We wish you a Merry Sensory Overload

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I know it’s premature, and i know that i’ll be really sick of it by Christmas day, but our tree went up this weekend. And now i need to brace myself for 4 weeks of overtired, over excited, slightly delirious kids.

I’m easily over stimulated at the best of times – i hate noise, bright lights, scratchy textures – but Christmas is a whole other level of sensory overload.

Here’s some tips for avoiding sensory overload at home during this excitable festive period:

  • Declutter. I know, i know, how is that possible at this time of year? Cards, decorations, kids off school. I’m trying not to get too attached to ‘stuff’, ditching post once its been read, putting toys away before bed etc etc.
  • Minimise screen time. This time of year is brilliant for TV/Movies generally, but i try to only switch the box on when theres something i/we want to watch – instead of leaving it on all the time as background noise. (I hate that!!!)
  • Pay attention to lighting (not too bright! And maybe forego the ‘flashing’ option on the tree lights…), noise volume, and heat. A ‘hot’ house can make for ‘hot’ tempers.
  • Try to achieve a balance of activities through the day – activity, followed by rest time, followed by refuelling etc.
  • Set limits for duration of activities – screen time, social time, phone calls, interactions, exposure to crowds and noise. How long can you/your kids tolerate these before they begin to irritate? Make sure to stop them before that stage is reached.
  • Rest. Sleep in (I wish!), lounge on the sofa, plan activities for the afternoon. This time of year, more than ever, its important to make sure you/your kids get enough rest.

Ok. Thats it. I’ll try my best to do all of this (because i haven’t achieved it any year before!).

Here goes December – i’m coming in.

See you on the other side!

 

 

Embrace the Pace

So it’s the third week of the summer break from school and I’d describe myself as ‘surviving’.

Week one, I was clearly buoyed by a false sense of security. The kids were pretty chilled out and ready for a rest. ‘This is easy’ I thought. Beach time, a little TV, some lazy mornings.

Week two was hell on earth. It rained. The kids were little monsters. Both were poorly. The dog had fleas. I had my period. We cried. All of us. A lot.

Week three – Its a bit of a mixed bag. It’s only Monday, so a lot could happen.

Here are my findings thus far into the hols:

  1. There’s no point fighting it – just surrender. Surrender to the mess.
  2. Go outside. And stay there. Every day. I have two sons, and they need to be run like puppies. The beach is my friend.
  3. Don’t bother with clothes – kids in swimsuits. And then pyjamas. And then swimsuits again. They don’t really need washing do they……?
  4. Never, ever, go to the shops with the kids in tow. Ever. It will only end in tears.
  5. Expect to gain a few pounds in weight. Chips and ice cream anyone?
  6. Slow down. Embrace the pace. Don’t make plans. And definitely don’t make appointments. The stress of trying to get everyone there on time is the stuff of nightmares.

There’s still a few weeks to go.

Breathe deep. We can do this….

Keeping the kids alive

I kneeled on the floor of the supermarket this morning. Despite the wet, muddy surface. And despite the glances of the disapproving OAPs. And despite the hurried impatient office types trying to rush me through the checkout.

I kneeled on the floor of the supermarket, to stuff my groceries under the pram – beneath the weight of my sleeping toddler.

Y’see, I’m in the important business of keeping the kids alive.

Thats what I wanted to shout at the folks behind me.

Yes, I’m slow, and yes I’m getting dirty, down here on the wet floor. But they need this shit – the milk, and ham, and cheese and crisps, and cucumber, and garlic stuffed roasted peppers (…well…they were for me actually). But anyway, they need this stuff. And I’m getting it for them.

Its often a very undignified process – this ‘keeping the kids alive’ business. I’m usually hungry, very tired, slightly dirty, carrying at least one child, de-escalating a potential tantrum from the other, dressed in ill-fitting very unflattering out-dated clothes, and most likely scrabbling around on my hands and knees somewhere trying to retrieve something.

But I AM keeping the kids alive.

I put such a lot of pressure on myself (we all do don’t we?) to provide my children with enough attention, and activity, and love, and the right kind of stimulation (not too much TV, plenty of stories, some outdoor time, maybe a little painting, or cooking, or crafting blah blah blah……).

But sometimes, after a busy night of teething, I’m so tired, all I can do is make sure they’re safe and happy. Feed them, wash them, dress them, cuddle them. Anything else might be a little ambitious.

Today is one of those days.

So hey, all those people that saw me looking like a tramp – Unkempt, tired, fumbling in my purse, struggling with the pram, soaked from the rain, please don’t judge me. I’m keeping the kids alive. And sometimes it looks like this.

Letting the kids talk to strangers

I took my boys to the beach yesterday with our big gangly dog. Nothing strange there. We do this every day.

Anyway, I digress. I took my boys to the beach yesterday, and whilst we were there a man arrived with a bucket, wearing waders and proceeded to wander out into the shallows.

It was a very low tide. Lower than I’ve seen it for a long time, and there were small pools exposed, and rocks covered in green slime, and shells and the spaghetti-like cases left by sand worms. And the man stopped by one of these pools, kneeled on the wet sand and began dipping his hands into the water and under the rocks.

It, obviously, caught our attention, and I found myself thinking that here was another great opportunity to let my eldest son ( for the youngest can’t speak yet…) practice talking with a stranger.

Talking with a stranger!!!!! Yes, you read that correctly.

See, the thing is, I know we’re all supposed to be frightened of talking to strangers. And we’re supposed to teach our kids that stranger = danger. But I just get can’t to grips with that.

We live in the north east of England. Up here the people are (for the best part) notoriously friendly.  We chat on the bus, in the street, on the doorstep. We don’t think anything of striking up conversation with folks we might stand next to in the supermarket aisle, or people smiling at us at the bus stop. And smiling…..that’s great shit isn’t it? Costs nothing and makes your day.

I’ve taught my eldest to smile at folks. I’ve also taught him to say hello if someone sits next to him. To say ‘excuse me’ to the shop assistant if he wants something. He’s only 4 (nearly 5) but I’ve encouraged him to approach the lady behind the counter, to speak to the bus driver, to say ‘good morning’ to fellow dog walkers.

And I encouraged him to approach the man in the waders, and ask him what he was doing. I knew what he was doing. But I saw this as another chance for my son to practice politely approaching someone. And of course, to learn something new.

The man responded with kindness. Maybe it’s because we live in the north. But he took the time to answer my son. They both smiled. My son came skipping back to me, buoyant with the new information he had. Excited that he had learnt something new. And confident that he could approach someone he didn’t know.

I had watched from a distance. I knew he was ‘safe’. And I was glowing with pride to overhear his beautiful little voice start “excuse me….”.

How can we teach our kids independence, if we are to control who they speak to? And how they speak to them?

There are so many skills I am trying to teach my kids. Surely, one of the most important is how we integrate into our society, how we make friends, how we talk to others.

I’m not prepared to teach my children to be afraid of strangers.