I am always looking for more ways of teaching maths in a tangible way to my kids. This is partly because one of the slight disadvantages of the French school system is that teaching is very academic. It is also because I want the children to understand at an early age how genuinely useful, fun and actually simple maths is. It is such an important lesson to know, because you suddenly understand why you are studying all this “nonsense”. Teaching math is not an easy task with my two – they would much rather disappear into the wonderful dreamland of their books, than think about numbers.
A friend of mine sent me this link which I love! A teacher did a brilliant layout of how to use lego to easily understand fractions and square number. The girls and I had a little session tonight working on fractions and it really worked.
Now it isn’t 100% fool proof – I went away to let the girls play around with their fractions and I came back and they had made excellent furniture for their lego houses with my 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 which they proudly showed me! … But I still think some information sank in. ; )
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My sister recently just spent a couple weeks with us here in New Zealand and toward the end of her stay, she looked at me and asked ‘do you think Marlow is more naughty because she was born that way, or do you think it’s because she’s the youngest and she’s been allowed to be?’. It’s an interesting question and one which I couldn’t actually answer.
I’ve always thought Marlow was just born with extra cheek and a bit of a naughty streak. Not really naughty in a bad way, but more of a cleverness and curiosity that can sometimes lead to trouble. She seems to have more of this curiosity than the other children have ever had. After all, none of the other kids ever had a problem with drawing on walls, climbing onto kitchen counters, cutting their own hair, escaping from her car seat in the car, etc. In fact, when Marlow cut the entire left side of her hair off last year and came walking into the room as if nothing had happened, all three of the other kids were so upset, they were crying hysterically. They couldn’t believe she would go that far.
So, while I’ve always felt like this is just the way Marlow is, my sister raised a good point. Could it also be that we’ve fostered this personality? Being the youngest of four children, she naturally has different parents than our eldest children had at her age. We are more distracted with the other kids so there are more opportunities to sneak under the radar and to get into trouble without us catching her. Maybe we’ve also become a bit relaxed with our discipline over the years and are more forgiving of her behavior. Another element I’ve noticed is that even when I do discipline her, she often turns to her older siblings for love and support, and mama becomes the ‘bad guy’ (receiving disappointing looks from all the children). I mentioned she is clever – she knows exactly how to play the ‘baby of the family’ card. : )
Could it then be a youngest child thing? Perhaps it is in our family, but I know it’s not the case in others. I’ve had many conversations with friends who tell me their ‘naughty’ child is their middle child, or even their eldest. So the birth order argument doesn’t always hold true. (On a side note – I find the study of birth order and children’s personalities SO fascinating! I even took a class on it in college. ) Maybe it goes back to my initial thought that some children are just born with a bit of extra cheek…
I would love to hear your thoughts. It’s an interesting nature versus nurture debate. Do you happen to have one child more mischievous than the others? If so, which number child is he or she?
The photo above was taken this summer by Sara Welch who happened to capture my children’s personalities perfectly.
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I just read this article about a woman who has decided to wear a “uniform” to work everyday, which was originally written for Harper’s Bazaar. I thought it would be fun to share, just because this morning I had yet again the work clothes panic: what should I wear? My daily morning routine involves getting the kids up and dressed and fed and getting myself ready for work. The amount of times I don’t know what to wear while I am standing in front of a cupboard full of clothes, seriously running out of time, is ridiculous.
I really fancy the idea of a work wardrobe that fits everything! How much easier would my life be? A girl I once worked with had a similar idea: she always wore a black top and a patterned skirt come rain or shine. She always looked so put together and it worked for every occasion.
My problem is that I worry I might get quite bored… but perhaps the practicality of the “uniform” would outweigh my boredom. What do you think? Do you have a work uniform that makes your day easier or do you just freestyle?
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We are super duper excited to be featured in this month’s issue of Red Magazine! The team from Red Mag came over last month for an interview and to snap some photos, and I’m excited to finally see the photos and read the article. I chat about family life, my views on TV, the pros and cons of social media, and how I’d feel about having more babies (I wish!).
Unfortunately, they don’t post the articles from the magazine on their website, so you’ll have to pick up a copy to read it… but I wanted to share a couple photos. They sent me an outtake (the second photo) and it’s my favourite! Marlow was refusing to sit still for the camera, so of course Michael had to do a little upside-down-child action on her. Haha!
Also, the team from Red Magazine have asked me to take over their Instagram feed this week. Each day I get to share some of my favourite things to do, read, decorate, wear and play. I’ll be there until Friday, so please head over and say hi!
