Parenting and Empathic Fathers

Pre-Birth Tensions

birthing poolIt’s so important: the time prior to a birth. Families and couples prepare themselves for the big moment. Ideally everything should be in place and ready for the moment when the baby decides it’s time to enter this world.

Ideally, indeed that’s a good word. We’re expecting our third child. Basically at any time now. Due date was yesterday. And, so far I had the feeling everything is fine, and with the experience of two lovely home births in the past I felt somehow prepared and relaxed.

A few weeks ago we started with first preparations. My boys and I inflated the birthing pool for the first time, our lovely midwife came around to talk things through, my wife and I have been listening to birth relaxation CDs, and we created a backup plan for the whereabouts of our kids when birth takes place. We even raided the kitchen cupboard and made some very delicious energy balls for the time of birth and after.

So, all good then?! Well, I must admit things have turned slightly against us and I get that panicky feeling of being stressed. Today my wife followed her nest-building-instinct: we started clearing and cleaning the house to make it more cosy. Since then everything went downhill:

The boys – running around full of tension, anger and temper. The birthing pool – decided to have a hole. The idea of peace and quiet – gone.

I could scream. Honestly, I was so looking forward to this special pre-birth time, when things quiet down and tensions fall off. The exact opposite is happening here. For about an hour I tried to repair the birthing pool with a combination of blu tac, a bike repair patch, sellor tape and swearing. At the same time my heavily pregnant wife chased after our youngest, who was on a mission to either destroy things or leaving messes in corners we just had tidied. Both results, repairing the pool and calming down the little one, were less than successful.

I could scream again. Well, no, I just decide to take a short break. Really, it doesn’t help now to get worked up about things I can’t change or control. Yes, the boys are tense, no wonder. For weeks and months they have been waiting quite patiently for this time. It must have been like an endless journey for them. So, all their anxieties, joy and excitement is bubbling up now. The pool, well, it’s not ideal but it will be alright. Stop worrying, Torsten!

I tell you what I do now. I’ll go down and make a cake. A nice almond-coconut cake. The boys can help me and things will be alright. After we had the cake we can carry on in building our nest. Not long to go until our little one will be here. Let’s take a deep breath and carry on. I see you on the other side… in a few days… or hours…

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The Third Child: Yes, I’m Ready to Go

31 Wochen (4)‘When is the baby coming? Today? Now? I want the baby to come now!’ – These words are being said by my nearly 4-year-old every day. Every day for the last three months. You see, there is a little pressure and some expectations on us – the parents – or, to be more precise, on my wife. Come on, bring the baby on!

We’re expecting our third child this May. If everything goes by plan, birth should take place at home again, as with the other two. I feel ready for it. More or less.

Looking back I realise how little time we took to get prepared for this birth and the arrival of our baby. I remember the long evenings prior to our first birth. We sat on the sofa and chatted about everything baby related: how life will change, how to fold cloth nappies and we even practised the baby sling with a dolly inside (well, that was actually for me who needed a bit of help there… yes, I did manage dolly in the sling after twenty or so minutes). Everything we did or said was with the focus on baby or birth.

Things shifted slightly three years later when our second child came along. Yes, we were more exhausted and the evenings often ended with us going to bed the same time as our toddler, just to catch up. Still, we had great moments where my wife and I could sit down, reflect, relax, think, talk, laugh, cry and enjoy ourselves. With that kind of confidence the second birth went very smoothly and peacefully.

But life geared up again. Both our boys are wonderful and curious explorers. Most of the time anyway. Our days start normally around 6.30-ish in the morning and the eldest should be in bed around 8.30pm – but, hey ho, life is not like that and quite often the evening routine gets delayed. After we re-established a certain order and tidiness throughout the house we fall into bed as well. And in between I just finished writing my first book.
So, all fine by me. But, and here comes my point, we just noticed how little time there is for us. Not only time as a couple but also time to get prepared again.

Well, we already went through two home births, babymoon, sleepless nights, toddler tantrums & co., why should we need more preparation? Good question. For me it’s about celebrating that very special, beautiful and unique moment when a child enters the world. It doesn’t matter how often I’ve seen or experienced it before. This new life deserves the same attention and care I’ve given to my other two.

