In December last year we were suddenly struck by an opportunity to be stronger than we never wanted to be. My mother had come to visit us for the holidays when she was suddenly taken ill. There’s a back story, but the short version is that they discovered a 21cm tumour in her abdomen, and two weeks later she died.
Those two weeks gave us an experience we never asked for, and as a family, we all learned a whole lot from it all. I sure know what not to say to someone dealing with death or terminal illness now. Admittedly a lesson I’d rather not have learned.
If you’ve landed here because you’re looking for a way to support someone dealing with death or terminal illness, remember that every situation is different, and people are different too. These are the things we highly appreciated or felt we could have used.
It’s not all that hard, really, to prepare a meal. The problem is planning them, thinking about what goes with what. Unless you have unlimited resources, most people can’t afford to just eat out all the time, and when your life revolves around Morphine-runs, or physically sitting with someone 24 hours a day, in shifts, there are so many decisions to make all.the.time. that ‘what’s for dinner?’ is incredibly hard to answer.
Two things to note here are that everyone turning up on the same day with a meal might not be practical. If your recipient doesn’t have a freezer, they can end up with a fridge full of food, all needing to be eaten immediately. My friends used a free web service called Meal Train to schedule the meals so that we had a meal delivered to our house every day for just over two weeks. It was phenomenal. I cannot say how much pressure that took off me.
Provide disposable baking trays and dishes, and when you can’t, just make sure to label your stuff so that the recipient doesn’t have to worry about remembering who’s is what.
This might sound weird, and might not be appropriate to everyone, but two days before my mom passed away, we went grocery shopping (it was Christmas eve after all), so we had a fridge full of food. My vegetable delivery had also come, so the counter was full of vegetables too. I wasn’t in much of a position to sort, cook or store, so by the time a week had passed and people were bringing us meals, I had so much in the fridge that was turning or going off, that having someone come and just go through the perishables – even to take it away and turn it into meals – would have been a godsend. I just didn’t have the strength or foresight to deal with it.
Again, depending on your relationship or the people involved, but people still wear clothes, and unless there’s someone unaffected by what’s going on who is keeping on top of the domestics, things like laundry, cleaning or picking up toys still need to be done, but can seem overwhelming. Personally, I will never again say ‘if there’s anything I can do, let me know’. Because once again, there are so many decisions to make, when someone asked me if there was anything they could do, I couldn’t pin it down to anything. A friend who came over and said ‘I’m here for an hour, can I do the laundry, sort out the toys or is there anything else you really need done?’ is the one I actually gave a ‘task’ to. While you know people really want to help, it can feel so awkward ‘putting people out’ and sometimes you feel people are just asking to be polite.
Well, I’ve just said it. Turn up and offer your services. Whether that is as a friend, to provide a domestic task, or simply to take the children to the park for a while. Turning up says “I’m here. I really want to do something for you”. (Make sure you’re not adding to the burden, of course. Bring coffee, bring cake.) (I don’t know that this would work for everyone. Some people might not like it at all. You know your friend!)
One of my friends asked me what evening I could go out with her. She said to bring my Kindle and we could sit together quietly and just read and drink coffee. And she meant it. We didn’t have to talk about what was going on. We just sat, together. It was so lovely. I needed it and now, months later, I remember that night as an oasis in a very difficult time.
Money is rarely spoken about among friends, and that’s fair enough, but assume that when someone is looking after someone terminally ill, or who has died, even if there is life or funeral insurance, these only come later. If you want to help someone with money, offer to pay their phone bill for the month – we had to make so many international phone calls for family and friends abroad who we didn’t want to find out on Facebook. There will be increased gas and electricity or water bills if family all gather in one place – we had 9 people in our house for a period of weeks. It all adds up.
