treetops and not overly concerned with the direction we were taking. Not so good.

Then the single-vehicle ‘track’ started getting thinner and the only way out took us down a 45 degree slope toward a watery canal. Again, not so good.

“We’ll have to go back,” I said.

“Not likely,” was the reply.

And looking back along the ‘track’, I could see the sense in that statement. Sadly, the alternative was no more enticing.

I braced myself for the worst as we made the death-defying descent.

I think I heard my husband laughing, but I can’t be sure. I couldn’t look at him. We got to the bottom and suddenly another track materialised. “Oh, there it is,” was all he said.

An hour of winding bush tracks followed. Around this time, lesson three made itself known.

All I know is this – birds may be beautiful. The bush may be too. But bitumen, sweet bitumen, is my best friend.

A dose of fashion nostalgia

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I have a request for any designer folk out there. If it’s within your power please, please bring back the safari suit.

They say that fashions come around again and I’m counting on it. The safari suit ticks so many boxes I can scarcely believe it went out of fashion at all.

Firstly – all those pockets. Any parent will tell you they never have enough pockets for everything they need. By the time you load up with snacks, drinks, Matchbox cars, band aids, tissues, hand-wipes, bribes, the rock collection a certain someone wouldn’t leave home without, a hair-brush, sunscreen, lip balm, I-pod, phone and the obligatory kitchen sink . . . there’s simply not a spot to spare for any extras.

Secondly – it makes sense. This is a suit that tips its colour co-ordinated safari hat to the corporate and leisure worlds. How many outfits could take you from tropical oasis to boardroom as easily as a safari suit? With its short sleeves and shorter shorts, it’s office wear ideal for the long hot summer.

Thirdly – and perhaps most delightfully – a ready supply of safari suits is already at hand. The racks at local op-shops are bending low under the weight of abandoned polyester making this a fashion that could leap back to life with only the tiniest of nudges.

Wear it with a touch of nostalgia, a hint of irony or an oblivious air of practicality and common sense. But wear it with pride (and the knowledge that whatever you or your child needs – it’s there, stashed in a pocket somewhere).

Imagination takes flight

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Cockatoo with character

Cockatoo with character (Photo credit: ash-s)

There are days when I can’t get my kids out the door fast enough. They’ve argued since dawn, treated the kitchen like a café and the lounge room like a three ring circus.

We hear the school bell from our house and still my kids move at a snail’s pace. On a typical day, the clock is counting down and I’m on edge.

But today was NOT one of those days.

Our youngest decided to fill a few spare moments (when he probably should have been packing his bag) climbing on the backyard swing-set.

The next thing I heard was screeching. And it wasn’t him. A collection of pink cockatoos had gathered on the TV aerial atop our house.

My husband, who is something of a twitcher, has taught our kids how to make a particular sound that attracts the attention of birds. It’s a bit like the whistle you do before you learn how to whistle.

Sure enough, the little man was perched on the swing-set doing his best bird whistle. And the birds were responding. Every now and then they would all look his way and listen intently. It was a sight to behold.

When the birds eventually flew away, he raced inside and grabbed the big book of birds, tracked down the page he needed and stared in awe and wonder.

A little bit of nature had just visited his backyard.

And yep, we were late to school. Notes had to be signed, explanations given. But our youngest had a fabulous story to tell.

I mean it, I really do!

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The trial is over, the results are in – empathy (as a parenting technique) really works!

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called ‘Parenting . . . like you mean it’ – about a revolutionary* technique to restore peace and understanding to my household.

I’ve gotta say, I had my doubts. For months, we had all been living on edge, only moments from full scale meltdown if someone said the wrong thing or looked like they were going to. I was tired of living in a war zone. It was time for a reassessment of my parenting techniques.

So, instead of responding to all those quibbles with “you’ve got to be kidding”, “build a bridge” or “just stop it” I tried a little empathy. And the result was instant!

My youngest was on the verge of losing it. I tried to understand . . . and, as a result, so did he. There was no door-slamming, no tantrum, no need for time-out. Peace ruled, at least for a little while.

Other opportunities soon presented themselves. We talked through the options. Tried to understand the other person’s point of view. Took on board whatever emotion was bubbling at the surface. And peace ruled.

I’m not saying the process has been without its problems. There’s not always time to talk through the issues and my level of patience can be a little prohibitive every now and then.

