The Junctions Of Motherhood; 15 Moments That Will Change Your Parenting Journey

change doesnt care if youre readyThis week I became the mother of a 15 year old!

Excuse me a minute while I pick myself up off the floor! Did I really just write that? I thought that only happened to other people?!

When Biscuit was a baby I would meet Mum’s who said they had a 15 year old child. Child!? I would think, that’s not a child, it’s a dependent adult!  I would foolishly think –

I’ve come a long way since then (15 years to be precise!)! And I can assure my 28 year old self that I am no less a Mummy just because I’m called Mum and don’t have to wipe anyone else’s bum!

Surprising Significance

Parenting is full of surprises (beginning with the birth), and it’s those unexpected moments that are most deeply imprinted on me. Unexpected tenderness, surprise laughter, fleeting connections with my children in our chaotic schedule. These are the moments that catch me off-guard;  full of raw, unqualified emotion which leaves its mark in memories.

If 15 years of parenting has taught me anything it’s this;

Meaning is found in reflection, and moments of significance gain focus with hindsight.

Children change all the time, reshaping like wet clay, but there are moments when the clay hardens and sets; these changes form the new shape of your future together.

Junctions of Motherhood

Change represents the junction points of motherhood; the moments where your journey together will take a new direction. To plot this journey of change I map backwards; retracing my steps to a certain junction and reflecting on its significance.

Some time ago I missed a junction; the last time I carried my boy in my arms. Like the many actions of parenting I did this without thinking; holding him tight, straining with the weight of him, never realising that this was the last time I would carry him. The change in his size reached a tipping point when pitted again my strength, and suddenly Dad carried him or he had to walk.

It’s a practical progression, but when I reflect on it I see it’s significance; one phase of motherhood has drawn to a close.

Would it have made a difference if I had seen these junctions approaching? Probably, by bringing my awareness to the small moments of everyday parenting, and cherishing their fleeting nature knowing they wouldn’t last.

 So here are my 15 junctions of motherhood.

1. The day toys were off the birthday list

I never thought I’d hear this sentence leave my sons lips, but as Biscuit’s 11th birthday approached he declared ‘I’m too old for toys’! If I had known this one was coming I’d have paid more attention to the last toy I ever bought him!

2. The last kiss in public

If you’re anything like me you’ll love that little hug and kiss goodbye at school each morning. There are warning signs with this one, kissing begins to be scaled back; removed from the classroom goodbyes get briefer and briefer until suddenly its a; ‘See ya later’ over the shoulder as they stroll off with their mates. You can expect this one to start anywhere between 5 and 9 years old.

3. The day an Ikea meatball record was broken 

One of our family traditions is to visit Ikea once a year, spend huge $ on home-improvement fantasies projects, stock up on enough tea-lights to live in a cave for the next ten years going home stuffed with meatballs and chips! There is a certain amount of kudos according to how many meatballs one can consume, and we each have a ranking. This week saw an shock win in this annual tradition, Biscuit stole the title of Champion Meatball Eater from his Dad, eating a massive 23! Look out for this one at around 15 years old (and carry a vomit bag with you)!

4. The day he washed and dried his own clothes

This is one that you need to nurture; since he was 10 years old I have shown Biscuit how to work the washing machine, at first he just packed it then slowly progressed to adding detergent and setting it. But it was still a wonder and a marvel to come home and find that not only had he sorted his school uniform out, he had washed it, dried it and had even thrown a few of my lights in for good measure! You can expect to see this from 10-14 years.

5. The day I relied on him to cook for the family

A bit like the washing machine, I suggest you encourage cooking skills to develop early, and build to independence with small steps. On this occasion it was a stressful night, with Dad home late from work and me dashing off to soccer training with his brother. Someone had to feed the family, and that someone was Biscuit!  Read the soul searching this junction prompted here in Mother’s Contradiction; Nurturing Independence In Teens .

6. The nightmare that didn’t wake me

‘I had a bad dream last night.’ This matter-of-fact statement bellied a significant milestone; my boy had soothed himself back to sleep after a bad dream, and didn’t need reassurance from Mum. Teaching strategies for self-soothing after nightmares are essential foundations to achieve this one, but it happened for us about 10 years old.

