Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

How Staylistening Builds Family Connections

connected family

Today I would like to introduce to you Kate Orson. She is a Hand-in-Hand Parenting Instructor (love, love Hand-in-Hand and their philosophy) and will be publishing her book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Children this year.
I very much love Kate’s writing and I feel inspired by her suggestions and ideas. Here she shares a great post about how Staylistening can support strong family connections. – More links at the end of this post. Enjoy!

One evening when my daughter was 9 months old, my husband came home, and went over to say hello to her where she’d been happily playing on the floor. She burst into tears, and when my husband picked her up she reached out her arms for me.

I was surprised that she’d cried so suddenly. She wasn’t a newborn anymore. It seemed as if she’d been in the world long enough to understand this was her dad, that she was in a completely safe situation. I was right next to her on the playmat too! We had just spent a lovely, connected day together. Why did she suddenly need me so desperately?

Before I learnt about Hand in Hand parenting I would have taken her back in my arms to stop the crying. I would have automatically assumed that was the kindest, most naturally thing to do.

But now my perspective about crying has changed. I discovered that there are two reasons babies and children cry. The first reason is when they have a need, perhaps they are hungry, too cold, or are in pain. The second reason, is to heal and recover from an upset that has already happened.

In our busy, modern, society, it is sadly inevitable that all babies and toddlers will experience some degree of stress or upset. It could be from a difficult birth, medical intervention, or just the daily stimulation from getting used to being in the world.

Crying is a healing process, and there are actually stress hormones contained in tears. The psychologist Aletha Solter calls this the ‘Broken Cookie Phenomenon’ that often babies and toddlers will use a safe, everyday situation as a trigger to heal from

a bigger upset from the past. In these moments all we need to do is to listen and allow this natural healing process to happen.

We can see this phenomenon at work in our own lives. For example the other day I washed my favourite woollen dress on a normal cycle, and ended up shrinking it! I started crying, and quickly realised that the dress was just the trigger for a deeper upset. It was about the build-up of stress before christmas, my exhaustion from parenting, and my work responsibilities. Now the holidays were coming, I sensed the space to let go and relax, and release some feelings.

In that moment when my daughter started crying I knew that everything was fine in the present. My daughter loves her dad, and they have a great bond. So I didn’t pick her up. Instead I moved close to her, and reassured her that she was safe with her dad, that I was there too. He held her as she cried, and we both gave her lots of warm, loving attention. This is what Hand in Hand parenting calls ‘Staylistening,’ which means simply staying in the moment and listening to feelings without distracting or trying to stop them.

After a few minutes my daughter stopped crying. She smiled, started ‘talking’ and pointing things out around the room. She was completely at ease being held by her dad. We had dinner, and my daughter tried two foods she had never tried before, potatoes and cheese! This is often the case, that when we listen to our children’s deeper upsets, they can gain confidence in many unexpected ways.

Babies, and toddlers often choose little everyday moments to ‘work’ on their separation anxiety. They may suddenly have a desperate need to be with one parent. When our baby or toddler has a good relationship with both parents, and there is trust and safety there, then often, these moments, are simply a ‘broken cookie,’ a trigger for deeper feelings. If we listen, then these feelings no longer need to get in the way of our child having a joyful, connected relationship with both parents.

Separation anxiety often appears around bedtime. When my daughter was around 15 months old, she would sometimes start crying in the evening. For example if we were all hanging out in our bedroom, and then I needed to use the bathroom. By this age, I sensed she understood almost everything I said to her. I was pretty sure she understood when I told her I was just going to the bathroom and would be back in five minutes.

I could of tried the quick-fix approach and just dashed off to the bathroom leaving her crying. Or I could of taken her with me to stop the tears. But I knew this wouldn’t help her with her underlying fear about me leaving.

For a few nights my husband and I decided to staylisten during these moments. I would gradually try to leave, and would hold my daughter in my arms, listening to her feelings, slowly waiting until she was happy to be left with her dad. Often after having a big cry about separation she would suddenly flip into laughter, crawling from one parent to the other, as I playfully tried to put her back with her dad.

Then when I told her I needed to use the bathroom she would happily let me go, as if she had forgotten that she’d ever been upset about it. Afterwards she would be in a really happy mood, playing and laughing and enjoying the company of both of us. She had got through all the separation fear, and come out of the other side.

