In defence of bragging

in defence of bragging

It’s no secret that parenting is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. From impossible hours to the inability to do anything right, it’s a mere wonder anyone chooses to do it. But we do choose to do it, because our little tyrants make it all worth it. So we share about the silly things they say and the amazing things they do because otherwise, what’s even the point?

The only problem is, you can’t share what your kid is doing without being subjected to eye rolls or in some cases, being accused of downright lying. Apparently it’s not acceptable to share the bright spots of parenting because then you’re a braggart. (It’s also important to note that if you complain that it’s difficult, you shouldn’t have become a parent. You can’t win.)

But here’s the thing: parenting is hard. Really, really hard. And yes, we should be able to complain about our kids without being accused of not loving them because we’re only human. But it’s equally important that we are able to share the things that we love about them because it’s those little things that get us through the day.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place. Of course, bragging at school pickup to a parent whose child is struggling is pretty uncool. But at a play date with your close mom friends? On your own personal social media page? Why the heck not?

And what does it say about us as human beings that we can’t be happy for our friends’ children? Jane said her first word? Amazing! Timmy made the honour roll? He deserves it! Roger stopped pooping on the floor? You’re going places, Roger!

It’s not about the parents. It’s about the children. And if we can’t put our own egos aside, how are our kids supposed to do learn to do that?

All kids develop at different rates. They’re all equally unique. It has nothing to do with our parenting skills or styles; they do things in their own time. And whether a child is perceived to be “ahead” or “behind” or right smack on the line that says “average,” we should celebrate the amazing things they say and do. Because they’re all amazing.

And maybe parenting would be a little bit easier if we could all celebrate their amazing qualities together. After all, isn’t it relishing in the wins that makes the training worthwhile?

in defence of bragging

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Six Books that have Informed my Homeschool (and parenting)

I love to read. So it’s shocking to me that I don’t read a lot of books about homeschooling. In fact, there’s only one homeschooling book that I’ve read and loved. Schooling your own child is a huge responsibility, so shouldn’t you read everything you can about it?

I mean, yes and no. There are so many lessons to be gleaned from books that have nothing to do with homeschooling at all, so sometimes I feel like I’m covering my bases just fine. And our homeschool is so unique that a lot of times, the advice just doesn’t apply. But for me, these are the books that have had the biggest impact on my homeschooling. And because homeschooling is such a large part of our life, I guess you can say they’ve influenced my parenting as well.

5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options by Deborah Ruf

There’s a bit of controversy surrounding this book. A lot of parents have found it inaccurate compared to their child’s IQ tests, especially with twice exceptional children, but for me this was the book that made me understand that my child has different educational needs. It seems common sense, but as a gifted child myself I was still on the “he’ll be fine” train. The more I’ve learned about giftedness, the more I’ve realized how not fine I really was. Am. Yikes. I think this book can be so helpful to parents of young, potentially gifted children, whether you intend on homeschooling or not. It was certainly the one that made my husband and I realize that damn, we were going to end up here sooner or later.

The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star by Tom Clynes

Maybe most parents would be proud of their three year old’s obsession with the periodic table but my husband and I were terrified. While most kids his age were using their toy kitchens to pretend to cook, our child was pretending it was a particle accelerator. He would pretend he was making element 119 in the basement with Mendeleev. He was obsessed with radioactive decay chains. What was he going to be like as a teenager if this persisted? What were we supposed to do with him? The Boy Who Played with Fusion was simultaneously reassuring and daunting. Now it’s become our goal to make sure that our child’s passions don’t get squashed, which is easier said than done. I just hope he doesn’t ask me to go hunting for uranium any time soon.

The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life by Julie Bogart

Here it is, the only homeschooling book on the list. I love the Brave Learner lifestyle. We lived a lot of it before ever having heard of it, but three years in and both my son and I still look forward to our poetry tea times so I had to read Ms. Bogart’s book. I love that it is full of encouragement and inspiration but also doesn’t shy away from some of the problems with homeschooling. When you’re homeschooling your child doesn’t get an escape from their home life, so I love that this book really tells families to make their home as harmonious as possible.

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

My husband and I are accidental attachment parents. We never intended to do a lot of the things we ended up doing, but they work for us. So I read this book trying to find out a bit more about this philosophy we accidentally came to follow and ended up getting some homeschool reassurance. This book argues that other kids are terrible at socialization, and that children need parents to guide them so that they gain proper skills. While it’s far from an argument for homeschool, it’s reassuring for those of us who are sick of hearing “but what about socialization?”