7. The day that briefs were outlawed

My boys wore briefs without question until a couple of years ago, when they were outlawed overnight! A reward went out to anyone who gave information about their hiding places, existing briefs were rounded up and mercilessly destroyed. Meanwhile their successors, The Boxer Shorts, colonised the underwear draws until total domination was complete! Expect this one from age 9 -12.

8. The day the tooth-fairy was fired

After furtive glances between Biscuit and I, (keeping up appearances for his little brother’s sake), he placed the tooth under his pillow and said goodnight. Unfortunately, in the morning the tooth was still there! After one too many glasses of wine the Fairy had forgotten she was on duty! She was promptly fired! Teeth are now bought and sold in cash deals without wands or glitter!

9. The day he bankrolled me

Biscuit has an uncanny knack of being the only person in the house with cash! I have a running tally of IOUs to him, which he records in his little back book (luckily he hasn’t thought of applying interest yet!). Look out for an increase in your debts at around age 8!

10. The day I came up to his shoulder

It’s very strange hugging your child when they have to bend down to you! Obviously you should see this one coming, but in-case you’re in severe denial, expect it anywhere between 12 – 14 years.

11. The last time I put him to bed

If you’re anything like me you might not see this one coming! I take satisfaction in a job well done when I put my boys to bed; tucking them in, knowing their snug and safely deposited for the night with a kiss and a whispered ‘I love you’. It’s a bit like my clocking -off card, my job is done for another day and out comes the wine! But at 14 Biscuit decided that he’d see himself to bed! I didn’t like this one little bit, but you can’t stop the tide of independence, and after much protesting, he gets a kiss goodnight and I stay in the lounge. Expect this one anywhere from 12 -14 years.

12. The day his home work became too hard for me

I knew this one was on the cards, math has never been my forte, but now I’m officially redundant from helping with Math homework.

13. The last day he was small enough to carry in my arms

As a parent I’ve been concerned with weight and growth since the day they were born, but it never really dawned on me that my baby would literally get to big to carry!  I remember gently lifting him out of the car, careful not to wake him, and carrying him to bed, his soft face resting on my neck. This milestone comes with a warning; you never know when Your Strength V His Weight will reach the tipping point, but you’ll find your empty arms will ache with longing the day it does.

14. The day he said ‘ Mum’s got PMT, again!’

Grr! Need I say more? The annoying male habit of dismissing a grumble constructive criticism as PMT started at 14 years old! I reminded him that the female of the species is more deadly than the male, and comments like that are likely to prove it!

15. The day he locked the bathroom door

Unless we have visitors in the house, bathroom and bedroom doors remain open and unlocked, conversations continue regardless of whether we’re on the toilet or in the bath! So the first time that the bathroom door was shut (and locked) we all knew that a new chapter had begun. Privacy, a need never previously considered, is now a norm.

Acknowledgements

Quote from www.livelifehappy.com

 

Is Your teen Getting Enough Sleep?

is your teen get enough sleepIt’s back to school for us this week, and as holiday bed-times draw to a close, I’m starting the conversation with the boys about what a school night bed time looks like!

My goal is to keep bed-times in single digits, but is that realistic?

For a 12 and 14 year old am I being too restrictive?

 

Bed-time Negotiations

I regularly re-negotiate the boundaries on bed-times, and I thought I’d cracked it at the beginning of the year when I proclaimed that the boys would go to bed at the same time as the school year they’re in!

This seemed so simple and worked beautifully for 14 year old Biscuit who’s in year 9, but is less achievable for 12 year old Berry in year 7!

Good Sleep Habits

The key to drama free bed-times lies in establishing good habits early on, and anticipating the potential challenges to come:

The earlier parents can start helping their children with good sleep habits, the easier it will be to sustain them through the teen years.

Dr Mary Carskadon (Director of Sleep Research)

So before you address the issue of bed-times with your emerging teen know the facts, and reflect on what you want and why!

