A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Monthly Archives: June 2009

As I mentioned last week, we’ve been on holidays.  We spent some time down at beautiful Jervis Bay, one of the most un-spoilt parts of the NSW south coast. And we thought it might be nice to take Birdy on a whale-watching cruise.  There were a number of families like us who were taking little kids on the cruise, anticipating the joy on their children’s faces when they saw whales and dolphins in the wild.  But as soon as we got out on the open ocean, they were all throwing up.  One of the other two-year-olds puked and then when straight to sleep.  Birdy just got sick and went to sleep on my husband’s shoulder. As you can imagine, he had a fantastic time, holding a sleeping child and trying to throw up over her shoulder without waking her, which provided the other passengers with some light entertainment.

But of course it was all worth it when we saw the whales… um… what whales?  I saw a tiny little spout of water in the distance, but that was it.  No whales, no dolphins. Not even a tuna fish. Apparently there was a whale out there but he was very camera shy.  And none of the kids saw anything because they were all asleep.  Apparently that’s what kids do when they get seasick… I don’t know why they don’t put that on the brochure.  Who wouldn’t want to pay $150 so their kids can throw up and then go to sleep?  But I think it’s funny how sometimes as parents we put so much effort into planning an outing with our child and then when we get there it might be a total disaster.

I remember when Birdy was about one and a half, I got all excited about taking her to see the baby farm animals at our local shopping centre. But once we arrived, she wouldn’t go near the animals, she just cried and wanted to be picked up.  I also very clearly remember our first zoo trip.  The thing Birdy got most excited about was seeing herself in a mirror. That was a little disappointing… What’s that old saying?  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink… There’s really no such thing as compulsory fun, is there?

Have you ever planned an outing or a holiday with your kids that went really wrong? Or has there been a time when your best efforts ended in disaster? You thought it was going to be a wonderful day out, but your children had other ideas… If your child cried through an entire Wiggles concert, or got scared by the crowds at the Easter Show, we’d all love to hear your disaster stories.

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While we were on holidays, my husband and I took Birdy to our local bowling club to enjoy an afternoon drink.  (It was raining and nothing else was open.)  As she was sipping her milk, my husband asked her if Teddy might like some milk too.   “No Dad,” she said, “Teddy’s not real.  Teddy’s only pretend.”  “Oh, I see,” Daddy replied.


As I mentioned last week we’ve been doing a lot of driving, because we’ve been on holidays and as I talk to other parents on my travels, I’m starting to feel that I’m part of a dying breed, because I don’t have a portable DVD player in the car.  And we do fine.  But so many parents tell me they would not go on holiday without it.

We’re always hearing that kids watch too much TV, but until you have kids you don’t realize what a godsend TV can be.  Sometimes I wonder how our grandparents survived without it.  I’d never get a shower in the morning without Iggle Piggle and Upsy-Daisy!  (Which tells you something about my life!)

So how do we figure out how much TV is too much?  If only there were a magic formula!  You’ve got to think about both the quality and the quantity and the only way you can judge it is by the effect on the child.  I let Birdy watch about an hour every morning , because if she watches more than that, she starts to get grumpy and irritable when it goes off, and has trouble focusing on other activities.  So that’s when I know she’s watched too much.

But of course, the other issue is what they watch.  I know if Birdy watches anything flashy or fast or even slightly scary she won’t sleep well.  So I try to make sure programs are age appropriate, although obviously that might be hard if you have lots of kids of different ages.  Even something as seemingly harmless as Toy Story or Finding Nemo, which is great for a 6 year old, might be scary to a 2 year old.

For me, that’s the advantage of DVDs over free-to-air television.  You can watch a program with your child and see how they react to it.  Then you know exactly what they’re watching and they can watch it again and again.  Whereas if you just plonk little kids in front of the tele, you don’t know what they might see in the shows or the ads.  My daughter used to sometimes watch Trotro, until my husband and I watched a couple of episodes, and saw how naughty he is!  So that show is blacklisted in our house now.  Even Birdy knows she has to turn of the television when Trotro comes on.

How much TV do your children watch and does it have any effect on them?  What do you think are the best kids shows and are there any you’ve blacklisted?  Do you have any rules about watching TV in your house?  Are you a fan of the portable DVD player? 

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Well I’m away in the country at the moment down at my parents’ place, which is an eight hour drive from Sydney.  And long drives are always a challenge with kids, but this time it was a particular challenge to find healthy food to eat.  Because we needed to be quick, but I didn’t want to just fill Birdy up with junk.

I generally try to avoid the fast food chains, but sometimes when you’re travelling on a public holiday there’s nothing else open.  The thing is that if you stop at a bakery or greasy corner store and your child eats a pie or some hot chips, it’s not ideal, but it’s not necessarily habit forming. The problem with the fast food chains is that they’re so strongly branded that kids get to recognise them and then you’ve got to deal with the pester power every time you drive past.   And I find wherever we stop, it’s really hard to find anything healthy for kids to eat.  Even kids menus in cafes tend to be all chicken nuggets and chips.

Even when we’re not travelling it can be difficult to get our kids to eat well, and we go through periods where we’re just desperate for them to eat anything, (Birdy’s so skinny at the moment I’m throwing corn chips at her to fatten her up) but I think you’ve got to take a long-term view.  But I have picked up some tips from reading and talking to other mums…

–          Modelling is obviously important, because children learn their eating habits from adults.

–          Avoiding commercial television makes a massive difference, because kids seem to be really influenced by advertising.  Australian kids see on average 2200 junk food ads on TV a year so it’s no wonder that 1 in four kids are overweight or obese.

–          Get kids involved with the shopping and the menu plans and the cooking because it gets them more interested in eating

–          And I think offering a variety of healthy foods is good so they can choose what they like, without having World War 3 over the dinner table.

–          And I personally believe that food shouldn’t really be used as a reward or punishment, because it can create unhealthy attitudes to eating that carry over into later life.

If you’re particularly interested in this issue, the Cancer Council, along with several other public health organisations are running a campaign to ban junk food advertising to kids.

www.burgercorp.com.au

Do you have trouble getting your kids to eat healthy food, or even just to eat any food?  Do you have rules about eating, for example, you can’t eat dessert unless you finish all your dinner, or do you take a more laid back approach?  What about the idea or using food as a reward for good behaviour?  Are your kids overweight, or are you trying to fatten them up?  How does it work in your family?

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Hi everyone, Those of you who regularly read this blog will have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet lately.  I’m taking a bit of a break after going through a time of personal trauma over the last few weeks.  No doubt in time I’ll be able to write about it, but not just yet.  I’ve really enjoyed our conversations here, so I hope you’ll be patient with me and check back in the weeks ahead.  My husband and I are needing some space at the moment to deal with our sadness.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog,

Love Katrina



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