Touch has a memory: Owning your skin.

newborn-1399155_1920
10 Tiny Toes

Dear Daughter,

Keats said that ‘touch has a memory’, and while he didn’t have a daughter, he was a poet and he loved someone so perhaps he knows something about it. I do have a daughter, you, and I hope he was right; I hope touch does have a memory. I fervently hope that the many hours I have spent holding you in my arms have sunk in somewhere deep; and when you’re older and I’m far away you will run your own fingers over your face and a tiny part of you will light up with memory.

I want the delight I poured into your skin to be swept into your soul, I want it to stay there and keep you safe, keep you strong when the world inevitably tells you that you’re not ‘enough.’ I want you to own your body, to be completely and utterly certain of its power and strength, and also of the undisputable fact that it belongs to you. I want you to feel like iron in your skin, whole and complete.

There are girls, already, who are being taught that they are not the owners of their skin, that their bodies are not built for running and skipping, but for something far darker. When your Daddy blows raspberries on your belly you laugh, you have that guttural laugh that little girls sometimes have – like you’ve been hanging out in the backyard smoking a pack a day rather than making mud pies. Sometimes you’re still laughing as you hold up your hand and say ‘Stop! Stop!’ Your Daddy stops, he stops at your words, he stops when you wriggle your body away and he stops when your laugh just isn’t quite right. May all the people in your life honour your right to your skin. You have a privilege in being taught this, in being protected in ways other girls are not (I know, I cannot truly protect you, and neither can you, believe me I know). Some of those girls are in far-away countries, but probably one is also on our street. I hope the injustice that happens in our society fills you with rage. I hope the way you are loved allows you see that injustice more clearly. I hope you fight for other women, I hope you use your voice as an ally, a supporter but not a rescuer; people are strong but they do need empathy, and understanding. You will be a better person for obtaining that understanding.

I want your body to be a place of safety for you. I want you climb mountains, swim in the ocean and cuddle up under blankets with someone you love. I want you to do those things wearing whatever the hell you want. Society will try and tell you that your skin somehow belongs to them, that other people have a right to tell you how much of it to show, how much of it to cover and what to do with it. Society is wrong. You own your skin. Our world is imperfect but your body is not.

You won’t ever remember the months you spent growing under my heartbeat, or the months afterwards that saw you sleeping over that same heart, my arms wrapped around you and kisses placed on your forehead. You won’t consciously remember how hungrily I searched your face, wanting to know who you were, how I ran my fingers over your baby arms and legs and counted your baby fingers and toes. Perhaps a part of you will remember it anyway. I hope you love your skin as much as I do, I hope you value it as much and I hope you stay out of the sun on hot days because your skin while fantastic, does not like the sun.

You will always be loved, always,

Mummy.

Keats, J. ‘To -‘ ‘What can I do to drive away’ https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/keats/john/poems/to–.html

 

The 10 Stages of Dating after Kids

people-1316457_1280
I would kill for hair like this. Particularly the green. Respect.

You may remember dates with your partner consisting of conversation and connection. They even happened outside the house. Those days are gone, people, gone. You’re a parent now, and you don’t get to have real people dates. You get parent dates. These dates are about survival, and eventually, if you’re lucky, napping. Dates in which communication is limited to ‘gnerghh’ and connection is both of you agreeing your toddler is nuts. However, parent dates still bind you together and potentially decrease the amount of time you spend daydreaming about that remote tropical island. With the cocktails. And the sleeping. Oh god, the sleeping.

