Motherhood Unplugged – Swimming Against The Tide of Normal.

Motherhood Unplugged –
Swimming Against The Tide of Normal.

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel as though you are the only one swimming against the tide of normal?

Maybe you’re the mum who doesn’t let her children have sleepovers or the mum who wants her daughter to wear a dress that covers her shoulders as well as her tummy. Or you desire to simplify your days but feel pressured to say “yes” instead of “no”.

This was me a few years ago. I was swimming pretty hard against the undercurrent of normal and the following scenario was a day where the tide and swell were so strong I thought I may be swept downriver with the rest of the parents. All of whom seemed happy to stay together, as a group, collectively secure in the direction of that sloshing water.
All except me- it appeared.

I walked into the meeting room, full of mummy’s who were animatedly chatting in groups of three’s and four’s.
Most of the seats were taken, except for one random spot right at the back, squeezed between Debra (not real names here!) who chaired the school’s Parent’s and Children’s Association and Susan, whose child had sworn at mine a few weeks ago in the playground, calling her, amongst other things, the ugliest thing he had ever seen in his whole (short) existence.

Decisions, decisions……

Should I pole vault into the only available uncomfortable space or stand awkwardly to the side and not join in the fervently hushed chitter chatter?
I mean, I was late anyway, making a pretty ungracious entrance, my hopes of sneaking in obscurely not panning out quite how I would have liked. The door handle that I had concentrated on opening as quietly as possible, was stuck hard and I ended up shoving it open with my shoulder and muddy wellie boots.
More like stumbled into the meeting, caught the disapproving glance of the teacher in the middle of her intro, felt about 35 pairs of eyes upon me and tried to shush my two still-sleepy and rudely woken, napping twin’s grizzles.

I chose to stand against the wall with a twin on each hip, thinking how awesome my upper body strength must look, balancing two increasingly heavy dead-weight humans on my hips. Also contemplating how long I could hold that pose – before my trembling abs gave way.
I shoved a Chubba-Chub in each of their mouths, took a deep breath and attempted to look calm and composed. But of course, inside my swirling tummy, I was anything but.

Expectations.

We were here to discuss expectations. Homework expectations. For my 8-year-old daughter.
Her poor reading abilities had been highlighted a few weeks earlier. A concentrated/intensive programme of getting her ‘up to speed’ with the rest of the class, clearly outlined to me. In fact, on the first day of her attending Year 3, the Headteacher asked for “a word”. Then spent the next 30 minutes explaining to me why we needed to be vigilant and swift in our actions because “we didn’t want any lagging behind the rest of the pupils.”

And that was when that small nugget of, call it rebelliousness, or alternative thinking, or quite simply swimming against the tide of normal, began to form. But that day and for many days afterwards, I began the slow and steady strokes of moving against the tide of normal.
And you know what, it didn’t really bode well with others to swim in the opposite direction.

“Just because we appear to be swimming against the tide of normal,
normal isn’t a collective movement.
Normal is normal for me and normal is normal for you”.

The school didn’t much care for me quietly expressing my desires for my children to learn at their own pace, which I do understand when teachers have large groups of children to educate. It’s a difficult task anyway, without parents questioning other routes.

I, quietly but consistently enquired if we could possibly not have to complete “that amount of homework in the evenings” and instead spend it together as a family unit? Was it really necessary for my children to learn these spelling words when they struggled to read them first? No, I didn’t really think it was imperative that we keep a log of reading times and pages.
And heck no, I didn’t want to sell that book of fundraising tickets that Debra thrust into my full hands to enable the school to purchase new sets of play equipment in order to combat childhood obesity.
Walking is wonderful too. And free.

It took me about 18 months to realise that my swimming against the tide was ok. It was the right thing to do. For our family.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just not the same.

“For mothers are the ones who gently make room for fledging spirits to blossom.
Who tenderly nurture wandering souls and who offer the safest space
for hearts to dig roots and take flight”.

I slowly came to understand that learning for our family was going to look different from the next family. And that was ok.
It didn’t mean that we weren’t fully committed to the learning process.
It just meant that we were taking a different path. That path didn’t necessarily include signing reading books, completing homework or standardised tests.
That path for us was more of a gentle meander. An unfolding of learning journeys that took us to different places each week.
An individual approach to understanding how my children ticked and what came naturally for them to explore and understand in this world. That learning was learning outside of the classroom as well as in.
Mine just happened to be generally outside of four walls.

“And just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong.
It just makes it different”.

I realised that society saw one thing and we saw another.

When my children were playing at the park in the middle of a school day, instead of learning, society saw kids that were bunking off. Wagging school.
What they didn’t see was how my children learn best. That last night they volunteered in a community event. We had music lessons an hour ago, my eldest twin has just joined a theatre group. Our rich learning environment was walking in nature, talking about tree canopies and discovering a baby deer feeding from its mother.
That we create a life-long love of learning, without the regulation of tests.
We are pressing into exploring basic life skills, how to socialise with all ages, how to cook a meal, what it means to keep to a budget. We regularly make trips to the library and come home with a bulging sack full of rich literature and living information.
Our minds alive with content spanning from the history of Britain to the amazing women who have forged a pathway of different from their own minds and unique steps.
Women like you and me.

That learning is more than being in a classroom. So much more.

“Give them a thumbs up and tell them that they are amazing.
Truly and utterly amazing”.

But beyond that, our learning journey is this way – and yours is another.

Only you know what suits your child or children best.

Yours may be via traditional school, which is completely right for you and your family. But mine isn’t that route.
And just because we appear to be swimming against the tide of normal, normal isn’t a collective movement. Normal is normal for me and normal is normal for you.

So whether you decide to world-school whilst living in an RV, send your child/children to boarding school because that is their heart’s desire to be in that environment. Whether you live inner city or country isolation, just know mama, that swimming against the tide of normal may well be just taking a different route towards your unique destination.

And just because its different doesn’t make it wrong.
It just makes it different.

So this week if you see a mama who has her children with her during school hours, or the mama who works and is juggling everything and everyone, or the ones that are fully committed to their own unique cause, don’t judge, just give them a thumbs up and tell them that they are amazing. Truly and utterly amazing.

Let’s be part of the movement of encouraging women who want to swim against the tide of normal and be the ones cheering them onwards.
For mothers are the ones who gently make room for fledging spirits to blossom. Who tenderly nurture wandering souls and who offer the safest space for hearts to dig roots and take flight.

In your weariness, shortcomings, doubts, misgivings, failures, struggles, loneliness and fears.
You are their home.

 

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Motherhood Unplugged – Be Whoever You Want To Be!

Motherhood Unplugged –
Don’t Be Cruel to Yourself.


Be whoever you want to be!
Mama of one, mama of ten, working mama, stay at home, stay at work, stay single, live inner city, live on an island, eat tacos for dinner, be vegan, run, pole dance, have coffee on an IV in the mornings, slurp green kale and matcha tea smoothies before 5am………
Whatever you do, do what works for you and your loves without the pressure of explaining your journey to others.
Because, as my gorgeous hubby says, “Honey, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the people who have a piece of your heart and The One whose eye’s see it all”.

I read a quote the other day that said, ‘Eve was not an afterthought, but God’s grand-finale’
I love the fact that women are God’s grand-finale! Not forgotten, or tacked onto the end, but saved until last.
The perfect moment of the ‘best is yet to come’.

I was a teenager when I began modelling. Every young girl’s dream right? The glitz and glamour of looking pretty.
But the real reason I began modelling was because prior to this stage, I wasn’t a very confident person, particularly as I towered above all of my peers and stood out like a sore thumb.
My mum thought if I learnt the art of modelling, it would teach me how to walk with poise and grace and be proud of my height, whilst also instil a sense of worth and pride in my body.