(Photos by the lovely and talented Jenny Lewis)
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Here is a typical situation in our household: I hear a little pair of feet running off toward the bathroom in a hurry and then there is silence. Approximately two minutes later the little feet run off again. I then yell: “have you flushed the toilet and washed your hands?” and the answer is inevitably yes. I then point out that I am going to check the toilet and the hands. There is a moment of silence and the little feet run back; I hear the toilet flush and the water of the wash basin run.
A similar thing happens with brushing teeth, where a cheeky little girl once told me that she had indeed brushed her teeth, but the reason her toothbrush was stone dry was because she had carefully dried it with the hairdryer. The same cheeky girl once blamed a pot of mayonnaise for having dumped a whole sack of toys on the floor.
Now this can either make me giggle or drive me to desperation (often depending on how tired I am), but apparently it is totally normal and is actually an important step in a child’s development. It normally starts at the age of two when a child suddenly realises that her way of thinking is different from others around them and limits are tested. It’s also an age where the lines between fact and fantasy are still very blurred. When they get older the lines become clearer, but the moral priorities are still blurred. The importance to please parents is very important, sometimes more so than actually telling the truth. I thought this article and this article were really interesting.
What I need to remember is not to lose my cool when it happens, as it is definitely more counteractive than anything else! Also a recent study has shown how punishing lying in children actually pushes them towards bending the truth more.
I have to say, after researching this, that my admiration for school teachers has grown even more. Can you imagine the tales teachers must have heard in their life?
The photo above is of my girls which I took the other day. They look like butter couldn’t melt in their mouth. Rest assured, it can!
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As I’ve written before, it always surprises me how much pressure our society puts on baby sleep. It seems that from the moment babies are born, the questions inevitably roll in from friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers in the supermarket: ‘how is he sleeping?’, ‘how long is he sleeping between feeds?’ and even ‘is he sleeping through the night?’. I remember fielding these many questions after the birth of all of my babies and consequently feeling guilty that I couldn’t astound them with stories of my amazing sleeping baby. My babies never slept through the night until they were around one year old — they usually slept in bed with me and nursed on demand, which is something that always felt natural to me and worked for our family. Apart from the pressure from others, I never really minded that my babies weren’t ‘perfect sleepers’.
Sometimes I wonder if all of this pressure for babies to sleep through the night has a knock-on effect on whether they eventually do. I wonder if these societal expectations encourage parents to turn to techniques that might not necessarily feel natural and that in turn interfere with our children’s natural sleep development. In her new book, The Happy Sleeper , Heather Turgeon aims to teach parents that babies have an innate capacity to self-soothe, as well as the brain machinery to sleep well, and that by being more mindful and open we can encourage children to do exactly that.
We’ve asked Heather Turgeon to share some tips for raising happy sleepers. I love that these tips are more about creating a positive association with sleep and less about following strict methods that might not feel instinctive. Here are her tips below:
1. Build a good relationship to sleep. Schedules, feedings, nap issues…it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of sleep, but think about your children’s relationship to sleep (they have a one, just like they have a relationship to food). We influence our kids’ feelings about sleep in our subtle choices of language and tone. If we approach sleep as a “must do” or even a negative consequence, by saying things like, “You have to go to bed!” or “You’re cranky, do you need a nap!” with an anxious tone, or give kids a time out in their beds, it grows into a negative association. Instead, talk about sleep as the fascinating subject and welcome treat that it is. Sleep is something we get to do, not something we have to do. The more we convey that to our kids in small moments, the healthier their relationship to sleep for the rest of their lives.
2. Know that sleep is not learned, but habits are. Sleep is a natural, biological human activity—it doesn’t require “training,” because it’s programmed deep in our children’s brains. But even though sleep itself isn’t learned, the habits and associations around sleep are. Those habits include where your child sleeps, her specific routine, her blankets and loveys, and the sounds, sights, and feels of her room as she falls asleep. Our little ones are creatures of habit and their brains are primed to follow and latch on to patterns. That means (for good or ill), that what you do one night, your child usually expects you to do the next! The best sleep patterns stay the same from bedtime through the rest of the night—bedtime sets the stage for everything.