Then there’s also loss of income. Most people are blessed to have leave to cover them for emergencies, but that only goes so far, then they have to take unpaid leave and eventually that could become unemployment. Fortunately it didn’t go that far for me, but I personally lost almost a week’s income. In a minimum wage family, that can be crippling. Most people – me included – would have a hard time accepting offers of financial help. A friend of mine knows that and as she left my house one day, she popped something into my handbag. I saw her, she saw me seeing her, and she said ‘…just a little something for you…’ and it was £100 that went towards paying that mammoth phone bill. A kingly gift that you certainly don’t expect everyone to be able to do, and not everyone would need, but I appreciated it immensely.
If there are small children involved, taking them to the park for a few hours is a fabulous idea. Even better is dropping off a few new games, an activity book, or a new movie for them to watch. Something that engages them, giving the person caring or taking care of arrangements an opportunity to do so, or to do anything else.
This can be a tricky one too. My husband wanted to take Ameli to his parents in the days leading up to my mother’s passing, and I was dead set against it. I was just about to lose my mother – I didn’t want to be separated from my children. My inlaws are wonderful, kind people, but my child’s place was with me. In the days between the death and the funeral it may have been acceptable, but to be honest, Ameli was so clingy and insecure it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea either.
But a few hours in the park, or even just playing with them in the house is a sweet relief.
When someone is in palliative care, terminally ill, end of life care or has died, family tend to come together. Offer a couch, sofa, spare room, use of an extra car if you have it, or even a spare bed if that’s all you can cope with.
Social media is wonderful, it really is. I received so much support via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, but when I shared the announcement of my mom’s death, I wished there was the option to disable comments. I say this knowing that a lot of people who commented on Facebook may read it, so should say that I really appreciated the outpouring of love. It meant so much. But we received a handful of cards in the mail too, and I will treasure those forever. They provided a tangible affirmation of our loss, and each one was like a big hug.
The first friend I saw after my mother died was one I ran into in a shop. She shook her head and said “I don’t know what to say. I’m not good at this”. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that. Everyone wants to say something kind. Everyone wants you to know they care, but they do not know how to show it. In your pain, however, there’s little comfort in someone being ‘in a better place’, and while ‘no longer suffering’ is a big thing, it doesn’t take away the suffering of those left behind. The friends who sat across from me, listening, letting me ramble and mostly saying nothing were the ones who saved my sanity. That’s where healing begins.
Have you been through a loss? What did your network do to support you? What could they have done? Help those who still have to walk this path with someone else know what to do to support them by sharing your comments below.
I’m sitting in the soft play tapping away on my keyboard, while my children play off somewhere inside a myriad of tunnels and ball pits and slides. I hear the occasional sound of a voice I recognise, a shout of glee or a call to come back, but I can’t see them.
I’m sitting here alternating between my thoughts, and the book I’m trying to read, and now this, the thoughts I need to put down on proverbial paper.
There are other parents crawling around this plastic paradise, having lunch or spending time together. I seem to be the only one here not engaging with my kids, which is a nice change, but don’t judge me.
I’m here for a few minutes of peace. A few moments to put my thoughts together to organise my mind. I’m here because I worked till 1am and was up with a hungry toddler at 5am. I’m here because yesterday we spent the day stomping around the woods, playing in a mud kitchen and digging for buried treasure.
I’m here because its been raining for days, and I want us to rest our sore throats rather than jumping in puddles, being wind swept on the beach, and I’m here because I’d rather not take a rest day by sticking them in front of the TV.
I’m here because moving out of a house that was no longer right for us was a mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting experience, and two weeks later its finally knocked my wind out. I’m here because I’m overwhelmed with concern about our future and while my mind is trying to process how we are going to survive as a family with just one income when my husbands contract ends next month and I’d rather not spend my day snapping at my babies because my mind is preoccupied.
I’m here because this is the best choice I could come up with for today, and no, I’m not married to my gadgets and my screens and with being so connected to the world that I’m not connected to the best parts of my world.
