Making changes

Change can be quite daunting. I like to think that the ups and downs of parenthood, with the constant change and new phases, help build our resilience, and help us cope better with change as time goes on. I have gone through a lot of change over the past few years, and have also made quite a few changes, especially in the last year. I have been thinking about what has helped me as I make changes, both recently and in the past, and what reminders I’ve needed, or would have been helpful at the time. I wanted to share them with anyone who is currently making changes, or needs a bit of encouragement to take a leap!

Firstly, it helps to bring those closest with you in on the details so that they understand and can support you in making your changes. They might even like to join you on your journey! Or at the very least, you will have some good support and encouragement along the way.

Don’t worry about what others will think, if you are excited by the changes and they feel right for you then that is what is most important.

Try not to let questions from others make you doubt yourself. Those closest to you will question from a place of concern for you, or of course, based on their own experiences. Remember, each experience will be unique to us.

Be grateful! Especially for the support and encouragement you do receive.

Don’t compare yourself to others. It doesn’t matter if, or when, someone else made the same changes you’re wanting to make, all that matters is that it is now the right time for you.

Trust your gut and go with the flow! If it’s meant to be, it will feel effortless and flow smoothly.

Don’t feel guilty. If making your changes means letting go of some of the old to make way for the new, then let it be. Sometimes we have to do some weeding in our gardens for things to grow.

Make sure you’re happy! It is most important that you are being true to yourself.

Ask for help if you need it. If you don’t ask, how can you receive!?

Remember, there are no mistakes. Life is about learning lessons and you can always make new changes if you need to.

Good luck with making your changes, whatever they may be!

xxx

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What I want my children to know about bullying

I was bullied throughout high school. Boys would tease me about my voice, and call me a man because of my hairy arms; the latter getting to the point where I would wear the school jumper, no matter what the season, even if just with my arms through the sleeves, so that they were unseen. I was often called ‘teacher’s pet’, or the equivalent, because I respected the teachers and got along with them well. There was the subtle bullying with scoffing and whispers during class, of which the details I thankfully no longer recall. In year 11, I found myself in a Phys Ed class with a group of people who gave me a code name and would talk about me throughout each class. It was at this point that my Mum encouraged me to speak to the school psychologist, and despite my embarrassment and shame, I did. I spoke up, and the teacher was involved and the bullies were spoken to, and this particular bullying stopped.

These are just some of my experiences that I can still easily recall over 13 years on. These are the experiences that resulted in me carrying negative feelings throughout high school and for a long time after I graduated. It didn’t seem to matter about the friends I had throughout the years, or the positive experiences I had, or how well I did, I wanted to forget about my high school years, and there was no way you’d get me to a school reunion.

Whilst my experiences are minor compared to what other students have experienced, or those who now also have online bullying to combat alongside the schoolyard bullying, it is not insignificant as it has still impacted me, just as I know bullying has impacted a lot of others. Until now, I haven’t really spoken out about my experiences. Not just because it’s in the past, but also due to the embarrassment and because I didn’t want to draw attention to the things I was bullied for. But more than this, I was also worried about people’s perception of me. What if people felt I was overreacting to the things that were said, or that it was just ‘what happened in high school’, or perhaps someone out there felt like I hadn’t been the nicest to them? All of these things, and more, that stop us from speaking up whilst we’re going through it, but also long after.

Now as a ‘mature’ adult and a parent, I look at things in a different light. I know that it is okay to have opinions, it’s just about how you express or don’t express them. I know that taunting, repeatedly teasing, and deliberately hurting someone is never okay. I know that bullying is cowardly, and is about the bully (or bullies) and what is going on inside for them. I know that I want my children to grow up knowing that bullying is not okay. To know that teasing a girl or boy is not how you show them that you like them. To know that it is okay to speak up and to tell an adult if you are being bullied, or if you see someone else being bullied, and to feel comfortable enough to speak to us as parents about it, just as I felt comfortable to speak with my family about it. And to know that it is an adult’s role to help them take the right course of action against bullying, not to sweep it under the carpet, or to tell them to ‘toughen up’.

Let’s teach our children that it is best to have your name remembered for the good things, and how good you made a person feel, and not for being a bully, and for the hurt you caused. Let’s use our experiences, just as my Mum used hers, to teach our children about bullying and how it can make a person feel, but also to show that it does not define you or limit the person you can become. Let us as adults and parents, not to forget the lessons of our high school years. Let us ‘speak (up), even if our voices shake’, for the sake of our children, and their future. Let’s make sure that our children know that they do not have to stand for any behaviour that makes them feel uncomfortable or hurts them in any way. Let’s be the role models we need to be for our children and treat each other with respect and kindness for the sake of a brighter future. The conversations start with us.

