confessions graphic FINALsimplicity

There are three books that currently shape the way we parent. Last week I reviewed the first, Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel, and this week I want to share a bit about Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, whose name always reminds me of the North Korean dictator.

A friend recommended this book to me, and it has significantly impacted some of our big picture decisions about the kind of life we live, how we integrate our children into our lives and our choices about things, toys and time. I loved this book, and I love the vision it lays out for what a childhood can be.

A protected childhood allows for the slow development of identity, well-being and resiliency.

– Kim John Payne, “Simplicity Parenting,” p12

This is not a book about discipline or communication, per se, but it is really about looking at what kind of a life we want our children to have and going about creating it.

His main point, I think, is stated on page 6:

The pace of our lives is increasingly misaligned by the pace of childhood…By simplifying, we protect the environment for childhood’s slow unfolding of self.

– Kim John Payne, “Simplicity Parenting,” p6, 10

The book tackles several topics that are important for parents – simple routines and how they create stability and safety for kids, a simple environment with less toys and less clutter, and creating pressure valve points in the day that allow for kids to let off some steam.

After reading the book, I looked at our toys – did Little Boy play with them for long periods of time or just flit from one toy to another? If it was the latter, he probably had too many out. I put most of his toys in box in the basement, and now there cars, legos, blocks, musical instruments and books. He still does not play with everything “deeply,” but there is a significant improvement in how he plays, and I much prefer having less clutter around.

One of the best points in the book is about boredom:

Boredom is often the precursor to creativity. Thing of it as the bridge between “nothing” and the sort of deep creative play we talked about. The bridge is almost always paved (with the frustration of) boredom….The messiness of free play, with its many changes and possibilities builds an inner flexibility.

A child’s love of an activity is not enough to protect him or her from the effects of pursuing it too much, or too soon.

– Kim John Payne, “Simplicity Parenting,” p142, 157

Payne says that boredom is a gift to children, and it helped me see that over-scheduling my child or planning too many activities and shuttling him around from one thing to another only serves to shut down his own ability to create, play and invent. It helps me now to remember that it’s not my job to entertain him or keep him occupied. If something is genuinely worth doing, we do it, but most of the time I try to keep it open to see what he will come up with on his own.

This book has a huge impact in how I think about the life I create for my child – is it one that fosters the slow unfolding of his childhood? Or am I making his life fit into my adult word? Am I trying to make him life at my pace? How can we spend our time, structure our home and fill our spaces in a way that fosters peace for all of us and also a pace that favours childhood? These are the questions I found myself asking and still find myself asking because of this book. It’s an excellent, easy read with many practical applications.

*I know there are a variety of people who read this blog who come from a diverse set of cultures and beliefs, and it’s my hope that you all feel welcome here. But I am still who I am, and my beliefs and faith are important to me, so I want to say this as a caveat – this book is not a faith-based book, and there are a few big-picture conclusions that Payne makes that I don’t agree with, nor do I think he addresses some of a child’s core issues or core needs. 

This post is Day 12 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.) 

confessions graphic FINALboots

Only one small little thought for all of us today.

I don’t think I’ve spent as much time outdoors in my life as I have since moving to Stockholm. Swedes are out all the time in any kind of weather, sporting the best outdoor wear you can imagine. We’ve begun the process of outfitting ourselves for the fall and winter or “finter” as I like to call it because fall here feels like winter to me.  We all have our waterproof and windproof jackets and shoes, and oh it really does make a difference. For the first time in my life, I feel like going outside in the cold. It’s 11C/32 F for us today, and I was out in a t-shirt, jeans and these rain boots of mine. I love wearing them and running around with Little Boy in the yard. Nothing gets wet except for the boots – amazing.

Getting outside has been a sanity-saving, health-improving, mood-boosting part of the last few months. When I think of the months and months I spent cooped up in our apartment in Geneva with my newborn and toddler, I now wonder, why?

Go outside today, friends. It’s a beautiful world.

 

This post is Day 11 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

confessions graphic FINALThis post is edited from the archives. You can read the original one here.
Nuggets! Want nuggets! Want have it! 

In a minute, I say, the nuggets are still cooking in the oven. 

First cook it, then eat it, he says, Little Boy is trying to understand time.

Yes, I reply, but first we have to wait a little bit. 

These days he is learning that some things have to come before others unlike his baby days when it was just crying if he didn’t get what he wanted immediately (ok, there’s still some of that going on). And as always, I’m learning the same lessons.

Whole rooms messy and unpacked. Can’t do it right now, you’re making sure a toddler adjusts to a new country and taking care of a newborn. Settling in takes time. Couches that need to be delivered, part of the living room in darkness because we don’t have lamps. Wait. It will have to be done some other time. There are groceries that need to be bought, music classes to attend. You can’t do everything.

Time to go out and enjoy Stockholm on my own. He won’t be nursing so much in a few months, he’ll be on solids, soon, soon, you can go out.

