Show me, Don’t tell me – My new parenting mantra

Since I began writing there has been one phrase I’ve heard  more times than any other – Show Don’t Tell! Don’t tell the reader that the girl isn’t interested in taking on another case, show them how she hangs up the phone and casually goes back to playing sudoku on her computer. Don’t tell the reader that the man thinks the woman before him is sexy as all hell, show them how he can’t take his eyes off her cleavage.

It’s only recently, however, that I realised this phrase could be applied to more than just my writing. Show Don’t Tell is my new parenting mantra.

Did you know that children of parents that smoke are more than twice as likely to take up the habit themselves? Not that I smoke, of course, but it makes you think about what other habits we might have that we might be unconsiously rubbing off on our children. It goes hand-in-hand with smacking your children and then telling them in the next breath that it’s not okay to hit. Sometimes I think we have our heads screwed on backwards.

So why am I telling you this? Well, last week I took my kids to the dentist for the first time. I was a fountain of useful information about how important it was for them to go to the dentist every 6 months, about how the dentist needs to make sure their teeth are growing correctly and that they are doing a good job brushing their teeth. I was the queen supreme of Telling. But despite all my Telling, Daughter was scared, near on terrified, and Son who takes most of his cues from his sister, was heading down the same pathway.

I couldn’t understand it, I’d told them it would be fine, why didn’t they believe me? The fact is that if you’re going to talk the talk you have to be willing to walk the walk. How could I possibly expect them to walk happily into the dentist’s office when I wasn’t willing to do the same?

Dentophobia – it’s real and I have it. I don’t like spiders and I don’t like enclosed spaces but for me they aren’t phobias. The dentist, that’s a phobia. Just sitting here writing about it has my heart pounding in my chest. 12 years, give or take a few months. That’s how long it’s been since I last went to the dentist.

As everyone does with a phobia I can explain the reasons behind my fear, it seemed like virtually everytime I went to the dentist as a kid the guy was pulling teeth out of my mouth (I’d had 5 baby teeth and 4 permanent teeth extracted before my 11th birthday), then braces for 3 years, then fillings, then my wisdom teeth extracted. Ahh!!! I think I’m having heart palpitations.

But if I want to Show my children that the dentist isn’t scary and that it really IS important to go for regular check-ups then I need to face my fears and sit in that terrifying chair that goes up and down. So I am! Tomorrow, I’m going to the dentist! Wish me luck, I’m going to need it.

What about you? Are you a believer in showing rather than telling your kids how to behave? Do you have any fears, irrational or otherwise? As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

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The Kindy Kid

It is a big week in the Moller household – yesterday Daughter started school! The first day of school is always a big deal, but for us full time stay-at-home Mums, it is a huge deal. Don’t get me wrong I am not trying to lessen the emotions experienced by working Mums, but when you have spent almost every second with your child from the moment they were born the first day of school represents something more than the next miImagelestone in your little one’s life.

For me this has been a week of dramatically conflicting emotions. Firstly, Daughter is driving me crazy! She is completely and utterly ready for school, she is a sponge for information and she is literally sucking me dry. But of course, she is my little girl and watching her go off to school means that she will no longer be spending 24 hours a day in my care. Torn. That is how I feel.

And here is the worst part – for the first time in her life I am no longer going to be the major influence. Up until now, almost everything Daughter has learnt has been taught to her by me (and I guess I should give my hubby a little bit of a mention here too). I taught her the alphabet, how to dress herself, how to open a tub of yogurt, how to spell her name, how to skip and hop and jump. But now there are others whose job it is to teach my daughter, not to mention all her new found friends. And what about peer pressure and bullying and all the other influences out in the big wide world?

Stop. Deep breath. It is only the second day of Kindergarten!