3. Do a “last call for stuff”. If you have little kids, you know the amazing and random statements they make after bedtime: “My bunny jumped out of the bed,” “I need the water filled exactly to here”… Last week my son called me in and said, “My toenails are pointing inward!” One really helpful idea is to make a “last call for stuff”—in which everyone knows it’s time to gather the right animals, fill glasses, blow noses and ask questions. Once the lights go out, remind your kids that they’ve already had their last call, and now they’re in charge of their own “stuff.”
4. Work with your child’s biology. There are certain facts about our kids’ biology—use these to your advantage. For example, little babies are ready to sleep after about 90 minutes of awake time because they have a very strong “sleep drive” (the amount of time before the pressure of sleep builds to warrant a nap or bedtime). The internal clock is very powerful after the age of 6 months, and it likes consistency. Having a regular bedtime and routine harnesses this power.
5. Run sleep patterns by two criteria. When my partner and I do sleep consultations, we get asked whether certain sleep patterns are okay (like baby coming into bed for the last half of the night, child only napping in the stroller, or baby only sleeping in the parent’s arms). There’s no “right” way to sleep (look at how differently people sleep all over the world!), but a good sleep pattern meets two criteria: 1. People are sleeping enough (except in the case of having a young baby), and 2. The pattern works for everyone involved. If your child starts the night in her own room and joins you at 2:00 a.m., everyone still meets their sleep needs and feels happy with it—no need to change a thing. If one or more of you isn’t sleep well this way, time to change. The good news is that sleep patterns are adaptable regardless of age (remember, they are learned!).
I don’t know about you, but her first tip particularly resonated with me. I definitely need to be more mindful about the way I talk about sleep. I’m sure I’ve said things like ‘if you do that one more time, you can go straight to bed’ (making bed be a punishment). Ooops! It makes so much sense why this is exactly what you shouldn’t do!
p.s. The image above is one of my very favourite photos found on Pinterest. Isn’t it the sweetest?
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I was extremely excited to be asked for an interview over on Fenwick’s online magazine The Daily Muse. I have always loved the children’s department at Fenwick — for years it has been my go-to place to find unique children’s gifts, and I’ve recently been really impressed with their blossoming childrenswear department which includes many of our favourite brands: Millie Manu, Caramel Baby & Child, Rachel Riley, etc.
When they asked to come over last weekend for a little photo shoot and dress-up session I just couldn’t resist. Not only was it fun to see a sneak peak of all the pretty new spring/summer children’s clothes, it was also a great chance to have the kids photographed in the house for what will probably be the last time (we’ll be moving very soon). I’m so thankful to have these photos, including some silly outtakes from the shoot (featured above).
I also enjoyed answering questions about motherhood, family, work, Instagram, children’s fashion and other parenting topics. You can read the full interview and see all the photos here. There is a reference in there to Maria Von Trapp, and if you know me even a little, you’ll know there is no bigger compliment. : )
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Have you heard of this custom in Finland? I just read this article and had to share it! Every baby born in Finland receives a box from the state full of clothes, a sleeping bag, accessories and toys. The box can then be used as a bed. Everyone receives it, so it has become part of the excitement of having a baby.
I thought it was really interesting how over the years the content of the box has changed. In the ’30s the box contained fabric as woman were used to making their own clothes… and now the box contains condoms! The Finns are certainly moving with the times, but the principle stays the same and so generations of children in Finland have started off their lives sleeping in a cardboard box — such a great tradition!
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Last month at our ShopUp event, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow London mum, Louise Hannon. We started talking about children and life in London, and she told me her incredible story about her son’s illness, his life-threatening surgeries at Great Ormond Street Hospital and his heart transplant through organ donation. We spoke about organ donation and how important it is to spread the word about it. Did you know that, according to statistics, more than 90% of us would consider donating our organs and yet, here in the UK, only about 30% of us are registered? It all comes down to spreading awareness.
Here in the UK, more than 10,000 people need a transplant and three people die every single day waiting for one. In the US, there are more than 120,000 needing a transplant and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ. Also, one organ donor can save up to eight lives!
I was so moved by Louise’s story, we asked her to share her story with us and she very kindly agreed. Here is her story, a rather brief re-cap of a very tumultuous past 18 months:
On 28th January 2014, my six-year-old son Joe had a life saving heart transplant at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. This was due to the amazing generosity of a lady who, through organ donation, chose to save other’s lives in the event of her death.
Up until summer 2013 he had been a non–stop little boy, full of energy, who loved being outdoors, playing football and climbing trees. We had just moved to South Australia when he suddenly became unwell, and Joe received a diagnosis of ‘Dilated Cardiomyopathy’ – serious heart failure that would most likely require transplant in order for him to survive. We were utterly devastated and struggled to deal with the news especially being on the other side of the world away from friends and family. Calling our parents back in the UK to tell them the news was incredibly hard and the first of many difficult phone calls we had to make to them over the following months.
