Saturday, 15 November 2014

Brutal truths

My beautiful boy - looking like butter wouldn't melt
Today, my spaniel thoroughly defied me. I'm talking out and out rebellion.

For over half an hour he evaded my demands, sat blatantly on the path ahead, head cooked as if he just didn't understand the command we spent 18 months perfecting. When eventually he did decide to come, it was begrudgingly, and at the last moment, he sprung away with glee and we began the stand off again.

I struggled to keep my voice calm, struggled to focus on him and not the disgruntled noises coming from my sling, struggled not to either lose my rag completely or burst into tears. A little whiny voice in my head was complaining bitterly about how unfair it was that we had spent 18 months of exhausting, painstaking training to get to casual obedience, only for us to pop out a baby and watch our dog turn delinquent.

After a few moments of this monologue, I looked down at my munchkin. I looked at my Crazydog, so cute in his defiance. So lovable.

And my head went: Oh. So this is what parenting is going to look like. 

At which my heart sort of split into two personalities. One nodded sagely and acknowledged the great but rewarding challenge that my husband and I have taken on. The other let out an awful despairing wail. It wasn't pretty.

Crazydog and Munchkin playing happily
Walking home, Crazydog firmly on his lead and trotting meekly - even apologetically? - at my side, I had a little faith insight too. That this exhaustion we feel when we watch our dog / child / selves completely undermine all previous training / parenting / self-insight and bettering must be something God feels daily about me. Watching me make a mess of a fragile relationship with a crass word, lose my temper because I haven't asked for help from Him, feel resentment when I'm asked to lend a hand, but I'm 'too busy'. He must sigh, focus on me and repeat his command calmly, again and again until I get it.

This helped. If you don't relate to this angle of thought, please just brush it aside and know that if you have felt like this, so too have many, many other parents.

If you have a faith too, and can relate to God as your Father (I think He embodies mothers too in his nurturing role, but that's probably a whole other post / discussion), maybe this will help you too. Because in my struggles as a parent, I learned a bit more of God's heart,  understood a bit more that He really is the ultimate Parent. I hope that, by being a parent myself, these reminders on a daily basis might help me grow closer to Him. Perhaps I might get better at listening to His guidance too.

I have to admit that the day didn't really get better and, being a bit under the weather, I found it hard to relate to the more philosophical and calm part of myself. That said, she is still in me somewhere, even on the hard days, so she must be tempering the inner scream even when I don't realise it. And I can take a breath and ask for God's peace and calm when I don't have enough of my own.

I don't really have much of an idea how to morph more thoroughly into the sage Earth Mother I'd so like to be and away from the panicked, impatient mess that I too often am, but that doesn't mean I won't keep looking. And hopefully, asking for help along the way.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Great Indoors

Welcome to the November 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Indoor Play 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 shared ideas and inspiration to keep families happy and healthy while cooped up indoors.

Just 8 weeks postpartum, I cleverly broke my foot and wound up equipped with a cast and crutches for the next 3 weeks. After that I was able to hobble around a bit, and life got easier, but for those 3 weeks, the sofa was my world. Mine and my little munchkins'.

My husband would set me up in the morning with a flask, snacks, litre after litre of water, a nappy changing kit and a Moses basket, which until then our little'un had barely looked at.
Although small, our munchkin has never been one for staying still, or fond of repetitive activity, and for a few weeks I worked my brain hard to come up with ever more ingenious things to do on a sofa - climbing, parachuting, and pirate ships were all tried, as was spaceships and flying. We did a lot of reading in the obligatory 'voices', and played with various household objects each day, because everyone knows that they're much more interesting than toys. We folded laundry for long periods of time, hiding under it, twiddling different fabrics, looking at colours and patterns, and being hedgehogs under laundry leaves. (Yes, I know she was only small, and yes, it's true that some of these activities were more for my benefit.)

It was challenging. Very challenging at times. It was also the moment in parenthood when I first (repeat FIRST) got the 'I can't cope' wobbles. It did, however, set me up for creative cabin fever.
Sadly, now that the weather has turned, we can't just go outside and eat grass for amusement. Although this is a shame, it gives us an opportunity to try some more creative play, and, at the moment, we generally have to try to involve standing or walking in most activities.
We have therefore begun to practice yoga together. I was doing the odd bit when she was napping or had gone to bed for the evening, having no core left to speak of postpartum. However, a friend at Waterbabies, 8 month old Kamikaze Princess (her parents' name for her, not ours) was showing off her Downward Dog last week and I thought 'Why not?!'.

We have been doing 20 minutes a day for a week now (after 15 minutes she starts to get bored and I wind up practice) and so far it's quite successful. Mostly she climbs up whatever limbs I have touching the floor at the time. We play peekaboo in Cat / Cow, and Downward Dog. We do horse back rides when I'm in Cobra. And the nice calming breathing and stretching we start with, including a bit of twisting and some side bends, is inexplicably hilarious. I can't see her joining the Kamikaze Princess in any actual postures any time soon, but we have fun and I get a bit of a stretch and strengthen - which I'm in dire need of.

Some of our other favourite activities involve a brief foray into the windy, rainy or chilly outside armed with effective clothing and a cheerful inner vibe (essential), whilst carrying the promise of a hot Ribina on our return - for me. (That said, we've been ridiculously lucky with the weather at the moment, to the point where I'm getting a bit narky not to be covering myself top to toe in ever more chunky knitwear.)

We recently gathered pinecones from our local wood, and once dried out, we had masses of fun dipping them in bright paint, tying them with string and suspending them along munchkin's wall at varying heights.

OK, I'm lying. That was what happened in my head. I think that, for older mini folk, this would work well. But for us, I must admit, it didn't go quite to plan. To begin with, threading the cotton strings was more fiddly than hoped and, with hindsight, should have been done in Blue Peter style - 'and here's one I prepared earlier...'

I then made the catastrophic error of placing munchkin in her highchair sans food. Yes, you heard me - without edible yummies. Big mistake. She wasted no time at all in telling me that this simply was not acceptable and demanded food NOW. I tried to appease her with a yoghurt pot of paint to dip her pinecones in. She was uninterested. I moved the pot, popped to lay out some greaseproof paper to put the cones on and heard her delighted giggles behind me - a drastic change from the previous noises of outrage. I turned around again to see that her arms are longer than thought. Yellow paint everywhere, she was decorating her highchair, the tablecloth (oilcloth thankfully) and herself.
This is the moment I gave in, squirted extra paint on the table and put a few sheets of paper down to catch her creative thumps. We have an original piece on our fridge door now - the first of many, I'm sure.

I'm undeterred though - the art-attacks have worked outside, surely they'll work indoors??! - and in another month I'm going to give it another go. Probably stripped down, in the bathroom, with smaller pots of paint and without the string, but I'm confident that dipping pinecones into brightly coloured poster paint can't just be something I love - and with her obsession with colours, it's surely just a matter of finding the right atmosphere!

My munchkin getting her artist on:


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 updated by afternoon November 11 with all the carnival links.)