  1. You both stare at your newborn as she does nothing. This nothing is the most compelling thing you’ve ever seen. You will talk about the nothing in excited voices and if one of you wanders away the other will gesture wildly for you to return ‘Come on! You’re missing the nothing! She’s still doing it!’ You barely look at each other as you drink in what is clearly and obviously the most delicious baby to ever grace the world with her presence. If there is any doubt, just ask the baby’s grandparents.
  1. Your home looks like bears had a rave in it, you have no real food and you become obsessed with sleep. Because sleep is a measure of personal success in every way except that it has nothing to do with you, and nothing you do actually matters. You are quietly crying in time with the rhythm of the rocking chair as you heroically face another doomed sleep attempt. Your partner comes in and makes soothing hushy noises while lifting a wide-awake baby from your arms. It’s uncertain if the hushy noises are for the baby or yourself, but you’re appreciative. Parent Date. Ten minutes later, you want your baby back.
  1. Partner comes home. Ten minutes later then usual, ten teeth-gritting and excruciatingly long minutes later than usual. You scream ‘Take the baby!’ *run to shower* *sob in shower*
  1. You silently watch your child eat toast he found on the floor. You have not made toast today. Or yesterday. You take this immune-system boosting time to chat with your partner. Parenting ideal abandoned, parent date acquired.
  1. You write a love-note consisting of ‘Buy bread’ and stick it on your sleeping partner’s face before passing out at 4am.
  1. You go out, giddy and wild and carefree, on your first proper outside date since becoming parents. There are vivid plans of staring into other’s eyes and having real adult conversations. You talk about nothing but excrement and leave twenty minutes early to pick up your child.
  1. You go to K-Mart and come home with a stack of things you didn’t know you wanted or needed. Neither of you have any rational explanation for this phenomenon. You have a vague memory of previous dates consisting of late nights and romantic Italian restaurants with checked tablecloths, but then you realize that was Lady and the Tramp. That movie rocks.
  1. You wrap yourself in a giant blanket and sit on the couch. Depending on the trauma of the day, you may be rocking slightly or mumbling. Your partner tentatively puts out a hand to touch your shoulder, then slowly retrieves it. This is their gift to you, the gift of non-bodily contact. You ask for tea as well.
  1. ‘What? Are they in their own beds then?’ Bada Boom.
  1. You could go out, you probably could. But that requires putting on clothes, like, proper clothes, and make up, and driving, and parking, and other people. Instead, you hustle the rugrats into bed and demolish a bottle of wine whilst loudly deriding each other’s taste in Netflix. This is it, this is how you date now.

The main thing about parent dates is that you are having them. You are finding moments when you still think your partner is ridiculously funny, or cute in pyjamas, and you are aware that the life you’ve built together is valuable. The tiny flame that bound you together when it was just the two of you has expanded to fit however many small people you’re sharing your life with. You’re doing it, you’re a family. And it doesn’t always suck.

Linking up with The Annoyed Thyroid here

 

 

 

 

Labelling Autism: An Origin Story.

flower-1078231_1280
Choose your labels carefully.

I don’t know if it’s because he was my first, or because I’m the kind of person who checks the doors four times before going to bed then wakes up my husband to ask ‘Have you checked the doors?’ but I wasn’t entirely relaxed around my son. He is fire, and power and passion. He smiles with his entire body. I am in awe of this boy who runs down hills with his arms outstretched and screams ‘TOO FAST!’ in between the laughing. But, there was tension hovering between us.

He was the Baby Who Did Not Sleep. He was the Toddler Who Did Not Stop Moving. He was the Boy Who Was Loud. He was the Boy Other Parents Talked About.

He was unpredictable. He loathed the things we’d thought he’d love. He didn’t talk. He didn’t stop talking. He didn’t want to be held. He only wanted to be held. We begged ‘How do you feel? What do you want? What’s going on?’ but he only twisted in on himself, or gave us the answer he thought we wanted. ‘I’m HAPPY!’ he’d scream, fists curled and body shaking. We provided our own explanations for this boy we could not understand by pulling things from various incidents (he was tired/he was hungry/he’s sensitive/he’s spirited/he’s anxious/I didn’t really like that person either/that pasta was shit). We knew we weren’t really seeing him though, he was right there and we just weren’t getting it. Whilst I loved him more than I could ever imagine loving anyone ever, unease was strumming through our relationship. Then one day I googled Autism Spectrum Disorder and the penny dropped. Boom.

