August 21, 2010


If I were the Prime Minister I would financially support parents for the first three years of their child's life.

It seems to make sense to allow the mother to care for her baby for the first year for the following reasons:
*  It takes the body nine months to adjust to and accommodate a new life;
    give yourself at least that much time for the body to re- adjust itself
*  Breastfeeding allows the uterus to contract to (nearly) its previous size,
    while hormones are triggered to do whatever they need to do to make
    the body function as it should.
*  The other three months can be used to wean the baby and exercise to
    get oneself back  'in control' again of one's own body.
*  It provides opportunity to get to know this new person, oneself and
    one's partner in this new configuration of relationships.

Incidentally, contrary to what many people think, it is NOT a good idea to start exercising, as if training for a marathon, shortly after giving birth.
There is a time and a season for everything, even the soil needs time to lay fallow.
This also relates to growing a baby, nurturing a baby, nurturing one's body, nurturing one's relationship with one's partner ....because, while attention is paid to the physical well being of all, providing one doesn't rush around like a blowfly on a summer's day, the pace of this process allows one's soul to ponder on the irreversible situation of having accepted the responsibility of a new life....
The father is the great protector of the environment around the mother-and-the-child....this is how nature has set it up (read the mythologies!) and it seems a good system if we adjust the society we build around these needs.

Over the next two years caring for the child can be shared by parents, e.g taking turns with job commitments, grandparents or a very trusted other person. Parental leave is therefor  v e r y  important!
That's what I would legislate for if I were the Prime Minister....

The sages of old and many who have lived more than half a century, will tell you that the purpose of life is not to be happy, but to grow spiritually.
Getting stressed over achieving one's personal goals in record time while being 'interrupted' by a new arrival, defeats the purpose in one's own mental and emotional growth, "there is a time and season for everything...".Nature doesn't hurry.

Nature doesn't exclude being happy, but it does mean that chasing happiness is futile and illusive. Happiness is experienced in the Now and one can't be aware of the Here-and-Now when pre-occupied with the future.
At long last, back again!
I wish to continue the theme I had started with, so here is the next point:

When a child under Three does something that is annoying, say so. Say: "No" to a 12 month old and "I don't like you banging that table" to the 30 month old,  then gently take the banging instrument(s) out of the child's hands and replace it with something that you can tolerate, saying: "There you are, try this...." and keep that other thing out of sight.
It is completely legimitate to stop a child from doing what you don't like and it's not necessary to yell, shout or scream about this. Taking into account the age and immaturity of the child it can be done gently yet effectively.

For the very young, out-of-sight is out-of-mind and replacing one item with another is often sufficient. With a somewhat older child, 3 to 6 years, I suggest the following:
get the child's attention, ask to have the item put into your hand, and say "Thank you" when he does. Immediately  turn the attention to something else the child can play with  while removing the undesirable item(s) in an unobtrusive way.
With a close-to-4 year old and up, one can begin to explain why a particular action is not permitted, i.e. throwing balls inside is a no-no but outside is OK,  give an option of what is allowed and where it is allowed.

Assume a child's reaction is 'chucking a tantrum'.
Since you're not harming the child he is free to do so. After all, the brain is not yet finished, reasoning powers are not yet in place and 'self talk' that prohibits unrestrained behaviour is still in the procss of being mastered..
Simply allow the child to experience feeling absolutely angry, but don't buy into it.
Carry on with what you're doing and/or calmly sit down and think out loud:

"Hmm, I can see that it makes you angry...I can remember that my mum didn't let me have...." and try to tell a story in an animated manner even if initially he doesn't appear to be listening. Or start an activity that your child is usually interested and make it your play, ignoring him. You may find that he'll want to participate, at which point you can say, e.g :
"OK, but we have to take turns. I put two pieces in this puzzle and then it's your turn to put two pieces in".
Boys in particular respond very well to structure, to knowing who is charge without being made to feel bad about themselves.