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I resisted this book at first but I was told I “had” to read it and I’m so happy I did. Whether Mr. Gladwell intended to or not, in my opinion he wrote the best argument for gifted education out there. A high IQ is not a recipe for success. It’s dependent on a complicated recipe of opportunity, luck, skin colour, privilege, and sometimes just being born in the right time and place. Gifted kids won’t just be “fine,” and this book reassured me to keep fighting against the myth that they will be.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

This book can only be described as a philosophical thought experiment and it definitely made me think. What kind of a world am I preparing my child for? What careers are going to be available to him? Forget about stick shift, will he ever even learn to drive a car period? For better or worse, this book has made me ease up on my screen time limitations and try to encourage my child’s love of coding. It’s the reason I love Art Of Problem Solving for math. It’s why, to my kid’s dismay, I’d rather spend our time talking about books than doing spelling tests. I want to raise a thinker, not a memorizer, because thinking is the one advantage humans have over computers. For now.

I love all things books so tell me, have you read any of the books on this list? What are your thoughts? Is there a book that has informed your homeschooling, or even just parenting in general?

Note: I have linked to the Amazon listings of these books out of ease and availability, but I was able to find all but one at my local library. I encourage you to do the same!

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How to survive when your kid doesn’t sleep

I’ve tried it all. Sunlight and fresh air first thing in the morning. Lots of exercise. Lots of stimulation. But not too much stimulation. No screentime. Dark rooms. Sound machines. Oil Diffusers. A set schedule. A loose schedule. Nightlights. Early bedtime. Late bedtime. No bedtime. Bribery. Pleading. Eating only purple foods and sprinkling my child’s bed with unicorn dust.

So if you’re feeling desperate and sleepless, but your child is still bright eyed and happy and healthy on less sleep that a college kid writing their thesis, I feel you. Believe me. When your child needs less sleep than you need yourself, it can have huge impacts on your own mood and health. And while I don’t have any magical tips to make it go away, I can tell you how I survived this long.

I stopped blaming myself

For years I blamed myself. I thought I was a horrible mother who could not soothe her own child. And then something crazy happened: I rocked a friend’s baby to sleep. I almost cried. It took seconds. And just plop, asleep. It happened again and again with other people’s kids. And while I’m not saying that these babies went that easily for their own parents, it did make me realize that it wasn’t my fault. Kids don’t always want to do what’s best for them. And on top of that, my kid’s wiring is different. He needs less sleep. And as long as he’s happy and healthy and rested, then I am giving him exactly what he needs.

I found ways to sneak in sleep

This one may not work for everyone, but stay at home parents hear me out: you don’t have to entertain your kid 24/7. When my son was a toddler, we had a playroom that was completely baby proofed. I would put up a baby gate at the doorway and nap while he played quietly. Some days it was 20 seconds, but every once in a while I’d sneak in an entire blissful hour. When he was a little bit older, I would set breakfast on the kitchen counter for him before we went to bed, so that I could sneak in an extra half hour in the morning. And now that we have an Echo Dot in his room, he can listen to an audiobook to fall asleep instead of staying up all night reading, getting fuelled by his lamplight and “one more chapter.”

I coslept

Safely. In the early days I was so sleep deprived I could very easily have fallen asleep in the rocking chair or on the couch and smothered my child. Consciously choosing to cosleep was so much safer. Even now, when my kiddo wakes up in the middle of the night, he’ll saunter into my room and I’ll wake up with him next to me in the morning. It’s so much easier than being called to his room, and most nights I sleep through his wake ups.

I read up on second sleep

It sounds silly, but knowing that there’s a biological basis to nighttime wakings helped me be a bit more understanding of my kid. I’m not saying I was always as patient as I should have been, but at least there was a little voice in the back of my mind knowing that I was the weird one who could sleep through the night.

I got an e-reader

Some nights, no matter how little sleep I got, I found myself celebrating the freedom of a sleeping child by scrolling social media on my phone in my dark bedroom. I liked the dark. I liked the silence. And I wasn’t quite ready to turn in. I wanted to enjoy it. The problem with my phone however, is that the internet is a boundless supply of entertainment and before I knew it hours had passed and the cycle continued. But with an e-reader I could have dark and quiet and actually go to bed at a decent time.

And yes, I started drinking coffee

I’m not going to lie, coffee helps. I don’t drink it every day, but I do find on those days when I need a bit of an extra oomph, it helps me get through the day. And because I have the ahem, motivation, I’m more likely to do the things that I need to do for my own well-being, like exercise or meditate or journal– things that are difficult to do if you’re mentally and physically exhausted. I’m not suggesting you take up a caffeine habit, but I’d be lying if I didn’t credit it with my survival on the worst days.

