A Second Pregnancy: The Good and The Bad

The pregnancy test is sitting on our bathroom counter and although I try to ignore it while it is ‘thinking’, I cannot help but stare at the screen in anticipation. Finally, the result is in and instead of the expected ‘Not Pregnant’ sign, the result is positive. Elation, joy and gratitude all wash over me as I call for my husband to come to the bathroom QUICKLY! Then, as he walks in with our almost two-year-old in tow, I feel a surge of panic and guilt.

Unlike my first pregnancy, which was mostly characterised by an almost naive joyful anticipation, I am overwhelmed by feelings of guilt toward our first born (how could I share my love and devotion toward him with any other being?), guilt toward this unborn little miracle growing in my belly and the utter fear of having another baby, another newborn to contend with. Although most people say you forget how hard those first couple of months with a new baby can be, I remember them all too clearly.

It is as if this second pregnancy is simply less important, less of a milestone than the first. People seem less enthusiastic, less eager to find out how I am (it’s not like I haven’t been through this before, right?) and, at the same time, I am a lot less fussed, often forgetting exactly how far along I am, not obsessively checking how big the baby is every waking moment of every day and simply moving on with life (I still have a two-year-old who needs my full attention after all).

It makes me feel like I am somehow depriving both my kids of the complete attention and total love which they deserve because I now will have to be shared.

And yet, at the same time, I often catch myself lovingly stroking my growing belly, waiting in excited awe for another small little kick as I sit and play with Bean. I might not be as rough and tumble as I once was with him but I do still shower him with admiration, love, discipline and devotion. Things are changing, but change is not always a bad thing – soon Bean will have a little brother who hopefully will become his lifelong friend and ally. Our family will grow and instead of sharing the love we already have; our love and hearts will grow and expand to include this new life.

When the fear of another (unknown) newborn phase grips my heart, I try to focus on the good: that unmistakable baby smell, that first smile, the tiny little hands and feet, those special baby cuddles, and I get gleefully excited. I envision how gentle and loving my big-hearted and kind Bean will be toward his new brother, how our new little fire will grow up with love and admiration in his eyes as he follows his older brother around the room. I smile as I think of sibling fights, followed by love and laughter and I want to literally jump for joy when I think of our chaotic and busy family life, those busy little toddler and baby legs keeping my husband and me on our toes.

Of course, there will be hard times, added financial stresses, there will too many things to do at once and we will be tired, but as any parent knows, the good will definitely outweigh the bad. It will be ok. It might actually be wonderful.

The Day My Life Stood Still

Written by: Guest Writer

“Wake up Pascalle! Wake up!” That is all I remember in that moment – those seconds which felt like hours. I felt like I was in a movie – you know the part when the actress gets world crushing news and the camera zooms in on her face and the background blurs, as if the life around her is collapsing? That is how I felt as I sat on the toilet, staring down at the blood soaked toilet paper I was clutching in my hand. Just staring at it – and mentally yelling at myself to wake up.

I was 7 weeks pregnant.

In that moment, I knew. This is the beginning of the end.

Getting myself to my gynae is a blur, but I remember scrutinising my gynae’s face as she did the scan whilst I bled on her bed. I remember jumping from her face to the screen – trying to figure out what was happening, even though I knew in my gut. “We need to do blood tests to check your HcG levels – you may be too early to show a heartbeat.” I knew that too was a cover – I was over 7 weeks. Heart beats can be seen as early as 5, and there was nothing on the screen. I was laying in the hospital bed when she came to see me. “I am afraid it isn’t good news”, she said. My levels had dropped by over 10 000 in less than 2 weeks and a DNC was necessary given that I had started to miscarry.

1 in 4. That’s what all the articles say. Well – I am the 1 in 4. The 1. Why couldn’t I be the other 3? What have I done that is so bad in my life to be the 1? Why would God give me this child for 7 weeks – and then snatch it away? Had I done something wrong, eaten something? Drunk something? Maybe I shouldn’t have cleaned the kitchen cupboard the night before. What does this mean for me now – what would people think? Was it a boy or a girl? Would I now need to endure the torment of sympathy from others who had no idea what was happening to me? Would my husband look at me and see me as a broken woman who couldn’t carry a child?