Its the exact opposite… today looking after MY need to give MY brain space is the best thing I can do for them. Its easy to judge what you see and think that you know what you see, but today, like every day, I’m doing the best I can for my family.
There’s still washing drying on the line, and a bread rising on the counter. Dinner will be fresh and healthy and made from scratch, and before I head back to work tonight, I’ll kiss each of my daughters and ask them what their favourite moment of the day was. I’ll still look in their eyes and remind them how deeply they are loved and wanted.
Like most everyone else, I’m just trying to do my best for the people I love most in this world and for this morning, that involves leaving them to their own entertainment in a place designed for it, while I empty my mind onto a screen, so don’t judge me. Sometimes what we think is a whole pictures, is only a tile on the greater mosaic of life.
There’s definitely a hint of spring in the air, with lots of flowers everywhere.
82: Bring On Spring
Inspired by our trip to the Moonpig Mother’s Day event a few days earlier, we made a lollipop flower garden so we could give a few special people some flowers.
84: Gift Basket
Friends of ours came back from a holiday in Australia, so we dropped a care package on their doorstep so they wouldn’t have to rush out for breakfast, or worse, milk for coffee first thing off a 19-hour flight. I know what it’s like coming ‘home’ from a trip ‘home’ and never really belonging in either place. It’s hard.
We receive the Disney Cakes And Sweets Magazine every month, and this month, the freebie with it was a pan for making these fab Mickey Mouse pancakes. So yum using our regular recipe, and the girls just loved it.
Although it’s two weeks after the fact, we’re having Aviya’s birthday party tomorrow, so I’ve been making flowers for the cake. Unfortunately I didn’t think to actually flour the shot glasses, so most of them broke taking them off. Lesson learned. I was quite happy with them to that point though!
87: Messy Play Party
At some point I’ll get round to blogging Aviya’s messy play party. Suffice to say it was super fun though.
Another thing I have to get round to blogging, is our trip to the Farnham Firestation as part of our Emergency Services PlayLearning week. Doesn’t she look pleased with herself though?
We are taking (at least) a photo a day, a collage or a picture each week to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!
Click Get the code here below to add the blog hop to your blog and join the fun. (Also sign up to be added to a comment group!)
As parents we have this unique and rather amazing ability to forget things. From pregnancy, through birth and seemingly into childhood (and possibly further) we forget the bits that admittedly, don’t always add anything positive to the story. I’ve seen my parents do it, and while I was of the firm opinion that I would never forget a weight, a height, a date of a first word, first whatever, the truth is, you do. Then you have a second (or subsequent ) child, and somehow, amazingly, you forget.
So when Aviya recently started shouting Mine! for… almost everything…., I was suddenly concerned. When did my sweet little genteel baby become so possessive? What did I do wrong. Were we missing out on something fundamental to her development? Aren’t second children supposed to be better at sharing than their older siblings… oh, wait…. that’s right – Ameli did go through something like this. In fact, Ameli was 23 months old when we met our current friendship group, and the first few months of our meetings, I thought they must think me a horrible mother because all my child does is grab, and shove and say MINE!
Then, Ameli being six months older than most of the rest of her group, six months later I started noticing the rest of them had entered this phase and I felt such relief! My child wasn’t turning into a psychopathic monster after all! And then… then I forgot all about it. What is that about?
Anyway. Armed with the wisdom of two and a half years later, and faced with a 23-month old there are a few things I’ve learned along the way, and partly to remind myself and partly to help those of you who are facing this for the n-th time [1. that about the sum total of what I remember about mathematics from school days – ‘nth’ term is a formula with ‘n’ in it which enables you to find any term of a sequence] here are a few things to remember about children and sharing and a few gentle ways to help them through this developmental phase:
1) Don’t Force It
Think of children in terms of your best friend. How would s/he feel if you took their Kindle/iPhone/iPad and made them share it with the guy/girl you met in the coffee shop this morning? Your child feels the same about that doll/car/stick/leaf. It’s worse about things they have a real attachment to, but anything that is your child’s sudden favourite is really important to them.
