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For those of you who are cynical and read my last post and said to yourselves – yeah right she’s going to rest forty five minutes in the middle of the day – you can pat yourselves on your cynical backs. I have not rested in the middle of the day. One afternoon I tried, but a Princely cricket match popped up. So it’s been full steam ahead, which I don’t find easy (read it’s exhausting, even without having to do the washing, which my mother in law kindly reminds me when I complain).

Procrastination is my middle name. Especially when my To Do list is inexhaustible. I find myself staring at my Notes app on my phone with the letters beginning to blur into each other. At this point I put away the phone, the list and have a cappuccino. Of course this only increases my stress an hour later. Things to do NEVER go away. So I’ve been trying to balance it out with a simple trick that gets me going. I call it The Five Minute Rule.

The Five Minute Rule is telling myself that I’m going to do a job for five minutes and that’s all. We all have five minutes. And in that five minutes I do the job. Simple. Of course some things, like writing a blog post, takes more than five minutes. Which is fine, because once I’ve begun my five minutes I’m on a roll and can finish the job.

I use this for everything. If my optimistic mind is gullible enough to believe that sorting through the pantry will take five minutes, so be it. An hour later at least the cupboard is sorted.

I often think I can’t do things because they’ll take too long. Once I’ve begun something it’s always easier, quicker and more satisfying than living with the TO DO hovering above my head.

Setting time limits also helps to complete jobs. For example I’ll set aside an hour for menial jobs. This contains the things I really don’t like to do and therefor avoid like SA taxis on the road. I use this trick with the children to. I’ll set a time limit for them to clean up their Lego. It works even better if I put the timer on. Without a time limit they faff around and I become the nagging mother that I don’t want to be (but probably still am). I think setting time limits begins to teach them time management skills which are so integral to living a balanced, productive life. It’s hard to teach what you don’t have though, hence my self work in this area.

The daunting problem with To Do lists is that there’s always something to do. It’s like the dishes in the sink, there’s always a dish to wash. So a very important thing I’m trying to do is put a cap on my jobs for the day. I’ll do a certain amount and then I’ll put away my phone and refuse to think about the rest. Tomorrow is another day. I’m not going to be A-type, anal and miserable. I’d rather be B-type, fun loving and spontaneous and friendly.

The ‘being’ with which we clean, tidy, organise and do all the millions of things us working mothers and stay at home mothers do matters the most. I was once told that you should make friends with your admin. I’m yet to do that, but I’m trying to breathe, have a better attitude and stress less, whilst still getting what needs to be done, done. And if I don’t get to the shoe store to replace the sneakers that my lovely, sweet Prince lost today, so be it. As long as there’s toilet paper in the house. We’re okay.

Sometimes we as mothers push ourselves. Heck, we as human beings push ourselves. We often forget what it means to rest. Even with a day of rest once a week we don’t know how to rest. At least I don’t. I don’t even realise that I need to rest my body until I crash, either with flu, or by breaking my foot. Yes, I broke my foot. Only now that I’m off crutches (at least for a bit of the day until my foot has had enough) and hobbling around on my Aircast (like a moon boot but shorter) I feel I can face it and write about it.

So I broke my foot one Saturday afternoon when I decided I’d join the weekly family soccer game. I played my absolute best, and didn’t get near the ball. Tackling my six year old, my foot gave way (not having even touched the said ball) and buckled. Not wanting to ruin their game, I got up and told the boys to keep playing as I hobbled off into the next six weeks of a fractured fifth metatarsal.

My soccer career was over. I was humbled in more ways that I can explain. I wasn’t super woman, not super mom, not super anything. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk without crutches, which meant I couldn’t pick up my two year old, and couldn’t make a cup of coffee unless I drank it by the kettle. I had to stop.

Ironically the week before I had felt overwhelmed by the million different things I had to do. There wasn’t enough time, and I was exhausted, and I couldn’t admit it to myself. I ignored the triggers and warning signs of overwrought tears and frantic jumping from job to job in the middle of jobs. So I believe God (or if you like a higher power) intervened and stopped me literally in my tracks. I believe it was a kind, loving act, where I had to see that it was okay for me to be taken care of for a change. The Princes could bring me glasses of water, breakfast in bed is allowed, and the world goes on without me behind the wheel (we hired a driver).

The children came home from school to a mother who was home and relaxed. I spent more quality time with them than I had previously. I wasn’t ratty from being in the car all day. I was rested and quiet. The home was rested and quiet. (Well as much as it could be with four rambunctious Princes.)

The downside was down of course. No yoga classes. (Although I organised some amazing private yoga classes with Nadine Hurwitz, where I could work without standing, highly recommended for anyone with an injury.) I couldn’t clean up easily, so the house became slightly messier than usual. The Princes for all their help, also ran a bit amuck with no mother able to run after them. Crutches are officially exhausting, and I’m thrilled to be getting out of them. You look different, and are different from everyone else around you. In a room full of people it’s not so simple to move around. I imagine for people who are permanently disabled it’s isolating and only with a continuous good attitude do you get through it.

