What our children teach us

So much of parenthood is about what we teach our children: to be kind, to listen, to like vegetables (hmmm, maybe failing on that one) and to never, under any circumstances, leave those little pieces of Lego on the floor.

But I’ve been thinking lately about how reciprocal parenting is, and thought I’d share some of the things my kids have taught me.

Bookworm

There were so many delightful things about my baby Bookworm. He was super cute and loved books (obviously) and he was whip-smart – full sentences by the time he turned 18 months old. He had a fantastic sense of humour and he really liked day naps (hallelujah). But he was also very anxious and shy, and didn’t like unfamiliar environments or people. We didn’t go to playgroup much because it just wasn’t fun for me to have a child I was literally unable to put down on the floor (with all the other babies who were perfectly happy on the floor). I felt embarrassed every time people would come over, and he’d cry when they walked in the room. I hated the fact that sometimes other people couldn’t see how funny and gorgeous he was, because he would struggle to talk to them, or even look at them. I was young when I had Bookworm – 25 years old – and still very much in the stage of working myself out. I was also in an incredibly judgemental environment, where any deficiency in your child was seen as a reflection on you – like, your baby cries when you leave the room? Clearly your fault for never leaving them with a babysitter/leaving them too much/no daycare/too much daycare  blah blah blah. I knew I shouldn’t care what other people thought, but I did. I wished he was different. I wanted him to be one of the “normal” kids who was running around playing, not cowering on my lap. I was feeling pretty upset about it one day, and asked my mother what I should do about it; how I could change what was happening. And my lovely Mum said, “I just think it’s really important that you don’t emotionally abandon him.” It really struck me, and turned my thinking round about (and right side up). I stopped agonising about what I could do to change him – and started changing myself. By accepting him just the way he was, I let go of feeling like we had to meet anyone else’s expectations.

I’m not saying it happened overnight – I still fall into the trap of caring too much what others think. But I’m much better at it now, and I think it’s because Bookworm was sent to me to teach me the lesson.

Picasso

Ah, Picasso. It’s true that the extra difficult kiddoes are also extra gorgeous. My Picasso is exactly like a bear. At times so soft and snuggly, you melt for him. He’s sweet and sensitive and kind and gives you these long, still hugs that are just delicious. And then at other times he’s just so completely intractable. Unmoving, some would say. Stubborn. He’s the kind of person that won’t just accept what you say – he has to know it for himself. The fact that there’s a rule doesn’t mean it’s a rule he has to agree with. The fact you say the bike is too big to fit in the car doesn’t mean he just accepts the fact that you’re a grown up and know that the bike is too big to fit in the car. He has to KNOW that the bike doesn’t fit in the car. He has to waste half an hour trying everything to fit the bike in the car. Only then will he accept that the bike doesn’t fit in the car (in the meantime you’ve had a frustrated meltdown). He has taught me, I guess, about power and respect. He’s not the sort of child you can say “just do it because I told you so.” He needs explanations. And while this is sometimes really, really frustrating, I’m also glad that he’ll be a person who will need to discover things for himself, and not just blindly accept what he’s told. I love that about him – it’s just a difficult characteristic to parent sometimes. Picasso certainly has taught me a lot about patience.

Little Miss

There’s just something about Little Miss that makes your heart smile. She is always dancing or singing, or doing handstands or making something for the fairies; she fills up every second of her life, always brimming with enjoyment of the moment.

With the boys, I could sneak in work emails or a conversation with a friend while they were drawing or playing blocks. This never worked with Little Miss. It just wouldn’t do. If she was drawing, WE had to draw. If we had a conversation, she’d literally grab my face in her hands and make me look into her eyes. We had to ENGAGE. If I was cooking, she was cooking too, and that’s ALL we were doing. She delights in everything she does, and she does everything wholeheartedly. She has taught me so much about being present.

I’ll be honest – I really struggle with this. I don’t know if it’s a personality thing, or a hangover from having worked in media for so long – I naturally want achieve about 18 things at once before breakfast. A friend once told me I have a “very fast tempo”. It’s hard to slow down and just be present in the moment. But I’m so glad Little Miss has helped (and is still helping) me do this.

 

I’d love to hear what your little people have taught you 🙂

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Girl power tunes

There’s nothing more awesome than totally rocking out to a girl power song when you’re a bit down and depressed. I was thinking this the other day as I was driving along in the car, feeling pretty sad and stressed over some horrible events that had happened, when Katy Perry’s Roar came on. I sang it at the top of my voice – and I have to say it totally made me feel better!

So I thought I’d helpfully compile a list of my favourite songs to sing when the world takes a massive swing at you.

  1. Fighter by Christina Aguilera. I tend to blast this one up loud when someone has done something crappy to me. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as turning an attack into a something that makes you a better, stronger person.
  2. This is who I am by Vanessa Amorosi. I just LOVE this song. I feel like I spent so many years not embracing who I really am, and this is kind of like a personal anthem for me.
  3. I don’t want to be by Gavin Degraw. Girl power songs don’t have to be written by girls! I’m all for gender equality 🙂 Like This is who I am, this song is all about just being who you are.
  4. Titanium by Sia. I literally say these lyrics to myself  when difficult things happen. “You shoot me down, but I get up, I am titanium.” It makes me feel invulnerable, and I really like that.
  5. Shake it off by Taylor Swift. Because sometimes you really do just need to shake it off, right? Little Miss and I completely agree on this.

