Teaching my children swear words.

Yes, you read it correctly, I taught my son swear words.

It all started when I lost my keys and I cursed, “Where are my freakin’ keys!”
Jack quickly exclaimed, “Muuum! You used a bad word!”

I tried to explain the difference between freakin’ and the F word to my six year old without actually using the F word and I thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing? How can I expect this poor boy not to use bad language if he doesn’t know what it is? And how on earth can I teach him what bad language is without using bad language?”
So I asked him if he knew any bad words.

“Yes I do” he said.
“What are they Jack?”
“Fuckin’ and, there’s another one. What’s the other bad word Mum?”
“Shit, the other bad word is shit.”
“Shit! Are there more bad words mum?”
“Yes there are, but let’s talk about those two first.”

I started off by pointing out that using these words would get him into a lot of trouble at school and at home or anywhere. I told him that using these words would end up in punishment and that is why I’m telling him about them. Because it wouldn’t be fair if I punished him for using bad words if he didn’t know what those words are. Just like it wouldn’t be fair to punish him for swinging on the curtains if I hadn’t told him that it was not allowed. He agreed with me. I explained the meaning of ‘swear’ and ‘bad language’ and also that he would hear it from other people, especially other grown-ups.

“Gruncle uses swear words a lot, hey mum?”
“Yes he does my boy, and you should tell him not to because its not nice to swear, especially in-front of children, and sometimes grown-ups need a bit of reminding because they are very busy people.”

We discussed the idea of a swear jar and how he could help the adults he knows and loves not to use bad language and earn tuck money at the same time! He mentioned that the car would be a good place for it. I agreed.
I asked him if he understood everything and if he had any questions. He said he understood and then asked a question totally unrelated to the topic.
I closed the discussion to answer his question by telling him that now that we have had a chat about it and he knows all about swear words, it is very important that he remembers that swearing and using bad language is totally forbidden in our family and he will be punished if it is heard coming out of his mouth.

“I”ll never use those words Mum, I promise, but is a peregrine falcon faster than a cheetah?”

My kids are exposed to profanity often. Of course, I am careful about the language I use around my kids and I do gently remind others if their cursing gets out of hand but I cannot and will not constantly berate my friends and family for using vulgar language in front of them, it’s life and it happens all around them. I cannot protect them from it all the time but, I can prepare them.
That is what I believe I have done here.

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Independence Difference

I thought of a very interesting theory the other day that made a lot of sense to me. So often, I have come across parents who have said that their first child needs more parental attention than their second. So much so, that it got me thinking. I am also a second child and, if I am not mistaken, I recall my mother telling me how independent and self-contained I was as a child. I have experienced the same thing with my own children but, although Jack does need more attention than Lucy, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he is clingy, not at all. I would say that it is Lucy that is somewhat extreme with her independence and sovereignity. So why does this happen? Why is their often such a stark gap of independence between the first two children? I think I know.

If you think about it, the first born child rarely gets a moment alone unless they are sleeping. We are so awed as brand new parents, so overwhelmed, so freaked out! It’s as if your entire future depends on how well you take care of your new baby. He or she is cuddled, passed around, oggled at, fussed over for his entire woken life. In truth, baby number one probably only gets a moment alone once he’s about four or six months old, when he can sit up, hold things and call mama.

By the time baby number two has arrived, the tumultuous dust of parenthood has somewhat settled. As parents, you are FAR more confident and relaxed. You have a “don’t-worry-she-always-has-a-little-choke-when-she-feeds” kind of take on the whole thing. You have the patience and composure to enjoy the little joys of babyhood that you missed the first time round. You also have another child to take care of so, by default, your second child gets a taste for independence much earlier on in life. She is left alone as a little one, not for hours on end to fend for herself, but for 10 minutes there, 20 minutes there. Just being, wondering, on her own, by herself until she no longer wants to be alone and cries. In a life that’s only a couple of months old, 10 minutes is a fair chunk of time and given enough opportunities to learn to be alone, a culture of independence is sown.