This did happen, in a fashion, as I became comfortable with my height, and the modelling agency took me on for work.
I was only 15 and the world of modelling was both daunting and exciting.
The agency built up my portfolio of professional photos and these pictures were then distributed to their clients. Castings and photo-shoots followed and I soon became busy within my fascinating new world.

“Go with the strength you have”

However, I barely recognised myself in some of the shots, after the makeup artist painted and sculpted me and clothes were placed, perfectly on my bird-like body.
The best angles were found of my face and also the worst were discovered and highlighted.
Was I aware that my smile wasn’t exactly aligned?  Basically, I have a slightly droopy mouth on the right side of my face.
I also have a lump on my neck which I have had since birth, owing to a lifelong thyroid condition. This, my agent, informed me, should be covered up. Always.
I should never show my neck whilst I was working.

Each photo that was taken of me was scrutinised by a magnifying glass. Like an insect under a microscope. Every single picture would be examined and flaws highlighed.
To be discarded immediately.
Always seeking perfection. This period in my life deposited great chunks into my heart (I grew to love my height and I learnt how to walk gracefully, with excellent posture)- but the withdrawals were heavier.

It created in me a lifelong habit of not much liking having my picture taken, certainly not without putting a mask on first.
I struggled to show my face void of makeup and particularly, now I am in my 40’s, lines and wrinkles have appeared which bear stories of growing children, lack of sleep and just plain ageing.
All a perfectly normal part of life and living.

“But why oh why should we fit in when we were born
to stand out?”

And yet I still remain critical of my features.
As though my mind, which was moulded in front of the flash of a camera, has been set on this default pattern of scrutiny and harsh judgement. The likes of which I wouldn’t ever pass on to the worst of my enemies.

The thing is though, I do want to see ‘real’ in other people. I very much respect and admire women who are brave and post pictures of themselves with their flaws.
Except, when they talk about their flaws, I don’t see them at all.
I just see beautiful women, created by God, being real and rocking their awesomeness. It is beyond refreshing.

We are so cruel to ourselves. We nit-pick every single flaw, duck, dive and hide from the camera. Instantly delete those photos our husbands took of us because we believe it’s not our best angle.
There are some days for me still, that I would honestly show more kindness to anybody else on this earth than I would myself.
Women lie to themselves and believe those lies every single day.
With such scathing criticism of our bodies, our worth, our very existence.

But why oh why should we fit in when we were born to stand out?

Whilst being in my 40’s has revealed more than wrinkles and sags, it has made me become a realist.
My dear old Nanna used to say to me when she saw me prim and preen myself before going out, “Who the heck do you think you are gonna meet girl? – the Queen!”
Basically, what image did I have in my mind that I was trying to attain? Her comment always brought me down-to-earth and I am so grateful for her honesty and candour in my formative years. I clung to those words when I was being picked apart on a catwalk or in a photographic studio.

Be whoever you want to be mama’s but wear that badge of ownership with tenacious pride!

Our lives of six children, home-schooling, church ministry, business owning, slow-living, country off-the-beaten-track, with a shake of hippie living are not ‘the norm’.
Nope, not at all. But you know what? I just don’t care because there is such freedom in radically pursuing the path untrod. Your unique story unfolding.
The one that is a shade of messy aubergine, quirky mustard and delightfully free sage.
This is my life and it looks entirely different than yours but that’s the whole point. We are created to make a mark on the world and my mark looks wildly different to yours.
Just as it was meant to be.

So the three things that I use as a reality check in order to be more confident are these:

1- Who am I trying to impress?

If it is my husband, he has seen the very worst of me and loves me still.
If it is other people – I want to be liked and loved for me, not what I look like or what I do or how I live my life.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just not the same.

2- The ideal/perfect image I may have in my mind – doesn’t exist.

The ideal family, the ideal mother, the ideal face…..
Listen – it doesn’t exist. Ever. Full stop.
Blame photoshop, or the media or the skinny models portrayed (sorry cos that was me many years ago – totally blame me).
So, because perfect doesn’t exist, Let…… It……. Go.

3- I will be happier when – I fit into my skinny jeans, grow my hair long, get married, have a baby……….

Well, I do fit into my skinny jeans and my hair is crazy long now. I have been married for 25 years and birthed six babies. But I am no more happy having done those things (as much as I am grateful!) because happiness isn’t an elusive feeling, it’s a choice to be content in the present, no matter the circumstances.

I saw a brilliant poster the other day that said this:

A real woman
Has curves
Is skinny
Has muscles
Is whatever the hell she wants to be!

Here’s to being whatever the heck we want to be!
God’s grand finale, in every splendid, perfectly, imperfect way.

And by the way, in case you were wondering, I never did meet the Queen, despite my efforts in front of the mirror.
Nanna was right. She was always right.
With age comes great wisdom.

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The Worshipping Mother Isn’t Who You Think!

The Worshipping Mother Isn’t Who You Think.
She doesn’t wear her special worship hat just on Sunday’s. For if she did, she may never sing and meet with her King.

I am absolutely loving listening to the song, “Come to the Alter” by Elevation Worship.
You can listen to it here……
If you can, take a few moments – and pause – before you read on.

I remember the very first time I attended church after the birth of our first baby. It took us hours to get ready and even longer to get out of the house.

In we walked, feeling so very proud of our sweet girl sleeping in the pram (phew and phew).
We took our new seats in the area for parents of small children, thrilled that we were now officially part of the club!
Close enough to the crying room and creche, in case a quick exit was needed but still very much in the service to enjoy it to the full.

I flinched every time somebody scraped their chair, or lifted the light muslin gauze that covered our little girl’s sleeping form.
I remember being worried about germs from other small children. Not to mention the thought that an adult might cough over her and give her some fatal virus.
I was a bundle of nerves.

As soon as the worship team took to the stage, I was concerned the drums may damage her little ears – (why hadn’t I factored that in?) chastising myself silently whilst trying to look ever so chilled and relaxed.

That particular day we struck gold.
Baby didn’t wake up throughout the entire service. In fact, she didn’t even make a peep.
She slept right through her next feed and as I was too scared to wake her, I let it slide.

I remember standing next to our Pastor and his wife, waxing lyrical about how good our baby was and what a lovely nature she had. And yes, wasn’t it amazing that she slept (I later realised most newborns do sleep constantly during the day!)
But this morning, all I felt was pride and overwhelming gratefulness that we had smashed the first outing to church – seamlessly.
I was officially a super mum.

What I didn’t realise, whilst I was basking in fake new-parenting-glory, was the fact that my engorged breasts were – ahem – leaking. Everywhere.
It wasn’t until I felt drips run down my squishy belly, that I was aware of the cringe-worthy, embarrassing situation.
I mean, my Pastor of all people!!
A quick look at my chest revealed the most enormous milk spots, bigger than my baby’s head!
I had soaked through, not only my massively padded nursing bra, but also two super-absorbent fabric nursing pads.
The mortification was real and we high-tailed it home, me in tears and also our newborn, who had by now woken and was red-faced, tight-fists, screaming blue murder for the milk she knew was the reason for my tears milk.

That was nearly 21 years ago and five more children later, I have mellowed somewhat regarding attending church with children.
That said, I had many, many, many years of being a Worshipping Mother, with my little charges hanging off me, tugging at my arm, telling me they need the toilet NOW!, intervening with sibling squabbles, throwing them a muesli bar to keep them quiet and a plethora of other little tricks that all mothers have up our sleeves.
And regularly, we would leave church with me in tears, declaring “it was just too hard”.


