PARENTING MY POSSE
I'm not a pro but over the last 14 years of being a mum and step mum I have learnt a thing or two. Many people would and still say "I don't know how you do it Steph" when I would rock up with my then 6 girls, dolled up and looking like Princesses.
I've always had a can do attitude and for the most part, I can honestly say, "I just did it" without really thinking twice and at times with a whole lot of yelling and arguing thrown in lol but I didn't really have to over think my role or what needed to be done.
I have always had that motherly instinct, even as a child and teen. I was the one that had all the kids organised and playing while the parents had a bit of time to themselves. So here's where I will blog stories and tips along the way.
THE ATTITUDE I'VE ADOPTED TO SEPARATION
Unless there is serious domestic violence, sexual abuse or any other form of abuse, I believe it is vital to make the transition of a whole family to a broken one as simple and as easy as possible. I believe a 50% arrangement is the best and everyone equally chip in to make it work for the children.
I have compromised. I have and continue to pick up the slack. I have chosen (though at times feeling completely angered or frustrated) to be positive, to always put the girls first, to think about their feelings on the change and how it will affect them now and in the future. Their relationship with M is important to them, but to me also (this applies to Giselle and Sonya).
I want them to have a happy father there who can give them time, who can show them how to do the things I can't, (though I will give anything a crack on my own, like my flat pack kitchen and painting a whole house). With every ounce of restraint and control I have chosen to shut my mouth at times, I don't speak about their father badly in front of them and I continually send pictures or get them to call during the day so they keep in contact.
I have made time in "my time" for them to spend with M also. I know that it is only a matter of time before M finds someone and it becomes serious. Although an array of emotion is felt for me personally, I won't be the bitter ex. At the end of the day I want that person to respect me as their mother and understand that as she spends time with my children, I want my children to be happy and enjoy that time. No one can ever replace the bond I have with my children. Nothing ever will. What we have is unbreakable. My children know that. I know that, regardless of who comes in and out of their lives.
Being flexible means the children don't have to miss out. It's putting their lives before our own and showing them that no matter what, we love them before ourselves.
People say, "I don't know how you do it Steph". My response " I don't think, I just do", (obviously I do think, but I don't overthink it if you get me)
Juggling the ages of 8 months to 12 years is a tough one. I feel like I honestly need to make more quality time for each individual child, and making that time is the hardest thing for me to do. The age gap is a blessing and a curse. So any small window of opportunity I get to give one on one attention I give it.
I have the teething baby, the independent toddler with her demands, the middle child who craves more attention because she feels left by the wayside who literally likes to argue with me every day and the eldest with the hormonal changes kicking in and helping her manage the changes she is experiencing emotionally (I swear I wasn't as emotional, lol).
My expectations are usually high about everything in life. I'm the one who promotes and demands (in my mummy tone) teamwork and to always strive to do your best, no matter how little the task is or your circumstance. Many hands make light work, and although I do the majority, little chores here and there done by the girls, that are age appropriate, make a world of difference. I also know what my girls are capable of doing or learning. I think it's really important to teach children from a young age how to do things for several reasons. 1 - They have less fear 2 - They pick up things a lot quicker and 3 - They will then have a good routine for when they are older.
Of course there is the whinging and arguing about who is doing what and who's turn it is. Me yelling at them to just hurry up and get it done. I have had chore charts and the like in the past but some days it's just easier to tell them what I need help with and they just do that for the day and to be honest I am consistent in some things and others I'm just not.
In the end it all gets done and when we work as a team, it's done a lot faster and we have more FUN PLAY TIME together! This is the point I am constantly reminding them.
Caitlyn and Meira are such amazing big sisters, help me with so many things in the house and when we are out and about. I would often leave the grocery shopping for when they were around when Sonya was smaller because we would all take it in turns; one pushes the pram while the other the trolley and the other filling the trolley. I usually let them pick a treat of some sort to show my appreciation. I also reiterate to them how much I value their support!!!