So I’ve learnt to have more compassion for those who are physically disabled or injured. I’ve learnt to be so grateful for the health I do have. I’ve learnt that anything can happen in a split second so it’s a blessing to be able to live in the present. I’ve most of all learnt that I need to rest and am committing to doing so in the middle of the day for 45 minutes, either sleeping, reading, or meditating. Where I renew my energy for the day. For myself, and myself alone. That is the right of a mother, a woman, a person anywhere.

I was very perturbed recently when I found out that my little sweet two year old toddler was hitting, smacking and pulling hair in class. No mother wants their child to be the bully on the block, especially not their adorable angel child. So I did two things I read ‘Toddler Taming’ by Dr Christopher Green and I went for parental guidance to a therapist called Mano Naidoo.

The first thing I learnt is that hitting, smacking, pulling hair and even biting (thank God mine doesn’t bite) with toddlers is normal. I repeat – NORMAL. As my friend just told me, her baby has hit the stage of pulling hair just as she turned one. It’s normal because toddlers don’t know social boundaries. As the therapist explained. They want contact with other children but they don’t know how to establish contact appropriately.

Toddlers need to be taught social skills. One of the best ways to do this is through role play. With dolls and with other children. So I’ve been teaching my little Prince to say ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Hello’, to shake hands (he still won’t do that one) give high five, and most of all to be ‘GENTLE’ with other children. I’ve also asked his play school teacher to incorporate social skills in class. Emphasising the skills of sharing and learning what a friend is and how we treat our friends.

I also learnt from Mano what to do when a toddler does hit or smack or pull hair. You don’t hit or smack the toddler back. You don’t give into pressure from surrounding mothers and shout at your child. Toddlers won’t understand. Their frontal lobes aren’t developed sufficiently, they literally can’t reason.

So this is what you do:
You first tell the child CALMLY (which I find a challenge), ‘Children aren’t for smacking’ and you show the child to be gentle. I say to mine, ‘Be Gentle!’ all the time, and teach him to stroke. You can also try to teach them to say sorry, but don’t force it because they don’t understand.
If your child repeats the undesired behaviour (an understated euphemism I know) then you simply repeat, ‘Children aren’t for smacking (pulling hair, etc.) and physically remove them from the situation.

I learnt that toddlers need firm boundaries. They need to know that there are rules, like no food throwing, standing on tables, and there is a limit to IPad time (Don’t ask, my two year old is already addicted, that’s what happens with a fourth child.) I’ve learnt not to be scared of his tears. I (try) stand firm in what I say so that he learns that there are rules and he has to follow them. All children need boundaries and the sooner you establish this and they understand it the less problems you have later on. I still struggle with my other Princes around boundaries and that’s because I didn’t manage to do it when they were toddlers. You have been warned.

Toddlers also need lots of social time, where they play with other children and can learn social rules. So I’ve been making lots of play dates, or even just taking him to the park where he meets other children to play with.

My Prince has the special challenge of being the fourth boy in a rambunctious home, where rough play is the norm. I’ve had to teach the other Princes to be more gentle with Prince No. 4 so that he learns to play more appropriately. Because other toddlers don’t understand a ‘punch’ hello, or that ‘play wrestling’ is a lot of fun.

I think the good news is that the terrible two behaviour passes into a cute, distant memory. A toddler reaches the more rational age of three, where he or she finally understands instructions, and appropriate behaviour. The thing not to forget is as Dr Christopher Green says, no matter what toddler challenges you face, don’t forget to enjoy your toddler and say ‘I LOVE YOU’ more often than ‘NO’.

I have an odd habit. When I’m sick with flu, that low grade flu that you can’t really pin point and if you’re a mother go into denial about. I continue with my every day running around life. I’m grumpier and not quite myself and always look a bit pale and peaky. My flu solution is that I find myself (quite unconsciously) at the MAC makeup counter asking for a lipstick. Something different, something that will give me a lift. Inevitably I end up with a bright pink, that certainly gives me a shot of pizazz.

Five shocking pink lipsticks later I feel better. It always works. It’s taught me to never underestimate the power of a dash of lipstick to lift my spirits. Never underestimate the small things in life that make a big difference. So up there with my daily Cappuccino (s) is pink lipstick.

On a more serious note. This mummy denial that I have when I’m not feeling well is not healthy. Especially for the Princes. Because I don’t take time out, and keep functioning on high Magimix speed, I feel like sodden mulch, and I snap. Read SNAP, as in SHOUT, LOSE IT, generally NOT COPE. For me the worst feeling is shouting. That feeling after shouting is like doing yoga on a moldy, smelly yoga mat. I am filled with Macbethian guilt.

