The Monday Listicles project is put together by NorthwestMommy.com. It’s a fun project and I like that it is organized within the Pacific Northwest. This week’s topic is to write about ten things that you learned this year. Since today is Universal Children’s Day, I think I’ll focus on what I have learned with my children.
1* Get Outdoors
When I was a school girl living in Ireland, my mother made sure that we were outside all the time. She sent us outside to play every day. She would now say that she knew where we were. By today’s standards, though, we were unmonitored. We also went for daily walks to Killiney Hill Park – a cliff side park by the sea near our home. With this memory firmly in place, I’ve tried to get my children outside as much as possible. Some days are more successful than others because there’s the issue of coping with rainy, Pacific Northwest weather. Heading outside in the snow is not the same experience as trying to play in a downpour.
In our neighbourhood we have superb views of the mountains in the Fraser Valley from our local park. We can also drive to scenic and man-made Lafarge Lake or go farther afield to places like Pitt Lake, or walk alongside the Alouette River, both of which are spectacular locations.
2* The Empty Outdoors
Whenever we are in the local neighbourhood parks and playgrounds nestled amongst houses, dollars to doughnuts we’ll be either one of two families there or the only family. If you can imagine those photos of packed local playgrounds from decades gone by, this is not the picture that I’m presenting here. Perhaps in response to the lack of children outside, there’s a growing Outdoor Education movement that’s focussed on parents, caregivers and educators. With the high cost of living in British Columbia, parents are hitting the ground running. It is particularly important, therefore, that children have ample opportunities during the week, while they are at school or in daycare and during the weekend and summer evenings to head outdoors. A new policy in local schools is to ask parents to dress their children appropriately so that they can go outside on drizzly days.
3* Children have no expectations
I often notice when relatives or old friends, for that matter, have a limited to non-existent presence in my children’s lives. The children, on the other hand, don’t see this. They take the attention and interactions they get and don’t notice when they are, in some cases, not a priority or even ignored. (I define “ignore” as times when someone is in their presence, socially, and rarely speaks or interacts with them directly.) I find this issue to be puzzling. As a cousin and aunty, I have doted on children since I was in elementary school. As a parent I need to appreciate what is working and not focus on what isn’t. This past weekend my mother-in-law drove two hours round trip to see my children. My parents pop over from the island (Vancouver Island) when they can. We also have friends who will go out of their way to plan visits with our children. One couple has babysat for us every December since our twins were four months old while we attend my husband’s office Christmas party. Talk about brave! These friends bring books, read to the children, get down on the floor with them to play and share much laughter together.
4* Children listen closely
Where are they learning these expressions? They’re not swear words but they’re very specific. Oh right, they heard me say them. Children will also play back advice that you have given them – repeatedly. Hopefully the advice was sensible.
5* It takes effort to socialize
The other day my children were invited to their first social event with other children – a birthday party at a local activity center. I’ve invited children over to play and we’ve been invited to two homes that have children. (One is owned by a cousin by marriage and the other by old friends of my husband. ) As a child I was invited to all kinds of social functions. We also hosted many events. Perhaps I’m not hosting enough social events. Maybe I’m not socializing enough with the same families. Maybe I’m not enrolling my children in the right kinds of programmes. I also wonder if the fact that I’m not in my late 20s/early 30s makes a difference. My cohort, except for a few cases, were busy raising young children ten to fifteen years ago. Most of them have semi-independent or independent children and are focussed on furthering their careers. Then I remember a conversation I overhead earlier this year. Two mothers were sharing their surprise that families don’t appear to socialize much outside of attending formal programmes. One mother expected that there would be social interaction between her child and other children enrolled in the same programme for a number of years. The social interactions never happened. It was a comfort to hear this conversation because I realized that this is a sign of the times.
6* We aren’t consuming a lot as a family
There are many interesting events that are available for families in the Lower Mainland. A few are complimentary – like the city sponsored and fabulous Bobs and Lolo concerts. Some programmes are affordable while others are quite pricey. We could go to see a popular children’s group perform. We could go to see Disney on Ice. We could head out for a holiday in the region or farther afield. There are art and gymnastics classes, museum programmes and special courses inside community centers. All of these opportunities are fabulous and most of them are run by local businessmen and businesswomen. I’d love to experience them with my children and support local businesses at the same time. As a reminder of what I’m doing, on a daily basis I see updates from friends who are frequenting these businesses with their children. Like most families, times are tight financially at our house, and we have to prioritize what we want to take on. Every expenditure is noted and registered in our budget. We chose a My Gym gymanstics programme in a nearby community as we felt one of our twins would benefit from the specialized curriculum. The children have thoroughly enjoyed it and talk about their class every day. Unfortunately in the new year the My Gym classes will have to end. We’ll check out programmes in the local community centres instead. As we head into the Christmas season, the message we hear is to get out there, attend and spend. My decision to stay at home full time with my children right now has an impact on whether or not that happens. (Yes – that’s the punch line.) I do, however, try to support local initiatives for children and family on BCFamily.ca whenever I can. If most households who can afford to do so focus on a few events, hopefully all programmes and organizations will receive the support they need.
7* Children are patient
You know how parents can be. We can rush children when we didn’t manage our time well. We can obsess about cleanliness, while making everyone miserable with our reactions. We can be distracted, while using technology or thinking of other things. The list goes on. Children are vulnerable and have to make do with whatever situation presents itself. In these moments, they show how patient they can be.
8* Children don’t care about being over programmed.
As a parent it’s easy to feel guilty that you aren’t moving your child from one activity to another. (With scheduled downtime in the middle, of course!) In those moments when children have a substantial block of time when they have to entertain themselves, they can be very creative. Sometimes they are entertaining themselves with almost no toys or props on hand. You’d be surprised how many hours my children have spent pouring over the Sears toy catalogue or favourite books.
9* Children Will Surprise You
Parents love to pass judgment about their children. We’ve got their personalities, tendencies and capabilities all sorted out. For this reason I was pretty sure that one of my three year old twins would not take to swimming. I based this assessment on the many tears that had been shed in the bathtub when water fell into the eyes. Patch in observations about the over thinking of issues and being sensitive, and I knew I would have a hesitant child. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Imagine a child who is desperate to get into the pool, numerous conflicting flotation devices in play, demanding to be allowed to go off alone to the deep end. Meanwhile the other twin, who is usually very confident, spent most of the time carefully dipping toes into the water. Then when I decided that I had this pattern figured out, there was a flurry of activity and a rush to try to jump into the deep end to join daddy.
10* I’m doing a good job.
Since my children were born I’ve had moments of doubt about my capabilities as a parent. Who hasn’t? I didn’t “wear my children” all the time and only used my Ergo for specific reasons. Did I carry and hold my children enough? ( Doubt and insecure feelings follow.) I have often avoided events because I knew that I couldn’t comfortably manage a child going in two different directions. (A visit to the local water park with other parents, on my own, would be a prime example.) Meanwhile another mother with three children under the age of four won’t hesitate to take on the same activity. Instead of worrying I try to look at the moment I am in and think “how can I make this a good quality experience or moment?” Sometimes it’s more like “how can I save this day from being unproductive?” Meanwhile my children are getting along fine. Sometimes the answer to my question is to sit down and read a book with the children, or focus on re-establishing order to our environment. I often change my mind when the timing of a day goes sideways. “School is out – off to the park we go!” Other times I need to back away and leave my children alone to play, discover or even do nothing.
How about you? What have you learned this year from being a parent. (Or if not parent then aunty, other relation or care giver.) There are so many topics one could mention. What are your top ten?
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Daily Dish Archives: Pamela Chan/Publisher, BCfamily.ca