Comparisonitis Blog Post - Dylan-Eloise-Halloween

Should We Stop Sibling Comparisonitis?

Comparisonitis Blog Post - Dylan-Eloise-Halloween

Sibling Comparisonitis – The Cuteness

For the first year or so of Eloise’s life I put side by side photos on Facebook comparing Dylan and Eloise when they were babies – in the same Halloween costume, at the zoo with the elephant, even in the same pretty dress (another 21st photo for poor Dylan). Oh the cuteness!

Last week, I caught myself talking about Eloise’s ability in gymnastics class and comparing it to Dylan’s. Yesterday a friend remarked I how complex Eloise’s speech was for her age and it got me likening it to what Dylan was like at the same age.

In fact, any area is up for grabs including all the baby things – teething, crawling, sitting up, walking, eating. Now the kids are five and two, personality and both physical and mental development are contrasted. And don’t forget physical appearance – a huge focus for any sibling comparison.

 

Sibling Comparisonitis – The Questions

Why do we do this? Is this ‘compare and contrast’ of our kids something ingrained in all parents? Do we want them to be the same or different? Are we trying to prove something by comparing them so much?

Is this phenomenon of comparing our kids to each other a good or bad thing?

Should we stop sibling comparisonitis?

 

Sibling Comparisonitis – The Good

It is definitely not all bad. Side by side photos of our babies in delightful outfits and lovely settings can’t ever be thought of as a bad thing. It is too darn adorable.

Noticing things the children do the same at the same age is also a revelation for parents. Some things really do follow a typical developmental timeline. At around two years of age, both Dylan and Eloise went through a stage of saying ‘nigh nighs’ (good night) to all their toys. Something they both quickly grew out of, but super cute to observe for a brief time.

Detecting things that are different between my two kids is interesting. Eloise, at two and half, is going through a stage of wanting us to read the same book over and over for a week at a time. She even sometimes requests the repetition of the same book immediately after I just read it to her! I can’t remember Dylan ever doing that.

Observing our beautiful tiny humans as they grow is a great thing to do and should be encouraged as it is what shared family memories are made of.

 

Sibling Comparisonitis – The Bad

Where we may go wrong is when there is a negative overtone to the comparison. I do this all the time! Dylan has better co-ordination when it comes to riding a bike, but Eloise has superior co-ordination in gymnastics class.

I have also noticed that I tend to focus more on the similarities between Dylan and Eloise than the differences, leading to Eloise going without. Dylan decided when he was very young that he didn’t like tomatoes. Because we very rarely dish up tomatoes to Dylan, Eloise ends up missing out on them as well. When I threw a couple of cherry tomatoes into her bowl of vegetables the other day she devoured them like a zombie who has come across a fresh corpse.

One of the worst outcomes of comparing siblings is contrasting some behavior that is difficult now with a rose-tinted view the other child. Memories do get fuzzy and what is hard now supersedes problems long since resolved. Eloise was an amazing sleeper as a baby but since she hit two years old we have been going through a bad patch of night wakings. Dylan seems like an angel as he sleeps so well but we kind of forget that he basically didn’t sleep at all for the first four months of his life!

 

Sibling Comparisonitis – The Strange

The strangest thing about all this comparing and contrasting is that we often get surprised when the second child is different to the first child. We celebrate the similarities and overlook the differences.

However, we should be surprised that there are ANY similarities at all! Think about it. The second child has an older sibling to talk with and copy behavior from. With Eloise, we are more relaxed as parents. She is a girl. Her height, hair color and eye color are not the same. Heck, she falls into a different Chinese Zodiac sign.

She is a whole entire another human being!

 

Sibling Comparisonitis – The Answer

Maybe it is impossible to stop sibling comparisonitis. It is baked into us as parents as soon as there are two or more kids in the family. But it is good to be aware of it so we can tone down the negative and celebrate the best parts.

One of those best parts is celebrating our kids’ differences. Let’s do more of this. With everyone. That we are all Homo sapiens yet all unique is the defining feature of our humanity.

Comparisonitis Blog Post - Dylan-Eloise-Dress

 

Death Blog Post - Snoopy Wisdom

How to Talk to Kids About Death

Death Blog Post - Snoopy Wisdom

Dylan Asks About Death

“When will you die, Mummy?”

Whaaaaat?

Before I can splutter out an answer, I am pelted with more questions about death: “When will I die? What does dying feel like? Why do people die?” And, to finish: “When is the world going to end?”

I am able to squeak out a ridiculous answer to the last question involving a zombie apocalypse and robot uprising not happening until the year 3,178. This seems to placate my five-year old and he runs off to play.

But I am rooted to the spot, stupefied by Dylan’s open and honest queries about death.