Staylistening has helped my daughter to be happy to be put to bed by her dad or to spend time with him while I work during the evenings and weekends. I can leave guilt free, knowing there’s no feelings of upset hiding beneath the surface. Most times I need to leave her, she’ll give me a big hug, and a smile. We’ve given her the space to be heard.

katephotoKate Orson is a writer, and Hand in Hand parenting instructor. Originally from the UK she now lives in Basel, Switzerland with her husband the author Toni Davidson, and their 4 year old daughter. Her book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Children, is now available to pre-order here  https://www.waterstones.com/book/tears-heal/kate-orson/9780349410104

You can follow her on facebook here https://www.facebook.com/ParentingByConnectionWithKateOrson/

 


 

 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

My Son Wants A New Doll…

playing with dolls new

My son wants a new doll, he has given his other one’s to his younger siblings. Now, he would like a more “grown up” one. One that is a bit more like him.

I find an Internet store selling nice dolls and they even have a “eco-friendly” box you can tick to select one you like from that range. However, I am not quite clear what they mean by “eco-friendly” and decide to ring them. The conversation goes as follows:

Me: Oh hello, I would like to find out what the criteria for your “eco -friendly” dolls are? I assume they are all phthalate-free?

Shop-owner: Oh yes, they are all phthalate-free. The dolls in the eco-friendly section have all been made in Europe, but they are all made of the same materials, more or less.

Me: Ah, great. Good to know. Then we could choose one from that range…

Shop-owner (interrupts me… wanting to help me choose): How old is the girl you would like to buy a doll for?

Me: Ah, ehm, my son is seven.

Shop-owner: Oh. (Pause) That’s good you are buying a doll for your son.

Me: Eh… yes. He has outgrown his other one’s and would like a new one and I thought I try and buy one that’s as eco-friendly as possible.

Shop-owner: Yes, we have very nice boy dolls. Have you seen our pirate boy doll on the website?

Me: Yes, he doesn’t like that one. He doesn’t really like pirates and dolls with short hair.

Shop-owner: Oh, but that brand has other boy dolls, I could order some in for you.

Me: Hm… he would like the doll to sort of look similar to him and he has long hair and all the boy dolls have short hair.

Shop-owner: Oh. Well, you could also buy boy clothes…

Me: But, he likes their beautiful dresses. And seeing that he likes wearing dresses too…. and anyhow, I guess the dolls you are selling, well most of them, could really be boy or girl as they don’t have body parts anyway, have they?

Shop-owner: No, that’s true. Hm… you have quite a character there *laughs*

Me: Eh!? Yeah…

Then she proceeded to explain more about the different brands and that some of their dolls are made in China and how some are shipped from China to America, then to Europe and which one’s she liked best. Bla, bla, bla.

In the end it left me feeling a bit odd. My son had also listened to the conversation (being so excited about finally getting his doll…) and I felt sad he had to listen to his dad AGAIN having to explain to others that really boys can like dresses and long hair and dolls, too. Does he feel he is not normal, that his dad has to explain his choices to others? How different would the conversation have been had I said the doll is for my daughter?

IMG_3223Why don’t toy shops sell dolls? Just dolls. Rather than boy or girl dolls? Why have some dolls “make up” on, i.e. red painted lips and dark eyelashes, very rosy cheeks etc.? Yes, can you hear me Mattel? It’s not good enough to have a boy in your ads, the actual problem lies in the doll itself. Barbie doesn’t look very natural to me.

Apparently, children at the age of my son, want dolls as an identification figure. But the only dolls I can find that, sort of, look like him (meaning having long hair) are “girls”. Well, I try and pretend they aren’t but they all have a female name and many very gendered clothing.

However, maybe the more we speak to toy shop owners directly, the more they will think: it’s not just the odd one out. The one weird child… there must be others, like my son! Well, I don’t care if not, he is definitely wonderfully unique, and just right the way he is!

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

20 Things A Father Should Do This Year

DadsTalkBlue

A new year is here. I’m always excited about a new beginning. So many new opportunities and so many things I can try to achieve. Personally, I don’t much believe in new-year-resolutions. I don’t want to pressurise myself and then feel depressed by the end of January when I need to confess that all resolutions actually don’t work. Again.

So, this year I came up with a list of things I just want to continue doing and working on. But also I added things which I think would be great to try out. And I want to invite you, fathers on this planet, to join me. Pick the things you like and go ahead creating your own list. Whatever you choose to do, I believe in your own creativity and fatherhood power. Be my guest:

1) Love your children unconditionally. Yes, there a plenty of moments where they gonna mess up; where they drive you insane, and where your only safe place is the locked bathroom to get at least five minutes peace. Tantrums, scream fits, broken things and even lies. It’s all part of the package. But, they are still the most magnificent and wonderful people on this planet. So, forgive, reconnect, give the love you would have hoped for when you were a kid and screwed up. Why did I put it here as Number 1? Because it’s my personal reminder and the most important thing to me when it comes to parenting and fatherhood.