The thing is – The Worshipping Mother carves out little spaces of spiritual nurture, during the week.
Not just on Sundays.
My very wise, precious soul-sister explains it this way:

Worship happens in the mundane moments.
It is the ten minutes of waiting in the kitchen, for the oven bleeper to go off, whilst you are in the middle of preparing dinner for your children, who are most unlikely to actually eat it, that we meet Jesus.
Rich songs of praise burst forth from our hearts, alongside watching the stove for scalding boiling water and wiping snot from our children’s noses.
Or when we are alone in the car at night, driving to a meeting, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and a praise song wafts up to our ears and hits us with the soothing and ministering words, perfect for our worn and tired hearts.
This is The Worshipping Mother – mostly exhausted, very much overwhelmed. And in that moment – she meets Jesus.
He fills her soul full to over-flowing with the touch of his presence, whilst mama sits amongst the empty crisps packets, discarded juice boxes and kinder-surprise wrappings.
She is still God’s daughter and He is still her King. And not just on Sunday’s”.

This wise mama also said she recalls when she realised she was a Worshipping Mother herself.
Her newborn son was sleeping in his pram one Sunday morning, and with arm’s raised, she realised her hands were clutching a tiny pacifier, at the ready in case her little one started to fuss. It was in that moment, that her new self was revealed. She was a Worshipping Mother. A mother – but still a daughter of the King.

We are surely everything and all things combined, which is what makes us so precious.

Jesus whispers to us in the tender moments of church and the harried, stressed-filled hours of shepherding tired and grouchy children to the table, bath and hopefully (finger’s crossed) -bed.

He knows how impossibly stretched our hearts feel and how utterly incomprehensible it is to wake up at 5am, to pray and read the bible, knowing full-well that will be our children’s start time as well.
He gets us because he created us.
Just like He formed and moulded our tender mother’s hearts, to nurture and give and give and give and give some more, when we feel there is nothing left to give.
And he knows, before we do, when we reach that point of being completely at the end of the line and unable to mother anymore.
In fact, he knew one hundred paces before it even happened.
Because HE IS THERE.

He sees us because He is our Father. Come to the alter for His arms are open wide. Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy sweet sister.
And because of that very reason, The Worshipping Mother has to be the most awesome, inspiring, faith-filled, butt-kicking, life-shaping, mama of them all.

 

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Motherhood Unplugged – Talking About Sex With Your Kids

Motherhood Unplugged –
Talking About Sex With Your Kids.

When you were younger, did you have one of those awkward moments (usually following the traumatic ‘birds & the bees talk’ given at school) when you realised your parents must have had sex in order to conceive you?
I have vivid memories of that day. V-I-V-I-D.

Cue a certain Health Education class (back in the day) which was taken by the all-male Physical Education teachers. Fit, buff alpha men in their prime.
We tweens would take extra care with our crimped hair and perfectly combed monobrows (it was the 80’s), along with our skillfully rolled-up shortened skirts, in the hopes of attracting the attention of these hot athletic creatures.

Sadly, all of this changed for me on Tuesday 24 May 1985. For this was the day of the ‘Actual Birth Video’, which swore me off anything remotely to do with sex, boys or hot teachers for quite some time.
Our lovely ripped instructor simply wheeled in a tv (remember those days when they did that?) and pressed play.
The scene you ask?
A screaming woman’s crowning vagina. Followed by, oh, her perineum splitting and a tiny greasy, white face appearing between her legs, which, with great force, shot out between hefty, sweaty thighs, into the waiting, suitably gloved up arms of the nurse.

The video couldn’t have been any longer than 5 minutes tops, but I honestly couldn’t say, we were all so horrified at the blood, guts and damn that umbilical cord is thick to cut!!
I remember thinking who the hell would want to go anywhere near that rope slime, connected to the equally slimy baby.

“This”, our hot teacher informed us, “Is the result of sexual intercourse. If you don’t want to see this for the next 12 years or so, don’t have sex”.

TV turned off and wheeled away.
Leaving an entire group of 30 plus tweens in total silence faces ranging in colour from ghost white to puke green. I was puke green.

“Then, when daughter number two’s time rolled around,
I handballed ‘the talk’ to my freshly knowledge eldest”.

Traumatic sex education lesson – One.
The realisation that my parents had sex for me to be thrust similarly into the world – Two.
The decision to never, ever have sex – Three.

Needless to say, sex education, has come a long way since May 1985. Thank the Lord!
Because I’m telling you, it took MANY years for me to lose the image of that baby’s face appearing between that woman’s quivering thighs!

Now I have six children of my own, (so I obviously did get over that sex ed horror film), my husband and I decided to take a different approach to my classroom experience.
We call it, rock, paper, scissors.
Three times to decide a winner. The winner is that they have immunity from the sex talk. That time only.
We have six kids remember so in terms of eventually drawing a short straw, well the stakes were pretty high.

“Mum”, replied by firstborn, “don’t worry about it.
I have told her a few things over the years as I saw fit.
She’s cool with it”.

For the record, I have drawn the short straw, or more bluntly, lost on rock, paper, scissors, three times.
Our requisite parental-child talks were evenly and fairly split down the middle. Which didn’t feel like a good idea at all, to be honest?
I felt that hubby and I, each bearing a 50/50 load, could go bottoms up for us (pardon the pun).
I mean, we had to get our stories straight for one and there was a lot I didn’t really know (or pretended not to know) about boys, so I tried to handball an extra one to his side.
He politely declined and said he felt as though it would be a great learning curve for me. Seriously! That’s the best he came up with……

So this is how it went down in my camp.
I sat with our eldest and we looked through some fairly simple ‘pictures’ in a book (but also I have to say, quite graphic).  I made sure that she felt comfortable that she could ask me any questions and emphasised the fact that the entire act was meant to be enjoyable and natural.

Then, when daughter number two’s time rolled around, I handballed ‘the talk’ to my freshly knowledge eldest, leaving it in her very capable and safe hands. Basically, I ducked and dived that one, impressing upon my eldest that the shocking news may be less shocking if it came from a much older, wiser sister.

She casually took little sis for a stroll and 10 minutes later they came home.
Both parties looking pretty much unscathed (phew). I received a thumbs up and a wink from my eldest, along with a whisper “Yep all good, she knew it all anyway”.
Seriously? How did I not know that?? What do you mean all? I don’t want her to know it all!

“Mum”, replied by firstborn, don’t worry about it. I have told her a few things over the years as I saw fit. She’s cool with it”.
Right, ok, fine, be cool Mum, be cool……

So that just left me with our youngest son and whilst I was clutching my ‘book of life’ (in graphic comic form) my teen simply said, “Tell me we aren’t doing this today? Like right now?”
“Yes, we are,” I said, whilst clearing my throat and summoning all of my inner-boy courage, as well trying not to giggle through sheer embarrassment.
The talk was less than 5 minutes long. It took place whilst we were alone in the car (so he couldn’t escape – I locked the doors) and I was twice interrupted for my boy to point out the awesome specs of two hot sports cars, that raced past our slow-paced sex ed vehicle.
“But wait,” I said in a hurry, “I haven’t got to the bit about periods yet!”
“Yeah, mum lets skip that bit, I’ve got a fair idea. I do live with five girls you know.”

He had a good point.

So that just leaves two, 8-year-old girl twins, (hubby has one and I have the other – rock/paper/scissors remember).
I think we will, um, wait a bit until we tackle those two lovely and naive young girls. In fact, I think, continuing on as before, the best bet is to recruit our two eldest to approach the matter and then ahem, mum and dad can be, you know, waiting by on the sidelines if any curly questions arise.

