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

Zombie Blog Post - Eloise in Soft Toys

How Playing Zombies is Great for Kids

Zombie Blog Post - Zombie Sign

Kindy Zombie

The teacher at our local kindergarten sometimes turns into a zombie. At first, I was a little wary of her transforming into the undead on occasion. But after she reverted to her normal self and explained what the zombie game was all about, I thought it was too brilliant not to share.

Not only did she explain how the zombie game evolved, but no less than a dozen learning outcomes from it. Yes, learning outcomes from turning into a zombie. As I said: brilliant.

 

Screens

As parents, we are always trying to find ways to amuse our tiny humans. If your children are anything like mine, they have tons and tons of toys, books and games that just sit around gathering dust. More often than I would care to admit, a screen is placed in front of them.

This doesn’t sit well with how I would like to be as a parent. I don’t want to have lots of stuff, especially if it is not getting used. I don’t want my kids to be as addicted to a screen as I am to my phone. I want them to run around, be active, and if they are bored, to use their creativity and imagination to make up a game to play.

 

Screams

The zombie game is a no cost, active, screen-free game that not only kids love, but also actually helps their mental and physical development in a myriad of ways.

Here is how it goes down at the local kindy, but any variant in your household will make for a memorable game.

The kids request the teacher to play ‘Zombies’. Usually a start time is negotiated and the kids understand they will have to wait until after morning tea, for example. At the start of the game, the teacher drinks ‘Zombie juice’ (a cup of water) and when it is finished she is transformed into the undead. The teacher-zombie starts growling and crashing all over the play area and the children run squealing into hiding places.

If the zombie catches anyone, the child is grabbed and tumbled onto the big play mat. The zombie searches for its next victim and the last (gently) roughed up child runs off giggling, but slowly, as he usually wants the zombie to catch him. This goes on for a while until the Zombie Juice wears off. Then suddenly the kids turn into zombies and chase after the teacher and a bit of rough and tumble play occurs. If any of the kids look too scared the zombie doesn’t go near to them during the game.

 

How the Zombie Game Helps Kids

Other than the zero cost and no screens, there are many other benefits from playing a zombie game. Here are just some ways it helps kids:

  • Patience – kids have to wait until it is time for the zombie game to start
  • Imaginative Play – with no toys
  • Exercise – running around
  • Decision making – finding new and inventive places to hide
  • Becoming comfortable in their bodies – through rough and tumble play
  • Community – feel like part of a group as both ‘victims’ and ‘zombies’
  • Predictability – understand the start, middle and end of a game
  • Rules – learn the rules of a game
  • Risk taking – being daring in an appropriate and safe environment
  • Understanding status – gaining insight as to who is the zombie (and everything that entails) at different points in the game
  • Role playing – using make believe to role play
  • Confidence – through approaching the ‘scary’ zombie
  • Courage – for the kids who don’t want to play, some courage is gained from watching the game
  • And last, but definitely not least – FUN! Fun is the most important part of how young children learn.

 

Zombie Inspiration

Sometimes I do succeed in avoiding a screen solution. The zombie game has inspired me. We play hide and seek a lot. We think up different types of races we can compete in (hopping, crawling etc.). As it is winter here, making huts out of cushions, blankets and old towels in the lounge is a favorite game on these long, rainy days. Sometimes we grab one of the old towels off the hut, the kids lie down on it and I drag them up and down the hallway. We bury each other in a pile of soft toys. And sometimes, when the kids are least expecting it, I turn into a zombie.

I would love to hear about your no cost, screen-free games. Comment below.

Zombie Blog Post - Eloise in Soft Toys

 

 

Spectacularly Bad Parenting Advice Blog Post - Buffet

Spectacularly Bad Parenting Advice

Spectacularly Bad Parenting Advice Blog Post - Buffet

Buffet Parenting

The amount of spectacularly bad parenting advice out there is astonishing. When I was pregnant with my first child and then a mother of a tiny baby, I would carefully gobble up any morsel of parenting advice. A lot of the time, I would greedily devour most of what I read or was told as I was mostly floundering in bewilderment and needed all the help I could get.