People would say “Everything happens for a reason.” “Rather it happen now than later on.” “God does these things to test us.” “Don’t worry – you will have another one.” “Don’t let this define you.” “You need to carry on – life has to go on.”

It was and still is relentless. All I wanted to do was punch them in the face and tell them to piss off and leave me alone. Because the thing is, those who have never lost a child don’t know. No matter how old. No matter born or unborn. No matter 7 weeks or stillborn. It was my child. My baby. And I was its mother – and I couldn’t protect it from what was happening. It was out of my control.

I tried to seek solace in blogs by other moms – but there was something “off”. The hidden raw truth. The things that no one wants to say. The reality of it all. So here goes my version. This is what I know.

1. Cry

Cry, by God just cry. Who do you need to hold it together for? You have just lost your child. A child you never knew and never got see grow up. A child that held a future and was taken too soon. Cry. Cry when people are looking and when they are not. Just cry. I read a quote that resonated with me. It goes: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give by cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

2. Write

People said journal. So I did and it helped a bit. But what helped more was writing to my baby. I wrote letters within days filled with tears and apologies and love. Letters telling my Peanut to ask God to tell him/her all about me and Daddy. And to ask Papa to show him/her how to make his coconut ice. When I told people this they looked at me like it was unhealthy – and this brings me to my next point.

3. Screw other people

This is your process. Your time. Your loss. People will try to get you to grieve and move on at a pace that makes them feel comfortable – but it will not work. Do things your way. Grieve your way. And stop trying to be strong for other people so that they don’t feel uncomfortable around you. This is happening and it is a real thing, and if people can’t handle witnessing it – then they need to buzz off until they can.

4. Remember your husband

This was shocking to me. As a mother, people hug you. Ask you if you are okay. Buy you flowers. Sit at your bedside. Wipe your tears. And all the while, there he stands quietly in the corner. Looking at you and you see it in his eyes. He is broken too. His world is shattered too. He has also lost his child. Remember your husband. You need to allow him his turn to grieve – you need to make sure everyone knows that he too is devastated. He deserves just as much attention and sympathy as you do. And this will no doubt be one of the bad times you spoke to in your vows. This will test your marriage. Just make sure you remember him too – two is better than one when facing a life-altering trauma.

5. Make peace with God

I was mad. And when I say mad – I was swearing at God. Telling Him that this was IT. I was done with Him and His way and His Truth. “Put your faith in God.” That was the most important thing I learnt growing up as a Catholic. And I did and NOW look! I hated Him and in those dark days after – I swore to never pray or go to church again. And then, a few days later I was writing to the Peanut and was so worried about where he/she was and I had this overwhelming sense of peace. Like as if He was saying: “The Peanut is with me.” And that’s the thing – faith. It’s a wonderful and treacherous thing at the same time. You just have to have faith that God has a bigger plan – and He gave you this because He knows your soul, and He knows that you can and will endure. Then being the 1 in 4 seemed like an opportunity. As if He had given me this path for a reason and He knew I could handle being the 1. I have made peace with God – and whatever it takes, you need to do this too – in your own way. And sometimes it is hard – I still question Him on bad days, but life is hard enough without having to hate the one Supreme Being.

Maybe I will have a baby one day. Maybe I will be blessed enough to hold my child and look into bright healthy eyes. Count the ten fingers and ten toes. Peer over a cot with worry to make sure my baby is still drawing breath. Panic when they bump their head or when their temperature sky rockets.

I guess that’s the message. Life. We take it for granted. We assume it won’t happen to us. We assume our baby will be fine. We assume we have one more chance. We assume we will see our loved ones again. We assume all the time.

To the other moms who have never experienced this (and I pray you never will) do the rest of us a favour? Kiss your child one extra time tonight. Hold them a little longer when you give them that hug. Appreciate the tantrums and screaming and cheekiness that boils your blood. Count the ten fingers and toes. Breathe and remember you are lucky to be the 3 in 4. Do this for the rest of us, until we can do it ourselves.

My Special ‘The Usual’ Mother’s Day

If there is one word which sums up life with a toddler, it is the word ‘repetition’: the continuous words of admonishment (‘don’t touch that’, ‘it’s hot’, ‘get down from there’), the almost constant wiping up of spills and cleaning up of messes and the ever-repetitive cycle of ‘silence-crying-consoling’ because the said words of admonishment have once again fallen on deaf ears (‘what does mom know anyway, right? I mean, how hot can that heater really be?’).