Clearly this is not the case with all siblings and parents but i think it clearly demonstrates the benefits that positive time alone can have on a child. I have found that allowing Jack and Lucy time alone as babies is certainly one of the building blocks of their confidence. Courage, self-assurance and problem-solving are born of confidence and you can’t be confident unless you know yourself.

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The Challenge of Quality Time

It’s been too long! Shameful!
I want to write about spending quality time with your children. We are all trying to accomplish this one way or another, some have it easier than others but at the end of the day, it’s about juggling, no matter who you are or where you come from.
I have an interesting way achieving this and it doesn’t involve parks, ice creams, paints or even leaving the house.
As some of you may already know, Jack spends every Thursday night at his Granny and Grandad’s house. This is all well and good, it’s wonderful for him and great for us but what I have failed to mention up until now is how delightful it is, not feel guilty about lavishing all your attention on one of your children and how fulfilling and satisfying it is for them to have both of you all to themselves. On Thursdays its just Chris and me with Lucy in between us. She gets away with a little more than usual, she has a long bath with her mum and plays rough with her Dad, she cuddles us on the couch in front of the TV and lands up going to bed a bit later than usual. She has tea in bed with her mum on a Friday morning whilst gently waking up her dad so they can have a shower together before getting ready for school, all the while, chit-chattering like a little bird eith a very captive audience. Basically, she gets to have all the advantages of being a single child and none of the disadvantages because its only one night. Since realizing this, we have started encouraging Lucy to spend Tuesday nights with her Ganna (my mum) so we can have Jack all to ourselves for a Thursday night/ Wednesday morning. I really think this is such a great idea, especially for families where both parents are busy during the day and evening time is family time. It reduces the amount of sibling rivalry and competition for attention and I genuinely believe it make for a more content household. They miss each other, you can tell by the way they greet each other the next day after school, it is too dear for words. It is eye-wateringly gratifying when your children show affection for each other openly like that.
If you have more than one child, please try this, the benefits are listed longer than my arm. If you have only the one child, the benefits to your marriage/relationship list longer still.
Happy cuddling!

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Homeopathic remedies vs conventional medicine

I think this is perhaps a question that a lot of of mums who were brought up on conventional medicine grapple with.

I decided to try out homeopathic remedies when, at age two, jack was prescribed his fourth course of antibiotics. Although my doctor assured me this was ok… It just didn’t sit right with me. Of course, my main objective is to get my child well again but i felt it was at the expense of his overall well-being, so we went to see a homeopath who was also a GP. I was comforted by the fact that, should we not get any results with homeopathic remedies, that she wouldn’t hesitate to prescribe a conventional medicine. Not so. My experience has left me to believe that your doctor is either one or the other, they cannot be both. It’s kind of like saying, He’s a vegetarian and an occasional meat-eater. At the end of the day, you as the parent need to judge the reesults yourself and decide which route to take. I have to say that I did not get results from homeopathic medicine for the first three years of trying it. Partly because the dosing can be quite a hack (you can dose up to 8 times a day and you need to change the frequency of the dose according to how symptoms have improved or not). So it’s more time consuming and more complicated than conventional medicine.

It was only until recently that I started getting the results I wanted from homeopathic medicine. In a recent post entitled “Dealing with Sickness” I outlined the importance of rather taking the time out to properly focus on getting your child better. Rather than dosing them with codeine or ibuprofen, sending them off to school in the hope that you can keep the wolves at the door until the weekend when you will have more time to get them better? No. Put your life on hold for even just one day to nurture them, reassure them, make them comfortable and cosy, feed them, hydrate them, medicate them. This approach fits in very well with homeopathic treatment because its a holistic view on the child’s well being rather than just a symptomatic view. I tell you it works, it really does.
It is so satisfying to know that you have defeated a cold or flu or whatever, using no harmful ingredients, with no side effects and much quicker than in the past.

One very important message I want to put across is that, yes, the going is good at the moment and the change of season into winter, which is usually the worst time for us as a family in terms of health has gone very well. But I always have my stash of painkillers, cough and cold muti etc. at the ready. If I wasn’t getting results from homeopathy, I wouldn’t hesitate to turn to conventional medicine, I have nothing against it, it has saved me and my family from many a torrid time in the past. As the parent, I am am, thankfully, quite able to switch from one to the other quite easily whereas I do not think its that easy to remain so objective as the practitioner.

