Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Archive for November, 2012

The Mounting Mountain

Yesterday a friend came in the afternoon with her two children, who are the same ages as AltD1 and AltD2.  Call it a playdate if you like.  AltD1 recounted the day’s events to her dad in the evening and explained that we had all had a friend round to play – one each!  🙂

Anyway, my friend and I (let’s call her Jean, that’s not her name, though) were talking about various stuff, and I mentioned that I had made a Christmas Cake on Monday.  More about that another time, but Jean surprised me by saying

“Oh don’t, you’ll make me feel inadequate – I’ve been feeling like that a lot, lately”.

This is a lady who seems so together all the time, and so on top of everything in the midst of chaos.

Now the way I see it is like this:

(Not my diagram, I pinched it from a facebook link, and I’ve no idea where it originated)

So Jean was saying she feels like everyone else’s houses are always tidy and hers isn’t… um… that’s how I feel , too… and I’m guessing so does pretty much every other parent on the planet, right?  So I took Jean and BabyJean and AltD2 while BiggerBabyJean and Alt D1 were ransacking the toybox, and I showed them the Pile of Shame.

I don’t show it to other people, and I usually keep it behind closed doors whenever visitors are in the house.  It isn’t mentioned in public, and although AltFather would prefer it wasn’t there, he doesn’t put pressure on to get rid of it.  Ladies and gents of the internet yes, I am a Laundry Slattern.

There, it’s out there.  Now you all know.

Washing it isn’t a problem.  After all, the invention of the washing machine changed our lives forever and kick started the liberation of women everywhere, right?  I’ve got one of those.  Even the drying isn’t too bad – we’ve got a washing line in the garden and for days like these we also have (whisper it softly) a tumble drier!  No, the Pile of Shame is the current mounting mountain of clean, dry laundry on our spare bed.  I think there’s still a bed under there, it’s getting hard to tell.

There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to fold and put away 500 loads of laundry! Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating that, but it does feel like it.  Sometimes I wish my family would stop wearing clothes!  AltD1 is becoming an expert at diving into the Pile of Shame and emerging triumphant, clutching exactly the article of clothing she went in there for.  AltFather has a bash at the Pile every so often, and so do I, but next day there it is, back again to haunt me and make me feel inadequate.

And that’s the problem really.

As human beings we are constantly comparing ourselves to others.  But as soon as we become parents, the comparison game enters a whole other league.  In fact it enters a whole new International League, because now not only do we compare ourselves, we have to fight to stop ourselves comparing our children.

Little Johnny is smiling, rolling, sitting, standing, walking, talking… whatever it is, maybe mine isn’t quite.  But she might be doing calculus in her head, or declining Latin verbs… how do I know?!  My baby is the cutest, funniest, cleverest (is that even a word?) baby I know.  And that is because she is mine.  And your baby is probably the cutest, funniest and most clever baby you know.  Because he is yours.  But oh, it is so hard not to compare them.

With AltD1, lots of my friends had babies 3 months older than she was.  That’s just how things turned out, and those were the people I met at the time.  That took a load off my mind – I couldn’t compare AltD1 because being so much younger, of course she wasn’t doing the same things.  For AltD2, well she hasn’t got any friends (poor kid – also, NOT true!) so I can’t compare her, either!  😉

BabyJean and AltD2 were chatting to each other yesterday, passing bricks across, and playing nearby without poking each others’ eyes out.  That’s good enough for me!  Their older siblings were doing crazy stuff with a tent and a boat made out of a cardboard box and half the wooden spoons from my kitchen; that’s also good enough for me.  They weren’t comparing themselves, and we weren’t either.

Jean’s eyes lit up when she saw the Pile of Shame.  I might have just shown her the Holy Grail or the gates to Atlantis.

“I’m so glad it’s not just me!”  she grinned.

So, here is my challenge:

  • To clear the Pile of Shame by the end of this weekend, and to keep it clear between now and Christmas.
  • I solemnly pledge that I will empty the laundry basket every day, wash, dry, fold and put it all away.  AltFather can pair his own socks though.

Wish me luck!

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Schoolbags and Gladrags

Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.

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Thisis the first time I’ve taken part in the Carnival of Natural Parenting.  I thought it might be a good prompt for a post, and to get me started in my new WordPress home!  This  month’s theme for the Carnival of Natural Parenting is “Service Projects – How do you encourage compassion in your children?”