Raising children is like gardening: weeds will grow if you don't plant what you like to grow. Nature abhors a vacuum, and nature will grow what the soils will allow it to grow.  As parents we have to prepare the soil,( child), for what we want him to make his own.
In regard to child rearing this means, prepare the young child to become used to being treated well and with respect, just as you would prepare the soil according to what you wish to plant. Different plants have different requirements, and experienced gardeners will take this into account.
Different human dispositions have different requirements (hence the importance of observing children at play!) and wise parents will  try to find creative solutions to accommodate their children individuality without watering down the principles that make for a more cooperative living situation. And the family is the world as a microcosm.

Finally, respond to children with the same attention and consideration you'd give an adult friend and you may find yourself quite  pleasantly surprised, even with the very young....


I want to think a bit more about the myriad of feelings we may have as adults when we are raising children, especially when they are still young.

Becoming a parent is a completely new phase in our life and we experience feelings or a depth to 'old' feelings we didn't even know we were capable of, but we all set out wanting to do a good job with this 'parenting' business.
What we often don't take into account is, that this is a new 'job'  we actually do not have much or any experience with,  there's no mandatory course on the topic, in fact, one is being thrown into the deep end and has to get a grip on it as one goes along....

What's so different when facing something new?
We usually start applying strategies we are familiar with, no matter how vaguely remembered. 
Secondly, everyone, age makes no difference, who is in the process of learning something new, is acutely aware of criticism. Because there is such a desire to do well, accompanied by lack of knowledge and experience, we tend to feel a tat jittery. When a learner is in this (again, age makes no difference and neither does it matter what is to be learned) s/he is in great need of positive feedback, i.e. what is it that you did well?

Young children are often told that they are "a good girl" or a "bad girl", a "good boy" or a "bad boy", depending on what has happened. More often than not what has happened is something they had not planned, over which they may not have had any control or for which they were too young to realize the consequences, for example taking a carton of milk out of the fridge, mis-judging its weight and spilling it all over the floor. The angry adult may shout that he is "naughty" and a "bad boy".  The child will have set out wishing to pour himself a drink the way he sees others do. His in-experience and lack of anticipation of weight and lack of skill in pouring caused the spill. He may well feel startled and now has to add to this feeling the wrath of the adult who tells him that he is "naughty" and "bad", this point he may not be sure what
exactly was naughty and bad, for all he wanted was the same he sees other big people do.

The adult's anger has in fact nothing to do with the child, but stems from the realization that such a spill needs to be cleaned up, it's unwanted extra work. At the same time the adult may well remember being yelled at himself for doing something similar ....

The importance is to consciously remember the above, take a deep breath and just look at the situation at hand.
Firstly, a spill is not the end of the world.
Secondly, most of what little children do can be cleaned up with water and an old rag.
Thirdly, consider it a learning opportunity for both you and your child. An opportunity for you to put your own stuff on hold and consider the child. An opportunity to show your child how to clean up a spill and where the tools are kept to do so. And in the big scheme of things the Universe is thanking you for your patience with a little child....

An opportunity for the child to watch mum or dad getting a grip on themselves, to watch how to clean up a spill and to feel good when he is allowed to participate in getting a job done, because of course he's permitted to help (Very important when you're only three!).

End result, most likely, you both feel good and can't help but smile at each other.  Dads probably crack  jokes, because that's what dads often do, they can't help themselves!

June 30, 2010

temporary interruption

I have not been writing for the last few weeks and won't for a few more, because I am renovating the premises where I will start new Playgroup sessions.
The aim is to be ready and rolling by the 20th of July......

May 25, 2010


Children behave in ways that are still 'raw'. A young child who has mastered his first language will say things that may cause adults to cry, laugh or cringe.  Lacking sophistication and control, a child will react to any given situation according to feelings that involuntarily rise up to the surface.

