Can I let you in on a secret? Aside from having to pop a watermelon sized baby out of my vajayjay soon enough, my big fear is breastfeeding. It’s not been a success for me over the years. At.all.
We talk a lot of breastfeeding shaming that goes on, but I can tell you there’s almost an equal amount of bottle feeding shame that one endures. Because apparently when you bottle feed your child, you’re practically murdering them. They’re going to grow up to be illiterate sociopaths via the bottle. Think of the children! Shove a boob in their mouth for crying out loud!
I did. I really, really did. And I could not feed my children fully. With my first, she was premmie, and didn’t have a sucking reflex developed. It was a hard slog. I tried it all- with every lactation consultant under the sun helping. I vividly remember one day sitting in the feeding room of the special care nursery- one boob stuck to a pump, the other one being squeezed to within an inch of it’s life by a nurse- trying desperately to get milk supply happening.
We had a shocking incident occur to our neighbour last week. Like, the kind of shocking you just don’t think would, or could happen near you. Stuff you hear on the news and shake your head about. It has taken our relatively nice, family-friendly street and shaken it right up.
Our neighbour is doing well, she’s a very tough cookie. But it got me wondering about us as a society and why these kinds of things happen. Why are there some people in the world that think they can treat others in such a manner? Why do we get so angry/hateful/hurtful that we want to cause others pain?
The thing is, these people don’t think about others. They just don’t. They think about themselves. They think about their needs, or what they think they want. Others are simply de-humanised. And while our minds boggle at how some people can do what they do, they don’t see it.
We had a new chapter in our household last week. One that sends many a parent running for the hills. Or at least me. Right now. Sans wine. Man I miss that stuff.
“Hey Mummy and Daddy. Guess what? I’ve got a boyfriend”
Say wha?? It’s that toe-curling moment you freak out about as a parent. When those words are uttered from your cherubs mouth.
I may have nearly snorted my tea. My husband may have snapped his head around in shock a little too quickly that required a heat pack. He’s getting on, the poor sod. Just No. Not now. Please. NOT NOW. I NEED LEAD IN TIME. AND WINE.
“Who-is-this-boyfriend-when-did-this-happen-what??” were the jumble of words that flowed from us in unison.
“It’s a secret” she giggled.
“From who?” we questioned
I had to bite my lip to stifle a giggle. And also a sigh of relief. Boyfriends that don’t know they’re boyfriends are a-ok in my book for a 5 year old. Can we keep it like that until uhhhhh… let’s say, 30? That will be good for Mum and Dad. Thanks.
But like our scare with ‘the talk’, the time is soon going to come where we need to talk boyfriends (or girlfriends. We don’t discriminate around these parts!). And it’s better out in the open, right? Maybe? Kinda? Or we just don’t let it happen. EVAH.
Just when you thought I was done with monsters, eh? Here’s the last one in our series. A wily little fucker that can come in a few forms for little ones. We normally associate eating monsters with teenage girls, but you know the eating monster can hit even our younger cherubs.
In what ways can the eating monster screw with our kids? Well we have the more well-known eating issue of refusing to eat, in its extreme version we know it as anorexia. With the eating monster, refusal to eat can lie on a spectrum, from your garden variety pain-in-the-ass “No! I’m not eating that!” to a full control over what they put in their mouth. Anorexia can actually happen in children as young as 7 or 8. At that age it seems to have a bit to do with the sad monster or the worry monster (with obsessive compulsive features), and is hard to diagnose. The refusal eating monster also needs to be distinguished from the sensory eating monster. Some kids just will.not.eat certain things because of the way it feels to them, or the sensation of eating it. And some kids will not eat due to the worry monster leaving them with a fear of choking, or possible trauma around food.
So, looks like another bambino is joining our crew. We’re pretty rad, I can understand why this little one busted through and wanted in. But. THREE.
In a quest to prepare for life being ‘outnumbered’ (Eeek! Gasp!), I of course turned to Google. Like any rational person does. Because. Oracle of knowledge on EVERYTHING and all. And do you know what I found?
Fear. I found fear.
All I could read about was ‘how much three is a big change’ and ‘three will ruin your life’ and ‘three makes for the unhappiest parents’ and ‘three outnumber you’ and ‘you’ll be stressed’ ‘you’ll be miserable’, ‘you’ll struggle’ ‘you don’t have enough hands’. Well, I’m feeling pumped now. You?
So, nearly halfway through popping my cherry in the school system (as a parent), and it’s been a real eye opener. I realised the other day that this time last year I was madly in the throes of comparing schools, going to interviews, praying to whoever would listen that Miss DP would respond to the questions asked with some form of a response that remotely matched the idea being asked of her. She has a knack of responding to questions with random facts that have nothing to do with anything. See previous post here explaining said phenomena. #kidlife
You might be in the same position this year. Or choosing the right school could be upon you before you know it. Not to alarm you, but somehow you blink your eyes and your kid is five and heading to school and talking about boyfriends and girlfriends and you just want to bury your head in the sand. Or into a large glass of vino. How does it happen so fast? Is it the vast amounts of vino consumed to cope in those early years? Or is it that kids have this way of setting time to warp speed? I’m thinking a little of column A, a little of column B.