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Seeing the strengths

This morning started the same as every weekday morning, as I prepared breakfast and sat down with our 3 little ones to eat. There were the usual discussions over who sits where, with our 3.5 year old son wanting to have his younger brother closest to him, and me explaining that there could be a bit of space between them (without him being in reach of porridge covered hands) and they would still be next to each other. After much discussion, and my porridge getting colder, I ended up putting my toes against one of the legs of my youngest boy’s highchair in a half-hearted attempt to stop it being moved. What followed left me dumbfounded.

Noticing my foot against the highchair, I saw my sons eyes light up with that ‘game on’ look, as he gave the highchair another tug, successfully moving it towards him. He grinned and said, ‘see Mum, I’m strong! You’re not because you’re a girl…’ My mouth dropped open at hearing these words come out of my beautiful little boy’s mouth. I immediately asked him a bunch of questions, ‘What do you mean I’m not strong because I’m a girl?’, ‘Where have you heard that before?’, ‘Where have you learnt that?’, ‘Have you seen it somewhere?’, as I tried to grasp some understanding of where this had come from.

He brought up a couple of things including some of the characters from his favourite TV show, saying that the character Roy, a male fire engine, was strong (as he grimaced and flexed his muscles) and that Amber, the female ambulance, ‘only drilled a hole’. I then asked him if Amber was strong, to which he replied, ‘no, she’s smart and nice’. I quickly remembered that the theme song to the show described Roy as being ‘brave and strong’, and Amber as being ‘smart and friendly’, and was blown away at how he’d drawn all these conclusions. We discussed it a bit more and then I continued to think about it as I cleaned up from breakfast. I decided to give my husband a call, out of earshot of our children, to tell him what had unfolded. He too was just as surprised as I was to hear that our son had said these words and how he’d put things together. We had a good, although brief, discussion about it and agreed that there would have to be a few more conversations about this with our boy, and his sister and brother as they got older.

There have been so many thoughts and questions running through my head since this morning. Was I so shocked because I took it personally as I consider myself a strong woman, and that I come from a line of strong women? Was I largely surprised at how he could come to such a conclusion when he would not have heard these words from us (his parents), or extended family and friends around him? How could an innocent 3.5yo have this view from just observing the world around him, including children’s TV shows? When he has commented to me before about Daddy being ‘bigger’ than Mummy, or asked if Mummy is still growing to be big like Daddy, is there more that I should have said or explained to him? And this is just the first of many of these type of discussions we are going to be having!! He’s not even in school yet!!

What this has brought to light is just how perceptive our little ones really are (because a reminder is always good). I’ve realised that although my husband and I may consider ourselves to role-model equality, and I thought my son would see his Mum as a ‘strong’ woman, what it comes down to is our son’s perception of the word ‘strong’. To him, the word ‘strong’ means physical strength and muscles, and when you look it up in the dictionary that is the primary definition.

Although it would be easy to blame a TV show for not depicting more physically ‘strong’ female characters, or it would be easy to blame other people or things for their perceived influence, it is important to think about what we’re teaching our children in our homes and if we’re communicating enough.  This experience has highlighted that we want to be teaching our children that strength comes in different forms, not just the physical, and that you can be strong physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and that we need to make more of a point of this every day. We need to teach our sons that the differing levels of physical strength that are often present between males and females, do not mean that females are not ‘strong’, or as strong as males in totality. We need to teach our daughter that, although she may not be as physically strong as her brothers, it does not mean that she is not ‘strong’, and we need to use the word ‘strong’ more, and in more than just the physical sense. With these little changes, and anymore that we come across, we hope we can make a difference in shaping our children to see their strengths, as well as the strengths in others.

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Innocence

Going back through the photos that our boy took on his camera on our recent Zoo trip, getting to see things through his lens, I can’t help but reflect on his innocence. How free our young children are to look at things without judgement or presumptions.

I’m not sure if it’s the older I get, or the more children I have (possibly the latter as my age didn’t triple overnight, unlike the number of children we have 🙈), but I find myself challenging my reactions & thoughts more and more. In those moments where I find myself taking certain things personally and reacting defensively, I’m also trying harder to question myself and my reactions, and to reason with myself by adopting more of an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ approach.

I find myself reflecting on my own actions, you know the times where maybe I’ve looked at something and then been distracted (usually by one of my cheeky monkeys) and have forgotten to respond, or perhaps haven’t put the usual thought into my response. Or the times where something has completely gone over my ‘Mum brain’ and I’ve missed a key piece of information or an important cue. There’s also been the times when I’ve been caught up in my daily activities and I’ve forgotten to check in, or I’ve been dealing with something greater and haven’t been able to be where I’ve really wanted to be (either physically or mentally). All of these imperfect moments and actions that have taken place unintentionally, or without the intention of hurting or offending anyone.