Instead: Offer an alternative. If it’s something your child really doesn’t want to share, ask them if you can keep it safe until they are alone again. If you’re asking, accept that the answer may be no. Remember that you can’t teach ‘don’t snatch’ by snatching it away from them.
‘If you don’t want to share, Johnny/Sue won’t want to play with you‘ sounds a whole lot like ‘If you won’t sleep with him, people will say you’re seriously lame and uncool‘ to me. Not the words, obviously, but the sentiment. I don’t want to teach my child that to be socially accepted she has to willing to do whatever is asked of her. (By the way, there’s a difference between that, and saying ‘if you hit your friends, they won’t want to play with you’. That one is simply true, and logical and pretty much applies in adulthood too. Unless you’re in a boxing club.)
And the truth is, it’s often less about the children than our embarrassment about what people must think.
3) Adjust your expectation
Gosh – I’ve uttered those words to my husband so many times. She’s t-w-o. (not even). Don’t expect six year old behaviour from her. Understand that this is a phase and that it will pass. Your goal isn’t actually – shouldn’t be, anyway – to make her share everything. Your goal is to help her understand why we want to share some things with some people.
Cornell University [2. Psychological Science October 2013vol. 24 no. 10 1971-1979 http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/10/1971] did a very interesting study on preschoolers and sharing, where children were divided into three groups – one group had to share stickers with a puppet, the next were given a choice between keeping stickers and throwing them away, and the third group had to choose between sharing with the puppet or keeping their sticker.
Interestingly, the children who were given the choice of sharing the sticker or keeping it for themselves, when presented with a new puppet and more stickers to share were the ones who shared the most. Read the full study on toddlers and sharing here. It’s really interesting reading.
In light of my recent amazing introduction to decent tools for positive parenting, here are the steps we take when Aviya either melts down because her big sister dared look in the direction of something that’s hers:
“I can see you feel angry/hurt/upset/frightened”
“Here are your options: we can put the toy away, or your sister can play with xyz for two minutes while you watch, or you can swap toys and play with each other’s special toys, or you can go play with your own toy somewhere else.” The problem with giving options is that you have to be able to follow through – “should we go home and you can play with your toy alone” given as an option, means you have to be willing to go home right away. Don’t offer it if it’s not an option, and an immediate viability – “share or she won’t share her toy with you later” means nothing to a two year old with no real concept of the passage of time.
3) Highlight the benefit of positive behaviour, without being punitive
There’s a definite difference between “look how sad your friend is because you wont share” and “you shared and your friend is really happy”. The one is guilty manipulation and the other is pointing out the consequence of a behaviour.
If they choose not to share, divert attention to the other child for a minute. “Aviya really doesn’t want to share her special toy at the moment. Why don’t we let her play with it for now and you can show me your special toy?” Chances are the introduction of something else that someone else wants might just provide the motivation for the first child to share their toy after all.
Does this take longer than just snatching the toy from your child and giving it to the other child – something I’ve sadly been guilty of! Of course it does. Are the long term effects worth it? Of course.
There’s nothing wrong with a child having a sense of ownership over their items, and I find especially with second child, so many of their things once belonged to an older sibling, that having things specifically ear marked as theirs is very valuable. And after all, if they care about something, they’ll care for it, and we really do want them to have that sense of ownership so that they will learn to care for their things too.
Remember that modelling is really important to children. They will do as they see us do. (And if you want to read them a story about sharing, Mine! is a great place to start.)
And most importantly, it is a phase. It will pass. What matters isn’t what is and isn’t shared, but how their relationship with the other person – especially in the case of a sibling – is affected going forward.