In some ways his diagnosis was nothing to do with him. He continued being himself, just as he’d always done. It was my husband and I who really benefitted. Finally we could see him. We weren’t so much handed a letter of diagnosis as a letter of ‘Hey guys chill the hell out, this is your kid and he’s fine, he’s just autistic.’ We stopped freaking out about dinner not looking like eating hot food at the table all together and accepted that dinner looked like rolling around the floor eating frozen peas. I stopped trying to have endless conversations about his feelings and started looking at what his actual communication was. He was still fire, and power and passion, but I was no longer tense. I got him. I finally understood my child.

We told people. Some people were surprised and others were highly unsurprised. The day we got the official diagnosis we made him a cake to celebrate his different brain. It was not all cake though, the more I researched and the more people I told the more I was informed I had no right to celebrate my autistic kid.

We were told to expect a neurotypical child and that anything less was a loss. We were told that disability was scary, and that having a disabled child was worth grieving over. We were told his future was uncertain, that autistic people struggled with finding relationships and jobs. We were told he would be shunned, or bullied, and that we should be grateful if people remained our friends in spite of our child. We were told most people would leave. We were told we would be lonely, our family damaged. We were told he would never fit in and needed to be rescued. We were told we were bad parents. We were told he didn’t look autistic and all he really needed was discipline. We were asked ‘Do you really want to tell people? Do you really want to label him, with all of THAT?’ That being all the ways society would see him, all the deficits my beautiful four year old apparently had.

Yes, we said. We do. Sign me up bitches.

All of that crap is exactly why we labelled him. Because it’s time for all of that crap to be gone, and that can only happen when we know exactly how wrong it is. Everyone else needs to get the chill the hell out letter too – it’s not terrifying, it’s not awful, it’s just autism; and it looks like a bunch of different things because it’s a bunch of different people who are doing different things. Not one of those people is wrong, or inferior. We need people to see the proud parents of autistic kids, the happy autistic adults and the thriving autistic family – all of which exist in abundance.

Labels happen, I want to make sure my son gets the right one. I want him to get the label that empowers instead of the one which shames. I want him to know he’s autistic so others don’t tell him he’s broken. I want my kid to wield that label like a weapon. He knows he’s different; he shrugs when classmates watch him bear-walk into the room ‘Sometimes I just do stuff like that’ then they shrug too, and the world resumes spinning. The power of diagnosis is knowledge, he knows that part of the reason he is so valuable, and loved, and ridiculous is because he’s also autistic.

I have a favourite quote (yep, I’m totally that person) and I always thought I understood it perfectly. It has more meaning now.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.” -Martha Graham.

I don’t want my boy to think that what he brings to the world is not as valuable because of his neurology, I don’t want him to block it, because then it will be lost. Gone. I want him to keep his fire, his power and his passion;  and I want him to have the right label while doing it.

Happiness vs Wholeness, or Why A Nap is Not A Unicorn.

light-down-1364447_1920
Light and shade people, it’s all about the light and shade.

I recently complained about my children and was sent a link to a $125 an hour support service. The reasons this was ridiculous are many (MANY). Mainly there seemed to be this expectation that I had to be happy ALL the time, and if I wasn’t then that was uncomfortable and needed to be fixed. Mackay (2016) describes happiness as the ‘most passive, elusive and unpredictable of emotions.’ I do not experience constant happiness in my life, in fact, that seems a bit one-dimensional to me. Happiness doesn’t accurately reflect the maelstrom of emotions that I live each day. Instead, I think wholeness is a better descriptor of my life at this stage. Wholeness means accepting that failure, sadness, and downright ‘this is a bit fucked’ are all part of life, part of what makes us who we are (Mackay, 2016).