In closing, I am happy to announce that I have finally discovered the benefits of homeopathic medicine for my family. I discovered that its not just about the symptoms and the remedies, it’s about the whole well-being of the person. It’s really reassuring to have a milder and less intrusive way of treating illness in my family whilst knowing, comfortingly, that I have a power-house of help stashed in the cupboard just incase. The less I use it, the more powerful it gets.

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Balloon Bombardment for Jack’s Birthday

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Worked beautifully! He loved it! Happy Birthday to my boy star!

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From Boys to Gentlemen. How to ensure your son brings home a lady, not a tramp.

There are many things I wish to teach my son, but one to the most important will be how to treat a lady. By lady, I mean a woman who commands a certain amount of respect from herself and those around her. A lady is what I want my son to bring home one day and these are just a few of the things I think will help ensure that he does.

1. Listen. All a lady needs in the beginning is for you to listen. Hearing what she is saying is not good enough, you need to to listen to what she’s saying and how she’s saying it. Look her in the eye as she speaks. Disagree politely and never exclude her from a conversation. You are strong but unfailingly polite and considerate.

2. For any lady in your company, young or old. Get or pour her drink, open the door for her, help her in and out of her coat, pull out her chair, get the car if its raining, walk on the road side of the pavement, attempt to get the tab twice and no more. Your friends may laugh at you at first but don’t let that deter you because a few years down the line, they will be gawking at the lady on your arm and wondering how on earth you did it.

3. Stand up to greet parents. If you are in someone’s house, whether you know the owners or not, find them, greet them or introduce yourself and thank them for having you. I can guarantee that you will probably be the only one at the party who does this but I promise you that that they will remember you and your manners, whether you are dating their daughter or not.

4. I will teach you to dance, the old way and the new. When it’s time to dance, you need to be confident in the way you move and the way you hold her. No son of mine will take to the dance floor and make an arse of himself.

5. Never smother a lady, rather keep her on her toes than sweep her off her feet. A compliment, when meant, can make a lady’s heart swell. If you do it too often, it loses its effect.

6. When you go in for a kiss, lift her chin or cradle her head, just like in the movies. Im not going to explain this one, just do it, you won’t be sorry.

7. When it comes to sex and her body, think on this metaphor. She can invite you to captain her ship, to navigate and even command but remember, it’s her ship and she is the sea. Above all, no matter what she says, wear a condom!

8. You will never find true love with out putting your heart on the line. You cannot know love fully until your heart has been broken, it will happen and when it does, I will be there to pick up the pieces. If she breaks it a second time, she is solely to blame. If she breaks it a third time, the fault is yours.

9. Stay away from ladies who talk about other people and little else. They are far more trouble than they are worth and still have too much to learn about themselves to appreciate a gentleman such as yourself.

10. Have the courage to admit when you are wrong and never be too proud to say sorry.

11. If you need to end it, there are three major rules. Do so in person, be honest but considerate, keep your distance.

12. In her eyes, how you treat your mother says a whole heap about what kind of man you are.

Any feedback or further suggestions?

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Dealing with Sickness

Just shortie on sickness. I’ve come to notice that so many of us parents get so caught up in trying to juggle our daily lives when our kids are sick. Obviously you want to get them better as soon as possible but you can’t put everything on hold? Well, the truth is, you have to. One of you has to completely focus on the sick child/children and that means that everything else, arrangements, birthdays, school and work etc. will just have to wait. This may sound unrealistic to many but look at it this way. Is it more realistic to put your life on hold for two to three working days or to try and juggle your life, your arrangements and your sick one over five to seven days? I have found that if, when my kids are sick, I stop spinning for a second and rearrange my life for the time being so that I can completely focus and hone in on trying to feed them, make sure they drink and stay hydrated, medicate them or take them for a doctors visit if need be. Bath them, dress them in cosy clothes, make them a nice cup of tea and read them a little story, talk to them about how they are feeling, cuddle them, take precautions so that the rest of the family don’t get sick. You won’t believe how just a little of genuinely focused attention on your sick child can speed up their recovery. It’s actually miraculous. I have found that it is literally the difference between 2 days of intensive care versus 6 days of exhaustive running around. I could go on relaying the benefits to you but I think you can see what I mean. After all, if we can’t take this time to get our children well again, what are we spending it on that is so much more important?