All perfect mothers, who don’t ever lose it with their darling angels, stop reading now. For the rest of us earthlings, the best advice I ever received, with regard to making a mistake, like becoming completely overwhelmed and shouting is, “It’s not about the mistake, it’s about what you do after you make the mistake.”

No mother wants to shout. No mother wants to hurt her children ever. I do when I’m completely overwhelmed and my senses, due to flu or sleeplessness, are overloaded like Eskom’s power stations. Watching for our triggers is important. Flu denial is a problem. Time out is the solution. Taking twenty minutes to rest (yes in the middle of the day if possible) is necessary. And if you can’t do it for yourself do it for your children. Mother’s who don’t feel well aren’t useful to anyone.

I’ll try remember, next time I find myself at a makeup counter asking for a shocking pink lipstick, that maybe I should be going to bed instead.

No one tells you how chaotic the life of a mother is. How your life revolves around the needs of the little people around you. This is manifested most intensely with a little baby, where its every need is your responsibility and becomes your life. When they’re older it becomes about their school schedules, their therapies, their extra murals. Of course that’s just the practical, logistical side of mothering. Emotionally, socially we’re also involved. Who are their friends? What do they enjoy? What do they feel about themselves? How do I relate to them? Of course we can overthink all of this and/or put too much pressure on ourselves, as I do. Throw in any personal desire to work, write or go to yoga, or even have a quiet cup of tea (should we mention a social life, a really good fun relationship with ones partner?) and BOOM! A mothers life is served up on a very messy fast food tray.

So that’s what I’ve been trying to get a handle on. Balancing the aspects of my life that make my life meaningful and keeping up with the needs of four little Princes. Ironically as soon as I think I’ve got it right, and have found a peaceful balance everything changes. Ear infections which needs grommets, soccer season with it’s three soccer matches a week to go to (and that’s excluding Sunday matches), and behavioural and academic challenges pop up like shooting, over exuberant pop corn seeds.

Your time is not your own as a mother, unless you go to an office, and now with our smart phones, we parent via email, whattsapp and phone all day. It’s a 24 hour unappreciated job. No wonder so many women are on anti depressants. (I do think anti-depressants are the way to go if you’re not coping.) The pressures are too great, the demands are insane, and nothings going to change except ourselves. So this week whilst reassessing the fact that I’m not completely coping, and as I face a fifty page assessment to fill out, I am trying to draw on my sanity resources. I’ve realised that there are very practical ways of dealing with the internal and external chaos that we all carry.

So here’s what I’ve been doing:

1. Remember the Law of Thermodynamics 

This is the law of entropy. All things tend to disorder and chaos. We have to continuously expend energy to keep some sort of sane order. Knowing this reassures me, because it’s not just me, it’s everybody (even those who pretend otherwise), we are all dealing with the reality that life (especially with children) is unpredictable.

2. Balance JOY with WORK

I don’t like (read – loathe, despise, avoid at all costs) admin. So I procrastinate until it’s sitting on my head like soggy toilet paper. Then I can’t ignore it anymore and frantically I buckle down and get it done. My cortisol levels by this stage are sky high.This is not ideal, especially as mothering involves ALOT of admin. I was advised by my acupuncturist as I came to my session in overwhelmed tears to calm down. To assess all that I don’t like doing and then balance it with what I do like doing. So barter my way through the stodgy jobs with cups of cappucino, yoga classes and writing exercises. This may seem babyish. But it’s my inner child who’s rebelling against having to be the GROWN UP all the time. Through speaking to her and feeding her needs, to also be important, to also have fun, to also have her needs met then I can better cope with my four Princes and husband, rather than giving, giving, giving and crashing at the end of the day. So that’s what I’ve done today. Written my list of jobs out. Sipped a Cappucino whilst filling out the assessment – voila it’s done. I feel better and am now moving to the other jobs of my day. Ticking my list as I go.

3. Quality Time is better than Quantity Time

One of my biggest stresses is that I feel that I’m trying to be there for everybody and end up being there for no body. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever received is that it’s better to be really present with our children rather than spending lots of time resentfully. A game of backgammon in the middle of a busy day is worth a lot more than begrudgingly schlepping children to the shops. Children just want to be seen, and to feel important to us. Just remembering this, makes me stop take a deep breath in and prioritise my time with care.

Of course there are a lot more coping mechanisms. We all are bumbling along coping with being women, mothers, wives, friends, hopefully most of the time with joy. Through it all I think one of the main things to remember is that we’re not alone. That always makes me feel better. 

Hi All. This is a story with a twist. I conceived of the idea, years and years ago when my first Prince was a toddler. Finally I’ve written it now that Prince No. 4 has turned two. I hope you enjoy it as much as I had fun writing it. 