And yet, in between this draining repetition, there are moments of pure ingenuity. Moments of surprise in which I stare at our son with wonder and laughter. The moment when Bean decided that it was a good idea to unpack all of, and I mean ALL of, my unused plastic packets in order to create a blanket, for example, or the moment he decided to take my basting brush, dip it into the water lying in one of our vases and to then clean the table, or the moment when he grabbed a ‘poon’ (spoon) from the drawer to fix his toys (‘I fitsin, mom!’).

6

Bean and his plastic-packet-blanket

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His workshop is ready, now all we need is his ‘screwdriver-spoon’

Last year marked my first ever Mother’s Day and I had high (ok, very high), expectations of this day. I imagined that it would be nothing short of fireworks, rosy cheeks and laughter. The reality was, of course, a little different: although I did get the gift and the cup of coffee in bed, it was just another day. Because nappies still need to be changed, kids can be difficult and yes, I am not the only mother in the world deserving special attention (shocker!).

So, this year, I decided to focus on the moments of ingenuity, magic and wonder, to embrace the usual, to relish in the every-day things of being a mom. Because, that’s what I am: a mom to an energetic, challenging and kind little bundle of toddler-love. Today, I am thankful to be called ‘mom’, I will change those nappies with joy and I will repeat words of love as often as I repeat everything else.

Yes, today is just another day, and it is wonderful.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Posting Pictures of your Kids Online – What You Need to Know

Being an avid social media follower, I didn’t put much thought into posting pictures of my little Bean online after he as born. I posted pictures shortly after his birth, pictures of our first family outing, pictures of our first family holiday together and much more – these were special moments in my life and, as such, I wanted to share them with my friends and family. With social media being such an easily accessible medium of communication and such an integral part of our daily lives, it was only logical to upload them, share them and to immortalise these memories & moments forever.

I have, however, recently stopped uploading any identifying picture of my little guy (hard as it is sometimes – he is just the cutest after all) and here are the reasons why:

He is His Own Person

Bean, little as he is now, will grow up to become a teenager and adult, who like the rest of us, will want to establish his own online profile and persona on social media. I doubt he will like the fact that the internet is already filled with baby photos and cutesie little moments which might make him cringe (I keep thinking of certain #proudmom moments I have witnessed: a photo of a girl using the potty for the first time, a photo of a boy running around the garden naked and a birthday party photo of a crying one-year-old). I will, of course, give him access to all these photos and videos, but I want him to decide what he wants to share about himself. It is his life after all.

Geotagging of Photos

Did you know that unless you have disabled this function, most modern-day smart phones automatically embed GPS location details into all your photos?  And that these geo-locations are uploaded to any social media platform as part of your photo? As a blogger, I cannot help but live in the public eye, and information like this scares me. It scares me because it means that criminals and predators can see where I am (if I am posting live) immediately and they can get access to my home address, as well as the address of Bean’s school or day care, or any other significant address which might be embedded in any of my photos.

Photo Theft, Manipulation and Loss of Photo Rights

Once the photo is online, you lose control of it: it is stored on a server you have no control over, it can be tagged and shared by friends who might not have the same privacy setting as you and it can be stolen, downloaded and manipulated (without you even knowing about it) to be used by strangers, predators and paedophiles.

Even if you delete the photo from your account (or you delete your account in its entirety), the photo may have been shared to other profiles or tagged by an active account user. It is also stored and backed-up on the social media platform’s server. This means that once the photo is uploaded, it can never be removed. Let that sink in for a while.

Another very important fact is that certain social media platforms give themselves licence to use your photos as they see fit. This means that once the photo is uploaded, you have no control over what that site may do with it.

How to Securely Post Online

Should you still wish to post photos of your children online, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Think before you post – who might see/share this? And keep in mind that once it’s uploaded, it’s up. There is no back button.
  • Check the photo for any identifying details which could lead a predator or criminal to you / your child (for example, a car registration number, a name of your school in the background etc)
  • Check your privacy settings
  • Read the terms of conditions of your chosen social media platform
  • Know your friends – go through your list of friends and decide whether they are good friends who you trust or just some random acquaintance who could potentially bring harm to your family? Delete the friends who are not really friends – this is not a popularity contest.
  • Disable GPS functionality on your phone
  • Do not allow other people to post pictures of your children without your consent (and be firm)
  • Do not post pictures of other kids without consent

 

How do you feel about posting pictures of your kids online, dear reader? Tell us!