The last few days emotions have run high in our household, but I am proud to say that neither Daughter nor I have shed a single tear over our separation. But the dramatic turns of this week aren’t over yet.Image

On Friday, not only will Daughter be heading off to her 5th day of Kindy, but Son will be going to his first day of preschool and then for the first time in over 5 years I will be left with 6 whole hours every week with no children in my care. Whether or not Son is ready for preschool remains to be seen, although he does finally seem to have gotten a handle on using the toilet (after a mammoth 15 months of toilet training it eventually sunk in, but that is fodder for another post!) I just have to cross my fingers and toes that he doesn’t decide to go into meltdown mode.

While I am here bothering to write a blog post I thought I would quickly update you all on how I am going with my Resolutions for 2012 (see here for the list) given that today is the last day of January. My attempts to watch 50 movies and read 50 books are well ahead of schedule, particularly the reading, in January I read 18 books! I have managed to keep up with my exercise too. In fact, the only thing that is lacking is writing. I have started editing Soul Hunter but really need to pull my finger out and get into it full-time. Perhaps it will give me something to do with those free 6 hours a week!

What about you? Have you kept up with your Resolutions? Have you experienced the emotional turmoil of sending a child off to school? Do you remember your own first day of school? I love to hear from you.

Jody Moller

 

Friday Free-For-All – A Book Week Celebration

Last week was Book Week. Run by the Children’s Book Council of Australia it celebrates the best Australian Children’s Books released this year and is also a national week of celebration throughout all Australian Schools, Preschools and Libraries.

So I thought I would get into the vibe of the celebration (if a little late!) and list three of my favourite books for preschoolers. (These books are both favourites of mine and of my two kids (2 & 4 years old)). Ohhh… and I will also just say these are not necessarily my favourites of all time (Dr Seuss would probably fill all three of those positions) but rather  books that you may not have heard of that I would like to recommend as additions to your library.

1. The Gobbling Tree by Mark Carthew and Susy Boyer

Ever had a ball stuck in a tree? Ever tried to use other objects, be it a stick or another ball, to get it back? When Zac’s cricket ball is swallowed by The Gobbling Tree he is not detered – he will get it back! Even if he has to send every available object he can find, up into the tree after it.

This story is told  with superb rhyme and rhythm and is beautifully illustrated. If your kids are not yelling out “Swish, Crick, Crack – Oh No cried Zac” with you by the end of the book I will give it away (note: this is just a saying I am not actually giving anything away 🙂 ).

2. The Pirate Cruncher by Jonny Duddle

This is a book I only discovered a few weeks ago when I borrowed it from the local library but I can guarantee I will be buying it the first chance I get. (I should probably insert a warning here that this book does not end well for the pirates, so if your kids are a bit squeamish or prone to nightmares I might skip this one. :))

Click here for a link to amazon.com.

When a fiddler comes to town spouting tales of a vast treasure, that he just happens to have a map for, he attracts the attention of the dastardly Captain Purplebeard. But perhaps they should heed the Fiddler’s warnings! This book is hilarious and comes with an awesome twist (that makes for great re-reads as it really isn’t much of a suprise if you pay close attention). The illustrations are fabulous and it is easy to realise that the author, Jonny Diddle, has his roots in arts.

Keep a look out for the Pirate Cruncher’s tentacles hidden on each page! And don’t forget to check out the names on the map at the start of the book.

3. The Things I Love About Bedtime by Trace Moroney

Now this book could actually be any of Trace Moroney’s ‘The Things I Love About’ Series, or even any of the books from her ‘When I’m Feeling’ Series. All of these books are fabulous and I highly recommend them all. But the ‘Bedtime’ book is a favourite for my kids, particularly as we normally read it at bedtime ourselves. My daughter particularly likes the page that mentions talking about your favourite things you did that day, and since reading this book that has become a regular discussion point for us at bedtime.

Once again the illustrations are beautiful, and when the rabbit reads his own bedtime story he just happens to be reading the same book as you 🙂 which is a very clever touch.

So, have you read any of my recommendations? Did you like them? Do you have a favourite children’s book? Do you have any recommendations for me? I love to hear from you.

Jody Moller

Friday Free-For-All – Chicken and Chicken… Hey That’s Funny!