Domestic Abuse

It had been a long day. The Fling case still eluded him. He rubbed his furrowed temple. A beer would help. It always does. Gloria called him an alcoholic, for a couple of beers at the cafe. It wasn’t even a pub. She had no idea what he had to deal with everyday. This was a murder case with seemingly no motive on the husband’s part. A wife found dead in a bath tub. Seemingly drowned during an epileptic fit. She did have epilepsy but he felt a nagging tug at his detective sleeve. It was more than that. It’s not for nothing that a high percentage of murders take place within families. It always was the partner in his experience. He took another swig of his Castle. His eyes moved over the usual six o’clock cafe crowd. The businessmen loosening their designer ties after a tightly strung day. The women in their heels, transforming from tough women of the future to giggling girls over flirty, bubbly cocktails. Seeing people alive and laughing was a welcome change from the morgue.

His ears perked up as he heard the inane conversation next to him. There were two women, one who had come from the office in her neat red suit and tottering heels. ‘Killer Lady in RED,’ he thought to himself, almost humming to the tune that now assailed his mind. With her was a woman in jeans and a white buttoned blouse, a string of pearls hugged her neck in an attempt to dress up.

‘I had to get away. I would have murdered him if I stayed a minute longer.’

‘SHhhh, don’t say that.’

‘Well it’s true. You have no idea what it’s like. You sit in your neat office and have a secretary to boss around. I’m stuck with him all day. He just bosses me around. I’m completely pathetic. I just do everything he says.’

‘He’s not that bad.’ ‘Oh he’s all sweet when you’re around. He likes pretty women.’

‘Don’t make me blush.’

‘Ha, ha. You know it’s true. You won’t believe what he did yesterday he was so angry he took a swipe at me. Look.’

‘OOhh that’s no good.’

‘I’m putting scar repair. I pray it goes away. I can’t afford to look ugly. Not with all this weight to lose.’

‘You’re looking good.’

‘You’re flattering me. I haven’t had a good night sleep in months. He insists on getting into my bed and he just kicks, and kicks and kicks. I don’t know how much longer I can take it.’

‘That’s terrible.’

‘Yeah, so I just eat and eat and eat, because I’m just too tired to do anything else.’

 

Detective Brand looked up from his finished beer. He forgot to order his second.

 

‘Poor baby. Well forget about it all now. You’re out with me, and we’re going to celebrate your birthday in style.’

‘I don’t even feel like celebrating. I feel like such a wet, smelly dish cloth. I feel like a flower that’s been left in a vase for months and is rotting.’

‘It’s that bad hey.’

‘Completely. No one can imagine unless they’ve been through it. And there’s no way out. It’s not like I can abandon him. There’s nothing to do but hope he’ll grow out of it.’

‘I’m sure he will.’

‘I hope so. I don’t know what I’ll do if he doesn’t.’

Detective Brand couldn’t hold himself back anymore. It was his duty, he couldn’t help it, though he knew it was breaking an ethical code of privacy. ‘Madam, sorry to interrupt, but let me introduce myself. My name is Detective Fredrick Brand of the SAPS homicide unit,’ he said officially pulling out his badge. ‘I couldn’t help overhearing your troubles, and I can’t help but tell you that a voilent man never changes unless he undergoes serious intervention. I would advise you to leave him.’ He rummaged in his pocket for the card. ‘Here’s the number for battered women. They’ll protect you and advise you how to proceed. Often domestic violence results in death. Please don’t leave it.’

He stopped. The women were looking at him wide eyed, like he’d just told them they were grossly obese. Then they burst out laughing. Big, loud, belly laughs that had them doubled over. He looked at them quizzically.

‘Officer,’ the woman with the pearls said through her uncontrollable snorts. ‘I’m sorry, I think you’ve misunderstood. It’s not my husband who’s abusing me. It’s my two year old son.’

He didn’t bother correcting her. He was a detective. A serious detective cracking open the rotten murder eggs that plagued society. He left the Cafe. It’s time he began frequenting hard core bars with hard core liquor.

The Right to Cook So life’s busy, busy, busy. And I’m the kind of person who takes on more projects just in case I’m not busy enough. I’m learning to say no, but one initiative I could not say no to was doing a Pesach demo of Sephardi (Sephardi is actually the wrong word, because Iraqi Jewish food is Middle Eastern.) Baghdadi food for the Jewish festival of Pesach. The only thing was I knew how the food should taste, but not necessarily how to cook it. So guess where I’ve been for the last month? In the kitchen teaching myself how to make Mahasha – stuffed vegetables, Dolmades – stuffed vine leaves, Bamia – Okra Stew, and all kinds of other sweet, sour and delicious dishes that my grandmother used to conjure up in minutes.

