Friday, 22 March 2013

Adoption: A month of parenting

Image from here
Adoption has been in the news this week. The Prime Minister apologised to all the women who were forced to give up their babies for adoption in the 1950s - 1970s in Australia. Tony Abbott just showed his tactlessness by calling them 'birth mothers'.

The practice of 'forced adoption' is another bleak moment in Australian history. Mothers were forced to give up their children because they were considered too young and the child was conceived out of wedlock. Imagine! Obviously this is a product of the time and the social norms of the day. We can be lucky that time has moved on.

My own family was enriched by a cousin who was adopted by my Uncle and Aunt.

The people I know who were adopted have handled their situations differently. Some have had to cope with a sense of abandonment from their parents, while others seem as happy in their skin and lot in life as anyone else. Three have said to me that the lack of insight into their family gene pool only influenced them when they were expecting children of their own. It was more of a lottery for them than it is for most of us.

We are lucky that the situation has changed and adoption is rare these days. Welfare policy changed in the 1970s making it possible for single parents to raise children. A women have choice now in the  form of contraception and termination. Their bodies belong to them.

From a parenting perspective, adoption highlights a number of things for me.

Loving a child comes with the responsibility of rearing them. As soon as a child comes into your care, you start to love them. You care for them and you invest in them. You don't need to birth a child to love him/her to the moon and back.

Birthing a child and having him/her taken from you doesn't make you love the child any less. I don't think you would ever overcome the sense of loss that the separation would bring.

There are winners and losers in adoption. Forced adoption was meant to be a win, win, win social policy. There is no way that it was. Clearly the parents who were forced to give up their precious bundles lost, but it is my hope that most of the children remained firmly in the winners corner, finding love in their new families.

How do you feel about the public apology? 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The left handed child: A month of parenting

Image from here
Our first born is left-handed.  Since the very first time I handed him something, he put out his left hand. And when we tried to get him to feed himself at about six months, he would swap his rusk from his right hand, where I inevitably would place it, into his left. He knew well before we cottoned onto it. He will probably complain in later years that we tried to 'convert' him. We didn't.

They still don't know why some people are left-handed but most are right-handed. It is just a little anomaly found throughout human history. It seems to run in some families, but like us, plenty of right-handed people find themselves parenting a left-handed child.

All cultures have a strong right-handed dominance (90% of the population is reportedly right-handed). Lefties are odd wherever you go, even if you are hanging with chimps. But left-handed people are reported to be more creative than right-handed people, and they are meant to have a bigger corpus callosum making the two halves of their brain communicate with each other better.

I know from my work with people who have had strokes that some lefties whole brains are flipped around. The language centres you usually find in the left hemisphere are found in their right hemisphere. Their brains are just wired differently and they confuse the healthcare workers who are trying to understand the mismatched symptoms of their stroke given the location of it!

Left-handed people seem to be able to do more with their right hands than righties can do with their left. Growing up in a world where implements and instruments are made for righties means lefties give their non-dominant side more of a work-out than most righties do. This comes in handy when they break their dominant wrist.

On a practical level, the most difficult things for a right handed person to teach a left handed person from my experience are:

1. Hand writing: Our text runs from left to right. Lefties have trouble with this. Although hand writing has been a difficult skill for Nugget to grasp, I suspect this is not entirely a left-handed issue (have you seen my (right-handed) writing?).
2. Cutting: Scissors are usually made for right hand usage. Nug does everything with his left hand, except use scissors.  His daycare never had any left-handed scissors in their toddler room, and by the time he moved into the pre-school room, he had established his preference for right-handed cutting. I would suggest using left-handed scissors!
3. Tying shoe laces: I swear this was a nightmare for us to teach Nugget. We relied on YouTube videos and some tuition from his left-handed uncle, because our attempts were useless.
4. Using a cricket bat: I swear I am hopeless when it comes to using any bat with my left hand. When I have to try to show Nug how to do it, it never works out for us. Lefties are meant to be pretty good a sports though. Obviously this is limited by their right-handed coach's inadequacies!