I stopped trying to make sleep happen

I’m not saying that I gave in and pandemonium reigns, but I am saying that I stopped obsessing and trying to force it. Telling my kid, “Okay, you don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay in your bed,” or letting him come sit with me on the couch for a bit when he’s been lying sleepless for an hour both have to happen sometimes– try as you might, you can’t force your kid to sleep. Sleep guidelines are just that, guidelines, and while sleep deprivation is a problem for us all; at some point you have to just live and let live if your kid isn’t showing any signs of lack of sleep. Which is a difficult pill to swallow when you’re a bit of a control freak like myself, but trust me, it makes life so much easier when you make like Elsa and let it go.

Sweet, sweet time

Of course, maybe none of these things actually helped, but they only coincided with gains we were going to make anyway thanks to whatever invisible growth was happening inside my kid’s brain. That’s the thing about parenting: you never really know if your crazy life hack worked! So if you’re reading this and thinking “I can’t do any of those things” then take heart, eventually your kid will move out.

I don’t want to say that it gets better all at once, because it doesn’t, but it does gradually. My kiddo no longer needs me to lie with him to fall asleep thanks to a good audiobook. Some nights he even makes it the entire night in his own bed. He’s old enough that if I really need a nap, I can go take one. These may seem like small wins to some, but for us, they’ve been tremendous strides. And believe me, I’m celebrating every little milestone.

Meme reads: I was going to give up caffeine and sugar but then I remembered I have a kid. I'll try again in 18 years. @lifeattiffanys

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“It’s just a phase” is a lie parents tell each other (and themselves)

After my son was born, I remember being furious that no one had warned me about all of the intimate details of parenthood. Surprises kept popping up and I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult. If we’re being honest, I still can’t. I mean, I googled. I signed up for those weekly emails. I read baby books. I prepared myself in every way possible. But still, the most common phrases I heard as a parent-to-be were vague cliches like “parenting is so difficult” and “it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.”

Now, I’m not saying parenting isn’t difficult or rewarding. And I’ve definitely depended on those old cliches time and time again. When my best friend had a baby of her own and she yelled at me for not warning her, I realized I had totally dropped the ball like all of the other jerks. It wasn’t that I intentionally kept anything from her; I had actually blocked out entire phases of the early days. Self preservation and all that. It turns out that becoming a parent makes you a big fat liar.

The biggest lie? “It’s just a phase.” Veteran parents love that one. And sure, it does have a shred of truth to it, because it usually is a phase. The inherent problem though, is that by saying something is “just a phase” you imply parenting gets easier somewhere along the line. But that phase is like a wave in the ocean. And you’re on the raft from Titanic. You aren’t Rose, nu uh, your kid is Rose and you’re Jack and you’re holding on for dear life and the damn waves keep coming. Sure, sometimes you get a reprieve. You catch your breath, relax your grip for a few seconds, you brag to a friend, “I totally got this!” Maybe, you take a shower and do a load of a laundry. You feel pretty proud of yourself. And then a whole freaking storm hits.

Your kid may never sleep through the night. At least not until long after you’ve given up hope of ever sleeping again and have completely forgotten how to sleep eight consecutive hours yourself. Crying still happens, even after your little bundle of lungs has words. A 6 year old screaming “I hate you” sucks every bit as much as the imaginary commentary you put to your newborn’s cries. At least they won’t remember the time they rolled off the bed, but your 10 year old will definitely remember the time you forgot to pick them up from school. Whoops.

And sure, the “clingy” phase might end and your kid might stop crying when you leave the room, but don’t think you’ll ever be able to poop in peace again. Meal time will always be a mess, and even the best of eaters will decide to be picky at times. (Don’t worry though, it’s just a phase. They’ll hate something else next month.) Suddenly, your kid will have opinions and wants and parenting will become a battle of wills! And my personal favourite: butt wiping doesn’t end where potty training begins. What the actual fuck.

Seriously, how do we survive? Oh, our kids are freaking adorable when they’re finally asleep? That’s true. Admitting to myself that I know nothing about parenting, but neither does anyone else, helps too. Seriously, everyone is making it up as they go along. But of course, I still defer to the experts because I don’t want screwing up to be on my shoulders! At least if I screw up, I can point to the expert and whine, “Well he told me to!

So no, parenting doesn’t get easier, it just gets different. No amount of reading is going to prepare you for what’s next. Parenting is on the job training; and sometimes, just like in the real world, your boss is a complete jerk.

So what can you do? Invest in wine. (The cheap wine, you’re gonna need lots.) Keep a stash of sweets. Surround yourself with people who get it, people who you can rant and rave to and know that they won’t think worse of you for it. Waste valuable sleeping time looking at pictures and videos of your kid to remind yourself how damn freaking much you love them. And tell yourself over and over that this too shall pass.

(But something new will be waiting around the corner to take it’s place.)It’s cool how we call it a “phase” as if parenting gets easier.