Which is exactly why I agreed to do the cooking demo. When I cook my grandmother’s food I feel closer to her. I feel that I’m passing down a tradition that I enjoyed as a child to my children. The hours in the kitchen are worth it. Especially as I found them meditative and relaxing. My favourite time to cook is at night. It’s quiet, and it’s just me, a chopping board, fresh parsley and an onion that makes me cry. I never imagined it could be such a stress reliever. I could just be. Forget about the stream of never ending school issues, and life’s day to day challenges.

Somehow I never feel lonely when I cook. I find my mind wandering as I roast pine nuts and puree a tin of tomatoes. I think back to how my grandmother first taught me what it was to heat a pan with oil and saute garlic, ginger and onion. I remember how she used to talk to me about her life in Iraq, then Israel. I didn’t understand everything between the Arabic, Hebrew and English. But I got the gist. I felt her feeling. I knew that it was hard. I knew that she had her great sadnesses, and I knew that through it all she cooked and provided us with hearty, warm food from that time. This makes me stronger in my great sadnesses. A woman’s sadness doesn’t stand alone, it’s linked to the river of tears that all women weep into. My grandmother taught me that.

The meditative, regular movements of carefully stuffing and rolling vine leaves with its minty mixture of parsley, onion, rice and lemon is soothing. My hands are oiled with the olive oil, that my grandmother oiled her hands with as she stuffed her vine leaves. She had the most beautiful soft skin. Hands hardened enough to carry a piping hot tray of pinwheel cookies from the oven, but soft enough to be part of an Estee Lauder advert for hand lotion. As my leaves take shape into neat green parcels, I remember what she taught me about treating house help. With love and kindness, and food. All the knowledge passed down through kneading, cutting, filling, boiling, eating together at her small round table in Sydney comes back to me in little snippets. They make me laugh to myself and then the tears come as well.

Dolmades - Grape Vine Leaves

Dolmades – Grape Vine Leaves

I’m learning that cooking is so much more than a chore. It’s a journey to the past. It’s an adventure as I learn what works and doesn’t work. Facing a dish that tastes too sour, or worse too sweet. (Five tablespoons of sugar in Mahasha doesn’t work, despite what the recipe says.) Learning to face failure and chucking the disaster dish out with a heavy heart but lessons well learnt. Dancing around the kitchen in glee as the sauce for the stuffed vegetables comes right. I only know if it’s right by how it tastes. The recipes from the books fail me. They have too much tomato paste and sugar. I need to keep spooning and tasting to see if the dish is right. I’m surrounded by silver teaspoons and tablespoons cluttering the kitchen counter. Let’s not speak about the washing up. My grandmother was meticulous in the kitchen, she wouldn’t be impressed by the parsley that sprinkles the floor.

Mahasha - Stuffed Vegetables

Mahasha – Stuffed Vegetables

So I recommend cooking. Just taking a recipe, buying the ingredients and making it. The more chopping involved the better, the saucier and tastier the better. The more different the better. I love being taken out of my comfort zone and taking others as well. Everyone asks ‘What’s this?’ And I explain, knowing this may be the first and last time they ever taste a taste of my grandmother’s Baghdad, where Arabs and Jews lived side by side in commerce, mutual respect and most of all in baking bread.

And just to end up with this note for those who don’t like cooking. It can be very simple. Sharing a cooking experience with ones family can extend to cutting up a mango and sharing it. I did this the other day with my Princes. They learnt how to make turtle shaped mangoes. We cut and ate and laughed and made a jolly mess. They loved it. I loved it. It was bonding at its best. Simple.

Almond Cookies for Pesach

This recipe is one of my favourite new recipes I learnt. It’s from a book called, ‘Flavours of Babylon’ by Linda Dangoor, which my dear cousin, Sharon bought me. It’s very easy and the cardamom gives it a real kick that guarantees that it’ll be a conversation piece. Just don’t forget to make it in advance so it can be refrigerated for a few hours or over night. (I forgot and it didn’t set nicely because of that.)

 

Almond Cookies

Almond Cookies

Ingredients

500g blanched almonds, finely ground (I don’t use blanched. Normal works fine.)

200g walnuts (I just use almonds instead) 500g castor sugar (I found this too sweet so I half the sugar)

1 teaspoon ground cardamom (I buy the cardamom from Woolworths and use a pestle and mortar to crush the seeds.)

The whites of 5 medium eggs

1 egg yolk

Rosewater (Not necessary if you don’t have.)

Method

1. In a bowl, mix the almonds, sugar and cardamom. Add the egg whites and knead into a malleable dough.

2. Cover and leave to rest in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight if you wish.

3. Preheat the oven to 160 C.

4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof or baking paper. Lightly wet your hands with the rosewater and take a little of the dough the size of a walnut and shape it into a tight ball, flattening the top a little with your finger. I add an almond for decoration.

5. Arrange on a tray, spacing the balls to avoid them sticking to each other as they expand when baked.

6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool completely before handling. Serve or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer where they will keep well for a long time.

