Saturday, 19 February 2011

integrity, reason, patience and love.

Apologies for the delay! I wrote this a few days ago but it's been a rough week with a sad teething toddler.

(Title from F&P 24).

I read an article today talking about some of the harder aspects of parenting. Among them the one I find hardest is keeping my patience.  I do try to parent with integrity, reason, patience and love. Some phases are easier than others and everyone has their boiling point.

I have a toddler. I have a teething toddler. I have a toddler who's teething and sick. I am Jack's slow descent into insanity.  The poor duckling did sleep well last night but the night before was dreadful for us all. She was begging for 'seep' (sleep) while coughing too hard to drop off. Today she's better but grumpy. My usually happy, singing toddler is, in fact, less than chirpy. Her usually cheerful enough mummy is, not entirely coincidentally, slightly disgruntled too. My personal space has been non existent. My ears have been battered with near constant plaintive sobs of 'Mummy!' for several days now. This too shall pass. Probably when that *insert expletive* canine gets with the plan!

Luckily for us we had a meet up with friends to distract us today. Luckily for me those friends are both mums of toddlers too.  It's wonderful to relax and talk honestly about the areas of parenting I feel I could do better at. I nearly wrote 'my parenting failures' but that's too hard on myself. There has never been a day where her needs have not been met. There have been days where I have been about ready to tear out my own hair though. There have been days when I've caught my breath, so close to screaming or lashing out myself that it's scared me.

I do not condone violence towards children, and while I appreciate that many people feel that smacking is an appropriate part of their parenting arsenal I cannot stomach it in my own house. I know that while I am not a 'bad' person I am also less than perfect and I know my own temper. If I used smacking as a technique it would be through anger and for my benefit, not for hers. It would do far more harm to us both and our relationship than any good that could come from it would justify. It would abuse the power I have over her as her parent, her guardian, the person (along with her father) that she trusts the most, and as someone bigger and stronger than her.  I cannot talk about a testimony of peace while showing my daughter violence and pain as a method of instruction. I also can't expect her to learn peaceful conflict resolution if I'm not demonstrating it.

I've only has nearly 21 months to practice this so it's a work in progress, but here's my approach to remaining calm on tricky days.

  1. Deep breaths. It's amazing how the pause and the extra air can help me to think of a way through the moment that doesn't involve screaming or running away with the circus!
  2. Count to 5. Thinking time is good.
  3. Use that time to think of a different way to phrase requests, if it's a request non compliance that's riving me up the wall. 
  4. Watch my tone of voice. If I sound angry it scares her. If I sound frustrated she gets frustrated. Speaking levelly helps us both feel the moment's under control.
  5. Get down to her level and ask her to look at me. It's scary being small (we all remember it, right?) so being the same size as her and clearly taking her thoughts on board works wonders.
  6. Stop using long words at her! This is another 'rephrase' really, but remembering her age an using words and sentences she can follow. Long rants are for my satisfaction but she can't follow the simple request in the middle if I'm using twelve words where 3 will do.
  7. Step away for a moment if I'm too close to losing it. Make sure she's safe first and that she knows I'll be back when I've done 'x' task (Taking a mug to the kitchen is my fall back).
  8. Cbeebies. A book we haven't read for a while. Painting. Cooking rice crispy cakes. Any fun distraction! 
  9. Apologise when I muck it up. We 'make friends' again and the day gets better.
I'm always looking for people's tips on patient parenting so if you have any more please do share!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

We cannot hope to transfer more than a little of our wisdom to our young people.

(Title quote from Faith and Practice, 22.70. Kenneth C Barnes, 1960)

 What do you teach the baby quaker about religion? We have no creed, no dogma. Our theology is something like a group work and subject to interpretation and personal scrutiny. I'm finding it tricky to know just where to start.

 In our wider family, biological and chosen, we have a huge variety of faiths. Duckling's grandmother was a Jewish quaker. I am a Christian quaker. Mr. Purpleduck is ... he'll let you know! We have Pagan friends, quaker and otherwise. Buddhist friends, quaker and otherwise. Our close circle also contains Atheists, Catholics, Methodists and all kinds of other flavours of Christian denomination, including those with no faith 'home' yet.

