A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Monthly Archives: November 2012

A few weeks ago I had my twenty-year school reunion!  That shows you how old I am.  It’s always fun to get together and reminisce about the old days.  But what I really noticed this time is that people don’t just remember the good things – a lot of people recall the hurtful things that happened at school.  One girl told me that in the Year 12 common room, the cool kids sat closest to the coffee machine and the daggy kids sat closest to the toilet.  She said that she was such a dag, that she had to sit right outside the toilet.  I had no recollection of that, but for her that was a memory that still lingered.  Another friend reminded me of some of the cruel names she was called in relation to her body shape.  Again, I had forgotten that, but for her it was still a very strong and powerful memory.

I never had that experience of being name-called in high-school.  In primary school I got all the usual names for my red hair, but that only ever came from the boys.  Nobody teased me about my red hair in high school, probably because I went to an all-girl school.  I do remember people commenting on how skinny my legs were and telling me I had chicken legs.  During the first week at boarding school, while we were walking to dinner, the housemistress commented on my skinny legs.  Then in front of all the girls she asked me if I had to have callipers on my legs when I was a kid because it looked like my legs were so weak!  Thanks for that!  Really sensitive!  And 25 years later I still remember it!

Everybody is going to be singled out or teased for something at some stage.

Last week Birdy came home very upset because two of the boys in her Scripture class had called her a very rude word.  She was actually so upset that she didn’t want to say it.  Eventually I got her to write the word in air, but there wasn’t really any positive interpretation I could put on it for her.  So we just had a cuddle and we talked about how it feels when people say mean things.  I hope that will help her to develop a bit of empathy and not say things like that to other people.

When I was a kid and I would get upset about being teased or excluded, my mum would always say to me, “You just be your sweet self and they’ll love you.”  Mum’s philosophy was that if somebody was unfriendly or consistently snobbed you, you should try to win them over with kindness.  It was good advice and one that I still try to follow, but after 37 years, I’ve realised that it doesn’t always work.  So I also tell Birdy that it’s okay if somebody doesn’t like you.  Sometimes despite our best efforts, people are still unfriendly.  So I also tell her, you can’t be everyone’s friend, but you can still be friendly to everyone.

As parents, we can’t fix it when people say things that hurt our kid’s feelings or when their friends tell them they don’t want to play with them.  But we can make sure that home is a refuge for them – that when our children come home they know they are safe and loved and that they can tell us anything.  And it reminded me of the importance of having that time together at the end of the day.  Birdy only told me about what happened because we were winding down at the end of the day and the things that were on her mind came tumbling out.  It’s so important to have a meal together or to make time for a cuddle and a chat to help kids deal with whatever is going on at school.

If a child is getting teased or excluded at school, it’s not just upsetting for the child, it’s also upsetting for the parents.

I sometimes worry about Birdy because she’s such a sensitive child – she really takes things to heart –  but I know there’s also a positive side to that, which could help her be sensitive towards others.  Going to my school reunion really helped me have a long-term perspective on these things.  Both those girls who talked about being teased or excluded at school have gone on to have successful careers, they’ve got families of their own and they’re happy and settled in life.

As a parent, of course you want to see your child happy and settled at school, but even if they do have a hard time fitting in, it will pass.  They will find their friends and their place in life and they will learn to get over the names they were called.  It doesn’t have to hold them back and it doesn’t mean they won’t go on to be happy and successful in life.

Were you teased about something at school?  Has your child found it easy to make friends?  How do you help you children deal with it when they are teased or excluded?

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Photo by A Badenhop

Tomorrow Molly is officially one.

This time last year, I was the size of whale, eating lots of curry, drinking my raspberry leaf tea and walking the streets trying to get my body to go into labour.

In fact the last thing I did before I gave birth was buy a teddy bear, and have a cup of tea and a red velvet cupcake at Pattison’s in Chatswood before going to hospital.  I was actually in labour at the time, so I can’t say I enjoyed the cupcake all that much, but I was excited about finally meeting our baby!

We had a very small party to celebrate on the weekend.  It’s different with a second child though.

When you have your first baby, their first birthday is all about saying ‘We made it!’ because, let’s face it, the first year with a baby can be a pretty big shock to the system and the first birthday party is the light at the end of the tunnel.

