Posted in Celebration, Parenting, School, Wins

A Date With Elsa

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R is crazy about all things Frozen. It has been her favourite movie since she first watched it. She has watched it so many times, she knows every line in the movie by heart. When she is not watching the movie, she is reading the book. When she is watching the movie, she has the book open in front of her comparing scenes to pages. She dresses up in blue dresses every chance she gets and has me braiding her hair every single day. She pretends to be Elsa and even has everyone at her daycare is used to greeting her with “Good morning, Elsa” each morning.

One Friday morning, she said she wanted to wear the red and cream dress aka her “Anna dress” because she was going to be Anna. I was surprised that she chose this day, of all days, to be Anna. We were going to watch the free screening of Frozen on a big screen, under the stars in the evening. There was going to be a ‘Meet-and-greet with Elsa’ too. The rest of the day, she told everyone she was going to meet Elsa that evening.

Just as I started to pack my bag at work, people came at me from all sides. As it happens. Of course, the one day you have to leave early, your manager must approach you with an issue that is urgent and needs to be resolved without delay. Of course, you’re the only person who can come up with all the important information required to make life and death decisions. I manage to ward off all the issues, in true ninja style, and arrived at the childcare center with just enough time that we would still make it to the showground and meet Elsa.

Her friend A’s parents had decided to come along with us and had just arrived too. Calmly and as if it was just another day, they were picking up A. A was telling me that her mum had a surprise for her. On the other hand, there I was, excited and hurried, hair flying, clothes flaring and arms flailing. I grabbed R and told her we must rush, told A that I had a surprise for her too and we’d see her in an hour. Normally I’d like to pretend that it’s the life of a working mom trying to make the best of work and be supermom, but there was the case of A’s parents. Same gig, but a lot calmer and together. Damn!

By then, I was on too much adrenaline, having left work in a hurried state with my mind running at a 100  miles an hour. Running out of the daycare, R in one hand and dialing with the other, I tried to arrange for R’s dad to pick us up from the train station, to save time. Why was I late while A’s family wasn’t? I couldn’t quite tell. Anyway, we took the train, DH picked us up and we arrived at our destination. R and I jumped out, while he looked for parking. We walked quickly, as I started to dial again, to find A’s family. As usual, multi-tasking. We found Elsa before we found A.

Having waited all day to meet Elsa, I thought R would be excited to see her. I should’ve known better. When has she ever? She was shy. In fact, she was so shy she wanted me to pick her up. I convinced her to stay on the ground. I’d hold her hand. In a while, dad arrived and so did A, with her mum. We joined in the dancing, staying a safe distance from the numerous ‘Elsa’ girls around us. Yeah, there was the DJ who was the pretend Elsa. Then there were the numerous kids, all dressed up in Elsa costumes. Most kids (or their parents) seemed to think the obvious thing to wear to a meet-Elsa event was to dress up in their own Elsa costumes. Mine thought she ought to dress up as Anna, if there was already going to be another claim to the Elsa role. Clever. Different thinking. Interesting, for a kid her age?

So, we danced, got ourselves a candy and then queued up for a photo with the ‘real’ fake Elsa. Kids cuddled her, posed with her and smiled at cameras. R jumped on me and clung to me as if she thought Elsa would bite her. She wanted to go away. She did not want a picture. I knew she would enjoy seeing a picture later but she just wanted to get away from there at the moment. So, we took a picture with Elsa, with R clinging to me for life. Elsa asked for a cuddle but R just wanted to leave as soon as possible. A was quite the poser, cuddling Elsa straightaway and posing with her while her mommy took a couple of photos. I asked R if she was sure she did not want any pictures. She just wanted to leave. I was already looking like the mum who wanted the picture that the kid did not. R was distressed. I decided to let it go, even though I knew she would have loved a picture, in hindsight. I mentioned to A’s mum to never show R the picture of A with Elsa.

Back home, I showed R the photo of her and me with Elsa. She was thrilled! She loved that there was a picture of her with Elsa. Duh!

The girls loved watching the movie on the big screen. We had front row seats too, thanks to both dads who were setting up the picnic rug while us girls were dancing with Elsa. A had only ever watched it on an iPad and her parents had only ever “listened” to the movie from the back seat of the car. R and her dad have watched it numerous times on the big screen TV but nothing like the massive screen, in the open air, lying down next to the grass and chomping on food. Best way to watch a movie, with friends and family. Dreams do come true.

Posted in Reverse-parenting, Wins

Role Reversals: How Bad Is It?

Me: I’m a bit stressed today

R: But why?

Things at work

Hmm

What should I do?

I think you should be patient

You think so?

Yeah! And you should get some sleep. When you wake up you’ll be better.