Telling fibs is naughty – we tell our kids that everyday, and yet sometimes as a parent we lie to our kids without batting so much as an eyelid – you know the ones, like don’t make that funny face if the wind changes it will stay like that! Othertimes we know that we probably should tell our kids some version of the truth but we have to decide what is age appropriate.

This got me thinking about some of the things we tell our kids. I have heaps of examples I could use about small fibs I have told my kids, but I am going to stick with two of my favourites and not suprisingly they both involve Daughter.

Story 1: The Fairies In The Dining Room

Daughter is a phenomenally bad eater, that doesn’t mean she eats bad food it is just that she doesn’t eat much of anything. For most of her life we have had to bribe every mouthful of dinner off the plate and into her mouth. One night as we are sitting at the dining table, the light from the new downlights we had just installed reflected off my husbands cutlery and low and behold there a small dancing lights on the ceiling.

Daughter is mesmerized. Hubby and I don’t think, the fibs just burst forth of their own accord – The lights are fairies, they only come when you are eating your dinner. Sure enough she stops eating and the lights miraculously disappear, she puts food in her mouth and they are back. Amazing! And OMG she is eating! The fairies became a regular occurance at the dinner table.

Then one day, not long after she turned 4, Daughter turned to me and said Mum, the fairies aren’t real are they? Just like the monsters and witches, the fairies aren’t real either. *Sigh* Daughter had been having nightmares, we had told her witches weren’t real and she had decided the rest by herself. So what do I say? No sweetheart, fairies aren’t real. I go on to explain how Daddy made the lights appear (she now loves doing this herself).

I nod to myself, satisfied that I am a great parent – then it hits me. Crap! What about the tooth fairy? So far she seems to be okay with the concept that the only fairy that really exists is the tooth fairy – I will keep you updated.

Story 2: Chicken and Chicken

My daughter has a fasination with words. She is almost 5 and has just started learning to read. She loves books and has already started correcting her little brother’s grammar.

A few weeks ago we were at the shops, we had just finished a big grocery shop and had headed over to the butcher to buy some meat. She listens to my order (I am buying chicken wings for the dog) then she laughs. I turn to face her. And she says this “Chicken sounds the same as chicken – that’s funny.” “What do you mean sweetie?” “You know the chicken on the farm and the chicken we buy at the shops, the words sound the same.”

Oh dear. This is a conversation that I am not ready to have. Now maybe this one does make me a bad parent but I don’t think my daughter is ready for a knowledge that the animals that we sing about in McDonalds farm are the same animals we are eating for dinner. So I laugh with her and say “Yes, you’re right, that is funny.” This is a fib that I know I can’t maintain indefinately – at some point I will need to tell her the truth, and I will, eventually.

What about you. Have you told small fibs to your children? Did your parents lie to you? Were you scarred for life as a result? Love to hear from you.

Jody Moller

Friday Free-For-All – Yeah thanks, way to make me feel appreciated!

Not five minutes ago I was tucking my delightful (I use that term loosely) 2-yr old son into bed. Stories are finished, I’m giving him a kiss, telling him I love him – you know the usual. Son turns to me and says “Mum…” (pause, my heart prepares to melt, I’m sure he is going to say ‘I love you too’…) “Get out.” I kid you not. My 2-yr old just told me to get out of his room so he could go to sleep. Yes, son, I love you too.

This got me thinking about all the times our kids manage to make us feel totally unappreciated. I think back to when I had a ‘real’ job (the inverted commas are for those people that have never considered any of my jobs ‘real’ jobs! You know who you are!) and I used to feel that my boss didn’t appreciate me – well step aside PK you ain’t got nothing on my kids!

My favourite moment of unappreciation (is that even a word?) was about a year ago when I was having a conversation with my then almost 4 yr old daughter. We were discussing what she wanted to be when she grew up, which was and still is one of her favourite topics (just this week her future ambitions have ranged as far as a rock star, a fisherman (don’t know where that one came from) and a policewoman).

Daughter turns to me and says: “When I grow up I am going to be a Mummy” (ohhh… nice, so you want to be just like me, my heart melts a little, but then she continues…) “But I am going to clever Mummy, not like you, I am going to have a job and be a Mummy at the same time!”