5 Tips to Beat Sleep Deprivation

If there is one thing that we as a human race should invent, it has to be a system to store sleep. We live in a world filled with technological geniuses who create new inventions almost daily and yet no one has been able to find a scientific solution to the very common problem of sleep deprivation, except, of course, to tell us to sleep more. But as every parent knows, sleep is one luxury that is in very low supply.

This weekend, for example, we went on a much-anticipated date night. When we got home, tired and ready for bed, Bean was wide awake. With difficulty, he finally fell asleep around 2 am, only to wake up again at 6 am. Now, how absolutely amazing would it have been if we could have simply tapped into a supply of stored sleep, instead of getting through our day like a pair of zombies?

Seeing as our scientific community has, however, let us down in this department, I have put together a list of 5 tips to help every parent deal with the continuous lack of sleep.

  1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself

I get it, you are tired. Being a parent means that you probably didn’t get enough sleep last night, or the night before, or even the night before that, but wallowing in a sea of self-pity will only make the situation worse and bring unnecessary negativity into your life and home.

These sleep-deprived days are exhausting, but you need to ‘man up’ as they say, make the best of the day ahead and trust that one day you will sleep again.

  1. Share the load

Take the night and early morning shifts in turns, ask someone to watch your child while you have an afternoon nap (even a 15-minute power nap can work wonders) or indulge in a sneaky snooze while your child naps (the dishes can wait).

If you have no one to share the sleep-deprivation-load with, take a couple of minutes out of every day to simply be. Sit down somewhere alone and just breathe, centre yourself. I often have an extra-long shower in the morning and most of this time is spent simply standing still, letting the water wash over me. It is the only time I have to just be and I relish it.

  1. Ditch the Caffeine & Eat Healthily

Yes, I know, ditching caffeine sounds counterintuitive – coffee is what makes me get through most mornings as well. The good news is that you do not have to give it up altogether, simply in the afternoons and evenings. Believe it or not, sleep is the best cure for sleep deprivation (insert sarcastic wink here) and the best way to guarantee enough sleep is to sleep when your child is sleeping. And that means going to bed early. Having too much caffeine during the day will prevent you from doing this.

Our body gives back what we put into it and the best way to refuel those tired old bones is to eat good food. I can feel the negative effects on my body when I have over-indulged in the bad stuff (specifically food high in preservatives, trans fats, colourants and sugars). I therefore try and stick to a healthy, natural diet, including as many super foods as possible, and it has had a huge impact on my daily energy levels.

  1. Exercise

The benefits of exercise have been well-documented so I am not going to list them all here (you are all aware of them), but I will note that exercise will make any tired body and mind feel refreshed and awake. I often go for early morning walks with Bean (even when I am really tired) and although it feels like a drag in the beginning, those endorphins soon kick in, making me feel fantastic, refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

If you do not have the means or the time to go to the gym or for a long walk, create your own 15-minute exercise circuit at home. You do not need a lot of space or time for this and best of all, your littles can join in on the fun.

  1. Limit screen time before bed

A while ago, I got into the habit of checking my phone, scrolling through all my social media feeds, before going to bed. Not only did this prevent me from going to sleep at a decent time, it often woke me up more when I saw something interesting. I soon realised that this ‘always-on’ mentality is encroaching on my much-needed sleep time, so I stopped it. Now, I read a book: it allows me to escape, to switch off from my daily troubles and to fall asleep peacefully.

A bedroom is supposed to be a sanctity for rest, so remove all screens from your room and invest in an alarm clock. Allow our mind to switch off properly before going to bed.

Maybe one day, we really will have a way in which we can store sleep. For now, the good news is that as our bodies get accustomed to less sleep, we have the opportunity to experience more of our daily lives and our kids in the limited time we have.

Finding my way through the ‘Terrible Twos’

Bean and I are playing outside, blowing bubbles, and he decides that he wants to try to blow his own. He asks me for the container and as he unscrews the lid, he tips the container over, pouring the soap onto the grass. He cries, turns around and runs away, arms in the air. Once he calms down, I ask him for the now empty container back so that I can throw it away and fetch a new one. As I reach out for the container, he throws himself on the ground, crying.