I think AltD1 is pretty compassionate for an almost-4-year-old. She’s sensitive towards others, and she seems to have a growing awareness of how people might feel. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her moments, of course. Apparently small children can’t really develop empathy until they start to understand that not everyone thinks exactly the same as they do, and that not everyone knows exactly what everyone else is thinking of all the time! Pretty tricky concept to grasp, I would imagine. But reading a bit around the subject, it’s clear that we need to model empathy and compassion to our children so that they can grow into kind, considerate adults. The kind of adults we’d all like to be ourselves, right?

The carnival theme calls for a “service project” and while the AltFamily are supporters of various charities and causes, and both AltFather and I have carried out voluntary work in many capacities over the years (in fact I seem to suffer from “Volunteeritis” also known as “Can’t say “NO” Syndrome”) we don’t actually do much volunteering as a family. And maybe it is time that AltD1 got to have a go at making someone else’s life a little better.

The year AltD1 was born (in the November) we sent our Christmas cards out on 29th December. AltFather shook his sleep deprived head as he dropped the pile of envelopes into the post box and suggested that maybe we really should find a better way to spend £50 at Christmas time. As the cost of postage has risen so much since then, it would likely be double that by now. Instead of cards, we decided to do something for someone else instead. Nobody seems to have noticed the lack of a card from the AltHouse, and the environment will probably thank us too. We still send cards to our elderly relatives and friends with photos and news of the children, but we are able to spend more time on the half dozen that we do send. Then we get to choose a charity or a cause, and help them out a bit, too.

In response to the challenge of this blog carnival, something AltD1 is able to physically see and help with would be a good idea, I reckoned. My first thought was the Christmas Shoebox appeals which are prevelant at this time of year. Sadly, I have heard too many bad things about the organisation that runs the most popular of these schemes, and we won’t be participating in Operation Christmas Child, either as a family or through school when and if the time comes. To summarise briefly, we are not prepared to involve ourselves with a fundamentalist arrangement that promotes intolerance, including religious, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic intolerance… you can google it for more, or read this article (among others).

I digress… what I wanted to find was something similar to OCC but without a toxic agenda, that my daughter would enjoy being involved in, and could learn something from. So we are making up a backpack for Mary’s Meals Backpack Project. Mary’s Meals provides basic school equipment and hot meals for children, where they might not otherwise be able to afford an education. Here is a short video about the scheme:

And here AltD1 having fun putting it all together:

We watched the Youtube video and talked a little about how some people have lots of lovely things and other people have hardly anything at all. AltD1 decided she’d like to do something to help them… so far, so good.

While we shopped for the bag and its contents, she explained to the shop assistants that these things were not for her:

“They are for another little girl in another country so she can go to school.”
She’s pleased with herself and her school bag project.

She sometimes gets attached to things [“Noooo Mummy don’t throw away that cardboard box/ piece of paper / random bit of tat or rubbish, I looooooove it sooooo much and I need it!” dammit she’s inheriting my hoarder tendencies already! ;)] so I wondered how she would react to packing up the parcel and sending it off. Not too badly, as it happens. (Phew!). She was happy taking it to the Post Office, and delighted to pass it through the hatch. We really enjoyed the challenge of a family service project, and we’ll definitely be doing something similar again. Thanks for the inspiration!

Teaching our children to be compassionate goes a lot further than Christmas projects, though. Asking ourselves “What kind of human do I want to be?” [thanks to today’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show Pause for Thought slot for that one!]. I know how I would like to answer that question, and it goes deeper than “a bit less untidy and more well organised” Which seems to be my current goal in life. Ah, I will have to get back to you on that one and let you know how it’s going!
I hope I can pass on to my girls the basis of something which will help them to grow into good people. As parents, that’s all we can ever hope for, isn’t it? We have to do our best for our children, to show them how to be, kind, compassionate, loving, caring, and all that goes along with being a responsible human being. Thinking of others is the first step. Modifying our behaviour to ensure others do not suffer as a consequence of the things we do and the decisions we make is a step beyond.

AltFather came home from town with AltD1 last weekend, where there has recently opened a new store that offers its customers credit on a weekly basis at astonishingly high punshing rates of interest. They were giving out balloons, and of course AltD1 loves balloons and wanted to go and get one. AltFather said no, and there followed a discussion on ethical business practice. He wasn’t sure how much she actually got (“balloons, though, Daddy!”).

But that evening as I tucked her into bed, she told me all about the new shop,
“Which Daddy says isn’t very good because it takes all of people’s money and then they don’t have any and that’s not very nice is it because then they can’t buy other things they need like food…” so maybe she did understand just a little bit.

Will she share our ethics as she grows up?
Or will she make different choices?
Only time will tell, but hopefully we will be able to teach her that concern for the wellbeing of others is really, really important, and helps us to be the humans we want to be.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.

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