Sunday, February 7, 2010

Our 'Down South' Retreat...

Surfers packing up for the day
14/365: Gracetown tragedy memorial
Baby on board
Bush wees
11/365: The shack
9/365: Boy proof fence

A trip to Gracetown, WA in January 2010.
We had to attend a wedding at Brookland Estate just outisde of Margaret River, so we hired a holiday house in Cowaramup Bay.
It was sensational. We had the closest house to the beach in town, a gorgeous old retiree's shack.
We did all the usual tourist trips, the chocolate factory, had a lunch at a brewery, a wedding on a vineyard.
We took a day trip to Augusta down Caves Rd, stopping to do a cave on the way down. I can't remember what it was called... I'll have to look it up.

I had a ball. I didn't want to come home.

Manifesto of the Idle Parent

The Manifesto Of An Idle Parent

We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
We pledge to leave our children alone
That should mean that they leave us alone, too
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
We drink alcohol without guilt
We reject the inner Puritan
We fill the house with music and laughter
We don't waste money on family days out and holidays
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We push them into the garden and shut the door so that we can clean the house
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
Time is more important than money
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
Down with school
We fill the house with music and merriment

I read this a few nights ago via a facebook link through a friend.
At first glance, I was really keen on it, I agreed with it. But after being prompted to look at it again today, I realise I have more than one or two issues with this manifesto.
The first issue being simply that I can't live by a manifesto. A public declaration of my intentions... well my intentions might change tomorrow, and then what?

But anyway, the idea that because I leave my children alone (and I do, really), because I expect them to not want to be constantly entertained or pandered to, that they'll leave me alone in kind. Hmm, no, it doesn't happen and I don't think I'd like it to happen. Sure, they play by themselves for the majority of the day while I supervise from the peripheral, but I am included often and am asked to join in with whatever it is that's captured their imagination for the moment. I'd be sad if they really left me alone.
It's true, I've often (possibly too often) cried 'just leave me be for a minute'... but that mostly comes from having a small child in arms and on the breast for the most part of the last 6 years, I get touched out. But I only ever want them to sit next to me instead of on me, really. I don't ever want to be alone. I don't mean that I don't want to be by myself, I simply never want to be alone.

Now read on in this manifesto, to the bit about reading poetry and stories without morals. I will admit to being confused here. I read to my kids, and often preselect books for our collection that cover a realm of different areas of social conscience, not necessarily morals that are upheld by the greater community. Sometimes we read poems about bums and farts, and fall about in fits of laughter... no morals or lessons there. But I don't think I'd be committing to never reading anything to my children that wasn't, at least in part, attempting to vicariously bring their attention to potential quandries they may one day need to address. I do believe in letting my children have fun with reading.

When it comes to the item about alcohol, I have to admit my IGG went ballistic. I can understand not wanting to drink alcohol with guilt. I don't believe we should feel guilt about enjoy a drink or two, and sometimes a few more, but I can't live with that as part of my day to day goings about. I don't feel guilt over indulging my taste buds with a Baileys on ice at night, but I do believe I'd feel guilt, and rightly so, about indulging every day, and more than enough to alter my ability to parent. So whilst I agree with drinking alcohol without guilt... I guess in my head there's always the addendum: in moderation.
I'm guessing any who read this would be thinking "well, that's a no brainer", but from what I've encountered in the world of parenting, it's apparently not as obvious to some.

It then comes to the encouragement of no family days/holidays. I totally agree. We don't go on holidays for the sake of a 'family holiday'. We don't need encouragement to spend time together in the form of forced company. We spend tonnes of time together every day, because we all live under the same roof and my children still rely on myself and hubby as their only mode of transport outside of the yard. Our family days are really every day. Every day we've got something on, or not. Every day we are a family. We don't need to, nor would I want to make a big deal of us being connected as a family. We simply are, organically.

We go on holidays, albeit not as often as we'd like simply due to lack of funds. Last year I took Rhiannon to Adelaide for 5 days. Over December we went camping, all 6 of us. In January we went to Gracetown, WA for 5 days as husband was expected at a wedding down there as he was the best man. But they're weren't specific family holidays, they're just holidays we do as a family, because where we go, the kids go for the most part.
Take today, for example, we're about to head out to the farmer's market. A veritable family day out, but it's not really, it's just a day and as a family we're headed out. But it's not a 'family day' where we're committed to spending the day together in some false hope of fostering a connection by force.

And then my last nitpick: Down with school. Hmm, well I understand the basis of the homeschool/unschooling arguments. I just don't agree with them enough to give it a go. I have a two kids who love school.
They're always offered the opportunity to stay home, but when given the choice, 9 times out of 10, they'll choose to go to school. I guess that's because their friends are there, and they have structured activities to look forward to (unlike the complete chaos of home).
I do sometimes think 'down with school'... it's true, I would love for my boys to be home and happy and just hanging out. Over the long summer break, we had a great time, but by the end of the 6 or so weeks, our big lad was in need of something other than what we had to offer. Sure in a homeschool/unschool environment I'd be forced to look for stimulation for him outside of the school setting. But I have things I want to do this year for me. I'm returning to school. My husband will be teaching at a school. School is a pretty big part of our lives right now, and will be for at least the next 4 years... so sure, 'down with school'... so long as I've still got the option to send my children there ;-).

