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The Secret Art of Lazy Parenting

I am a Lazy Parent. Yes, it’s true. It’s taken me some time to come to terms with this fact, but there it is. I’m a lazy parent because all I ever dream about are high-entertainment, low-cost, no-mess, boredom-free, minimal- supervision, highly-stimulating but guilt-free activities that require limited adult involvement for me to do with my daughter. And the best thing is – I’ve actually found a way to roll all of these things into one…it’s called…Nature.

That’s it! I feel like I’ve stumbled upon some great, amazing, unbelievably stupendous secret, mainly because it just seems so simple and so obvious and also because it seems to me that not too many other people around me are in the know. So here’s how it goes: I’ve got a toddler. She lives outside. OK, OK, I sometimes let her in to sleep at night, but only if she promises not to wriggle around next to me in bed. Oh, alright then, she stays inside all night (promise) but pretty much from the time we wake in the morning until the time we have to come in for dinner, we’re outside. And the main reason for this is because it’s EASY. And that’s why I’m convinced that I’ve become a lazy parent.

Outside is easy. But I mean the real outside….nature. Where I live – two and a half hours from the nearest city – there are no shopping malls, museums, fancy playgrounds or anything else at my disposal to help out in the toddler-entertainment stakes. It’s pretty much all up to me. Which is when I discovered the great outdoors. Let’s even say that I was forced to discover it. The salt lakes that fill up during winter have become our beach. The granite outcrops that become a maze of rock pools after a downpour, have become our aquatic centre. The pristine bushland with its ever-changing array of wildflowers and wildlife is both botanic garden and zoo. It’s all we have. And it’s absolutely wonderful.

The best thing about nature is that it is ALWAYS different. Nowhere is ever the same, one day later or one month later. The salt lakes gradually fill and then ebb away into their ethereal crystalline starkness. The granite rocks become home to a captivating and ever-changing array of water creatures. Adventures in the nature reserves often lead to discoveries of lizards, beetles and the occasional echidna. Today we even came across a group of emus running wildly down the road – my daughter had never seen a real emu before and she was gobsmacked! There is just always seems to be so much to see and experience and learn and understand when you’re in nature. It is the ultimate adventure for a curious toddler.

Everything in nature seems to captivate and amuse the toddler. My daughter loves puddles – which toddler doesn’t? She has stomped and splashed her way through bazillions of puddles and she never, ever gets tired of doing it over and over again. She’ll peer with excitement into every pool and puddle and look for tadpoles or nymphs or water beetles. She’ll stop to pick up rocks and feathers (oh and the occasional pellet of kangaroo poo). She’ll stare in awe at a ladybug or caterpillar. She’ll dig for worms and fish for water weeds to take home for our frog pond. She’ll search with excitement for the moon in the evening sky. She’ll chase after birds and happily, happily play in any pile of sand or mud or pool of water. Her attention is held, her senses are totally engaged; she’s in heaven. And so am I, because I don’t have to do anything – no thinking up of craft activities, no getting out playdough and paints, no jumping around to toddler music…all I really have to do is remember to bring some snacks, a change of clothes and my cup of coffee.

The thing that surprises me the most, however, is how rare it is for me to see other people with kids out and about. Many, many times on my trips, even to the local playground, we’ve been the only ones there. At one of the playgrounds I visit regularly, I’ve never seen another soul. And it’s not like we go at midnight you know. I’ve also never seen anyone take their kids to all the beautiful nature reserves that are the source of such elation and joy for both myself and my toddler. And while I’m more than happy for us to experience the beauty by ourselves, I do wonder…where are all the children?