After he was born two years ago, I remember wondering when Little Boy would start sleeping through the night. I didn’t care so much that he woke up at night, but sleeping through the night would be an achievement, my achievement, proof that I was a good parent and knew what I was doing.

 So he was going to sleep through the night. Early. Earlier than everyone else’s babies. You know how this story goes. After sleeping six, seven and then eight hours in a row at three months, his sleeping habits nosedived from month four until month nine. Of course he didn’t sleep through the night early. To make matters worse, I tried strategies I should not have tried to get him to sleep more because I was ignoring the laws of time and placing myself as lord over time. 

He needed time, and the truth is, I needed it, too. I needed those night feedings of holding him in my arms, getting to know him, understanding him, falling in love with him. I needed the time to think, to watch early sunrises, and I needed to be taken to my emotional and physical limit to realize that I would not be able to do this on my own because having a baby is an exercise in knowing you can’t do it alone.  It took time, but time brought life to us and we learned what worked for Little Boy, for us, for our family.   If there is one impulse that I felt over and over and over again in the early months, it was this one – Why isn’t _______ happening NOW? When will it happen? You could fill that blank with anything from breastfeeding to schedules to sleeping to naps to eating veggies to cutting teeth to crawling to walking to talking to…really this list could go on for a while.

And I remember thinking I could not go on feeling continually frustrated by my own expectations, but my ways of trying to fix it ignored the one thing I needed for “it” to change – I needed time. 
It has only been in the daily living, the daily facing of daily challenges, the daily choosing to say no to the daily fear and the daily insecurity that has led to the daily covering of the daily peace and the daily freedom. 
We spend so much of our lives in the field between the work and the promise, and when our heads are down, bodies deep in the work, it feels like futile, never-ending work. It is so hard to see the promise. One day patience will rise up inside of me. One day I will sleep eight hours in a row at night. One day he will eat his vegetables. Or at least I won’t be responsible for it anymore.  The time spent in between when things don’t make sense, when it is still inconvenient, when we are tired or sad or depressed or angry – it is this time that forms our character, shapes our souls and grows our physical, emotional and spiritual muscles.
I grapple daily with the reality that everything related to my children is going to take time, a lot of time, and almost always, it is more time than I originally expected. Isn’t in the same for me? The same for us? Don’t most things in our lives and our relationships take time, a lot of time, more time than we expected? I find in this I have only two choices – dwell on what’s not happening and be a version of sadness and misery to myself and those around me or choose to wait it out and find delight in the little things that surround me in the time of work and waiting. 
Little Boy is not potty trained and I have no idea when it will happen or what that will look like, but oh there are so many hilarious things he is saying and doing now surrounding the topic. Baby wakes up at night, I am exhausted, but he naps well during the day, giving me time with Little Boy and time alone because they take an afternoon nap together. My kitchen cupboards are disorganized and messy, but we are eating tasty food that I make almost every day. It’s raining and cold, but my fall jacket is waterproof and my rubber boots keep my feet dry and warm. Anything worthwhile in life takes time, and almost everything with our children will take time, it has to take time, life takes time and time brings life. 
This post is Day 10 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. (New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

sched2

Little Boy came out, and there was one thing on my mind from the first hours on, When will he get on a schedule? I don’t know how many times a day Husband heard me saying, What time is it??????? (Neither of us wear watches.)

I smile at that woman now because I can hear the contents of her heart. I see her fears more clearly now.

I thought the way to “do” the newborn months was to have a schedule. It was the only way. It was how my more-experienced friends had done it. And I’m a planner and like having an organized life. I told myself that I wanted Little Boy on a schedule because it was orderly and could guarantee time for myself, and remember, I was going to be a good wife. A schedule Gives Time For Your Marriage.

I was wiser about babies. Obviously. Those babies. They need their schedules.

My schedule wasn’t about the baby or my family. The schedule gave me certainty and control in a time that was inherently uncertain and out of control. What I really wanted was to get the hang of this thing, to feel on top of it, to master it, so I could move on and keep living my life.

My schedule helped me feel like life was no different when the reality was that there was no way it could bear any resemblance to my previous life.

I see this impulse all the time in your tired eyes, New Mum. You want to know what’s going on with your baby, you want to be able to meet her needs, take care of him in the best way possible. You want to know when the next feeding will be, when (and for how long) the next nap will be. There’s nothing wrong with that, and lots of babies respond well to it from the beginning, so please hear me – I am not anti-schedule. 

But I want to take your hand, look you in the eyes and say with kindness – It’s ok to not know what will happen next. You don’t have to have a game plan for the day, for the week. The world will keep turning. You will be ok. Just love your baby, spend time with your baby, look into her eyes, give him lots of smiles. Talk to her. Talk to him. Keep feeding them.

The right schedule, the best routine – it will come at the right time. You don’t need to control your baby. You can let go. 

notestoanewmum

This post is Day 9 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. 

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)