We survived so far, pretty unscathed. At least their education didn’t include a crowing head and screeching woman, alongside a hot Health Ed tutor’s ‘words of wisdom’.

We may not have smashed ‘the talk’ but our family are now able to joke about these conversations without a hint of feeling uncomfortable or insecure.
I think we have just about scraped through the Big Sex Story (bar the twins!) and even better, the children haven’t said they don’t want kids of their own, so it’s all good here.

What about you? How have you approached the topic of sex in your household?

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Motherhood Unplugged – Am I Beautiful?

Motherhood Unplugged – Am I Beautiful?

If you were asked how to describe yourself in a few sentences, what would you say? Would you speak in kindness and affirmation? Would you say you’re beautiful?
To be honest, when I was recently asked this question, my first words weren’t particularly nourishing and that bothered me. A lot.

So, here is my answer after a couple of thinking days:
I am a child of the King and beautiful and precious in His eyes.
I am a wife and a mother but also a daughter, sister and friend.
I am sometimes anxious and often feel the weight of other people’s emotions.
I am sensitive and quirky and very spontaneous.
I am calm, love the quiet and altogether very sensitive. 

I am nowhere near perfect but am learning that perfection is a slippery slope towards failure.
I am a runner, a lover of cake and a creative soul.
I am a bearer of scars and the recipient of healing through kindness.

I have the heart of a gypsy, the soul of a wanderer and the spirit of a lion.
I am exactly who I was always meant to be.

A few days ago, Princess Eugenie married her long-term partner, Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.  And in a show of courage and inspiration, the Princess made a point of wearing a dress that exposed – rather than hid – a scar left over from a childhood operation.
The Queen’s granddaughter had major surgery on her back to treat a curvature of the spine at the age of 12 and in revealing her scar, she hoped it would honour those who had helped her on her journey with the condition of scoliosis. The Princess also wanted to make a point, being that  “you can change the way beauty is” and following the wedding, her bravery has indeed influenced many others to also reveal their hidden scars and embrace beautiful.

“True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face.
It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart
and a pretty soul.”

In a stereotypical sense, most little girls long to be a princess right? But a princess with a curved spine? That’s not part of the fairytale story. 
The princesses we see in the storybooks have clear, porcelain smooth skin, big shining blue eyes and long wavy hair. She is sweet and kind and often unaware of her stunning beauty, whilst she patiently waits for her handsome prince to complete her life.
But she definitely does not bear scars. Or a crooked spine.

In light of our Motherhood Unplugged series and being asked how I view myself, it also made consider how we, as mothers, view beauty in this current era?
I daily scroll through the snapshots of many, many mothers and their Instagram grids. Perfectly colour-co-ordinated squares of, well frankly, beautifully turned out women.
And whilst I SO understand that we all want to show our best features and lives, what happens to the mum that doesn’t feel attractive?
Who has just had a baby and her jelly belly and stretch marks are the reason why she doesn’t want to undress in front of her husband. Or the mum who can’t remember the last time she had a haircut or her cuticles pushed back to reveal pretty nails?
Or the depressed mum, who is so sleep-deprived and struggling with the task of keeping a little human alive that she can’t bear to face the outside world. And try to look normal.
What about those women?

Yet, I freely admit, I too struggle with the same sort of authenticity on social media. Whilst I can write about my flaws and downfalls, I don’t particularly want to post a picture of me looking less than my best.
Do I want to reveal a photo of me when I have first woken up, with my wild and knotty hair, bags under my eyes and those neck wrinkles that take a few hours to un-crease!! Heck no!

Why? Because I don’t want to be judged. There you have it. I don’t want someone (whoever you are) to look at me and go “Euch that’s not attractive!”
I don’t want to be criticised or put down or for somebody to think I am ugly.
So I/we, filter out the normal, the mundane, the things that we all struggle with, like bed hair, grumpy moods, messy homes, arguments with our partners, annoying children.
And in doing so, we filter out our true selves.

We want to be in the shot next to our adorably behaved children, with matching outfits and not a smear of snot or dirt on their colour-co-ordinated clothes. We want our hair done, smooth and shiny or cool-dude, beach-wave messy and our lips a pretty shade of seashell-salmon.

We don’t necessarily want to put up the ones of us, bleary-eyed, fed up and grouchy, feeling bloated and teary, whilst obsessively watching the clock, willing bed-time to come swiftly.

We all talk about finding our tribe, our community of peeps who support us and enrich our lives, along with our children’s. However, if our collective tribe only sees the well-turned-out mothers, the ones who have a seemingly rose-pink coloured existence, where are the rest of us hiding?

I believe Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress has made a much bigger statement than she possibly intended. I think it shouts of “Me too!”

Me too who has scars, visible and hidden.
Me too who is tired of pretending and wearing a mask.
Me too who feels inferior and self-conscious when I look at other mothers on social media.
And definitely, me too when I start to scratch at the wounds of comparison, envy and jealousy. These are unattractive emotions and not something I want to keep diving into. And that pesky little voice that whispers, “am I beautiful?”

Well, the answer is YES! A huge resounding, shout it from the rooftops, yes (to myself and you too).
Heck yes, you are beautiful and so am I!

How can we not be? We don’t just share our bodies with our partners, we go the extra mile and grow human beings. We grow bone and lungs and kidneys. Our blood sustains life and our heart beats for more than just ourselves.
We then deliver these little miracles into the world and nourish them from our bodies and our hands. We nurture and love and protect and embrace tiny lives that become big people, who go out and smash dreams and conquer the world. All because of us, mamas.

Are we beautiful? Oh my goodness, YES, we are SO beautiful! 
True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart and a pretty soul. Of being the best possible version of yourself, inside and out.
Be brave, be bold but more than anything, BE YOU. Beautiful you.

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Motherhood Unplugged – Let’s Talk About Worry

Motherhood Unplugged – Let’s Talk About Worry

Emma Bombeck says that “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”.

I can’t remember the first time I ever worried but I suspect I was really young, like still-in-nappies-kind-of-young.
And I believe this to be the case because my mum always told me I was a born worrier.
As a little girl, I would follow her around the house, with a pacifier in my mouth and beloved, dirty, spit-filled rug in my hands. Wherever my mum stopped to work in the house, I would drop my rug on the floor and lay down, waiting for her to finish up and move to another room. I was so anxious that she would leave me, hence my constant game of follow-the-leader.
As such a small person, it sounded like I had a lot of worries on my tiny shoulders.

I think in total I have spent many, many years worrying. About everything and nothing and all the useless stuff and only a tiny portion of the noteworthy stuff.

My mind had tricked me into thinking
that if I didn’t think about it
and be acutely aware of it, it would happen.

Then I became a mother and my worrying took on epic proportions.
Holding those tiny humans and realising they relied on me for their everything, utterly terrified me. I well remember literally being paralysed with fear that I would drop my newborns in my sleep-deprived fog that lasted months.
It was all in graphic detail, played over and over in my head.
I would be holding them, trip up on something and those small, fragile bundles would fly out of my arms and crash onto the floor. I would see myself screaming, hands over my mouth, too scared to check if they had sustained massive damage to their delicate skulls.

In reality, the actual statistics of parents tripping and dropping their newborns is very small (yes I actually Googled it). One article published on this subject says that “In the end, the parent might suffer more than the baby does if dropped. The overall outcome is generally that the parents are damaged for life from worry, and the babies are fine”.
That’s if you do drop your baby and guess, what? I didn’t. Ever. 
Sooooo much worry over something that never happened.