2) Spend more time with your kids. Since I’m a father myself I can confirm this: Time flies. It’s such a precious time. And your children are only little once. Before you blink twice they’ve grown up and go their ways. You’ll still be part of their life (hopefully), but it’s nothing compared with the first years. So, get down onto the floor, or in the sandpit, or into the woods and play. When you join their games be present and follow your kids’ rules.

3) Take a step back: Watch your kids. Observe how they play and what they like. Try to see things through their eyes. Listen to them. Not only their words, but also intonation, face expression and body language. This way you’ll learn a lot about them and yourself. Promised.

4) Hug your kids. Yes, it’s always good to ask them first and get permission. But 9 out of 10 times, kids will say: Yes, I want a hug. Do it. Every day.

5) Surprise your children and partner with a new dish. Raid your cookery books, ask a friend or search online. Get the ingredients and ask your children to help cooking. Make it special. Put some candles or fresh flowers onto the table.

6) Learn an instrument. Gosh, did I really say that? Yep. It’s great to see for children that grown-ups have challenges too. How do you cope with struggles and something completely new (that is if you don’t play an instrument). Wanna make it easier? Get an ukulele. You’ll be surprised how simple it is. Even if you’ve never played an instrument before, with an ukulele you should be able to play a simple tune after some hours or so of practicing. And hey, your kids can join you. What about a little family concert after a couple of months playing?

7) Make up a story. No, not from a book, it all starts with your own imagination. Make yourself comfortable on the sofa and snuggle up together with your children. You start telling a story by introducing a couple of characters and a scene of action. (Keep it simple. It could start like this: One beautiful morning a farmer called Joe opened the door to his barn. In the barn lived a cow, a horse, and some pigs…) Then at a crucial point (well, it doesn’t matter so much if there’s a crucial point, but hey- ho let’s assume we need one: Joe opened the barn door and then he suddenly saw… Pause) ask one of your children to take over and to carry on with the story line. Depending on age and abilities, the story could be ‘passed on’ from one to another. This can go on for hours… or days. (Until Joe very exhausted and tired went to bed).

8) Apologise. Yes, we as parents can lose it too. That’s fine. We’re responsible for our short falls and mistakes. So, show your kids that you can take that responsibility and have the guts to say you were wrong. This way they see you as something beautiful: being authentic and real.

9) Respect and love your partner. If you want your kids to have healthy and good relationships in their lives, then set the example. Listen with empathy, reflect on your actions, and speak with love and gentleness.

10) When you have to clean the house, invite your kids to a cleaning party. Do you know the saying ‘You either have children OR a clean house’? Well, I totally agree. But sometimes it’s necessary to get a certain order into that chaos. Yes, you can choose to be either miserable and grumpy about it, or to turn the whole cleaning into a fun party. Turn the music up, have a dance with the vacuum cleaner and wear the kitchen apron on your head. In no time your offspring want to join in and help. Believe me. Yes, you look silly. But that’s part of the parenting, isn’t it? (Lower your expectations – no it won’t look like your pre-kids days – well at least not for very long…) You might remove the apron when leaving the house or opening the front door.

11) Connect with nature. Going to the park is a good start. But I’m talking about a real connection. Go wild. Off road. No phone signal (yes, that’s the hardest bit). Take a tent, a fire kettle and a few things to ‘survive’. You’ll discover how little you need. Collect wood, make a fire, respect all creatures and life out there. I always find that spending time with my kids in the woods awakes the most powerful feelings inside me. I slow down, I feel a strong bond to my children and I feel somehow home. And it doesn’t cost you anything.

12) Invite your neighbours. OK, if they’re bonkers or drug abusing idiots, you might not. Otherwise it’s a good way to find out who really lives next door and to see how you could help each other. Many children love to meet new people (young and old alike) and they might feel safer when they know they can trust people in their close environment.

13) Volunteer and take your kids with you. That’s on my list for a long time. I really want this to happen. I so believe we can teach gentleness and how to care for others by setting this great example: volunteering. It could be anything: your local care home where you help for an afternoon by talking to residents or reading stories; planting trees with an environmental charity or by cooking food for some people in your neighbourhood who are lonely or in need. It’s up to you.

14) Be a relaxed father. Yes, thank you very much, Torsten. Anything else? I know, I find it hard myself to stay relaxed. Gosh, our lives are extremely busy and demanding. Work, families, relationships, friends, community, and so on. And on top of that our children who easily pick up from our mood and mirror our feelings. And if that’s stress, yes, then they’re stressed too. So, let’s take it a gear down. When you feel stressed, tell them. That’s your kids included. Sometimes it’s just that small break you need to calm down. It’s not selfish to say “I’m off for 10 minutes. I need time to myself!”. Do it: find activities that relax you – be it meditating, visualisation, muscle relaxation, having a bath – what is it for you?

