A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Monthly Archives: April 2009

I had my graduation from Uni this week.  I got my Masters in International Relations, so my dedicated parents drove eight hours from their home in the country to come to my graduation.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but I was really surprised by what a great day it was.  And I realized that even at 34 years of age, it still made me happy to know that my parents were proud of me. 

As a parent, I couldn’t help imagining Birdy walking across the stage while the Professor mispronounces all her middle names.  But then I had to remind myself that Birdy might not want to go to College or Uni, she might not want to study at all!  She might want to be a bookseller or a tour guide or a pastry chef, so I have to let her choose her own path.  And I also need to make sure she knows I’m proud of her, not just for what she achieves but also for who she is.

So I’ve been thinking about when I’ve been most proud of Birdy.  I was really proud of her when she recited Where is the Green Sheep? word for word before her second birthday.  But I was also really pleased the other day when she shared her last Easter Egg with her little friend at the park.  I was impressed when she sang the alphabet song for the first time a few months ago, but I more touched after we waved goodbye to my parents on Wednesday.  When I said I was feeling a bit sad, she picked me a flower and said ‘This is for you to make you feel happy again.’  And I thought: well it’s one thing to know your alphabet, but it’s so much more important to learn how to be kind and loving.  So it was a good reminder that we need to let our kids know that we’re proud of them for who they are, as well as what they achieve.

When have you been most proud of your kids?  It could be for something they’ve achieved or it might be a time they showed unexpected kindness, maturity or thoughtfulness.  Whether they were nine months, nine years or nineteen, what have your kids done to make you proud?

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Well we’ve had a very destructive week, I’m afraid.  Birdy has been breaking things.  She knows she’s not allowed to touch the DVD player, but this week she broke two of her favourite DVD’s, trying to get them out of the DVD player.  One was a brand new Dorothy the Dinosaur DVD (Sorry Charlie) and the other one was an autographed Colin Buchanan one (Sorry Al).  They’re both completely un-useable. Then on Tuesday, Birdy snapped her beautiful sparkly purple sunglasses in half. (Sorry Michelle).  Maybe it’s time to move the crystal wine glasses out of the display cabinet, just in case.

Kids will always break things – that’s inevitable – whether it’s just because they’re curious, they’re uncoordinated or they lack discernment.  Kids can’t always distinguish between what can and can’t be fixed again or between what is and isn’t breakable.  So it seems a bit mean to punish them for breaking things if it’s a genuine accident.  In this case, I did punish her for breaking the DVD’s because she knows she’s not supposed to touch the DVD player.  So our punishment was to ban her from television entirely for two days.  (Two days doesn’t sound like much, but to a toddler, it’s a long time.)  With the sunglasses, I felt more unsure, because it probably was an accident… (I break a pair of sunnies every second week myself!) But I decided to punish her lightly as a way of telling her that I want her to be more careful with her things.  After all, she’s two-and-a-half, not a baby, practically old enough to get a job (RANT, RANT, RANT)!

The question I’m still wrestling with is whether or not I should replace what she’s broken.  I’m really torn about that.  On the one hand, I want her to learn that when you break something, you have to go without it.  But on the other hand, each of those things was a gift that a friend or family member chose with love.  And it seems unfair to the gift-giver that Birdy has broken them so soon.  I think I might replace them eventually, but not before she has time to miss them a little.  At this stage she’s only broken her own things, not other peoples’ stuff.  And at least she can’t drive yet.  Thank Heaven for small mercies, right?

What is the worst thing your kids have ever broken or that you broke as a child? (I’m thinking about a story involving my sister, my grandmother and a 400-year-old grandfather clock, but it’s not my story to tell…)  Do you think children should be punished when they accidently break something through carelessness or bad judgement?  Is it a good idea to replace things that your kids have broken, or should they learn to go without as a natural consequence of their actions?

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Yesterday I tried to take Birdy shopping.  I wanted to buy something cute for her to wear this winter.  It wasn’t a great success.  I showed her some gorgeous little jeans.  ‘Would you like those, Birdy?’  ‘I don’t need jeans,’ she said, ‘I got my own jeans.’   “How about this cute hat?  Isn’t that beautiful?’  ‘I’ve got my own hat,’ she replied.  ‘I like this dress, Birdy.’   ‘I not need a dress.  I’ve got my own pretty dress.’ 

It’s not as though Birdy doesn’t enjoy wearing pretty things.  Just today she asked me to wear one of her favourite skirts.  It’s just that she honestly believes she has enough clothes.  Why would she need to buy something when she already has one?

So this afternoon we abandoned shopping and went for a walk to our local park.  We stumbled upon a grassy area covered in dandilions.  Birdy was overwhelmed with excitement at the abundance of her discovery.  ‘Look Mum!  Look at all those dandilions!’  Happily we ploughed through the overgrown grass, picking dandilions with reckless abandon, blowing their petals and watching them flutter off on the breeze.  Birdy had everything she wanted.  And so did I.