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It’s never too cold to be outside

I was born in Florida. I’ve lived in sunny SoCal. I remember living in North Carolina and school being delayed over 2 hours because of a centimetre of snow. I am pretty sure I was permanently cold for a good 5 years when my family moved to Canada. So I get it when people are hesitant about kids being outside when the weather drops below zero. Especially because, truth be told, I hate being cold.

But this comes at a head with my personal requirement that I take my kid outside every day. I am the type of person who opens the windows for a few minutes everyday just to let the fresh air in. I need to be surrounded by trees. I blame our walks on the dog needing them, but truthfully, I need them just as much as he does.

I owe my love of the outdoors that persists even in the cold to our time spent living in the mountains. We lived in the most amazing town where everyone was outdoorsy and fit and just this side of hippy. When we first moved there I was a little hesitant, telling my husband to never let me become a granola mom, but surprise! I make my own granola now and it’s delicious.

Photo of mountains and the Bow River

So when we were visiting Disney World last month on what I’m pretty sure was the coldest day in Florida history (or at least my coldest day in Florida in history), my sister and I were laughing at the conversations we were overhearing. She heard a kid whining about the cold and the mom snapping in turn, “You’re from Michigan!” Everyone had smiles plastered on their faces like “I paid so much money I am not letting the cold get to me, damnit!” And you know what, we all lived and have a funny Disney story to tell now. We made the best of it. Now imagine me standing in line at the airport Starbucks and overhearing a conversation about how selfish parents were for bringing their kids to Disney on such a cold day. THIS IS WHY PARENTING SUCKS. Take your kid to Disney and you are still going to get judged.

Never mind the money spent getting to Florida or that it is a once in a lifetime trip for many. That not everyone has the luxury of saying, “Oh you know, the weather is going to be less than perfect that day, so we should really just wait for another day.” It’s not like people had their babies in bathing suits and were sending them down Splash Mountain in the middle of a snow storm. If your kid is appropriately dressed, weather is not a barrier to fun. In fact, a good mud puddle can only enhance the fun!

I live in Canada. If I let weather get in my way of going outside I would be a recluse. My kid would be a pasty ghost of a person who hisses at the sun. Do you know how bouncy kids get if they’re trapped inside all day? My couch can’t handle that kind of abuse. But outside, he can climb and jump and run and get dirty and it doesn’t matter. Not to mention being outside is actually a safeguard against depression. Don’t take my word for it: one chapter of Last Child in the Woods and you’ll be bundling your kid up in every kind of weather.

In fact, my kid went for his first walk less than 48 hours after he was born. It probably would have been sooner had the hospital let us out the day he was born.

I was terrified bringing him out in subzero temperatures. But I couldn’t stay inside all day when the fresh mountain air was calling my name! If that sounds selfish, I am totally okay with that. But hilariously, I couldn’t figure out why he would scream bloody murder about ten minutes into our walks. I had been overdressing the poor kid and he was roasting! Turns out, babies are pretty resilient. You know the whole “dress baby with one layer more than you’re wearing” thing? Total myth in our case. My kid is frequently running around naked while I am wearing slippers and a hoodie. Not only is he still alive, he’s pretty damn healthy.

Just because I am a stickler about getting outside doesn’t mean it’s always easy. We have our days when the dog doesn’t get a walk. We have days where we sit on the couch with the blinds shut and play board games and watch movies. Because everything in moderation right? Taking the dog for a walk can take over an hour just due to the screaming fest that is putting on shoes. Oh yeah, did I mention my son actually hates being outside? I have to bribe him with books and turn nature walks into science lessons in order to entice him. Lately he has been enjoying riding his strider bike, but unfortunately it’s not always easy to ride a bike in Canada in February.

It isn’t perfect. It isn’t always. But I do think getting outside is part of being healthy, right up there with diet and exercise, so I try to prioritize it. I try not to let the weather be a barrier. In the summer we wear hats and sunscreen, in the winter we have snowsuits and wool and layers, and we have rain gear and rain boots and sweaters and shorts for everything in between. I have always hated the idea of driving to go for a walk, but sometimes it’s necessary to get out of the neighbourhood and into nature. Unfortunately we don’t all live in nature anymore. But we can make do with what we have.

So yup, that’s probably us with the park to ourselves when it’s -10. I’m sorry if I let my kid play in the mud puddle you’re trying to get yours to avoid. Yes, he has a hat and that shirt is SPF 50. I’m trying to grow a happy well adjusted human that appreciates nature and takes care of the world we live in. I’m probably failing miserably, but hey, I still have a few years of denial ahead of me. Yes, I spend more time cleaning up the mess from going outside than actually being outside somedays. But it’s worth it.

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