It is recognized that parenting is hard, but so often this is followed up with helpful suggestions for happiness. As parents we need support but it needs to be based on connection, and it has to be consistent. We need people to become part of our hearts and lives; to offer their own hearts and lives as well. Too often we’re told to think of three things to be grateful for each day, to make sure we have ‘me-time’ and that we chose to raise children so complaining about it is just not cool. Sometimes, this merely adds more pressure; it’s another thing to be written on an already bursting list and what happens when it doesn’t work?

There is a problem with me-time. It’s seriously hard to get. Even when we make the conscious choice to put our own needs first, it still requires the kind of planning normally reserved for running a small country. Me-time is an exercise in scheduling, finance and emotional fortitude. This occurs even before you say goodbye to potentially sobbing children and freak out about how you no longer know what to do with your hands in public because they’re usually full of a) child or b) child’s crap (ideally this is figurative, but if you’re anything like me it was once literal and you may never get past it). Being sans children does not automatically mean you are deeply and enjoyably relaxed. Bits of your heart will stay with them, even if their best descriptor is ‘not currently displaying signs of criminal/political aptitude.’ I don’t think we should be ungrateful if we carve out some time, but I think we should be realistic. Getting an hour for a nap does not undo five years of sleep deprivation. It is not a unicorn who grants wishes, it does not have magic powers, it cannot sweep away the dark circles under my eyes, the fuzz in my brain or the constant unsettling feeling there’s something I’ve forgotten; it is merely a nap.

unicorn-1193174_1280
This unicorn is underwater so can’t grant any wishes right now (if that’s what they do?)

Mackay states that people experience their most significant personal development and growth from pain, not from happiness (2016). We grow when we let ourselves break, when we acknowledge what makes us uncomfortable and the reality we find ourselves in. Trying to skip over that experience to the more comfortable one of happiness means we might be missing out. Parents laughingly say things like ‘It’s ok, I do this every day!’ as we throw on ill-considered outfits and inhale toast in the car. Instead of shrugging away the ‘I do this everyday’ we should say ‘omfg I do this every day.’ We should let that sink in, the sheer volume of time and emotional energy that we expend in care-taking other people. This needs to be felt, and acknowledged.

My son was basically the first infant I’d held as an adult. I freaked out, just a little. Luckily I had an amazing friend, a friend who knows more about the light and shade in life than most others; and she texted me each day. She told me about her own experiences (Day 6: This was the first day I didn’t cry. Day 8: I started crying again.) Without judgment or advice she encouraged me to feel the complete uncertainty and love having my son bought me. I was not always happy, but I was whole.

The experience of happiness is not as important to me as wholeness. Wholeness means every mad step of this exhilarating and exhausting life is acknowledged. Wholeness means when I complain, cry, and break over the difficulties of my life that I’m not given another expectation in the name of happiness. Wholeness means I get to live it. When it’s time, with real support, I get to rise from it – stronger and more complete than when I started this life. The detritus of parenting, the sleeplessness, the sickness, the fear and the drudgery – it deserves respect. How else will we know how far we’ve come unless we acknowledge that the journey was super fucking long.

Maybe what we need is acceptance that joy and desperation are both present in parenting, and that it’s all forming a life. I suspect Mackay (2016) can say it best: ‘the emotional spectrum is broad and that to miss any of it – yes, even the disappointments, the failures and the daily grind – would be to miss out on the spectacular experience of wholeness.’

I like spectacular. Even the spectacular failures.

Mackay, H. (2016). Wholeness, happiness, sadness and positivity. Retrieved from http://www.livingnow.com.au/articles/personal-development/wholeness-happiness-sadness-and-positivity

 

This Is What We’ll Remember

horse-756852_1280

She wanted a ride on the merry-go-round. Of course. We line up while she hops from one foot to the other (this is called waiting patiently). When it’s her turn she and her Daddy dash off to find a horse.

I watch, but I’m not really seeing.

Then there’s this moment as the merry-go-round spins, and I’m struck. Tinkly music swells through the air and sunlight strikes the strands of gold in her hair and I love her. There has never been day of her life when I haven’t told her I loved her. But every so often it’s a break-your-heart love, a love that cracks you open, fills you up and makes you realize how deeply and utterly in love you are.

