Mom, be kinder to yourself!

Bean is sitting in his high chair staring at me with an obstinate glint is his eyes, his mouth shut, as I try to give him a spoonful of food. He swings his arm, batting the spoon away and the food goes everywhere. Before I can even think about what has happened my emotions get the better of me and I scream: ‘EAT THIS NOW!’. To Bean I must look like an angry bear in slow motion, jowls shaking, spit flying out of my mouth with balls of pure fury where my eyes normally sit. I have lost it.

Almost immediately a wave of dread washes over me. This has not been a good day.

Since becoming a mom, I have had a few of these bad days. Days where the silence at home and the lack of mental stimulation allows my mind to throw flashes of past mistakes, deeply buried away, into the forefront of my daily thoughts. Days when these memories consume my entire being with guilt and self-loathing. Days of frustration and boredom as I watch Bean build yet another tower, while I reminisce of past adventures. Days when I feel my self-worth slowly slipping away, my only real role being mom and wife.

Nobody tells you about these days. Nobody talks about their self-doubt, their heart broken into a thousand pieces when they get angry or frustrated with their children, the guilt that weighs heavily on their souls as they go on another business trip, or when they finally do something for themselves.

And we should talk about it – we all have bad days. It’s normal. We have all made mistakes in the past – without them we would not be who we are today. What really matters is how we move on from these days, how we work through the negativity and how we, as we work through these issues, become better parents and in so doing, become better versions of ourselves.

Although there are bad days, these are outweighed by good ones and I know that I am a good mom. I know that I do my best to be the best for Bean. So, for this year, my resolution is to be kinder to myself, to let go of the guilt, to let go of the negativity and self-doubt and to let go of judgement (of myself and others).

I am not a perfect parent, and that’s OK.

 

Help! I need to Discipline my Child!

Picture the scene: we are at my son’s first birthday party and I am holding Bean on my hip while talking to my cousin and his girlfriend, T. T reaches out for a slice of pizza and my son literally launches himself at her trying to grab the pizza out of her hand. In an attempt not to drop him and calm him down, I tell her that he wants the piece, take it from her and give it to Bean. The result: my son is now happily eating ‘his’ slice and T is staring at us with a very quizzical look on her face. Later on in the day,  once the chaos of the party has subsided and I have time to reflect on the day, I realise, that I, in an unguarded moment, indulged my son’s ill-mannered behaviour instead of using that moment to teach him something. I am absolutely mortified and I realise that Bean is no longer a baby who just needs to be fed and loved, he is growing up into a little boy and I now need to start teaching him discipline and manners.

Because, let’s face it, nobody likes an unruly and ill-mannered child.

This realisation has me perplexed – when do I discipline and when do I teach? In the scene pictured above, he was not being naughty, he simply wanted to experiment, learn something new. He wanted to see what T was eating as he had never seen a slice of pizza before. He did however need to learn that it is not ok to simply snatch. So that night, after talking to my mom and husband, we decided to teach him how to ask for things he wants instead of simply snatching.

What if he continues to snatch? Then we would need to enforce discipline right? But it is here where it gets really complicated. There is so much literature available on this and so many different opinions on which are the best ways to discipline and enforce boundaries that it has all become like a white noise in my head. There are those people who believe in physical punishment, those who believe in ‘time-outs’ and then there are those who believe in gentle parenting. A granny I met in one of the classes I take Bean to, mentioned to me that I should simply ignore naughty behaviour.

After reading all these articles and speaking to various moms and grannies about this topic I realised that there are certain core ideas on how to create a stable and peaceful home environment in which the need to enforce discipline is minimised:

Every child needs love, attention and devotion

A lack of attention often leads to negative behaviour in a misguided attempt to get the parents’ attention.

Children are like sponges

They are continuously learning and taking in what is shown and taught to them. You can therefore talk to your child and show them what it is you are trying to teach.

Be an example

To our children, we are the world. We show them in our daily behaviour and interactions how one should act. In the scene described above, I inadvertently showed Bean that it was ok to snatch without first asking. I have also found myself simply taking something I do not want him to play with, out of his hand without asking him for it first. I cannot expect him to ask me for something if I (as his mentor) simply grab things from him.

Children need boundaries

This is something that I come across in parenting blogs and articles as well as books, a lot. Without boundaries children feel lost.

