Raising children is messy business

Raising children is messy business.

The house is messy.

My thoughts are messy.

Getting everyone organised and dressed and out of the house can be a tall order on some days.

Resolving sibling fights gives me a headache (and sometimes a sore throat because I have to yell louder than they do.)

Trying to keep track of what I hope to accomplish and teach each one of them (at their varying stages of development) can induce a terrible migraine.

Parenthood is messy business, almost like running a farm. Amidst the poop, the spills, and the drools, there is also a little boy running amok and trying to clobber his brother with a plastic hammer.

It can be tiring, and madly frustrating.

But it can also be unpredictably fun, in a side-splitting kind of way.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as I do now. I don’t think I’ve ever thought to myself “how incredibly blessed I am” as often as I do now too. Granted, this happens only after the kids are in bed and are unable to argue with me or drive me up the wall. (Which is also why I like to gaze at them sleeping – it’s a healing process for my tired soul.)

My life is filled to overflowing, if only I would pause long enough to see it.

In the bible there is a proverb that goes, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” In context, it’s saying that you can enjoy a clean and tidy farm if you have no oxen or animals inside. But without animals to plough and work the field, it will be hard to enjoy a good harvest.

Any worthy pursuit in life requires hard work and sacrifice. And you can be sure that raising the next generation is a worthy pursuit.

It may look like just one big mayhem at the moment, but I choose to believe there is a purpose to the mess.

With each messy fight, they are learning about how to use and curb their strength. How to socialise with another human being.

With each messy fall, they learn how to pick themselves up, and how to receive comfort, only to be able to give that same comfort to others who fall too.

With each messy meltdown, they learn how much it means to be accepted and loved even when they lose control.

I often wonder wistfully at that career I’ve left behind. At all my ex colleagues who have progressed up the ladder. At the possibilities that could have been. But I realise that only distracts me from loving and serving my family at this very moment. That only subtracts from my already limited energy. Thinking about all those what could have beens disheartens me.

So I switch gears.

I think about the time I have on my hands now. I think about every new day as a gift. I think about the possibilities and ways to invest in building the right foundation in my kids. And hopefully, by some grace that is larger than mine, I’ll be able to wake up to brighter and more peaceful mornings in the years to come.

Parenting is like working the field. Without the messiness of falls, tears, failures, and difficulties, there can be no beauty, strength, and resilience in later life. Without the sowing of today, there can be no fruit tomorrow.

Even on a teary and messy today, may we stop and give thanks for our little ones. And see them for who they really are – little blessings from God given to us to hug, cherish, and be stewards over for a time.

In spite of the mess they bring to our lives. Or perhaps because of it.

parenting

PS. A Pancake Princess just wrote about how we can’t put a price tag on motherhood, and how our sacrifices can look so small in the larger scheme of things. Hop over to be reminded to count our joys.

For days when you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle

It was a horrible Sunday, one of those where everything just seems to fall apart. We thought Sunday school was starting for Josh, but it turned out to be the following Sunday. He turned out to be ultra-sticky (thankfully to the father, who erm… looked desperately like he needed extra-strong coffee by the end of the 2-hour service.)

He had to be carried out kicking and crying, mostly because he was hungry and cranky. This boy is hungry ALL the time, and we only brought out 1 snack, which he polished up within 10 minutes of entering the door. (Blame it on the blur of the morning for not anticipating this and packing more.)

Then, when we picked up JJ from Sunday school, he threw a fit and suddenly wanted to go into the cry-room (where we had just escaped from.)

Going back into the cry-room, from Sunday school, would mean 50 steps back in the wrong direction. And also a new precedent which I wasn’t going to start. So no, I’m sorry, young man, we are calling a car and getting us all back home for lunch.

We all finally managed to have lunch, and Josh naturally wolfed his down, and then clamoured for more.

Then, he napped, and I felt like I needed to lie down too. (The hubby had already KO-ed by then.)

In the afternoon, there was another incident, this time with Vera.

The hubby and I had planned to bring the kids out cycling / scooting followed by dinner at the hawker centre. But Vera promptly turned down our proposal, saying that it was hot and she didn’t want to sweat. (Lately she’s morphed into a home-body who prefers to snuggle on the sofa with one of her books.)

On a normal day, we’d be fine to let her have her way. But on this particular afternoon, there wasn’t anyone else at home and we couldn’t just leave her alone. So I explained the whole situation and gave her a couple of options to choose from (she could scoot / cycle / walk / jog), hoping to change her mind. We were all dressed, and the two boys were rearing to go. So…FOR THE SAKE OF THE WHOLE FAMILY, PLEASEEEE.

She refused to budge. And I nearly blew my top. I couldn’t believe that she couldn’t see our need as a family, to do something together. What happened to the Vera I knew? The Vera who’s compliant and considerate to others?

Breathe, I said to myself. Walk around, do something else, change tact.

I came back to the negotiating table and asked her what was her reason for not wanting to go. She finally said in a whisper that she didn’t want to eat at the hawker centre, because it’s too hot after cycling there.

When I finally understood her need, I told her we’d find an air-conditioned place to have dinner, and that she would feel comfortable there. With that, she finally went to get ready.

Once we were out in the park, the air changed. Our moods were all tons lighter. We started to smile and joke again.