OMG my daughter thinks I am stupid because I don’t have a job?!?!

It took me a few days to convince her that once upon a time (before nappies and sleepless nights) I actually had a job, and eventually she agreed that I was in fact clever!

This is a topic that she often brings up – the fact that other people’s mothers work and hers doesn’t. It is difficult to explain to a 4-yr old (without her taking what you say and repeating to her friends – thereby offending their parents) that you have chosen to stay home from work so you can spend as much time as possible with her. I just hope that one day she can see this from my perspective and perhaps appreciate the sacrifices I have made – at least a little bit (plus realize that I am infact very clever 😉 )

Have you had any moments where your kids have left you feeling unappreciated? Would love to hear from you.

Jody Moller

Friday Free-For-All – If Girls are from Venus, Boys are from Pluto!

Heard the saying Men are from  Mars, women are from Venus? Well, not my kids, those two planets are too close together, you would expect some cross-over, perhaps some similarity in traits between the Martians and the Venetians – my kids are complete polar opposites.

I still can vividly remember the shock when I discovered my second born was a boy. The entire pregnancy everyone (including myself) assumed it would be a girl (we never officially found out it was just a gut feeling). After a brutal child birth (let’s face it when is child birth not brutal) a small child is placed onto my chest, all muck covered and crying – naturally in this burst of emotion the first thing I say is “Well what is it?” noone responds, apparently they didn’t bother to check. So I lift the baby up and low and behold there are bits dangling there between his legs “Oh my god it has tackle – IT’S A BOY!”

Being from a family of all girls (i only have one male cousin) I have no experience with boys – can they really be all that different from girls? In my family we played barbies and put on dance concerts and sang every song from our favourite musicals when we went on road-trips, but then again we were all girls. Surely all that talk about boys being rough and tumble and girls being prissy and into dress-ups is because they are raised to believe that those are their gender roles, instilled upon them by their parents – if I didn’t set up those expectations then where could they come from?

Yeah right! Boy was I naive.

From the moment my kids exited the womb they have had their own, very defined, personalities. My daughter is into dolls and dress-ups and will delicately paint pretend make-up on anyone that will sit still. My son would rather drive a truck straight into a wall. This isn’t because we have pushed them into any particular gender roles, for some reason my son has just loved anything with wheels from the time he was born. 

Not only is Son rough, he is soooo much stronger than Daughter, I would insert at the same age here but I don’t think I need to, despite the 2 year age gap between them Son is already stronger than she is (helps that he builds up his muscles by regularly throwing toys at people’s heads!)

And stubborness, oh my lord. I didn’t know the meaning of the word stubborn until Son came along. Son is still stuck in the terrible twos (i think he is going to be there until he is fifteen!) but discipline is almost impossible when he refuses to give in and apologise – he will happily sit in time-out for hours instead of giving in and saying sorry – in the end most of the time I have to give in and let him out because by then we are running late to whereever it is that we are going. Daughter was never like that – 5 minutes in time-out and she was (still is actually) apologising through her tears.

Son is also a complete class clown, I don’t know if this can be attributed to the fact that he is a boy or the fact that he second born and is constantly being cheered on by his big sister. There is no self-preservation gene  – if jumping from the lounge and landing on his head will get a laugh then he will go ahead and try it, tears may ensue but once they have dried-up it is well worth another attempt!

What about you? Do you find there are vast differences between your kids? Can these differences be attributed to differences in sex or are all kids just different? Love to hear your thoughts.

Jody Moller

Free-For-All Friday – Reasons I Need To Apologise To My Parents

Once upon a time I was a child. I know, unthinkable isn’t it, but it’s true. A very, very (should I add another one? okay), very long time ago I was young and innocent and apparently exceedingly naive. Now for all of you thinking this is going to be me bearing my soul and confessing all the terrible things I did as a teenager, I’m sorry, but as shameful as it is to admit there would be nothing to confess, I was an angel. Don’t laugh, I mean it quite literally, I was a nerd. I was too busy studying to get into any real trouble (come on they don’t hand out PhD’s in chemistry to just anyone – you have to be able to prove at least 10 years of genuine geekdom to qualify!)