15) Write emails to your children. This isn’t from me. I read it somewhere. Unfortunately, I forgot where. So if you read this and you are the creator of this idea, please forgive me for not naming you. But I love this: Open an email-account in your child(ren)’s name and send photos, love letters and all kind of stuff (well, your stuff) to this account. As often as you like. Write about your emotions and be bloody honest. Then when they turn older (14 or 16 or 18 or 21 or whenever you think it’s right), give them the password. Joy!

16) Take time for yourself. You’ve heard right. TIME FOR YOURSELF! Take a day or a weekend (it helps when you talk and plan together with your partner) and just focus on your needs and wishes. I’m dreaming of a weekend where I just go for a long bike ride (cycling I mean). A tent, a sleeping bag and my bike. Then, in the evening, somewhere in the countryside, I will make a fire, roast some bread and veggies and have a beer… Sounds awesome to me. Then coming back to my family, feeling fully recharged and energised. Oh yes, we all need a break from time to time.

17) Say I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH to your kids and partner. Well, that sounds cheesy. Mean it, for god’s sake. And they will appreciate it.

18) Grow a beard. I just wanted to write something silly. But hey, I like the idea of growing a beard. It’s just that normally I look like a troll or evil dwarf when I haven’t shaved for about four or so weeks. But my kids (and wife) like it when I get fluffy soft in the face. So, what’s more important? Your kids and wife love you or you look like dwarf Gimli?

19) Help another dad. Often men find it hard to open up. For some it takes a few good talks to break the ice. If you know someone who struggles or find it hard to be a father and/or partner, talk to him. Offer him time and space to be himself. We need more gentle, empathic, down-to-earth fathers. By helping and supporting each other, we can come closer to this goal.

20) Enjoy. And how you enjoy it, that’s up to you.

I wish you all the best for this New Year. Be authentic, be empathic, be yourself. Real fathers for great children.

 

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

She Doesn’t Really Love Me!?! Or Check Out Your Attachment Style

 

hand holdingRecently I came across the book “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, as well as articles about the topic of how attachment styles influence our relationships. Having been interested in Attachment Theory since my first baby was born, I was intrigued about how my wife and I can use attachment theories wisdoms on our couple relationship.

Attachment theory was first developed by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, who observed children’s reactions to being separated from their parents during WW2 in England. He realised that how children related to others was directly influenced by their experiences with their primary caregivers.

birdiesI wrote before about how essential our first bonding experiences to our caregivers are and that when our needs are not met at all or not all the time, we can end up longing for this sense of security and feeling of being loved unconditionally as adults . And this often influences how we are relating to our partners. In other words, the fears and needs of our childhood travel with us into adulthood and we re-enact certain situations and struggle with connecting to our partner out of fear of abandonment or rejection.

If we can’t be sure of being loved for who we are (and even if our actions aren’t always perfect), we might decide to hide our true emotions, close our heart and use communication to hide the truth of the matter.

Several researchers have looked into how our attachment styles influence our relationships. There are four styles. In their research, Dr. Phillip Shaver and Dr. Cindy Hazan found that about 60 percent of people have a secure attachment, while 20 percent have an avoidant attachment, and 20 percent have an anxious attachment.

  • SECURE people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving
  • ANXIOUS people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back
  • AVOIDANT people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
  • FEARFUL/ AVOIDANT people live in an ambivalent state, in which they are afraid of being both too close to or too distant from others. They attempt to keep their feelings at bay but are unable to.

By being aware of your own attachment style (and that of your partner) you will be able to “see through” your own thought patterns (“he always does X that means he doesn’t really love me” or “she goes on and on about my flaws, I just can’t take it anymore”) and begin to address your emotions differently, by relating them back to your attachment style. What you have taken as “reality” or “truth” might suddenly be turned around.

So, for example if you have an avoidant attachment style, you might repress emotions, be distant, withdraw in conflicts and find it difficult to tolerate true closeness. The way to get your needs met is to act like you don’t have any. You might communicate in a way that frequently pushes your partner away from you in order to regain your sense of distance. Now, it might be that your partner has an anxious attachment style their buttons will be pressed painfully by your behaviour. They will want you to respond to their communication and can’t deal with your withdrawal. Lisa Firestone writes that your partner wants to be with you lots to feel reassured of your love as well as have their needs met.

Knowing your own and your partner’s attachment style can help with exposing the Disconnection Cycle that you might find yourselves in and moving towards healing past experiences and forming a secure bond.

