For a long while I felt guilty that I found it hard to be crafty with my kids. I follow Tinkerlab and other such inspirational sites and often feel that my aspiration is let down by my day to day desire and energy. When I was pregnant I thought I’d be a crafty mom. I thought I’d have heaps of time and could do my sewing and all the things I like to do when inspiration strikes. Now that I have children my thought process is rather different. Sure, I COULD do that, but I’d have to clean a space, get out the equipment, manage little hands and be ok with them leaving the project half way through OR being faced with the mess to clean up afterwards. Too often my mind jumps through these steps and decides that there’s other things to be done.
Today though, Adventure Girl picked up that I was in one of those moods. Washing to put away, food to make, Dash and his foot in plaster making life more difficult, on to my third cup of tea kind of day. Adventure Girl is rather smart so when I asked her if she’d like to pick a book to read, off she went to get her Mummy and Me Craft book. It’s a book that she loves to read but to be honest I think we’ve made 2 of the things inside it.
Today though was different.
Today, Adventure Girl picked up on where I was at and decided to bring me her craft book. And some disposable spoons. And some pipe cleaners. And then place them on the clean kitchen bench. “Mummy, can we make this?” – How can I say no! She’s done all the work and she’s not yet four.
So we did. We did craft. I got the glue and some wool. She decided mine needed a green pom pom hairdo (I think I should brush my hair more often) and I found some cupcake cases for the skirts. Dash joined in too and together we made what the book showed (well, kind of). Three spoon people. Not perfect but perfect for us.
I’m not one of those people you’ll follow on Pinterest. I love to follow others though and when creativity sparks attempt something. I write this thinking of the jumper I felted and haven’t yet made booties out of and my grand plans of making a crochet doll. The doll and pattern is from an incredible book which also has all the patterns to make the dress ups for the doll…. the sticky point being I’m still learning how to crochet and my girl is growing faster than my skill level. Will she still be interested when she’s 6 or 8 or 12 I wonder? Perhaps I should get lessons instead of just trying to learn on YouTube!
All these thoughts run through my head. Part of me is sad and wishes that I was diligent and creative and able to help my daughter and son explore that side of them by involving them more. Especially when Dash’s happy place is doing these fine motor skills. Then, I step back and find myself thankful for the people who are crafty. For Adventure Girl’s Preschool and teachers who help her develop and know she can make things. For her Gran who plays better than most kids. For those who fill my gaps. I may not be a crafty mom. That’s ok, there’s things I do that others don’t. In the mean time I’ll just remember that my daughter is learning independence and that’s a pretty handy life skill.
This week Adventure Girl started preschool. It’s a lovely community pre-school and we had all our eggs in the one basket for where we wanted to send her. We’d been there quite a few times, we’d dropped in unexpectedly, we went to a psychologist talk that they put on for the community, we went to the open day and every single time we had our choice confirmed. Allied health professionals all spoke highly of it, friends who sent their kids there raved over it… and so our choice was made. But it’s all the little things that lead up to the days like this that make you realise your little girl is getting bigger and one day she’ll be walking out the door into her own, separate life. Stopping breastfeeding and her feeding herself, no longer needing the pram when we go out, being able to have a solid conversation with her and enjoy each other’s company. Little by little it’s the every day things that change which creep up on you and hit home when a milestone like this happens.
She was ready… I was…. not so ready. So the night before I sat down with a glass of wine in a glass I use all too rarely and watched of The West Wing. I zoned out for a time, the back of my mind reflecting on these changes and the next day proudly watched her as she waved good bye to me and started the first day of her formal schooling life. Each day, when she comes home from her two days of preschool, I write in a little book what she’s told me was the best and worst things about her day, any other comments she’s made and what she ate in her lunchbox so I can share these with Mr Incredible when he comes home. This is how I’ll celebrate the little things of her life at this stage… and how I’ll be able to reflect each days on the highs and lows. For the moments that those fail, I might just return to my comfort food.
I’m sure we all know the feeling of eyeing off a child who is building up to a full blown tantrum in a check-out line… today that child was mine and I was the parent feeling edgy due to the eyes on me, silently saying “aren’t you going to do anything?!?”. I don’t blame Adventure Girl at all – what kid wants to be in a long line, stuck in their pram and with little stimulation? She certainly doesn’t and to be honest, it’s not my favourite place either. Today though we had a parenting success, proved by the completely different looks people gave me/her as we walked out the shops 10 minutes later. The success I wholly attribute to a seminar we attended last week run by clinical psychologist Colleen Hirst from Marylands Counselling. The seminar, Raising Children, gave those that attended practical take-home ideas to implement and in less than a week we’ve noticed a difference in our ability to communicate with our 15 month old.
