Family breakdown is such a big issue in our society today. I feel very fortunate in that it hasn’t affected anyone in my immediate circle of family and friends, but my daughter has been exposed to it for the first time through school. In Birdy’s class there is a little kindy boy, called Josh whose Mum and Dad aren’t together. He lives mostly just with his Dad, but his family situation is fairly complicated. It didn’t take long before my daughter wanted to know why his Mum didn’t live with them as well.
Family breakdown is a pretty scary topic for a little kid to understand.
We haven’t really had to discuss it until now. I didn’t want to hide it from her. But I also didn’t want her to worry that something like that might happen because it is a bit frightening for kids. So Chris and I together explained that sometimes when Mummy’s and Daddy’s aren’t getting along they have to live separately, but that they still love their kids just as much. We talked about it a little bit, but I also reassured her that we are a family and we will stick together.
It’s so important for children to feel safe and secure within the family unit.
This was brought home to me so strongly just the other day. I was walking to school with my daughter and Josh was also walking with his Dad. When we stepped out to cross the road, I was holding Birdy’s hand on one side and Josh reached out for my spare hand. At first I was reluctant to hold his hand because I don’t know him or his father very well. But as we continued crossing, he kept reaching for my hand and I didn’t have the heart to reject him so I held his hand. As I did so, he looked up at his Dad, then he looked at me with a big grin on his face and said, “It’s like we’re a family!” That just broke my heart.
“It’s like we’re a family.”
Obviously families come in all shapes and sizes and lots of things can happen that are beyond people’s control but there is within us that fundamental yearning for family, for a sense of belonging. Wherever possible, it is important for kids to have time with their Mum and their Dad together. Even if Mum and Dad are separated. They want both their parents at their birthday party, their school concert, their soccer grand final. We went through a period when I was working during the week and my husband was working on weekends, when it was rare for my daughter to be home with both her parents. And she would often say to me, “I don’t want just Mum or just Dad, I want both my Mum and Dad.” They need quality time with the whole family, whatever shape that takes. If there can’t be both Mum and Dad, then it might be with Aunties or Grandparents, or with adopted grandparents even, but they still need that sense of belonging to a family group.
That’s why it’s a good habit to make a regular time for family time.
At the moment our most regular family time is usually Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday nights when we go to church. But I also make holidays a big priority because that’s when you really get to spend a lot more time together – we’re actually away on holidays at the moment. We don’t have a big budget for holidays, so we usually keep it pretty simple, but I think it’s so important to have that regular time when the whole family is together, so the kids feel really strongly connected to the family unit.
For families that are undergoing a separation, there’s a very helpful picture book called Mum and Dad glue by Kes Gray. It’s about a little child looking for a glue that can stick Mum and Dad back together. “My mum and dad are broken, I don’t know what to do. My mum and Dad have come undone, I need to find some glue. I need a pot of parent glue, to stick them back together, I need to patch their marriage up, I need to make them better.” It’s a really sad story, but the conclusion of the book is that Mum and Dad will always love their child, and that’s a love that will never be broken. I think it’s a really helpful book for kids who are either going through a separation or seeing someone else they care about going through it.
It’s that time of year isn’t it, where the dreaded winter colds and flu work their way through the entire family?
The bug we had started with my husband, then went to me, then the baby and then my five year old. It started with an incredibly sore throat, followed by a soaring temperature and a cough that just won’t shake. Unfortunately, when you have young children, you can’t just go to bed for two days, you’ve still got to look after the kids. So even though every part of my body was screaming at me to put my head under a doona and not emerge until the sun had risen and set at least twice, the reality is that when your sick baby cries you have to drag your sorry, fever-riddled body out of bed and look after her, no matter how bad you feel.
There’s no sick leave for full-time parents.
There were about three days when both my children were really sick with high fevers. It was the first time I’ve ever had to look after two sick kids when I was also sick. I found it quite stressful. One of them would be crying while I got water and medicine for the other, or I’d try to get Birdy in the bath to cool her down, while Molly would be crying, wanting me to feed her or pick her up. I felt like I was being pulled in opposite directions. I particularly found it hard to see the baby suffering because she’s normally so happy.