Part of me wishes we could stay here, in this moment. I want to tell her: We could stay here and I could always be your Mummy, I could always watch the smile tiptoe from your lips to your eyes and down into your hands as you throw your arms out wide and shriek ‘wheee!’ in the rushing wind. I wish the farthest the world would take you away from me is the other side of that merry-go-round, and that it would perpetually bring you back. I wish you would always seek me out, eyes roaming through the other people who are waving to their pieces of their hearts riding on painted horses. You see me, you have one hand gripping a cheap golden rod and the other waving frantically. For me. Half your joy in this ride is for yourself, but the other half is sharing that with me.

I remember when I was pregnant and crying one afternoon- a mess of belly on the floor. I knew I would adore you, love you and already loved you with each heartbeat that drummed through me, but I was crying because you would love me back. You would love me. It would be built into your survival, part of your DNA. I am imperfect, and I will hand you some kind of uncertainty in one way or another; and you will love me still. There is no-one in the world that could love me as much as you. My baby. No-one who will seek me out, need me, cry for me and wait for me with every single tick of the clock like you will.

I cried for the beauty of that love, but also for the weight of it. I want to be worthy of your love, but you will give it to me whether I am or not.

Back at the merry-go-round the lady next to me speaks. She’s older, with silver hair and fine lines flowing across her cheeks like cracks in a beautiful vase. She’s watching her grandchildren just as intently as I watch my daughter. ‘Your daughter is an angel,’ she says. ‘Thank you,’ I give my usual smiling shrug, meant to convey unbridled love but tempered with reality.

I keep watching, truly seeing now.

Everything is condensing into this moment. The music, the sun, the gold chipping off the paint and the clear blue eyes that look for me with each revolution.

‘This is what you will remember’, she says, ‘moments like this.’ I nod, I can’t look away from my girl, I’m trying to remember. She’s right. You’re an angel.

I think of all the people who have watched children they love go on this ride, watched them as they carefully or haphazardly chose horses, watched innocent hearts examine the patterns on saddles and waited for the whirring to begin – a slow circle of childhood. There is always someone waving, a heart seeking a heart to make a connection – an endless ‘do you see me? Do you see how fun this is? Do you see me?’ This is what we will remember.

The ride ends, she slips off the horse and runs to me. She smells like sunshine and the grass she was playing in earlier. She is lit up. Glowing. I pick her up and notice how heavy she is now. Her whole body used to fit between my collarbone and my belly button, and now her legs trail down almost to my knees.

She loves me with every piece of her heart. The weight of that is not a burden, it is a gift. This is what I will remember, the love, the moments in the sun: this is what we all remember.

 

Four Easy Craft Activities That Were Difficult.

Please tell me it’s not just me and my genetic legacy that are terrible at craft. I see so many amazing blogs and ideas for craft and I just think ‘is this real? Are people actually doing this? Or is this an industry based on lies?’ I have seen pictures of happy children sitting down and decoupaging the equivalent of a Ming vase, and then apparently waiting for it to be ready. Personally, I have super-glued my own hand to my face. Twice. Due to my own ineptitude I had quite low expectations for craft and my children. This has come in handy.

Here are four easy craft activities that fought back.

Colouring: Or as I experience it, admiring my children’s dedication to artistic work for 23 seconds followed by saying things like ‘Not on the wall!’ and ‘If you stab the paper like that then the pencil will break.’ Which results in ‘Oh no the pencil broke! *under breath* like I TOLD you it would.’ They graduate to using pens, ‘Look Mummy!’ my boy exclaims, ‘You’ve used a lot of orange!’ I say. This is not good enough. ‘Do you know what it is?’ Crap. It’s an orange swirly thing with stabby orange bits. This, incidentally, is the wrong answer.

