Here you’ll find articles on all kinds of subjects related to how we live our daily lives and raise our kids. Dig deep, find inspiration for turning your home into a place where Uncommon Childhood is celebrated and thriving! Consider what you have to share and give back to the community, we learn from each other!
A small child, when given the choice of A or B will invariably choose the square root of A divided by B.
An alternate definition of Boy: A loud noise covered in dirt.
By age three, “Why?” is not a question, it’s a fine art, a meditation, a merry-go-round you just can’t get off.
Utter the words, “My children will never…” is the very worst kind of karma.
Red pop, hot dogs and a car sick kid are a deadly combination.
Even kids who have never seen Sponge Bob, Barney, The Wiggles or will magically know and sing the songs… over, and over, and over…
The combined evil genius of a four and two year old should not be underestimated.
Laughter is an art perfected in infancy
College is excellent preparation for parenthood: you learn to exist on little to no sleep, function with a hangover, and eat cold pizza or ramen noodles for breakfast.
Factory work is excellent preparation for parenthood: you learn to do the same tasks over, and over, and over, and over and no one says, “Thank you.”
It is possible for two boys, working together, to completely dismantle and destroy a toilet with only two matchbox cars and their bare hands as tools.
There’s nothing funnier to parents (or more shocking to non parents) at a dinner party than a naked preschooler pressing himself against a sliding glass door and then smearing himself back and forth and around until his junk looks like something from a Salividor Dali painting.
With three boys, urination is a team sport: snapshot: big boy, belled up to the pot, tiny boy knees on one rim, hands on the other, carefully pointing “down”, middle boy aiming carefully under tiny boy’s armpit. Big boy shouting, “Ready guys, ONE, TWO, THREE, GO!”
Toddlers are easier than teens: if you cannot find them, they are generally just under the couch.
Teens are easier than toddlers: they never stick their fingers under the bathroom door while you’re showering to ask if you’re done yet or if they can have a cookie.
Everything: carpet, furniture, clothing, curtains, stuffed animals, EVERYTHING, should colour coordinate with peanut butter.
No matter what you do, someone will assure you that you’re doing it very, very wrong.
Do your best, every day. Your “best” will vary. That’s okay. Do your best.
Don’t be surprised if your daughter and her bestie cut their hair off and jam it into a heating register to hide the evidence.
All those things your parents said that you swore you’d never say. You will say them. With pride.
The quality of a day is measured in dirt between little toes.
Reading aloud to kids is time well spent. So is a bubble bath alone.
The best thing I can do for my kids today is to take care of myself.
Children do not appreciate the precarious nature of their existence.
Date night: When you get away from the kids long enough to talk about the kids and worry about the kids.
Quote from my cousin Griff: “Parenthood, where you allow your children to get your way.”
Having children is a form of enlightenment: it opens your eyes to entire worlds, both inner and outer, that you never knew were there.
When toddlerhood passes, you stop hearing the music.
When a teenager asks for a snuggle, put down whatever you are doing and unfold your lap as big as you can.
“Just nufing!” is a worrisome answer to the question, “What are you doing in there?”
These days more Dads than ever before choose to get out and about with their kids. This is great news on a number of levels and something which I would encourage everyone to consider doing. Here are some of the main benefits to living a few outdoor adventures with your children.
Build a Strong Bond
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever read in a book was one that said that children and parents don’t automatically have a strong bond just because they have a blood link; that bond is something which is built up over time and through shared experiences. How you choose to share time together is clearly up to you but I can highly recommend having some outdoor adventures along the way. I know that some of my boys’ favourite memories are of us sitting around a campfire telling stories to each other and heating some food. Of course, these are some of my favourite moments as well, and it is great to sit there in the glow of the fire and know that we are all living a very special moment together. These times are when bonds are built and this much becomes even more obvious when you look back later on at the fun you have had together outdoors.
