All in good time

It hasn’t been plain sailing in the BSD household recently, and I’m squarely to blame.

Youngest cub has made the quantum leap to being potty trained. A real milestone in the transition from toddler to child. I’m ever so proud of him; he even goes to the bathroom standing up, after observing daddy in some uncomfortably candid moments.

I was conscious of this milestone as he entered the schooling system last September. His birthday is in late August and he had only just turned 4. Personally, I think that this is too young to enter full-time education, but such is life. I wanted him to be dry by the time he entered the system.

There is no shortage of reading out there with useful hints and tips. I knew what I wanted to achieve and set about doing it. I had the appropriate discussions with him and we spoke about what we would do to achieve it. We were both quite excited.

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At first, things went quite well. He would excitedly run up to my room in the morning to proclaim his dry night. Great success!

He then had a couple of slip ups, but this was fine; the road to success is rarely a straight one. We could handle it. Bed changed, cub washed, no harm done; on with our day.

We then had a frequency shift; the dry days were beginning to lose out to the wet days. As we awoke in the morning, the disappointment in his voice was heartbreaking. More cuddles and reassurances that this was okay and that he would get it in time were administered.

I changed tactics slightly. Both cubs usually bedded down with a bottle of water to combat nighttime thirst. This stopped. We also watched the volumes of drink that we consumed in the pre-bedtime hour. This was restricted too.

It didn’t help.

We then tried a reward system. The star system that was already established was utilised. A star would be rewarded for more dry nights than wet nights.

This was wrong.

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Things seemed to be getting worse.

Not only were we experiencing more wet nights but his skin also began to suffer. He’d clearly been peeing early in the night and then sleeping in it. The damage was visible.

He was also getting damaged inside with feelings of regret and shame of not doing as was expected of him.

I had a paradigm shift.

It  followed some soul-searching on my part and answering a few questions.

  • Why were we doing this?
  • Who would benefit?
  • How was it making him feel?
  • How was it making me feel?

The answers, were quite damming.

  • We were doing this because I had decided that we should do it.
  • Whilst we would both benefit, primarily I would.
  • It was clearly making him feel bad; he was neither dry nor earning rewards.
  • This made me feel bad.

Time for a change.

worm s eye view photography of stop signage
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We stopped. We had another chat and more importantly we re-bonded.

This took the form of a huge cuddle whilst watching his favourite film and eating popcorn. Eldest wasn’t left out; she got under one arm (and near the popcorn). I could, quite literally feel us all renergising in each other’s company.

There were some big learning points here and they were all for me.

I realised that I had let outside influences decide on what was best for my cub, rather than let him tell me.

Please understand, I don’t mean that I expected a 4-year-old to vocalise what he wanted; our children tell us things in so many other ways. We, as adults have to shut out the external noise and truly listen to what they are ‘saying’.

I was guilty of comparing him to his sister, to his classmates, to books e.t.c and in doing so, I ignored the only one I should’ve really listened to; him.

Attaching desired behaviour to a reward system is an age-old methodology but I applied it incorrectly. I’m still not sure I should have applied it at all.

He’s fine now. His skin shows no traces and he’s his usual, cheeky self. He’s back in the training pants for bed as the realisation that he is a deep sleeper will most likely mean that he takes a little longer to get dry.

I have every confidence that he will be; all in good time.

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BSD

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Editing Scripts

After a rather successful half-term holiday break, I haven’t seen the cubs for a few days. They’re with me for the next four days but I’ve missed them terribly.

I pick them up from after-school club on what was for me a testing day at work. All stresses fell away after I saw them. Youngest came out first, looking thoroughly fed up; 50% of him seemed to consist of tomato soup, the folly of a white, cotton school top.

Driving home, eldest gives me the full rundown of events from the last time we saw each other.

Someone has used the F word. One of her classmates.

My ears prick up.

‘I told her that I was going to tell the teachers; she begged me not to then started to cry!’

My inner psychologist spiked.

‘It was fake tears though, she kept looking to see if I was looking!’

So what did you do?

‘I told the teachers, but then she cried and they let her off. Then she told other people that I had said it and I AM SO ANNOYED!’

Why?

‘Because she never got punished! Then mummy text her mummy and they had a row!’

I smiled ever so slightly, but probably wider than I realised.

I dig deep for a response. I immediately think of the different ways in which my ex and I have approached this situation. For me, this situation does not require a knee-jerk response. There aren’t many situations in life that do.

What I felt was an appropriate response, was to help her deal with such situations when they happen again. I wanted to give her a script that she could call upon in future. I could fix the situation, but how would that benefit her?

