Our paintbrushes.

Yesterday I may have been vacuuming up a mess, half the playground brought inside in a pair of shoes mess, and I may or may not have uttered a sigh and some grunts of exasperation.

A couple of hours later the four year old was trying to do something and was having difficulties and I heard the same exact sigh and grunts of exasperation that I may or may not have uttered only hours earlier.

Little sponges.

All the time.

Our children – big and small – are sponges.

I was thinking about this sponge business and thinking about how I need to reign in my silly displays of frustration, and then I was struck by a memory of something that happened a while ago.

Some time ago I was present when a friend of mine was with her Mother, and the Mum kept making remarks about the Mum’s weight.  My friend was in her twenties – but even at this age, I could see her crumble at the sound of these remarks.  You see the remarks weren’t even aimed at the daughter – they were a grown woman’s observation of herself, but spoken in her daughter’s presence, and in my presence, they made us feel……weird.  Awkward.  Unsure of where to take the conversation.  Unsure of what our response should be.  Those incidents – not a one-off event – but over a period of time – made me vow to myself that I wouldn’t make any judgement calls on my appearance in front of my children, and in front of their peers.  Especially if I happened to have any girls.  As it turns out we’ve been blessed with three amazing BOYS – but my stance remains firm – I won’t talk negatively about my appearance in front of my children.  Ever.  Because of how it made my friend and I feel, when we heard my friend’s fifty-something year old Mother talk about her appearance.

Sponges.  Our kids are sponges.

Now I know there are Mums and Dads out there who do have real issues with their own appearance and struggle daily with accepting their particular ‘package’.

Pregnancy changes your body in ways that are, quite simply, irreversible.  Blokes your bodies don’t change as a result of childbirth – but you’re often on the receiving end of the struggle to adjust to these changes and the ‘I have NOTHING to wear that fits me’ situations…..

Ageing changes our bodies.  Yep.  That ole Father Time has a lot to answer for.

If you’re having a hard time accepting what you look like, or how pregnancy has changed your outer shell, then please, can I encourage you to read the following two blog pieces I read that prompted me to focus on this issue?  Can I encourage you to have a go at attempting to be at peace with your body?  And can I encourage you to avoid projecting your negative feelings onto your kids?  There’s a whole bunch of junk that comes out of that, and nothing positive.

 

The first blog piece is by Emily Wierenga.  She’s a former anorexic and writes powerfully, from experience and gives really great advice for this journey we need to walk.   The blog piece can be found here.

 

The second blog that I’d love you to read is by Glennon Doyle Melton, who blogs under the name Momastery.  ‘Your body is not your masterpiece, your life is’.  Powerful words – and a good dose of reality that I think we all need.  The piece can be found here.

Do yourself a favour, and do your kids a favour…..remind yourself of these truths today….

‘Your body is not your offering. It’s just a really amazing instrument which you can use to create your offering each day. Don’t curse your paintbrush. Don’t sit in a corner wishing you had a different paintbrush. You’re wasting time. You’ve got the one you got. Be grateful, because without it you’d have nothing with which to paint your life’s work.’ – Momastery

If this accepting of yourself, of your outer shell, is something you struggle with, your partner struggles with, your sister or your cousin or your Mother or your daughter……point them in the direction of these links…..

And remember, as I am learning…..our children…..are little sponges.  Always.

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The cycle of grime?

Today would be a fantastic day to visit me.  I tell ya – my floors are sparkling clean, the toilet gleams, my oven shines, and even my linen cupboard is neat and tidy.

Now we’re not messy slobs, but on a normal day there isn’t quite this level of cleanliness in my house…not with my three boys.

But today we were inspected!  In nearly fifteen years of marriage and nearly fifteen years of renting, this was the first time we’ve ever had a house inspection.  We’ve either had very lazy landlords in the past, or very trusting landlords…….Anyway here in Australia it is customary for property managers to do inspections every three or four months.  Our property manager was happy with our place and we ‘passed’.  Whew.  But I learnt an interesting thing today.  When you leave a rental property here the expectation is that the house only needs to be in the condition that it was in when you began the lease.  When you take over a lease you have to fill out an entry report.  In that report you write down every mark on a wall, every bit of mould, every patch of weeds you see.  And when you leave……those same allowances are there with the expectation that there is no need to improve on them.  For us – the reality of that is – when we took over the lease here, our bathroom ceiling was absolutely covered in mould.  It totally grossed me out.  With a bit of elbow grease and a good cleaning product we managed to clean the sucker up – and now there is no mould there.  I asked the property manager about that, and she said the mould was allowed to be present when we took over the lease because it had been there when the previous tenants took over their lease.

The cycle of grime.

That’s the reality of it.  If we hadn’t said enough is enough, and that mould ain’t healthy, and that mould ain’t pretty……well then that there mould could have stayed put until we leave this here property.  And that would have been ok, legally.

But, gross.  Right?

This whole entry report/ entry condition being ok for exit condition……while it kinda safeguards the tenant against any wear and tear already present in the property, it also seems to be the easy road to travel down.  I can see how in older homes the grime could just grow by levels…..gardens could become very dishevelled…and so on.

We couldn’t stand to live in the grime we originally found our rental in……I remember crying as I washed down the breezeway and as I swept up mounds and mounds of dog hair and gecko and cockroach poop.  For us, we had to make a stand against the cycle of grime we found.

I was thinking about this whole cycle thing this afternoon, and was struck with the thought that sometimes that is what this parenting gig is like.  We carry on, carrying on, doing as we have always done…..because a.  it may be what our own parents did or b.  it works for us or c. it is all we know to do.  And sometimes that is just fine…..but like a rental house that never gets improved upon, even when new people come and go……if we don’t stop and look at our actions and reactions and if we don’t sometimes mix it up or look for a new and better way of dealing with things……then we’re going to get stuck with the same results, with very little room for improvement.

It takes time and energy and effort to clean a house properly.  It takes getting ourselves dirty, and it takes getting down on our hands and knees sometimes.  It takes reaching into the dark and unseen places.  It takes sheer will power.  And so does parenting – intentional parenting.

So what can we as parents do, to help us upskill ourselves?  How can we not settle for the ‘cycle of grime’?

We can

* attend parenting seminars (Triple P parenting seems to be a big thing here in Brisbane).

*  read books – from a wide variety of authors and experts

*  read blogs – read shared experiences

*  ask other Mums and Dads the hard questions – especially to those who are in the same stage as us and those who have been in the stages we are.

*  parenting DVDs – at the moment a small group I’m in is going through a parenting course called ‘Parenting your kids on Purpose’, I can highly recommend it.

*  share your struggles, your triumphs and successes with your friends.  I guarantee the minute you open up with a concern, there will be others in your circle of friends going through a very similar or exact same thing as you.

I know it is humbling to ask for help – it takes guts to acknowledge a situation when you are out of your depth, but I’m learning that’s ok.

No-one has all the answers, and together is so much better.  Together we’re just a bit more clued up.

The cycle of grime is not a good thing for rental houses – even if it is ‘allowed’……and the cycle of parenting without upskilling oneself or looking for new ideas and asking for help is not a good thing for families – even if it is ‘allowed’.

How do you intentionally upskill yourself, when it comes to parenting issues?

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