There is nothing more fun than having a little quirk. Having a left-handed child has woken me up to the plight of other left-handed people. 10% of the population have to struggle to fit into the right handed norms of our society. I reckon we all need to find ways to make it easier for them. Like sitting them on the left side of your dinner table and plugging your computer mouse into the left side of the computer for them. It is the least we can do.

Are you left-handed? Do you have a left-handed child? Tell us about your experiences fitting a square peg into a round hole!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Broken bones: A month of parenting

Image from here
Nugget broke his wrist yesterday. Both bones.

We have a bit of experience with broken bones at our place. The Minx broke her leg when she was about 13 months old. Doo Dah fractured his right arm on the monkey bars while at vacation care last year. And now Nugget. Left wrist fracture from a trampoline accident.

I know what you are thinking. Trampolines are known to cause broken bones, especially when more than one child is on them at a time. We break all the rules around here.

Nugget has a back slab on his arm, from hand to above the elbow, and a sling. He is out of action for a week, until his proper plaster cast can be applied. I spent the day getting his life sorted out for him. Note to self: Get an EA.

He can't write with his right hand*, so I had to speak with his teacher and organise some strategies for dealing with his school work.

I had to cancel his swimming lessons for a little while. The teacher assures me that he should be right to return to the pool once he is suitably fibreglassed. I reminded her that he weighs about 1kg and has enough trouble lifting his arms out of the water without the additional weight. Fair point, she retorted.

I had to ring his rather stern trombone teacher. He also expects him back buzzing a tune after the first week. As we were wrapping up our conversation, he reminded me that he 'only needs one hand to practise with the mouthpiece'. Apparently this is a good opportunity to really focus on the development of his embouchure. Nug won't be pleased!

As for AFL training and the last Little Athletics meet for the season? A big pass for both. Nugget grinned from ear to ear today after school when he claimed he 'can't play sport with a broken arm so he got to play on the computer'. It is a nerd's paradise!

Looks like we will be facing Easter camping with a broken arm, school photos with a broken arm, Nug's 8th birthday with a broken arm and the first lot of school holidays with a broken arm. I can't wait to get the cast off and he hasn't even got it on yet.

Have you or your child broken a limb? Was it a disruptive time?
* I just realised I have never written a post about parenting left-handed children when you are rightie yourself. I will do that next time!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Music lessons: A month of parenting

My nephew who is also learning the trombone. Image from Maxabella loves
The opportunity to learn an instrument was high on my list of opportunities* I wanted to provide for our children. I have read that seven years old is the optimal time to start music lessons, and lucky for us, our children's school has a fantastic band program. Nugget signed up to band this year and has been allocated the trombone.

After an initial burst of enthusiasm, which lasted approximately one week, the drudge of trombone practice has already created several moments of conflict in the household. While Nugget is super keen to be a band member, he is not showing commitment to actually learning the instrument he needs to play in the band! Not optimal!

In order to learn his instrument, Nugget is expected to practise for short periods regularly. It has become clear to us, very quickly, that he cannot be left to his own devices! We need to help him establish a routine. So here's what we are trying to do:

1. We are trying to establish regular practice times.
2. We are setting specific goals for each session e.g. You need to practise {insert notes} for four counts each.
3. We are using multi-media (e.g. CD, youtube) to support his teacher's notes.
4. We are using a LOT of praise (and believe me, there isn't always stuff to praise but the old speechie trick "you are sitting up so well" has been used!)
5. We are focusing on the long notes before getting him to master the shorter ones.
6. Each session consists of a warm-up, specific goals, and a bit of fun.

It isn't proving a lot of fun thus far, but I am sure that once he has learnt the notes, has developed some consistency in the sounds that come out of the instrument and can start buzzing some tunes, Nugget will be hooked.

Only three children to go...

Do you have experience with children's music lessons? Any tips for newbies?

* Other things on the list include: learn another language and learn to touch type. I haven't had any joy with either yet unless you count me teaching them to count to ten in German?