I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that perhaps it’s technology that is keeping kids inside more these days…TV, DVDs, computer games. I only just realised, as I was writing this post, that screen entertainment seems to fulfil most of my criteria for lazy parenting (except perhaps not quite as guilt-free?) and you don’t even have the bother of leaving home. So I wonder to myself if this is what’s happening in my neighbourhood? To be quite honest with you, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve vowed to myself to try to keep my daughter screen-free at least until she’s two (maybe even three), we’d probably be indoors a lot more too. So it makes me even more motivated to keep to my intended goal – plus I get plenty of secondary benefits beside easy entertainment options: my daughter falls asleep pretty quickly after a mad day’s adventuring and I get some exercise. Ultimately I’ve found that going ‘out’ is the biggest tool in my parenting toolbox so far – it keeps both myself and my daughter happy and healthy and it’s just so simple. I think I’ll be a lazy parent for a little while longer…

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A second bite of the cherry

A few weeks ago, my dad called me up for a quick chat. In the course of our short conversation he casually stated that he was looking forward to seeing how I would teach my daughter (let’s call her Boo), her letters. She is 20 months old. Some time after that, he and my mum came for a visit – we live about 2.5 hours apart. He brought with him a newspaper clipping about a 3 year old who could read. Now we’re not talking Hop on Pop here either. Just the typical book that would ordinarily be mastered by say, a 12 year old. “I wonder”, my Dad solemnly reflected, “if Boo will know how to read by three?” A few days ago, he visited again. My Dad loves playing music and considers it to be of vital importance that all children are given the gift of music. So do I. However, it was when the words “prodigy” and “genius” fell from his lips, in combination with a comment about private tuition needing to begin by the age of 4 that I started to really worry….is my dad trying to relive his own unmet parenting desires through my daughter???

My dad’s a good chap. I love him dearly and we have a better relationship now than we ever have had before. This is most likely because I have produced his first and only grandchild so far. The fact that I got married before doing so makes it even better in his eyes. What my dad doesn’t realise is that he has had a pretty major influence on my parenting philosophy and practice. It goes like this: WHATEVER DAD DID…DON’T.

I’m sorry but it’s true. This motto most applies to the area of academic achievements. My father prized academic success over anything and everything else. Straight A’s = abundance of fatherly love. Anything else was punished with rejection.  He chose our school subjects (to this day I hate Economics with a passion, especially when it’s taught by someone who resembles one of the Seven Dwarves…Sleepy nonetheless). He made us study during the school holidays…WHEN WE WERE IN PRIMARY SCHOOL. He made us rote learn from those horrible Joy of Knowledge encyclopaedias…and then gave us tests. We were even forced to watch documentaries about the Cold War (now there’s an exciting night’s viewing for you). Now all of this didn’t result in kids in the Mensa club at the age of 11. Sure we all did well at school. We also hated it. We also hated the school holidays – school itself was actually far less stressful. We all went to university, studying in fields that met with his approval. Three out of four of us have gone on into different fields from our university study…we finally got to do what we wanted to do. My dad never got his doctor, his lawyer or his engineer. Has my daughter presented him with a new opportunity to rectify the past?

So my concern now is how do I communicate my own values and desires with regard to academic achievements to my father – which are poles apart from his ideas? How do I do this without him feeling rejected? How do I tell him that I don’t want for my daughter what he wanted for us? How do I know that future visits to Nanna & Pa’s won’t be marred by my daughter being forced to recite her times tables? Will I experience that same feeling of rejection if my daughter fails to live up to his expectations, meet his standards? Will she be rejected for not being ‘smart enough’? How do I keep him involved as a grandparent – which is vitally important to me – but let both him and my daughter know that HIS standards don’t apply?

I have no desire for my child to be a genius…but that’s because I already think she’s a genius (ok, ok, not quite). But I’m certainly not interested in applying any pressure on her to conform to my desires or expectations with regards to academia or career. I want her to enjoy her schooling and most especially enjoy her toddlerhood. I want her to be free, to play and be happy. I don’t want her to bear the burden of parental expectation (and subsequent disappointment) that forces one to be something that they are not and have no desire to be.

So all of these recent little episodes have made me wonder if some people feel that grandparent-hood is THEIR chance to rewrite the past – to get their child prodigy, their musical maestro, their brain surgeon? How do you deal with this as a parent? And, more importantly, how does it affect the grandchild?

 

Yes, believe it or not there are already people cheating 😦 .  This icon has been moved.

Dads do things differently

In the first few months after my daughter was born, I became quite convinced that my husband was doing things all wrong. Which means, in short, that he wasn’t doing things My Way. I wasn’t the anxious mother hovering around the bathtub watching to see that Daddy got the water temperature exactly right. On the contrary, I was the one to broil my daughter…on more than one occasion. Nor did I oversee as he changed nappies, got her dressed or wrapped her up for the night. He did all that much better than me too. It was the other stuff that was the problem….you know, all that talking and singing and reading that you’re supposed to do with your babies even before they’re out of the womb.