Now, five years on, I am not as judicious. I readily dismiss opinion masquerading as fact, parenting articles that exude too much confidence, and advice that is, quite simply, terrible.

This is actually an essential part of the parenting journey. Rejecting the vast majority of parenting advice attunes you to what is right and essential for your family. If you don’t hone this skill you will sink in a sort of guidance quicksand, overwhelmed with conflicting and confusing advice.

Of course, some recommendations are excellent and I still love reading the odd parenting manual. Now I know when to apply it and when to laugh at it. Here are three types of advice I especially dislike…

 

The Impossible

Spectacularly bad parenting advice includes instructions that are impossible to follow, as they are too general. For instance, that you should only have a handful of rules for your kids, such as don’t hurt other people or things. Period. This is supposed to be helpful as it is less to remember but sweeping policy like this goes out the window when you find your toddler jumping on your bed with muddy shoes on. Which rule have they broken? The answer is who cares! JUST GET OFF THE BED!

Sometimes what you are told is impossible due to its impracticality. ‘Show integrity to your kids at all times’ sounds great in theory, but I don’t return the supermarket trolley to the right place if it is raining, and I certainly don’t floss every night, so that advice loses its credibility as soon as it is uttered.

Once you work out and embrace who you are as a parent, some advice, although sound, is impossible to adhere to. I am unapologetically a ‘helicopter’ parent. This is purported as bad but I don’t care. I would rather hover and jump in when needed than step away and not be there to catch them when they fall.

 

My Way or the Highway

Another subset of spectacularly bad parenting advice is in the form of ‘this is the ONLY method or the BEST way. I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me that what I am doing is wrong, then I will dig my heels in and firmly maintain my position.

There is almost nothing in raising children that could be considered the only, right way and thinking there is only creates a lot of guilt. I think some of this guilt stems from the fact that what may be good for our situation – using disposable diapers for instance – may not be good for the world at large.

The next time someone tells you something that starts with ‘you must’ or ‘the best way is’ ignore it straight away. Crying, sleeping, feeding, carrying, disciplining and playing all have a myriad of good options. Choose one you like. Change it as required. Try not to feel too guilty.

 

Good Enough Parenting

The last item of spectacularly bad parenting advice is that good enough parenting, is, well, good enough. I know that this advice is supposed to help busy, tired, stressed out parents feel better. But we are all busy, tired and stressed on a daily basis! Sure, sometimes ‘good enough’ is fine, but we need to try and live to a higher standard. My fear is that ‘good enough parenting’ will become the norm all of the time.

I want my kids to be great, strive to be the best they can be, fail and get back up and then grow some more and contribute to the world. I want them to be remarkable, courageous, resilient. And to do that, I can’t be merely ‘good enough’. I need to push myself to be great person AND parent. After all, how will my children reach their potential if they don’t see me trying to reach mine?

Good enough parenting is the bottom rung of the ladder, it is treading water, it is only getting to the half way line. It is an excuse. A story we tell ourselves that allows us to live in our comfort zone when inside all of us is a desire to be amazing.

How this looks will be different for all of us, but we all know deep down when we reside in ‘good enough’. Yes, pushing ourselves is exhausting, but it is the good type of tired where we have used our strengths reach for the stars and maybe, just maybe, touched the moon instead.

 

Fine Dining Parenting

Having kids has given me a huge gift of knowing myself better as a parent and a person. I can now easily discern when parenting advice resonates with me and when it is spectacularly bad. You may or may not agree with me on the above points, but that you have a strong opinion about what is right for you and your family is what is important. Now, taking parenting advice becomes more like fine dining than eating at a buffet.

Spectacularly Bad Parenting Advice Blog Post - Fine Dining