So what did Colleen encourage us to do? Look our child in the eyes and talk to them. Sounds really simple right? It is and I feel daft for not doing so as much before! Instead of just giving Adventure Girl something to distract her as I would have done before, I got down on her level next to the pram, looked her in the eyes, explained we couldn’t move but that she could play with the paper I was giving her… and it worked! She happily played with that piece of paper for the next ten minutes while we were in the line! When we got out of the shops, once again, I knelt down next to her pram, looked her in the eyes and thanked her. As Colleen said, the praise to disapproval ratio in our language should be 5:1 (i.e. we praise them 5 times more than we pick them up on things). While many other things were mentioned in the Raising Children seminar, this is just one small example of something working after an intentional time of reflecting on our parenting, and boy am I thankful for it!
It reminded me of how much we need to be intentional in our parenting. Taking time to be trained in skills by people who know what they’re on about and who care enough to teach you in a manner you can learn from. Thank you Colleen!
* please note: Adventure Girl doesn’t have developmental delays / special needs. This post is from that view point and I apologise for any unintended offence caused to parents of those with special needs. I do understand that those with special needs have… special needs and as such, tantrums/regulation activities etc are much, much harder to deal with. No judgement to these parents at all – quite the opposite in fact: deep respect and admiration.
For some time now, Adventure Girl and I have been celebrating the end of the week by going somewhere new, having lunch and an explore. While we’ve been to the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden before for an hour’s walk around the paved loop track, I really wasn’t up for pushing her pram up the quite steep hills (come to think of it, I wasn’t up for it the first time either!). We decided instead to check out the playground we passed on our walk the time before and had a wonderful time looking at the swamp wallaby (and her joey) along with enjoying the outdoors.
The Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens are located on Mona Vale road, quite close to St Ives. There’s ample parking 3 minutes walk from the playground marked as Lambert’s Clearing Picnic Area. There’s bathroom and BBQ facilities along with a covered seating area that can be booked for parties.
Pregnancy Rating: 3.5 – The play area isn’t enclosed so there is the possibility for needing to run after children, but there’s also plenty to children entertained and tables to sit at. The walk from the car park isn’t too strenuous and can easily be accomplished while pushing a pram.
*warning: please be aware that the loop track (taking about an hour) is considered wheelchair friendly and is marked easy. When I did this in the early stages of pregnancy I was exhausted by the steep bits and did find the walk much harder than anticipated. It was doable but only just.
Toddler Rating: 3.5 – Adventure Girl rather enjoyed her outing but the bark chip playground was used a bit like a sandpit (sigh) and the play equipment soon got crowded with bigger kids. There is quite a lot to explore though and given a carer with more energy she could have stayed much longer.
Older Kid Rating: 5 – The bike paths are great, along with quite a lot to explore and enjoy.
Last night after delivering a cake to a friend who’s just started the HSC (this is the NSW version of a student ranking exam for university entry) we picked up a pizza as a treat (Adventure Girl had already eaten a much healthier dinner!) and sat down to watch some TV. Ironically, the show we turned on was ABC’s 4 Corners episode on Obesity in Australia, Fat Chance. It was horrifying to hear and see that 70% of adults and 1 in 4 children in Australia are obese. One of the people interviewed, Deb Slorach, made a comment that is still ringing in my ears. In talking about her children and family’s eating habits she said how her children were brought up on junk food and she “look[s] back now and like that’s one of my biggest regrets in life. I think you know I set them up to fail you know and I hate that you know it… it hurts me that I’ve actually done this to my kids.”.
It was at this point in the program that Mr Incredible reached over and said “thank you for taking care of us”. Wow. What a wake up call and encouragement to make sure that take-a-way and processed food remains a treat, even after days that are full. We were thankful for the reminder that it should only be a treat and that bad habits are easy to form and even easier to pass on to our children. I admire Deb and the others who are reversing obesity in their lives with very hard work. I also admire the many who are intentional at stopping this trend and being responsible for what they eat and what they feed to their families.