After a month in Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital Joe was repatriated back to London in a medical jet in the hope that he would receive a heart transplant more quickly in the UK. However, Joe’s heart transplant did not come as quickly as we had all hoped and he continued to decline despite the maximum IV drugs he was on. It was frightening to see how quickly his heart was giving up and the effect this had on him as he lost huge amounts of weight and would lie listlessly on the bed unable to really talk to us. We were desperate to get the phone call each day to say a heart was available. We were also aware though that when a heart did come that meant a family somewhere else would be experiencing tragedy and this was such a difficult process to reconcile ourselves with.
We were told his only option now was to undergo open heart surgery for a ‘Berlin heart machine’ to be fitted to keep him alive until transplant. He had a number of serious complications whilst on the machine requiring further surgery including pneumonia and bleeding into his lungs. There was a huge amount of uncertainty as to whether he would pull through and we literally held our breath for weeks willing him to fight and get better. Our four months in intensive care was an awful experience of watching him suffer horribly. I naively hoped that, though unconscious, he wouldn’t suffer pain. I hoped that it was only us suffering as we watched and waited to see if he would recover. The reality was that he was often conscious and very distressed, unable to speak or swallow due to the breathing tube in his throat. We would watch him cry and feel completely helpless. This was the hardest part of the entire ordeal.
His biggest complication arising from the Berlin heart machine was the severe stroke he suffered on Boxing Day, 2013, which is one of the most significant risks associated with the Berlin Heart machine. After the first brain surgery to relieve the bleed in his brain we were told he would not survive and we asked my parents to bring our three year old daughter up to the hospital to say goodbye. They operated for a second time as a last ditch attempt and he miraculously survived, but was left paralysed down his left side. A heart finally became available a month later and Joe had his long awaited transplant. We then began the arduous road to recovery, involving rehab to help him learn to walk again and use his left arm. Joe spent a total of six and a half months in hospital, enduring thirteen operations and a further six weeks in a children’s neurodisability rehab centre.
He is truly a living miracle and we are hugely proud of all that he has battled through at such a young age. We are slowly coming to terms with what has happened to our family in the last eighteen months and the far reaching effect this has had on all our lives. We never thought something like this would happen to us. We had coasted along in life ticking off our plans for career, children, and travelling, believing we were in control of our lives and future. As Christians, this experience has taught us we need to rely on God who is the only one who has ultimate control and it has been a hard test of our faith.
Joe takes lots of medicines every day and will do so for the rest of his life. He can now walk short distances and has returned to his old school part time. Day to day life holds lots of challenges for him that can leave him angry and depressed. He is much more volatile as a result of his stroke and tires easily. We also live each day knowing that a heart transplant is a palliative option, not a cure, with the average life expectancy being ten years. As we near the first anniversary of our son’s transplant we think about the woman who donated her heart to him and the family she left behind. To see our son in the garden kicking a football around again or playing with his sister reminds us of the incredible gift she gave us. (Below are some photos of Joe since coming home from the hospital.)
Please consider signing up online for organ donation, for yourself and your children that in the unfortunate event of an untimely death, a second chance at life for others can be brought out of tragedy. Signing up for organ donation costs nothing but could mean everything to another family facing their worst nightmare.
Louise, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and we wish you all the best with your two beautiful children.
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Have you been following the Rosetta mission on the news lately? I have been a bit obsessed in the last few days to see if the mission of landing an unmanned space craft on a comet that is about 6bn kilometres away from earth was going to work, so improbably and yet, somehow it landed! It took the space craft 10 years to reach its destination; insane, right?
As we were listening to an update on the radio in the morning, my kids were asking probing questions about the mission, which I have actually been at a loss to answer. Because, how do you explain comets, space crafts, 6bn kilometres and the universe to a 6-year-old over a bowl of cereal at 8 am in the morning? Not my strong point, and many of the questions, I have to admit, I actually could not answer. So I discovered this little animated video called “Are We There Yet” made by the European Space Agency. It is super cute and very informative, even for adults!