This was my absolute nightmare and it taunted me day and night. Not just for the first few children but with all of my six babies. And I foolishly believed that because my fear of dropping my babies was so strong and so real, it was actually going to happen.
My mind had tricked me into thinking that if I didn’t think about it and be acutely aware of it, it would happen.

Now I am older (cough-cough) and hopefully slightly wiser, I realise that those thoughts were a complete lie.
Read that again, my thoughts were a complete lie.

Worrying about the future doesn’t
make your future more secure.

In fact, they were, what I now term, ‘The Worry Lies’.
It’s something I talk about a lot with my older children, which is just because they think it might happen doesn’t make it fact.
To put it more simply, worrying about the future doesn’t make your future more secure. Worrying steals your joy in the present and places a cloud over your future anything because you are so concerned that something bad will happen.

I personally found my 40’s (so far) to be the most wonderful and freeing time of my life and the main reason for that is because I finally shed ‘The Worry Lies’.
My motto in the family is ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff”.
Talk to me about the important stuff, the big stuff, the things that need my attention today, but worrying, about something that could/would/ should/maybe happen?
I don’t have time for that.
Or more importantly, I don’t have mental space for that.

This doesn’t mean I don’t worry ever because that’s not true. My mind will always revert to worry mode if I let it.
What it does mean is that I am aware of my thoughts and realise pretty quickly when I am in a worry spiral.

The fact is that there are some things we should worry about. The important things. The ones that require our careful thoughts.
But the big problem is when you worry about everything and your brain is so full of concern over all the stuff, it’s truly hard to recognise those things that do need considered attention.

What to do then?

I find it useful to write my worries down. The ones that I have zero control over, I cross out and then erase from my mind. When I find myself straying back to those concerns, I picture the ‘worry words’ on the page and the red line drawn through them and say to myself, “There is nothing you can do about that”.
And I let it go.

You may be surprised, like I was, that close to 95% of my worries, never actually happened. They were fictional.
The remaining small 5% did need my attention and after a few small tweaks and changes positively, those worries were no more.

Which means, basically, I spent the majority of my life worrying for nothing. Zip. Zilch. Total time-waster.

I believed for so many years, that nobody else would understand how strong my thoughts were and actually, I felt a little silly even talking about them. But that’s part of ‘The Worry Lies’, they paralyse us on the spot. They make us feel frightened and inadequate and really dumb – all at the same time.

I would love to hear your stories of worry and fears in the comments section.
Maybe beginning a conversation today and releasing even one of those worries will be the first step for you to take control of ‘The Worry Lies’.
A near worry-free existence is possible. Believe me, if I can do it, you definitely can.

 

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This Is Why Kid’s Don’t Succeed.

This Is Why Kid’s Don’t Succeed
Part Five.

I listened to a brilliant and wise talk recently from Simon Sinek, who is a British-American author, motivational speaker and organisational consultant.
His now famous and viral speeches focussing on ‘why kid’s don’t succeed these days’ has been labelled “the most brilliant motivational talk of all time”.
I was super impressed with his wisdom and candid sharing of the struggles of the millennials, who are a group of people born from 1984 onwards.

The below content is his words and to be frank, after I had written them all down, I felt anxious for millennial children. My children and yours.

Sineak highlighted four main reasons why millennials don’t succeed:

1. They are lazy and unfocused.
2, They are tough to manage.
3. They are accused of being entitled.
4. They are narcissistic, self-interested, who confound leadership.

The Leaders of this day are asking the millennials what they want. In response the millennials are saying this:

“We want to work in a place with a purpose”.
We want to make an impact”.

Yet for some reason, they are still not happy and that’s because there is a missing piece.
This can be broken down into four key aspects:

1. Parenting

2. Technology

3. Impatience

4. Environment

Parenting:

“Too many millennials grew up being the subject (not Sinek’s words) of failed parenting strategies, where for example, they were told they were special all the time. They were told they could have anything they wanted in life, just because they wanted it.
Some of them got into honours classes, not because they deserved it but because their parents complained. Some of them got A’s. Not because they earned them but because their teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents.
Some kids got participation medals. A medal for coming in last. Which the science we know, is pretty clear. It devalues the medal and the reward for those who actually work hard and that actually makes the person who comes in last feel embarrassed. Because they know they didn’t deserve it, so that makes them feel worse.

So you take this group of people, they graduate school, they get a job and they are thrust into the real world and in an instant, they find out they are not that special.
Their mothers can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last and by the way you can’t just have it because you want it.
So, in an instant, their entire self-image is shattered.

And we have an entire generation that is growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations.

The other problem to compound this is that we are growing up in a Facebook and Instagram world.
In other words, we are good at putting filters on things.
We are good at showing people that life is amazing even when it’s not.  Everybody sounds tough, everybody sounds like they’ve got it all figured out. But the reality is that there is very little toughness and most people don’t have it figured out.

 

Technology:

Now let’s add in technology.
We know that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called Dopamine. This is why when you get a text it feels good.
We have all experienced this. When we have been feeling a bit down and a little bit lonely and you send out ten texts to ten friends (hi hi hi) – because it feels good when you get a response.
It’s why we count the ‘Likes’. It’s why we go back ten times, in ten minutes to check our status.
And we worry, “Is my Instagram going slower? Did I do something wrong? Do they not like me anymore?

The trauma of young kids being unfriended is just that! Trauma.
Because we know when we get that hit of Dopamine, it feels good. We like it and it’s why we keep going back to it.

Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, drink and gamble.

In other words, it is highly, highly addictive.

We have age restrictions of smoking, gambling and alcohol but there are zero age restrictions on social media and cell phones, which is the equivalent of opening up the liquor cabinet and saying to our teenagers “Hey by the way if this adolescence thing gets you down. Go for it!”.
We have an entire generation that has access to an addictive, numbing chemical, called Dopamine, through social media and cell phones. Just as they are going through the high stress of adolescence.

Why is this an important point?

Because almost every alcoholic discovered alcohol when they were teenagers. When we are very, very young, the only approval we need is the approval of our parents. And as we go through adolescence, we make this transition, where we now need the approval of our peers.

Common scene – millennials sitting in a meeting with people they are supposed to be listening to and speaking with and they put their phone on the table. Face up or down. It doesn’t matter, but what it does do is send a subconscious message to the room, that says, “You are not that important to me right now”.

That’s what happens. And the fact that they cannot put it away is because they are addicted.

If you wake up and check your phone before you say good morning to your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse – you have an addiction. And like all addictions, in time it will destroy relationships.
It will cost time, money and make your life worse.

What’s happening is we are allowing unfettered access to these Dopamine devices (media) and it is basically becoming hardwired in our kid’s brains. What we are seeing as they grow older is that too many kids don’t know how to form deep meaningful relationships (their words not mine).

They will admit their friendships are superficial. They don’t count or rely on their friends. They have fun with them but they also know their friends will cancel on them if something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practised the skillset and worse they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress.
So when significant stress comes up in their lives, they are not turning to a person, they are turning to a device. Social media. These things that offer temporary relief.

We know science has discovered that those who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook.
These things all need balance.
There isn’t anything wrong with them in balance.
If you are sitting having dinner with your friends and you are texting someone who is not there – that is a problem. That’s an addiction.

So you have a generation that has lower self-esteem and doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress.

Impatience:

Now you add in a sense of impatience.

They have grown up in a world of instant gratification.
If you want to buy something, you go on Amazon and it arrives the next day.
If you want to watch a movie, log on and watch a movie. You don’t check movie times.
You want to watch a tv show. Binge. You don’t have to wait week to week. I know people who skip seasons, just so they can binge at the end of the season.
Swipe right for a date. Easy. Check the person out even before you have uttered a word.