A recent article I read spoke of parents who treat their children as friends and how much of a disservice they were doing, by not letting the kids be kids. By that standard, I must be a toxic parent! In my defense, it is not me pouring my troubles before my child but she wants to know. When I lie down next to her at night and say, “Tell me about your day… what did you do at the daycare“, she asks me to tell her about my day at the office. Sometimes.

The first time she asked me to tell her about my work, I asked her what she wanted to know. She wanted names of people I work with. Then she wanted to know who I liked working with and who the “bad people” were. She was interested in why they were bad. She asked me what I did at work all day. Did I sit at the computer like Peppa Pig’s mum?

Today, I told her I was stressed. Ok, she didn’t ask me and it was not at bed time but I told her just after dinner. I could not think of much else to talk about. I was too wired up. Often I find that I get a more appropriate response from her than her dad, in these situations. I guess it has something to do with how simple her life is compared to the five-million-thoughts-a-minute running through an adult brain. She hears the problem and gives me the obvious solution. Why did I not see that? The truth is, I did but I didn’t. I saw it but I looked past it because I was too busy stressing or wallowing or maybe I’d already moved on to the next issue coming at me.

Toxic or not, it is amazing to see the world through a little toddler’s eyes. I am not expecting her to grow up quickly or be my best friend but why shouldn’t I get down and embrace the simplicity of her view? Some times we just need to hear from someone else what we already know. Why couldn’t that someone be my child? It makes her feel empowered, because she helped mum with something. Between hearing the statement and admiring my child’s ability to address my issue while simultaneously making sure her Lego tower doesn’t topple, I’ve already calmed down quite a bit. The stress is sliding off me real quick because I am now overwhelmed with pride at how beautifully she grasped the concept of stress and de-stress. If she can tell me this, maybe… hopefully… she will remember it when she is distressed.

I’ve seen her get frustrated in the mornings when she can’t get her clothes on or after dinner when her narrow Lego tower keeps falling over. She has come a long way from screaming and crying, to trying again once she has gotten the poison out of her system. The screaming now is not a ear-splitting where-are-my-parents yell but instead a long grunt of exasperation to expel the negative feelings. I can see her self-regulating her emotions and boy, am I a proud parent!

By the time she went to bed, I was ready to cross some chores off my list. I was ready to channel my highly strung nerves into something more creative. I certainly do not feel like a toxic parent. I do not believe my daughter went to bed thinking about my stress or patting herself on the back for helping me relax. I doubt she made as big a deal of it in her mind as some of these parenting articles claim. As far as I could see, she went to bed, as always, arguing with her dad about how many stories he had to tell her, which version of Rapunzel’s tale she wanted to hear and whether mum would join her in bed after she has gone to sleep.

Do experts overthink these situations? Are they right, whoever they are that make up these studies? Should parents take what they read with a pinch of salt?

Posted in Family Tradition, Parenting, Wins

I Got It From My Daddy

“Mummy, I don’t like you. Go away!”

“Do you want me to go away? Will you stay with daddy by yourself?”

Thinks for a moment.

“I like you to sleep with me”

“Huh?”

“I like to cuddle with you and sleep. I don’t like you when I wake up”

So she needs me for her naps and bedtime but she prefers dad for play.

“Why is that?”

“Dada lets me stay in the bath longer”

That was a couple of days ago. I’ve heard this a few times this week. Last night, I was out at drinks with my work mates. R’s dad picked her up and took her to Hanaichi for a meal of chicken and rice. While eating, she apparently said,

“Daddy, mummy doesn’t bring me here. I like you. I don’t like mummy”

I’m beginning to understand what people mean when they say you’re doing something right when your teenager kids hate you. I hadn’t quite been able to relate to that until now. The threenager in this household is teaching me things I was not expecting to learn for at least another ten years. Yet, here we are.

On the bright side, she stopped one of the neighbours on the stairs when they got home and told her,

“My dada doesn’t know how to do Anna hair (i.e. two braids). My mummy can do it”

Aha! Drum rolls! Trumpets! Louder!

If she were doing our performance appraisals and handing out roles, it would go like this:

Mummy takes care of my needs and does it well. She can be my mummy. She can braid my hair, buy me twirly dresses, feed me vegetables and make me sleep.

Daddy lets me do fun things and buys me chicken & rice. He lets me stay longer in the bath, he sings and plays music with me, he lets me watch TV. He can be my best friend.

I’ve said in the past that I wanted to be the fun parent but ended up being the one that disciplines the kid. The consolation prize is knowing that I am, at least, doing it right. Daddy can be the fun parent and entertain her while mummy goes out gallivanting with friends. It even sounds like the perfect arrangement to me now. The Universe has a way of dealing out the right cards for everyone.