Later, Bean asks me for an ice lolly, or rather shouts ‘Icy, icy, icy!’ at the top of his voice while running to the fridge. I ask him to say ‘please’, so Bean starts crying and runs away, arms flailing. He then calms down and reiterates his severe need for an ice lolly. This time I cave, giving it to him. I, however, forget to place it in his bowl first, so off Bean runs, again, crying and distraught.

I think it is safe to say that the ‘terrible twos’ have officially arrived. And it is not fun. I feel disconnected, like that confused, anxious and scared mom of a newborn baby, unsure of what to do, petrified of somehow damaging my child for life and so drained by the (what feels like) almost constant crying and whining.

I understand that Bean is merely growing up, that he is trying to assess his independence, that he is frustrated by his inability to do so and that everything is exacerbated by that fact that he cannot yet communicate effectively. I get that he is trying to establish his boundaries and I am fully aware that all he needs from me at this stage is patience, love and positive guidance. But, goodness, it is hard –  where has my sweet little boy gone?

As I navigate my way through this new phase of parenthood, I try to ignore the tantrums by simply walking away. In an attempt to teach him how to communicate, I try to talk about every detail of our lives, I explain our actions, reactions and the subsequent consequences, and I ask him ‘why’ when he simply says ‘no’ to everything.

I try not to lose my patience and I try to set a better example for Bean when I get frustrated with something. I try to be more assertive when I set boundaries and I discipline when he tests them.

Above all, I try to find the positive side, the humour, in these difficult situations. Yesterday, for example, Bean found my secret stash of nail polish while I was getting dressed. Excitedly, he decided that he wanted to paint my toenails. ‘Mama, auf (open)’, he said, pushing the nail polish into my hands. Being slightly pre-occupied, I explained that now was not the right time to do this, asking him to pack the nail polish away. His response: silence. ‘Good’, I thought, ‘he listened’.

A few minutes later, as I was distractedly looking for my mascara in the drawer, I felt something wet on my toe. I looked down and there was Bean, crouching over my feet, in deep concentration, painting my nail. The jar of nail polish in his hand was upside down and my beige bathroom carpet now had blotches of pink on it.

Although my first reaction was to shout, upsetting Bean and causing another tantrum, I realised that he was merely trying to do what I do. So, while my little neat freak was trying to ‘meam’ (clean) the carpet with an entire roll of toilet paper, I tidied up the bathroom, grabbed my things, put Bean in the car, and bought a new bathroom mat. We needed one anyway.

This phase, like the ones before, will pass.

Marriage and the Little Things

My husband and I are celebrating our 5-year wedding anniversary this week and, as usual, we almost forgot about this significant milestone, my husband frantically phoning the latest must-visit restaurant for a last-minute booking. Neither of us was surprised that this day almost passed us by without even a mention – this is exactly what A and I do after all. We never make a big deal out of our love; we simply do not do big displays of affection. Instead, we focus on the small things, the small acts of love which show us that despite our routines, child- and work-driven lives, we still care.

This morning, for example, A could go into the office a bit later than usual, so instead of our normal, rushed, morning routine, he got up, fetched Bean from his cot and made us a cup of coffee, letting me lie in for an extra 5 minutes. Not only did this give me a little bit of much-needed peace in our busy lives, it showed me that he cared – he sacrificed his extra lie-in time to give me a break.

And that to me is the crux of a good relationship. It’s not about the big displays of love, the extravagant outings or the expensive gifts, it’s about the daily acts of kindness, the spontaneous kisses, the gentle touch of a hand. Sure, the big things are also important – they give those special days that special feeling. But a relationship cannot survive on the big things. No, relationships survive on the little things.

It’s that extra shared cup of coffee in the morning even when he is running late, it’s cooking his favourite meal even though she doesn’t really like it, it’s unpacking the dishwasher so that she can have an extra-long shower. It’s the shared smile across the room, it’s the joint laughter at something silly and it’s telling her that she is beautiful. It’s the sheepish smile and the bad joke after a fight and it’s his gentle hug when she is crying.