Everything you want, you can have instantaneously. Instant gratification.

Except for job satisfaction and strength for relationships. There isn’t an App for that.
These attributes are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.

Sinek goes on to say that he keeps meeting these wonderful, fantastic, idealistic, smart kids, who have just graduated from school and are in their entry-level jobs.
He sits down with them and asks how they are going? The answer? 
“Yeah, I think I’m gonna quit. I’m not making an impact”.
Even though they have only been there for 8 months.

Sinek says, it’s as if they are standing at the foot of the mountain and they have this abstract concept called ‘impact’ that they want to have on the world, which is the summit.
What they don’t see is the mountain.
Whether they go up the mountain quickly or slowly – there is still a mountain.

And so what this young generation needs to learn is patience. That some things that really, really matter, like love or job fulfilment, love of life, self-confidence, a skill set, any of these things.
All of these things take time.
Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it but the overall journey is arduous and long and difficult and if you don’t ask for help and ask for that skill set you will fall off the mountain.

The worst-case scenario, which we are already seeing, is an increase in suicide rates. And in accidental death due to drug overdoses.
We are seeing more and more kids drop out of school, taking leaves of absence due to depression.
This is unheard of in any other generation.

The best case scenario is we will have an entire population growing up and just never really finding joy. They will never really find deep fulfilment in work or in life.
They will just waft through life.
Conversations repeated over and over. “How’s your job?”
“It’s fine. Same as yesterday”.
“How’s your relationship?”
“It’s fine”…..

Like this is the best case scenario……

Environment:

We have this amazing group of young, fantastic kids who were just dealt a bad hand.
It is through no fault of their own that we put them in corporate environments who care more about the numbers than they do the kids. They care about the short-term gains, rather than the long-term life of these young human beings.
We care more about the year than the lifetime. These corporate environments aren’t helping them build their confidence,  aren’t helping them learn the skills of co-operation, or overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding more balance.

These environments aren’t helping them overcome the need to have instant gratification and teach them the joys and the impact and fulfilment you get from working hard on something over a long time. Something that cannot be done in a month or even a year.

And the worst part is that they think it is them. They blame themselves. They think they can’t deal with it and it’s all their fault.
I am here to tell them it is not them.

It is the corporations and corporate environments and the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do.
They were dealt a bad hand and I hate to say it but it is the company’s responsibility.

 

When you are sitting in a room, waiting for a meeting to start. What happens? Everybody’s head is down. In their phones. Zero communication.
We need to start meetings by talking and connecting.

That’s how trust forms.
Trust doesn’t form in an event. In a day. Even bad times don’t form trust immediately.
It is the slow steady consistency and we have to create mechanisms where we allow for those little innocuous interactions to happen.
But when we allow cell phones in conference rooms, those interactions aren’t given an environment to occur. However, if you remove the temptation it actually makes it a lot easier.

The same goes for cell phones in the bedroom. If you check your phone before you actually acknowledge your partner, you are addicted!! Don’t keep your phone next to your bed! If you need an alarm, go buy an alarm clock.

The point is, whether we like it or not, we now have a responsibility to make up the shortfall and to help this amazing idealistic fantastic generation build their confidence, learn patience, learn social skills and find a better balance between life and technology.
Because quite frankly its the right thing to do”.

 

 

So, Now What?

After I had finished listening to Sinek, I found myself feeling really sad about how he spoke into the millennial’s world and reality. I personally, had not realised the extent of the fallout from this generation to such a large degree.

And I think it would be very easy to read Sinek’s word and feel he is apportioning blame. However, moving forward as parents of today, we can learn from the millennial’s and teach our kids about safety online and the reality of addictions. We can teach them that there is another way, a different way forward, despite what society says.
We can show them how to be resilient and what working hard looks like.
To ‘stick at it’ – as my dad used to say to me. And sometimes, ‘sticking at it’ is hard work.

But I guess if we parent the next generation in exactly the same way as the parents of millennials, then all we are going to do is produce another batch of the same – but just call it something different. And basically, we haven’t learnt our lesson.

Which may be why Sinek’s podcast has been dubbed ‘the most brilliant, motivational talk of all time!’
Food for thought for sure….

 

 

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Knowing When Your Teenager Needs You.

Knowing When Your Teenager Needs You.
Part Four

Knowing when your teenager needs you 1At this stage more than any other, your teen needs you.
Even if they show every emotion and negative body language that they don’t want you near them, they still need you.

It’s not easy to feel as though you are being shut out during a time of such rapid change and growth. To realise that you have to knock on their door before entering. To give them space and ask for a hug, instead of stepping straight in and offering comfort and love.
It’s a strange period of alternating between realising they are no longer children but not quite adults, ready for a world of responsibility.

“Be an influencer in your teen’s life”

Your teen will be asking all those big questions and if they don’t find them at home, they surely will elsewhere. Questions such as,
Who am I?
What do I want?
Who is going to love me?
Who will I depend on?
Whilst their peers and friendships with others are vitally important, you are still their firm foundation, especially when their world seems ever-changing and could easily throw them off course.

Your teen will not only search for the answers but find them. Whether it’s over the kitchen table and a meal with their family, via social media or on the football field, those questions will be addressed in one way or the other.

My encouragement to you as a parent is to be an influencer in your teen’s life.
Walk quietly alongside them, be their silent partner in the waiting lane of life. Just be there.
Sometimes being there means doing nothing and saying nothing, even though you may be aware that your teen is dabbling in areas that you would rather they didn’t, seeing things that are too mature for their eyes and saying words that you didn’t realise they even knew the meaning of.

More than ever, teenagers are being thrust into a world that not only beckons them in an alluring way but forces them to mature rapidly. Too rapidly in many cases.
Your teen will want to know about all of everything but may not be able to physically or emotionally deal with all of that everything.

“You will find that your precious mini-adult,
all arms and legs and awkward conversations,
will one day be a fully grown person”

Knowing when your teenager needs you 2
When I was a teen, my peers were doing all of the usual things that puberty evokes
.
Smoking weed on the school oval, stealing spirits from their older siblings, cheating on tests, practising the vilest of swear words on each other, sneaking into their parent’s room and finding their stash of condoms.
All the usual really.
Except we didn’t have the additional access to information that is available today on the internet. It was more along the lines of coping a gander at adult magazines hidden under smelly mattresses and reading steamy sex scenes in adult novels, furtively snuck from the library shelves.
That sort of thing. Not necessarily forging a path for a life of smut, deceit, and depravity but for me, it all left me cold.

As I mentioned in Part Three, I was one of the weird kids who just didn’t find all that stuff, all that appealing. Let’s just say, I was a late bloomer in all things worldly.

I do, however, vividly remember thinking who the heck I was (besides awkward, with legs like a giraffe and a flat chest) and what my actual purpose for being on this earth was for?
I worried that as I grew up I wouldn’t be loved for who I was and I was deeply concerned that I didn’t have anyone close to me that truly had my back, should things all head south.

Knowing when your teenager needs you 3

Eventually, I found some of these answers through a spiritual faith, closely followed by deep friendships and belonging. But that doesn’t mean that all teenagers are going to be at all interested in such things. I do know however that they will be searching, and your teen needs you.
And they will find their belonging somewhere
Build that belonging within your home, the safe haven and place of unconditional love. Where the foundation and fabric of a strong family unit are big enough to answer all the big questions.
It is surely what this age group need the very most and sadly, where they often find it the least.

“Tread gently for this seemingly unending
teen stage too, shall pass”

My one advice would be to listen, listen, listen and then listen some more. Be a silent observer, but be there. Turn up, be present, encourage always and let a lot go. Try not to take their mood swings, snappy words and frustrations to heart.
You can’t deal with all of everything all at once and the really important stuff will be dealt with. In time.