I immediately thought of the differences in upbringing between my ex and I, and how this was playing out in our own parenting.

After listening to her, we picked apart the interaction, adding a rationale to each step.

  • She swore – yep, some people do but not at your age. It makes you look bad.
  • She cried to get out of trouble – that happens a lot. It the response of someone who won’t take responsibility for their actions.
  • I got really angry – interesting response; you’re probably holding others to your own standards and values, then getting frustrated when they don’t meet them. That’s a fast track to heartache.
  • I want to see what she does tomorrow – why? she’s already shown you who she is.

She reflected.

I interjected.

You’re going to come up against people like her all your life. If you let them get under your skin, they’ll ruin your day whilst they enjoy theirs. Learn to blank them out and avoid them.

She went deeper.

‘So mummy texting her mum was wrong?’

I wouldn’t say it was wrong, but look at the motivation. We’re both trying to protect you; just in different ways. Both are done out of love.

I could see her brain ticking over. Then she shook her head.

‘I think I’ll avoid her for a little while daddy’

Mission accomplished

BSD

5 Life skills; courage

Dictionary

The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery’ Oxforddictionaries.com

 

Adult perspective


One of my all-time, favourite songs has a chorus line as follows; ” If I sense danger; I’ll dust my heart down and carry on ” Sense of Danger by Presence.

I do not own the rights to this song.

This song has gotten me through so much in the past…

The greatest attribute, in my opinion is courage. Without it, there would be no challenge; no breakthrough and no progress. A lack of courage has led to some of humanity’s darkest periods and an abundance of courage has returned light where there was none.

Parent perspective

As a dad, I want the cubs to have the courage to:

  • Experiment
  • Tell the truth/speak up
  • Admit when you’re wrong
  • Admit when you’re scared.

I sometimes despair at helicopter parents. Watching them at the play park, following their children around various apparatus, waiting to catch them after the inevitable fall. I also sympathise, as I’ve been there.

I stopped when I recognised that in doing so, we cause a great deal of harm. Courage is learned in climbing trees, rope swings into summer rivers and monkey bars with impossible spans. As kids ourselves, we fell, almost drowned and learned about the importance of momentum and strength. We recognise now, that the reward lies in overcoming those fears.

Lies come from a lack of courage to tell the truth. I watch people lie all the time and it has to be one of the things that affects me the greatest, especially when it’s an obvious lie. More often than not, it takes real courage to tell the truth.

As we mature, what scares us changes. It’s easy to dismiss the fears of a child because we have forgotten our own childhood fears but, the gap in the monkey bars represents a lot. As an adult admitting fear can be liberating.

Child’s perspective

Limits are for pushing; it’s in our nature. That tree absolutely needs to be climbed and those bars aren’t that far apart. Others have climbed, swum and swung before us; someone was the first…

In a world where young voices are often lost, children should be encouraged to speak up. They need to know that how they feel is important, and that their views should be considered. Shouting them down or scorn will only take their future voice away.

For a child, truth and lies are legitimised at an early age. The parental response to either will decide which they prefer. If a child can ‘get away with’ an untruth, or gain advantage from it, they may be inclined to repeat the behaviour.

I positively reinforce the truth by reducing the consequences when the cubs are straight with me. I’m less tolerant of lies. There are no ‘little lies’ or ‘white lies’, it’s a binary choice.

I try to address their fears rather than ridicule them. It is a delicate act to which I try to apply science and reasoning. I encourage them to tell me what they’re scared of and emote their feelings. Once they do this, I can add a counter argument; a script, that once becomes reinforced, they’ll be able to complete themselves.

Conclusion

Courage takes so many forms in our adult life but as with most values, what is gathered and repeated in the formative years will most likely be who we become.

Positive and negative reinforcement will constantly shape their development; as parents, what we do will often have more of an effect over what we say, as you cannot hide who you are.

BSD


5 Life skills; prologue.

I’d like to give you a short preview of my 5 week series on the life skills I’m trying to impart into my cubs.

I’ve thought long and hard about this one and reflected on their upbringing so far. Eldest cub, for the most part was raised in a semi-stable home and relationship, although the signs that her mother and I weren’t going to make it were already there.

Her formative years were moulded by the dual influences of both parents, even though I worked long hours and my partner stayed at home. Bonds were formed and taught values were reinforced in behaviours I showed daily.

The co-parenting paradigm shifts things onto a more challenging footing, and my son is now away from the dual influences of both parents. It’s difficult to know what effect this is having on his development as you have to allow for individuality in behavioural differences. I doubt that it’s as straight forwards as nature or nurture.