And, it’s about my wife. She, who went through the last 34 weeks, struggling with sickness, fatigue, heartburn and the general exhaustion pregnancy brings. She, who gets up every morning to be with our very active boys, seems to have quite endless energy and patience to deal with all the difficulties and joys parenting can bring.

So, taking that time to get ready again is also an important way to say ‘Thank you’ to her. To show respect and empathy. Yes, there is less time available now, but I believe in these small but important moments of kindness. For me to get up a little earlier in the morning to prepare her some breakfast and tea in bed; to let her nap in the afternoon while the boys and I are somewhere outdoors, or to give her a nice and relaxing belly massage (even when I’m terribly tired) before we go to sleep – I know it’s no big deal but it does help her.

Belly MassageWe also try to involve our children in the whole pre-birth celebrations. They love to use the natural belly massage oil (the more the better) and when the younger one can’t wait for his turn to massage, he then has a go at my belly (bliss). Or the other day they both helped me by inflating the birthing pool. Of course the hosepipe had to be tested and this way they found out that they can use it as a mega cool telephone…

Yes, time is tight. But it’s really up to us to make the best of it. Tonight we have planned something very special. It all happened quite spontaneously with the support of friends: My wife and I go out!! The eldest will stay with friends and the youngest with our adopted Granny. So, from around 5pm till tomorrow morning we’ll have time to ourselves!

The only plan we made is to go out for dinner – and then… let’s see. No plans, no pressure, no hurry. Just us. What a treat! Yes, we will talk about birth and the baby – of course! But we will also just enjoy ourselves – the couple, the lovers, the two of us. Recharging our emotional batteries for the weeks to come. I can’t wait. For both.

31 Wochen (1)


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Creative Stuff, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The Relaxed Parent Or How To Survive Cold Winter Days

ice ornamentDo you know those days when it’s never gets really light? The sun can’t make it through the thick soup of clouds and mist and you wonder all day whether it’s still early morning or already early evening. This and a disgusting combination of icy rain, hail or sleet. You crave for some energy- and Vitamin-D-giving sunlight and it doesn’t matter how many oranges, lemons or pineapples you eat, you feel just low. Well, that’s how life treated me last week.

I normally enjoy winter and the cold season. It’s great because I love watching the leaves turning yellow, red, orange and brown. It’s nice to get the woollen winter coat and my flat cap out again, and there is nothing more magical than seeing icy, glittery cob webs and frosty sparkle flowers on a winter’s morning. And, snow! Of course, snow. Well, the last time we had snow was in … nope, can’t remember. (Oh yes, we had half an inch for exactly three hours; then it melted… that was three weeks ago!)

So, the nice winter days are awesome. Bring them on, now. I wouldn’t mind. Then I could just grab the kids and we could spend all afternoon outside making snowmen or having snowball fights. But the other side of the cold season, the dark and miserable one, can go away. Because I’ve noticed how this darkness effects my children as well (yes, I have no idea how parents and children in Finland or Sweden survive their long winters).

Sometimes it can turn a bit funny, especially when my 3-year-old informs me at breakfast “Oh, it’s time for bed. Dark outside!”. But at other times they just pick up on the weather and become grumpy and miserable. So do I.

That bad mood expresses itself in tantrums (yep, that’s me included), boredom, arguments or the kids decide to burn their energy by strangling each other (gosh, did I say that?). Or they demand permanent entertainment, e.g. reading books (no, not only a couple of books, a dozen at least). Many parents might think ‘well, just turn the telly on. That’s what it’s for. Right?’ Nope. Wrong. Firstly we don’t have one (yes, you’ve heard right: we do not own a television. And yes, we are fine). And secondly I don’t wanna kill my kids’ creativity and my own sanity by turning them into fast-food-entertainment-junkies, who then believe they must buy every single commercialised product they would see on TV. Forget it.

So, in order to stay calm and relaxed about such grim winter days, I came up with a list of things you and your children can enjoy. Personally I printed my list and I keep it visible as my personal back-up plan when I feel the need for pulling a little joker from my sleeve.