When he read books, he didn’t put enough expression in to his voice. And he read way too fast. I, of course, read slowly and clearly, with lots of rhythm and resonance. I was interesting to listen to. On the other hand, not even a dirty old sock would enjoy story-telling when done by Daddy. I sang. A lot. If I die before my time, I am sure that one of my claims to fame could quite possibly be that I know the words and tunes to at least 3154 nursery rhymes. My husband can’t boast a feat like that. Because, of course, he doesn’t sing unless I sing too. It’s just not what he does. And then, there was the talking thing. Obsessed with language development, I knew that babies needed to have their parents talk to them. A lot. In fact, all the time. I tried, I did. I talked about how I was folding all the nappies neatly and placing them in tidy piles. I talked about what I was preparing for dinner. I talked, no, complained, about how her father didn’t talk to her enough and that there was now way she would have a vocabulary of 500 words by the time she was 2 if he didn’t up his game a little bit. Or, rather, a lot. I yabbered away constantly and quite possibly bored to tears, my daughter succumbed to sleep very easily, usually before I got to the bit about how I was peeling the potatoes now…one by one…see the skin…it’s all brown…it goes in the compost bin…now here’s the next one…(oh, sorry, I’ll stop now). But really, it was good for her. Honestly. It says so in my book.

So, as I said, in the first few months of mutual parenthood, I was doing everything right and my husband wasn’t. I thought that he would learn by my example; that he would start singing, talking and reading exactly the way I did. After all, I was a language development teacher. I knew what I was doing. He, apparently, didn’t. After a while, I decided that he just wasn’t going to get it, so rather than fret, I decided that I would just go it alone and do my thing and he could do his. I didn’t want to raise the issue with him, knowing that it was important to our parental harmony not to cause any unnecessary conflict. Instead, I tut-tutted away to myself as I watched him crawling around on his hands and knees chasing our daughter round and round the dining room table. I harumphed as I watched him tossing her in the air and catching her again, while she delightedly squealed with unabated excitement. I hmmmmmd when I heard them banging on drums and cymbals as loudly as they possibly could. I frowned when I saw him playing rough and tumble games on the carpet with cushions and pillows. Just think – all that Valuable Time Being Wasted on Frivolity and Nonsense when her vocabulary was at stake! Harumph indeed.

Then one day, it finally all clicked. He WAS doing things right after all! He was being a dad and I was being a mum. That’s a pretty sweeping generalisation I know, but it just seemed so obvious (and I’ve seen a similar pattern occurring in lots of other families). I’m more talkative than him; I like singing and I can make books sound interesting. I enjoyed doing those things with my daughter so naturally I tended to do them more. I didn’t have the energy to be on my hands and knees all day crawling and rolling and tumbling and bouncing. On the other hand, my husband is physically much stronger than me. He could toss our daughter up and down a dozen times before stopping to take a breather. His bursts with her, after a day’s work outside the home, were intense and active. And she LOVED it. A Lot.

To be honest, as time has gone on, we both read the stories, sing the rhymes, play rough and tumble games and mess around with musical instruments, but we also each have our own specialties. And so, our daughter truly gets the best of both worlds. But certainly in our case, what we do, what we enjoy doing and what we’re good at doing are quite different to each other. I’m interested in knowing if we’re a special case or if other families out there are similar – does mummy do most of the singing and reading and daddy most of the physical stuff; is it the other way round or is there no difference at all? I’ve now learned to be thankful for our different approaches because I’ve finally understood that it’s all about the balance and not about who’s doing a ‘better’ job (my stories are still more interesting though)!

Doing it for myself

It’s World Breastfeeding Week and we are celebrating at Fusion Parenting. Thank you for celebrating with us!