I Just want Some Peace & Quiet!

There are times that I want the kids to go to bed for my sake not theirs!

I just want a bit of peace and quiet to watch something inappropriate on TV, (Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead etc) all by myself!

In this instance I’m setting a bed time to suit me, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Except that it might be a bit too early for them!

But knowing that the bed-time I set is about creating an adult space, rather than their need for sleep, means I can bring something alternative to the discussion. If my aim is not sleep, I can ask them to go to their rooms to read, listen to music or watch TV in another area.

This gives me the adult space I need, whilst allowing them a bit more time to wind-down before bed.

 

So How Much Sleep Does A Teenager Need?

The optimum amount of sleep teens need is 9-10 hours per night!

That’s more than the amount an adult or child needs, so it’s no wonder they may not be getting enough; they need more than everyone else in the family!

Many teens aren’t getting enough sleep, and that might be because we assume that 8 hours is enough, but hormone & attitude changes and social/sporting commitments are often the number one offenders!

I know that my boys schedule is packed out with soccer training, after school clubs and homework, so getting to bed at the ideal time can be a challenge. Recently they were both training for cross country before school; we were leaving the house before 6.45am!

Did they want to go to bed earlier to compensate? No way!

Does Less Sleep Really Make A Difference?

The National Sleep Foundation and Better Health Channel report that lack of sleep in teens can contribute to:

  • Poor school grades
  • Reduced concentration
  • Pimples and poor skin
  • Grumpy and aggressive outbursts
  • Over eating sugary and fatty foods
  • Increased susceptibility to illness

Although I don’t get too hung up on a short period of sleep deprivation (as in the cross-country training),  I am focused on helping them become the best that they can be, and in the long term that means getting enough sleep.

Been Here Before; establishing sleep routines

Sleeping: when they were babies that was the only word that mattered!

Day time sleeps, sleeping through the night, soothers and controlled crying were some of the torments of establishing that nebulous sleep routine.

During the toddler years it all started to fall into place and I used routines like bath-time and bedtime stories to cue my children into sleep routines.

Now, at 12 and 14,  I don’t feel as if I do much in the way of a sleep routine! But you’d be surprised!

When you start to actually think about what you do to promote healthy sleeping habits it’s amazing what you’re not giving yourself credit for!

Here’s a list of what I do most nights:

  • I get dinner on the table at least an hour before bedtime
  • I get them to turn off their devices about an hour before bed
  • I negotiate a time for bed
  • I police and enforce that time
  • I encourage them to shower each night (not always successfully)
  • I build-in 10 minutes reading time in bed
  • I say goodnight (sometimes I’m even allowed to put them to bed)
  • I check that devices are not in their rooms
  • I check-in on them before I go to bed

Lets Talk Sleep Hygiene

Promoting sleep as a priority in your house is a key thing to establishing ‘sleep hygiene’.

I love this buzz word, it makes me feel very important: ‘Sorry I can’t take your call right now as I’m attending to some sleep hygiene issues!’ 

What it refers to is actually very simple, common sense, healthy habits that promote sleep:

A series of habits and rituals that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep’.

How awesome that we can make sleep more hygienic!

So clean sleep is what teens need; a series of patterns that help them wind-down to bed-time. Simple bed-time routines send the message that sleep is a precious resource that your family values.

Sleep is a balm to the mind, body and soul

  • What are your teens bed-time routines?
  • Do you need to reflect on your own sleep hygiene before addressing your teens?
  • How do you promote healthy bed-time routines in your family?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these issues.

Don’t miss next weeks post where I’ll explore how you can create a sleep haven for you and your teen.

 

A Mother’s Contradiction: Nurturing Independence in Teens

Teens independenceWhy is it that every step your teenager takes towards independence leaves you feeling that little bit emptier? Often the pride I feel in seeing my child’s milestones is tinged with a sense of loss.

Why does each new phase of growing up feel like a step further away from me?

Teenage Milestones

Last night I witnessed another Teenage First, my 14 year old son Berry cooked us dinner!