A child's behaviour verbally or otherwise may trigger feelings of amusement, annoyance, shame or embarassment, with the latter resulting in an angry reaction by the adult.
  • Amusement may come from the fact that a child either doesn't know the full meaning of a word or applies a word in the wrong context or a word applied to the adult world is just very funny. Often it was not the child's intention to be funny and the response of the adult is mingled with feelings of tenderness towards the child.
  • Annoyance as a reaction to a child's way of behaving may still relate directly to the situation at hand and one doesn't have to be a parent to feel annoyed.
  • Shame or embarrassment relates more to confusion of contradictary feelings experienced simultaneously by the adult. In such a situation the adult is simulataneously aware of a) what others might think, b) having certain expectations  and believing to be falling short, c) fear of consequent exclusion of the group and subsequent d) anger  with the child, because his/her behaviour or words exposed the 'flaw'. The worst thing for most social creatures is to be ostracized, even more so for a parent who consciously or subconsciously relies on social networks.
Let's stop for a moment and become aware of what this involves....

Amusement feels light, airy, bubbly.

Annoyance makes one frown one's eyebrows, squint eyes a bit and causes a stiffening of the neck. One may well be tempted to say to the child:
"You know what, you are a pain in the neck!"
My advice is, don't. Don't say anything just yet. Inhibit this impulse. Notice you own physical reaction first, because by doing so you acknowledge what is happening to you. That is your mental first aid recognition of 'Danger'. Then reassure yourself (First aid 'Response'):
"Ah! I didn't like this. OK, I deal with this later. Let's just look what the here-and-now reality is..." and then pay atention to the actual situation. You may find that it's not a drama or tragedy and that there is an easy solution, especially with little children, because most 'misdemeanors' of a little child are spills, dropping of stuff, accidently breaking something and the child is likely to be more startled than you are.

First aid in these situations is:
Say the obvious, as in: "I see, you poured too much and it spilled over the top. Let me show you...." and proceed to show your child how one cleans up a spill and where the cleaning items are kept. It is important to put into words what happened, for it neutralizes the situation, it is easier to get a grip on it and a solution will almost automatically 'pop up'. When finished, look at each other and smile: "We did a good job, didn't we?"
You have turned a potentially 'dangerous' moment into a moment of connection.
You may be quite surprised by your child's response, but one thing I can say with certainty; you both will come out of this feeling light and airy and bubbly!

To be continued....

May 20, 2010


I was sitting on my back porch, watching the sun go down behind the hills, while looking through the cabbage palms with their prehistoric profiles when suddenly I had this thought that "my life has never been dead since the birth of this earth!"

Somehow life sprung up on this clod of dirt, which at a certain point was also passed on in the shape of human beings.  Egg and sperm, ever so small, had to be carried by live beings and was passed on while they were still alive. So in fact, that speck-of-life life never died, it always got passed on as the stick in a relay and that life got enriched by experience all along the way.  (Nowadays we may 'put life on hold' in liquid nitrogen, but who knows what the consequences of that will be).

I suddenly had this vision of a thread without a beginning, at least not that I could see, but of which I was the end. My specific little speck-of-life must have been the same since the beginning of time except that it got more concentrated perhaps, like a consomme (concentrated clear broth). The value I added to it must have been a combination of what I learned from my parents, through education and how I experienced life.
But the important ingredient for humans surely, must be the degree of awareness a person brings into the broth before it is passed on. Does that make sense to you?
I think that it is awareness, this individual consiousness that is the x-factor that contributes to the collective consciousness. I passed on that speck-of-life to my children. They, in their turn, must now bring their consciousness into it...

Once children are independent beings one's life gets a different meaning and focus. The emphasis is no longer on improving that particular speck-of-life, but on playing a role in influencing the milieu, the environment, physical and otherwise, for the good of all.
In other words, I have changed from being the plant in a garden to becoming the gardener (use the imagination here!).
I no longer make life (or rather, pass it on), but can maintain and improve the environment in which all plants can thrive....

And that is why people who choose not to have children, are not necessarily let off the hook in regard to their responsibility to society at large. But, that is going to be a topic for next time.