Anyways, if you’re wondering how the heck to select the school that you feel is going to be the right fit for your cherub, here’s a couple of ideas:
The School Vibe
I know, sounds a bit wanky right? But each school has a vibe. And a reputation to go with that vibe. You know your child better than anyone else, and it’s all about fitting your child to that school. How does the school feel when you walk in? Inviting? Busy? Is it a big school, or a smaller one? That’s something to consider against your child’s personality. They may thrive better in a smaller environment. How does your child respond when you go to the school interview? Does the staff seem cohesive and happy? This is a biggie. Happy staff= happy kids. Do the students seem friendly as you wander around? It has to feel right for you, and for your child. You’re both going to be spending a lot of time in that place!
Health and Safety
How’s it looking to you? The amenities up to scratch? Safety and wellbeing are of course a no brainer, but some schools might focus on it a bit more than others. Check out playgrounds and their policies on health and safety. Are the classrooms and school grounds clean and tidy? Particularly in this day and age when allergies are so huge, it’s important to make sure that there are clear plans in place and that things are tidy and clean. Check to see if the school utilises a commercial cleaner, like AMC Cleaning (http://www.amcclean.com.au/ their website has some good info on just what goes on in maintaining classrooms ), and how they maintain their procedures. Because, if your cherubs are anything like mine, chewing on manky shit is their forte, and if floors aren’t clean, they’ll find grubby crap on it and make a beeline for their mouths like a heat-seeking germ missile. I gave up after they started sharing food with our dog.
What does the school stand for? Do they have a focus on social and emotional wellbeing? Now, I might be a bit bias here, but really, social emotional wellbeing is so integral to successful learning. Research has shown time and time again that you can have all the academics in the world, but if you don’t have social emotional wellbeing intact, then the academics go out the window. Check at your interview- what do they do for social emotional learning? Do they run programs in the school? What does the school consider to be an important focus for them? Are they an academic super house? Do they have a large arts culture? You need to look at what is going to work best for you and your cherub, and see where the best fit is.
All schools now have to operate from the National Curriculum, or ACARA- we love a good acronym, right? But there’s different ways to get that curriculum across. Look at the way your child learns- and consider what is going to work out best for you. Some kids are more visual learners, some more verbal. Some require a little more repetition, some can handle a faster pace. While every school needs to differentiate, some might be a better fit for your child than others. Ask around- talk to other parents from different school communities, to see how the curriculum is run there. Is there access to technology? Is there a learning support team if your child struggles? And social emotional learning is now part of the curriculum- it’s known as a general capability.
What is on offer for the children at that particular school? Do they run other activities, like music, dance, drama? Is that even important to you? Extra-curriculars are a big part of a lot of schools nowadays. Some parents think it’s the best, others don’t want any extra pressure on their kids. It’s really about whatever is going to work best for you and your child.
And a final word. I really truly believe that a child will thrive anywhere provided they have the right supports and care around them. Sometimes even the ‘worst’ schools can actually turn out to be the best. However, there is no harm in doing a bit of hunting around and giving our kids a leg up where we can. It’s got to be the right fit for you, and for your child. For us, we had a school down the road that would have been super convenient, but it just didn’t feel right for Miss DP. So we do travel a little further at the moment, but it’s been worth it. It will all work out, and your cherub will be refusing to tuck their school shirt in before you can reach for the glass of vino. Good luck!
How were your school years? Did you feel you were in the right place for you?
We’re getting to the end of our Monster Series. We’ve seen enough of these suckers to last us a while now I think, yes? This one critter today though is a particularly tough one, and tends to recruit all the other monsters we’ve discussed previously. That’s how sneaky this bastard is. Please meet the Learning Monster.
Ahhhh the old Silly Monster. A crowd favourite with kids, an arch nemesis of parents and adults alike. What is the silly monster? Is it what happens to Mummy when she’s had one too many wines and thinks that singing karaoke and staying out partying until 5am is a good idea? Not quite. That’s a monster of a different kind I think (hello alco monster, I hope to meet you again in a matter of months….).
For kids, the Silly Monster represents that little part of us that can get a little too active sometimes. At the wrong time. Not understanding personal boundaries, not picking up those subtle cues that people might be getting a bit put out. Getting so excited our little brains get a bit scrambled and we can’t really put our impulse control or regulation skills into place. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, but the act of putting it into practice can get short-circuited by this Silly Monster. Sometimes the Silly Monster is just a by-product of excitement, or over-tiredness, or sometimes it can be a symptom of something bigger. Anxiety, ASD, ADHD can all feature the Silly Monster.
There are so many monsters lurking around, isn’t there? We’ve looked at the worry monster, we’ve looked at the sad monster and we’ve seen what little bastards they can be. But what about the angry monster? What’s the deal there?