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I am sure a lot of you have come across this article in the New York Times but I still wanted to post it, as I think it is so interesting to see how differently children eat. At my flat we are so used to eating sweet things in the morning, be it cereal, porridge (very unusual for France) or tartines – the idea of miso soup and soy sauce for breakfast would not even cross our mind. And yet it would feel completely natural somewhere else…
I remember Esther staying with me one day and telling one of her kids off for having grabbed something sweet to eat before eating something savoury. Only then did she realise that there was nothing savoury on the table! It is funny how we all have our breakfast traditions. I think it is the meal that we are the least adventurous about, possibly because adventure is the last thing on our mind when we are still waking up.
I also love the photos in this post, the children look so cute, still sleepy with ruffled hair and preparing themselves for the day.
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I know it’s a bit of old news by now, but did you see that Baby & Me Magazine got a cool new name? Our favourite London-based magazine has relaunched and is now called Smallish. No longer focused just on pregnancy and birth, the new magazine will include beautiful fashion shoots, issue-led features, inspiring parents, glossy interiors, up-and-coming brands and the best scoop on what’s new and cool for kids (and their parents). You can pick up a copy of the magazine at newsagents across the country, or download the digital version here.
And… best news for last….we’re really excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with Smallish Magazine for our big ShopUp event this December. Visitors to the event will be able to pick up their own copy of the magazine and discover the monthly goodness for themselves. They’ll also be helping us promote the event, ensuring this year’s ShopUp is a big, fat success. !! We could not be more excited! Have you marked your diaries yet?
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There are a lot of things I like about my kids schooling in France — there are also a lot of things I criticise. Compared to the children of my Anglo-Saxon friends, school seems to be so rigid over here.
One of the things I found unnecessarily strict here is the importance placed on handwriting. Children learn how to write in cursive script and are given bad grades if this is not done well. I never understood, how, in 2014, this made any sense and have been quite vocal about this to the teachers and other parents (who must roll their eyes at yet another foreigner lecturing them about their archaic teaching methods).
But the other day Violette’s teacher (who has been teaching for 34 years) made a very interesting point. Apparently 15 years ago the national curriculum had stopped the emphasis on handwriting, as it was thought that the use of keyboards was going to eliminate the need for writing by hand. They have now completely revised this stance based on a lot of research, as it seems that students taking notes by hand remember and analyse the material they are being lectured on a lot more than people typing notes. If you type notes, you have a tendency to write down the lecture word for word. If you write it down by hand, you are already analysing and interpreting the lecture, which in turn makes it a lot easier to remember it and learn from it. I thought that was so interesting! I found this article about a similar study here.
This is actually the saving grace behind the French education system: there is almost always some kind of theory behind the madness, even if it does not always seem obvious to a bystander!
PS. The above photo is of Coco’s homework, who is in the equivalent of 3rd grade. They are now starting to write with a fountain pen (I did not even know those things still existed!)
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Every year I promise myself I’ll be organised come the first day of school. I’ll be ready for early morning wake-ups and prepared for the rush to school. But no matter my best intentions, I’m never ready.
We still have another two weeks until school starts for my kids, but this year I’m determined to be prepared for the inevitable routine that’s coming. This month for Baby & Me Magazine I’ve rounded up some of my favourite products to help get organised: notebooks, planners, pens, name labels and an office wall organiser I’ve coveted for years. You can find my selection in this month’s issue here.
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This month’s issue of Baby & Me Magazine features the best and most stylish of children’s products in the 2014 Style Awards. They handed out awards to winners based on their criteria of iconic design, good looks and innovation (you can see the winners here).
This month they asked me to round up some of my personal favourite children’s products — the products we have used and loved in our family, ones that I hope to keep forever and pass down to my grandchildren. The products shown above are a few that made the cut. You can find my column in this month’s issue here.
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This month’s issue of Baby&Me Magazine is all about travel, which of course is a topic that excites us all! You’ll find a selection of family-friendly holiday destinations to kick-start your summer holiday planning, plus stylish travel essentials, holiday packing ideas and a fashionable photoshoot in sunny Palm Springs!
In this month’s issue we’ve rounded up five of our favourite travel games that are both easy to pack and guaranteed to entertain. Click over to the Baby&Me website to see our picks, or you can read the full digital version here.
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We’re really excited to announce a new partnership with Baby&Me magazine which has us contributing a little column in their magazine each month and rounding up a selection of cute products to fit our topic. Baby&Me is a super stylish, monthly glossy which keeps London parents updated on all the latest news, fashion, design and other interesting lifestyle topics. We are thrilled to be contributing each month and thought it would be fun to share our selection here with you as well.