By putting things into perspective, remembering we’re all human (and that this parenting gig is all-consuming in both amazing and challenging ways), and that the way we see things can be (and often is) so very different to those around us, I’ve found that it helps me to refocus and let go of those niggling thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still very much a work in progress, because I am exactly that (aren’t we all!?), but I’m happy that I’m in this place of challenging my thoughts and making improvements.

So, whether you’re reading this and thinking about how important the innocence of our children is, or you’re happy that someone else takes things personally (often unnecessarily), or you’re relieved that you’re not the only crazy who talks and reasons with themselves 😜, or perhaps it’s made you rethink how you’ve reacted to something – it’s important to remember to be gentle with yourself (you’re only human), and to be gentle with others, maybe giving them the benefit of the doubt (they’re only human too… I think). We’re all on this crazy ride together, so let’s relax and enjoy it 💛

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Coming up for air

Today, marks 2 months since our twins turned 1. Reaching that first year milestone was quite emotional for me. We had mentally prepared ourselves (as much as we possibly could) for the first year, and the huge challenges that we would face, but achieving that milestone brought about so many feelings – exhaustion, elation, new nerves for what the next year would bring… Over the last couple of months, I feel like we’ve finally had a chance to catch our breath, and I have really noticed a positive shift in myself and the family.

To start with, the household is feeling more in control… Well, as in control as we can be with 1 year old twins and a 3 year old under our roof! We feel like we’ve got a little bit (still very miniscule on some days) of order back in the house, and we are house proud again – it’s funny how you forget the positive vibe that a clean and organised house creates, especially when it’s been a long time (like a whole year) since you’ve been comfortable with how it looks, and where you’ve put things. We’ve completed some extra projects around the house, having finally claimed back our bedroom (which is something we said we’d do once our bubs were all in their own rooms), giving it a long-awaited makeover, and finished our backyard project for the kids. After a year off, we’re back to putting some advanced thought into our meals (instead of asking our 3yo son for ideas, or being reliant on the generosity of our families in those early months), and I’m taking the time to prepare some of our family favourites again.

There has also been a noticeable shift with the kids too. As they’re growing older, they’re playing together and entertaining each other more (of course, with the usual sibling arguments), which gives me a little bit more freedom to stay on top of a few things around the house during the day. I also feel I’ve been able to do a bit more with them, such as, doing some baking with our eldest, involving him in jobs around the house, or making weekly solo visits to the park with our 3 (which I’m pretty proud of!). We’ve also been on a few more family outings over the last couple of months, with our confidence growing with every successful and enjoyable event. Whilst these things might be regular activities for others (like they used to be for us), the addition of twins has meant that the ‘regular’ activities now come with an added sense of accomplishment.

The biggest change over the last couple of months is that I’m finally doing some things for me. I’ve always thought, “I’ll start looking after myself once I’ve finished having our babies” (such a ‘mum thing’ to put ourselves last isn’t it!?), but when the work clearly doesn’t stop once you’ve grown your babies, birthed them and breastfed them, it can be hard to take some much needed and deserved time for you. So, now that I’m a year in to being a Mother of 3, and in my mind our family is complete (ignoring the hubby’s whispers for another…), I’m now starting to think a bit about my needs. In the last 2 months, I’ve finally seen a physio for a postnatal check-up and 2 follow up appointments, I’ve had my hair and makeup done as part of a competition that a friend entered me into (and I was lucky to have won!), and I have had a couple of heavenly massages. Having weaned the twins, I went on my first ever girls weekend away from the kids, and I’m happy to admit that I enjoyed every minute of it! (it was so good for my soul, and the perfect amount of time for me) I have also read a book for the first time in years, made the time to write some more blogs (like this one), bought myself some new clothes (in an attempt to work out what I’m comfortable in these days), and looked into some new skin care products (to get on top of the new stress lines – thanks kids!). All of these things, that were once a higher priority for me, but had completely taken a back seat (like ‘back of the bus’ back seat), are getting some attention again, and it feels good.

For us, the last 2 months have been about taking the opportunity to come up for some air. It’s hopefully the beginning of making some positive changes to our priorities, rewarding ourselves for the challenging times, and enjoying our beautiful family. Unconsciously, we seem to make little goals for ourselves (i.e. 12 months of breastfeeding the twins, a room makeover to claim back our room), and we end up with little milestones to celebrate and to reward ourselves for achieving. I really feel that this has helped us as a family, especially my husband and I, in getting through some tough times, and I hope it will continue to help us through this next year (we’ve been told the first 2 years of twins are the most challenging, so fingers crossed we’re over the half way mark) and the many years to come. Sending extra positive vibes to all those going through some extra challenging times. I hope your opportunity to catch a breath is not too far away.