NB. An updated and revised version of this story is available here https://frommouthsofbabes.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/the-hunt-for-nut-free-easter-eggs-2012/

With Easter approaching, Birdy recently received an invitation to a friend’s house for an Easter egg hunt.  I was really excited because I have fond memories of Easter egg hunts when I was kid.  My family had an acre or so of garden in the country, so we’d literally be finding eggs for months afterwards.  But Birdy has a peanut allergy.  And nearly all commercial chocolate contains traces of nuts.  It’s because of the way that chocolate is manufactured.  Melted chocolate might have nuts dipped in it and then the runoff chocolate might be re-used to coat biscuits or make easter eggs.  That’s why chocolate is one of the most common causes of serious allergic reactions.  It makes an Easter egg hunt a little more challenging for us.

Last year I couldn’t find any nut-free Easter eggs, so I took the moral high ground, and said ‘Easter’s not just about chocolate’ and refused to buy any.  But this year, I started my Easter Egg hunt early, and I’ve found that while the majority of Easter Eggs do contain traces of nuts, you can actually now buy some nut-free Easter eggs at mainstream stores, like Big W.  And they’ve got ‘nut-free’ in big letters on the front of the packaging, which is really helpful.  See below for a short list of nut-free options.

Generally I find people are becoming more aware of allergies, but families without allergies still seem to forget a lot of the time.  Every second week someone turns up at my house with biscuits or chocolates containing nuts, or some kid has a peanut butter sandwich smeared all over the toys at creche.  Once when visiting family, I found an open packet of peanuts on the bottom shelf of an open pantry.  Of course, people make mistakes, but when you’re the parent of an allergic child, you have to check and double check everything, even with your own family, which might hurt people’s feelings at times, but you have to be responsible for protecting your own child – nobody else will.  Sometimes family and friends just need a gentle reminder so they become more aware.  After all, one in every fifty children has a peanut allergy, so as a society we have to get used to accommodating their needs.  One way to do that is to buy nut-free chocolate for your Easter-egg hunt so the kids with allergies can join in too!

Some nut-free chocolate brands available in Australia include:

Kinnerton – Character eggs are available at Big W

Heritage – not all nut-free, but they’re well-labelled and widely available

Sweet William – chocolate and choc-chips are nut-free, dairy free, gluten-free, vegan and surprisingly still taste like chocolate – available at Coles

Please add your own discoveries to the list!

Do you have a child or family member with allergies?  How has your family adapted to their needs?  How do you deal with special occasions like parties and Easter?  Has your child missed out on joining in with other kids in the past?  Are people becoming more aware of kids with allergies?  Do you think parents of allergic children expect too much of others?

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Last week I had a suggestion from a Dad that we should talk about getting kids to bed.  He was writing on a Friday night at 11.15 and his pre-schooler was still up.  Birdy has always been really good at going to bed, so I thought I had this topic totally under control, and then this week, she’s played up every night.  And I mean really played up.

Birdy already has a well-honed repertoire of bedtime antics.  The first tactic is always another story, ‘Read it again, Mum’.  Then, there’s the world’s longest tooth brushing event.  There’s sometimes a request for an additional soft toy, like ‘I need doggy.’  After that, it’s on for young and old.  ‘I need another tuck in.  I need another cuddle.  I need the fan on.  I need the fan off.  I need a short prayer.  I need a big one.  A big, big big, one.  I need a tiny little milk.  I need some water.  I need my sleeping bag, etc. That’s all just par for the course.  But this week she’s been outright refusing to go to bed – crying, screaming and thrashing around.  Part of the problem was that we let her sleep with us for a night or two when she was really sick and now she doesn’t want to sleep in her own bed any more.  I’ve had to be iron-willed, and if I’m honest, even a bit mean to get her to sleep in her own bed, but I know it’s the best thing for all of us.  It’ s a night or two of pain for a long-term gain: we’re all so much happier when we’ve had a good night’s sleep.

That doesn’t mean that I just say no to every bedtime request.  If it’s just blatant stalling, then I’ve found it’s better to be firm.  But sometimes I think it can be helpful to let them exercise a little bit of autonomy at bedtime.  Going to bed is something you don’t get a choice about, so those extra requests might be their way of exerting some control over what happens to them.  So if it’s something simple, like wanting a particular blanket, then I’ll usually honour the request.  However, I’ve also found that even the most innocent habit can turn into a problem.  For example, Birdy went through a phase of always asking for a ‘tiny little milk’ before bed, and for a while we used to give it to her, but then she started drinking it so slowly and refusing to hand the cup over.  So we had to put a stop to the ‘tiny little milks’ for good.

On the question of bedtime routines, I certainly think it’s helpful to do things in the same order each night so they know that bedtime is approaching. I also think it helps if your kids go to bed at roughly the same time each night because then their bodies are also telling them it’s time for sleep.  I know some people let their kids stay up as late as they want, but then the couple isn’t getting any time together in the evening.  I also think it’s nice to make staying up late a special treat for when you have something social on.  If you’re always strict about bedtime, with no exceptions, then you’ll miss out on a lot of fun times together.

What tricks do your kids use to delay going to bed?  How do you deal with them?  Do you use a set bedtime, or just go with the flow?  What do you do with a Jack-in-the-Box who keeps popping up again?  Have your kids ever put on a real bedtime protest tantrum?  If so, how have you dealt with it?

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