Encourage Good Communication
A lot of parents complain about the lack of proper communication between them and their children. In fact, from what I have heard from other Dads, this is the biggest problem of all in a lot of parent / child relationships. Encouraging good, open communication in the family is one of the biggest challenges for many people but I have always found that it comes naturally. I think that part of the secret lies in us spending a lot of time together in different places and becoming more comfortable in each other’s company. Some Dads I know think that the generation gap is just too big these days. You probably know people like this too; people who think that youngsters are only interested in computers and phones and other stuff which they aren’t interested in. If you think that you have nothing in common with your kids then how can you expect to enjoy good communication with them? I find that getting out of the house and doing things which are new to all of us is the best way of relaxing and talking about things which genuinely interest all of us.
Give Them Good Habits
Living an active, outdoor life is a fantastic way of giving your kids some healthy habits. During the summer holidays, for example, they don’t have any problems in getting up early and going out to do things instead of lying in bed like other children of their age do. I can still remember how I used to get a really early start with my Dad when we were going to play golf or go camping. There is something magical about the early morning air when you are a youngster and I feel that my boys have got the start of a lifelong love of getting up early and being active. We also take part in a lot of different sports while we are away and have learned how to make a lot of types of food, some of it healthier than the rest I must confess. I used to think that teaching children about good habits was all about sitting them down and lecturing them. Now I have discovered that getting out of the house together and getting exercise is a far better way of doing this.
Learn and Teach
I have to confess that I learn as much from most of our trip as my boys do. Sure, I am the person who drives to the destination and has most of an idea about what we are going to do there. However, I always make sure that there are also a number of tasks which the young ones are more comfortable doing that I am. This means that while I can teach them about driving and fishing and playing golf and all of other things I have a reasonable grasp of they can teach me other things at the same time. It is because of this that I like to take out some gadgets with us and get into situations in which the kids know more than me. This gives me a chance to learn and gives them a chance to teach, which I think is brilliant for helping all of us grow as people. It is important to give your children a chance to teach you things occasionally, rather than you being the one who is always giving out lessons to them.
Keep an Eye on Them
I have never been the type of father who is constantly looking over the shoulders of his kids to see what they are doing. However, I am aware that there are a lot of dangers out there these days. I have heard other parents complain about how difficult it is to keep an eye on their children now, with mobile phones, the internet and all sorts of other dangers. I worry about this kind of thing as well, but I know that when we are together out in the countryside or on the beach they aren’t in any danger. As far as I can see, the best way to keep an eye on your children is to spend time with them, so you might as well do something which you all enjoy instead of turning it into some form of torture for everyone concerned. When we go out on an adventurous trip we take about other things as well, so I get to find out about their other friends and what they do during the rest of their week. I can’t say that I am 100% sure that they don’t keep any secrets from me but I am a lot more comfortable about the direction their lives are going in than I would otherwise be.
What do you do to strengthen your relationship with your kids?
July is “birthday season” at our house, with three of the four children leveling up within a three week period. How we managed to pop out four in that tight a window over a ten year period is a subject of great mystery and amusement in our family. The result? A non-stop parade of balloons and leftover cake that guarantees my desire for pie when my birthday rolls around, the first week of August.
This year is a special year because Elisha is turning 13, and turning 13 is kind of a big deal in our family. It’s the point at which we expect our kids to be ready to start taking the reins of their own lives. We consider them demi-dults (not dolts!) who can be relied upon to pull their own weight and some of someone else’s too. It’s the age at which we welcome them into the adult world and encourage them to step up to that very big plate, insofar as they are able. It’s not about the age, really, that’s just a convenient mile marker; it’s about celebrating the magical change that causes a little kid to all of a sudden fill very big shoes. It’s not like yesterday they were “little kids” that we were bossing around 24-7 and today they’re free wheeling adults. Very little changes on the outside, but we mark an external milestone on the inner journey. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the growth and maturity of a young person, the individuality and creative genius of one kid at a time, and to encourage the passions and dreams of each of our kids as they step over the threshold into a new and exciting phase of life.
It is a great sadness to me that the Arts are being pulled from public schools.
With budget crunches, faced with the choice of fire a math teacher or let go an art teacher, when funding is dependent on test scores… tests in which art and music do not appear, it’s easy to understand why the choices are made. Still, it makes me sad, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a member of the larger community who believes that it’s the arts that give the sciences meaning, and form, much of the time.