 

It’s a comment designed to hurt, embarrass and shame. It’s a comment that is both ignorant and absurd. It’s a comment that also seems fairly ubiquitous – I’ve seen it on blogs, forums, newspaper columns, magazines and from the mouths of people who should really know better, like health professionals. It’s a comment that is aimed at mothers who breastfeed their children beyond the age that ‘society’ has decreed as the ‘norm’ – here in Australia, that’s somewhere around the 12 month mark:

“You’re just doing it for yourself”

What this comment essentially means is that women who breastfeed beyond the age of 12 months are doing it to ‘meet their own needs’ and not the needs of their babies. The implication here, of course, is that there is absolutely no benefit for the child in being breastfed past their first birthday, because apparently everything that’s fantastic about breast milk suddenly dries up the moment they turn one. Now I’ve got a few problems with this comment, apart from the fact that it’s just plain ludicrous. The first and most obvious problem is that they’ve got the age all wrong. We all know, or should know by now, that babies should be breastfed until at least the age of two and longer if desired by mother and child. Leaving that clanger aside, the next problem I have is that it seems as if it’s outrageous to consider that a baby’s needs and their mother’s needs might actually be one and the same – my child has a need to feel safe, secure, comforted and nurtured; as a mother, I have a need to provide safety, security, comfort and nurture to my child. How preposterous to think that both of our needs could be met through the simple act of breastfeeding!

Then the other problem with this statement is that it also sneakily implies that there shouldn’t be any benefits for the breastfeeding mother. That breastfeeding should only be done to meet a child’s needs and mothers aren’t supposed to get anything out of it for themselves. But any breastfeeding mama will tell you that there’s plenty of perks to be had and there are. Lots, in fact. And why should it be any other way? Breastfeeding can be exhausting, demanding and relentless, especially in the first few weeks – the most critical weeks – so, biologically-speaking, it makes sense that it’s a win-win situation for both mother and baby (like more sleep, for example).

At first I used to get annoyed when I heard the ‘doing it for yourself’ comment. Then, I decided that actually it’s quite true (well at least it’s half-true) – I am doing it for myself. I’ve got a 20 month old daughter. We breastfeed together about half a dozen times a day. It’s a beautiful part of our day and we both love it. And I’m really proud of the fact that we have this fantastic breastfeeding relationship and I’m really pleased that I get a few kickbacks for persevering thus far. Basically it makes my life so much easier…so, I’m doing it for myself…

I’m doing it for myself because I don’t want to be getting up at night tending to a sick child – sick with gastro, ear infections, colds, coughs, skin problems, allergies, asthma and whatever else commonly ails a young child. I’m also doing it for myself because I don’t want to be paying for medications or trips to the doctor. My daughter has been sick twice in her life. I happen to think that that’s pretty good going for a child under two. Of course I choose to believe (and the research would back me up here) that the fact that she’s breastfeeding is a key factor here – especially given the fact that she’s inherited less-than-perfect genes from her parents but is yet to show signs of any of our afflictions (including asthma, eczema and allergies). The first time my daughter was sick, she had a pretty yucky cough and cold that lasted a couple of weeks. Because her nose was clogged up it was hard for her to breathe and therefore get to sleep and stay asleep. And less sleep for her invariably meant less sleep for me, making my life so much more difficult. Not to mention my misery in seeing her suffering and miserable. So I am doing it for myself after all.

I’m doing it for myself because I genuinely enjoy the fact that my daughter feels comforted and soothed at the breast. No, she doesn’t run to mummy for ‘milkies’ every time she falls over and bumps her knee, but I know that if she’s ever in real distress, a soothing breastfeed will calm her down and comfort her. And I love that and I’ll continue to offer her the opportunity of comfort at the breast as long as it works for her. So, yep, I’m doing it for myself.

I’m also doing it for myself because it means I get to stress less over how much she eats. If on some days all she’s had are a few crackers and bites of an apple, I know that our breastfeeds get her over the line – they quench her thirst, satisfy her hunger and provide everything that she needs, all in one neat little package. Plus it’s cheaper than food anyway! So, again, I’m definitely doing it for myself.

I’m also doing it for myself because when my daughter is really tired she still falls asleep on the breast instantly, so it takes me 5 minutes to put her to sleep rather than up to an hour. Definitely doing it for myself on that one!

So next time I hear anyone berate a breastfeeding woman for ‘doing it for herself’, instead of getting cranky, I’m going to remember that breastfeeding is supposed to come with plenty of perks for both mother and baby and I’m certainly going to make the most of them while I can!