But second time round, I haven’t felt that at all.  There’s never been that sense of it being difficult or something to struggle through.  Instead, I feel sad that my first year with Molly is drawing to a close.  How can it be over already?  Where are all the photos I should have taken?  I don’t want her to turn one!  I love having a baby in the house, but soon my beautiful baby won’t be a baby any more and there’s nothing I can do to slow down the clock!

So I want to share with you some of the things I’ve enjoyed about Molly’s first year.

–       Just the other day my husband reminded me that Molly came to us at the end of a very dark time personally, and she really has brought joy and light back into our lives.

–       Babies spread joy wherever they go.  People become a lot nicer when you go places with a baby.  Whether it’s at the supermarket, or walking around the city, everybody smiles at you when you have a baby!

–       A baby brings the family together.  We spent the weekend celebrating not just Molly’s birthday, but also the christening of my godson, Callum.  In both cases it was lovely to see the way a baby brings family and dear friends together.  My family and friends are very spread out, but whenever there’s a birth or a christening or a first birthday party, people make an effort to be there!

–       A baby makes you slow down and live in the moment.  You have to put the baby’s needs first.  Sometimes that just means holding them while they fall asleep, or cuddling them when they’re feeling sick.  There’s something about meeting another person’s physical needs that puts everything else into perspective.

–       A baby reminds you of who you are and who you really want to be.  You don’t really know each other yet but from their very first day you’re helping to form their character.  Having a baby inspires me to want to be more patient, more kind, more compassionate, more considerate and more loving, in the hope that I can not only be a better parent but also to try to model good things to my children.  (It doesn’t always happen, but it gives me a reason to try!)

As much as it’s lovely having a baby, it’s also exciting to see more of their personality emerging. 

The other day, Molly was clowning around at the dinner table, trying to make us all laugh.  It was really fun to see her interacting with the rest of the family like that!  It’s exciting to see her becoming her own little person.  She’s also decided now that she’s a big one year old that she wants to feed herself!  We saw the first signs of a tantrum about this just yesterday.  I’m not quite so excited about tantrums and toilet training and climbing out of the cot, but I remind myself that they’re all steps on the pathway to independence!

Happy first birthday Molly, my darling.   You are beautiful, precious and very much loved!


Last week I gave a talk to some new mums at a playgroup on the Challenges of Raising Small Children.  After the talk, one of the mother’s approached me to ask about her son’s speech.  He was two years old, and she was concerned because he was only saying about twenty words.  I reassured her that that’s quite normal with little boys.  In fact my nephew barely had any words at two, but suddenly at two and a half, his speech took off.  Now he’s almost three and you can’t shut him up!  Questions about speech are one of the most common concerns new parents face.  Why isn’t my baby talking?  Are they normal?  Do I need to worry?

There seems to be a big variation with what’s normal for baby’s learning to talk.

There are so many factors involved.  Girls often seem to develop their speech earlier than boys.  Eldest children seem to develop more quickly than second and middle children, perhaps because they get more focussed attention.  Personality may also be a factor.  Some people are more communicative than others.  Some kids don’t even try to speak until they can do it perfectly.

Sometimes the difference is less about what they can say and more about how good their diction or pronunciation is.  I often think that children have more words than adults give them credit for, but if their speech is unclear then people don’t always recognise that they are speaking.  And then because they don’t get the response, they’re less inclined to use their words and more inclined to use other ways to communicate.

 

Daw, daw, daw, daw, daw!

For example, the other day, I was addressing some envelopes and Molly kept stealing my pen and trying to write on the envelopes.  She did this a few times, and each time I took the pen back off her and said ‘No’. Then she swiped the pen for the last time, tapped it repeatedly on the paper and said, “Daw, daw, daw, daw.”  I don’t know if she was consciously saying the word ‘draw’, but she was definitely trying to tell me something.  When I realised, I said, “Oh you want to draw Molly?” and a huge smile broke over her face, as if to say, “You finally got the message Mum!”  It is so important to listen and respond when our babies do speak to us!

Here are a few other simple ways you can encourage your baby’s speech development:

1) I’m a big believer in talking to your baby about whatever you’re doing… “Let’s change your nappy” or “Yum apple!”  I get a lot of strange looks in the supermarket, but I just commentate as I go and it does help them learn the meaning of words.

2) Leave gaps in your conversation for baby to fill.  They learn to take turns in conversation long before they can say any meaningful words.