Here we are:

-Time for rough-and-tumble. Especially over the winter months we burn far less energy and calories than in summer. So, turn your lounge into a roughhousing go-wild-area. Take cushions, pillows, mattresses, duvets, blankets and soft fluffy stuff to cover the floor and remove all sharp, hard or dangerous objects. Then invite your kids for a good and fair session of roughhousing. Make rules beforehand (e.g. “We don’t hurt each other” or “Stop means STOP!” and don’t overpower your kids. Let them ‘win’ or at least let them be in charge. This way their physical energy gets burned, while their glass of emotional needs will be filled up. Need more inspiration? I can warmly recommend Larry Cohen’s book ‘The Art of Roughhousing’. My boys love to roughhouse (and me, too. I always feel ten years younger after)

-Invent a new evening meal: Who cares for cookery books? Especially when your kids aren’t able to read yet. So, create something new in your kitchen by raiding the cupboard and fridge. See what your kids come up with and invent a brand new recipe. Let your children help. They can chop veggies or beat some eggs. As you don’t stick to any measurements, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s too sticky, runny or hard. Again, maybe agree on some rules (“Yes, only one teaspoon of salt.”) The result could be more than inspiring. It actually could be quite yummy. If it’s not edible (never happened here… ok, well, maybe once or twice), your kids might get hooked in trying it again. Wow, lessons for life.

– 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 sleepily and tired went to bed)

– Have a good sort-through: Gosh, how much stuff do we need actually? The answer is always the same: less than we think. But cleaning or decluttering aren’t fun. Well, you would think so. The thing is, you can make them fun. Yep, it doesn’t help much when you shout with a grumpy face “For goodness sake, clean your bedroom now or I’ll scream my head off.” Have you ever tried to turn the ugly cleaning into a little party? Get the vacuum cleaner out, turn the music up and invite your kids to a dance. The dishcloth becomes a magic towel and everyone home joins in the who-can-pick-up-the-most-books-and-toys-and-puts-them-away-in-three-minutes-race. Everyone is a winner. Make a pile of toys and things you and no-one else in your home need. Take the stuff to the charity shop or give it away.
After the cleaning party you settle on the sofa with a nice mug of tea or coffee. Awesome.

-Last one: No snow but frosty cold nights? Make an ice ornament. What you need is a plastic plate or an old Frisbee disk. Collect some natural objects (leaves, sticks, feathers) and let your kids arrange them on that plate or disk. Add some water and leave overnight. Next morning you’ll be surprised! Promised!

So, I hope I got you inspired. Give it a try and tell me what works for you. Share it here or on the facebook site. Need more input? Have a read here. And here.

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

Have Confident Kids Without (Over)Praising Them

praise
Imagine you just had good sex with your partner. You hopefully feel relaxed and peaceful now; you might try to keep the good atmosphere. Suddenly your partner rolls over to you, he or she sticks a gold star on your cheek and says “Well done. Good lad!” Yes, that would feel very odd. You laugh out loud or check your partner’s forehead (is she in a delirium?) Agreed, this example is quite unlikely to be true, but nevertheless it’s something we use every day when judging our children’s performances in school, during activities or at home.
Alfie Kohn writes in his book Unconditional Parenting (a very good read), that ‘in our culture’s workplaces, classrooms, and families, there are two basic strategies by which people with more power try to get  people with less power to obey. One way is to punish non-compliance. The other is to reward compliance.’That’s how it works, unfortunately. Bribery, punishment and rewards are ground pillars of our society. So no wonder that parents use them as well. How often do we hear phrases like ‘clean up your bedroom or you won’t watch TV’ or ‘if you do your homework now, then you’ll get a sticker’?

Research confirms how ineffective rewards are when it comes to improving the quality of someone’s work or learning. Children and adults alike are less successful at many tasks when they’re offered a reward for doing them.

So why on earth are we using rewards? Is it the way we were conditioned as children? Always dependent on praise and positive judgements from our parents, teachers, friends – and later on in life, partners and bosses. And what happens to us when we don’t get that praise? How do we feel then?

That’s exactly the issue. We focus on a job or task to finish and think ‘Hey, I really like what I  do here and it looks great’. Then we look for approval from someone. If then no-one says to us ‘Well done’ or ‘Good job !’, we might feel empty, less worth or even rejected. Well, that’s how I often felt when I didn’t get my daily dosage of praise.

The more people are rewarded for doing something, the more likely they are to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. It’s hard, sometimes I still fall into the trap of trying to please people in order to be praised.

