What is mum and dad to the young ones?

This is a question I often wonder based on my first child’s use of mum and dad. When our first one was first using the words she quite accurately proclaimed me to be dad and my wife to be mum. At the time her world consisted of mum looking after her at home while dad worked. There was a clear concept of what mum and dad meant. When she was around one and a half we put her into child care and mum started working a night job. When this happened I was the primary carer making sure she got up early had breakfast took her to childcare picked her up from childcare made sure she had dinner, a bath and got to bed early. In this time the concepts were turned on their head. Our little one started calling me mum and my wife dad. Quite logically I might add. For her mum looks after the baby and dad works. Since I was looking after her I became mum.

The situation has changed again since then. Our little ones are no longer in child care and my wife isn’t working. It will probably change again but for now that is the situation. I am back to being dad or papa and my wife is back to being mum or mama. Our little one’s favourite game at the moment is telling stories using lego block characters. Most of them centre around a mum figure who is also holding a crying baby character. The baby is usually scared of everything. She also often refers to herself as mumma for her anpanman doll. This usually involves carrying anpanman, giving him a piggyback, singing lullaby songs and putting anpanman to sleep. Another game we play is pretending that our hands are characters. Since my hands are bigger than hers they always become mumma or pappa. She will often say mumma or pappa and have our hands hug. It’s very cute. She will also often run away from the pappa character squealing.

What does all this say about what mum and dad means to her? I’m not really sure. She never calls herself pappa or dad when she is role-playing which could mean she knows the concept is based on gender. That or the concept of the primary carer has remained for her and perhaps if i go back to be the main person she sees she’ll go back to calling me mum. I’d be interested to see if that is the case but I’d better keep on working.

Moving house when you have little people

Recently we did a pretty huge move. It wasn’t down the road. It was actually to a different prefecture requiring quite a bit of logistics on our part. We also had to do the whole move with our little ones. So here’s how it went down.

There were a few things i was quite worried about. The biggest one being how the children would take the move. I was sure that the first few months would be nothing but crying and screaming for their old home and life. The main reason I thought this would be the case is the lifestyle we had established. Our eldest made very close friends. Everyday she wanted to play with these friends. While she hasn’t cried much about it. The lose of these friends is evident. Whenever she plays with dolls she often names them after her missing friends. When she sees pictures of them she gets noticeably sad. However she is generally happy in her new surrounding and adapted very quickly. There are two reason I think this has been an easy transition.

  1. children are pretty flexible and adaptable. A new place in a new town isn’t that different to a new house down the road to them.
  2. We repeatedly informed her about the move well ahead of time. I think this actually helped the most. She could easily picture what was going to happen.

As for our littlest one. I think reason one is even more applicable to her. As a one year old, my wife, eldest daughter and I are her world. Where we are she is home.

Overall the move itself  was reasonably painless. This is because we had tonnes of help from our friends and family. This is essential. I don’t think we would have been able to do it without them. In the final few days the friends we made in our little part of Japan took the kids off us while we packed up and cleaned the house. As you could imagine, moving a house with little ones around is a real pain. Their constant need for attention meant packing that could have been done in a day was dragged out to a week or so. Another thing that greatly helped was my wife’s mum staying with us for the final two weeks. She attended to many of the simple day to day stuff allowing us more time to pack, clean and look after the kids.

One day we’ll have to do another move. From this experience I’ve learnt you either need a lot of support or a lot of time. Having both is ideal though.

In the shadow of fatherhood

When i was younger I hated my father. The kind of hate born of love. I suspect that had I been a physically stronger person; eaten properly and worked out, I probably would have attacked him. Although my brother was stronger and he never did so perhaps I wouldn’t have. As a parent now I sometimes feel the shadow of my father creeping over me. When i feel anger, frustration, or rage I can feel my father’s presence. I’m terrified of repeating history. I don’t want to be my father. Those feelings rising up there are my own though, not my fathers. They belong to me. How I decide to act on them is who I am. I am not my father. I wonder if he felt the same way. By all accounts his father was a true terror. Did my father have such doubts? Did he fear that he would be just like his dad when he was raising us kids? As a child I often told him he was just like his dad. That was my vengeance. I wonder now if that hurt him more than I could have imagined.

It is the duty of the next generation to improve on the parenting on the previous. Wouldn’t it be nice to get it right? To raise my children in such a way that they look back and think ‘I want to raise my children the way I was.’

Having a second kid

We have two kids now, one is three this month and the other is going to be one in September. Here are my thoughts on having two kids.

For starters my wife and I decided to have our second kid two years apart from our first. We thought this would be a good gap. Close enough that they’d become friends. At least that’s what we hope will happen. So far it seems to be going well. Our second one adores the first one and is always happy around her. The first one though gets a bit annoyed at the attention especially when she’s trying to read. This leads to our most surprising find; the first one will cry a lot more than the second one. OK, so this may not be entirely accurate. The second one is a baby so she does cry about food and sleep. When the two are interacting though it is the first one that will cry first while the second one looks up at us with an innocent expression. When this happens we usually rule in favour of the first one. We always encourage her to think of an alternative though. Asking her to find something our second one can play with. She’s generally pretty good at this.