It is interesting when we consider that research has also shown that we often choose partners based on the same character traits as our parents (or one of our parents). In their book, Levine and Heller write that “attachment styles actually complement one another in a way. Each reaffirms the other’s beliefs about themselves and about relationships. The avoidants’ defensive self-perception that they are strong and independent is confirmed, as is the belief that others want to pull them into more closeness than they are comfortable with. The anxious types find that their perception of wanting more intimacy than their partner can provide is confirmed, as is their anticipation of ultimately being let down by significant others. So, in a way, each style is drawn to reenact a familiar script over and over again.”

I believe, and have experienced, that it is possible to start being more secure in your relationships. It takes a lot of reflection and putting old thought patterns on the head, but it’s so worth it! My wife and I are doing everything to ensure our children are securely attached to us, we feel that in order to achieve that we had to look at our own attachment styles, our childhoods and what kind of thought patterns we had about each other. It’s funny to think that really all our partner wants is to be held in that secure bubble that we hold our children in.

If you haven’t already recognised yourself/your attachment style, here is a test to find out!

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers

Sorry Kids, I Messed Up! How to Apologise and Reconnect

Brent_and_DaddyThis is just a shitty day of parenting. You know what I mean. Whatever I do or the children do or whatever is happening today sucks. My eldest winches and complains about every- and anything: the food (too spicy), the weather (too wet), his toys (too boring), me (because I’m not reading the same book for the 25th time today). Simultaneously his younger brother takes a pair of scissors and cuts open toothpaste tubes (“No, it wasn’t me!”), sets the alarm clock for 2 in the morning (“No, it wasn’t me, really!”), and finally blocks our toilet with the lid of our coconut oil jar (“No, Papa, it wasn’t me. Told you”).

To say it in one sentence: I COULD SCREAM! The thing is you can replace ‘could’ with ‘did’. Yep, the same guy who tells you all the time how to be empathic, calm, relaxed and so on, loses the plot. Because I’m upset, I’m annoyed, I’m f*****g angry. Yes, there is so much someone can take and yes, parenting also means that we have bad days. And, yes, we’re just human beings.

I love my kids, obviously. In an instant I felt ashamed and bad. Why didn’t I respond with a nice smile and a phrase, like “Don’t worry about the toilet. Yeah, it’s just fifty quid for the plumber, but hey, it’s just money, isn’t it? The bigger problem might be, where we go until the loo works again?”

But, as I said before, I didn’t respond in that cool way. I messed it up. But, the good news about that, it’s OK. No, it’s not OK to shout and scream but it does happen. To all of us. More important than the kick-off itself is the aftermath. What do you do next? And that’s where the key lies for me.

When I look back at my childhood, I remember my parents being loud or shouting at me on occasions only. Like a short but intensive thunderstorm. Sometimes it was about nothing (at least from my point of view), and then the “deserved” ones. What I also remember is the fact that my parents never ever came to me or my sister to apologise. It just didn’t happen. Once the thunderstorm was over, life went on – more or less – as normal. Only my dad could be quite unforgiving for a long time (but that’s a different issue).

What I’m trying to say is, that they missed an enormous and important chance of reconnection. They left me with all my feelings of resentments, frustration and shame alone. Yes, I might did something I shouldn’t have. Yes, I screwed up. Nevertheless I deserved love, support and kindness, because that’s what all children need: unconditional love.

After their anger had vanished, they could have come to me and said something like “Hey, we were really cross with you and that’s why we got mad at you, but now we wanted to see how you feel. And we wanted to say ‘sorry’ for being so mad. Look, grown-ups make mistakes, too. It’s sometimes quite confusing and hard to understand, even for us. Anyway, we wanted you to know, that we still love you! You are not responsible for our anger, it happened out of our own fear, insecurity and helplessness”.

What a powerful message that would have been. In an instant I would have forgiven anything. I would have cried and laughed at the same time.

Kids want to be loved. Of course. And, yes, they’re not doing things to upset or annoy us. If we think it’s mischief it often is a little cry out saying “Hey, I’m here. Play with me. I need you now!”. But often they can’t say it (because they are either too young or they haven’t got the words yet).

Let’s go back to my shitty day. Yep, everything went wrong, and that includes my response. When the storm had passed and things settled down, I went to see my boys. I looked them in their eyes and apologised. The apology doesn’t have to be very long (hey, you speak with kids), but should show respect and empathy. I see the very moment of the apology also as a great example of authentic parenting. I’m authentic because my kids can see that I make mistakes. That’s fine. Because I take responsibility for them and show how to deal with them.

