Archives for May 2013

That’s how it goes sometimes…

A long time ago, well before Mushroom’s arrival, Mr B and I were having a ‘discussion’ about something that was bothering me. He didn’t appear to appreciate the importance of the issue (which was so important that I now can’t remember it), simply nodding as I spoke (what was I expecting, exactly?) so, incensed at his lack of response, I shouted ‘Don’t you care that this will (insert irrelevant consequence here)!’ like a petulant teenager.

Mr B looked at me, nodded as if agreeing with some internal dialogue and said ‘You know what [Mushroom’s Grandad] would say?’ This threw me (I needed to be thrown)… What did my father-in-law have to do with this? I sighed ‘what?’ I snapped, ‘would he say?’ A smile danced in Mr B’s eyes. Adopting a more laid back pose and a strong Jamaican accent, he said:

‘Dats ‘ow it go sometime y’nuh.’

I burst out laughing. This was to become the sentence that would end many an argument between us, reducing pointless discussions to what they were. It’s another way of saying ‘It is what it is,’ or ‘This is life.’ Accept it and set yourself free. The Zen Buddhists already know this.

So, what has this got to do with parenting? Well,I have just finished reading Momma Zen*’s Momma ZenWalking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, and much of what she says brought to to mind the image of my husband delivering this line with a deadpan face, knowing it will always bring me back to ‘us.’

Momma Zen’s book is not a parenting manual – far from it. Instead, she introduces the idea of parenthood as a sort of spiritual practice, gently unburdening us from our ideas of what Motherhood should be and reminding us, frequently, to – and I quote a line from the book (although she says this in many different ways) – ‘Focus on what is in front of you.’ One of my favourite paragraphs from the book sums it all up:

‘You don’t have to work so hard at this. You don’t have to do so much. You don’t have to endeavour to be natural, normal, and good. It happens by itself when you least expect it. If you are confused about what you should be doing, try this. Stop what you are doing. Take care of what is in front of you, when it is in front of you, and the confusion will pass. This is called the effort of no effort. No effort is what powers the universe.’

What a liberating idea. I am trying to live by this, taking each day as it comes by taking care of what is in front of me and, importantly,  allowing myself to ‘fail’ sometimes along the way. Of course I don’t ‘get it right,’ that often but I am trying. On those days that I forget that no effort is required and work too hard at being (see how ridiculous that sounds?), lose my temper with Mushroom and apologise but continue to berate myself for it even though for him it’s long forgotten, all I need to remind me is this: When recounting the story to Mr B,  he just needs to respond with ‘Well, dats ‘ow it go sometime y’nuh.’

*Karen Maezen Miller


The recycled kite

Last week, Mushroom and I were playing in our recently refurbished ‘Jubilee park,’ an outdoor play area cultivated to encourage children to make use of their natural surroundings.

Jubilee park 0-7 play area

While playing on the little trampolines and running/sliding/rolling down the little man-made hills, created for this very purpose, we saw a kite flying in the near distance.

Jubilee park wooden trampoline

The man flying the kite noticed Mushroom’s interest, and deliberately lowered it, allowing Mushroom to chase it a while before bringing it down so that we could take a closer look.

Kite chasingOnce up close, we realised that the kite was made entirely out of recycled material! A recycling bin bag, some bamboo and an old sheet cut into strips. ‘Even the glue is all natural,’ he told us proudly, ‘I make it with flour and glue. This is a Jamaican kite.’ Mushroom nodded wisely. Grandma and Grandad are Jamaican, therefore Daddy is Jamaican, therefore he is Jamaican (and Nigerian, and British, but that’s for another post). I think he gets it. He recognises ‘Jamaican’ anyway. The man smiled kindly at us. ‘I’ll make you a lickle one, ‘ he promised, ‘to put in your pocket.’

I asked if he sold them and he said yes but then it started to rain and Mushroom was fussing so we headed off. As we walked away I realised something. ‘I never asked your name…’ My shout was lost on the wind, or so I thought.

Recycled Kite‘I’ll see you again!’ He shouted his promise across the field and we both nodded. We’ll see him again. When we do, we’ll find out where he sells his kites and whether he’s interested in making one for you, too!

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Silent Sunday

bank hol



Should we leave the kids alone?

I recently read this article in the Guardian, in which Jay Griffiths wonders whether modern parenting might be making our children miserable. Jay introduces the subject with that often demonised ‘sleep training’ method, controlled crying (or ‘Ferberisation’). She asks ‘why would such a thing be promoted? Why would it ever be accepted? What does it reveal about modernity’s priorities? And how does it suggest answers to the riddle of unhappy children?’ She goes on to give examples of different styles of parenting around the world, from India to West Papua, noting that in most indigenous communities, babies are allowed to be babies for much longer, being kept close to their mothers for at least the first two years and in some cultures even co-sleeping up until the age of five. In these countries, ‘controlled crying’ is unheard of and children’s needs are tended to as and when required rather than to a set routine. Despite this ‘extended’ babyhood, as these children grow older they are given much more freedom and, as a result, become more independent at any early age. So, have we got it all wrong?