Maybe having pink and blue hair isn’t your choice for your teen’s gorgeous blonde locks. Or that nose piercing isn’t what you imagined would sit in your son/daughter’s nasal passages. Quite possibly the dragon tattoo isn’t your preference either. Maybe chose your battles over these. They may go ahead and do it anyway despite your strong opinions.

You will find that your precious mini-adult, all arms and legs and awkward conversations, will one day be a fully grown person and that piercing or tat fades into insignificance. Before you know it, they will be at your height, or indeed towering over you, when they wrap their strong arms around yours.
And you will know… that they have navigated the road to adulthood, perfectly imperfect but wonderfully strong and capable of making a huge dent in this world that we have ushered them into.

Because of you, mum, dad, guardian. For being there always.

Knowing when your teenager needs you 4

And you are allowed to be immensely, utterly proud of who they have become. I promise that day will come sooner than you ever realised.
Know I am cheering you on the sidelines of this parenting journey. Some days may feel unbelievably difficult but your presence is undoubtedly a total-life changer in the life of your child.

Tread gently for this seemingly unending teen stage too, shall pass.

 

If you have missed Parts One, Two and Three, of this series click on the links below to catch up.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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How You Can Ease Your Child Into Becoming A Teenager.

Becoming a teenager 5

How You Can Ease Your Child
Into Becoming A Teenager.
Part Three

Becoming a teenager 1Do you remember becoming a teenager?
I have a vague recollection of it although it fades by the day.
My memory is a time of feeling the pressure to fit in with my peer group but opposing a lot of the things they were into. Of quite suddenly being interested in the opposite sex. And desperately hating having braces and a fringe, not to mention, looking back, an awful 80’s perm that I thought was the absolute bomb. At the time.
Now I realise I looked like a woolly sheep with a weird straight fringe like one of those highland cows.
Not good. Not good at all.

I was awkward transitioning into a teenager and definitely not one of the cool kids.
I hung out with the misfits, the kids who were teased for their looks or personalities.
One of the three girl’s I hung out with, had the worse halitosis I have ever come across in my entire life and daily my only two other friends and I would discuss the varying ways we could let her know how offensive it was every time she opened her mouth.
And don’t get me started when she yawned. We had to dive for cover.

“These not-children but not-yet-adults are in the waiting lane of life”

My second friend, had pigeon toes and ran like a duck and my third friend lived with just her dad and two brothers after her mother walked out on them after breakfast one day and never came home, which made her a very sad and angry young person, who mainly spoke in grunts and sighs.

We were the misfits, the square pegs in round holes, that the popular kids picked on daily.

Then there was me. Towering above all the boys and girls in my year group and the next, that perm, those braces, hairy legs. Yep hairy legs. Because my mum didn’t want me to start shaving them too early. So I spent years tugging my school skirt lower to hide my unattractive black fuzz.

Now I come to think of it, I do recall quite a lot of my transitioning teen time and frankly it was awkward.

Now I have teens of my own, I view this stage with great understanding and a healthy dose of sympathy. These not-children but not-yet-adults are in the waiting lane of life.
And it’s not easy. They often don’t know where to put themselves or where they fit in within the greater scheme of life.
There is so much pressure placed upon their burgeoning shoulders. Big decisions are expected to be made at such a young age – where to direct their future career choices?
Which doors to walk through. Heck which doors they should even be thinking about entering?
Do they choose the straight path set before them full of expectation from others or the rockier less travelled, slightly risky route, with an unknown destination?

“You may find yourself asking them if they have showered
and how long have they have been wearing that tee shirt?”

 

It’s a tricky time for sure as a parent and soon-to-be-teen.
We have picked up a few things along the way that may help you understand your child during this transition phase:

Becoming a teenager 2

Becoming a teenager

1. They will smell.

For quite some time you may feel as though your home has turned into an animal’s toilet at the zoo. When they are becoming a teenager they will start to smell. A lot.
It will permeate their clothes, their sheets and the walls of your house. Soft furnishings take a hit long after they have extracted themselves from the sofa.
Invest in Febreeze.

You may find yourself asking them if they have showered and how long have they have been wearing that tee-shirt?
Even after washing their clothes, they will still smell. Clothes and child.
Under the armpits is a very dangerous area to venture near. If your child lets you hug them, you may need to block your nose.
This is the time to gently approach the subject of deodorant.
I kid you not, it took us about six months for each of our teen’s to get into a routine of using deodorant every day. We basically left small roll-on bottles all around the house! Just as a reminder that their natural body odour isn’t actually that pleasant.
Eventually, a miracle will occur. They will pick up that little bottle and tentatively roll it under their pits.
And you can breathe in a lovely aroma of spicy eucalyptus hues.

2. They will shower. A lot.

The smelly stage will actually morph, fairly quickly, into the cleaning phase.
Your teen may spend an inordinate amount of time in the shower, not to mention, copious after-shower-grooming-and-preening. This will all be done in secret, under the cloak of a locked door, the extractor fan and possibly music from their phones.

Deodorant may still be a problem, as in they may not feel they need it. Keep reminding them daily or thrice daily, that it is very much required.
Aftershave (often cheap), may be liberally applied which will be a welcome scent change in your house but may also be migraine inducing.
Pick your battles on this one. Smell vs head pain? I flitted between the two.

“Those hormones are stoking the fire of puberty and in overdrive”

3. They will become interested in sex.

Whether this manifests as being suddenly acutely embarrassed at any sign of physical affection and touch (on the tv) or in real life, sex will be something that both fascinates and scares them.

When we sat our second son down for the ‘proper sex talk’ as in A & B connect whilst also consider C & D may play a role, his face slowly drained of all colour and he quite literally sat as still as stone.
We plowed ahead, determined to get it out of the way, lest he heard it from his peers. When we had finished he just nodded and said “Got it, can I please leave the room now?”

We have revisited the subject on occasions and it does become easier for both parent and teen to talk about sex. Basically we took a “There is nothing you can’t ask us approach” and tried very hard to make sex something that wasn’t acutely awkward to be discussing.

It’s not easy for sure, but the more you are open and relaxed about it, the more your teen will feel as though there is nothing to hide from or be ashamed about.

“Gently remind them that tomorrow is a new day
and this too shall pass”

Becoming a teenager 34. They will be emotional.

Those hormones are stoking the fire of puberty and in overdrive.
A lot of everything will be EVERYTHING! Sad feelings may feel like the end of the world. Happiness will be elation/mountain top experiences.
Riding those emotions with your would-be-teen is exhausting for you as a parent. Try to hold their feelings and emotions lightly. Gently remind them that tomorrow is a new day and this too shall pass. Often by the morning the said subject doesn’t hold the weight that it did the night before, which is the same for us as adults.

5. They will sleep a lot.

Sleep is a gift for would be teens.
As their bodies are rapidly growing and changing, you will find they need extra sleep at different times.
Our teens began to keep quite late nights and as long as they weren’t exhausted and irritable the next day, we took our lead from them.
Often night-time is a period where they can relax, play games, watch tv and talk to you! We find our teens are at their best at night, so we pick those times, more than any other, to have a conversation.
Basically, take your cue from them and don’t be surprised if on weekends they want to sleep away a good portion of the morning. They are catching up with their growing bodies and minds and sleep is like a natural steroid!

“Watching your once dependant, chubby fingered, adorable little love,
suddenly morph into a mini-adult,
isn’t easy all round”

Becoming a teenager 46. They will eat!