It was just a small thing…

Yes, our family had a shared need – to go out and get our bodies moving, something she wasn’t so keen on in the first instance.

But she also had her own need. Which was waiting to be voiced out and heard.

At that moment, I felt like flaring. I felt like throwing in the towel. I’m glad I didn’t. The problem had a ready solution, that could be win-win. If I had flared and fought, it would have been lose-lose.

bigstock-Parent-and-Child-Conflict--6176696

Sometimes, we need to take a step back.

Sometimes, we need to give the child the benefit of the doubt. She wasn’t being ‘the problem’. She just had a need that was waiting to be understood.

(Of course I hope that one day, she’ll be able to set aside her needs and consider the greater need. But that’s work-in-progress…)

For now, we’re just interested in solving the problem, and crossing the hurdle together.

It’s amazing what open space and fresh air can do for the soul.

The next time you feel like you’re engaged in a battle of wills, try any of these instead:

1. Remind yourself that you don’t have to engage in a battle. You can be firm on what needs to be done, but leave some room for the child to decide how to do it.

2. Walk away and do something else for a minute. Drink a sip of water, anything to calm things down in your system.

3. Change tact. Soften your tone. Approach things like a problem that is waiting to be solved.

4. Ask how she really feels, seek to understand things from her perspective (in other words, in her shoes).

5. Describe the problem you’re facing. Ask if she has any ideas or solutions to propose. Try to come up with a viable solution together.

I read this from ‘How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk‘, and it helped to put things in a fresh perspective.

It requires a great act of faith to believe that if we take the time to sit down and share our real feelings with a young person, and listen to his feelings, together we’ll come up with solutions that will be right for both of us.

There is an important message built into this approach. It says, “When there is conflict between us, we no longer have to mobilize our forces against each other and worry about who will emerge victorious and who will go down in defeat. Instead, we can put our energy into searching for the kinds of solutions that respect both our needs as individuals.”

Learning happens when you have fun – review of Junior Explorers

We’ve been having fun exploring the world from the comfort of our home – through Junior Explorers. It’s proven quite handy as there was a lot of free time during the Dec holidays to explore new things and play its online games.

Junior Explorers Singapore

What is it?

Junior Explorers is basically a subscription-based exploration programme for children aged 6 and above. Every month, you will receive a explorer kit filled with activities like stickers, tattoos, a different explorer badge and wrist-band for collection, and…a new mission.

What the kids liked about it:

1. The online mission /games are engaging and easy to navigate.

As Vera explored the online games and missions, and read the reading materials, she got to learn more about our earth, its colourful inhabitants (like the arctic wolf shown below), and why it is important to protect and cherish our resources. This perhaps is the first step to unlocking greater eco-awareness in our next generation.

explorer3

2. There are different activities to do in each kit.

For the first kit, Vera received an explorer trunk, which she could decorate with the stickers provided. It also came with a checklist of activities she could do, as a guide.

explorer kit

3. The kids get to learn the characteristics of different animals and environmental systems. 

Through a combination of both online and offline resources provided by Junior Explorers, we learnt about biomes, the different communities and eco-systems that make up our earth. I thought this little explorer handbook was quite nifty in presenting key information needed to form the foundation of the eco-learning journey.

Explorer_booklet

4. The kids get to invent their own games using the tools provided in the kits.

Along with the first kit came a fold-out map with the different biomes of the world colour-marked. The map also featured common animals in each biome. The kids had fun learning about these animals via the online app. Then they took turns to ask each other what this and that animal was on the map. It was fun to see them coming up with their own games!

explorer_map

Thus far, we’ve received our second kit which is centred on the Arctic theme.

It comes with lovely postcards that have bite-sized information about interesting aspects of Arctic life – like the Northern lights. We’ll be sending these out to our little friends who are based in other countries soon!

explorer_post

The second kit also comes with these tear-out animal info-cards. I like the fact that the information is presented in a similar fashion as its online app. It’s the small details that make this learning journey a fun and engaging one. :)

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Here’s an example of an online game under the Arctic theme. It’s a puzzle-based game where you have to shift the ice-blocks to help the seal find its way to the sea.

Explorer_arctic game

Even JJ tries to have a go at the games, although it is slightly harder for him to control the mouse on his own.

explorer1

The kids can’t wait to explore the new missions that arrive at our doorstep every month!

What I liked about it?

– The information is neatly presented and packaged into bite-sized chunks, making it easy for the kids to digest and learn and even discuss among themselves.

– I like that it’s not just an online app/game. That the experience is very much in the real physical world that we live in, with the little touches (like the postcards, animal info cards, stickers and tattoos, and even little animal toys) completing the whole experience!

Tips:

– A single mission costs just $24.99. This goes up to $66.99 for 3 months (save $8), and $127.49 for 6 months (save $22). It makes an affordable gift package for children aged 7 and above!

– In order to manage your child’s time spent on the computer and online, remember to set time limits and agree on which days they can ‘explore’. If your child has no prior experience using the computer, it’s best to allow them to play under your supervision.

– If you sign up for Junior Explorers, do use either Chrome or Safari as your browser as I find the games work best on these browsers.

– Use our promo code MWPS10 to enjoy a 10% discount on all subscriptions!

Happy exploring!

* The good guys at Junior Explorers sent us some kits for the purpose of this review. All opinions and photos are as usual mine.