Mother-Daughter Bonding Night

Ever since the school year began, Trixi and I had been looking forward to the Mother-Daughter Bonding Night in her school. It’s finally here! We were both so excited to have this chance to be together, just the two of us.

Our first task was to put up our tent. Trixi chose a spot and she soon got started. Her friend Sabrina helped her set it up. For a while it looked like it was going to rain. But the skies cleared up and the weather was just perfect. The wind was cool and the stars were out.

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There were different activities lined up. There were talks given by other AA moms regarding their experiences. A movie about a mother’s love was shown after dinner. To go with the movie, there was free popcorn and hotdogs for everybody. We laid out a mat and sat on the soccer field to watch the movie.

That's our Plants vs. Zombies mat :-)

That’s our Plants vs. Zombies mat 🙂

It was the first time for both of us to sleep in a tent. It was quite cold at night. It felt so good to snuggle under our blanket.

The next day, we were made to go through different Bonding Stations. Each station had a different theme. Our first station was named “Playtime Memories”, where we played different childhood games like jackstones, pick-up-sticks, jump rope, and hula hoops. Next up was the “What If” Station. Both of us were given a set of questions to ask the other. It was a chance to ask questions which, ordinarily, might be difficult to ask.

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In the “This I Promise You” Station, we took turns writing down our promises to each other.

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The next station was the “Kodak Moment”. We had our picture taken by a professional photographer in the school garden.  After that, we went to the “Believe in Me” Station. In this station, the daughters were made to undergo different challenges while blindfolded. This represents the difficulties that may arise during adolescence.

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The mothers’ task was to guide the girls and make sure they reach the end safely. In life, we parents try to guide and protect our children as they navigate the world. I hope that my daughter realizes that she can trust us always.

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Our last station was “You Are Wonderful”. The introduction to the station said: “Because of the ‘busyness’ of our lives, we forget to pay attention to what is essential. We forget to say affirming words, to say words of encouragement or to give a pat on the back for a job well done. This station will give you an opportunity to look into what is beautiful and good in one another.” We were given 16 cut-out hearts where we wrote words of affirmation and pinned them to each other.

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I am really grateful that Trixi and I were given this wonderful opportunity. We had a great time doing things together. I hope that we continue to be open to each other, even as she grows older. May this only be the start of more bonding activities together.

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Grateful Project Day 212: The Strength To Say “No”

Parenting is a difficult job. Sometimes, I feel like I am probably the worst parent in the planet because I say “no” to my kids. I tell myself, “It’s for their own good, they’ll understand when they’re bigger”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad doing it. Then I read this article. I am glad that someone out there feels the same way.

You Can Say No

I see it again and again in my practice: parents who seem to have forgotten that they are in charge.

“You can say no,” I find myself saying to family after family. Which is kind of an amazing thing to have to say, if you think about it. You’d think that parents would know that they can say no when their child asks for yet another toy, to watch more television, to have seconds of ice cream, to stay up late or stay out past curfew.

But they don’t seem to know.

I loved the post by Emma Jenner, the British nanny, about the five reasons modern day parenting is in crisis. I couldn’t agree with her more. Parents are afraid of their kids, have lowered the bar when it comes to behavior and are using shortcuts (like smartphones to entertain their child) way too much.

Now, I’ve certainly used electronics to keep my kids occupied in a boring situation that required quiet, there are days when the bar just plain old needs to be low (we all have lived those days) and some kids with emotional or other problems need to get their way sometimes in order to cope. But these should be exceptions. I shouldn’t see parents giving in every day, but I do.

Once, many years ago, a colleague and I spent a long time getting a ball bearing out of a preschooler’s nose (no easy task, trust me). We handed it to the father. The little boy held out his hand… and the father gave it back to him. “What are you doing?” I said as I took the metal ball back from the boy. “He wanted it,” said the father.

Really?

It gets played out in so many ways. What the child wants rules, whether or not it’s a good health, safety or discipline decision. Parents don’t like it when their kid cries — which I get, but as I try again and again to explain, they cry because it works. If they know that crying won’t work — if no means no — then they stop crying a whole lot faster or don’t start at all. Parents also want their kids to like them, which I get, too; being popular with your kids and their friends is nice. But the fact that you are popular may be cold comfort when they get diabetes from obesity, do poorly in school or come home with the police one night because they were drinking (or worse).

Parenting is hard work. Being a good parent means being unpopular sometimes. It means having upset children — and plenty of unpleasant moments, including in public places. It means being exhausted, bored and really frustrated. But here’s the thing that so many parents these days don’t realize: putting in the extra work and enduring the unpleasantness makes things easier and more pleasant in the long run. Oh — and you end up with happier, healthier, better-behaved and more successful kids.

Discipline can feel harsh. But done calmly, consistently and with lots of positive reinforcement for good behavior, it doesn’t have to be. It actually can be comforting to children to know that there are limits. It makes the world smaller and safer at a time when they need it to be smaller and safer.

These parents I see aren’t lazy or dumb (not any more than any of us, anyway). They care about their kids and want things to turn out well. They just don’t know quite what to do. I think Jenner is right in pointing out that we’ve lost the village; so many parents are disconnected from family and community, all those older, experienced people who can offer advice and be role models. For so many young parents, their “community” is other parents who are muddling through alongside them, who have no more experience than they do.