But I’m loving it. We seem to be making more time in other areas as well and the kids are responding.

This household ain’t perfect. But I like it a little more these days.

* 😉

The bite to end all wars

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The look of guilt was written all over her hairy face. As she stood quaking at my feet, I knew something was up.

A moment later, the howling began.

Red-faced, blotchy and in a state of shock, my youngest daughter arrived on the scene, offering up her shaking hand amidst a sea of tears. She had just had a close encounter of the snapping, toothy kind. And she couldn’t believe it.

Someone she had trusted all of her life, someone with whom she had shared so many good times and someone who now stood between her and me had just bared her teeth in anger.

In a fit of pique, during a stoush over bedding, our 15-year-old Maltese had nipped her two-legged sister by mistake. And she knew she’d done wrong. Her tail was tucked between her legs and she couldn’t look me in the eye.

In the doggy’s defence, I must tell you she was defending her territory from the older dog who, from all accounts, was throwing her weight around. Add to that the unrelenting argument between our son and daughter which, no doubt, had her worried. After all, how was an innocent pup meant to know that the angry words were not directed at her?

Once the tears had subsided and all parties had acknowledged their role in the caper, we headed inside. On closer inspection, any hint of the bite had disappeared.

But the effect was evident for the remainder of the night – no more fighting.

It wasn’t enough that I kept telling them to stop. When the dog got sick of it – that’s when they finally listened.

It’s never too late . . .

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No bills, no worries, no doubts – kids really do have it good!

Do you remember the days when you could skip down the street just because you were happy? No-one looked twice and if they did, it was only because you’d reminded them what it was like to be a care-free kid.

Library fees didn’t exist. The school library was just happy to see the books returned even if they were a few months late.

And the thought of guilt being attached to dessert was simply unheard of. I mean, really, the only reason we ate our dinner was to get dessert.

So, in honour of my unappreciated youth, I have compiled a list of things I haven’t done in a while. If you think of some others, feel free to add your own.

  1. I haven’t left the house in my pyjamas.
  2. I haven’t eaten a whole bag of lollies just because it was there and without fear of a sugar high.
  3. I haven’t been brave enough to return an old law handbook that I borrowed back in 1997. I’m concerned they may have some legal comeback if I remind them about it now.
  4. I haven’t cleaned under the couch in recent memory. If the kids didn’t dump their rubbish there, it wouldn’t be an issue.
  5. I haven’t ordered dessert instead of dinner when I’ve been out to a restaurant.
  6. I haven’t asked for the haircut I actually want. This is a whole can of self-esteem worms we don’t want to open.
  7. I haven’t paid the phone bill on time for the longest time. An extra day won’t spark a worldwide economic collapse. Or will it?
  8. I haven’t ignored Facebook for any more than a week since I signed up. I am a teeny tiny bit addicted.
  9. I haven’t sung out loud for fear of someone hearing for a very long time.
  10. And I haven’t climbed a tree just for the heck of it.

But the day is young . . .

Parenting . . . like you mean it

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I’m trialling a new – and shocking – parenting technique.

When I say ‘new’, I’m fairly certain that I used to do it. But somewhere along the line my patience grew thin, my staying power packed it in and my parenting perspective got lost in the everyday quest for survival.

So, in a bid to set things straight and put an end to the combative afternoons, brain rattling door-slamming (not mine, I hasten to add) and sense of dread when I wake in the morning, I’m attempting some . . . empathy.

So, kids, watch out!

Next time you:

a)      start an argument based on events that occurred months previously;

b)      overreact because you want someone else to get into trouble;

c)       burst into tears after only a minor skirmish;

d)      slam a door because the referee’s decision has gone against you;

e)      start protesting in front of the TV because someone else has control of the remote;

f)       drag your feet when the schedule doesn’t allow for it; or

g)      do ANYTHING that makes me question my sanity at the time of your conception;

I promise to:

a)      Demonstrate my understanding of your feelings using kid-friendly words;

b)      Sit down with you and talk through your feelings of frustration;

c)       Use a tone of voice which conveys my understanding and compassion;

d)      Praise your efforts to rein in those wayward feelings;

e)      Avoid blaming any party which may or may not be involved;

f)       Encourage you to think about the feelings of others; and

g)      Model the behaviour I would like to see in you.

And here’s the clincher – the best part of all – so long as I sound like I mean it, I should see results! I will report back . . .