How do we relate to money? How do we raise our children to relate to money? Often we don’t think about these questions seriously. Or if we do, it’s a hard subject to figure out in a world, as Dr David Pelkowitz (Professor of Psychology and Education at Yeshiva University, NY) pointed out at the beginning of his talk on children and wealth, we don’t talk about money. It’s a taboo discussion in our society. It’s more acceptable to talk about sex (in some societies) than it is to discuss your bank balance. And, as he quoted, child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, ‘What can’t be talked about cannot be laid to rest.’

 So I thought I’d outline his talk that I went to last week. He raised some really interesting points that are helpful on our never ending journey of parenting. The outline below is scattered with many different points. I haven’t added my own commentary. I’ll leave that to you.

 Examine Your Attitudes Towards Money

Here are a list of questions he said all parents should ask themselves when it comes to money. This exercise helps to make your unconscious beliefs conscious.

  1. What was the attitude of each of your parents towards money and how did it affect you?
  2. What was your personal relationship with money when growing up?
  3. What did you learn about money from others around you?
  4. What is your attitude to money now?
  5. What attitude do you want for your children to have?
  • Money is a stand in for power, security, achievement and love. Ultimately you need to untangle these characteristics. 
  • Imagine that you’re a fly on the wall at your own funeral. What three things would you want to be said about you at your eulogy. 

Principle of Deprivation

  • The danger with money is the principle of deprivation. When a person has money in life they tend to be less satisfied with life because they tend to want more money. They’re less apt to share. They’re dissatisfied with their job and have low energy. Dr Pelkowitz tells the story of a depressed 28 year old investment banker who came to see him. He had just received his Christmas bonus of $500, 000. Why was he depressed? Because the guy next to him got $700, 000. 
  • It’s important to see money for what it is. It’s a tool.
  • Research shows that once your basic needs are met, there is no difference in happiness levels if you have more money.
  • He also told the story of a man who came from a wealthy background and volunteered after college for the Peace Corps. He was sent as a teacher to a village in Nepal. It was a very poor village. He was given a one room hut with no running water or electricity. He doesn’t know how he’ll cope, but he found he got used to it very quickly because it’s the way everyone in the village lived. When he received his first pay check of $40 for the month he felt like quitting. Then he found out that no one in the village earned more than $30 a month. He never felt wealthier in his life. 
  • Happiness comes from connecting to what matters, for example relationships. Not from stuff. 
  • Money eases the bumps in life but it doesn’t guarantee happiness.

Don’t Indulge Your Children

  • Why do we indulge our children? 

It has to do with our own level of comfort with saying NO to our children. 

Because…

* We want to be fair.

*We want to keep up with friends.

* We want to avoid tantrums.

There’s a myth that crying is bad for your child. Research shows that it’s a growth experience. It’s part of life. Children have to face frustrations, which is an instrument for growth. Growing up without anything else but their own self entitlement is a disaster. The most loving thing is to sometimes let them struggle with NO.

*We’re making up for our own childhood. 

*To replace yourself – because of guilt. 

The negative impact of all this is that: 

– Possessions lose value. 

– You don’t teach them the effort and reward connection. 

– It’s important to teach persistence, which is needed to overcome obstacles. 

– It’s important children learn to delay gratification. 

The greatest prediction of success in life is GRIT. Being able to stick with your goals in the long term. The one way to teach grit is to teach NO. 

So parents have to figure out ways to say no, so that their children can build up the muscle of self-control, which is the single most powerful predicator of success in life. 

Core Recommendations

1. Its’ the invisible lessons about money that our children see. It’s what we emphasise. What we get emotional about. Make sure your conversations don’t revolve around goods and possessions. Don’t make material things the centre of your life. 

2. Distinguish between Wants and Needs

Encourage children to write wish lists so that they learn the value for waiting for what they want most. 

3. Focus on the Internal Issues

What’s it all about? What is the emptiness about? Why don’t children have a richer internal life, that they need things to fill it.

4. Learn to set BOUNDARIES

There was a study done where they found that kids who own their mistakes and immediately took responsibility and apologised were more successful socially and academically. 

When examining the difference between the top 1% of neurosurgeons and the bottom 1% they discovered that the predicator for being the top 1% is how they handle their mistakes, take responsibility for them and correct them. 

The biggest gift we give our children is to teach them to embrace their mistakes as learning experiences. 

Affluenza – What is the Antidote?

There was a study that compared wealthy kids to low socio-economic kids. She found that the affluent kids had triple the rate of anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse. She found three attributes that contributed to this:

  1. It was never enough to just be average in that community. Kids grew up feeling they have to grow up in this box. 

Solution – We need to nourish the flame of our children’s uniqueness.

    2. The children’s experience was that their parents were there but not there. The parenting was outsourced. 

Solution – Values need to be internalised. Children to need eye to eye contact. Soul to soul contact. It’s important to be there for your kids. (This doesn’t mean both parents can’t work by the way.)