3) Reading books from an early age also helps with speech and language development.  Point to the pictures.  Then ask your baby to point to the pictures.  A few weeks ago I picked up a book I’d never read before and asked Molly, “Where’s the cat?” and she pointed straight to it.  It’s amazing how much they understand if you give them a chance to show you.

4) Singing and nursery rhymes are another good way your baby learns about words and sounds.  Look your baby in the eye when you sing or speak to him and let him copy and take turns.

5) Be responsive and reward your baby when she does speak.  If she puts her arms in the air, wanting to be picked up, you can encourage her to say ‘up, up’ and reward her by picking her up quickly when she does.  Sometimes babies don’t speak because they don’t need to, they can get the same result by crying or whingeing… so when you respond think about how much you want to guess or anticipate your baby’s needs and how much you want him to communicate with words or signs.

Finally if you have concerns about your baby’s speech it’s always worth going to a health professional or speech therapist, as there may be an underlying issue, such as problems with hearing, developmental delay or autism.

Do you have concerns about your baby’s speaking?  How have your children been different in their speech development?  What tips do you have to help your baby’s speech develop?


This week bubby learnt a new trick – she’s crawling!

I’m very excited about this because for the past few weeks she has been wanting to crawl and getting really frustrated that she couldn’t quite make it happen!  She would get up on all fours for a few seconds, then she’d get stuck, fall down and cry, which was really distressing to watch.  Then slowly she started to take a few small crawling steps.  Now after about a week of practicing, she is on fire.  Nothing can stop her.

Doesn’t it just change your whole world when they start moving?

I think I’ve lost about two productive hours out of every day.  There’s about two or three months of heavenly bliss when your baby learns to sit up, but they can’t yet move.   You can pop them on their play-mat with a couple of toys (or even better a cereal box or an empty milk bottle) and they’ll sit and play quite contentedly while you potter around them, cooking or cleaning up.  Those days are over!  Now I have to be on high-alert every minute because bubby is on the move.

Have you ever had that moment where you’ve turned your back for half a minute, then turned around again and your baby is nowhere to be seen?

That’s happening to me about five times a day now.  One minute she’s there.  Then I go answer the phone or make a cup of tea and suddenly she’s Missing In Action.  Somehow in that thirty seconds she’s squeezed herself into the tiniest hiding space available, like under a dining chair or behind a door.  Otherwise she’s made a beeline for the grottiest, most disgusting thing in the house and started licking it.  I don’t know what it is about the bin or the dustpan or the mop-head that makes a baby want to put it inside their mouth!  I mean once you’ve tasted the dust-pan, why would you want to go back and taste it again?  And once you’ve eaten one snotty tissue out of the wastepaper basket, why would you go back for seconds?  I’ll never forget the time I turned around to see Birdy pulling the legs off a dead cockroach – that image is etched into my brain forever.

It’s not just grotty things that babies go for, they’re also inexplicably drawn to anything electronic or dangerous.  What is so appealing about an i-phone charger? 

Not only is it dangerous because of the electricity, but it’s also a perfect strangling hazard.  So of course she makes a dash for it again and again!  Then there’s the breakable hazards – glass lamps, glass photo frames, wine bottles – all the choking hazards we have lying around the house – little Polly pocket toys, those stupid little Kinder surprise toys, hair clips, five cent coins – there’s all the poisons she could drink or eat – hand creams, medicines, dishwashing liquid, cleaning products – all the things that could suffocate her – like plastic bags and glad wrap and the strangling hazards like curtain chords, skipping ropes, belts and necklaces!  It feels like the whole house is booby-trapped and I spend my entire day pulling things out of her mouth!

I’m going to have to start baby-proofing the house, moving things up high, putting in those annoying cupboard locks and baby gates. 

I haven’t really got to that yet, but one thing the crawling has forced me to do is keep the house a little cleaner!  I have admitted on this blog before that I’m not the best housekeeper, and I have to confess that I put off doing jobs I don’t like, such as mopping and vacuuming.  But it’s a little embarrassing when your baby ends up with huge black stains all over her knees and her bottom because the floor is so gross!  So if nothing else, Molly’s newfound skill has forced me to break out the mop and the vacuum a little more often, which I’m sure my husband will be very pleased about!

Do you remember what it was like when your baby started moving?  How did it change your life and routine?



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