A little kindness goes a long way

The world would be a far better place if people could be a little kinder. Ever felt like you would love to move to a desert island far away from anyone? Or that people really should think before they speak?

Or are you’re the recipient of advice such as : “she needs to toughen  up…. Survival of the fittest….. she is too soft.”  What if I said she’s not too soft…. she’s not at fault? Perhaps we simply need to teach our children to be kinder? And perhaps we need to set a better example.

So here is my list of why we should all try a bit more kindness and think before we speak:
1) Happiness makes the world go around… it’s a proven fact. Happy people are more productive people.

2) You know that warm fuzzy feeling of just down right contentment when someone smiles… wouldn’t it be nice to see that and feel it all the time?

3) A smile or a kind word can lift someone and maybe make their week, let alone day. Nobody knows what happens behind closed doors, nobody truly knows anyone else. Your furtive looks and giggles don’t go unnoticed. Sarcasm rarely lifts the spirits or depression. Perhaps that stony faced man with the red eyes has just lost his job and is trying to work out how to tell his wife and kids… perhaps if you weren’t pointing at him and laughing, he could see past the dark tunnel in front of him.

4) Nasty words can break a heart and rot your mind. You think her stutter or nervousness is funny? Perhaps if you’d spent your life being put down, you’d have one too.

5) What if I told you that little old lady has no family left and walks past the school to the shops at ten to nine every morning so she can feel part of life once more. Would you still push past her or grumble at old people being allowed out? That old lady would treasure a word of kindness or a smile all day long.

6) What if that girl you’re pushing around or ignoring was you? What if it was your sister and you could hear her cry herself to sleep every night through the bedroom wall?

7) Kindness has a longer shelf life than sarcasm. An act of kindness can change a person and in their darkest days give them solace. As Maya Angelou so eloquently put it “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

8) Wouldn’t it be nicer to sit in a pub and make someone smile, rather than watch them squirm at your laughter and sarcasm?

9) To build someone one up and watch them flourish is far more rewarding than watching them crumble.

10) At nine months pregnant, I couldn’t get a seat on a high speed train. A little boy of seven offered me his seat… I thought that’s the way I want my child to be. Kindess reaps rewards… one being the joy of watching your child grow into a beautiful person.

Some super articles if you are interested:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/10218924/The-importance-of-the-right-kind-of-kindness.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-smalley/why-kindness-is-so-import_b_114669.html

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From the sidelines

I knew it was coming. There was the little innocent comment last night…. “mum, do we have camogie tomorrow?” followed by the sigh and shoulder slump. Yes, mutiny was definitely on the cards.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not a camogie nut (the sight of my sister with her head cracked open put me off before I could begin.) However a few weeks ago the girls begged to try camogie, all their friends were doing it, they had tried it in school and they loved it. Temporary goals of jumpers and water bottles were hastily erected and my eldest was adamant she would wear her county colours.

I always pitied those kids dragged to activities, forced into sports or music who clearly didn’t want to be there and thought how ambitious their parents were, questioning whether they were trying to live vicariously through their child….

Until I became a parent and I was the one yanking up tutu’s whispering just try it for today and knowing that when I came to collect my daughter she would be beaming broadly, happy to show me her new steps.

The mutiny is now in full swing… “mum I don’t like it anymore…. Mum maybe I’ll go again next week…” The thing is we’ve been through this before…. Hip hop, ballet, even Irish dancing which both now love. The rule in our house is simple…. You start something, you see it through. Ballet classes were paid in advance and so my little girl did not miss one, even though she decided afterwards it wasn’t for her.

Half the time children don’t know what they want and the other half they want instant gratification. They demand it in books, in computer games and in life. If they don’t win a game or miss a step, it’s “I’m just no good at it… I want to do something else.” The truth is anything worth having takes time, practice and more than one go.

As my mother says “it’s the getting them there….” It doesn’t help that last week was raining and training cancelled. They seem in that brief moment of time to have forgotten how much they love running on the pitch, smacking the sliotar…. the thing is I don’t. I know it is simply the allure of the couch, TV, toys, the dog…. the allure of not moving from the house.

So the girls are now armed with helmets and hurleys. My ‘mean mama’ prickling conscience will hopefully soon be relieved when I see them laughing on the pitch with their friends. Maybe they’ll find their passion, perhaps they’ll find something else but at least  they are not just watching life from the sidelines.