In this month’s issue I wrote about getting out in our garden with the kids, sowing vegetable seeds and enjoying the onset of spring. I also rounded up some cute fruit & veg products I’m loving right now. Here they are:
- This cheerful Tomato Poster by Fine Little Day, available at Abacus Kids (I already have the ‘Pear‘ poster in Ivy’s room, but think I might need to get this one too!)
- The origami notepaper sets from Lollipop are SO fun! The new fruit-themed ones are especially cute.
- Giant crochet cherries to make a cheerful statement in any children’s space.
- Baby’s first foods: soft vegetable rattles of course!
I’m already excited for next month’s contribution! Stay tuned…
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In my house, one of the first rules my children will quote is the famous ‘five second rule’. It is the rule that, if any food has fallen on the floor in the kitchen, it can possibly still be eaten f it is picked up very quickly. (They learned very quickly that the five second rule did not apply to the lovely streets and boulevards of Paris!)
I always thought the five second rule was a complete myth and just a good excuse for tired parents not to have to go fetch yet another cookie or throw away a sandwich with just one bite in it, but turns out I was possibly wrong. Scientist at a British University have found proof that the five second rule could actually be true! I love it!
Now I am wondering, is the five second rule just a European thing? Or even maybe just an English thing?
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One of the things I love about our job, is the wonderfully supportive online community in which we work, and the amazing friendships we have developed over the years. Bloggers (and professionals working in the children’s retail world) are such a friendly, supporting group of people, I feel it makes such a difference from the often competitive and political atmosphere in other fields of business.
One of the friends we have made over the years, is the lovely Pepi Nikolopoulou from the Greek online boutique and blog Alice on Board. Pepi wrote a Weekend Getaway about her beautiful city, Athens, a few years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.
Pepi is one of the five talented women who are organising the “Digital Neighborhood” event which will take place for the second time this year in Athens this coming Friday and Saturday. (She’s the cute blonde girl in the photo above!) The concept of this year’s event is “Growing towards the Future”, and it is open to everyone who is interested in creating a blog, would like to improve their existing blog, strengthen their Social Media presence, or is simply looking for inspiration. There will be tons of professionals walking around, like photographers, Social Media experts, journalists, portal owners, and bloggers of course, who will be there to offer knowledge, to exchange ideas, and to inspire with their success stories.
I’m so excited to be representing Babyccino Kids at the Digital Neighbourhood event this Saturday! I will be talking about how Babyccino Kids evolved from a friendship, to a blog, and then to an international business. I’ll speak about our growth, the structure of our business, our roles within the company, and our plans for the future. It will be so fun to share our story, and I’m so excited to meet some of our Greek readers and to learn from the other professionals at the event. And of course, I’m extremely thrilled at the prospect of hanging out with Pepi this weekend in her lovely city of Athens!
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In my recent home tour and interview over on Design Mom where I talk about my kids and my desire to raise children who love each other, a reader left me a comment suggesting I read this article from Time Magazine about the importance of siblings. I clicked over to the article and have since read it twice. I find it so fascinating, and it really rings true in my experience of growing up in a big family with my many siblings, and also with my experience of raising my own children. We are truly shaped and defined not only by our parents and our genetics, but in a large part by our siblings. The article reads:
From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we’ll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life.
Whenever I think about the importance of siblings and the invaluable lessons they learn from each other, I think about bath time in our family. I think about how my four kids have to cram into one bath tub, how they have to learn to share the space and take up their fair share (usually, they first discuss their placement in the bathtub – who’s turn it is to sit closest to the faucet, etc.). Then they discuss the bath toys and who gets to play with each toy. Then, when it comes time for them to rinse their hair, they all have to make room for each person to lie backwards and soak their heads – they all shift to one side to allow their siblings to rinse their hair. They pass the shampoo. They take turns with the bath toys. And then, of course, there’s the debate about who has to get out first, who gets the biggest towel, etc. If those are not valuable life lessons, I don’t know what are!!
Anyway… this is, of course, my own experience with having four children, and I am very aware that not everyone chooses (or is able) to have more than one child, so their experiences might be different (maybe in that case, they have cousins or friends who shape them?!). I’m not arguing the case of having many children, but mostly just observing what I see and know in my own family, and what I know from the family I come from. I really do believe that my own children are very much shaped by one another, and in a way I think it takes a tiny bit of pressure of me as a mother. Maybe it is my way of justifying our own family size and dynamics?
Please share your thoughts! Do you think siblings play an important role in shaping who we become?