As with most things, children pick up a love for the arts because it’s modeled for them. One of my husband’s most precious memories as a child was his Dad taking him to see the opera, Carmen. I’ve never been to an opera, but I remember my parents spending the big bucks to take us to see stage productions and ballets, and cultural dance performances in Mexico. I’ll never forget seeing Guys and Dolls, starring Liza Minelli, at the Pantageous Theater in Los Angeles. I felt so cosmopolitan. Click to read more…
I remember reading Pioneer woman’s blog several years ago and was fascinated by her husband’s family story. I realised that all it takes sometimes is one person/couple willing to venture out on their own and with the help of their children and they could do just about anything. Hard work and determination were a given, all we needed was a plan. It didn’t take long to realize that if we wanted to be able to feed our growing brood we needed to grow/raise our own food, and so the dream began.
Five years ago we moved to our little piece of ground with our five kids in tow, most were too little to help but that didn’t stop us from getting started. Each child was given an animal that they would receive any money that was made. Our oldest son, Andrew, has branched out from his first calf to adding some pigs to his holdings. Our second oldest daughter, Harley, has added meat birds this year in conjunction with our second oldest son, Scottie.
We have eight children now and the younger kids and our oldest daughter with down syndrome have stuck strictly to calves, this year we are raising bottle calves and they are loving being able to play and bond with their babies. In the past we would just assign them a calf as they were born, those calves were never as friendly. It is heartwarming to watch them prepare bottles and get out there every morning and evening to feed their babies.
Our 2yr old loves helping to water or feed or whatever we are doing. For our 4 youngest children this is the only life they have ever known and for the 4 oldest it is life they prefer. Whenever we get out to the city we are reminded of why we moved to the country, the traffic, noise and claustrophobically close houses are just not for us.
We are on a journey to sustainability, it isn’t easy work, the days are long, the losses are tough and the mistakes are often expensive. The trick is to diversify, and keep going. We had a small break last year and boy has our grocery budget taken a HUGE hit, that time away reinforced our determination to get back to work and make it happen. There is no get rich quick scheme to farming, we just have to keep working hard at it and learning from our mistakes.
Homeschooling makes this life far more manageable as we work on our schedule not someone elses. Every morning we get out to the animals, then we can settle to enjoy our breakfast, a quick clean up and then the school day begins. Sounds simple right? Not exactly, cows and pigs have a thing for testing fences and enjoy finding new and creative ways to get out. Since we live right on the highway that makes an animal escape a very dangerous problem. Thankfully we have gotten a lot better at putting up and fixing fences and generally don’t have many issues there anymore.
Of course the animals aren’t the only ones that can throw the proverbial monkey wrench into things, just having eight children can do that with the help of a freak change of weather and send us into cold and flu land. Or add a few new teeth for the baby and the day may need to begin and end a bit later if it is all to be done. There are no weekends as the work doesn’t end. That said we do get away from time to time but it takes a lot of careful planning to make sure all the animals have what they need. Bottle calves cannot be left so we have to wait until they are weaned.
Last night I watched my middle 3 children chase a few escapee hens and even as we lost daylight, they laughed and continued the chase. I turned on the van headlights and they cheered as the last hen was captured. We do our chores together as a family and it isn’t really such hard work anymore. They dream of more animals and their own personal ventures, Scottie hopes to have goats and sheep someday, so we’ll likely look into it next year as we continue to plan and grow.
Parenting is a lot of things: It can be fun, rewarding, eye-opening, difficult, challenging and exhausting – off the top of my head. And all of those emotions are usually felt before noon in my house.
Meet Xavier Marat. Born on February 9, 2011, your textbook definition of “spirited child”. While I do not love labeling people, especially children, he fits the description almost perfectly and the truth is, labels can be helpful in locating the right resources.
It wasn’t until I heard the term “spirited” that I began to Google my heart out. Finally I came across a book, THE book, that continues to help our journey be a bit smoother: Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka So many books and articles focus on telling you what NOT to do as parents, while this one gives me the language that I need to know what TO do. Click to read more…
Years ago, in a particularly frustrating phase of parenthood when it seemed like I would never get my head above water, a wise mentor mama encouraged me with words that I’ve hung on to and passed along over the years:
“It’s not what you do in any given moment, it’s what you’re characterized by.”
