A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Monthly Archives: August 2013

This is my last week as a full-time, stay-at-home Mum!

On Monday I am starting back at work, for the first time since having my second bub.

Obviously there will be some women who will choose not to return to work at all, who prefer to be a full-time, stay-at-home Mum forever.  My mother was a full-time mum, and I’ve certainly given it a go. I had three-and-a-half years at home with my first child and almost two years with my second child, but it’s not for everyone.  At some stage, most of us will look at returning to work.

How do you know when it’s the right time to return to work?

I think this is one of the areas where new mums often find that reality is a little bit different to what they might have expected.  I’ve seen women who were determined to be back at work after three or six months totally change their mind when they realise how much they love being at home with their baby.  And I’ve also seen women who thought they’d never go back to work finding that they go totally stir-crazy at home.  But for most of us, there comes a time when we need a bit more stimulation (or income!) and if you’re in that position, then going back to work might actually help you be a happier, better Mum.

What about childcare?  There are so many different types, how do you choose between them?

Long day care, occasional care, family day care, getting a babysitter at home – they’ve all got pros and cons, depending on the age of the child, what kind of hours you need and what’s available in your area.  The good thing about long day care is that it’s very flexible with pick-up and drop-off times and they’re always open, but you might also end up paying for hours you don’t use.  I’ve gone more with family and babysitters and just one day of daycare at this stage, because I want Molly to have some quiet days at home, one-on-one.  But for older children, who are looking for more socialisation and structured activities, daycare or pre-school might be better.

 You often hear Mum’s talking about mother-guilt, but if I think there can be lots of positives about Mum working.

I’m really happy for my girls to grow up knowing they have choices about career and motherhood and knowing that both can be rewarding in different ways.  I want them to see that women can make a positive contribution inside and outside the home.  There are still many places in the world where girls don’t have access to the education and opportunities that boys have. I also want them to learn that there are different seasons in life, good times, tough times, times to take it slowly, times to ramp things up and meet new challenges.

One of the things I’m really excited about for Molly is that she’s going to have some wonderful new role models in her life.  For the past two years, she’s spent most of her time just with me, which has been lovely, but now she’s going to have more time with Daddy in the mornings, more time with her Aunties and also a couple of days a week with some really wonderful, experienced, caring Christian women who are going to babysit her while I’m working.  I’m excited that Molly is going to learn different ways of doing things and seeing things from them, and that she’ll have these people building into her life, loving her, praying for her and spending time with her.   I’m also really looking forward to coming home to big cuddles and hearing all about their adventures at the end of the day!

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I know that purveyors of parenting wisdom always say that the hallmark of good parenting is consistency, consistency, consistency, but this week I decided, on a whim, to let my eldest daughter break one of our family rules.  That rule is ‘no reading at the table’.  Yesterday morning I was eating my porridge when I looked up to see Caillie’s head buried in a book, while her oats sat completely neglected in their bowl.  She was totaImagelly absorbed in a Billie B. Brown book.  For those who aren’t familiar with Billie B. Brown, they’re really short chapter books, designed specifically to help early readers transition into independent reading.
 
Why did I bend the rules on this occasion?
 
It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Birdy sit down, uninterrupted and read a book with chapters from cover to cover.  When kids first learn to read they’ll often choose picture books they already know, or they’ll read bits then skip ahead, trying to glean tidbits of information about the story from the combination of key words and pictures.  But this was the first time I’ve seen Birdy read a longer format book without stopping, without needing help or without skipping ahead to work out what happens.  And it just happened to be on the first day of BOOK WEEK!
 
I know it’s tempting to think that once a child can read to themselves, we can just hand over the reigns and leave them to it, but I think it’s important to continue reading aloud with your child.  It’s a lovely treat to be read to.  It’s the quality time spent together, the physical closeness, the soothing quality of listening to the familiar comfort of the parent’s voice.  But having Mum and Dad continuing to read aloud also enables the child to tackle a wider range of material and read at different levels.
 
For example, on her own, Birdy can only read picture books or short chapter books, but together we’ve been reading the latest Tania Abbey adventure by Penny Reeve, called More than a Mouse.  That book is probably aimed at a 9 or 10 year old.  One of the characters in the story is involved in a really serious car accident.  If a six year old was reading that content in their own head, it would be way too heavy, but when we read it together and we talk it through, she can handle it.

One of the challenges of this new phase of independent reading is that parents need to be aware of exactly what their kids are reading.  Especially once your kids get into upper primary and early high school, there can be some very challenging material in kids’ books.  But unlike movies, there’s no rating system to indicate the content. So just as you wouldn’t put on a movie without knowing anything about it, you need to be continuing to read with your child or reading what they’re reading so you’re aware of some of the issues they might be coming across in books.  All of us who are parents need to be children’s literature experts as well… as if we don’t have enough pressure on us already!


In my last post I talked about my daughter’s athletics carnival.

That day she came home with a sticker that said ‘I ran in a race’.  Whoever is making those stickers is making a fortune because everybody there had one.  There was no ribbon for getting third in the longjump, but every kid got a sticker that said ‘I ran in a race.’