He’s cooked before, muffins and brownies, usually under my watchful eye and ‘just for fun’. But last night was different. I was rushed and had to get his brother to soccer training, his Dad was home but working and so cooking was about dividing the labour of family life.

Someone needed to cook, and the only someone available was him!

Coming back after a cold night at soccer the house was warm with the smell of dinner. Berry had cooked his first family meal – Brown Lentil and Chorizo Soup with warm crusty French stick. Delicious.

Full Belly: Empty Heart

It was as I was clearing up that I realised that my pride in his achievements was tinged with a note of sadness, of loss, almost.

Where was this coming from?

Mulling this over as I packed the dish washer, I realised that feeding him had been my job from the first moment I held him in my arms, 14 years ago. And now we’d shifted gear again. He could do it without me.

Like so many other achievements throughout the years, he was growing into wonderful and heart-breaking independence.

They’re changing and growing away from us everyday. And it’s true that this, in itself, is a wonderful thing.

Catherine Naja  The Grief in Growing Up

The Double Edged Sword of Independence

The move towards independence is inevitably a move away from dependence. It’s a spectrum along which all children are travelling, and one in which parents fluctuate between celebration and desperation.

I know that every step my children take towards independence is a good thing. But it’s a contradiction too;  I’m nurturing the very thing that I’m dreading; the day they don’t need me any more!

It’s a battle at times, wanting to hold them tight and make time stand still. A wise friend was able to sum up her feelings as her boy grew to adulthood:

I’m so proud of the young man you’re becoming, but I really miss the little boy that you were.

Anne Gates.

And it’s true.

I really miss that little boy who thought I was his whole world, who would snuggle up on my lap for stories and sleep in my arms.

But I love the young man who wraps me in his arms, who cooks me dinner and asks how my day has been.

That young man is here right now, and that little boy is just a memory.

So I’m cherishing the young man, reflecting on who he was whilst anticipating all that he will become.

A New Chapter

Each stage of growing up is amazing, each new milestone brings different connections, exciting opportunities and new adventures.

Growing to independence signals the close of a chapter.

But like any good story, a new chapter begins, enthralling us in the same way the previous one did.

independence in teens

Words Of Wisdom For Your 16 Year Old Self

teenage  girl mums wisdomDear 16 Year Old Self,

You are beautiful, slim and amazing.

I know you don’t believe this yet, but I want to show you why you should.

Body Talk

That body you constantly criticise, and think hateful thoughts about, looks pretty damn amazing to me! I’d swap my lumps and bumps for yours any day of the week!

If I could share a single piece of advice it would be this;

Stop comparing yourself to other women.

Your body is yours to love, cherish and nurture.

It has the power to bring two amazing people into this world; and they will change your world forever!

Be present in the moment of your 16 year old form and relish all that it can do for you!

Now Lets Talk Boyfriends

I know you’re having fun with your new boyfriend, but he’s got to go!

Those harmless requests that he makes will become a series of toxic controls that will seep into your psyche.

It cannot be a happy relationship if you have to;

  • Ask his permission to see your friends
  • Report back on who you spoke to after a night out
  • Justify why you were speaking to other men
  • Apologise for wearing sexy clothes when he’s not there

If you would only believe that you are worth more than this, you will blossom.

Begin to love yourself more, and you will stop settling for less.

Do you remember that boy you met on the boat? Well, he may have broken your heart last Easter, but he’ll mend it again in a couple of years.

He’ll be back and he’s a keeper!

 Own Your Own Choices

You have 2 fantastic parents, and before you say it, I know they annoy you!

But you’re the first teenager they’ve ever had, that makes you the test subject! Believe me, parents are making it up as they go along!

Do you remember when you were arguing with Mum about sleeping at your boyfriends house? When she said;

Where did I go wrong?

You took that so personally, thinking that she thought you were a disappointment. But she wasn’t seeing you as her failed child. She was blaming your short-comings on herself.

That’s what Mothers do. They love, nurture and hope for the best for their child, but sometimes that child seems to deliberately obstruct that process.

I wish you’d listened to Mum, she had news for you;

Don’t base your self worth of your ability to be desirable to men.