Blogging on…blogging off

Over the past few weeks since I last made an appearance on here, I’ve written some really brilliant posts. No, seriously, I have. I wrote one about the disapproving comments I’ve been receiving as I made the decision to find a job that fit around my husband and daughter’s needs (i.e. a casual evening job), thus postponing indefinitely the return to my oh-so-important profession as a teacher. Well, it is important, just not quite as important, and – let’s be completely honest here – not one billionth as much FUN as it is to take my daughter out on new and exciting adventures each day while consuming lots of home-baked goodies.

I wrote a post speculating on the perils of inviting other people’s kids over for play-dates and sleepovers – in light of the landmark $900k court case involving a boy who fell out of a bunk bed whilst sleeping over at a friend’s house. Now that’s one hell of an expensive sleepover. I blogged about my newfound passion for cooking and moaned about the demise of cooking ‘from scratch’ upon discovering Aisle One in my local supermarket – you know the aisle with all the ‘ready-made’ sauces, meal kits, noodles and gravy mixes? Seriously, I don’t think I’d been down that aisle since at least 1998 and it left me feeling rather deflated and dejected I can tell you. I even wrote a piece about birth from the baby’s point of view and how the way a baby comes into the world can have pretty serious implications for the rest of their lives…

The problem is, all of my brilliant posts have been written after midnight…in my head…while lying in bed…and nowhere in the vicinity of my laptop. I thought that I’d be able to remember the gist of them and just write up the next day, but I’ve discovered that the transfer process from late-night ramblings to screen fodder is actually a very difficult and arduous ordeal. I just can’t seem to do it. I start and within ten minutes my mind (and body) have wandered elsewhere…to the pantry to hunt down a snack…to the kitchen to start preparing dinner…to the laundry to load another pile of washing. See, I’m only able to hop on to the laptop while the toddler is having her afternoon nap. But that ninety minutes of pure bliss is so fleeting that I simply can’t bring myself to plonk down in front of the computer and type. I’d rather experiment with a new dish, find a recipe for an easy chocolate pudding or have a quiet fossick around in my new herb garden. Basically my priorities have been rejigged, and the days where I’d be hanging out for a forum-fix and surfing time are long gone. Baking oatmeal and choc-chip cookies, however, is at the top of my list for today…see you in a while!

The octopus myth

When I was pregnant, I spent a long time waiting for the day when I would start to feel like a hippopotamus – large, uncomfortable, waddling and enormously heavy…though I’m sure that if you were to ask any hippo they would strongly dispute such a characterisation. Anyway, I waited and waited and waited, but before I knew it, the baby was born, no hippos in sight. I never felt uncomfortable or awkward or waddling…how I may have looked is a different matter entirely.

A similar thing has happened to me with breastfeeding. When I started breastfeeding my newborn daughter, I soon learned that the recommended age for feeding was a minimum of two years. I looked down upon the tiny little creature nestled so comfortably in my arms and everything just seemed to ‘fit’ so nicely…a newborn baby just seemed to be the perfect size for breastfeeding. How on EARTH would I be able to breastfeed an ENORMOUS two year old???

I looked around to get an idea of what a two year old was actually like and I tried to imagine what it would be like to breastfeed a child of that age and size. I was, to be honest, slightly alarmed – all those ARMS, all those LEGS…all that WRIGGLING about – WAS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO BREASTFEED A TWO YEAR OLD??? It seemed to me that it would be rather like trying to put a wetsuit on a thrashing octopus…awkward, unwieldy, frustrating and quite frankly, nigh impossible. Nevertheless, I set my goal as reaching the magical age of two and I figured that I would somehow work it out.

I now have an eighteeen-month old daughter. Somehow, somewhere along the way, my newly born baby slowly morphed into this ENORMOUS creature, with all those arms and all those legs and all that wriggling about. Somehow, somewhere along the way, she just FIT. Nope, she doesn’t curl up neatly in my arms like a newborn baby…her legs hang over my lap and she usually fiddles with a toy in one hand while poking and prodding at me with the other. But somehow, it works…it feels comfortable, natural and normal. I now no longer worry about how on earth I’m going to breastfeed a two year old, or even a three year old for that matter. I know that they will still fit. Because they’re meant to.