I realise that this is designed to put the emphasis on participation, rather than winning.  But I am not sure why we feel we have to reward kids for doing something that everybody has to do anyway.  We’ve created a culture where kids won’t do anything without being rewarded, even if that reward is just a sticker or our praise.  The obvious problem with that is that it creates a sense of entitlement, where they’re always looking for a reward, rather than a sense of achievement.  But it can also mean that they’re reluctant to try something they’re not so good at, because they’re looking for the gold star, rather than a chance to learn something.

Birdy has a natural ability for Maths, and she was put in a Maths group with some very bright kids.  But ever since she heard that her report card last year said she was ‘outstanding’ at Maths, she’s been trying to convince us that she’s hopeless at it, that it’s too hard, and that she needs to go down into a lower Maths group.
I have a bad mum confession to make, we didn’t get Caillie’s maths homework done last week.  No excuse, we just didn’t get to it.  So last night I said ‘You’ve got to do last week’s homework before we start this weeks.’  ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘but there’s no point, I won’t be able to get it marked.’  So I explained to her that the point of doing maths homework isn’t just to get the smiley face and the sticker, you’re actually meant to learn the stuff.  At which point she said it was too hard and she couldn’t do it.  So I sat down with her to supervise and when she finished I said, ‘See that wasn’t too hard’.  ‘Yes it was, it was way too complicated’.  And I said, ‘But you got every question right… How can it be too hard if you got every single question right?’.  Well, the reason she thought it was too hard was because she actually had to work out the answer.  She didn’t just know it immediately.  She’s used to it being easy and that makes her feel clever.  Hence she wants to go into a lower Maths group, so she can just know all the answers and feel like she’s clever.  And that’s the problem with giving kids gold stars all the time, that feeling is addictive.  They become more concerned with the reward, or the ‘clever feeling’ they get from the reward, than the learning outcome.
I’m a bit of a slave driver when I supervise homework.  I’m always saying, ‘Is that your best work?’. ‘That’s too messy, rub that out and do it again’.  But that’s because I’m a big believer in the idea that the best reward is the satisfaction of a job well done.  I would rather do half of it properly, than race through just to finish.  So the only reward Caillie gets from me is, ‘Good on you, you’ve finished it,’ or ‘That’s enough, you’ve worked well.’  But you know what, after we finished the exercise, and I pointed out that she got all those hard questions right, I told her it was time for a bath, and you’ll never believe what she said:  ‘Oh, No, mum!  Do I have to?  I want to do more homework!’

Birdy getting her third place in the long jump.

Birdy getting her third place in the long jump.

Firstly, apologies for the hiatus in posting.  I’ve had a few computer problems lately, but they’re sorted now!

My daughter had her very first athletics carnival a few weeks ago.  I wasn’t expecting great things – she came fifth out of seven in her heat – but she did pick up a third in the long jump.  We were all pretty stoked with that.  There are some families for whom the swimming carnival and the athletics carnival are the highlight of their calendar. They always come back laden with ribbons and trophys.  For others, there’s the ever-present fear of being the last kid in the pool, or being left behind drowning while everyone else is already enjoying the sausage sizzle..

I was very average at athletics.  I used to do okay in the long distance races, but with swimming I’m sure I had lead weights in my legs.  My husband, however, was a natural swimmer.  I like to joke that it’s because he’s less highly evolved; he has extra-long Neanderthal arms. I’m not too fussed about whether my kids win races or not, but I think it’s good to get into the spirit of these days, because they can be a lot of fun.  However, recently I’ve noticed that kids’ sport seems to bring out both the best and the worst in people.

I heard two very different stories from friends on Facebook recently. One friend was threatened by a fellow parent for defending the referee, who was a 13 year old boy.  A parent got quite aggro at the boy, so naturally my friend was sticking up for him.  Next thing you know, the Dad wanted to fight him over it.

On the other end of the spectrum another friend posted this beautiful story.  He wrote it so aptly that I thought I’d just quote him verbatim.

“We were at Jordan’s athletics day today and he’d just finished the 800m. He’s knackered and we’re having a chat when we spot a little fella in the next heat who’s barely left the start line when everyone else has already taken the first corner. He’s totally out of his depth – but he’s turned up and he’s having a crack.

By the 400m mark he’s been lapped by nearly everyone and he soon finds himself the only one on the track. A teacher asks over the PA for people to “please stay off the track because we still have a competitor in the race”.

You can see he’s really struggling now and he starts walking down the back straight – but he’s not giving up!! What a champ!

And then… out of the blue, up pops our Jordan. (8yrs old) He walks with this kid all the way down the back straight and into the final corner where he suddenly gets a jog on. We watch as Jordan cuts across the field and stands at the finish line with stacks of other kids who are cheering like this kid’s coming in for the gold medal.

They’re chanting his name as he crosses the finish line and everyone’s pumped!  Such an awesome moment! Everyone had massive smiles on their faces…

Except us.

We’re standing there trying to hide the tears in our eyes over what we’d just seen our little man do. What a champ. We couldn’t be prouder.”

Isn’t that beautiful?  Isn’t it amazing how having just one person come alongside him made all the difference?

Better than coming home laden with trophies is coming home blessed by a heart full of kindness.  And better than winning a ribbon is realising what makes a real champion – the determination to keep going when others would have packed up and gone home.



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