So, while they listen to the same song for the 363rd time and eat breakfast, I get to drink coffee in bed and do my blog. Perfect arrangement? Can’t complain.

This week’s favourite songs:

(Dad) Marble Sounds: Leave the light on

(R) Despicable Me: I’m having a bad bad day

Before that, we listened to endless repeats of

(Dad) Psy: Where did you get your body from

(R) Frozen: Let it go

It looks like we may be in for a change next week because I hear this happening in the kitchen right now, just after a new song finished playing

“I didn’t like this song. Did you?”

“Why, daddy?”

Posted in Parenting, Wins

Sometimes We Get It Right

blog3I wanted to be the fun parent. Even those days when I said I didn’t know if I want kids, I think I knew I would because I wanted to be the fun parent. Then R was born. She was a happy child and we did a lot of fun things together. I was at home. Her dad worked. It did not seem like a difficult thing at all. In fact, we were both fun parents. She shared a different kind of relationship with her dad. They did different things to what she and I did.

When the tantrums began, I was left to handle the disciplining. I was teaching her the right and wrong, having arguments with her and soon it felt like she and I were constantly quarreling. By then, I had started working, which meant we had fewer fun moments and more outbursts. Dad’s life, on the other hand, did not seemed to have changed that much. I was the the bad parent. Dad was still the fun parent. The only.

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We got more stuck into our jobs and schedules; she was growing up at a rate we could barely keep up with. I was still occasionally reading the odd blog or parenting websites and newsletters. I tried to keep up with the news but that was no better. Mummy wars, best way to parent kids and all the unimaginable crimes against children interspersed with accidents that left them with a single parent, and in some instances none. I could ignore the wars and advice. The crimes were out of my control but I resolved to enroll her in self-defense lessons as soon as she was old enough to start. In the meanwhile, we would do our best to keep her safe.

The last, the unexpected, I felt I had to prepare for. So, we took turns with her routine – from bath to washing hair to bedtime, daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, we could both independently take care of her. The added bonus is that I can take nights off with the girls or her dad could head off on a boys weekend out. Isn’t that fabulous? We could both switch roles and do just fine. Of course, we hope never have to fly solo. It is awesome that she doesn’t assign either parent to a fixed role anymore. It is simply great.

We will be right. Hashtag parentingwin.

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Posted in Family Tradition, Parenting, Wins

The Vegetable Story

The Vegetable Story, as we call it, is an exchange that occurred during a family holiday last year. I made a storybook (aka photobook) for R when we got back, so she would remember her relatives and experiences from the farm life holiday. The Vegetable Story made it into the book and had 2 pages all for itself. It was a story of how a little toddler refused to eat her vegetables and had a very long (and I mean very long) stand-off with her mum. In the end, we both conceded. She ate some of the vegetables and I had to let her go. The hour long episode was witnessed and intervened by her grandmom and a number of other cousin-grandmoms and cousin-grandad.

Since then, arguing about eating vegetables at dinner time has become a thing. When she’s not eating, she tells me she loves vegetables. We talk about how it makes her strong and grow up healthier. At the dinner table, she eats everything but her vegetables, no matter what it is. I insist she eats her veggies. She says she doesn’t like it. We go on. In the end, she eats her veggies (more often than not, I feed her). It is not that she doesn’t like it, sometimes she even does but the back and forth has to happen. She seems to enjoy the exchange. She is funny, that kid.

One night at the dinner table,  after I’d tried every way to coax her to eat or at least let me feed her a vegetable that she despised at the time, I pretended that each piece of the vegetable was a sea animal and she was the shark (maybe it was a barracuda) that would gobble them up. She was totally into Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid at the time, so she enjoyed the game. The vegetables disappeared from her plate in a flash. Since then, the game has evolved. Last night, she got to choose what animal the vegetable was, as she ate it. I try to get her to recognize the actual vegetable before she eats it, so she won’t forget that. If she will let me, I call them by first name and last name, like the Mermaid Carrot or the Nemo Beans.

It is fun. When she was younger but just able to eat by herself, I decided that we would eat dinner as a family every night. It meant that we had to move our dinner to an earlier time. It also means that she goes to bed a tad later than we wish. I don’t regret it for one moment. A white coloured wooden five dollar IKEA coffee table serves as our dining table, By it, we have 3 sturdy little chairs I scored from her daycare. She sets the table each night. We serve ourselves. We chat to each other and to her. Some nights, there are arguments, tantrums, disciplining and some nights, it’s just fun. Over time, this tradition has extended to weekend lunches too. Breakfasts are sometimes eaten together. Other times, she eats by herself while we go about our chores. We have the odd days of watching telly and eating in the living room but they are far and few between. Given a choice, she prefers to eat with us and chatter. I feel so proud. Hashtag parentingwin.