The kindness of strangers

Is it just me or does the weather have a real impact on people in this city? For the last week, the sun has been shining down on us Londoners…hallelujah!! I’m almost afraid to talk about it for fear of jinxing it BUT one thing you must know about all Londoners is that they LOVE to talk about the weather.

“Oh it’s such a nice day, isn’t it?”
“Oohh it’s so cold out, I can’t wait to get home this evening”
“This rain is just awful, I can’t wait for the summer!”
“Apparently the weather is going to be nice this weekend, any plans?”
“We had such a mild winter this year, apparently we’re going to have a horrible summer.”

And many, many more. Shop assistants, tube station assistants, random people waiting outside the library, everyone talks about the weather here and since moving to London last year, I find myself doing the same.

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Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to say thank you to the lovely lady and her kind gesture yesterday. Let me set the scene. S and I were hanging out at this open play area place and the weather was so beautiful (the sun was shining down on us), lots of moms and their kids were hanging out and everyone was in a pretty happy mood. There was a little girl eating some dairy lea dunkers and she dropped all her bread sticks. As she started picking them up, S was observing her. I guess he hovered around her wandering what she was eating but then a few seconds later went back to playing. After a few minutes the mom came over to get her and also handed us a new dairy lea dunkers packet saying “Here you go, he can have this, I have lots with me.” To be perfectly honest, I was a little taken aback at first. S wasn’t really hungry, just curious but more than that, we haven’t had many moms walk across a play area to offer us a snack.

I’m sure she’s always as sweet but I’m definitely seeing a change in people in this weather. So Dear London, please try and stick with spring before everyone turns into grumpy sods again!

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We are FAMILY

This is my 100th post! When WordPress reminded me that my last post was my 99th, I was a little taken aback. Sure, many bloggers have written thousands of posts and they post everyday but reaching the 100th mark for me is a milestone ūüôā I wanted to do something special for reaching a century and today happens to be my paternal grandfathers 24 year death anniversary, so what’s a better way than to talk about my family?!

Dada, this post is dedicated to you.

I was 6 when my grandfather passed away but I still remember him vividly. He was blind for 10 years before he passed and so he never actually “saw” me or any of my cousins but he knew who we were. He’d sit in the corner of the kitchen/living area on a big high back chair and he’d often call out my name as I walked into the kitchen. I don’t know how he knew but he did. Since his passing, my grandmother has been the glue that holds our family together. She has 7 children, 18 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren and 2 more on the way (and of course daughter-in-laws, son-in-laws, great daughter-in laws and great-son-in-laws). ¬†Personally I think the great-grandchildren are blessed to still have their great-grandmother around. I had my great-grandmother in my life until just before I turned 18.

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Like¬†all families we bicker, but for the most part we’re a pretty close knit bunch. We have an active family chat on Whatsapp and the London cousins often have a cousins bonding evening out. We share a love (and passion) for food, tea and laughing.

I often hear people say “You can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends.” I’m pretty lucky I got a great pick of both.

So Dada today I want to say we’re all thinking of you, we miss you and when many of¬†us are¬†together tonight, I’m sure you’ll smile down on us as you see the united family you created.

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Love Always,

Your children xx

Raising a child in the 21st century

If like me, you’re raising a child in the 21st century, one of the things that will most probably play a large part in your child’s life is technology. Gone are the days when you could entertain your child with ¬†simple things lying around the house. Now a days children as young as 2 know how to use an Ipad and children can send emails by the age of 5. Last week, I was watching S play on an Ipad when he started closing all the running applications. Even I don’t know how to do that with one of the new Ipads. My not-even-2 year old taught me something.

There’s often a lot of controversy surrounding the use of technology and how much is too much? Many a times I see posts and pictures on Facebook of how children grew up in the 70’s/80’s and 90’s and how it is so different from the way things are now. And while I do love the way I got to grow up and the freedom I had, I myself am a huge fan of modern technology. And when my son sees my head buried in my phone writing an email or a message, how can I then expect him not to be curious about what my phone can do?

Where I think it becomes a problem is when you have children who’s heads are constantly down, playing a game or watching a show. When technology replaces conversation and online gaming replaces outdoor time…fresh air, runs, walks, climbing, monkey bars. I think there’s much to be learnt from playing outdoors and falling and hurting yourself but getting back up again.

Are we, 21st century parents, who were raised with all the freedom, now holding our children back? Are we overprotecting them from life’s natural lessons?

This is something I think all parents today need to think about. As long as it is not raining, S is outdoors everyday. Whether it’s walking in the park, at a playground or hanging out with his cousins in their garden.

Where do you draw the line when it comes to how much technology your child uses vs. natural outdoor play time?