After that we hugged and cuddled and reconnected. Children forgive so quickly and easily. They truly love unconditionally.

The reconnection or healing process is always important to me. Often I try to do something I know they enjoy: like reading their favourite book or having a long cuddle on the sofa. Especially with my eldest I use the evenings, before he goes off to sleep, to talk about it again. He often needs more time to digest things, to reflect and to talk about his feelings. Having that good father-son-chat really helps him and me to find to each other again. No, I’m not afraid to apologise and I’ll always tell my children how much I love them, particularly after a shitty day.

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Creative Stuff, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

Grey Autumn Weekends To Come? Get Creative!

At DadsTalkCommunity I always have one common theme: creativity. Today’s post gives you an idea, how my wife’s and my creative brains get going to come up with some good ideas. This helps us a lot to keep balance and avoid arguments before they can start.

I don’t know how it is in your place, but we’re expecting another rainy, cold weekend. So, before we’ll get too depressive about it (which normally is ending in having too much chocolate), I would like to share three AWESOME rainy-days-things-to do with your kids. So, let’s get going:

1. Do Something New – Have You Heard Of Finger Knitting?

IMG_1776Well, me neither, before my 6-year-old explored it. He basically made a doll’s scarf in one afternoon. But the project isn’t finished yet. Now he wants to sew it into a hat for his doll.

The great thing: It’s soooo easy to learn (did I tell you that I hate doing crafts? Well, I could change my mind, slowly).

Wanna find out how to do it? Watch the easy version here (YouTube) but it will be in German (hey, you could just learn German while you knit, seriously you’ll be fine, even without a hint of German), or just type “Finger Knitting” into the search engine of your choice and get your scarf ready by Christmas; only two months to go.

2. Bake Bread

Do you know how much money you spend on buying bread? Yep, far too much. IMG_1804Turn it into a fun activity and let your kids burn off their energy by kneading the dough.

Here is our simple, yummy recipe:

600g Spelt Flour
400ml Water
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Quick Yeast
Some Salt
Splashes of Olive Oil

Mix the flour with the yeast and salt. In a separate bowl dissolve the honey in a mix of 400ml lukewarm water. Mix it all together, adding splashes of olive oil and then have the kneading party! 10 min minimum. Let the dough rise for about half an hour and then bake it at 180C
for about 45 minutes. Now the best bit: After the loaf has cooled down a bit, EAT IT!

3. Wood, Hammer & Nails

2014-02-23 13.27.22How simple and awesome is that? Let your kids collect some sticks, bark and wood and introduce the simple concept of creating.

My eldest spent a whole rainy afternoon in our shed banging nails into a piece of wood. After hours of hard work (and still all fingers in the same place), he showed us his results. To us it looked like a beautiful piece of art (some stinking rich would probably pay Thousands for it) – it was and still is unique and we have found a good place for it in the house.

So, hope you feel inspired and motivated. Get going and enjoy your weekend and if you like, tell me what you did or made!

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Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships, Society

Celebrating Co-Parents: The Importance of Secondary Care Givers in Attached Families

Today I would like to introduce you to a great writer, Amazon bestselling author and mama: JL Morse

In all her writing JL Morse is focusing on Natural Parenting, Alternative Education and Attached Families. Very recently she published her new book ‘The World of Wickham Mossrite’ (which I can highly recommend to you) – but more on that later.

Now I want you to get you a nice cuppa or a mug of coffee and enjoy reading JL’s guest post about working together in a family and how we can and should support each other. Because this way life is so much easier and so much more fun!

Celebrating Co-Parents: The Importance of Secondary Care Givers in Attached Families (by JL Morse)

I never wanted children.

I never wanted to get married. No big white dress.
JLM1

All that stuff you’re supposed to dream about. I wasn’t all that bothered about settling down, about having a family, although I did always want a dog.

One of these in particular… JLM2

Here I am at thirty-two, and two out of three ain’t bad – and it’s the unexpected treasures that have been oh so sublime. I’m still waiting for my perfect pooch (husband says yes, when the kids are old enough to pick up poop other than their own), but I’ve gone about as domesticated as Martha Stewart, minus the jail time.

Why the 180? Why the strong, solitary stance in the first place?

Because, coming from an only-child plus single-parent background and knowing how damn hard it can be at times, I just didn’t want that for my babies. And I didn’t think that any man (or woman, I’m all for gender equality after all) could or would put up with me for any significant amount of time. At least the amount of time it would take to make and raise a family.

So, long before I even hit puberty, I sort of wrote it off ever happening.

I’m not saying I had a tortured, fractured childhood. Those sorts of posts are for another blog than mine. I’m all silver linings and happy little clouds over here (fan’s of Bob Ross will know what I mean).