Although Giselle is only 3, she is a such a little independent miss. She helps me with little things for Sonya and is a sponge wanting to learn everything about everything. I am happy to oblige to every question she has and I give the adult explanation for most things. The other day Giselle jumped up from the bed and said "I'm just getting a drink, I'm thirsty". I replied "okay, so am I", but I was breastfeeding Sonya and she was just about to fall asleep so I didn't want to move.
We have a water cooler and the girls drink as much as they want. I love water. Some people don't care to drink it all that much, but I love a cold glass! and the girls have been brought up to drink water before anything else. I rarely buy juice and soft drinks are only for special occasions.
Next minute she walks in with a full glass for me and says "here Mamma I got you a drink and I didn't spill it". "Thanks baby" I say with a smile beaming from ear to ear at the fact that my 3 year old was considerate to my needs.
The things that I do make time for are movie nights, where the kids pick the movie, jumping on the trampoline with them (squeeze those pelvic floor muscles people, because I have peed myself in the past, embarrassing for me and entertaining for the girls), and watching their gymnastics tricks and my walks and ab and butt workout sessions with Caitlyn.
It's the little things that I cling onto as a mum. Of course I sit there and think about all the failures and mistakes I made and make each day and then I reflect and tell myself that I will try my best not to repeat them. When your children use the skills you have taught them or repeat something you have said, with understanding, I can honestly say there is no greater reward!
We are all juggling life in our own way, but it's important to just stop, breathe and smile and just enjoy your children.
FORGET ABOUT THE CLEANING
There are days when you have a list as long as your arm of what you want to accomplish that day and your children want your attention. Those days when you don't want to stop what you're doing but if you really thought about it you could manage a break, STOP.
Stop and play with them. Over the years I have stressed about things that I probably shouldn't have stressed about. I have put expectations on myself or had other peoples expectations on my shoulders and then become irritable and frustrated when I haven't met those expectations.
Don't get me wrong, things like cleaning and paperwork etc need to be taken care of daily but sometimes all we need is a little fun, to remember what it's like to be a child and carefree. To enjoy life.
Take a deep breath, let go of the list and time frame you set yourself, play, make some memories, laugh and then take up the list in an hour or so.
CHILDREN AND THE WATER
Children should ALWAYS be supervised when near or in any water. I know this is common sense, but sometimes as parents we are distracted or think they will be alright for a second because they may know how to swim. I think it's REALLY IMPORTANT to teach a child how to swim. It is a vital life skill. I know that swimming lessons are expensive but if you can fit it in your budget or even just take your children swimming and show them how to Dog Paddle to the edge of a pool then your at least doing something.
A lot of parents have a fear of their child becoming upset or scared when they're children are learning to put their heads or faces in the water. Showering kids teaches them get used to the sensation of water going on their faces or when they're in the bath, pouring water on their heads (starting from the back of their heads and then slowly working your way to the top so that the water goes onto their face is another technique.
Also if your child does seem upset, encouraging them that it's okay to get water on their face using a happy voice (even if you're stressing out on the inside) will help them associate happy thoughts with water. If you're stressing then they will sense that.
Of course there is the child on the opposite spectrum that has no fear and will jump into water without thinking twice, not knowing they will drown. If that is your child then you NEED to educate as of yesterday.
Your child will grasp the concept of using a toilet when they are good and ready. The moment this happens and their little brains click, it will be a heaven sent blessing. I can't honestly remember what age Caitlyn and Meira were toilet trained. Giselle showed an interest from very early on, around 1-1.5yrs old. I bought her undies and a mini toilet that very same day.
Her progress was 10 steps forward and 1 back. Because I was pregnant with Sonya and my stomach was HUGE! I decided that trying to clean up little messes was not worth it. If she went she went, if she didn't she had a nappy on. When she turned 3 and M had left, I decided to see if she would like to try the concept again. I explained that she needed to communicate with me. After having a drink I would ask her approximately 30 to 40 minutes later if she needed to go.
It "clicked", she had maybe 2 accidents in the first 7 days. Doesn't have any any more. I usually put a nappy on at night in case of an accident. 6 nights out of 7 she wakes up with a dry nappy and goes to the toilet first thing in the morning. On several occassions now I have forgotten to put a nappy on and she hasn't wet the bed at all!!! Those days I wake up with the biggest smile on my face because I am so proud.