One thing that we’ve found really helps our home life with the two is focusing more on the first one. This eliminates one of the biggest troubles with having two kids, jealousy. Our first one still gets a little jealous but generally she doesn’t because we give her a lot of attention. When I come home I hug her first then the second one. This way she knows she’s still important to us. It also has a carry on effect. Our first one will often give our second one hugs and play with her the way we play with her, often much to the second one’s surprise. As a result of prioritizing the first one our second one has developed a good deal of individuality. She can play by herself a lot better than our second one who I must say was a bit spoilt as a baby and requires a lot of attention. She isn’t good at playing by herself.

This brings me to the other thing we’ve learnt. When our first one was a baby I gave her constant attention. Carried her everywhere, played with her all the time. The result, she wants to be carried a lot and played with all the time. It’s a lot of fun but actually we didn’t need to do that. The second one enjoys crawling around on the ground eating everything in sight. I don’t remember our first one doing the same thing.

We’ll probably have a third one in another two years time. Perhaps three years. Our first will be five or six by then. Our second will be two or three. At that stage our second one will probably need the most attention but the first one will probably feel threatened as well. The third will probably be left to their own devices much like the second one is now. It seems to work for her.

Media Addiction and kids

We live in the age of media addiction. Find me a person who isn’t addicted and I’ll show you someone who was born ninety years ago. Whether it’s TV, computers, smart phones we all want it. So what about the next generation? They look to be primed to experience instant media gratification at any time. Thanks to Youtube and smart phones, if you have a whinging child you can just chuck their favourite show on and plant them in front of it. Is this a good thing though?

My first daughter is a media addict despite our best efforts to avoid it. If it was up to her she’d watch her favourite show all day long. When she watches she really watches too. I’m not talking about having it in the background. She is glued to that screen. As a parent you may think that sounds fantastic. What a great babysitter. It’s not though. Three months ago we were having a constant battle about it. She’d beg for one episode of her favourite show. We’d relent. At the end of the show she’d scream and cry for another episode. If we relented again her behaviour and attitude would visibly get worse. It was obvious to us that the more she watched the crankier she got. It made no sense to us to let her watch anything.

Zero tolerance didn’t work. She was cranky about not watching TV and worse after watching it. What to do? Our child is now two and a half. She’s reached the stage where she understands cause and effect reasonably well. It’s such a difference. So we’ve been using media as flat out bribery. We wanted her to go to bed early and get up early mostly because we wanted a break after 9.  We told her if she gets up before 7am she can watch two episodes of Peppa Pig, 5 minutes per episode. Now at about 8.30 she says to us If i go to be now and get up early i can watch Peppa pig. Actually she says it in Japanese which is only four or five words. The next adjustment we wanted was toilet usage. She was going well with her toilet training but suddenly stopped using the toilet in the house. She was fine everywhere else just not in the house. So we made a chart. Every time she used the toilet we’d draw a picture of Anpanman on her chart. When she gets three of them she can watch an episode of Anpanman, 10 minutes. That means she should be able to watch at least one episode a day. On the weekend she gets a free episode of Moomin, 30 minutes. So far it’s worked really well. She says it’s time to finish watching herself and rarely asks for another episode. When she does we don’t relent no matter how cranky she gets. To my wife and I the TV is a babysitter who gives our kids alcohol and cigarettes.

For our second daughter we’re trying for zero exposure to media for her first few years. After all if you don’t get exposed to it you don’t feel the need for it. What does a one year old gain from watching TV? For that matter what does a two year old gain? How about a three year old? Before you say they are experiencing language in use, think about what you are doing when you watch TV. What are your thought processes? If you are anything like me your brain is running purely on cruise control if that. Anyone who’s tried to have a conversation with me while a TV is on can attest to that.

Funny thing about all this is that it makes me feel like such a strict parent. Everything you do for your child though should be factoring it what it is doing for their development. What’s better, her watching TV or her playing with her toys or with one of us? The answer is pretty obvious to me.

active dad

Yesterday i took my daughter to the park. We used to go everyday but with winter that started to tetter off. While there i saw my neighbour with his three girls. One about three the other in grade one and the eldest in grade six. He was running around with them playing tag with a frizbee. Climbing all over the equipment. Being the type of dad I considered myself. whenever his play crossed paths with me he said i’m so tired. Hehad a big grin on his face. In a previous blog i mentioned different types of tiredness. Really there’s only two. There’s tiredness fron,running around playing with your kids and tiredness from not running around playing with your kids. One is satisfying and enjoyable the other isn’t.

Toddlers aren’t too young to help out around the house

Our oldest one is two and a half years old. We’ve been putting her to work around the house. She loves vacuuming and she loves washing the dishes. We’ve even got her cleaning the bath before we use it. The thing is that toddlers want to do this. It’s their instincts. They have reached an age where no only do they want to do everything for themselves they also want to do the things they see you doing. They watch you vacuuming and in their minds cogs and gears are turning. Humans vacuum, I’m a human, I should vacuum. Toddlers want to help out. They want to do what you are doing. Give them a dustbin and broom. Put a vacuum cleaner in their hand. Put them up at the sink with you and show them how to clean the dishes. Have them mix the eggs when making pancakes. Give them toys that replicate things you do. Do these things and be amazed to see your little two year old try. Don’t worry if they can’t do it well. Don’t think it’s menial labour that they don’t want to do. That’s bullshit. Their brains are geared to get them to do what you are doing so they can learn how to be human.You want to clean the house? Do it with your kid. Praise them for it. Guide them through it and reap the rewards.