Whatever our circumstances, I did know I was deeply loved – which ultimately, is the best parenting advice I could ever give anyone.

JLM4I do remember however, the strong, determined message to learn to support myself. To not rely on anyone else, to get a good education, to get a good job, to never truly be dependent on anyone, especially financially. This was the eighties and nineties, after all. Sisters were doing it for themselves and all that. Girl Power.

So, I did it. And it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be if I’m honest.

And then, life changed.

 

 

JLM5Friends from my old pre-child life can’t still believe how extensively I’ve gone full earth mother. Not just one, but three children in less time than it takes to renew your passport (ish). We haven’t gone down the nursery or childminder route, as I have zero intention of going back to my previous career. I am a properly 1950s housewife, with the pinny to prove it.

I consider myself to be a Attachment Parent. I babywear, bedshare, nursed on demand, practice gentle parenting (no crying-it or timing-it out for us), and am very needs-driven. As in, what is my child trying to communicate and how can I meet that need? We as a family have adopted Non-Violent-Communication, which is all about engaging at a ‘needs’ level – how our words and actions shape and serve our needs for respect, love, support etc, and how we can interpret others’ communications as desire for their needs to be met.

If your toddler is whining, they likely need a drink, a cuddle or a sleep. Usually all three.

Thing is, throughout my friendships with other families, I’ve noticed a concerning trend – not in any way limited to AP, but perhaps JLM6magnified by it as its such a responsive way to communicate with our babies – and that is mothers (in the main) who are admirably giving everything they have to meet the many and significant needs of their babies, and totally neglecting their own needs, let alone that of the significant others in their life.

Dad, this often means you. Sorry.

Women who are so desperately trying to do everything right by their child, that they forget the people that helped make them in the first place. “I’m responsible for their needs, Daddy can sort himself out.” Mothers who feel like they just don’t have anything else to give.

Small people who cannot meet their own, very immediate needs, of course must come first. I wouldn’t dream of making my husband a cup of tea before feeding a newborn. My four year old can get a snack for herself whilst I help two year old totally miss the potty for the eighth time in a row. Sometimes the two year old will fetch Daddy a new loo roll when four year old has used it all for her copious crafting…

But that’s the thing – we’re a family. We all work together. That’s one of the beautiful things about sharing our lives, is we help each other out. And whilst never for a second trying to put another task on anyone’s heavy, sleep-deprived shoulders – through the glorious haze of motherhood, I would from my experience ask you one thing:

Don’t forget Dad. If he’s whining, he probably needs a cuddle too. From you and the baby.

Or perhaps it’s Auntie Jo, or Cousin Freddie – or whoever it is that is there to support you. However well they manage to do it, however frequently, however little they can truly understand what it’s like to not have showered possett out of your hair for the past three days. Even if whoever you do have on hand is really freekin’ annoying at times (Grandma, I’m talking directly to you) – they are there for you.

Let them help. And if you can, help them back.

The way they might offer help, especially as a new mother (and especially if you are breaking from mainstream, or the way you yourself were parented), will may feel totally inadequate, or worse, undermining. Baby wants you and no-one else. Or you’ve been battling for hours and baby settles instantly for smug Daddy. Toddler crying? Only Mama’s arms will do. Picking new outfits, reading together, bathtime, bedtime – such precious fleeting moments you want to cling to despite the delirium. Why give the good bits away?

But these secondary care-givers want to be part of baby’s life too – they want to be part of your life. They are trying to help. Even if sometimes you have to write explicit instructions, in blood, three times over.

Let them.

JLM8Let Dad be the one to do bathtime. Encourage him to get in on the sling action (he might get more addicted than you at churning stash). And especially when babies turn into toddlers, Dad’s are great at playing, at reading, even just being the one who gets to have a cuddle when its quiet time. The more you let them in, the more they can support you. The closer they’ll be to your children, and therefore to this brave new world of motherhood you’ve entered. The closer you’ll be as a family.

Same goes for Granny. Sure, there are times when you just can’t face your mother telling you how it was done in her day – but there are days when all you want to do is sleep. Grannies are good for enabling you to do that, even if its only ten minutes.

Modern life and certain parenting techniques (and especially schooling in my humble opinion) is geared up to teach children to be independent at as young an age as possible. I don’t want to teach my children to be independent.

I want my daughters to know there are good, reliable men in the world – just like their daddy. That they can zig-a-zig-ahh it if they want to, perhaps if they need to, but not because that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t have to be by default. I want to teach my son to be a good father (if his life blesses him in that way) – and yes, he plays with dollies too. I want him to know how to change nappies, to cook and clean, to be compassionate and giving.