 

Kick the Bucket

Like most of us, our inevitable mortality is a topic I don’t want to think about that much. The uncertainty and fear around death mean that discussion over it seems inappropriate, and well, morbid.

However, as I have just finished writing a book on bucket lists, a concept that is, for better or worse, linked to ‘kicking the bucket’ or dying, I have had to confront my beliefs and ideas about death anyway.

As I don’t hold firm religious beliefs, I don’t have an appropriate faith based answer for Dylan. But his questions, and the research around bucket lists that involved the regrets of the dying, have sparked my curiosity about what life itself means. Perhaps I could attempt to explain death to my kids more in terms of its relationship to life?

 

Two Deaths

This was brought home to me even further with two deaths that occurred twenty years and thousands of miles apart, one famous and one only known to a few people.

Recently, it was the 20th anniversary since Princess Diana passed away. Her death was incredibly shocking and sad for me – and millions of others – at the time. Actually, now I have become a mama, her death at age 36, leaving behind her two boys, seems even more tragic than it did back then.

Then this week, I read a series of blog posts from a friend, Kelly, who was told when she was pregnant with her third child that her baby would be ‘incompatible with life’. Her tiny daughter’s passing late last year was heartbreaking for the family and those closest to them.

How can I explain to a five year old about how short life can be? I would like to tell him he will not pass away until he is a ripe old age, but how can I when none of us knows how much time we have on this planet?

 

Three Nuggets of Wisdom

After much contemplation, this is what I have come up with. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are three little nuggets of wisdom about life and death. I hope that these help you if you are sucker punched with mortality talk from your children:

  1. We will all die at some point, and if we remember that, it should help us make the most of our life. If we were immortal, like vampires, we would get very bored, very quickly. Death is a way to remember to live life as best and as fully as we can.
  2. No one knows how long he or she has on this planet and that is a major blessing. If we knew we only had a certain number of days, would we attempt to build skyscrapers, write books or learn a violin concerto? Not knowing means you challenge yourself with long-term goals and try to create lasting relationships.
  3. If you at least try to live in a radically authentic and grateful way, your life will extend well beyond your physical presence here on Earth. You will leave a legacy – great memories, things you created or simply the love that shone out from you. We don’t need to live forever because something in us lives on.

 

Lessons from Diana

Twenty years on from Princess Diana’s untimely passing, William and Harry were asked about their memories of their late mother. They didn’t focus on her death. Instead they movingly recalled how her face would light up whenever she saw them. They told how she would break into the widest smile and envelope them with the warmest hug imaginable whenever she came back to the house. They reminisced about how naughty and silly she was as a mother – stuffing their pockets with sweets when they went off to school, and infamously inviting a couple of supermodels over to say hello to William when he had posters of the models on his walls. Most of all, they remembered her sparkling laughter.

Diana lived a life of grace. She had those three nuggets of wisdom ingrained in her heart. And because of that, she effortlessly lavished love on her sons and they remember her with great fondness. I have the rest of my – hopefully long – life to make sure my kids remember me the same way.

 

A Tweet Sized Version

I am fairly sure Dylan wouldn’t stick around for me to finish my dissertation about life and death, so how can I translate those three nuggets of wisdom in a way that a five-year old would understand?

Perhaps something like: No one knows exactly when they will die so make the most of every day, be kind and be yourself.

But of course, I don’t actually need to tell Dylan that because he does those things naturally!

It is me who must remember it.

 

References

Kelly’s Blog: Be Still and Know (have tissues at the ready)

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying Book: http://amzn.to/2fVu66t 

Death Blog Post - Princess Diana

Parenting Approach Blog Post - Tiger

What Kind of Parent Am I?

Parenting Approach Blog Post - Tiger

Personal Labels

Over the years I have taken a number of personality and behavioural surveys and profiles. You too may have done some of these at work or as part of a team building exercise or perhaps on a lazy afternoon when flicking through an old Cosmo magazine. Here are some of my results:

  • Myers Briggs: ISFJ
  • DISC: C and I dominant
  • Tendency: Upholder
  • Love language: Quality Time
  • Kolbe action style: High on ‘Fact finder’ and ‘Follow through’
  • VIA Strengths: Highest – Love of Learning, Lowest: Humility (well I do write a blog about myself!)

Check out the references to find out your results (note some websites may charge for the report).

Maybe these survey results tell you a lot about me. Or maybe the fact that I absolutely LOVE ticking all those boxes tells you all you need to know. I realise that these are just tools, and that no test sums up me, or anyone else, perfectly. However, I relish in the structure they give and the knowledge that there are other people quite similar to me in this world.

 

Parenting Labels

So when it comes to parenting, I thought I would also like to try and fit into a category, to find other mamas just like me. All I would need to do is research the key points of the main parenting approaches and slot myself in to the one that resonates the most with me – voila – instant community.