These are the things that really matter. These are the everyday moments of sacrifice and gratitude, the small acts of love, which make me choose A, and our joint lives, over and over again. It’s these small, seemingly insignificant things, which make me look forward to the next few decades, because, when I look back on our marriage one day, our lives so inextricably linked, I want to remember the way we made each other feel, the moments of laughter, joy and love, not the fancy restaurant we visited.

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.

 

Didn’t I tell you not to do that?

A while ago I wrote a post about needing to discipline my Bean. A few months have since passed and I thought I would share my progress, and the lessons I have learned along the way, with all of you. Before I dive right into the various scenarios however, I thought I should first give you some background about certain aspects of my personality:

I am a perfectionist control freak, convinced that I can control every aspect of my life so that everything is always exactly as it should be, exactly as I have planned it. Being this person, I am of course also a neat freak obsessed with cleanliness: everything has its place in the house and if something is even slightly out of place, I go a little bit mad. Although I mostly manage to control this obsession, I do sometimes get into these tunnel-vision-like cleaning modes, when I dart around the house like a meerkat, my hawk-like vision zooming in on messy or dirty spots, and I do not rest until everything is just perfect.

Now, imagine my surprise when Bean arrived with his very own strong-willed personality, meaning that although he does sometimes listen, he often decides that his way is the better way and subsequently simply ignores his mother’s attempts at discipline (something he inherited from me by the way). This of course infuriates and frustrates me and although I do recognise the behaviour in myself, I often lose my patience and then always feel guilty almost immediately after.

You could reason that he simply does not know what the word ‘no’ means but Bean definitely does. Yesterday for example, I was on the toilet and Bean, not wanting me to ever feel alone, graciously decided to be my audience. I realised that there was no toilet paper left and so I asked Bean to fetch a roll from our second bathroom. Let me just add here that he is well aware of what toilet paper is and where it is kept – to my dismay he loves playing with it and it does not matter where I hide this über-desirable toy, he will find it. But back to the story at hand: as I asked my son for help, he looked at me, his eyes starting to crinkle into a smile and responded quite emphatically, ‘No!’, after which he started to giggle gleefully, fully aware of what he had just said.

Bean has recently started the habit of rushing off to our TV room sofa and climbing onto it, whenever I give him a snack. This of course means that he smears whatever snack is in his hand into the suede fabric as he climbs this specific mountain. Once he makes it to the top, he proudly smiles at me and sits down to eat. As this is quite endearing, I have decided to leave him be (against my own rules, but, he does stay off the other sofas and chairs, I persuade myself) and in order to appease my own neat freak tendencies, I usually hover around him, wet cloth in hand, ready to clean up any mess. So, the other day, I gave Bean an ice lolly with a word of warning that this particular snack can only be eaten in the kitchen. As I was preparing dinner, my back turned, I however noticed that my sweet child was slowly edging away from the kitchen into the direction of his much-loved sofa. I admonished him with another word of warning and as he came toward the kitchen, I turned my attention back to cooking dinner, confident that he had listened. About five minutes later, I looked up and glanced over to the sofa, only to stare straight into my son’s big blue eyes, the sofa now a mess of melted orange juice. I was angry. Immediately I stormed over to him, told him, ‘No!’ in my sternest voice, grabbed the remainder of the ice lolly and stormed back into the kitchen. Bean, baffled, stared at me until all of a sudden he climbed off the sofa, ran over to me in the kitchen, grabbed the wet cloth out of my hand, ran back to the sofa and started to clean! My son, broad chested, with a cheeky grin, looked at me proudly and I had to laugh.  I had warned him that I didn’t want a mess on the sofa after all.

First lesson learnt: be a better example. Bean started to eat on ‘his’ sofa, because he sees A and I doing it all the time and he simply cleaned up the mess because I am forever cleaning. (On a side note, he has started to clean everything all the time, which makes me wonder how often I run around the house in meerkat mode with crazy eyes).

A few days after the sofa incident, my husband and I were both sitting at the dining room table, working through our taxes, while Bean was running around the lounge, playing. We interacted with him every now and then but for the most part he was delivering his usual monologue while entertaining himself. Suddenly it became quiet (yes, that peaceful sound everyone yearns for until they have a toddler to contend with) and my husband looked up, his eyes expanding in surprise. I turned around quickly, only to find Bean casually sitting on our coffee table, peacefully pulling apart my plants. Instead of being angry, I laughed – my little boy was now able climb on top of the table! I immediately grabbed a camera and started snapping away, until I realised I should actually be angry. My smile faded and I gently asked him to get down (which he did without a fight).