Nature Boxes: I thought this would be great. Really great. I was excited. Hubris. We all eagerly went into the garden with our cardboard box (thank you Bunnings) and I explained the parameters. ‘We’ll put bits of nature in our box, flowers and beautiful leaves, maybe create a secret garden?’ Dirt. This was interpreted as throwing in dirt. I was carrying a box filled with dirt. I explained again. Eventually, we had a box filled with interesting leaves, flowers and gum-nuts. My children were skipping around like pixies and I was thrilled. I had successfully crafted (kind of). We went inside to add dinosaurs (because we see them in nature all the time). That fucking box was tipped out in 3 seconds flat. There was nature everywhere.

10153788_683011611756172_1500273043_n
IS IT NOT GLORIOUS?!
1457694_683012238422776_889741310_n
I really should have predicted this. Small Excitable Child. Box of leaves. Sigh.

Painting: Painting sucks, for me. They love painting. My husband loves it when they paint too, although I suspect this is because he gets to donate a ‘painting shirt’ which is really just a novelty t-shirt he hates from last Christmas. My children burn through painting, they swish their brushes across the page and shout ‘MORE PAPER!’ I am in a frenzy of trying to hang up bits of wet, dripping paper and supply the demons with more fodder. When I’m not quick enough they paint themselves, each other, and on one memorable occasion – the cat.

IMG_1401
An attempt to get around the constant need for new paper. Lasted 2 minutes. Not worth it.

Making a Sparkly Crown: There was a slight obsession with royalty at one stage in my house. ‘I need a crown’ the small one insisted. The big one chimed in ‘I know how we make one, we get paper and a stapler’ (I was leaning against the wall doing deep breathing at this point). When things stopped being blurry I girded my loins (I’m not actually sure what this means but it is a fantastic sentence) and got paper and the stapler. After the third packet of glitter was flung around ‘I’m opening it! I’m opening it!’ and the fifth finger stapled (mine) we all agreed to use pretend crowns.

I know it’s not just me, there are others out there who too feel the cold chill of fear down their spine when craft is mentioned. I was at a library Rhyme Time watching my small people over dramatize ‘Old MacDonald’ when it was announced: ‘Craft Time!’ The suction created from myself and at least ten other parent’s horrified intake of breath meant a small child cycling past was pulled off his bike. The terror is real.

For those of you who can craft and craft well, and who have children who do the colouring in thing without the stabbing thing – I am in awe of you. You are a majestic crafting unicorn. But alas, I will never be you. I’ll be over here, watching my children massacre ripped up colourful bits of paper and a glue-stick, and thinking ‘hang on, they’re actually improving.’

Yes, My Child is Entitled. To be a Child.

portrait-317041_1920
OMG I can’t believe I just did that in public. Wait, yes I can.

Sometimes my kids look like ‘those’ kids. Those rampaging, loud, possibly naked and undoubtedly dirt encrusted kids. The ones that shout ‘No!’ and flat out refuse to leave the park, even if I pretend to walk away (which I read somewhere is actually ‘withholding love’ so I felt super guilty about trying it out, and then just annoyed because it didn’t even work and if you’re going to do something as heinous as withhold love it should jolly well work right?) I worry that not only does my daughter not always share but occasionally she actually picks up all the toys her teeny arms can carry and runs away, possibly cackling. The concern here is that I might be raising what looks like an entitled child.

The thing is though, children are entitled. They’re entitled to be adored when sticky. They’re entitled to have bad moods and be outrageously grumpy for no obvious reason. They’re entitled to be learning, continuously and constantly learning. They’re entitled to make mistakes. They’re entitled to have fun and be impulsive. Their brains are still developing, and there are concepts they just cannot grasp, and what they truly need is time and understanding (Best & Miller, 2010).

This can be tough.