Here are a few I tried on for size. These are major philosophies and I do not want to trivialise their importance, but to keep things short, I have summarised their main tenets into a couple sentences. Check out the references for more information.

 

The Tiger Mother

I initially liked the sound of this – who wouldn’t want to be associated with these majestic beasts? This parenting approach places a huge emphasis on academic success and non-academic structured activities that garner awards such as classical music practice.

Unfortunately I cannot lay claim to being a tiger mother. My four year old now does soccer practice because he told us he wanted to. And my 18 month old daughter has been barely exposed to anything remotely structured as an activity, except for the occasional sing-a-long during Rhymetime at the library.

 

Slow Parenting

I then thought perhaps I am the opposite of the tiger mother – have I embraced ‘Slow Parenting’? This advocates a lot of free play, less toys and places emphasis on a child using their imagination and being out in nature. It sounds idyllic, plus I would love to have less toys cluttering up the house.

The issue I have with ‘Slow Parenting’ is its name. In the 1980’s when I was growing up, this ‘movement’ would have been simply known as ‘Parenting’. I spent many hours on the weekends with my sister and our friends making huts out of the gorse bushes or bamboo strands in our neighbourhood, and I am pretty sure my parents have never heard of ‘Slow Parenting’.

Plus it discourages kids from watching TV so it is ruled out of contention for me on that count alone.

 

Natural Parenting

I love the idea of natural parenting with its emphasis on being as close to your child as possible, natural childbirth and what is best for the environment.

My second child went onto solids via baby-led weaning. Not because I was trying to be a natural parent, but because, well, it was baby-led. Eloise refused mush off a spoon almost straight away.

But I just never could get the hang of baby wearing – I always thought my baby would fall out of the sling. And anyway, I believe I have a life-long ban from this movement for the 100% use of disposable nappies (diapers).

 

Conscious Parenting

With its emphasis on empathy, understanding and tolerance along with self-regulation and mindfulness, ‘Conscious Parenting’ sounds more like an aspiration rather than something I can adhere to 24/7. It seems kind of obvious that we would all want to be conscious parents, but I am fairly sure that people who (although only occasionally) drink wine in the shower are excluded from this category.

 

Good Enough Parenting

So if I give up striving to be the perfect parent should I then instead embrace the concept of ‘Good Enough Parenting’? The basic argument here is that no more striving to be the perfect parent means less stress, which is good for the whole family.

However, this may lead to no attempt to improve us as parents or to develop our kids as potential leaders. I would rather try – and possibly fail – to be a conscious parent, if this is the alternative.

 

Where To From Here?

These are all perfectly valid and legitimate forms of parenting, backed by scientific research and anecdotal stories of parenting success.

But they are just not right for me. Actually that is incorrect. They are all right for me, in different circumstances, but not a single one is exactly the right fit.

Then I realised what I was searching for, the structure I have been craving, is something I have already started creating: I am a ‘CherishMama’.

My website, cherishmama.com is a sanctuary. But for who exactly? This is still evolving, but currently it is for parents like me. Ones who do not fit easily into other parenting categories.

We are an eclectic bunch of flawed Mamas (and Daddies) who cherish the fortunate and privileged position we have of being a parent, but sometimes huff and snarl at our kids. We do strive to do our best, but sometimes end the day by drinking wine in the shower. At last, I have found something that ticks all my boxes.

 

 

References

Myers Briggs: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

 

DISC: http://www.thediscpersonalitytest.com

 

Tendency: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2014/03/quiz-are-you-an-upholder-a-questioner-a-rebel-or-an-obliger/

 

Love language: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

 

Kolbe action style: http://www.kolbe.com/why-kolbe/kolbe-wisdom/four-action-modes/

 

VIA Strengths: http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

 

The Tiger Mother: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_mother

 

Slow Parenting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_parenting#Slow_movement

 

Natural Parenting: http://codenamemama.com/natural-parenting-resources/

 

Conscious Parenting: http://www.teach-through-love.com/conscious-parenting.html

 

Good Enough Parenting: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201512/the-good-enough-parent-is-the-best-parent

Parenting Approach Blog Post - Eloise in Highchair

 

Peppa Pig Blog Post - Peppa Family Image

Peppa Pig – Addiction, Alliteration and World Domination

Peppa Pig Blog Post - Peppa Image

Guilty Admission

If you had mentioned Peppa Pig to me three years ago, I wouldn’t know what you were talking about. But now, this British children’s cartoon series, with its five-minute episodes centred on the eponymous four-year-old talking pig, Peppa, are a dominant presence in our home. These days, I cannot imagine daily life without Peppa Pig on TV.

What is even more disturbing is that a few months back I found myself lost – for hours and hours – in an Internet search about it.