She knew it then, and I know it now.

You’re worth more.

So my lovely 16 year old self, let me leave you with these words of encouragement;

Love wilfully, pursue truth stubbornly and dream wildly but,

know your own heart before giving it to someone else.

With love,

L.

 

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This post was created in response to a prompt from the Friday Reflections link-up, hosted by Janine Ripper at Reflections from a Redhead and Mackenzie Glanville from Reflections from Me.

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Would You Take Your 11 Year Old To A Pink Concert?

 

teens first concert

Is Your Teen Ready For This?

It’s a question I hadn’t considered till I saw the recent story of a Mum in the US who has been taken to court for taking her daughter to a Pink concert!

Are we making appropriate choices as Mum’s when we take our kids to rock concerts where the lyrics are explicit and the dancing is highly suggestive? Although in this case the New Jersey Judge ruled in favour of the Mum’s decision, it raises the question of when we feel it’s right to expose our emerging teens to the raunchier side of music.

What do You Remember About Your First Concert?

My first and only concert was in 1989 when I saw REM live on their Uk tour when I was 17. I don’t remember how my Mum felt about me going, but I do know that if she had tried to stop me then it would have been even more exciting to rebel against her!

What I do remember is

  • feeling shocked by the sheer number of people who were crammed in the venue together
  • feeling worried about being separated from my friends
  • feeling nervous about of being crushed and trampled by the crowd

I don’t remember loving the experience, and that is because I was totally unprepared for the magnitude of the event. I had never been exposed during my family life to anything like a rock concert and maybe if I had I would have been more relaxed and able to enjoy it.

How Can You Prepare Your Children For Their 1st Concert?

Maria Mora has some great ideas in her article School of Rock. Her suggestion to chaperone their first few concert experiences is a great idea, and one that may have a pay-off for you too!

As a Mum for many years you’ve been doing everything for your kids, driving them to sports practice, cheering from the sidelines come rain or shine, coordinating sleepovers, birthdays and cinema outings.

But, at last, something exciting is on the list of ‘Things-I-Do-For-My-Kids’…you get to go to a concert!

Who you get to see is really about how convincing you can be, but a word of warning, our kids are very savvy at persuasive arguments (thanks Naplan) so be prepared!

Some pre-concert discussions should include:

  • what to expect in-terms of behaviour from adults attending the concert  (discuss what it looks like when adults let out their inner wild-child)
  • strategies for re-grouping if you get separated (choose a central landmark to meet at if you are separated, identify staff and officials who can assist and put mobile phones on vibrate and keep them in your pocket)
  • what the budget will allow for purchasing merchandise at the concert to avoid disappointment on the night
  • what’s expected in the way of singalongs (get the whole family to learn the songs, if nothing else it will be an embarrassing story for them to recount later in life!)

I’ve got my eye on some Robbie William’s tickets for October…let the education begin!

I’d love to know if your teen has been to their first concert yet.

Do you have anything to add to the list of things we can do to prepare our kids for this experience?

 

 

 

 

Scream Time!

 

electronic games controllerScreen time discussions often feel like scream time in our house! It seems to be about wanting more and getting less! I always want the boys to have more time actively engaged in conversation, more time chatting with friends and more time playing sport.


They always want more time playing X-Box, chatting with friends whilst playing X-Box and  playing sport on the X-Box!


So this holidays I was determined to negotiate electronic media time and avoid the nag factor! Armed with information from a local parenting group  I started to put into action the advice from their workshop.

Top of the list was the ‘Acceptable Use’ agreement. The key here was to negotiate with the boys, and get their input. Doesn’t sound too hard really…?

I started my campaign for less screen time by extolling the virtues of keeping active, meeting friends and getting outdoors. The trouble is that these kids could read me like a book! They were so savvy at recognising a persuasive argument (thanks Naplan!) that they listened impassively and waited for their cue to counter argue. 

And they counter argue they did! The crux of which was comparison. Comparing our time limits, comparing the types of games and comparing where they could play.

In the comparison test we failed.

