Your arrival in this world felt dramatic and decisive. It was as if, once you’d decided it was time, there was no stopping you. Finding out we had a daughter was exquisite and terrifying, all rolled into one. And you’ve been a blessing ever since.
“Oh, here we go” you’re thinking, “here comes someone else judging me for my parenting choices!” For taking a few moments to yourself or enjoying a rare uninterrupted conversation with a friend while your child runs off some steam at the soft play centre.
Don’t worry, it’s not what you think! I promise.
I completely get the need to have some you time while a brightly coloured, foam-padded steel frame entertains your child for a bit. I’m a full-time stay-at-home mum to a very boisterous 2-year-old boy and a headstrong 1-year-old girl who doesn’t like being pushed around by said 2-year-old boy. I’m with you 100% in needing a break…..
I’m also sure I’m not alone in comparing a soft-play centre to hell on earth. Literally like the ground has opened up and the fiery inferno of the afterlife is engulfing everyone in the building. I think it’s a combination of the relentless pop music, bright colours, noisy over-excited children dashing around and junk food smells that is completely overstimulating for me, a fully grown adult, so it’s hard to imagine how it must feel for a small child. Toddlers experience the world in a highly vivid fashion; they’re multi-sensory creatures who can very easily become overstimulated. So, when your child pushes mine over because his personal space was invaded, I get it. I completely understand where that behaviour is coming from. Those aren’t the behaviours that interest me, or that I want to focus on in this blog post.
What I want to talk about are the behaviours that go completely unnoticed. The behaviours that get overlooked because often as parents in this situation we’re constantly on the defensive. We’re anticipating our child pushing someone over at any moment, throwing a ball pool ball in someone’s face or just generally getting into an altercation that requires some parental mediation or refereeing. But what happens in all the other moments when parental input isn’t required. What do our children get up to then?
Well let me tell you something, they’re amazing! I’m writing this having been at soft-play this morning where I made a conscious effort to watch my son - and to really watch attentively, not just defensively – to watch him but also the other children around him. I witnessed him working really hard on a specific physical skill, tweaking his technique to make it more efficient, and practising it over and over to perfect it before moving onto something else. He never gave up when the going got tough, he just persisted until he could do it. That’s a pretty awesome quallity that I’d be very proud if he carried through to adulthood. I watched him collaborating with his peers, working as a team to all help each other up a slope that was just a little bit big for them. They were communicating, formulating plans, testing methods and readjusting them until they had solved the problem. A huge list of amazing skills were demonstrated by every single one of the children involved. I witnessed turn-taking without having been told to “share”, I witnessed compromises, consideration, compassion and intelligence. Our children are truly amazing, and if we’re constantly just fire-fighting and reacting to the drama, we’re potentially missing out on seeing our children for who they really are, and what they are really capable of.
As we were getting our shoes and coats on ready to leave, I had such a great conversation with my son. I told him how I had noticed him helping the little girl up the slope, and we talked about how helpful and thoughtful he was. I told him I was really proud of him, and that he should feel proud of himself too. As we were leaving the lady at reception asked if he’d had a good time, and you know what he said to her? “I helped the little girl up the slope, I’m a helpful boy.” A pretty awesome take home message for him in my opinion
Children want to be noticed. When we watch them and offer commentary back about what they are doing, we are validating them. We are demonstrating our interest in them, acknowledging that their actions have meaning, and that as people they have worth. We are nurturing the connection that exists between ourselves and them, and we are also nurturing the amazing qualities our children possess. As parents, we often feel it is our job to teach our children: to teach them to care for others and teach them concern and empathy. But a little newsflash for you, children are born good. They are born with an innate tendency towards caring for and connecting with others. They also already have inbuilt qualities such as persistence, ambition, drive, confidence, resilience, compassion…. The list goes on. It’s not necessary to teach them, these traits are already built in, they just need recognising and nurturing. But to recognise them we have to notice them, and to notice them we first have to observe.
So, next time you’re at soft play (and indeed anywhere else), a polite request: please keep a closer eye on your child.
Hannah Cartledge- CalmFamily Sheffield and South Yorkshire
I’m Hannah, I live in Sheffield with my two children (1 and 2 years old) my husband, a cat and four chickens. I’ve been running CalmFamily Sheffield and South Yorkshire for a little while now. Children are only small for such a short time though, so I’m trying to enjoy it rather than wish it away!
I read the BabyCalm book while pregnant with my first. As I’m sure a lot of adults have, I’ve carried quite a bit of baggage from my childhood and the way that I was parented. I knew that I wanted to do things differently. Reading BabyCalm I just thought “Yes! There is another way, and this is it!”. Everything in it just seemed to make so much sense to me. A parenting concept that treats children fairly, compassionately, unconditionally and with the respect that they deserve. Why wasn’t everyone aware of this stuff? So I kept reading, and finished ToddlerCalm too. And then I really thought, everyone HAS to know this. This information could truly change the world. So that’s when I searched online to see if I could train to teach classes in these topics, and the rest as they say is history!
Two little words. What if?
Two little words that can mean optimism, hope and excitement. Words that speak of a future that looks bright, engaging and all you would ever want it to be.
Two little words. What if?
Two little words that can mean doubt, negativity and anxiety. Words that speak unkind thoughts, tell you it won’t work out and make you feel that nothing you do will ever be good enough.
I did a few. There were some I didn't do and would still love to. Some of them were awesome.
However, nothing ever offered everything I wanted to do, or fit what I wanted to teach perfectly, so as usual, I ended up doing my own thing; a mix of it all, but mostly from my instincts. Of course I became much more focused on babies and toddlers as the years went on due to circumstances and that has been wonderful, but birth always calls me back and many people suggested I write a programme. I refused on the basis that there are lots and lots of programmes already and some are really really good - many in fact.
So why? Why did I decide to create BirthCalm and how is it different? Because it is different...
We often talk to parents in a bit of a panic because they have booked their dream holiday with their child or children and when the reality of the long haul flight (or even just a short flight with an energetic toddler) sinks in, they don't know where to turn or how to keep them calm, and keep themselves calm. So we have put together some top tips for having a calm-er flight experience with a baby or toddler. We hope you like them:
T = Toddler
M = Mummy
A true story of how fantasy bedtimes and real bedtimes happen!
So, what is all the fuss about tummy time?
Well I hate it. Seriously! and so do my kids. But I tell you what they love and what they need, it's rhythm, and here is what I mean by that...