I had a sudden realisation after watching the ‘Funfair’ episode for perhaps the fifth time, that all the animal kids had alliterative names – Candy Cat, Suzie Sheep, Zoe Zebra, Rebecca Rabbit. All except for Peppa’s little brother, George. It made no sense to me.

I delved into the recesses of the Internet and found a world of parenting forums where similarly sad and slightly desperate parents had posted this and many other questions about Peppa Pig. I did feel at least vindicated that I wasn’t the only person out there using up quality time in her day hunting for answers about something so pointless and exasperating. But in the midst of it I started to think – why do we all care so much?

 

Fall Down Laughing

I mean, when I first started watching Peppa Pig with my toddler, I could not for the life of me see what the big deal was. In each episode, Peppa does an activity or goes somewhere with her family or friends – say to the public swimming pool or for a picnic – and then at the end of the episode all the characters fall down laughing.

That is it.

There is barely an attempt at any sort of narrative arc, and the animation is not sophisticated and everyone is a little bit mean about Daddy Pig.

 

World Domination

Yet last year, the company behind Peppa Pig reported annual sales of $1 billion – cue lots of “bringing home the bacon” headlines. Most of the revenue comes from merchandise – an estimated 12,000 products have been given the Peppa Pig treatment. She is everywhere – on lunchboxes, toys, games, and even my one-year-old daughter’s second hand stockings.

The TV show has been going for over ten years but as the episodes are only five minutes long, there is less than 20 hours of TV responsible for this global success. It is screened in over 180 countries and if you visit the UK you can now take the family to Peppa Pig World – its very own theme park. Projected earnings are set to double to $2 billion in a few years and more theme parks are planned.

Although it has been described, fairly indelicately, as ‘toddler crack’, it is not our children who are the frenzied consumers of anything Peppa. It is not our children having heated debates on parenting forums. It is not our children building theme parks. Peppa Pig has taken over the world. Why?

Apologies if the talk about wads of cash, rampant consumerism and addictive drugs seem abhorrent, but I feel like this is worth digging into.

 

Success Theories

Firstly, there is the emotion hypothesis: you either love or hate Peppa Pig. You can even dislike it and come to love it, as I have. Or you can like some of the episodes but get annoyed at how mean they all are to Daddy Pig. Or think that Peppa is mostly a delight but sometimes quite naughty. But the point is, no one says ‘Oh, Peppa Pig – I can take it or leave it’. Anything that invokes a strong emotion is bound to stay in your mind when out shopping.

Secondly – the mystery theory. Peppa Pig brings up more questions than answers. Not only is George not called Peter or Paul, but there are many other unanswered questions. Like why are all the parents called Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, even by their bosses? When the show is about talking animals, why is there a doctor and a vet? And what the heck is that Mr. Potato thing? If you start down the questioning line, you will fall in a well that you will never clamber out of – right down to why is George voiced by TWO actors when all he says is ‘dinosaur’? All these unresolved questions stay in our consciousness and are still around when our child’s birthday is coming up. Add this to 12,000 products and you have a success equation that adds up big time. A little bit of mystery goes a long way.

Next is the simplicity proposal – maybe the extremely short episodes, uncomplicated story and basic sketches are not negatives at all, but instead what makes Peppa Pig so addictive. In a world where I never feel like I finish anything, watching an entire five-minute episode of Peppa Pig is something of an achievement.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is so successful because it is so joyful. As it is from the perspective of a four-year-old, it projects a kind of youthful joy that invokes a comforting nostalgia. Who doesn’t remember how much fun it was to jump in muddy puddles? It is mildly humorous in a very British way. I dare anyone not to smile in the ‘Hide and Seek’ episode when George is found in Daddy Pig’s newspaper.

 

Alliteration and Addiction

I never did find a satisfying answer to the alliterative names conundrum. In fact to make matters worse I found out about one other character with a non-alliterative name – Joey the baby Kangaroo – which makes the anomaly even more infuriating.

But occasionally, Peppa Pig does come through with an episode that alleviates some curiosity. It was a good day when I stumbled across the episode where Miss Rabbit gets awarded for all her hard work with a medal from the Queen. I had been wondering for ages how Miss Rabbit can do so many jobs. That wasn’t exactly answered, but at least it was acknowledged.

Whatever the reason for its worldwide success, there is no denying Peppa Pig is not just ‘toddler crack’. There is a worrying addictive element for us grown ups as well. I know this because our daily bite of Peppa Pig has been replaced with Emma (five minutes of the female Wiggle). And although Emma’s smile lights up our TV screen, I am having Peppa Pig withdrawals.

When an object you desire is no longer around, you tend to obsess about it even more. Maybe write an entire blog post about it. Mmmm, perhaps I need to get out bit more.

Peppa Pig Blog Post - Peppa Family Image