   3. Required Helpfulness. The children took and never gave back. That’s no way to live life. It’s important to get away from materialism and focus on what’s really important in life. 

‘There are people who have the spirit of a slave and there are slaves who have a spirit filled with freedom. Someone who is faithful to their inner-self. That person is always free. Someone who’s entire life is about what other people want or other people think – they’re a slave.’ – Rabbi Kook

We want to raise our children to have a life of freedom. 

  • If we substitute with childcare then that quality must be excellent. 
  • Kids want more rules. They may not like it, but even they, in studies done asking if they’d have more rules for their children, acknowledge that they would. (Especially with regard to electronic devices.)
  • When you do have rules that make sense, children welcome them and listen to them. 
  • It’s important to find the balance between love and limits.

I know this is a lot of information all typed out in bullet form. The talk was great. The notes are a useful, if not guideline, then springboard to think a bit more about the way we’re relating to money, materialism and most of all our children. 

 

 

 

 

One of my ambitious projects (dreams) this year was to create a playgroup at my house for Prince No. 4, who is now 20 months. This idea was born from the best selling book, Raising Boys by psychologist, Steve Biddulph. He writes,

‘What we are about to tell you next might cause distress to some parents. There are past readers of this book who have stopped reading right here, angry and confused. But the job of a psychologist is to tell you the facts, so here goes.

If at all possible, a boy should be cared for by his parents or a close relative (apart from the occasional trusted babysitter) until age three.

Group care of the institutional kind does not suit boy’s nature below this age. This doesn’t mean that boys put into long day care at six months will all become psychopaths, but it does mean that they will be more at risk. And, thanks to a number of large scale studies around the world we know that this ‘risk’ can take three forms. Firstly, increased misbehaviour, especially in the form of aggression and disobedience. Secondly, anxiety – to a degree that  might even harm development (this is measured by using stress-hormone tests). And thirdly, their relationship with you may be weakened: studies have shown that boys are more prone than girls to separation anxiety and to becoming emotionally shut down as a result of feeling abandoned. They seem less able to hold in their minds that Mum (or Dad) loves them, and is coming back. Also, a boy of this age may deal with his anxiety by becoming chronically restless or aggressive. Experienced daycare staff talk about the ‘sad/angry boy syndrome’ – a little boy who feels abandoned and anxious, and converts that into hitting and hurting behaviour. He may carry this behaviour into school and later life.’

It didn’t feel good reading this paragraph. Especially as I’d send my other Princes to main stream play schools from the age of 2 1/2, and I think, looking back with that blessed clear 20/20 hindsight vision, I didn’t do the right thing by them.

Of course I feel consumed with guilt. How could I have forced separation on them from such a young age, before they could express themselves, when they were still in nappies???? Of course I hadn’t known better. I hadn’t read Raising Boys, and they needed to be stimulated and socialised and further I needed my own time as well. So I couldn’t’ have done it differently under the circumstances. Guilt is therefore useless, and I just need to suck up the play therapy bills.

Fourth time round, I’m an older mum (finally) and I’m more aware of a one year old’s needs. I’ve now read Raising Boys, and I am determined to do things differently. Prince No. 4 still needs to be socialised and stimulated and I still need my own time. The issues are the same but the solution is a novel one. Create my own play group with a teacher and six toddlers who come with their caregivers. It’s a simple solution that my sister in law came up with when her son was a toddler (after she’d read Raising Boys), and it really works.

Since the first of February Prince No. 4 has been going to school in his play room. Thanks to our very creative teacher he’s made a caterpillar out of a toilet paper roll (with a lot of help of course) after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar (I love, love, love that book). He made a Valentines card for us using a potato stamp cut into a heart. He’s made a beautifully messy finger painting, whilst learning about his body parts. More than that he’s learning to interact with other children in a safe way. Learning not to hit or throw, and luckily the other children are with their nannies who protect them from the flying puzzle pieces.

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The most amazing thing for me is that I heard my nanny chatting to him about the caterpillar as she prepared him for his bath. She was loving going to school in the morning with him. For her it was a whole new world of fun, educational possibilities. A complete win win.

Of course living in South Africa, nannies are a blessing, and such help and support is not readily available throughout the world. The village lifestyle, where it took a village to raise a child, as the African proverb goes, doesn’t exist anymore. The reality is most mothers have to work, some have to send their babies very early on to creche. I think it’s a very hard reality in our world today, and I do wonder at the effects that it has on our children. On the other hand I also believe in the resilience of both children and parents. We all cope with what we’re given. Our challenges are our growth. So babies sent early to school do turn out fine. I don’t think there should be guilt as we as parents do the best we can with the resources that are available to us.