I love all of these songs, but my absolute favourite at the moment is This is My Fight Song by Rachael Platten. Every time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps. I think it’s especially meaningful because I heard it for the first time when a dear friend was battling advanced brain cancer, and I sang it for her. I also love Rachel’s story – she’s 34 and only just hit it big, after years of playing her music to audiences no bigger than about 20 people. I just love how her time has finally come, and she’s roared onto the stage with such an awesome song that probably encapsulates her stage of life right now.

How about you? What do you listen to when you need a reminder that you can totally triumph over whatever it is that has got you down?

 

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You are enough

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about being authentic.

One of my dearest friends sent me a link to a TED talk by social researcher Brene Brown on vulnerability (I highly recommend watching it here when you get the chance) and probably the thing she said which struck me the most was this:

I am enough.

I know it doesn’t seem like rocket science. But this is a concept I have struggled with for so many years – am I enough? If I don’t get the highest mark, am I enough? If I’m overweight – am I enough? If my kids muck up at school, am I enough? If my house is always a mess, if I fail at my job, if I stuff up at parenting, if I publish a book and no one buys it – am I enough?

It was kind of a light bulb moment. So I decided right then and there – yes, I am enough.

And, because the universe is awesome, I had the opportunity to test my newfound revelation right away.

That same week as my epiphany, Souljourneyboy and I were due to go to our 20-year High School Reunion. Now, I have obviously known about this event for some time, and I had grand plans of losing – about 12 kilos.

It became apparent to me a week out that, sadly, I wasn’t actually going to achieve that goal, since I hadn’t, you know, started dieting. So I decided that I could at least get my hair done, as the highlights I had done a few months ago are half grown out and I don’t think they really suit me all that well. Also it’s been ridiculously humid and my curls have this 1980’s Helena Bonham-Carter thing going on which is, well – kind of frightening.

But of course I had this madly stressful week where there’d been no time in between uni exams and work and piano lessons and art class and lapidary club (yes, Picasso does lapidary of all things, but that’s a story for another time) to find time for the hairdressers.

Finally, on the day before the reunion, I found myself in an exhausted heap, faced with a choice – either I could just sink into my comfortable couch for a few hours and read (which is what I really wanted to do) or I could drag myself down to the shops and book in for the hair appointment (which I knew I wouldn’t enjoy).

Then I reminded myself – I am enough. Realistically, would anyone care what colour my hair is or was? Why did I care? Why would I spend precious hours doing something I didn’t really want to do, all because deep down inside I was worried about not being enough?

So I chose the couch and the book – and crazy hair – had a wonderfully relaxing day, and decided not to care.

Then something really interesting happened. At the reunion – which, by the way was fabulous – I couldn’t believe how many people stopped me to say how much they enjoyed my blog. And even more wonderfully, they all said the reason they enjoyed it was because of my willingness to be authentic.

You can’t be truly, authentically vulnerable unless you are happy to accept yourself the way you are. Unless you know that despite all your shortcomings you are indeed, enough. And yet accepting ourselves is so hard to do, mostly because when we are real about our struggles and our failures, we open ourselves up to criticism and judgement.

It’s so easy to sit back and justify your own life and decisions by the failures and struggles of other people around you – you know, when that inner voice says, God, I would NEVER put my child into care/let my child behave like that/wear that dress/eat that/let my house look like that/make that choice like SHE/HE did. 

That’s the scary part of being vulnerable – you put the bits of yourself you usually hide away on show. You are forced to be truly honest with yourself, which, let’s face it, can sometimes be confronting.

But you also open up real conversations, authentic experiences and connection with others. You open yourself up to change and growth by looking at your inadequacies face-on.

And that’s what came home to me at the reunion – all these lovely people thanking me for expressing thoughts and feelings they had struggled to articulate, people who feel a bit better about their lives and experiences because I was honest about mine.

For a writer, that’s just about the best feedback you get can, I think.

I don’t claim to have reached some pinnacle of inner understanding, and I’m sure there will be plenty more times (today, probably) where I have to remind myself that I am enough.

But I hope by me sharing this you will remind yourself of it too.

And, by the way – I am absolutely sure that not a single person noticed my hair at all 🙂

So let’s all try to remember:

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My first book is now available!

It’s been a long time in the making… but I am very excited to announce my first children’s book called The Spell of Possibility: A Herald Hounds Adventure is now available as an ebook!

The Spell of Possibility is the story of Jake Finnegan and his younger sister Milly, who are thrown into adventure when they visit a strange house called Trickery Hill for the summer holidays. After Jake accidentally creates a powerful spell, they are transported to the Fae Kingdom – a realm where clockwork creatures roam the sky and leprechauns make flying shoes. The children soon find themselves caught up in a magical conspiracy against the Kingdom’s Immortal Rulers. 
Jake and Milly join forces with a faerie called Scoop, the headline-hunting editor of the Fae Kingdom’s most well-known newspaper, the Fae Morning Herald. Scoop hires Jake and Abbie as special news reporters, called Herald Hounds. The Hounds must solve the mystery before the Fae Kingdom is destroyed, always keeping one step ahead of the Herald’s rival newspaper – the sneaky Otherworld Oracle.
Aimed at children aged 9-14 years old, The Spell of Possibility is also for older readers who still love a magical tale 🙂
You can now purchase The Spell of Possibility on Smashwords at:
And please visit my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/emmajblytheauthor/ to tell me how you liked it!
Thanks to all of you who have encouraged my writing over the years. This has been an incredible journey, and your support has meant a lot to me.
Now to start writing the next book in the series ….  🙂