I can’t tell you what a load that took off of my heart. We try so hard to do it all “right,” to create perfection for our kids, to be the poster parents we feel pressured to be, to have homes filled with joy and light and creativity at every moment and every turn. And we’re so hard on ourselves when we, inevitably, fail at the task!!
Every young mother has smiled through clenched teeth as some well meaning older woman has delivered that admonishment with misty eyes. I know I did, when I had four under four and going to the bathroom alone was a struggle, never mind accomplishing the herculean task of grocery shopping.
Of course the sentiment is absolutely true, which is probably why it irks us so much. No one knows more than the maxed out mother how hard she’s trying to enjoy it more, or how guilty she sometimes feels not to be living up to that rosy cheeked vision of motherhood she had while expecting her first.
But, it’s impossible to enjoy every second, isn’t it? And if older moms were more honest, or memories of early childhood were less selective, we wouldn’t say things like that to young mothers.
One grandma got it right when she saw me struggling with eight mittens, four hats, and three boys who all had to pee in the entryway of a building one morning. She patted my arm and smiled:
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
And so they are.
Family life. We’ve got it all figured out. We’ve got a firm philosophy of childhood in mind. We know what we want. More importantly, we know what we don’t want as glaring examples of bad parenting surround us at every turn. It will be easy to do better than that, surely. And then… our babies are born.
The realities of parenthood and family life are sobering, aren’t they?
It’s easy to understand why parents get so discouraged and why they trade their dreams of intentional Family Culture for anything that will ensure their survival this day, this hour, this minute.
I remember one particular family that I looked up to when my kids were little. I went so far as to invite them (with their four angelic children) to dinner just before Hannah was born. It makes me laugh now, but with great sincerity and an earnest desire to “get it right” I sat Judy down after dinner and asked her what I could do to replicate the things about them that I so admired in my own family. Graciously, she did not laugh me out of my own living room.
“You see that one?” She pointed at her baby, ten years old, quietly playing solitaire on my carpet, “I really thought he might be possessed when he was a toddler! He never stopped screaming and he fought everything. Every single thing. And he was my fourth, so it’s not like it was my first merry-go-round!”
“My house is a train wreck. It’s never clean. Right now, I have piles of laundry waiting to be done. Don’t even talk to me about dishes. It’s impossible to keep on top of it. But those aren’t the things that matter.”
Years later I visited her house and, indeed, it was a train wreck. She was not much of a housekeeper, but she was a fantastic mother.
“Spend the time on the things that matter. Include the kids in everything, even when it’s harder and takes longer. Spend the time on books and music and art projects. Take walks. Collect things. Talk to them. Just remember to do your best every day. Perfect doesn’t matter, just do your best.”
She could never have known how much her words would mean to me over the coming days, weeks, months and years. She’ll never know how many times I held her family up as the pinnacle of all I hoped to accomplish, “someday,” and how much comfort it gave me that her advice was not a formula for success to follow in her footsteps, but an open window into the real world and hard work of raising great kids and building a beautiful family culture.
You see, a Family Culture is built, it doesn’t arrive gift wrapped upon the delivery of your first child.
Family Culture is the culmination of a million tiny moments, tiny choices, tiny and insignificant seeming motions that we go through over and over without thinking much about them. It’s something that can (and will) develop by accident, or it’s something that you develop very much on purpose.
What matters to you most in family life? Joy? Peace? Education? The Arts? Adventure?
Hopefully it’s not just one thing, but many, that you’re seeking to build into your Family Culture. With those things firmly in mind, it gets easier to lift yourself out of the daily grind of parenting multiple little people and the endless shoe tying, nose wiping, tantrum management and the litany of “Why?” questions to think on a bigger scale, with grander purpose and to do your best on any given day. Your best will vary with the seasons, with your health, with your family situation, and a million other things. That’s okay, and it’s to be expected. Just do your best today.