Be consistent

Parents need to set boundaries together and consistently enforce these, together.

Even in a stable home environment filled with love, children will still push their boundaries and they will be naughty, because, well, they are children.Some form of discipline is then needed because there isn’t a point to a boundary if it is not enforced.

I take Bean to Clamber Club classes and in his graduation class last week, the teacher said something which really hit home. Children under five cannot form their own opinions of themselves and they therefore internalise the parents’ opinions during these formative years. Once they turn five, they form their own opinions using what you, as the parent, have taught them as a reference framework. This reminded me of a story my sister once told me: they had gone to a flea market one Saturday morning and there was a family of four walking ahead of them. One of the children, a little boy, was pushing a trolley suitcase in front of him (instead of pulling it) and the suitcase kept getting stuck on the uneven bricks. The mother ignored this for a while and then suddenly smacked the child on the back of his head and shouted, “you need to pull it, stupid!” This, to me, is such a powerful example of what the teacher said, as by the time this child will be able to form an opinion of himself, he will automatically include the description ‘stupid’.

As parents we need to realise that we form these little beings, whether by example, through what we teach, or how we discipline – we give them a reference framework which they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. They will use this framework, which we have instilled within them, to decide on important life choices (whether to go to university or not for example), or when they decide on how to act, which body language to use, how to express themselves when they are faced with a moral dilemma or when they meet new friends, a girlfriend, a boyfriend or even a prospective employer.

This to me is the crux when deciding on how to teach a lesson and on how to enforce discipline. How do I want my children to see themselves?

 

Photo credit:  www.canva.com

My Wish for You {A Letter to my Child}

I have wanted to write a letter to my son for a while now because although we as parents often tell our children how much we love them, we do not really elaborate on this statement. I also feel that we are so pre-occupied by teaching our children how to behave and how to physically do things that we never get to the heart of what it means to live. We get so caught up in our daily tasks and routines that we forget to teach them about what is really important in life.

This therefore, is a letter to my child, reminding him of how much he is loved, reminding and teaching him (as well as myself) how beautiful life really can be, how important it is to seize every moment and to be grateful.

My Wish for You

My wish for you, my child, is that you wake up every morning realising that every day unfolding is a new beginning, a promise of a new adventure, a chance to learn something new.

My wish for you is that you realise that you carry your fate in your hands, that you have the power within you to make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven.

My wish for you is that you never lose the sense of wonder, intrigue and pure joy that now accompanies you everywhere you go.

My wish for you, my child, is that you will always have the inner strength to deal with life’s difficult situations with maturity, love and gratitude. Life can be hard, but there is nothing that you cannot handle and there is nothing you are not capable of. You will (and must) fall, but true strength of character lies in getting back up and trying over and over again.

My wish for you is that you never lose sight of the importance of family, friends and love. May you find the joy and comfort that comes with having good, lifelong friends. May you find happiness, confidence, strength and mutual respect in love and may you experience the absolute adventure of having your own loving, supportive and loud family one day.

My wish for you is that you stay blessed and that you realise how blessed you are. Every day brings with it something to be grateful for. Never forget to be thankful.

My wish for you is that you stay honest, that you are never afraid to tell the truth, no matter what the outcome. Stay true to yourself and trust your instincts.

My wish for you is that you never lose hope. May you always be a bright light, shining through the darkness and negativity of this world.

My wish you for is that you never stop smiling. So much power lies in a simple smile and you, my son, have the most beautiful smile. A smile that lights up and warms people’s hearts (and souls).

My wish for you, my heart, is that you never forget how much you are loved. Never feel that you cannot influence the world or that you are too insignificant to make a change – you have already changed my world. And it is so much better with you in it.

You, my perfect child, have proven to me that it is possible to live while a portion of my heart beats outside of my body. You filled and completed an empty space in my soul I never knew existed before you were born.

You are my bright light, my heart.