I want them to have all the joy they have given me, as part of a unit. A team.

I want to teach them self-reliance and resilience, but that relationships are crucial to our happiness in life. That its not a cruel and solitary world out there. That if you cry out in the night, someone will always come to be there for you.

And secondary care givers offer more than support to you. They offer different perspectives on the world to your children. They let them know there is a network of people out there that love them, and that they can rely on.

JLM9For me, the principles of Attachment and Gentle Parenting therefore need to be reinforced with a big giant caveat…

It’s Attachment Families – not just parents.You can do it all alone, Beyonce. Sure. But you don’t have to (In fact, I’m pretty such Beyonce has a pretty large entourage for such an Independent Woman).

Motherhood is not an exclusive invitation-only party. You can have a plus-one. If you’re lucky, two or three or four. They say it takes a tribe to raise a child. Find, and then celebrate your tribe. Even if its a hotchpotch collection of vagabonds and vagrants other than your immediate family. There are literally millions of people in the same situation as you.

As they say, there’s one born every minute. Each of those babies comes with a potential support network for you too, life’s about letting people in. For every one of the people in your life that can’t (or doesn’t) offer the support you need, there are others out there looking for someone like you too.

We are all in this together. I’ve learnt that now.

JLM11I still don’t believe that a perfect family has to be a 2.4 – perhaps less so now that I actually have that. For me, it was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. Actually wanting the life you’re supposed to have after spending so many years renouncing it. I met someone that I actually wanted to rely on.

I’m expecting our third child in four years, have the most wonderful older step children (times another three – so I’ve gone from just me growing up to having my very own Brady Bunch), and a husband that is in every way is my Mr Perfect.

Honestly. I lucked out.

But what about those that don’t strike so lucky long term? My buddhist inclinations remind me that every rainbow has its storm – every joy is amplified by its sorrow. The one permanent thing about life is change, and therefore gratitude with the blessings of the moment is the surest way to hold onto them. How would things be if they were different? What would I do if our circumstances changed? How much would it matter if he (I) hadn’t done the dishes if one day there were less dishes being used?

My life could be very different. So I cherish it whilst I can.

JLM12There are times when you flat out want to punch someone in the face for Just. Not. Getting. It. But there are times when you have that little something to give, that extra kiss in the morning, the appreciation of the hard day they’ve had. It’s not always about you, even when they scream at you that it is.

This is not designed to be a post about single parenting – we all take our hats off to every man and woman out there fighting their solo corner. Things happen beyond our control, life turns in mysterious ways; perhaps there is always a plan? I now celebrate the mountains in my life because the view now is so stunning – and I’m better at navigating potholes. I would never have the exact children I have now, or be the parent I am to them, without every single experience along the way.

One day I might yet walk in their shoes, and I know that I would be ok (thanks Mum).

What this post is about, is remembering and celebrating the partners we do have in life – whether romantically, in parenting, in extended or blended families, or just a neighbour that you know always has that cup of sugar for you. Its about Attachment Families.

And as those Blues Brothers told us back in 1980, “everybody, needs somebody.”

And in my case, my Mr Perfect – I need you.

 


 

Thank you, JL Morse! 
In our families we need each others support and help. We live together, we learn together and we enjoy life together. We feel connected, nurtured and loved. That’s the true meaning of attachment parenting to me. ‘It needs a tribe to raise a child. Find your tribe.’ So true!

 

JLMJL Morse is an Amazon Bestselling Author, focusing on Natural Parenting, Alternative Education and Attached Families. She is a mother of two (nearly three), and lives on the South Coast of England in her big hippy bubble. Her latest novel, The World of Wickham Mossrite, follows a family a little bit like hers.

You can find out more at www.jlmorse.com or her publishers, www.onetreefamily.com.

Here more about her latest book:

Wickham Mossrite is a reluctant hero for the Natural Parenting generation. A gentle-giant nature boy, raised consciously and living compassionately in an alternative lifestyle. Encounter his thirst for knowledge about who, and why, and what the world is, and how he is to take his place in it. His ever-loving Meema and Papa, and their plans of Great Escape, his strident older sister Miss Salt, expectations of a younger sibling Bubba Boo, and best friend Hes; a girl struggling with her own identity in a world of labels and conformity. As W.C. Fields said, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” Wickham is a boy who stands tall where it counts. Wickham has a refreshing take on life, seeing the connectedness in all things, their beauty and their fragility. These are the stories of his discoveries, his homeschool adventures and touching relationships. His observations of the way the world turns are refreshing and inspiring in turn. For a FREE book trailer – see –> http://bit.ly/1vz1Biy