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Single mummydom

As a kid, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was always the same “a mummy and a writer.” Funny how back then there was little mention of a husband…. Not because I didn’t want a husband but because well that was kind of taken for granted. Being a single mum was definitely not part of my five year plan. Yet here I am and I am so blessed with my two wonderful daughters that sometimes I forget just how hard it is but then sometimes I wonder if it will ever get easier.

Like tonight and yesterday and in fact the whole week… Monday was spent disputing whether I should be liable for my ex husbands debts. Tuesday was spent in the dentist with my youngest who it transpires has an abcess. Wednesday my oldest had a tummy bug and I discovered that my youngest possibly has dyspraxia. On Thursday I discovered my youngest did not have a simple rash but worms. On Friday tired and worn by a week long fight I gave into temptation, a glass of wine and my laptop.

It’s not that other parents don’t have these same issues, suffer the fright of uncovering illnesses and ailments in their offspring. It’s the not having that person to run to, to share with, to lean on…. It’s having all the responsibility: financial, emotional, physical and spiritual and watching as he wins them over with toys at the weekend.  It’s the loneliness punctuated by the relief because he never did anything anyway. It’s the calling to update him and being quickly cut off by “sorry to hear that, have to run, meeting someone.” It’s the lying in bed cuddling a teary eyed little sweetheart and trying to coax her to sleep while her father drinks the possible maintenance money.

The best line I’ve heard comes from a feel good movie called ‘The single mom’s club’ where one mum shakes her head at another and tells her not to think about if. If you think about it at all you’ll sink, you just gotta keep going. You know what I’ve been taking that advice, shoving out the negative hurt and pain caused by my ex, closing my ears to the “I need some time” and “I can’t do all this” because you know what I can. I just don’t have the time to think about it, cry about it or overanalyze it… so I am going to go empty the washing machine, wash the dishes, sweep the floors and climb the stairs to bed more wrecked than he ever will but I will have the greatest reward. Before I fall into bed and sleep for an hour or two before one of them wakes for a cuddle…. I get to kiss my children goodnight, pull up their duvets and listen to their contented happy little snores and suddenly it’s all worth it again.

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Being human; accepting depression

Just this week I discovered an old friend had gone to meet his maker. Now normally when someone tells me this I cluck sympathetically and wonder “was he sick?” It’s nicer to think of someone being released from a sickness or going into the light than ponder why someone would choose to end his life.  Yet my friend made this decision, he reached such a dark place that there was no other way forward for him and he ended it. So instead of the clucks and understanding nods, there are the averted gazes, shuffles and “shit man, that’s crap.” Even after death, it seems we still can’t handle depression.

According to Aware as many as 300,000 people in Ireland currently have depression and over 500 take their own lives each year. We have all heard of depression and sufferers yet what do we really know and why do so many feel they cannot come forward. Why are there still so many suffering in silence? Perhaps it’s the old stigma attached to it or perhaps it’s the fast paced world in which we live that seems to have no time for people suffering depression. “Social media depression” appears to be one of the latest forms of depression: a term for people left feeling depressed and emotional as a result of using social media. Online bullying can be a direct cause, as can jealousy because of pictures or stories shared by friends. On top of this the amount of people replacing real friends with technology is increasing and depression and loneliness and take hold.

It seems most of us have felt the loneliness and helplessness of depression at some stage; sometimes in lesser more manageable waves. Often it is triggered by the loss of a job or a family member. For others, the trigger is less visible and one morning out of the blue the dark cloud just refuses to lift.  So many people walk around under the darkest cloud everyday afraid to show weakness, afraid no one will care. Yet for others it is a constant battle. I have heard depression described as selfish, yet the people I have met are soldiers battling daily. Depression is not a choice; it is not a person’s conscious decision to suffer from depression.

Aware chief executive, Geraldine Clare describes depression in Ireland as ”under-reported and under-diagnosed, and in many ways a hidden illness in this country.” How many people suffer in silence? Until it’s talked about and accepted, it’s not our problem right? Once we don’t have it… The truth is it’s everywhere today and it seems less people can fight it. The truth is ‘different’ is still stigmatized, ‘weakness’ is still stigmatized and society still wants us all to fit in its neat little boxes. So we swallow down the pain and pretend it’s not real; whether it’s ours or someone else’s. In the wild, an animal will cry or strike out when in pain. We are told to take pills, suck it up and it will all go away.