I love you,

Mama

 

Photo Credit: http://www.canva.com

The New Me

It’s 4am and I can hear my 8 month old stirring in his cot, talking (or rather babbling and gurgling) to himself. I ignore him and the talking becomes louder, more incessant, as if to say, ‘Mom, I am awake….Mom, can you hear me?….MOM!’ I realise that I can forget about my hope of him going back to sleep, he is awake and he wants to start his day, regardless of how tired his parents are. I throw the blanket back, groggily climb out of bed and walk over to the nursery. As I lean over the cot to look at my little monster, he beams at me. His little arms start flailing around excitedly, his legs are kicking furiously and his face has turned into one big smile. Suddenly, I am not tired anymore, I am overcome with love and I am happy that I am awake to spend another special moment with my son.

As I pick him up and he throws his arms around me, holding on so tight, I laugh and realise that I have changed. For example, I love my sleep and if anybody had dared to wake me up at 4am pre baby, I would have been very rude and grumpy to say the least – my husband in warning, would probably have told you that you are about to unleash the Beast. Now, I of course have to distinguish a random person waking me up from my baby doing the same. Yet, I now no longer wake up angry if my sleep gets interrupted (regardless of who wakes me up). I seem to have accepted that not sleeping is simply a part of life.

This made me think about all the other, more significant changes I have gone through since becoming a Mom. Not the typical changes like household routines or the lack of a social life, but the really important ones – changes which affect my view of life and the world.

I now strongly and convincingly believe in a Higher Power. I have to mention here that I have always believed to a certain degree, but faith or spirituality has never really been a cornerstone of my existence. Yet, nothing quite makes you believe in the miracle of life like a little human growing inside your belly. The mere thought of having created life with life is mind boggling and although it can so easily be explained by science, my heart simply will not let go of the idea that a divine power has to somehow have a hand in creating something as profound as a living human bean, with his own personality, heart and soul.

It is as if having a baby has made my sense of empathy grow. I now really feel for others (even people I do not know) and the difficulty they might be facing instead of merely feigning sympathy because it is the right thing to do. I care, really care, about the well-being of others, about the future of our society and about the fate of our world.

You will remember the picture of the drowned Syrian boy which was circulating in the press and social media in an attempt to show the world the plight of the Syrian refugees, their country ravaged by war, seeking greener pastures. Although a photo like this would have previously pulled at my heart strings, sparking a brief thought or conversation about how terrible this world has become, it would not have affected my daily life in any real way. Now, however, I could not even look at this photo without crying, without sending a prayer to this poor family and for the little boy. The photo and the corresponding thought that a situation so horrific and unthinkable is even possible, still haunts me. It really makes me worry about the countless horrible events which could affect my little family.

Because of this increased sense of empathy, I now am also much more susceptible to negativity, be it negative people, negative emotions or a negative environment. Where I could previously merely shrug off this negativity as something that did not affect me personally, it now disturbs me and it affects my sense of inner happiness and peace. I am therefore now much more conscientious of surrounding myself, and by default my son, with positive energy and people only.

It is important to note however that although I am a lot more sympathetic, I have also become a lot harder in certain aspects. I remember once when I was a teenager arguing with my mother about the existence of a grey area. I was trying to convince her that in life, most things fall within a grey area as most things (people’s actions specifically) are dependent on the framework within which they occur. More specifically people’s actions are clouded by their circumstances, i.e. a thief for example steals food not because he wants to be a criminal, but merely because he is hungry. When therefore judging a person or a situation, one should look at the whole picture and judge accordingly. In a grey world (instead of the black and white world we currently live in), the thief in my example would thus not be sent to prison, but rather be rehabilitated through education, helping him with a job etc.

My mother did not agree with me and she was of course right (as mothers usually are). The world is black and white and there is only right or wrong, there is no in-between. So even though I have more empathy for others, having Bean (who I am so fiercely trying to protect) has made me realise this: a society in which we can function freely and safely (the type of society I want my son to grow up in) cannot be established based on a grey area. Invading a person’s privacy, or stealing food from someone, food which was going to feed their family, is wrong, regardless of how hungry the thief is. I of course still feel for the plight of the hungry thief and would try and help through various charities, but my son’s individual freedom and safety is of utmost importance.

Becoming a mom has caused the shortfalls of our world and our society to come into stark perspective for me. I am now responsible for a life, a life outside of my own – a life which I, in fact, love more than my own. I want my son to grow up in a better world, in a world filled with goodness, a world where people help each other, a world devoid of negativity.

As Ghandi said, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. By living this, we not only affect our direct environment with a positive change, we set the example for our children.

Picture Credit: http://www.canva.com