This whole piece wasn’t straight-forwards.

Having the cub’s best intentions in mind, I want to give them the best start in life that I possibly could, without overlooking their childhood by extolling vicarious values. I tried to be objective, with a topic that is hugely subjective, and I struggled to get the list down to 5 life skills. It changed numerous times.

My list may differ from that of others and I’d be keen to see how mine measures up, but when I reflect on the times that I might have stumbled in life, these are the skills that got me to my feet again.

  • Courage
  • Self-worth
  • Determination/fortitude
  • Kindness
  • Humility.

Within each of these 5, I will attempt to explain why I think that the skill is vital, from the perspective of both an adult and a child. I will also attempt to explain how I teach this skill and then reinforce it in my own behaviour.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts and as always, I’d love to interact with you and have a discussion.

Happy New Year!

BSD

Peace; Health; Happiness.


As 2018 draws to a close, I’m moving into reflection mode.

So much has happened since the start of the year; some things I’ve enjoyed sharing, others I’ve kept a little closer to my chest. I like to get things near to completion before I publisice them to the world these days. It’s a response to my prior habit of announcing my intentions too early..

I feel I’ve grown; a lot. I’ve watched my cubs grow too, as I’ve continued to nurture their development the best way that I can.

I’ve matured into the co-parenting role too. On reflection, this wasn’t the easiest of years in that respect. The challenges that I have faced crescendoed to such a frustrating level that I genuinely feared for my health at the start of this month. That’s behind me as thankfully, self-care kicked in.

Bonds of words have been broken, so I’ve drawn a line in the sand. The final straw being Christmas Day. The cubs were blessed with gifts. Not so much with attention. That left me frustrated but determined, that it will not happen again.

For me, the power of relection is to take the opportunity to learn. It isn’t about regret, as life is too beautiful for that. I promise you, if you search hard enough, there is a positive message in every single negative event in your history. It’s your job to recognise and capitalise on it.

I am so blessed that simply focussing on what is in my life is enough to make me smile out loud.

The cubs have their issues, but none are insurmountable. Plans are in place to deal with those.

2019

  • Carry on with the plans, unabbaited. They’re progressing nicely, but require concentration and patience.
  • Build better relationships based on my values, mutual benefit and reciprocity.
  • Focus on my health. Healthy eating, exercixe, good food, fresh air and relaxation.
  • Kill procrastination; my greatest foe.

For the cubs

Reflecting, has got me reflecting. What do I want to teach my children? what do I want them to learn?

I narrowed it down to 5 life skills. I’m going to discuss one every week from the 5th January. I hope you enjoy them.

Here’s to 2019 folks; stay true to your dreams!

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BSD

T’was the fight before Christmas..

I think my heads right; I think I can write; let’s see.

Co-parenting is a challenge. I’ve written as much before. If you’re lucky enough not to be in such an arrangement, imagine trying to share something you love with someone you don’t. That pretty much sums it up.

You don’t see eye to eye becuase if you did, things would’ve worked out between you. Instead, you agree to come to an agreement over the most precious things in your life. Whilst not ideal, when it works, it works.

But what about when it doesn’t..

I had the rug pulled from under me recently which has caused me to take action. A text that told me Christmas plans were changing, as the cubs had asked for them to. It was due to be with me this year, mother invited of course. The text was to ‘run the idea past me’.

My objection by reply, was met by an ultimatum; that if all future Christmases were to be at hers then that’s how things will be. But I was welcome to join them. All heart.

As an individual, I like to respond, not to react. I try to distance myself from a knee-jerk, even with something as emotive as this. These are my children too and we have an arrangement; alternate Christmasses, with the other partner invited.

Here’s the connundrum; the weight of leverage of a loaded statement such as ‘it’s what they want’ should not be underestimated. However, when co-parenting, a child’s comments should not be weaponised. I think that this was the element that got to me the most.

Children in these arrangements will say things about the absent parent with some frequency but I feel that it is the present parent’s job to reinforce the position of the absent parent, in order to maintain some semblance of balance.

Perhaps I was niave.

What I noticed, was that as I distanced myself from the text, my physiology changed. I found myself at work, sitting at my desk but one million miles away. I had neck pain, which I realised had come from clenching my jaw so hard. I was holding my breath for long periods. Most worryingly, I had chest pain that lasted for about two days.

Immediately I took action and instigated some self-care.

Deep breathing was step one, follwed by visualisation. Every breath, as it went in, relaxed a muscle. Clean air worked into the tissues and removed the toxins.

The chest pains stopped.