Our philosophies drive our actions, we all know that. If you’ve purposed to build a Family Culture of Peace, Joy and Adventure, and The Arts then your day with your littles might look exactly the same from the outside, but will be completely transformed on the inside because there will be a very definite “why” to your actions and interactions with your little people.
Do you see the difference? It’s not in the externals at all, it’s in why you’re doing what you are doing. You’ll know that you’re building something, with very tiny bricks.
The first five years of parenting are full of joys, but they’re full of struggles as well. It can be a very difficult and disheartening journey. It is made easier, I think, when one takes the longer view. If you can see, in your sticky faced, naked because he refuses clothing, belligerent because he wants a cookie, little person a self confident teenager with bright eyes filled with passion and purpose, it makes it a little easier to take the time to lay the next tiny tile that becomes the mosaic of a family.
Young mothers need to band together and help each other reach for something higher than the status quo, but in a way that builds up and helps forward, instead of inducing further guilt over perceived failures.
Middle mothers need to keep going, and remember not to count our chickens before they hatch. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and comparison is the enemy of building beautiful Family Cultures.
Older mothers need to reach down and help pull up the mamas struggling so hard in the daily grind. I know one grandma who blesses the socks off of younger families by turning up to help clean, cook, read to little ones and generally ease the mother’s burden, all the while encouraging her that she’ll get there.
The same goes for Daddies, incidentally.
If you have babies and toddlers and are just a few years into this parenthood marathon, take heart. You have years and years ahead of you to build something beautiful with your family and you have all the tools you need within yourself and under your roof. The main thing, it seems to me, is to think about it every day, and purpose in your heart to do the little things that matter. It won’t appear over night, but one day you’ll be the one with the “big kids” and you’ll find that your family is characterized by a very distinct culture… one that you’ve built, from the cradle on up. Make sure it’s the one you want, dig in and build with purpose!
Mothers of littles… weigh in… what are your thoughts on building Family Culture? What are your struggles?
Thousands of dollars are spent on consultants whose sole purpose is to examine the existing culture and craft action plans for developing it with an eye toward collaboration, productivity increase, or some other attribute that is important tot he growth and development of the corporation at large and the individual members within it.
In the parenting world there is a lot of talk about patching the ship, surviving a given stage, “fixing” a certain behavior, instilling certain values and in general “doing the right things” for our children. There are innumerable systems and philosophies full of dos and don’ts that are, at once, dizzying and demoralizing. There is immense pressure put on parents to perform and to provide that elusive “perfect” environment for their growing progeny. There is pressure on the kids too, who are primped, paraded, and compared to their peers at every turn, from their grades and the school they attend to their after school activities and their “giftings.”
What if the basic philosophy of treating children as a product to be crafted and then “sold” at the end in to the “real world” is wrong? What if it’s not at all about any of the things we spend so much time stressing out over? What if, instead, it’s about creating a family culture, more than it is about creating an individual? What if the individual is not a result of the series of behavior modifications and educational or enrichment “inputs” and what if, instead, he is the result of the culture of the family that is crafted around him?
Notice I said, “crafted,” not born into.
Think for a moment about the implications of that. What if it’s the family culture that matters most?
What is culture?
It’s the synthesis of arts, human interaction, philosophy, literature, education, heritage appreciation and building, values, habits and customs.
Every family has a “culture,” whether or not they are aware of it. If you think about the families you know, you’ll be able to easily identify the prime aspects of their cultures in a very few words.
Of course there is more to a culture than a one word summation, but in that one word definition, you have an immediate picture of what that means within a family.
What word, or two, would sum up your family culture?
Are you happy with that?
Every family has a culture, but you’re not stuck with what you were born into, and you’re not limited by what you are right now. Culture can be made, it can be crafted. Indeed, it is always made, always crafted, it’s just that most people aren’t conscious of the process.
Through intentional philosophy and through a myriad of small choices.
This is why culture crafting in business has become such big business. The first thing that has to change, if the culture of a business is going to be overhauled, is the mindset of the leaders, the CEO and the management. These are the people directly responsible for the climate of the business both in the public sphere, but also behind closed boardroom doors and in the day to day workings. They pay the big bucks to have someone from the outside, with clearer vision, come in and point out what, sometimes, they’re too close to see: what their philosophy really is and how it is affecting everyone who works with and for them. Once the new philosophy is clearly identified, then any number of actions can be put into place to change the culture. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long term project.
