Letting the kids look after themselves

Well….kind of.  I’m not exactly suggesting that my 5 year old nips out to the shops for milk, or that my 2 year old runs his own bath or anything. But most kids can probably do more than we give them credit for.

My (almost) 2 year old has started fetching his shoes and bringing them to me when he knows we’re off out. I’m chuffed to bits about this – not only because it demonstrates how well his understanding is evolving, but also because I know that I helped make that possible for him.

Here’s how.

We have a ‘shoe cupboard’ of sorts. Well, it’s more like a shoe ‘hole’ in the wall. It is literally STUFFED with shoes. The front is open and it looks really messy (because we aren’t shutting it away behind cupboard doors, and because they’re all thrown in haphazardly). The kids know that’s where the shoes go. They’re not ordered or neatly put together, so as long as they take their shoes off and throw them in there – the job is done.

This all makes it wonderfully easy for my toddler to see where his shoes are, get hold of them, and then return them when finished.

The shoes are nice and low down (reachable), and it is obvious where they belong.

He gets the sense of independence, and pride at being able to participate in getting ready, and I have one less (tiny) task to do myself. Win Win.

We have a similar strategy with the kids coats. We have an ‘adult’ row of pegs, and a ‘child’ row of pegs. The child row of pegs is low enough for both kids to reach, and it is glaringly obvious near the front door. ‘Hang your coat up, put your shoes away’. No excuses, because we have adapted the environment to facilitate independence.

So I’ve been thinking….. There’s 3 strategies that I can think of to support my children in gaining independence in the home:

LOWER – put the things that the kids need, at the right height for them to reach. For example, if I want my 5 year old to start laying the table each day, I need to keep placemats and cutlery somewhere that he can get hold of them himself. Without my help.

RAISE – we have quite a few foot stools dotted around the house. This way, either of the kids can grab one and move it so they can access the sink, or the kitchen sideboard, or the books on the shelf. Without my help.

MAKE IT OBVIOUS – the shoe ‘hole’, the ‘child’ row of pegs, pictures on drawers (for those who can’t yet read). We can help enable independence by keeping things available, accessible and visible for our kids.

 

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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.

Giving up the ‘business’

I’m a problem solver. That’s what I do. Sort things out. It’s one of the things I do best.

Show me a ‘can’t’ and I’ll show you ‘can’. Show me an ‘I dont know’ and I swear I’ll show you an ‘I’ll find out’. Show me an ‘I’m frightened’ and I’ll show you a ‘hell, do it anyway!’

I started making natural skincare products to try and solve the ‘problem’ of my first son’s dry skin. I LOVE learning, so I studied and practised, and I made some lovely stuff for him.

And now, with baby number 2, both my kids benefit daily from their own little bespoke skincare range.

But the thing is, it was never meant to be a business. I guess that has been a byproduct really.

Its great that other people are using and enjoying the stuff. And hey, maybe someone will feel inspired by my journey, and be encouraged to do something to solve their own problem(s).

But I don’t enjoy business. No. Not at all. I enjoy creativity, and beauty, and peace and kindness. I enjoy people and new places, and new challenges, and learning. I enjoy overcoming difficulties, and finding the answer. I enjoy exploring natures gifts – the beautiful oils and herbs that are our natural healers.

But I don’t enjoy business. Not at all.

I enjoy the opportunities that it exposes me to. But I can’t stand the ‘selling’. The ‘transaction’. The value judgement that is made as a result.

I love my products. I love that I have preserved my childrens skin despite eczema, and chicken pox, and this rash, and that allergy. I’m proud of the work I have put into it. But I’m not a natural business woman.

And I’m wondering if and when it might be time to just stop…. After all, I solved the problem didn’t i?

The craftsman vs the retailer

It’s dawning on me that there is a huge conflict of interests between ‘craft’ and ‘business’.

I make my natural products because i LOVE it.

I love my beautiful little studio. I love the big pot of herby tea i always brew when i first get in there – and manage to drink whilst still warm (other mums will understand the rarity of this). I love listening (uninterrupted) to the radio. I love gazing out of the window onto the leafy park below. Watching the seasons change month by month. I love putting on one of my many aprons, and rolling up my sleeves, switching on the huge weighing scales and measuring out great hunks of butters and waxes. Heating up the stockpots and stirring in the oils.

Carefully does it. A tiny little at a time. Only at the optimum temperature – otherwise the oils spoil. I am engrossed in the process. Watching the pot, watching the clock, eye on the temperature. And when it works – its fantastic. Something i’ve created from my bare hands. The joy of ‘being’ the process – from start to finish. I think its called ‘flow’.  (check out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, hungarian psychologist, and his theories of ‘flow’, ‘happiness’ and ‘creativity’).

And i also do it because i believe what i’m making is beautiful, and lovely and so so deliciously gentle and nourishing. Its perfect. Or it is to me…..

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And then there’s retailing. A whole different species.

The focus in retail seems to be gaining as much benefit (i.e. profit) as you can with the least effort possible. Maximise profit, minimise cost. Yeah, i understand that. I mean, i understand the concept, and i understand why people would want to subscribe to that concept. But i’m afraid, that just aint my driving force.

I’ve been asked by a retailer (a really big one at that) to make a liquid baby wash. Unfortunately i have a couple of issues with this, and as such, will be unable to satisfy that request.

I do not make anything that has a water content. This a conscious choice for me, for two reasons.

1.If you include water in a product, you risk it developing bacteria. Any product that has water present therefore requires a preservative. Some modern synthetic (i.e. chemical) preservatives have been shown to cause various health problems. I dont do chemicals on my skin….

2. I have a moral issue with water based products. They are mostly water. And you the consumer are paying through the nose for that water. Its the biggest money-spinner around.

So y’see – business/retail/selling doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m afraid i have too strong a moral compass to concentrate solely on the cash.

I’m hoping my little crafty natural skincare business will do well on the strength of its quality products. I’m not out to make a fast buck. Aren’t we all supposed to be in this together?