A few days ago, a friend of mine dropped in for a chat. Somewhere in the conversation (I think we were talking about my desire for my husband to take my daughter camping for the night so I could have an evening in on my own) it became apparent that I was STILL feeding. My friend, a childless male, looked slightly perplexed and then commented “Oh well, she won’t be needing that for much longer”. Then, a short pause, as he cocked his head to one side, looked at me and said “How old is she again?”

And so, in a very subtle, quiet, unobtrusive way, I was given the message, yet again, that YOU MUST NOT BREASTFEED A CHILD AFTER THE AGE OF ONE. The message was so clear that it could have been written in big, bright flashing neon lights. Because, of course, as everyone seems to know, Breastfeeding After the Age of One is Dangerous. Unsafe. Unnecessary. For Your Own Reasons. Weird. Just Plain Wrong.

I know that I have now entered that territory in which I feel that I need to be a little bit more secretive about the fact that I am STILL breastfeeding. In the small town where I live, many mothers do breastfeed, but the age of 1 is definitely seen as the upper limit. To venture beyond this point is seen as being, well, quite frankly, weird…perhaps even bizarre. Why on earth would you keep breastfeeding when they can have cows milk at that age???

Personally I’ve got nothing against cow’s milk…when it’s given to baby cows that is. But the idea that I would wean my child from my milk on to the milk of an animal…well, quite frankly, I find that weird…perhaps even bizarre. I feel slightly ashamed of myself that I am not more open about breastfeeding my toddler. I have told some friends who I know have breastfed past the age of one and I’ve mentioned it casually in conversations to strangers, but I don’t feed my daughter ‘in public’ anymore and I am careful about what I say and to whom. Partly this is because we are still fairly new to this town and I know that whatever I say will eventually do the rounds. I’d like to think that if I had the anonymity of life in a big city I wouldn’t care less about where and when I fed my daughter and whom I told.

I’ve never yet been openly and directly challenged by someone about why I’m still breastfeeding my daughter, but I thought that if and when the moment arrives, I’d like to be really clear about it….so here’s a short list of MY reasons…

*Because the World Health Organisation recommends that babies are breastfed for a minimum of two years, and thereafter for however long the mother and child desire. To be honest, I’m not usually one for following ‘the rules’ – they have to make sense to me first and be backed up by good research (hopefully one of my fellow bloggers will blog about ‘the rules’ of starting solids and how Baby Led Solids turns all that on its head). Anyway, this is one recommendation that does make sense to me and is backed up by good research.

*It provides immunological support. I suppose I see my breastmilk as being almost like the ‘other half’ of my daughter’s immune system. Children are so susceptible to infections and illness in their early years of life and the consequences of recurrent infections can be quite serious for bodily systems that are still developing (think ear infections here). I know that breastfeeding has ensured that my daughter has had an amazingly illness-free start to life – she has been sick just once in eighteen months – no ear infections, no gastro, no vomiting, no skin problems. And she isn’t ‘protected’ from snotty-nosed kids either. She recently picked up and sucked on the dummy of a child who had two rivers of green snot streaming from his nose…she didn’t even get a sniffle. So the other part to this story is that my daughter has never needed medication or a trip to the doctor and I haven’t suffered sleepless nights tending to a sick child.

*It provides ideal nutrition. Everyone who has a toddler knows how fussy and finicky they can be about food. By continuing to breastfeed my daughter, I know that even on days where she hardly eats, she is still receiving proper nutrition and isn’t likely to starve!

*It provides comfort in times of distress and it is still a surefire way to calm her and soothe her into sleep – even if she rarely feeds to sleep nowadays, it does slow her right down before bedtime and makes the night-time routine that little bit easier.

*It provides some quiet spaces in the day where the two of us can just be peaceful, still, and enjoy some beautiful mother-daughter moments together. Actually this is more of a ‘perk’ than a reason for breastfeeding per se.

*OK, this is an aside, but if we were ever caught in a natural disaster situation where we didn’t have access to food or water for a while…well, my daughter would be fine.

I’m sure there’s a lot more reasons that others could add to this list and I’d love to hear from any other mum’s who have or are breastfeeding past the age of one. What have your experiences been and why did you decide to keep going past the age that our society considers to be the ‘norm’?