At one stage, Birdy even said to me, ‘Why are you looking after Molly all the time when I’m the sickest?’ Ouch.
One trick I learned was that it worked better if I actually staggered their paracetamol so that it wasn’t wearing off at the same time. After about three hours the paracetamol wears off, but you’re not allowed to give another dose yet. If their Panadol wore off at the same time, then it was really ugly. So I found that by staggering their doses two hours apart, one of them would be crying, while the other was still sleeping peacefully in pain-free bliss. A good trick for new players.
The worst thing about being sick was the isolation.
We were housebound and didn’t see a soul for ten days. It’s hard for the kids to understand why they can’t have their friends over. After a week of having my sick, grumpy daughter home from school, I was starting to go a little bit stir-crazy. When Birdy was really sick, she just wanted me to sit with her all the time. I’m not someone who can sit still for long. All I wanted to do was go on a house-cleaning germ blitz.
But I would have to sit with Birdy while she watched countless episodes of Charlie and Lola or Mister Maker, because she was too sick to do anything else. Then when my husband would come home from work the first thing I’d say would be “Right, you lie on the couch, while I wash every sheet, towel, pillowcase and curtain I can find.” I like to feel like I’m doing something to fight the sickness, but all kids want when they’re sick is somebody to sit with them and hold their hand. And sometimes that’s all you can do. Just sit with them and wait until they get better, even if it takes ten days.
At the time, it feels like they’re never going to get better, but once it’s all over, you think, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad after all.” Now that Molly is smiling again and being her usual gurgling happy baby self, the world looks a whole lot brighter again.
Have your kids had the winter lurgies? How do you cope with being housebound, or having sick kids home from school, pre-school or daycare?
So we had a tiny little celebration for Molly’s christening last weekend.
Well it was tiny compared to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
OK so it was a little on the large side for a christening. But not without good reason.
Firstly, our pastor of more than ten years is leaving church in a couple of weeks, so it was a chance to invite back some of the church folk who have moved on in the last few years.
Secondly, we wanted to have a big celebration. There were many years where it was hard to find anything to celebrate.
When you’ve had a lot of losses, you have to celebrate your wins.
After so many losses, having Molly is the biggest win I’ve ever experienced. I think the people who were there understood that and that’s why they put in a big effort to be there.
It was a long journey to having Molly and it took place over quite a few years. Because of that, there were a lot of people who were part of that journey and I wanted to include as many of them as we could. For us, the point of having the party was to say, ‘Thankyou for sticking with us, for thinking of us, for praying for us, for being our friends, even though we’ve been a little absent during the past four years.’ Unfortunately, that never actually got said. My husband was intending to give a little speech to that effect, but he came down with laryngitis, was terribly unwell and had to leave the party early. As for me, I didn’t trust myself to speak without crying. That’s why I’m writing instead. I can cry as much as I want and nobody needs to know.
So we had a lot of people. And some people will no doubt think we went a bit OTT. (Over the top.)
But here’s why:
I invited you because you were the only person who’s been through what I went through and you showed me every time that you still cared about me.
I asked you because of that time you shared with me about your own miscarriage or infertility and made me feel like less of a freak.
I invited you because you told me that you believed I would have another baby one day and you because you cried with me when I told you about what happened to us.
I wanted you to be there because when I was completely alone in my bubble of grief you tried to understand what I was feeling and you because you sent me that card or gift to let me know you cared about my loss.
I asked you because you called up my husband and dragged him out even when he was in a slump of sadness and you because you kept calling me, even when I didn’t have the energy to call you back.
I wanted to share this day with you because you dropped everything to come and pray with us in our crisis and because you cared enough to tell us what you really thought, even though it wasn’t what we wanted to hear.
You had to be there because you cooked us those amazing meals when I was so weak and exhausted that I couldn’t walk across the room without feeling feint and you should have been there because even though you live far away you called to tell me you were thinking of me.
I thought of you because you’ve always been such a faithful friend to me.
I wanted you there because when I told you I was expecting Molly you were happy for me, even though it was inconvenient for you and you because I was touched by the joy you poured out on me when I told you my happy news.
I wanted you there because you always prayed so beautifully for me and for my unborn baby and spoke the very words my heart needed to hear.