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Going from 1 2 3

Since becoming a mother of 3 (whoa!), not only do I pinch myself often, but I also find myself pondering over the differences between having our first baby, to now having 3 children. There are so many things that change when you bring home a second bub (with a third, in our case), and we definitely found the experience to be very different to our first. We’ve had so many, ‘this is new’ moments over the last year, which have continued to prove that this parenting gig is ever-changing, ever-challenging, and ever-rewarding. Having a 3yo and 1yo twins certainly makes life interesting…

One of the most noticeable changes when deciding to grow to a family of 4, is of course, the idea of a sibling. You start using the words sibling, brother, sister, etc. as you prepare your firstborn for the big change that’s about to occur, whilst hopefully getting a mostly positive response (if they’re old enough to understand). When you first find out that you are expecting, you might question whether you’ll be able to love another as much as your first, but once they arrive you soon discover there is more than enough room in your heart. That moment when you introduce your firstborn to their new sibling is one of excitement and nervousness as you await their reaction. Thankfully for us, this first meeting was one to be treasured, as our 2yo son was so proud to meet his little sister and brother, grasping their names quickly, and excitedly introducing them to the family.

When you bring your newborn home, the phrase ‘be gentle with your sister or brother’ seems to run on repeat, as you try teaching your eldest about the fragility of their new sibling. Those yucky feelings of guilt do unfortunately seem to grow as your time becomes apportioned across children, and your firstborn no longer has your undivided attention. You might find that you need to remind yourself of the joys that a sibling brings, and that although the adjustment may take some time, it won’t be forever. To add to this, the luxuries of ‘sleeping when baby sleeps’, or leaving your newborn on a play mat or in a bouncer for a few minutes disappear, unless their older sibling is napping or is right by your side (perhaps knocking on the toilet door). Although there are new risks and challenges, there are certainly new advantages, such as having a little helper who can get nappies or wipes from the nursery, or who can help feed, calm or entertain their younger sibling(s).

As they all get that little bit older, the battle of sharing begins, with sibling upsets over toys becoming more common than the cold. In our case, our son quickly learnt his power of influence, encouraging his little sister and brother into mischief, often opening bedroom doors and security gates for them to get through (thanks hubby for teaching him how to open the gates!). Whilst playtime can often resemble a cat fight in the street, there are times when they surprise you and play so nicely together (even if only for 2 minutes), and you stop questioning why you thought it was a good idea to bless your firstborn with a sibling. All jokes aside, one of the biggest rewards of having multiple children are those heart-melting sibling moments, whether it’s a kiss or cuddle, a little chat or giggle, a game of peek-a-boo, or helping one another, when you can see just how much they love and care for each other.

With the addition of siblings, also comes enormous change around the house. Mess is created in half (or a third) of the time, with food or drink spills needing to be cleaned straight away, or you risk them being spread throughout the entire house. Child locks become more important as, not only do you have 2 or 3 (or more) little people to keep watchful eyes on, you also have lots of little fingers that could get caught in cupboards and drawers. In our case, safety gates have been erected in an attempt to block off ends of the house to, again, minimise that risk of harming little fingers, to keep all 3 kids where we can see them, and of course to confine them to a space where we know the floor is relatively clean… There are also new challenges when it comes to family illnesses with multiple children, and maintaining your own wellbeing with the added pressure of managing a larger household. Each new child also comes with a new truckload of washing, and you learn not to celebrate seeing the bottom of the laundry baskets (if you see them!), because there is always another dirty item hiding somewhere (or being covered in breakfast, lunch or dinner). Despite the house becoming messier and the endless washing piles, our house has never been so full of love and gratitude for our family of 5.

Time also certainly seems to go faster with the more children you have. There’s always an event or milestone sneaking up on you, which become even more exciting as there are more special little people to celebrate with. As we’re rushing around getting ready to leave the house (when we leave…), I often find myself questioning where the time has disappeared to. It can be a mammoth effort getting 3 kids dressed and into the car, whilst making sure we’ve got the suitcase full of food, drinks, nappies, wipes, changes of clothing, toys etc., and we all have shoes. We usually find ourselves exhausted before we’ve even left the driveway. The days seem to fly when you’re running a larger household, and there is always something to plan or organise (a shout out to those with school aged children and the extracurricular activities that brings)… and the nights seem to vanish just doing the dinner, bath, book, and bed routine for 3 (and we don’t bath the twins every night). Despite time flying by, we still find time to embrace the special moments of family life with our 3 gorgeous giggles and family of 5 cuddles.

Whilst each stage of growing your family brings new challenges, we’ve found that they are far outweighed by the added love and happiness that a buzzing family home brings. Although things do become busier with each new addition, we found that we became more relaxed, as we were able to draw on our previous experience, and we worried less about noise and routine, and more about enjoying the ride. We’ve learnt to laugh at the impossibility of getting a ‘perfect’ family photo and embrace the perfect in everyday family life. As the saying goes, ‘if you think our hands are full, you should see our hearts’.

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