For my part I’m just glad that I’ve experienced the seamless transition from feeding a newborn to feeding a toddler, without letting my preconceived notions (about the octopus) get in the way…

Going slow

A new catchphrase has hit the world of parenting….it’s called Slow Parenting, an offshoot of the Slow Food movement, where everything to do with our fast-paced, super-hectic, I’ve-got-no-time-for-anything-anymore lifestyles is given the shove in favour of life in the slower lane…with time to smell the roses…

Funnily enough, the new Slow Parenting movement has been blamed on the world-wide recession…parents suddenly have tighter budgets, so the costly after-school and weekend activities have been given the chop; food prices are going up, so the backyard vegie garden is back in vogue. The downturn in the economic climate has seemingly forced some parents to stop outsourcing their children’s entertainment and activities and *shock horror* actually spend time with their kids themselves!

Sometimes I think that my own life couldn’t actually get any slower, but just recently, I have realised that if not slow down, I could at least simplify and free up some of my time. Basically I suppose I’m talking about rejigging my priorities.

I think it started when we were away on holidays just recently…spending time with family and friends and a lot more time with my hubby, invariably meant that I was tied to my laptop a lot less often. The forum that I used to visit a hundred times a day has hardly had a visit; neither have the myriad other websites that used to make up my daily trawl. I was also given a new book on bread making that suddenly reignited my passion for baking and so I leapt into the world of sourdough…and you REALLY can’t get much slower than baking with sourdough!

Anyway, one warm and sunny afternoon, I found myself sitting down with thoughts streaming out of my head and onto paper…madly scribbling down all the things that I needed to do to bring me to a better place as a wife, as a mother, and, as, well, just me. Some of the things are about getting back to basics – like my newfound sourdough obssession…there is something deeply and immensely satisfying about handcrafting your own loaf from just three ingredients – flour, water and salt. Some things are about trying to save money by doing things for myself – like taking on my own vegetable and herb garden…the only problem with that one is that I hate getting my hands dirty…yep, that’s right…an instant FAIL for Parenting 101!

Some things are about saving time, or rather, making time – like cutting down my TV and internet time so that I can spend more time on other things like reading and devising simple art and craft activities to do with my 18 month old daughter. Some things are about taking time to nurture my spirit. For me, this means setting aside some time each day for prayer and meditation – something I have often struggled to be consistent with. And some things are just about making life beautiful – planting a flower garden as well as having a vase of flowers inside the house too.

Some friends of mine, even before they had children, introduced us to the idea of ‘Magic Moments’. Every day, before dinner, as they sat around the table, they each reflected about one magical moment that they had experienced that day, something that made them stop and smile and savour the beauty that is life itself in all its simple, everyday ordinary-ness. It didn’t have to be something mind-blowingly amazing, in fact, more often it was simply something small and beautiful that they would otherwise have forgotten in a busy, hectic day. Perhaps a beautiful sunrise, a smile from a stranger, the laughter of children playing or the aroma of a freshly baked loaf of bread. Actually up until now, I’d forgotten how nice it was to celebrate the magic moments of daily life in this way…perhaps it’s something else to go on my slow schedule.

My hope is that the new wave of slowness that is seemingly washing over the world of parenting, may eventually trickle down right to the baby days as well. I think that the tendency to fast-track kids through childhood affects babies the most – they are forced to wean prematurely from the breast (the WHO recommends that babies are breastfed for at least two years); they are forced to prematurely soothe themselves to sleep and they are forced into premature separation from their parents. How much more satisfying and nourishing would childhood be if it was left to occur unhurried, undisturbed…

So if the recession is forcing people to slow down, to simplify, to spend more time with their kids, then bring it on I say! For my part, as I sit here, in front of a computer screen, although life here is already slow, I realise that it can also be more nourishing and more fulfilling and that the choice is mine to make. My sourdough is gently warming near the dwindling fire, ready to bake a fresh loaf of bread tomorrow; the lime tart that I baked earlier today is cooling on the kitchen bench and the playful afternoon that I spent with my daughter at the park has helped to ease her into a sound and peaceful slumber. Sounds pretty good to me already…