 

Deen City Farm and Riding School

Looking for something different to do with your kids in London? Visit Deen City Farm and Riding School. Before we left for Nigeria a few weeks ago, we visited Deen City Farm. There are many ways to get there. Depending on where you live, I think the easiest would be by tube. We drove there and because of Saturday traffic through London, it took us 90 minutes each way!! On the Northern Line, it is a few minutes walk from either Colliers Wood or South Wimbeldon.

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Deen City Farm is a community project and entrance is free but donating to their cause will help them keep it running. We visited on a Saturday and they had various stalls set up ranging from people selling jams and cupcakes to demonstrations on how to carve out wood. They also sell their locally grown produce and you can find out about their local veg box scheme.

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At the entrance they had a box of different coloured chalk and the kids could just go at it and draw/colour what they liked on the tarmac. At the back they have a caf√©, stables and fields for the animals. We saw horses, lamb, goats, pigs, guinea pigs, rabbits (that looked like Thumper!) and cows. They also grow their own vegetables. It’s a great way to show kids where their food comes from and get them involved in more outdoor projects as they grow up. They have volunteer opportunities, work experience opportunities and holiday programmes.

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He’s a tad young now but I think when he’s older I’ll be sending S to riding school here! I was quite impressed with the community spirit. They had volunteers from what I can only assume is a nearby special needs school and it was refreshing to see everyone being treated equally.

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If you get a chance to visit I highly recommend it, it’s well worth it and will give your children lots to talk about on the drive/tube/bus home!

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Are praise and reward only creating recognition seekers?

I came across this article a few days ago and thought I’d share to see what you guys thought. The main gist of it are the negative effects praise can have on our children. According to the author, the praise and reward system comes down to wanting control over our children. By rewarding, we get them to do what we want. But very often although this may have short term benefits, in the long run it does the child no good as it takes the real reason for doing what they’re doing away. They then do it for the reward, not because they want to.

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Here are some quotes from the article:

“Praise cannot create a personal commitment to “good” behavior or performance. It only creates a commitment to seeking praise.”

“Praise is a reminder that the praiser has power over them. It diminishes the child’s sense of autonomy, and, like a little pat on the head, it keeps them small.”

“Children, just like adults, naturally recoil from being controlled. We all want to grow toward self-determination. Praise can therefore create resistance, since it¬†impinges on a child’s developing sense of autonomy.”

“When children are bribed with rewards for “good” behaviour, they soon learn how to manipulate us by acting the part that is expected of them.”

“Instead of lavishing children with congratulations, it’s better if they focus internally on the pleasure they derive from accomplishment. Children are naturally thirsty to achieve, learn and conquer.”

And the line that really did it for me:

“Children can certainly be made to do what they don’t want or love, by offering them¬†approval, praise or other rewards. But this does not make them happy. Happiness can only¬†be derived from doing what is intrinsically rewarding to us, and this does not require¬†others’ applause. Do we want kids to become reward-addicts, crowd-pleasers, and recognition-seekers, or do we want them to be self-motivated, faithful to themselves,¬†following their own interests? If the latter is true, then the way is not to praise them¬†but to appreciate them.”

You can read the entire article here.

As a mother, I very instinctively find myself praising S. “Good boy” when he does something new or something I’ve asked him to do comes very naturally. But this article was a real eye opener. I’ll still be praising him but I’ll be watching my motives and trying to appreciate his own natural curiosity more.

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Water Baby

Ever since S was born, he has always loved water. He was never one of those new borns¬†who cried every time he had to have a bath or a baby who didn’t like being taken swimming. In fact, quite the opposite. I once put him in the bath just to calm him down and it settled him immediately. He is a total water baby!

When he was 15 months old I started taking him for swimming lessons. I was a little nervous about submerging him initially but when I saw how he coped, it put all my fears to rest. It took him a few times to get the “ready, go…dunk” signal but now he knows when it’s coming.

Yesterday I took him swimming, he was having the time of his life in the baby pool (he could stand) and so was walking around pulling his inflatable toys about. Suddenly some children started splashing near him¬†and S lost his balance and fell forward. My heart was in my mouth and I leaned in to pick him up when suddenly I see him kicking and moving his arms, “swimming” in his own little way to the edge of the pool. PROUD MUMMY MOMENT!! I knew he enjoyed his swimming lessons and of course the water in general but I didn’t realise how much he’d picked up from the 8 classes we went to.

Even after falling in, S didn’t cry or want to get out of the water. In fact he kept bending his knees trying to attempt it again. He never ceases to amaze me!