She often goes to the toilet without telling me, she wipes herself but knows she is not allowed to when she poos and then asks for help to reach the sink and soap to wash her hands. I think she is too little for wiping poo. The risk of infection and poo going everywhere is high.
A massive achievement was when we were heading home from a friends place. Not a toilet in site as we were on the freeway and she needed to do a poo. I pulled up and put a nappy on her and told her it's okay if she couldn't wait till we arrived home. She held on for 45 minutes and went as soon as we arrived! We were all cheering for her.
So don't stress if your child is not toilet trained yet, or is in the process of learning. When the concept "clicks it clicks".
HELPFUL tips AND TRICKS TO MANAGING my TRIBE
Everyone loves buying new things. Everyone tries or successfully sticks to a budget. These are some handy tips I practice because I'm the person that is in between sticking to a budget and trying to stick to a budget.
NEVER pay full price for ANYTHING. I always negotiate on big ticket items. I never pay full price for any clothing or shoes. When the girls want a treat they know not to ask unless it's on sale. Teach them young I say! Even if I was rich I would still apply this principle. If I am not blowing money then I have more to give and help others with.
Sign up to loyalty programs. I adopt the attitude that every little bit of savings helps and it does when you're counting your pennies! A dollar in your back pocket is better than a dollar in someone else's.
Support local businesses and farmers markets. A lot of the time the fresh produce you can buy from a local business or farmers market is better quality and a better price. That's not to say I don't shop at big grocery chains because I do but I get what I need where I need to for the price I am happy with.
Shop around, compare prices. This may be a little time consuming but in the end you will be able to find quality products that fit in your budget!
If there are things that you don't use that are still good quality or you have just grown out of them, sell them or give them away.
Open a savings account for your child the week they are born. You would be surprised how quickly the money adds up, my girls are richer than me lol.
I always ask a parent what a child needs or wants when gifting presents. I personally want their hard earned money spent on something my child needs. I tell everyone now to give my girls money for their savings accounts or gift cards. My children have enough "stuff". They will have enough to buy a car when it's time or a deposit on a house.
I hate debt and credit cards. Obviously some debts are necessary evils. But if you have a credit card just so you can spend money when you want too then I recommend you cut it up, throw it in the bin and never use one again. Seek help especially if you are having trouble paying it off. If you can't afford that new outfit or pair of shoes then don't get it!
food, glorious food
EXPOSE YOUR CHILD TO EVERYTHING. There is not one thing apart from dogs, cats and chicken feet that I have not exposed my children to in regards to the vast cuisine choices available. From Sushi to pasta and everything in between. I've raised my girls to have an appreciation for food and remind them how blessed they are to have 3 meals and snacks every day.
Because I LOVE FOOD soooooo much and I will eat food from any country, I want my children to experience all that is on offer. I want to be able to travel around the world and eat with my girls. I don't ever want to sit in a restaurant and my kids only want to eat a bowl of chips from the menu. I order chips as a side though because I LOVE HOT CHIPS!
I refuse to be the mum that makes 10 different meals for each member of her family. Unless your child has allergies there is no reason why they can't eat the food you have prepared for everyone else. My rules are strict, NO JUNK FOOD OR TREATS OR DESSERT, unless you have eaten ALL your breakfast, lunch or dinner and some fruit or veggies and a glass of water. You need to finish what's on your plate even if you don't like it. It won't kill you, you will fine the next day.
I hated peas growing up, my mum will tell you I refused to eat them. Now I eat them so I am not a hypocrite when I ask the girls to try something new. The things we do LOL.
I read a very long time ago that you might think you're hungry but in actual fact your body is dehydrated. So don't mistake hunger for thirst. I also read that to "KNOW" if you don't like something you need to at least eat it 20 times. So i am sticking to that theory and the girls have to follow suit LOL.
So that is why when I go out my 3 year old orders Octopus and sushi, my toddler eats artichoke, asparagus and mushrooms and my two olders girls love eating as much as I do. I think if you have a balance of healthy food vs junk food and combine that with exercise then your family will be a healthy one.