Opening a playgroup for Prince No. 4 is doing the best I can. It’s a blessing to be proactive with newly found knowledge. It’s wonderful to be innovative and brave enough to try new projects. (My dear hubbie has had to chew his words as he wasn’t very keen on my playgroup idea.) There will always be parenting challenges along the way, but please God the main thing is to keep learning, growing and most of all doing. So anyone who wants to begin their own play group, even if it’s for an afternoon a week – I say go for it. (My group only runs three mornings a week and is super flexible according to the children’s needs.)

It’s already the end of January. I keep writing 2013 unconsciously when I write out a date. But 2013 is gone like a wave on a beach, with it’s highs and lows. I’m now living the highs and lows of 2014. And that’s life – high and low, a steady heart beat of disappointments and successes, of tears of joy and sadness, of a healthy lentil burger and a full on chocolate binge. 

I’m an idealist, and I’m realising more and more how I expect perfection in life. In my day, in myself and in my family. It’s a strange strand of perfectionism I carry for I’m certainly not A type. I’m more like a Sloppy Joe B,C,D type. Yet I carry a persistent illusion that bad things can’t and shouldn’t happen, not to me and not to anybody. 

Slowly, slowly, slower than cooking a Sunny Side Up in the sun, I’m learning that things happen. **** happens. Not only to me, but to everybody. You go on holiday, you come back to speeding car fines. (The Garden Route cameras are brutal.) You’ve made a cake a thousand times, and it flops the thousand and first time. Schedules are continuously disrupted and I have to be as flexible as a yogic Swami to keep up. Fingers get caught in doors, cut chins need six stitches, and blogs that are meant to be written aren’t written. Hair becomes frizzy, date nights are sacrificed for community meetings. Princes rage, tantrum, argue, hit, fight, scream. And a young girl is sick and dies, and mothers everywhere weep with her mother.

That was this January 2014. And this girl’s mother manages to smile. How, how, how??? I howl and wail in this imperfect, completely unfair world do you do that? And in my heart I know it’s because of faith. Because of an unfathomable, inner knowledge that she possesses deeper than my own. That life is unfair, but when we’re Biblically presented with life and death, we’re told to choose life.

Wise people, happy people know this. No person who smiles on the street has a simple life. I don’t buy that anymore. Even a person with the most magnificent blessings who could want for nothing, can be unhappy. I’ve seen it. And the person who has nothing, no family, no money, can smile the most beatific smile and have the most sparkly, generous eyes. 

I’m thinking of an old man’s azure eyes who was like a second grandfather to me growing up. His name was Ziggy. He came from Czechoslovakia, and immigrated to Sydney after the war. Ziggy lost his whole family in the Holocaust. He witnessed his wife and five children being executed by the Nazis in a lush green forest. Yet as a child I only knew him as a man who had nothing and yet smiled, and sometimes fetched me in his old, white bakkie (utility pick up truck) after school. He chose to be happy despite everything. (At least on the outside.) 

Anyone who smiles is choosing to smile. Anyone who cries and is angry is choosing that as well. I’ve been on the highs and lows this month. Panic attacking over school schedules that need spread sheets. Feeling the anger and pain that certain incidents make me feel. Getting cross at Princes, feeling fear as they have stitches and x-rays. Thanking God when it’s all over. Marveling how truly inconsistent my emotions are. 

Upon crying at the funeral of this fifteen year old girl, who I had seen only a week before smiling and looking like an angelic young woman (much older than her age in a beautiful way) even though she knew she was going to die (which I only found at later), something shifted in me. An acceptance of tears perhaps, a knowledge that emotion is a choice. To choose to smile is harder and yet happier, more noble, more fruitful in this lifetime for ourselves and those around us. 

Words can’t quite capture the ethereal message she conveyed. Her spirit and energy was one of a truly courageous heroine. And I choose those words carefully. I really don’t know many heroines out there. What defines them as heroines is their ability to cope with their difficult reality, and whilst crying, still keep going, addressing their hardship and helping others with similar challenges at the same time. (I’m thinking of a dear friend of mine who’s son is autistic, so she opened a lovely, cutting edge educational school for autistic children. Offering support, advice and a shoulder to cry on for many, many parents throughout South Africa.) Ziggy was a hero.

Rising up to challenge is heroic. Smiling through challenge is completely angelic. Um but I’m not really that to be honest. I complain with the best of life’s kvetchers, I feel overwhelmed, have mini temper tantrums (I’m not joking), get very cross at those mythical towels on the floor, having to be a police woman with the Princes, and am very very human. My heroine friend is also human, as was Ziggy, as was the lovely teenage girl who had the most rebellious, independent spirit I’ve ever felt in a young person. 

Most of us aren’t heroes or heroines. Thank God most of us aren’t called on to be. But little acts of gratitude, kindness, being better human beings. Simply smiling despite the bills, the teacher’s calls, the homework duties, the schedules, relationship stress, work stress and everyday life’s up and downs is heroic in its own way. 

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