Second lesson learnt: it’s OK to let kids be kids sometimes. I will of course teach him (consistently) that he should not climb onto tables from now on, but in that moment, he was simply a little boy, learning a new skill. Sometimes we just need to let go.

Being a toddler who struggles to communicate his needs and wants effectively, Bean often gets frustrated, so much so that he started hitting me a while ago. This is, of course, not acceptable, but I soon realised that raising my voice and shouting at him in these situations only seemed to make things worse. So, instead, I started to teach him a positive action (a loving stroke) to replace the hit whenever he raised his hand. I consistently did this (and I still do it to this day) and he has stopped hitting me all together.

Third lesson learnt: be consistent and respond positively to negative actions.

Although I am here to teach my son life skills, he in turn teaches me about life and one of the biggest and most challenging lessons I am now faced with is that everything in life does not have to be perfect. Although there need to be certain boundaries and certain rules in life, it’s OK if things are not always 100% as planned. Kids need to explore and learn and they cannot do this if they are always being controlled and always being placed into moulds.

Let them break the mould every now and again – with our positive guidance they will create their own moulds soon enough.

 

 

When Kids are Mean

The other day we were sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and Bean was busy exploring, when a mother with her two sons walked in. The younger of the two must have been around 3 or 4 and my 16 month old took a liking to him immediately. He promptly grabbed a children’s book (the first thing he could grab), ran up to the boy with the biggest grin on his face, saying “oooh ooh ooooh” and excitedly tried to give him the book. My heart almost exploded with pride – my little Bean was trying to make a friend! The boy, however, did not think this as cute and promptly waved Bean away. Not in a rude way, but rather, in a confused, ‘I did not expect this boy charging up to me as I was peacefully following my mom into this strange room’ kind of way. My heart sank, but instead of interfering, I decided to watch what would happen next. A little confused by the rejection, Bean tried to make contact again and followed the boy around for a good couple of minutes. The boy however simply did not want to play and after a while Bean gave up, walked over to me with his thumb in his mouth and climbed into my lap.

A few days later, we went to friends for lunch. Another couple and their daughter, who is a few months older than Bean, were also there. Although this girl was initially quite sweet to Bean, something made her angry and she became mean, once purposefully pushing him into a wall and another time yanking at his hair, hard.

I interfered both times: the first time, to take Bean out of the situation and to console my hysterical child, and the second time to calmly tell the girl that she must please be gentle with other kids. Her mom of course also got involved and the rest of the afternoon went by rather peacefully, everyone having a good time.

This scenario reminded me of yet another incident, when we were at a playgroup and one of the older kids decided it was a good idea to throw balls at Bean’s head. That day, I kept quiet, not wanting to reprimand someone else’s child. In retrospect, however, I should have said something. Not something mean, or derogatory, but something firm and gentle. Just a simple, ‘balls are not for throwing at other people’s heads, why don’t we kick the ball instead’.

What upset me the most about all the incidents described above was not that the kids were mean or shy or indifferent, but rather, that Bean could not understand why they were acting the way they were. He could not understand that the child in the first incident was probably just a little bit shy, or a bit confused as to why he was being bombarded with a book. He could not understand that the little girl was probably feeling threatened or that the older boy was probably simply seeing what would happen if he threw a ball at someone’s head.

Being a mom, I want to protect my Bean from indifferent and mean people, I want to protect him from heart ache and I wish there was a way in which I could always protect him from the very many negative aspects of this world. But reality is, I can’t.

We as parents set the example for our children and although I do believe that children need to learn to fight their own battles, they learn how to act, react, and how they fight these battles, from us. By saying something, standing up for my son, I want to teach and encourage my child to stand up for himself. Not in a mean way, but in a fair, firm and gentle way. I want to teach my child to have enough self confidence that he will not allow himself to be bullied, I want to teach him enough empathy to stand up for those who are and I want to instill enough discipline in him not to become the bully himself.

As the Dalai Lama so poignantly said, “It is vital that when educating our children’s brains, we do not neglect to educate their hearts by nurturing their compassionate nature”.