So what the hell is this post about then? I hear you ask. Well it is about the things that I have learnt since becoming a parent myself. Below I am going to list some of the things I need to apologise to my parents for and how my delightful daughter has opened my eyes as to my (many) flaws.

1. I am sorry for being a fussy-eater

My daughter is what we adults like to affectionately call a ‘fussy-eater’. And I know she is not alone, most kids fit into this category. She often ends up having a glass of milk or piece of bread for dinner just for the sake of putting something in her stomach. One of my particular favourites is when she comes up with the ‘I don’t like it’ call, before she has even put a spoonful of it in her mouth (or even better sometimes just when she hears what it is called). Arghhhhh…

Don’t get me wrong I love my daughter to death but seriously – ‘eat your dinner’. Most nights at the dinner table you will find my daughter and I having an arguement over something – the fact that she now no longer likes peas even though she always liked them before – the fact that she specifically asked for carrots but now decides that she doesn’t want them.

Now – here is the confession – I am WAY more fussy than she is. Still to this day I am an exceedingly fussy eater and that is nothing compared to what I was like a child. I barely eat any fruits or vegetables (don’t lecture me I know that I should and I really do try but I hate most of them… oh god is that a pea…ahhh… don’t bring it near me…)

My dad just sits back and laughs whenever he sees me arguing with my daughter over food (oh… what’s that called again… oh yeah – Karma!).

So Mum, Dad – I’m Sorry!

2. I am sorry for saying ‘WHAT’ all the time (oh and ‘MUM’ too while I’m at it)

I know that seems like a fairly ridiculous thing to say sorry for, but have you ever had a child that doesn’t listen to what you are saying and instead makes you repeat yourself twenty times by saying ‘what’ over and over and over. Well I have one, guess what, it’s my daughter. It didn’t really hit me just how much she says it until yesterday when I was at my mum’s house. Suddenly Mum turns around and says ‘Stop Saying What!’ Instantly I flashed back 28 years and heard my mum saying the exact same words to me when I was 4 (and she was still saying it to me when I was 15!) Daughter – open your ears and listen I am sick of repeating myself.

‘Mum’ ‘Mum’ ‘Mum’ ‘Mum’ ‘MUM!’ ‘MUM!”

Annoying much? The query gradually gets louder and still I am not listening. My husband turns to me and says ‘Would you answer her?’ Oh… I honestly hadn’t even noticed she was speaking to me – my brain switched off after the first 500 ‘Mums’ that morning.

I still remember (vividly) the three thousand times Mum told us that she had changed her name, ‘Mum’ just wasn’t working for her anymore.

So Mum, Dad I am sorry!

3. I am sorry for setting a bad example for my sisters

I am the eldest of three girls. The big sister. My daughter, while she only has one brother, still fills the big sister role. The eldest, the one that is supposed to know better and set the good example. Hang on did I just say that? Does my daughter get in trouble all the time because she should know better? Yes. Does she get in trouble when my son tries to do sommersaults off the couch because he watched her doing it? Yes.

Oh My God! I am such a hypocrite. I can vividly remember getting so angry at my parents as they yelled at me for things that clearly weren’t my fault.

So Mum, Dad I’m sorry!

4. I am sorry for being obnoxious

Self-explanatory.

Mum, Dad – I’m Sorry!

I am sure there are thousands of other things I should be apologising for and I am sure as my children get older alot of them will become more apparent and you may well see some more of these posts.

As a side note, before you ask, yes, my daughter is a real chip off the old block. She is a miniture version of me, she thinks she knows everything and she never shuts up! Just today she informed me that she knows more than I do!

Has becoming a parent opened your eyes to your own behaviour? Is there anything you should apologise to your parents for? Does it scare you sometimes how much your children are – just like you? Would love for you to leave me a comment.

Jody Moller

(The Exasperated Novelist)