Ronald Reagan once said “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.” In a time when it seems that many of our leaders have forgotten us: their people and more and more people are losing jobs and homes we need to unite even more. Recession breeds depression and mental health is our wealth. Depression is a lonely place full of stigma and judgement. Sufferers of depression are often fighting a constant and lonely battle to just seem normal; to simply live. Until depression stops being taboo; we embrace and try to understand it, too many people will be left alone in the dark and too many families will be left broken.

 

Interesting sites:

http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=10867

http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/depression/questions/social-media-depression.htm

http://www.geeksugar.com/Social-Media-Bad-You-31165748

http://www.medicaldaily.com/heavy-facebook-usage-linked-declines-happiness-social-media-platform-making-you-depressed-251415

http://www.aware.ie/

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Should children be allowed to pee in public?

A woman lifted her child over a trash can in Richmond, Canada and allowed him to pee in the can. The picture has caused uproar and even opened a whole can of racist worms. The most shocking thing here is that a picture was taken without the parents’ consent of a child with his pants down and this picture went viral. Last week we were all still talking about ‘Slane girl’ and how young she was. The fear of allegations of child porn caused many sites to block the pictures and even suspend accounts. Now a toddler with his pants down is all over the internet. For all the steps we as parents take to protect our children, the privacy settings we adopt on Facebook and other social media sites to protect photographs of our families; this picture made it through and kept going.

Of course the picture received a mixture of responses. Many unfortunately quite racist as it was believed the woman was from mainland China. However if you read the comments and tweets from online users, it becomes abundantly clear that no matter what country or ethnic group we come from, everyone is different and everyone’s beliefs are different. Although many appeared shocked by the photograph, it was the other responses which really took me by surprise. Anything from “when he’s gotta go, he’s gotta go” to “she was probably far away from the toilets.” It appears that to many that there is no issue here as he is only a toddler taking a pee albeit in a very open and public place.

So I bit my tongue for the last few days, questioning my values; looking inward to my modern mum vs. earth mother personal apps and wondered what on earth was wrong with me? My friends practice attachment parenting; I am an advocate of parents, no matter what their style; once their children are loved and taken care of. I have always seen myself as quite liberal. So what bigger picture was I missing? Then I realized I had fallen into the ‘pc world’ where everything can be explained away and is acceptable. My kids have peed behind trees in parks and squatted behind doors on long car trips. It is part of life; you gotta pee, you gotta pee. Yet I never held them over a trash can in the middle of a busy shopping center. There is a limit to what is acceptable and what is fair. The truth is I don’t believe peeing in a trash can is acceptable and no I didn’t find it amusing when Justin Bieber peed in a mop backstage. Am I the only one who worries what we are teaching future generations when we not only teach them to pee in trash cans but assist them? Where has discretion, tact and public etiquette disappeared to?

The picture was taken inside Richmond Centre Mall, where I am sure there are plenty of bathrooms. An e-mail from Richmond Centre Mall later stated “we have these facilities throughout the common areas of the mall.” Having potty trained two girls I’ve had to do the shot putt run on many occasions and carried around spare clothes in my magic Mary Poppins bag; with everything from arnica to liga, pull ups, knickers and trousers. I have been the mother who had to red faced go ask for a mop as my child couldn’t hold it. However my children were thought to go in the toilet or behind a tree if in a park. This was a shopping center trash can; he was standing on it in full view of everyone. A trash can that other members of the public were going to use and I really do dread to think of the refuse man. What if there was a rip in the bag? I mean what next? Shovel dog poo into bins instead of neatly wrapped poo bags. It’s just not civilized. And I know what you’re thinking he is a child. I have used that excuse so many times with my own. “She’s only little…. She’ll learn.” But how; if we don’t show them?

Surely it was unfair to put that child in such a vulnerable position and to teach him that peeing in a trash can is acceptable. As care givers and parents, we have a responsibility to protect and to guide young children. His actions not only set a bad example for him but also for any children around him watching. Have we let the extra money, hours and nonstop parenting market go to our heads? Do we believe that we can completely ignore the code of social etiquette because we know best? Or is it, as Paula Abernstein (babble.com) states “a case of parental entitlement. It’s this sort of behavior that gives today’s parents a bad name.” Perhaps in some matters, our parents had it right? They say this generation of children will be called ‘the rainbow children’ as they have more than any generation before. The question is; are we allowing them too much and not teaching them enough? To instill confidence and self-respect you must feed it and remember what we do today will form our children for the future.