As for the rest of this manifesto... It's pretty much spot on. I'm sure that the bits I was hesitant to accept are mostly just areas that lacked explanatory notes. I am an Idle Parent. So is husband. We want our children to be self sufficient, and not needing to rely on anyone/thing for encouragement or enthusiasm in life. I want them to be entertained within their natural landscape without having to seek artificial stimulation, whether it be television, electronics or ballet.
Don't get me wrong, if the kids ask to be allowed to participate in something that they are interested in, or want to learn about, then hell yes, I'm there. But I won't be enrolling them in every extra-cirricular activity for the sake of keeping them busy and filling their lives with 'opportunities' which really aren't that opportune at all.

It's not laziness. It's not even lack of wealth. It's wanting my children to be the best they can be, all on their own.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lacking in Skills

So we've survived the school holiday, religious holiday, public holiday nightmare (??) that is December and January. Another day, another year. It's all flying by so fast.
I am about to enter a new degree at university, in a totally different area from where I've studied previously, and to be honest I'm starting to get a little nervous. I'm nervous that I'm just not organised enough as a person.
I have 4 children. Four delightful, sensational, incredible people who fill my days with comotion and calamity, cuddles and chaos.
Honestly, our house is never still. Even now, when all four little ones are asleep, there is so much more to be done, and yet I sit here blogging a while, just to wind down instead of continuing to tackle the monumental stack of 'to dos' that really nag for my attention. But that's ok, I'm going to have my cup of tea and indulge my nervousness for a moment while I can sit and think about what it is that really needs addressing within me.
We have a full plate here, really. As do many others, most others in fact. The more time you have, the better you are at filling it to the point where you NEED more time. Right?
Our biggest lad, Will is in Year 1 this year, he loves school. Absolutely hated being home over the holidays, because he was sure he was missing out at school and we were just keeping him home as a weird punishment. His first day back, he was so relieved to discover that everyone else in his class had been forced to have time off as well and he hadn't, in fact, missed a bloody thing.
Our next biggest boy, Lochie, started at Kindy this year, and he too is really diggin' it. He doesn't go to a mainstream school, he does require special education for his severe speech delay, but after seeing the Cleft Palate and Maxillofacial Unit again yesterday I'm happy to report that this is the only intervention he'll be recieving this year. And what an intervention it is. 2 days a week of intensive speech therapy disguised as Kindy, it's bloody brilliant, but I can see that it's going to be exhausting for him. He works so hard, and has come so far already in the last 18 months. But we are so thrilled that he's been cleared of any structural issues that we need to combat, and that we are safe to continue with addressing his functional issues.
Tristan, the little boy who doesn't grow, is devestated that he's now without brothers a couple of days a week and left with only a boring old baby to play with. She's not really interacting with him in the way he'd like most of the time, which is leading to a lot of 'donked baby on head' and 'thunk....waaaaaaaaaaaah'. Ahhh remiscient of when it was just two little boys at home.
Crawlergrrl, wowee, she's so keen to catch her brothers. She began crawling sometime before Christmas, and hasn't been the same since. She is much, much happier for a start, obviously her reflux is settled now that she can keep herself upright as well as in arms. She still loves hanging out in the sling with me, but is quite content to chase the boys out the back door and be entertained by them for quite some time.
But all of this keeps me no busier than any other parent of four I don't think. Sure, I work outside of the home one day a week. In all honesty, it's not really something I consider 'work'. It's a break. An honest to goodness break from the high energy, frenetic madness that I seem to encounter within the four walls at home. At work I can drink a cup of HOT coffee, I can eat with two hands, not having to share a thing or inhale it before disaster strikes. I love being at work just long enough to breathe deep and count to 10. Being at work doesn't make me disorganised, it encourages me to be organised... making sure I've got enough expressed milk, that I take my breastpump with me, that I take the right car, access cards, wallet, brain etc... All of this encourages organisation in my completely disorganised self.
I have tried hard to make a positive start to the year simply by encouraging myself to use a diary. You know, one made of real paper, that you write in with a real pen - not a virtual/online/computer version. It's red. It's got lovely coloured paper. And just over a month into the year, I've managed to maintain it as a point of reference for my seemingly hectic weeks.
In my defence, we have had a lot of appointments come up again (Tristan's hernia, Lochlain's palate/speech issues, Rhiannon's ears, my thyroid, Will's allergies, Andrew's eyes, etc etc etc), but still, I do have days in a week where I have no commitments and I just seem to struggle with knuckling down and getting much of anything done. I'd rather read a book. Or sit in the sun at the park with good pals and chinwag over cake. I know it's probably normal to want and prefer to do those things over chores, or sorting, or arranging. But that doesn't change the fact that there are things that NEED doing and I avoid and procrastinate to the point of ridiculousness. Why? Do you leave everything to the last minute in the same way I do?
I just wonder what it is that makes me put things off. And how can I encourage, or even force, myself to just get on with it from now on?
I began walking of an evening after dinner last year, and I loved it, and hour of just one foot in front of the other for an hour or more, and I felt wonderful for it. The endorphin rush after a great rise in heartrate and a decent sweat were phenomonal. But during the chaos of Christmas, I've let it slip and try as I might I just cannot motivate myself right now to keep it up. Actually, here's a thought... it's now 10:38p.m. If I go to bed now, and set my alarm for a reasonable hour of the morning, perhaps I can encourage a morning jog instead. Right. Am going to post this and turn off the computer. Procrastinate no more tonight. I'm just going to do it. I'll repost back tomorrow. Let's see if I can make a difference just by venting my concerns in this format.