The angry monster is a little different to it’s previously mentioned cousins. The angry monster can pop into any kind of difficulty a child is having. It’s not necessarily a ‘disorder’, but the angry monster is a main player on the kidlet scene. The angry monster can mean bigger things, like anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or it may just be a function of testing boundaries and learning their place. It’s a tricky minx, the old angry monster.
So what does an angry monster look like? Prickly, loud, breathing fire maybe? Possibly. Seething, quiet and contained? Could be. Our angry monsters can look different depending on the situation we’re in, and depending on our personalities.
The angry monster can be hard for parents to negotiate. And even harder for kids to manage. It’s tough. But it’s not impossible! It’s really about helping kids to understand what’s going on for them, what the angry monster is, and why it might be popping up at this time.
The biggest message to share with our kids about the angry monster is that anger is normal! Anger is common and we all feel it. What’s not ok though is when we let our anger get the better of us and it takes over. Normally the angry monster is at the surface, while another monster bubbles below. So when we explain the angry monster to kids we need to be able to let them know they are allowed to feel angry, but letting the angry monster make them aggressive is something else entirely.
How do we explain the angry monster? Try a little something like this:
Let’s have a look at what’s been going on for you lately. Seems like things have been pretty tough. Maybe you’ve had a visit from the angry monster, do you know much about the angry monster? Well, it’s a monster who can get really annoying and LOUD. And when an angry monster gets loud, it can make us loud. Yelling, screaming, stamping and stomping. So much noise! That’s the work of the angry monster. They hit our bodies, our minds and our actions. They do things like make our fists clench, grind our teeth, get all our muscles tight. They can make our cheeks feel hot, our eyebrows frown. The angry monster is tricky like that. And then when our bodies are all tight, they start telling us all sorts of things, like “it’s not fair”, or “I want that toy!” or “they can’t do that to me”. If you think things like that, how do you think you’ll be feeling? Pretty darn angry! Aha- the angry monster is working! So when we think angry, we feel angry. And when we feel angry, sometimes it can come out in not-so-nice behaviours. We can get aggressive- hitting, throwing, yelling, breaking things. Sometimes we can get so aggressive we can hurt others. And that never feels good, for anyone. Before we know it, our angry monster has us all twisted up, and we don’t know how to get out of it! Why does the angry monster visit? Well there can be many reasons. We can find something unfair, we can feel like we’ve been hurt by others, we can actually be scared or sad about something, and it feels so yuck the only way we feel like we can get it out is by letting the angry monster take over. So we need to be detectives, get to the bottom of why the angry monster is visiting us, and learn ways to shrink the monster down so we can shine again.
Sadly with anger, we inadvertently paint it out to be a bad thing, and something we need to hide away and not express. Anger is a valid emotion, and both ourselves and our kids are allowed to feel it. It’s all about how we deal with it that’s the issue though, and what we want to upskill our kids on. With kids, particularly younger ones, anger is the go-to emotion when they’re struggling to understand or express what’s going on for them. So it’s always helpful to try and educate them on anger, and get them to understand what is happening, and why they might be acting in such a way. A lot of the time, once we can see what’s going on, our anger tends to simmer down.
Got concerns your cherub’s anger is over and above what is appropriate for their age? Chat to your GP. More complex issues like Oppositional Defiant Disorder do exist, but the prevalence rates range from 2% to 10% (Maughan et al., 2004; Costello et al., 2003. Source). Some sessions with a psych might help give you some tricks, and enable further support for your child.
One resource that is great for explaining anger is the book “Mad isn’t Bad” . And all the cute series of “When I’m feeling…” are really useful too. You can often pick them up from Kmart. For children with Aspergers, a fantastic book to help them understand is “The Red Beast”. And if you’re stuck on how to deal with misbehaviour (because we’re all about the anger being ok, the aggressive behaviour is not though) here’s some strategies on disciplining kids that we’ve looked at before. But truly it’s about helping your child uncover what is driving the anger. And not having them beat themselves up for it. That’s what we have monsters for!
How’s your anger monster travelling? Are you all over it, or does your angry monster get the better of you sometimes? I tell you, without my wine, my angry monster has a little too much spunk. Must remedy that. In a few months.
Next up in our monster series is the very good friend of our little (or not so little) worry monster, the sad monster.
Sad monsters are pretty common, although while it’s easy to spot in adults, it can be really tricky to spot in kids. And for poor cherubs, an attack of the sad monster can be the absolute worst. It’s a serious issue that we need to address sooner rather than later. In the past we thought that children couldn’t get depressed. I mean, really, what’s there to be sad about when the biggest decision you need to make in a day is whether to eat from the blue plate or the yellow plate, right? Sadly not quite. Although it is less common in younger children than it is in adolescents, there are some studies that propose that 4% of preschool children show symptoms of depression and 10% of children aged 6-12 years deal with persistent feelings of depression, and 2% of those children go on to develop serious depression. Once you hit the age of 12, the stats rise, until you get to 16 and depression is now one of the leading causes of death in young people. Horrific to think, isn’t it? (See info here and here). It can even impact babies if they’re not given enough nurturing contact and develop a positive attachment. Babies can become apathetic, unresponsive, suffer from failure to thrive. All through depression. Not cool.