In my opinion, knowing how to swim is very important and the earlier children learn, the better. It’s one of those abilities you never know when you’ll need, it can be a real life saver!! Drowning is one of the biggest causes of accidental death in young children. Getting into the pool early and often is the key to success when it comes to teaching children how to swim.

It’s also important to have an accredited swimming teacher, especially if your child is young. A few months ago I saw a YouTube video¬†teaching babies between the age of 6-12 months how to turn over in a pool and float on their backs. It’s amazing to watch how such a young baby stays safe in the face of a water accident.

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*Water temperature for a baby should be around 30 degrees.

 

 

 

Being an expat doesn’t make you a brat

I was browsing the web last night when I came across this article.

http://expatchild.com/expat-brats/

As I went through the list of clues, many of them resonated with me. Especially considering myself a “third culture kid” and not really knowing what to say when I’m asked where I am from. But I definitely don’t think of myself as a brat. While I found the article interesting, I think brat was a wrongly used term.

I was born in Monrovia and lived there for 3.5 years. My family then moved to London. When I was 7, we moved to Nigeria. I went to school there for 4 years and at 11 went to boarding school in India and at 14, switched to boarding school in Dublin. I then ended my education studying for my degree in London. At 21 I lived between 3 different countries, working and volunteering with children and in early 2008 I moved to Hong Kong where I have lived for the last 5.5 years. I’d call myself an expat kid (or child of the world) but not really a brat. I was born in Africa, of Indian descent, with a British passport – confusing or what?!

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But, like with most things, I think the way children perceive things is down to their parents. Growing up, for the most part, we had domestic help, drivers, club memberships and I flew before I could walk. But my parents raised me to say please and thank you, even to people working in our home. Our house help were always treated like a part of our family. And if my brother and I were out of line, we were definitely set straight. We were always told, God gave you two hands, use them.

Ofcourse, saying this, there are things that we took for granted. I remember going to the supermarket with a friend once and I started bagging things as I always did, putting all tins together, all fruit and veg together. He soon showed me the error of my ways. I’d always driven to the supermarket or had the shopping done for me. He pointed out that when you were walking home with your groceries, you had to balance the bags out so¬†there was a¬†mix of heavy and light items in each bag. You learn something new everyday, that lesson has stayed with me since.

In my opinion, her list were more “isms”. I would think of a brat as a child with lack of manners, lack of empathy and snobbishness. I don’t think you have to be an expat kid to be a brat and vice versa.

I personally think if you’re lucky enough to be an expat kid, it is a privilege. I have an accepting nature of all cultures, I love to travel and see new places, meet new people. I have friends in almost every part of the world, I can clean and manage my own home if I need to but also appreciate and value the help if it’s there. Given all that, I’d love to raise my¬†son as an expat kid. He’s been to 10 different cities in 19 months, I guess we’re on our way ūüėČ

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What do you think? Were you an expat kid/third culture kid? Do you think it gives you a broader outlook on life and more accepting of different cultures?

 

 

Saying it like it is!

I came across this post by Mother Cusser and she hit the nail on the head with how I feel about fear based parenting.

Here’s an excerpt…you can find the whole article here.

“I know the media scares us. Believe me, I grieve when I hear about those horrible stories of children being taken, hurt or killed. It‚Äôs sick. And, like you, I would do anything to protect my children from such horrors.

But does that mean keep them in a box? Does that mean keeping the umbilical cord firmly connected? Does that mean restricting them to the point that they themselves are too scared to try anything new because of what horrible things might happen??

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

(The truth is more abuse and kidnappings happen by the people we already know and trust, folks. Coaches, family members, priests etc.)

Mark my words. August 27, 2013. I am saying that by age 30, 75% of our generation of children will STILL BE LIVING AT HOME. They will be small minded, fearful, and totally dependent on Mommy and Daddy to make decisions for them and to support them emotionally and financially. They will not have the wherewithal to withstand stress and change, they will not have the self-esteem to make good decisions and they will not have the independent spirit to do what it takes support themselves, let alone a family.

What’s my point?

Let them live NOW.”

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Letting go of our fears, for our children’s sake

I was walking into the park yesterday (we’re making the most of the glorious London summer sunshine) when I heard some kids talking and laughing. I looked around but there was no one there. I saw a big green rectangle wheelie bin and thought “could they be hiding in there?” but then I looked up and realised the voices were coming from up a tree. And I smiled!! It was so nice and refreshing to see 2 children had climbed up a tree and were just hanging out. You don’t see it that often these days.

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If you were an 80s child you most likely played outdoors, came home when it got dark or in time for dinner and had minimal adult supervision. Statistically crime hasn’t changed that much. What has changed is the media’s reaction to crime. The over sensationalising of things that are happening out there. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to keep your kids safe but this fear based parenting, as I see it, hinders children’s independence and self confidence.