My daughter does ballet. I say ‘does ballet’ when realistically she romps around in a dinosaur shirt and rainbow tutu and follows *maybe* half the instructions. She also has a complete blast. On Ballet Days she has her chosen dinosaur shirt on hours before class starts. She races into the building and greets her classmates (who are always dressed in pink with brushed and ponytailed hair and I have no idea how that even happens). When the teacher says ‘OK Dancers, time to trit-trot like ponies!’ my daughter says ‘No, I’m a bunny!’ and hippity-hops around. The first time she’s asked to ‘March in line!’ I realise she has never lined up in her entire life. She has no concept of lining up and her subsequent zooming around the room was unsurprising. She practices a version of ballet that is not taught in the ballet class.

This was challenging for me. It was testing to see her so obviously going against the norm; she was putting her preferences into action (preferences we’ve encouraged her to have) in a situation where compliance was expected. No one was outright telling her she was wrong, her teacher would gently ask her to join the other dancers and eventually she would. However, I still struggled. Two sessions into the term, I pulled her aside mid-lesson: ‘You need to listen to the teacher! Do what the teacher does!’ ‘But why?’ she asks, ‘Because you’re here to learn ballet!’ I whisper. Her head drops and she walks back to her friends. She does not trit-trot like a pony. She does not hippity-hop like a bunny. She lowers her head and drags her feet like an unhappy puppy and occasionally throws wounded eyes back at me.

I feel like shit. I have stolen Ballet and replaced it with Sad. She’s just turned three. She’s not really there to learn ballet, she’s there to learn how strong her body is, she’s there to listen to music and pay attention to how it makes her feel. Most of all she’s there to have fun. I did not teach her about impulse control by telling her to follow instructions. All I did was hissy whisper at my kid and teach her that I don’t delight in her obvious, incredible, ridiculous love of Not Quite Ballet.

Children are entitled.

Punishment makes no difference to impulse control (Straus, Sugarman & Giles-Sims, 1997). Yelling at a child or getting physical with them for running in the opposite direction when you call them to the car will not make them less likely to high-tail it away from you next time. I was told to sit outside many times as a child, and not once did I use that time to ‘reflect on what I did wrong,’ instead, I reflected on how misunderstood I was and plotted quiet revenge. Sometimes, I even drew a diagram.

Research found punishment is more likely to result in distress than learning (Straus, Sugarman & Giles-Sims, 1997). What does work is talking, it’s our ‘inner voice’ that teaches us impulse control (Kemick, 2010). Our inner voice needs to be helpful, positive. It needs to tell us we’re good people, we can do this; we can keep going when things are hard and we make great decisions. While they’re little, kids aren’t great at seeing the big picture. But they listen to what their parents say about them, and they believe it.

Trust your child. They will be capable, maybe not yet though. Maybe they just need to practise Not Quite Ballet, maybe they need ten-minute reminders of when it’s time to leave the playground, maybe they can’t share because first they need to know what not sharing feels like. When their brain is ready they will follow instructions and they will share. More than that, they will know they are good people, people who are learning and making mistakes and learning again.

My daughter and I resumed ballet – the other children imitate arm actions and my girl is looking at me and jumping around furiously. I blow her a kiss, ‘Look at you jump!’ She jumps faster, smiling. Ballet is back.

When the time comes for her to learn why we follow instructions, she’ll be there. But right now, she’s learning about herself – her skills, the things that make her happy and crucially – the way people she loves view her. I will try to always be a safe place for her, my acceptance of my badass girl isn’t based on how compliant she is. It’s based on her: her strength, curiosity, bravery and ability to rock a dinosaur t-shirt and tutu with the best of them.

References

Best, J. R., & Miller, P. H. (2010). A Developmental Perspective on Executive Function. Child Development, 81(6), 1641–1660. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01499.x

Kemick, A. 2010. Inner voice plays role in self control. Science Daily. Retrieved April 13, 2016 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100921110956.htm

Straus, M. A., Sugarman, D. & Giles-Sims, J. (1997). Spanking by Parents and Subsequent Antisocial Behavior of Children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 151, 761-67.

Linking up with The Annoyed Thyroid here