Duckling will grow up, hopefully, aware of these and other religions. I hope she will always seek That of God in those around her.  I hope she'll be able to understand the links between religion, faith and spirituality, whatever she makes of them for herself. I hope she will be aware of her own spirituality and I hope she'll find a home in the society from which to do her own searching, as I and her grandmother have done before her. Duckling will have to find her own path.  It can be lonely, but it can be exhilarating. Answers are never just handed to the quaker child. No one in her family or Meeting will ever tell her 'This is what you believe and then everything will be ok'.

So how am I to nurture this small soul's growth? What a huge responsibility! The Meeting shares some of the burden, of course, but right now she's still young enough for the creche rather than the children's meeting, and I'd love to find ways to help her start to navigate quakerism and religion.

A few ideas I have planned, long term;
*Read her stories and mythologies from lots of faiths.
*Teach her about Quaker history, including the cool stories I learnt as a child.
*Make sure she stays connected to the quaker community. It's lonely being a quaker teenager. The link weekends and JYM really were important.
*As in other aspects of our lives, follow her lead. Help her develop her own interests and passions re. social justice, involvement in the meeting. Answer her questions or teach her to seek her own answers.

But short term and specifically what? This is a subject I'll have to come back to many times over the next few years. I can start with simple discussions and stories now. I can talk about how I believe God is lots of different things to different people. I can sing her simple 'religious' songs and mostly I can try to make sure it's a subject that's never too embarrassing to discuss, which is tricky.

The title quote really bought home to me that I cannot hand her a faith. all I can do is share what I know, what I believe to be true and what I'm not sure of and give her the skills to find out more for herself.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The more it snows, tiddly pom.

I was rather smug at my organisational skills last night, so it serves me right that I was completely unprepared for the snow that burst on us on the way back from Duckling's music class! So much for my Girl Guide training. Still, I had a packed lunch made for us and I'd laid out or packed everything we needed but a sippy cup the night before. Go me.

 Mr. Purpleduck took today off since we wanted to watch the Superbowl last night. I lasted till half time (around 1am) and he managed to stay up for the whole thing and still got out of bed in time to join duckling and I at her mini music makers class.  It's lovely when he's home at a time when it's usually just the two of us. I really enjoy seeing him experience her world and watching them interact in settings she's more familiar with than he is. I think he learnt a lot about the anarchy of toddler classes- last time he made it to MMM we were in the baby class. Today there was joining in, lots of laughing, much running around and complete chaos. Duckling happily demonstrated to her Daddy where her nose is, how to do the actions to the songs and how to look out of the train window and make friends by waving and grinning. Important life lessons. Wonderful parenting moments.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

First post!

A new blog! A first post! It's all very exciting. I'm tempted to ramble on, but instead I'll tell you a bit about me and what I plan to do here, as per tradition.

I'm a stay at home mum in Scotland.  I'm a qualified librarian, though with the current cuts it's looking less likely that I'll be able to get back into that field when I go back into the workforce. I'm happily married with one fabulous 20 month old daughter (usually known as 'the duckling') and a husband, Mr. Purpleduck, who's a wonderful photographer.
We live near Edinburgh, and we're Quakers.

It's really hard to find Quaker family and parenting experience and resources, especially from British quaker parents. There are some out there, but having spent many hours looking for guidance, anecdotes and a sympathetic ear on occasion I finally realised that if I'm not part of the solution I'm part of the problem! I don't claim to have any answers, in fact I don't believe there is 'an answer' to any parenting conundrum, but perhaps telling our experiences may make one or two people feel that bit less alone, and that has to make it worth it.

In the interest of transparency I do intend to sign up to put ads on here at some stage but I'll do my level best not to let them intrude. If they get annoying please tell me.

The blog title, 'Think it possible', is a reference to Advices and Queries 17, which ends "Think it possible that you may be mistaken." Well I'm often mistaken! Who isn't? But hopefully I learn from it and take that lesson with me. It's been very important as a parent to be able to do so. I love this idea, and the abbreviation I've used to make the blog title is a small note of hope in a chaotic, wonderful, maddening, exhilarating, challenging, joyful life. Whatever life throws at you, whatever must be done, always think it possible.