Miserably. 

So it seems that the boys are hard done by. Hmmph.

After talking to their friends during the holidays, and reading lots school holiday recounts over my teaching years, I think they are probably right. We are a bit restrictive with the time they get on electronic media.

So should be we change to get in line with the social shift in screen time allowance?

This one is a tough call.

If we’re too out of touch, then the boys will head over to the houses of their friends whose parents are more relaxed and spend their time gaming there. This raises some potential issues –

  1. That the problem has just been shifted onto someone else’s doorstep.
  2. They have unlimited screen time.
  3. I have no-idea what content they’re accessing.
  4. The potential to egg each other on to engage in less appropriate activities online.

My boys are not only limited to the amount of screen time they have but also where they can use the internet in the house. We don’t have TVs in the bedrooms (ours or theirs) and the internet has to be used in shared areas. Devices are also stored in a central location overnight so bedrooms are  device free zones.

These decisions are based on common sense, in the hope they increase the boy’s accountability, to themselves and to us! But of course, if these limits drive the boys away to play elsewhere, they are worse than useless. So it’s a dilemma…

But is there any evidence to back up my so-called common sense assumptions?


Well today on Twitter I found some…

(and yes the irony of finding it on social media is not lost on me!)


 

We have been keeping devices out of the bedroom overnight over concerns about the impact of WiFi on sleep. New evidence has confirmed what common sense had already told us, that intense electronic activity before bed is linked to sleep disturbances in teenagers.

Well, duh, that sounds obvious! But maybe that’s because as adults we have learned that having a highly active brain before bed makes it hard to shut-down or switch-off. But do our kids know that?

Our kids are growing up in a device centred world, which offers amazing opportunities for them. However, it’s up to me as a parent to get up to date knowledge on how to tackle critical issues and recognise the potential negative impacts of screen time.

I must have the courage of my convictions,

(but it helps if my convictions are based on evidence).

So these holidays I kept some of my critical limits in place, but relented on how much time could be spent in-front of a screen. The boys thought it was great, they had more freedom to play and less embarrassing rules to explain to friends,  which led to more friends gaming at our house.

Screen time had its moments but it didn’t always turn into scream time! Now to re-negotiate that ‘Acceptable Use’ agreement for term time…ahhh!

 

moulding minds quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End of an Era

It’s really happening. Today confirmed my suspicions. They are growing up.

Today was the end of primary school for my ‘baby’ Berry and the beginning of a new chapter.

 

It’s been an emotional day for us both, but for different reasons. He’s saying goodbye to some good friends who are leaving to go to different high schools, and I’m reassuring him that as one door closes another opens! I’m sad to leave the lovely nurturing environment of junior school where you build a relationship with just one teacher, for an impersonal high school where multiple teachers barely remember the kids names.

 

Berry thinks this may work in his favour though; if they don’t remember his name they might not remember his misdemeanours! I think it may too! I will no longer receive the Red Note informing me of an impending detention after a water fight in the toilets!

 

So going to high school means not everything gets back to mum, is this an opportunity to conceal bad behaviour? Or is it a lesson in personal responsibility? If he’s not accountable to me at the end of the school day, then who is he accountable to? The obvious answer is – himself! That most important person who will regulate his behaviour and choices throughout his life!

 

Independence, love it or hate it, it’s coming our way!

A Journey Beyond Kilometers

family-roadtrip-togetherWe recently travelled for 3 months around Australia and I began blogging, mainly to share news and updates with friends and family, but also to record a journal of our adventures. As we travelled it was clear that this was not a journey measured only in kilometres, but in personal connection and growth.

We covered great distances from Broome to Cairns but the further we went from home the more home was found within us. It was as if the distance created by pursing individual goals diminished as we worked to achieve shared goals. Gaps and silences that had been sliding quietly into the spaces in our lives became filled with laughter and adventure. And when I reflect on the real journey that my blog documents, it is the record of our family re-connecting and evolving.

Now we’re back in Perth, back to school, work and hum-drum can we keep the connection alive? How do we maintain our individual lives without becoming fragmented again?