I remembered you because you helped me so kindly after I fell and hurt myself when I was so worried about my little treasure.
I thought of you because when I arrived at work sleep deprived and anxious about another ultrasound, always expecting that this might be the last day of my fragile happiness, you asked me how I was feeling and listened when I answered.
I asked you because when I was scared your smile cheered me up and your laugh made me laugh.
I wanted you there because when I texted you to tell you that we’d just had the 20-week ultrasound and that everything was OK, you told me you had tears streaming down your face, thinking of all we’d been through.
And I thought of all of you because when our baby was born you were so happy for us, and you showered us with generous gifts and kind words, even though you may not ever have your own baby to cherish. Your generosity of spirit overwhelms me.
So while it might seem a little over the top to have so many people to celebrate one little baby, each of you is somebody that I wanted to be there, that I wanted to thank for being part of our journey. And it wasn’t just for one little baby – it was for six little babies who didn’t make it and the one who did called Molly Jean Macdonald Roe.
PS. A few people asked me about the song I sang at the baptism service. It’s a Waifs tune called ‘Eternity’. You can view it here. During one of my early pregnancies, there was a time when we knew the pregnancy wasn’t progressing as it should and the baby’s heartbeat wasn’t strong. We thought this baby was likely to miscarry but his or her heart was still beating. I felt torn. I wanted to grieve the baby I was likely to lose, but it didn’t feel right to grieve over someone that was still alive. This song gave me the strength I needed to keep loving that baby for as long as it lived. I sang this song to my baby over and over for a week. When we returned for the next ultrasound, I was devastated to discover that the baby’s heart was no longer beating. When my pastor asked me to perform a song at the christening I knew this was the song I had to sing. It was a joy to sing it to Molly on her christening day. Unfortunately I couldn’t share this story at the christening either, or I wouldn’t have been able to sing.
My eldest daughter started kindy this year. I’m very new at being a school parent and it’s been a steep learning curve for us all. But now that we’re four months into the school year I think we’re finally starting to get the hang of doing homework.
I don’t think we ever had to do homework at such a young age.
I know we had to do the occasional project and I remember that we used to go home with spelling words to learn in the primary years, but we certainly didn’t have homework in kindy.
It can’t hurt to get into good habits of learning and being disciplined.
I was talking about this with my husband. He said he didn’t do any study at all in all his 13 years of school. If he had assignments, he did them the night before. He still struggles to be organised and disciplined and I think it’s held him back a little in some areas of his life. So he certainly wants to see our children form good habits around study and discipline.
The other good thing about homework is that it gives parents a chance to see what their kids are learning and how they’re going with it.
My daughter just gets two pages to complete and they get the whole week to complete it. Homework books come home on Monday and they have to be handed back in on Friday so it’s not too bad.
For first term we were really quite haphazard with doing homework. The first time she brought back homework, Birdy was so excited she did it straight away. But she was also sometimes diving in when I wasn’t able to supervise properly – like when I was cooking dinner or feeding the baby. So sometimes she was starting it, but not finishing it, or working in pen and making mistakes and crossing them out, or not following the instructions properly – it was all over the place.
It all came to a head about two weeks ago.
It was Friday morning and her homework still wasn’t finished. She was supposed to be finishing it while she was eating breakfast. I turned my back for five minutes and when I came back, she was cutting up bubble wrap and dipping it in blue paint to make a cloudy sky picture. Very creative and all, but not getting the homework done!
That was when I thought: this just isn’t working! Something has to change.
Now we have a designated homework time. Homework has to be done between 4pm and 5pm on Tuesday afternoon. No play dates. No TV. No playing outside. And either myself or my husband has to sit with her the entire time and supervise properly. Not half supervising while talking on the phone or cooking dinner but really giving it our full attention. So we tried it for the first time last week and the difference was amazing! She still did all the work herself, but it was so much better, so much neater, and it was all finished in one easy sitting. Then when it was finished I said, “Well done, you can watch TV for half an hour now!” So I hope we can stick with that routine and make homework easier for everyone.
Do you think kids get too much homework now? Do you struggle to get them to complete it? Do you think it’s a helpful skill for kids to learn to do homework, or is too much pressure on children and their parents?