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It’s ironic that we grew up with so much independence ourselves and yet we wrap our children in cotton wool, constantly looking over their shoulders, making sure they are not getting hurt or bullied or even dirty in some cases!! And where does all this fear come from? Can we simply blame the media or are we creating it ourselves?

A few years ago I went to a Chinmaya camp in Hong Kong. The Swami’s aim was to help us let go of the fear we build up within ourselves. He let us know that before the end of the camp we’d be walking on burning hot coal. To say I was petrified is an understatement. He then spent the next two days “creating” fear in our minds. When it came to the task at hand, he had us all sit in a row (alphabetically). We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, look around at the people who came in having walked on the burning coal or skip our turn. As my name starts with the letter N I was about half way down the line. The 20 minutes I waited was agonising. I built up all this fear (and anger) inside me and when my name was called my feet turned to lead. I very slowly lifted myself up and walked out to the beach. I saw the girl who went before me hobbling (he also got his volunteers to pretend to help the person walking away so that the next person built more fear within themselves). As I approached the coal I started crying. I was terrified but he said I had no choice but to do it. I faced the red hot coal and in that moment I let go of my fears and just walked…twice! And I came out totally unscathed (there were confident people who got blisters because walking on burning coal is about keeping a steady mind – no fear but not overconfident either). I later questioned him about why he chose to do it this way rather than take an Anthony Robbins style approach of motivating us to do it and he reminded me that the whole point was to let go of our self created fears. He may have created the circumstance but we built the fear all by ourselves.

But let me not digress. The point of that story was to elaborate how we are the creators (and also destroyers) of our own fear. And we are, very often, projecting this fear onto our children. Admittedly I do it myself sometimes. We wrap our children in bubble wrap, protecting them from anything that can touch them or harm them. But I worry sometimes that we’re encouraging children to be dependent, to rely on someone to help them at all times, to be rescued. And they’ll grow up into adults who are unable to take care of themselves.

So as it’s the first of the month, I encourage you to spend September trying to let go. And see your child amaze you. Toddlers are so capable, if we just let them. Keep them safe, give them boundaries but let them be explorers, making mistakes and learning the ways of the world through their own eyes.

For some interesting reading on this topic, here are a few sites I came across:

http://www.rogerwaters.org/ed5.html

http://missingsecrettoparenting.com/guilty-fearbased-parenting

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lifelines/201101/tiger-mothers-and-the-case-fear-based-parenting

http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2012/03/fear-based-parenting-and-the-loss-of-simple-joys-with-our-children/

Our Peppa Pig World Adventure

Last Wednesday I took S to Peppa Pig World with my 2 cousins and their kids. To be honest he’s a little young for it and he doesn’t know who Peppa Pig is but I figured it’d be a nice day out for him and he’d enjoy being with the other kids.

PPW is located within Paulton’s Park in Southampton (about 100-120 minutes from London). We aimed to leave around 8:45am but after stopping off for coffee then turning around because 2 of us forgot our prams (I know, I know I can hear you ask how did we forget one of the most essential things?!) we finally left the NW3/NW8 area at around 9:30am. It was a nice drive out of London and all the way down the M3. We were at PPW at about midday (after my 2 cousins dropped their stuff off at their hotel).

As soon as we walked in, it started raining ūüė¶ Luckily we were all equipped with raincoats, umbrellas and rain covers (you can never trust the British weather!) and thankfully it stopped 15 minutes later and stayed dry for the rest of the day.

I quite liked PPW and S enjoyed himself as well. The only issue we had was the long queues for the rides but seeing as kids are still on summer holidays we couldn’t really ask for better. The kids played in the playground, went on the train ride, tea cup ride, hot air balloon ride, indoor play area and the older children went on the roller coaster and spinning boat ride. I used to love rollercoasters (Thorpe Park and Alton Towers) but this time the tea cup ride left me spinning. Think it’s a sign I’m getting old!! haha

We left at about 4:30pm and headed back to the hotel where all the kids went swimming. We had an early dinner and S and I headed back to London leaving my cousins and the kids with another day at PPW.

I’d suggest taking your own lunch as the selection of food there was very limited. They had two carts that sold mini pizzas, pastries and hotdogs and a small selection of sandwiches inside. Perhaps there are more eateries in Paulton’s Park but in PPW that is all they had.

In my opinion PPW is great for kids 2+ years but I’m still glad we went. It was a fun day out and I’ll be sure to take him again next year. Maybe by then he’ll know who Peppa Pig is ūüôā

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Family Fever