It is the same with families. The responsibility for the existing family culture lies squarely with the parents, as does any hope for developing the culture beyond that.
What is your family culture? What do you want it to be?
Not sure? Ask someone close to your family to help you see more clearly.
I think there is real benefit in considering this idea of family culture vs. reactionary parenting based on the ever changing whims of culture and the unending litany of books thrown at parents, marketed to their fears and weaknesses.
It will be a project that demands daily attention to the details. It will require faith in the 20 year process and value depth of interaction over instant gratification style results. Less emphasis will be put on what you’re seeing in front of you at any given moment. More emphasis will be put on what you’re trying to develop over the long haul.
A focus on building family culture takes the microscope off of the child. It also takes the child out of the center of the family and instead equalizes the values of all of the members. All of a sudden Jr. is part of something bigger than himself, more valuable than himself alone. He’s clipped, like a bright new t-shirt, to a laundry line that stretches for generations behind him and off into the future ahead of him. He has a valuable place in it, but he’s not holding it together, he’s not holding it up, it’s not there just for him, it was there before him, and will be there after him. Over the years it becomes clear that he has a responsibility to keep the line going when his turn comes.
Building family culture means that you’re not just parenting your children, you’re equally invested in self development and the personal growth of your partner. It means that the decisions you make about education, activities, the way you spend your evenings and weekends, what you read and watch, the community involvement you have, the way you interact with grandparents and extended family, your attitude towards total strangers and the habits that you allow to form are all considered in light of your family culture and what you are trying to cultivate.
It’s a harder way to raise a family, because it requires constant thought and evaluation on the part of the parents. It requires a focus on philosophy and overall “plan” not just a “whatever works” mindset for the moment.
But, I believe it’s a more respectful way to parent, because children, after all, are not products.
They are not inconveniences. They are not pets, or prizes or trophies to validate our self worth or a second chance at our childhoods. They are living, breathing souls who will live on into a future we will never see. They are our gift to the future. They are the echo of our existence and the living legacy of our grandparents and great grandparents. I don’t know about you, but when I think of my kids that way, as the living trust that my great grandparents fought wars (public as well as private) and famine on behalf of, it changes my perspective on my responsibility as a parent. It’s not just about me, and my kids. It’s about the past and the future of our family for untold generations ahead of me. How could I reduce that to a 1-2-3 method of parenting or a sound-bite, or strawman generalization? Families aren’t that simple. Humanity is not that simple.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to explore this concept of Family Culture further. We’re going to discuss what it looks like, how to build it, and we’re going to think about what that means in very concrete terms. I’d love to have your input. I’d love to have your suggestions, your observations, perhaps even your own article on what you’ve learned about family culture and the power of it in your own life. Please weigh in, and let’s talk. As a generation of free-thinking parents, let’s lay down the over simplifications of our age and dig in to do the decades deep work of crafting a family and its culture.
Experiencing a little slice of life through their eyes and having the privilege of peeking into family life under someone else’s roof. Our travels often include friends and family, not to mention complete strangers in addition to grandparents, and it has been wonderful. Each family blesses us in a different way. Each family causes me to look at life a little differently; and each family causes me to reflect with a grateful heart on the good gifts I have been given in my own family life.
I was considering these things this morning while we sat in the park, burning the half an hour between the ferry boat docking and the commencement of Sunday services at my parents’ church. Grammy took us to a lovely little park with a bronze statue of two little children playing leap frog. The girl was on top, leaping over her little brother with her pig tails flying in the breeze. Delightful.
The inscription on the plaque next to the statue caught my eye, I cannot remember the exact quote, but the gist of it is as follows: It is not blood that binds the hearts of family members, but the joy they take in one another and sharing life together. How true.
Someone I respect greatly says that what a child needs most is for his parents to simply delight in who he is, that no amount of discipline or instruction will come to more than a hill of beans if the child doesn’t grow in the sunshine of true joy at his mere existence. This quote seems to embody that thought, doesn’t it? Click to read more…