I exercised more. Upped my cardio in order to become correctly fatigued, through excersion, rather than through stress. I took back control of my biggest asset; me.

I have drawn a line in the sand.

I deceided that if I did not take action now, I would forever be at the mercy of the another person. I took the decision to formalise arrangements. It wasn’t an easy decision and it’s far from perfect timing. In fact, Christmas funds have been diverted into mediation. But a single, deciding point kept coming back to me;

If not now, when?

BSD

A weekend to remember

The centenary of armistice is upon us.

I write this 100 years to the day, of the end of the great war. The war to end all wars. From an early age I was brought up to respect the 11th day of the 11th month. It’s importance indelible in my memory as my parents gently introduced me to the futility of the human condition.

I’ve eased the cubs into some sort of recognition of events, sparing them the sheer volume of life lost not just in the great war, but in the following war and subsequent conflicts. There’s so much to unravel in there but there’s no rush.

Eldest, at 8 year’s old has a good understanding. The school has done a good job there. For her part, she took things into her own hands when she began to take on in-depth, self learning about Mary Seacole. She became inspired.

On friday, four of the local schools came together to pay their respects at the principal church in our town. It’s a majestic, ornate building, that I had only ever driven past. It dates back to the time of the civil war and the Reverend delighted the gathered children with a story of how a cannon had been placed atop the church to fire upon a nearby castle. Collective gasps echoed.

He then pointed out that the ceiling was adorned with symbols from the Islamic faith, delighting in his house of worship’s multi-cultural appeal.

The school children were given pride of place in the front pews duly shepherded by respective teachers. They were bursting with energy

Parents were welcomed and as I had the day off, I wouldn’t have dreamed of being anywhere else. Of course, I broke protocol, went over and made sure that she knew I was in attendance, before taking my seat at the back.

A headteacher took the reigns and began proceedings. Calling the schools up one by one, the children paid their respects in different ways.

Cub’s class got up and expressed themselves, to music. With the odd monologue thrown in for good measure. One soliloquy punctuated the passing of a giant poppy and they were done. I was up and applauding; Eldest cub delivered her lines beautifully and projected across the 400 strong audience, wearing and wielding her poppy with pride.


Remembrance Sunday

Eldest’s Brownie Pack has been asked to lead a procession from the local church to the war memorial.

The pack, church and memorial are all in the village where we used to live and next door to the cub’s school. We awoke early to make sure they were both properly fed and looking smart.

Daddy made the effort too, with very shiny shoes.

The Brownies had the first two rows; the Scouts on the opposite side. The church, more compact than friday’s affair but full nonetheless. I had my concerns about youngest cub. Whilst he’s lively, he’s also quite well-behaved; but I had concerns about the two minute’s silence.

As it transpired, I did my boy a disservice.

A smartly turned out gentleman behind us, with his equally attired family walked forwards to read the names of local servicemen who had passed in both conflicts. His wife kept hold of twin girls, aged about 5.

As dad began to read, the girls began to giggle. Then chuckle; then laugh aloud. Mum tried her best to quiet them but they were having none of it. Dad pressed on, his disdain etched on his face.

Youngest cub, standing on the pew to oversee proceedings turned to look at them, gave a long stare, before looking at me and shaking his head. Mum ushered the girls out of the church.

A second of judgement rushed into my head, before I remembered where I was and dismissed it.

The moment was upon us. The last post played and as the bugle fell silent, so did the congregation.

Youngest became a statue, to the point that he physically jumped when the bugle broke the silence. I gave him a big hug and kissed his forehead.


We walked the short distance to the local memorial. Youngest couldn’t believe his luck as we got to walk down the middle of the road, hand un-held. We are spoilt by the weather. It’s unseasonably warm and it’s bright. Earlier, the heavens had opened.

Having young children, we took pride of place near the front. We read another short sermon before the last post played again. This time, youngest smiled and nodded at me, showing that he knew what to do.

Giggles breakout. It’s the usual suspects. Their dad is glaring..

The bugle blows on.

Brown Owl had given youngest a crucifix with a poppy on it to place on the memorial. We watch everyone else before taking our turn. We begin well but the sense of occasion begins to get to him. He clings to my leg and buries his head in my thigh.

We press on, to compassionate sighs from the crowd and cameras snapping. He begins to fold, but I steady his had, and we place the crucifix together. A respectful departure from the memorial is nigh on impossible with the level of entanglement but we give it a go.

As the service ends and we depart, several couples say how proud I should be of my children.

I think my face said it all.

hand heart

Ps, extra stars all round, chocolate and a brief spell in the park showed my appreciation.

BSD