Can i get a word in? verbal communication
Every child develops at different stages, although there are rough milestones your child should be achieving. I think it's really important to talk to health practitioner's and other mother's if you have any queries or concerns about your child's development.
I remember when Meira was little she wasn't pronouncing the letter "s" correctly. I felt there was something wrong and took her to an ear, throat and nose specialist who happened to be a family friend. She needed grommets for her ears. Once they were in place she was speaking one hundred times more clearly. My eldest Caitlyn tended to have colds more than usual and ear aches. She had grommets also and had her adenoids removed.
A while ago I was talking to a mum at my girls school. Some how we got onto the topic of her son and his delayed speech and his behaviour. She mentioned a few things to me and right away alarm bells went off in my head that he needed grommets. I referred her to my specialist. Sure enough her son needed grommets and his development in speech and communication has jumped leaps and bounds sincen not to mention his behaviour.
Don't ever be scared to discuss your concerns, it could make a massive difference to your child's future and their development.
those pearly whites and the dentist
Dental Hygiene is such an important topic. With the vast array of sugar loaded foods available it's really important to instill a routine of twice daily brushing as well as 6 monthly dental checkups. What your child eats and drinks will impact their teeth. So staying clear of sugary foods and drinks is an obvious way of keeping those holes and rotten teeth away.
Like I said in a previous post my children drink water 95% of the time and I limit the amount of junk food they consume. I think there may be some that believe if something is watered down or contains less sugar that it's not as bad. I personally wouldn't bother and just completely avoid it.
I have always gone to the dentist and have taken the girls since they were babies and had their first tooth. You can purchase a baby toothbrush pack which has 3 toothbrushes for the various stages of teeth appearing. Sonya loves hers and will reach out for her brush if I haven't handed it to her before the others.When she went to the dentist for the 1st time, she wasn't scared and crying either. I have 4 children that love going to the dentist! All 4 of my girls have never had an issue opening their mouths wide and having their teeth cleaned, even little Sonya.
I think with anything in life, if you show your children that there is nothing to fear, then their reaction may initially be cautious but they will follow suit and will be the same.
I know we all get annoyed reminding our children to brush their teeth daily, but it will sink in eventually and their ability to care for their own teeth will save you and your child money and time in the long run.
Happy Brushing everyone.
fIRST DAY OF HIGH SCHOOL..........
You do everything humanly possible as a mum to protect your children, to guide them and raise them. It was hard enough sending mine to Primary School and today was the day my baby Caitlyn was walking through a new set of school gates, those of High School.
The night before I had the worst nights sleep, Meira couldn't sleep either, random thoughts to deal with more to do with M than anything. I have a sty in my right eye which is causing me grief. Finally fell asleep at 2am before Giselle was up at 4:30am hungry so I fed her and Sonya. I think all up I had 4 hours.
However, this Mamma had Caitlyn and Meira both to school on time at 2 different schools half an hour away (hair braided I might add), with the two little ones in tow. Did you hear my sigh of relief, on time people!!!? As I walked her to the entrance, I felt an array of different emotions. I was excited, anxious, nervous and proud. I took a few pics because I didn't want to embarrass her, also because I had to drop Meira to school and Giselle was whinging (because of lack of sleep). Then I watched as she walked in to a new world and I had to accept that my baby girl was entering the infamous teenage chapter of her life.
Caitlyn had met a few girls on orientation but basically knows no one. It's a fresh start, a new beginning. Of course as I walked with my other three back to the car I balled my eyes out. I went home and quickly added some credit to her phone so we could text each other. Which we have been non stop lol. Thank God for the technology of mobile phones.
As I walked Meira into school, she looked at me and said "It's so weird Mum not walking in with Caitlyn". I could tell she missed her already. They might fight like cats and dogs sometimes but they miss and love each other more,
My words of advice to Caitlyn the night before and that morning were: BE YOU, absorb as much as possible, ask as many questions as you need and want because you are there to learn, don't change for anyone, speak to everyone and you will eventually work out who you want to hang out with and enjoy every minute!