I am undecided on this one. I think that the idea in the West that children ‘should’ be in some sort of routine, and need to be ‘trained’ to sleep through the night is, as Jay herself suggests, based on the fact that most of us work, and expect our children to eventually join the world of education, followed by some sort of workplace. It’s pretty much a 9 – 5 culture and as such, a good night’s sleep (some time between the hours of 7pm and 7am, depending on how much you need) is important to be able to function within this society. Some might say that as parents, we are more interested in meeting our own needs than those of our children by forcing them to stick to some sort of routine when it goes against their needs. I disagree with this. Unless you are forcing a child to sleep when they are not tired, or refusing to feed them when they are hungry, for example, setting a loose routine can be beneficial for the child as they know what to expect. If I were to let Mushroom eat and sleep when he wanted, he would eat most of the morning, sleep a few hours in the afternoon, and then spend half the night awake and the other half fighting sleep before finally giving in some time around 4am. I know this because I once tried  ‘letting him sleep when he wants’ when when I felt guilty about having tried to ‘sleep train’ him. This would be fine if we had no reason to get up in the morning and could sleep as long as we wanted during the day but I work pat-time, my husband works full-time, and Mushroom goes to nursery part-time. On the days I am at home with Mushroom we are a bit more flexible but most child related activities happen between 9 and 5 so that’s when we’re out and about.

I imagine it’s quite a different story for most of the cultures Jay writes about. The children may not be ‘put’ on a routine but as they spend the best part of the day with their mothers, they would naturally follow this routine, waking at dawn and napping whenever they get tired, eating when they are hungry and going back to sleep in their mother’s arms at the end of the day. Here, we might call this ‘attachment parenting.’ There, it’s just parenting. Then, once the child is old enough, they are allowed to roam freely during the day, thus teaching them independence from an early age. I would love to let Mushroom roam free and eventually of course, I will – although the thought of this terrifies me at the moment – once he is old enough to understand that any limitations I put on this freedom are for his own safety. It’s this that makes it hard I think – finding the balance between freedom and safety… And let’s not forget the current culture that suggest we are terrible parents for letting our children play without being closely monitored 24/7. You may remember this post, in which one mother berates another (will we ever get over this?) for looking at her phone while her child plays a short distance away in the relative safety of a local playground. What then, of the mother who allows her young child to play outside of the house (while she watches unseen from inside to ensure safety), to encourage independence? A headline in the Daily Mail, I should imagine, and a visit from Social Services after a call from another ‘concerned parent.’

In the main, however, I do agree that babies should be allowed to be babies for longer than we truly let them. Mushroom is now two years old, and I know he’ll always be a baby to me but I honestly think that although we call them toddlers, these pre-schoolers are still babies really, and should be treated as such. I don’t have any childcare-related qualification that confirms this, it’s just a personal opinion based on my own experience.

So, are we getting it wrong? Well, I think that perhaps somewhere in between the two styles of parenting is probably about right. Allowing our children to be children for as long as possible, providing them with a secure environment (which may or may not involve some kind of routine) and preparing them for life to the best of our ability is all any of us can do. I don’t have the answer, that’s just my opinion. Let’s face it, if any one of us had the answer to the best approach to parenting, then there wouldn’t be so many blogs, books and TV programmes on the subject. My final word on this, though? The best approach to parenting is to love your children, as long as everything you do is based on this, then you’re probably doing it ‘right.’ Whatever that means.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please comment below and keep the conversation going.


Indoor vs Outdoor play

I have a confession to make… I’m not keen on indoor play. Messy or otherwise. There, I said it. I know it’s as important for development as getting outside and getting plenty of exercise and fresh air but to be honest at the moment I am finding it kind of boring… Maybe it’s Mushroom’s age (and short attention span), or maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been stuck indoors quite a lot lately when it’s supposed to be spring – we were even forced home from the park last week due to hailstones. Hailstones! Neither Mushroom or I were happy about that.

I do try – we use indoor play time to work on learning colours, letters and numbers (here’s a handy list of toys to help with the numbers). We also play pretend with whatever we have to hand – and I am actually rather fond of playdoh as we can have fun ‘baking’ without the calories… (We used to bake a lot more. Then my clothes started to get a little tight. I am not good at baking without sampling the spoils!). We do a little messy play with different textures (pasta, jelly), colouring, drawing and quite a lot of sticking… The thing is, after about 20 minutes of any of these activities, I’m as bored as Mushroom is! The only thing that hold both our attention for longer is building lego/duplo towers, playing with cars and trucks (yes, I do really enjoy this!) baking an actual cake and dancing. But we’re getting a bit fed up with these activities on rotation…

Colouring with different coloured chalks

I think the problem really is that we’d both just rather be outside. As long as it’s not raining (or hailstone-ing – if that’s a word?), then it puts him in a better mood, makes me feel more awake and tires him out enough that we can actually kind of enjoy a quieter indoor activity in the evening. Today, for instance, we are heading to a local city farm, which we are both very excited about. It’s sunny, we’ll be outside, we get to see lots of animals and play in the park. You just can’t beat all that with any indoor activity (feel free to challenge this! I’d be interested in your comments!).

I’m pretty sure I just need to think of some new indoor activities to freshen things up a bit but here at Mushroom Mansions (no, not really. I wish!), just saying ‘ Let’s go outside,’ can stop a tantrum in it’s tracks. So when it comes to indoor vs. outdoor play for us? No competition.

We love a good climbing frame

What about you? Are you the outdoorsy types or do you prefer to chill out indoors? If indoor play is your thing, what kind of activities are always guaranteed to entertain?

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