It not her dummy, it’s mine!

My husband and I have been giving each other thumbs up for the past 24 hours because…. Lucy is dummyless! This means that we have officially purged our home of all means of sucking devices wether it be a dummy, bottle, teat or anything in-between. I feel positively liberated! No more losing small parts in a basin of bubbly water, or trying to figure out where the hell to put them in a dishwasher when you just don’t care that much anymore, or worse, discovering you do really care when you find them in the dishwasher filter! Ugh!
From now on, if my kids want a drink at night they can learn how to pick up a cup from a side table, sit up, take a sip and put it back on the table. Hooray for me! No more tea stains on my linen!
So, as you can probably guess, I’m quite pleased with myself but that’s not the reason I’m writing about it. What I really want to express is just how much more this step depended on me rather than on Lucy. I have seen few children as attached to their dummy as much as Lucy was (well, she still is really.). The thought of getting her off it wasn’t merely worrying, it actually frightened me! Such is this child’s self-assertiveness that the thought of taking this dummy away reminded me of beating my own head against a rock… with sharp jaggedly bits sticking out. About a month ago, it was almost as if she got even more protective over it and started carrying two dummies with her where ever she went. Around about the same time, I started getting annoyed with it. My daughter has such a fantastic vocabulary and she communicates so well. Almost every time she spoke to me she would be speaking through this blasted dummy and I would say, as I always have but with an increased tone of irritation, “Lucy, I cannot understand you when you talk to me with your dummy in your mouth, ” and she would take it out and repeat herself.
Then, on Sunday morning, she asks if she could have an easter egg and out of the blue I reply, “the tooth fairy says that I am not allowed to give you anymore treats until you hand over your dummy forever.” It took her about 2.5 seconds to give me both dummies. I don’t know where it came from but I think that deep inside, I had, had enough of this pestiferous pacifier and was ready to let it go. I reminded her that it was forever and made sure she understood and that was that. I think the key is that no-one in the family has made a big deal out of it. I don’t congratulate her on surviving without a dummy because she doesn’t need it and she is handling it beautifully. So am I for that matter! I have made a point of giving her extra cuddles when she is missing it but she has her mousy. Lucy’s dummy has been attached to mousy since she was old enough to crawl for this exact time, so that when the dummy has gone, she has mousy for comfort. See my post entitled, “The Dummy”.
So far, it’s been as easy as falling off a log. Mainly because I realised that it was I who had the aversion to letting the dummy go, as soon as I accepted that and did something about it, so did Lucy. Gotta love parenting, so many life lessons here!

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Mummy, can you come and fetch me.

As you may or may not know, my son Jack has been spending Thursday night with my inlaws since he was about 6 weeks old. There ritualistic input in Jacks life has played a large part in shaping him into the golden-hearted, confident little boy he is.
But last night, something odd happened. I called Jack in the late afternoon for a chat as I always do on a Thursday, and he asked if I would please come and fetch him because he didn’t want to spend the whole night at Granny and Grandad’s tonight.
I spoke to my mother-in-law and she said, “I hope you’re not worried about this little boy?”
Of course I wasn’t worried, he was with his granny, a woman both him and I love to bits, but I was still coming to fetch him.

I am a great believer in my children spending time with close friends and relatives, without me. It builds a special bond between my kids and the people I love which means the world to me, not to mention the time it frees up for my husband and I to spend time with just each other amongst other things. I also maintain that it is a great way to teach my children what is acceptable at home isn’t necessarily acceptable elsewhere and vice versa. I don’t think it’s fair to expect the rules that I have at home to be replicated elsewhere and expect Jack and Lucy to understand and accept that although you are allowed to have ice cream for breakfast on the couch at Granny’s house, it is not something you are allowed to do at home. This is all very well and good and wonderful but there is one rule that my husband and I have. If the children phone and ask to be picked up you NEVER ask them why over the phone. You get in your car and go and fetch them.