‘Good Job/Well done can interfere with how well a job actually gets done. Researches keep finding that individuals who are praised for doing well at a creative task often stumble at the next task. Why? Partly because the praise creates pressure to keep up the good work that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because people’s interest in what they’re doing may have declined (because now the main goal is just to get more praise)’ (Kohn).

So what is it I want for my children? Do I want my sons to engage in reading because they’re curious about how a story continues or do I make them read because I promised them some chocolate as reward?

What alternatives can I use?

Well, being empathic and using our creativity can help you a lot:

  • When your child achieves something (let’s say he/she paints a picture you really like and you see how proud they are), try not to judge or praise. Instead describe what you see (‘Today you have used a lot of red and purple and there’s that huge rainbow’). But don’t overload your child. Just give something to your child, he/she can reflect about. This way they’ll appreciate their work even more because you have showed true interest
  • Your child does something ‘for you’ (clearing the table or doing the washing up). Respond with a ‘Thank you’ instead of praise. Or you could say ‘I saw you already cleared the table. This helped me finishing our evening chores and so we have more time for reading/playing together’. Do you see the difference? You’re stating a fact, rather than giving a judgement.
  • Ask your child whether she/he enjoyed a certain activity. Let’s stick with the drawing example: ‘I saw you drawing that big picture earlier on. Was that fun for you?’
  • Join in. Children (and not children only) feel appreciated when we show a real interest and join their activity. So, get the pencils and paper out and start drawing yourself.

‘As a result of praise, children become less able or willing to take pride in their own accomplishments – or to decide what is an accomplishment. In extreme cases, they turn into praise junkies who, even as adults, continue to rely on other people for validation (…) Rewards and punishments can never help someone to develop a commitment to a task or an action’ (Kohn).

praise 2But that’s exactly what I want for my kids: that they can show commitment, passion and curiosity. I want them to explore, to discover and to learn without the fear of failing or not succeeding. Yes, they will make mistakes and yes, they will learn from those. They don’t need my or anyone else’s judgements to get better at things. They need people’s authentic feedback, to help them review and change and try something else. I’ll guide and support them as good as I can, but in the interest of their self-esteem and their confidence, I choose not to (over)praise. I want them to become gentle and caring members of society, without being dependent of others’ approval or expectations.

Read further: Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting

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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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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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Your Home in Chaos? Time to Declutter!

MessUsually once a month I get it: the declutter-my-life-and-environment-virus. Don’t worry, normally it’s not contagious. It’s like a good fever: high and short. In the way my body tells me to get rid of things in order to feel better. And often the kids’ bedroom is my target. My wife and children don’t mind, as long as they don’t have to help me in my mission.

The cleaning out or let’s say – the healing process – involves: picking up all sorts of things and elements (blu tack, bits of sellotape, string, pens, books, food) from the floor; sorting the books (I think my boys own more books than me and the local library put together); dividing broken, half-broken and playable toys (yes, that’s where my eldest starts to argue: That toy is not broken, it just had an accident!); and to make the room generally more accessible (at least for the coming hour).

I find this cleaning out helps my inner peace and balance. Yes, it has something zen  (please tell me if you’re Buddhist and I’m wrong). And it reminds me of the simplicity of life. When I go through all this stuff, I often think: hey, we need so little, but have so much.

Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits Blog, brings it to the point when he says: “And when I’ve gotten rid of clutter, I’m freed. I can forget about those things, and live instead in this moment. … Decluttering can be a beautiful process of helping ourselves let go of the things we don’t realize we’re holding on to.”

I don’t think my children are overloaded with toys. We really try to keep it balanced and spend a great deal outdoors in the woods or by the sea. Every time we run over fields or collect millions of stones at the beach (to make the stones and pebbles collection we already have at home just a tiny bit richer), I pause and think: yes, that’s also what parenting is about: to see and to appreciate those little things; to enjoy that very moment and to take it home.

 

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a post saying how bad toys are. No, not at all. It’s fine for me, after spending so much time outdoors, to come back and get the train set out and play. It’s good fun and I love playing with many toys my children own (did I really say that?). At the same time I want to keep that thought of a free, running-through-the-woods, awesome childhood. Because that’s what I did when I was little. So, my children deserve the same, at least!

Did you get infected now? Sorry. Should have warned you earlier.
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