Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Daddy Difference - how his way is good for the kids

Ever been frustrated by the differences in your parenting styles? I've written an article for a Father's Day edition of CathFamily e-news about involved fathering and some benefits of Dad's way of doing things.

Here's an excerpt:

A recent study (as reported in the Wall Street Journal) on the impact of involved fathering on children’s development found that fathers are more likely than mothers to engage in rough and tumble physical play, and more likely to tease their children.
They are most likely to startle them in play, by jumping out and surprising them for example.
All of this is thought to foster their children’s independence, self-confidence, and resilience.
For the whole article see here.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

How I got paid for volunteering

Ah, did you think I meant money? Of course not.

It was better than money.

My husband and I just spent the weekend helping to run a pre-marriage course for engaged couples. It included pretty much every aspect of their hopes and dreams for their lives together and covered things from sex to budgeting to resolving arguments fairly.

We do this a couple of times a year and it is volunteer work. I'm often a bit anxious in the week before, not about the weekend so much but organising the babysitting arrangements and getting the house and things in order beforehand.

But once I get into the car with my husband and we head out to the conference centre, all that is forgotten. I get to leave my normal life for a while and become immersed in the life of a typical soon-to-be-wed couple; their hopefulness, their excitement, their plans, their frustrations, their questions, and their own wisdom about relationships and life.

We reflect together. Mostly we hope together, and hope is such a powerful thing.

At the end of the weekend we wish them well and soon forget most of their faces and names, but some we remember. Some are real characters and I'll probably remember them for ever.

Some love stories really stand out. Like the couple who met speed-dating. Or the teacher who fell in love with the single parent of one of her pupils.

I always come away a little bit refreshed, and a little more appreciative of my own husband, my own ever-unfolding love story.

I think the best kinds of work are often not paid. Do you volunteer sometimes? Is there some kind of volunteer work you always meant to get around to trying out but never did?

Here are what I think are some the main benefits of volunteering:

  • You gain a sense of belonging to and the satisfaction of helping a good cause
  • You meet people with similar interests, make new friends
  • You see life from different perspectives and meet people you wouldn't normally come across in your regular daily life
  • You learn new skills, some which may assist you in your paid work
  • You gain a greater appreciation for what you have in your own life
Volunteering has certainly enriched my life. I think I will always do something or other in the community for what I get out of it as much as for what I have to give.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

10 steps to a positive body image

We all want to look and feel our best. For me that means being as healthy as possible, eating well and getting some exercise, wearing clothes that are at least clean and at most flattering, and taking reasonable care of my skin and hair.

That's it. I think I look and feel just fine for someone in their mid-30s who's given birth to four children. I'm fit enough to keep up with all of them, that's the main thing.

But I fear the messages my daughters will soon be taking in from our culture about what it takes to look and feel good. I hope to never find them flipping through airbrushed models' images in a magazine or on the internet or TV and comparing themselves disparagingly to what they see.

Some time ago I attended a talk given by Melinda Tankard Reist of Collective Shout, which is a grassroots campaign against the objectification of women and children in the media and other public domains.

Melinda gave some tips for a positive body image and I have turned them into 10 steps to a healthy body image.

10 steps to a healthy body image

  1. People come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Focus less on looks and more on functionality. Enjoy what your body can do: dance, sing, run, swim, live! 
  2. Treat your body with respect and love. Nourish it with wholesome food, give it time to rest and relax.
  3. Don't compare yourself to others - don't play the 'compare and despair' game.
  4. Don't read magazines or watch shows which are just vehicles for cosmetics and dieting products advertising.
  5. Make friends with the person you see in the mirror. Challenge negative self-talk about yourself or your body. Don't say something about yourself that you wouldn't say to someone else.
  6. Wear clothes you enjoy and feel comfortable in - give away anything that doesn't fit.
  7. Don't diet - it doesn't work and is bad for you.
  8. Throw away the scales. They tell you little about your true health status.
  9. Be critical of messages that tell you that to be happy and successful you need to be thin.
  10. Find healthy things to do with friends. Sign up for volunteer work or join a cause. Our world needs strong women!
What about you? What tip would you add to contribute to a better body image?

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birthdays are all about the cake

Our littlest boy turned one recently, and instead of slaving over a novelty cake the day before the party as I usually do, I threw some sandwiches, poppers and hat into a bag and we wandered around a war memorial bay walk near our house.

This was big! Birthdays are ALL about the birthday cake around here. We usually begin discussing a child's birthday cake 11 months, 29 days and seven hours in advance, pore over my trusty Woman's Weekly Birthday Cakes for Kids, photocopy and enlarge templates, scour specialty shops for decorations, mix, bake, and spend six hours on the actually assembly on the day before the party. (That may be a slight exaggeration.)

The big kids ran ahead, setting off the sensor-activated recordings about the trials of WWII Diggers on the Kokota Track in Papua New Guinea. We absorbed a bit of history along with the fresh air and sunshine.

I wondered at the tragedy of war, the stamina and sheer guts of those soldiers and appreciated the life we lead.

Then we let the kids loose at the park where they spent the whole time filling their shoes, socks, pockets and ears with sand. Or at least they seemed to have.
It was a good afternoon out. We haven't had one, all together, for a very long time.

I didn't even buy a beautiful cake from our very good local patisseria to assuage my guilt at not making one. Because I didn't feel guilty at choosing some much-needed family fun time over 'mummy-snapping-at-everyone-to-leave-her-alone-in-the-kitchen-time'.

Well, maybe just a twinge.

My husband bought the cake, a chocolate cross-eyed echnidna. It was a supermarket mark-down to $5.99 with a cheery 'still fresh' sticker slapped on the box. When I opened it I saw that the ageing icing had hardened and cracked around the base.

A bigger little twinge.

I popped it onto a cake board, cut up some lolly snakes to approximate ants and scattered them around the cake's snout. Wrote a birthday message to my little boy, with hearts and kisses, and voila! a birthday cake in 60 seconds.

I think I made the right choice.

How about you? Taken any shortcuts recently that you never thought you would?

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