For more information on Positive Parenting, visit the Essential Parenting Collection sale
Parenting is a cacophony of emotions. When you’re not thoroughly worn out from sleepless nights, exhausted from good parenting days, or simply just trying to make it through, there’s always something to worry about. Someone you know lost a child, someone in your area had a child go missing, someone who knows someone who was a really good parent ended up with a junkie-teen. Just like people love to share a terrible birth story, and tend to shun those who had wonderful birth stories, everyone loves to share the bad stories about what happened to someone else, or how another child turned out, and it doesn’t really matter – to some extent – how they were parented, it’s normally the mother’s fault.
Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.
It’s the fear of these things that make parents so susceptible to marketing, spending (often wasting) money on the latest gadgets and basically living our lives doing everything we can to prevent something bad, and encourage something good happening to the little people entrusted to us.
The scary thing though? Like most of us, I know this, but I still have three particular fears where my two little girls are concerned:
In no particular order, there’s the fear of death, kidnapping and failure.
Most of us know someone who has lost a baby – born or unborn – or a child. I never knew how ‘common’ infant loss was till I became a mother myself. And then, because Ameli’s birth was such an amazing, enriching and empowering experience, I was terrified when Aviya’s turn came. For months I really worried, almost believed that I would never get to hold her alive. I was so worried something was going to go wrong in her birth. I mean, what are the chances that I could be so blessed, twice.
And now, even though I am a confident second time mother, and even though I am confident and relatively experienced in my use of homoeopathic and herbal remedies over conventional medicines for most of the girls’ minor ailments, when Aviya, specifically, gets ill, this niggely, horrible voice in the back of my head forces me to question myself, reminding me of that ‘feeling’. It takes a lot of pulling myself together to trust my intuition as much with this lovely second child of mine.
While many of us know someone who has been touched by the loss of a child, very few of us – me included – knows personally someone who has had a child kidnapped. And yet, it’s probably one of the biggest fears a parent faces. I can’t imagine how parents who have lost a child this way go on. I can’t imagine the horror. And yet, the statistics on ‘stranger danger‘ and someone doing something to our children are so different to what our fears justify.
If you’re a parent who lives in the shadow of this fear, I highly recommend Sue Palmer’s book, Toxic Childhood (US Link). It highlights how rare something like a stranger kidnapping really is, but how, because we see the lost and forlorn little face, and the obviously heartbroken parents in our living room, on repeat, day after day after day, it imprints on our brains to the point that we start almost identifying each replay as a new occurrence. (I actually recommend this book for a ton of other reasons too, it doesn’t make you feel guilty, but does encourage you to see a lot of reality in parenting and child raising. It’s one of my top three parenting book recommendations!)
Failure. Failure is a big one, and we all get it from the day our babies are conceived. Didn’t have a natural birth? Will I be able to bond with my child? Didn’t breastfeed? You and your child will probably both die of cancer. Didn’t babywear? Your poor child will lag behind in literacy for, like, ever. Didn’t co-sleep? Poor kid will have intimacy issues for the rest of their lives. You sent them to nursery school for four hours a week? Oh, the drama. Didn’t send them to a Montessori/Steiner/Waldorf/Forest school? What kind of parent are you!?
Pretty much everything we do is wrong to someone. Praise your kids? Wrong. Don’t praise your kids? Wrong. Send them to school? Wrong. Keep them at home? Wrong . Feed them grass-fed meat? Wrong. Feed them no meat? Wrong. Make everything from scratch? Did you sprout the grains first? Well… did you?
I think a lot of parenting and enjoying parenting comes down to three things:
Let go – of the things you can’t control.
Be realistic – in accordance to what’s real, your circumstances and what you can really do
Trust your instinct – listen to your child, listen to the voice inside you, and when you’re confident in your choices, no one can make you feel judged. And when you’re not confident, do your own research.
If you can – if I can – let go of things I don’t control, be realistic about my limitations and abilities, circumstances and finances, and trust that everything I do is for the best of my children and our family, the fears are a lot easier to quell, and motherhood is a much more fulfilling, enjoyable ride.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):