Tough Questions Blog Post - Dylan and Santa

Tough Questions at Christmas

Tough Questions Blog Post - Winston QuoteTough Questions Blog Post - Dylan and Santa

Pants on Fire

“I think you are lying, Mummy”. My five year old, Dylan, looks me straight in the eye and waits for me to deny his accusation.

I go politician on him and ask a sideways question: “Oh, what exactly am I lying about?”

“You don’t really know Santa’s phone number do you?”

Oh Dylan, you don’t know the half of it.

 

Santa Q&A

I have written before how I was reluctant to perpetuate the Santa myth in my household but then decided it was the path of least resistance. With a curious five year old, it does NOT feel like the easy way now.

Here is a sample of tough Santa questions that I have had to deflect this festive season:

  • How does Santa come into our house since we have no chimney?
  • Since Eloise hasn’t written a letter to Santa, how does he know what she wants?
  • My friend from Ireland said it is daytime over there when it is nighttime here so when does Santa visit them?
  • Why is Santa visiting here (the mall, the daycare Christmas party) when he should be at the North Pole?

Sometimes I try to explain Santa’s movement in purely logistical terms – Santa makes two trips – one to the Northern Hemisphere and one to the Southern Hemisphere. That doesn’t sound as romantic as flying around the world in one night but it seems sufficient.

However, I find myself stumbling over answers and going down rabbit holes caused by lie after lie. We can leave the ranch slider door unlocked. Just on that one night. Yes, Santa will know exactly which door is unlocked. No, I promise no burglars will come into the house as well. Santa is only here to drop off presents, he won’t have time to play with your Lego. Of course he will have time to eat the cookies. No, you won’t hear him.

Oh look, he is magic, okay. Santa is magic. The answer to ALL of your questions is that Santa is magic. And has elves helping him. Magic elves.

 

Really Tough Questions

These aren’t the difficult questions though. They are irritating but mostly funny and I always have the ‘magic’ answer up my sleeve.

The really tough questions, the ones that stab me in the heart, are along these lines: “Why can’t I get everything on my list?” or “Did you know the elves can make me anything I want?” or “But what else will Santa get me?”

The Santa myth has its place as a childhood fairytale, but its accompanying link to getting, to material items, to rampant consumerism, is the part of it I dislike the most. After all, I lie to my kids about quite a lot of things so the lies are actually not a big deal. But the fact that my five year old only thinks about what he can GET at Christmas time? Now that makes me question how I am raising my kids.

 

Change the Paradigm

So how to change the emphasis from getting to giving? How do I let my kids have a wonderful Christmas AND also teach them to not be a selfish consumer? How do I encourage them to give without wanting to get?

I know as parents we already give, give, give. We give out so much – empathy, a listening ear, praise and thanks. Day in and day out. And it gets tiring. Oh so tiring. But somehow, all this giving has to rub off on our offspring in the long run.

The only other way I can think of is to make a big deal when my children give to me. In fact, when I actually stop and notice, my kids do give me a lot. I get a ton of hugs and kisses, two people who listen to me sing without complaint and many drawings and paintings from my budding artists. Until I wrote this I didn’t appreciate all that as much as I could have. To teach them Christmas is not all about presents, I guess I need to be a bit more present with my tiny humans.

 

The Season of Giving

After all, the most magic thing about Christmas is not Santa, but that Christmas feeling. And that feeling can’t be bought or requested; it simply arrives when you least expect it. When you see your child’s eyes sparkle as the Christmas tree lights get turned on or when the kids in the backseat spontaneously erupt into a silly version of ‘Jingle Bells’. That feeling is Christmas’ gift to all of us.

Festive Greetings to you all. Love, Julie, Andrew, Dylan and Eloise.

Tough Questions Blog Post - Winston Quote

Other Christmas Blog Posts

All I Want for Christmas

The ‘I Will Never Game’

 

 

Tough Questions Blog Post - Winston QuoteTough Questions Blog Post - Winston Quote

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

 

40 Blog Post - Birthday Cake - 40

What Does Being 40 Mean?

40 Blog Post - Julie at 40

Milestone Birthday

Last November I had a milestone birthday – I turned 40. This is so momentous it needs emphasizing with some emojis.

After almost a year of being 40, it is not at all like I thought it would be. When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I thought 40 was old. Old with capital letters. OLD. I also thought 40 meant many other things as well. This is a navel-gazing blog post on what I thought being 40 would mean versus the reality for me.

 

Destination: 40

I had thought that at the age of 40 I would have ‘arrived’. You know, have it all sorted. Be ‘there’. Whatever ‘there’ means. Confident. Assured. Successful.

Nup.

And I am OK with that. If I had reached a destination it would feel at best a little dull and at worst, like a death sentence. Instead I am flailing through a messy life full of chaos and surprise. Things I could never have imagined: Donald Trump as President of the US, professional Pokémon hunters, the popularity of hash tags and selfies. Life is anything but boring.

 

Multi – What?

I also thought I would be on a career path, have a great job and working my way up the corporate ladder.

Nup.

I have switched jobs and careers more than I care to admit. I haven’t found exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life and doubt I ever will. I discovered a name for this the other day: I am a ‘multipotentialite’ according to a wonderful TED talk from Emilie Wapnick. I don’t know if I have made all the right choices but at the moment I am having a blast writing books.

 

Tiny Humans

I imagined that my kids would be older, maybe even teenagers. After all, I was 16 when my mother turned 40.

Nup.

Although my kids can be loud, frustrating and downright exhausting at times, I try not to wish away these years. Dylan has just started school. Eloise is in her own bed now. They are still so young but seem to be growing up in a blink of an eye. These times go by so, so fast.

 

Information Underload

I thought I would know a lot or at least feel like I have a basic knowledge about key things.

Nup.

As time progresses I feel like I know less and less. Perhaps being 40 is accepting that you will learn the things that are really important and turn to others or the Internet if you really need the answers for the rest.

Here is a random list of just some of the things I know almost nothing about:

  • what electricity is
  • recognizing dog breeds by sight
  • how TV works
  • what RSS feeds are
  • Bitcoin
  • where all those hash tags that are the same end up – I am fairly sure they can connect somehow

 

Young at Heart

Being 40 does not mean being OLD in all caps. In fact, I feel quite young. Immature even. It may seem clichéd, but I feel like life is only just beginning. The first 40 years have laid a foundation and now I am finally getting to the good stuff.

In saying that, I do find myself doing ‘old people things’. I wrote a letter to the paper the other day. I have only ever used hash tags as an attempt at wit or irony, not ‘properly’. Like my late grandmother who never attempted to learn computers, I think Bitcoin has passed me by. Last week, I found myself agreeing with another 40-year-old friend who was complaining about millennials.

And I have absolutely no idea what any of the emojis are supposed to mean.

40 Blog Post - Emojis

 

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