This seems like an obvious one, but I honestly didn’t factor in the extra amount of food we would need for our soon-to-be-teens (not to mention when they do actually reach teenage years!)

A friend of mine once commented that her son would come home from school and eat a huge bowl of noodles, followed by dinner, followed an hour later by cereal and then pudding. I naively thought that this wouldn’t happen to us. I mean, how much food can one person consume? The answer is – an enormous amount!!
Mine were always hungry and on the look-out for sustenance.

Try not to be alarmed at the sheer amount they are eating
. Their bodies need that extra fuel for a whole lot of growing and developing, so feed the looming beast that is puberty and remember they can’t grow up and out at the same time.

When your children are at the stage where they are no longer children anymore, it can sting a little for a parent.
Watching your once dependant, chubby fingered, adorable little love, suddenly morph into a mini-adult, isn’t easy all round.
And as much as you may want to hold onto the innocence of their childhood, becoming a teenager is the tangible fruits of all your hard work since they were babies.

Yes, it’s a time of excitement and letting go but it’s also a time of great satisfaction as a parent to watch your children hone and refine themselves into the people they were always destined to become.

 

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How To Have Fun With Your Teenager.

Teenager fun 1How To Have Fun With Your Teenager.
Part Two

Many parents most probably wouldn’t put the words fun and teenager in the same sentence.
Most teens wouldn’t use the words parents and fun in the same sentence. Fun with their friends? Yes. Fun with their parents? Mmmmm nope.

We have two teenage boys, a 12 year old girl and two tween girls  (plus a 21 year old daughter). If you have followed on from Part One of our teen series about “Why We Adore Having Teenagers And How We Got Here”this is some of the reasons we regard these years as the best.

By focussing on just a few simple practices within your family unit, you will discover that teens can be such a joy and immensely fun.
Our 18 year old son is hilarious!
His quick and witty banter keeps us on our happy toes, especially on days when we are all feeling grumpy. He is our man. Totally able to turn a mood around by saying “Hey Mum want to watch this funny video of a chicken trying to fly with a top hat?”
Mood gone.


“We all have the same amount of hours in each day
and often have to be intentional in setting aside time
for investing into our children’s hearts”.

Our other teen son, who is generally much quieter, comes out with some pearlers of lines that has us doubled over in laughter. Generally, quotes from a movie he has just watched, such as the movie from ‘The Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ and the line from a young New Zealand boy saying “He is bit of a bad egg”.
Followed by “Mum are you being a bit of a bad egg because you’re tired?”
I mean you can’t be grumpy when your son says that because it’s too funny. And cute.

Teenager fun 2

These are a few ways we incorporate fun in our home with teens:

1. Spend Alone Time With Them.

We have done this since they were toddlers and made a big deal of mum or dad dates. Once a month we took each child out for one-to-one time with either my husband, Matthew, or myself. And these times have been precious vaults of memories that the children, as they have become older, bring up and reminisce over.
Taking them outside of their home environment, we find, is a lovely way to connect.
Our 18 year old has a breakfast date with me every Monday. Without fail, this is our time together and we both look forward to it so much.
We start the week off in a positive way because we have the space to communicate uninterupted.

2. Spend time with them on their level.

This isn’t always easy for me because my boys love playing Fortnite (like the sole majority of teenage boys all over the world no doubt) and I find sitting still really hard. I also don’t really enjoy playing any sort of electronic games and obviously, my tastes of what I listen to on YouTube, are vastly different to theirs. However, as this is a brilliant way to interact with my boys and share in their fun and joy, I do it, as often as I can.
We all have the same amount of hours in each day and often have to be intentional in setting aside time for investing into our children’s hearts.
I actually find it a privilege that they allow me into their space.

They love, absolutely love the fact that I am in their interest domain, willing to learn the skills that are important to them and stoked that I am giving it a go.
This time that I spend with the boys, is one of the most important ways I connect with them on their level.

Teenager fun 33. Be Silly!

We were silly with our kids when they were small. Reading in funny voices, dancing to nursery rhymes, playing peek-a-boo, pretending to be a tree in their imaginative role playing (somehow I always end up a tree….)

I’m not saying that you start singing baby songs again. Please don’t do that! Your teen will bolt.
Just muck around. Enjoy banter, sharing funny family stories of “Do you remember when such and such did this?”
Play cards together, go for a walk and lark about with them.

Teenager fun 44. Be interested in their stuff.

This follows on really, from spending time with them on their level but also show interest in the general rhythms of their life.
Having conversations, which can range from how their friends are going, which movies are trending, what the latest fad is at school? Showing you are keen to hear about them is a wonderful way of assuring their hearts that you are still there, even though they have changed from babies to teens and soon-to-be-adults.
Your love won’t change but rather grow in different directions with them.

Teenager fun 55. Listen, listen, listen.

This is one that took me a while to figure out. I don’t like it when my children are hurting or someone has been rude or unkind to them and I instantly want to jump in and fix it.
But I have learnt not to do that as it doesn’t teach them that they can indeed fight their own battles.
Let them talk. With your mouth closed. I do a lot of nodding and saying the odd “yep” but keep those words locked away.
Unless – at the end of their talking – they ask for your advice or help, often all they really want is to be truly heard.

“Those little people who now fill a room with their presence
and big characters
and are big people, are still yours”

6. Share an interest or hobby.

It could be anything. We love to cook together. Harry our 14 year old, enjoys being outside with his dad mowing the lawn or building things for the house. George, our 18 year old, loves taking photos, so as a family we are getting used to him taking a tonne of pictures all the time (usually from strange angles, like above!)
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are all together and having fun.

7. Give them space to sort out emotions.

Teenagers have big emotions. Their bodies are changing – rapidly. We are talking hormones here and they are, of course, as real as yours and mine.

It can be a confusing and frightening time for teens.
We have adopted an open-door policy of questions, ie we would prefer the kids come to us with those awkward questions, rather than finding them elsewhere. Yes it’s a bit uncomfortable at first, but my husband and I try to be as transparent as we can with our teens. Don’t shy away from these talks but give them space to come to you in their own time. Once they begin to open up, you will be amazed at the weight that you can literally see lifting from their shoulders.

8. Eat together as often as you can.

We eat together as a family every night of the week and have made it a priority for us ever since they were babies. I realise for many families this just isn’t possible, such as those who work away for weeks remotely and/or have increasingly busy schedules with after-school commitments but any space that you can carve out to come together over a meal can be so beneficial.
For me, I think it stemmed from always wanting a large family and in my mind, that family were sitting around a kitchen table, over food, enjoying being together.

9. Watch tv programmes that they like.

My husband and I love to find programmes or tv series that we can watch with the boys after the younger ones have gone to bed.  Not every night, but a few nights each week.
At the moment George and I are working our way through the ‘Castle’ series and Harry and I are watching ‘LEGO Ninjago’.
Basically, it’s another way of saying I want to spend time with you. And they say these are their very favourite nights of the week.
Chilling together on the sofa at the end of the day feels like a privilege, especially when spent with these soon-to-be-adults.

Remember when you had little ones and they would run about the house, dressed up as a princess or superman? Or flying through the house as a dragon or bird?  Little children have such big imaginations and even though when they mature, they obviously won’t want to donne a dress-up costume, I do still want my teens to embrace life with the same spirit of imagination, creativity and spontaneity.
Because those little people who now fill a room with their presence and big characters and are big people, are still yours. Just grown up and needing their parents more than ever.
Even if they don’t show it.

You will have your own family’s unique footprints of what fun looks like and once you find that rhythm, embrace this season of teenagers, stepping into their world, rather than trying to pull them back to yours.

It’s there you find the magical word, fun.

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