Sites of interest:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/08/30/bc-boy-urinating-richmond.html?cmp=rss

http://o.canada.com/2013/09/01/richmond-mall-peeing/

http://www.babble.com/mom/dont-let-your-kids-pee-in-public-please/

http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/should-kids-pee-in-public/

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When the hoarding becomes too much…

1335363985385 My sister reckons I’m raising pack rats, who will be unable to function without the first hat they ever wore, that treasured ‘first Christmas’ bauble or the clamp from their umbilical cord.

Having forcing closed THAT cupboard once more; I fear she may be right. It all started quite innocently enough. The first baby and only grandchild meant baby books, photo albums, record books… and everything was kept meticulously well to begin with. Short notes on baby’s weight, time of birth, first day at home, baby’s routine and visitors are adorned with lovely pictures. A few pages in later and photographs are half glued, notes are half scribbled and have given way to complete ramblings about poo colour, food reactions and ‘first time you peed on Daddy,’ ‘the time you puked on uncle John’ segments that read more like a book written by a demented mother who follows her child around with pen and paper. When in reality, said demented mum was scribbling her illegible notes whilst half dozing in a chair during those precious moments when baby was actually asleep. First tooth, first grin (probably wind but who cares) first step, first fall, first crawl, first toy… the list is endless and now almost 7 yrs. later the rag eared book is brimming with scribbled notes at the back. Who ever said stop recording? No.2’s baby book is a little sparser on the photographs, typical; there never seems to be as much time or free hands to record each consecutive baby as there was with the first! However I am proud to say that no.2’s baby book is almost as crammed with post its and chicken scratch writing as No.1’s.

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The baby books still sit proudly on the book shelf; a proclamation of devotion to our kids and to our own organizational skills. The baby boxes are hidden away in cupboard and occasionally dusted off and analysed with gusto by the girls as they ooh, aah and laugh whilst trying to make their baby hat fit their head now. Each of the girls has a special box (a gift ironically from my sister.) And in each box there are the usual congratulations on your beautiful daughter cards, clamps from the umbilical cords, first baby hats and bootees, hospital bracelets, baptism candles, first tickets to the zoo etc… and a precious rattle or favourite soft toy… perfectly normal, right? After all they only take up a tiny portion of the cupboard or dumping ground as hubby has fondly christened it. You see the rest of the cupboard is brimming with folders of firsts: the first time no.1 drew a sun, the first time no.2 drew a sun, the first time no.1 painted by herself, the first time no.2 drew our family… not to mention the first hand prints, the first foot prints, the ABC’s I thought them, the first time they signed their names… talk about a paper trail. Still I can’t seem to bear to part with them. I did begrudgingly commit some doubles of our early stick figure family to the recycling, but there are still so many more dog eared pages floating around and “they look so cute” plus “she spent so long on it” and “she managed to colour inside the lines.”  Then there is the seasonal art projects: every Christmas we make paper chains and little bells covered in glitter, Halloween sees paper witches flying cross our window, St. Patrick’s day means toilet roll inserts of St. Patrick… the list is endless… of course seven years later we could decorate the house from top to bottom.

Occasionally I think of my big cupboard and all the things we could do with it, the toys we could keep in it, the messy arts box that could be hidden in it, the linen that could sit in it… Still it’s full to the brim with memories and every year, they grow. So during the summer, when my 7yr old proudly took home all her work from school; my heart swelled with pride but at the back of my head, all I saw was my cupboard bulging at the seams. As she laid out all the work her little hands had done and we cuddled on the couch, I realized that it was her that I was proud of, not the dust gathering cupboard or its contents. So together we picked one or two nice pictures and stuck them on the fridge. Bob Dylan wrote “Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.” Sure it’s nice to keep some memories for when they are older but I’ve realized that the more I keep the less they become special. So in honour of her new school work and her sisters developing handwriting, I have called a cull on the cupboard and already the recycling bag is filling. The baby boxes will stay; although emptied of zoo tickets, birthday cards and cinema stubs they seem a lot more manageable. After all I have to make room for all the memories still to come and no amount of cupboards or scrap books could hold the magic of my girl’s laughter, their cuddles or each day with them which brings another memory.

Interesting reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carolyn-mckibbin/hoarding-symptoms_b_3567535.html

http://www.tinystepsmommy.com/2013/03/25/hoardingbabymemories/

http://spoonful.com/crafts

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