So here’s what I wish all parents would remember:

1. You can say no. Practice saying with your partner (you can support each other in saying it), or to the mirror, or your pet or pillow. Practice until you can say it with conviction.

2. You are in charge. You might not be smarter than your 5th grader, but she doesn’t get to call the shots.

3. You don’t have to do everything perfectly. Mistakes are part of how we learn to do things better. And as long as you do try to do things better, and say sorry when you should, your child will forgive you.

4. You can (and should) ask for help. Make your own village. As you fill it, include some people with gray hair who have been around the block a few times. And your doctor or nurse.

 

Grateful Project Day 208: No Gender Stereotypes

Having both a son and a daughter, I am very much conscious of trying to raise them without regard for stereotypes. They shared the same books and toys – blocks, construction sets, trucks, stuffed toys, balls. They both took up karate and violin. The preschool they went to had blue uniforms on certain days and pink uniforms on others. We always tell them that they can be anything they want to be. And for rules, what goes for one goes for the other as well. I remember growing up, my brothers were given more leniency “because they were boys”. I am determined not to let that happen with my kids. It is not easy – for one thing, my daughter has been labelled as “boyish” simply because she prefers to play with Legos rather than dolls. But we keep at it:-)

Grateful Project Day 196: “The Value of Virginity”

I came upon an article today from The Guardian. I hope to share it with my own children someday.

The Value of Virginity

Anticipation is great. To be honest, I wonder what’s the problem with waiting, why we think everything has to be so fast. Fast food, fast tan, fast sex. I’m pretty sure that most people who know me know I’m a virgin. I suppose it’s a label that’s stuck to me for the past few years and it really hasn’t bothered me that much. However, the fact that I’ve actively chosen to stay a virgin so far is what perplexes and sometimes even bothers some people.

Now, at this point, I’m guessing, some guys are cringing at the thought of not having had sex by the age of 18 and yes, I’ll admit, it can be pretty tough. There have been times when I have doubted my decisions, when I wish I did go upstairs with that girl at a party but why have I not? Well, the simple answer is that I want to have sex with only one woman in my life. One who I love and want to spend the rest of my life with. I have to admit, I’m a bit of an old-school romantic and part of this probably stems from my Christian beliefs, but nevertheless it is a firmly personal choice to save myself for one person and, without Bible bashing, I’d like to explain why.

I believe that sex is an incredibly strong symbol of love between two people. Think of it as a glue. Once you have had sex with someone, you’re connected to them emotionally and physically. If you tear that bond the rip leaves open scars where the glue once was. That’s why “casual sex” never works in the long term, it just doesn’t. You only have to watch Friends with Benefits to see this (granted, it’s a class film). I believe it is best to only enter a sexual relationship with someone who, really, you would be happy marrying and, contrary to what many of my mates believe, you can have a relationship without sex, and a very good one at that.

This leads me on to a common misconception about serious relationships and sex. When talking to a friend of mine recently, he remarked “but would you buy a car without test driving it?” My first reaction was to laugh but then I was suddenly taken aback by the pure bluntness of his attitude to sex. Basically what he was saying that the only thing relationships are good for is for sex. A car’s function is to drive, therefore a relationship is there for only for sexual pleasure. This car analogy, however, has huge pitfalls. I mean, if I was to carry on with this car analogy, I’d much rather my partner were a shiny new Ferrari than a fourth hand, slightly worn out Volvo … You get the picture.

Things are changing across the country with regards to sexual activity within our age bracket. While researching for this, I was expecting to find shocking statistics on the rise of sexual activity among young Britons but what I found surprised me. More and more young people are actually abstaining, with no less than 27% of 15-24 year old men never having any form of sexual contact whatsoever in 2011. This is up from 2002 where only 22% had never had sexual contact with another person. I guess I’m not the only crazy guy around after all.

So, to all those reading this who have not yet had sex and feel pressurised to do so because “everyone else is”, they’re not. I promise. For the majority of the time, people lie about how far they’ve been that weekend or with their boyfriend/girlfriend. So the “incredible” sex life that your friends boast about probably doesn’t exist. Life isn’t always about being first: just take your time.

• The Value of Virginity by Phin Lyman was originally published in his school magazine, The Wellingtonian

Grateful Project Day 185: Grateful That I Can Stay Home With My Kids

My daughter wasn’t able to go to school today. She had fever and a bad cough. We just let her rest at home for today. When her temperature was high, she would be lethargic and sleepy. She would feel a little better when the fever subsides. I was watching her sleep this afternoon and I thought to myself, “I’m glad I can be here with her.”

Grateful Project Day 170: Home

My husband and I try to take our kids to different places. From the time they are born, we bring them around whenever possible. There is nobody to leave them with, so most of the time, it is not a choice. When they got bigger, we brought them to different destinations, both in and out of the country. They have been to many provinces in the Philippines. They have visited a few Asian cities. So when I saw my daughter’s reply to a question asked in a school activity, my heart leaped.

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