The best way for me to explain the reasoning is to paint a picture:
Your child is staying at your sister’s house for the umteenth time and you and your other half have planned a great evening out with friends. In the middle of everything your sister calls and it’s your child on the line saying that he would like it better if you came to fetch him and he wants to stay at home tonight. Your mind starts to race as to what the hell you’re meant to do now and so you ask why and he says that the sore that he had on his leg last week is very sore again. Your sister says you shouldn’t worry and that he really is absolutely fine and that you would drive all the way over there and he would probably have changed his mind and want to stay. She promises to distract him and get him to sleep in no time and insists that you just carry on having a good time. So you put the phone down and continue with your evening.
Each time this happens, your child gives the lamest of excuses and the friend or family they are staying with reassures you that he is fine.

A couple of years later, same scenario but this time he is having a sleep over at a friend from school. You have met the parents and they seem respectable and all is well. The parents looking after your boy get into a heated argument and a screaming match begins. Your child wants out but one of two things will happen. a) he won’t phone you because he knows you won’t come due the b) lame reason he has to conjure for being in the awkward position where the parents are listening to the conversation and he doesn’t want to offend them for obvious reasons.

My mum had a brilliant idea, she actually used to have a code phrase for us like, “mum, I have a sore tummy again.” Which would mean that we wanted her to come and fetch us. She would then say, “do you want me to come and fetch you darling? We would say yes, she would ask to speak to the parent, and that was that.

On the way home, I asked Jack why he wanted to come home, in the end, his reason was as lame as the sore leg of last week. My in-laws have a wooden statuette of a tokoloshe in their lounge that is quite scary looking, I suppose. He said that every time he turned his head, he felt the little monster was coming to bite his bum and he was especially concerned about going to bed, alone, with granny and grandad asleep because the tokoloshe would come and eat him.

Cool, whatever! I mean what is childhood without the fear of being eaten by a little monster in your bed!

My message to you in this post is… listen to your kids. If they want to come home, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is, the fact is they want to come home and they should know without any doubt that if they ask you, you will come and fetch them. By finding a reason not to go and fetch them you are breaking a code of trust your child has with you that has taken a long time to build and is more important than any night out with friends or any special plans.

Over and out good people!

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Mummy can I help you?

“Mummy can I help you?”
This is what I hear nine times out of ten when I’m standing at the kitchen counter preparing a meal for my family. It doesn’t really matter what my answer is because she inevitably goes to the dining room scrapes my poor old antique chair across the wooden floor to the kitchen counter, climbs up and asks me to get her, her apron.
This is Lucy Bella, three year old cook extraordinaire.
As ALL of you reading this will know, cooking for your family is rarely a leisurely affair. Most of the time you are rushing to get it done as quickly as possible so that your family doesn’t eat too late, your kids still have time for bath, story, bed before half seven or whatever time sleep time is. At times like this, the thought of a three year old, even your own, “helping” you in the kitchen is, quite frankly, out of the bloody question. Yet, Lucy’s persistence is dogged and no matter how many times I say no, she still pushes the old chair along to the kitchen counter and for this I have to thank her for she has taught me something.

What I have discovered is, that, when you are busy in the kitchen, or office, or garden or whatever, it is not the mess, the danger or the inconvenience that is the initial deterrent, it is deciding exactly how your child can really help you in your adult world of cooking, working, gardening or grocery shopping. Taking all of 10 seconds to think of just one thing that Lucy could do to help me in the kitchen is all it takes for it to make it ok for her to be there, even during Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals! It can be something as simple as opening a packet of carrots and putting them into a colander or taking the chopped vegetables off the board you chopped them on and putting them into a roasting tray. She can baste the chicken with olive oil or even try to crack an egg into a bowl. If it drops on the floor, it’s a nice treat for the dog.
I have to admit, that Lucy does actually help me. Even if its the tiniest thing, her presence , company and the knowledge that I am passing on an inherent love of food to my child makes the whole experience all the more rewarding. It’s these moments when teaching your child while, at the same time, being taught by them that make parenting, truly, the most magical thing in the world. Thanks my darling girl.

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