Monday, 11 March 2013

Facing genetic glitches: A month of parenting

Image from here
Imperfections are one of life's challenges. Coming to terms with flaws gives one the opportunity to 'accept what you cannot change'. It isn't easy, but it has to be done if you want to live a confident life with your self esteem in tact.

While the Geege and I awaited the birth of our first child, we used to make up our 'worse case scenario' baby. You know, it would have my teeth, your hair line, my skin and so on. I always offered my eyes (I am severely myopic), my thighs (they need their own post code), and my heart (there is a strong family history of heart disease). Mostly everything else was fair play.

Our kids turned out to be beautiful*.

Last Friday, I had to face the first real genetic glitch in our spectacular programming. Both Nugget (nearly 8) and Doo Dah (6) need spectacles. They have both perceptual and focusing issues. Not the same issues, but both requiring glasses.

Nugget took it in his stride. He said there are others in his class who have glasses and people "still recognise them". Doo Dah said that it will be good not to have headaches at school but wasn't keen on the idea of looking like "Harry Potter".

I of course, picture a life time of dealing with rain drops on your glasses and scratches on your lenses and swapping between sunglasses and glasses and fogging up when you take a steaming dish out of the oven. A life time of being 'four eyes'. Of having 'nerd' stamped on your face.

Parenting becomes especially hard when your kids become like you. You can see their future facing the same hurdles that you faced. You want to save them the pain, humiliation, embarrassment and frustration that lies ahead. But you can't. The same lessons that you learnt through the school of hard knocks will be learnt by them in their own way. In their own time.

As we work our way through the maze of visual therapy and prescription glasses for young children, we will continue the process of supporting our children to develop self-acceptance. Once again we feel inadequately briefed for thisstage of parenting. Inadequately prepared to help our children embrace their inner 'glitch'.

Have you uncovered a glitch in your children? How have you managed it?

* Of course, I am biased.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Generation Z: A month of parenting

Image from here
While each generation has its own set of challenges with parenting, it seems that as a Generation X parent, the trials of parenting Generation Z fall into three main categories*.

1. Technology addicted

Generation Z has never experienced life without 24/7 communication. They have been able to navigate an iPhone since before they could talk. Life is about instant gratification. Need to solve a problem? Google it. Need to know where someone is? Text them. Take a photo, see it instantly.

This is the world we have created. The world that they know. It obviously has its upsides, but it means that Gen Zs have had a relatively indoor childhood compared with their parents. They have spent more time in front of a screen, dedicating their innocent years to the virtual world, rather than exploring the real world.

2. Protected

Gen Zs have been pampered by their helicopter parents. They have smaller families on average than their parent's did and they haven't had to share much. The over-parenting that is common in this situation has resulted in children who are adverse to throwing caution to the wind. Everybody just wants their children to be happy, so they are shielded from sadness, disappointment and danger. Everybody gets an award at school. Everyone gets a present in the pass the parcel. 

All this protection means that children are happy and safe, but without failure of any kind, children lack opportunity to build resilience. Without resilience, children's self esteems are at the mercy of others. By nature, self esteem needs to come from within, so no matter how many external rewards these children are given, their self esteem will not be built from praise alone. Without self esteem children are at risk of developing mental health issues, suffering in friendships and relationships and potentially impairing academic and job performance. 

It is a heavy consequence of not letting our children fail from time to time.

3. Risk averse

Fear is a driving force in our society today. Fear of terrorists, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of being sued. Add this the the infiltration of Work Health and Safety into all facets of life and risk has become a thing of the past.  

There is a whole parenting movement - the free-range parent - which has acknowledged the need to add safe risks back into our children's lives. Children today don't want to raise their hands in class should they get the wrong answer. They don't want to try something new, in case they can't do it immediately. They avoid risks, just as the broader society does. 

How this will impact on innovation and entrepreneurial spirit for this generation is anyone's guess.

How are your Gen Z's shaping up?

* Based on my interpretation of a talk that I went to by Michael Macqueen a couple of week's ago.

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