I often am asked what it is like to bring children up in Paris and what I like and don’t like about it, so I thought it could be fun to write down some of my experiences! These are just random things that I have personally observed..
Playgrounds and Parks: There are not many and there is especially not a lot of green grass for the kids to play on. Most neighbourhood parks are small and consist of flowerbeds, a play structure with benches around it and no swings! Kids go play and the parents sit on the sidelines reading books. The Parisians are definitely not helicopter parents – children entertain themselves or play with their friends. It’s nice as the kids are really independent, but it is not so nice when they start throwing sand at each other’s faces and there are no grown-ups to intervene.
Schools: I do find the the school system of a country defines the country a lot. Like most French school children, my children go to the local French school around the corner. The standard of education is high, and the children are challenged and marked at a very young age (the word evaluation is used a lot). Interestingly this is not only something that the teachers impose on the children, but something that is actually being asked for by a lot of the parents. For example, teachers are not really supposed to give the children homework, but it is apparently often the parents who insist they do! Schools are also not a place for the whole family to socialise, but only the children. Parents drop their children off in the morning and rush of to work. At the end of the day, we pick up the children at the school gate, but there is not a lot of chatting going on… (My personal theory is that there is a belief in France that the education of children is responsibility of the state, not of the parents, so schools are not a place for parents to get involved). I might be wrong, but I do have the feeling that there are a lot more full-time working mothers in Paris than in other big European cities I know. This might also be the reason why there is less involvement from the family in school life.
Restaurants: Though it has improved a lot, Parisian restaurants do not cater toward children. Children are welcome though, as long as they tow the line and sit down and eat. Maybe I am mistaken, but not that many of my French friends take their kids out to eat. People cook a lot and have people over for dinner, even in the tiniest apartments.
Apéro: One of the favourite things to do over here is to have people over for apero (short for aperitif) which are pre-dinner drinks. My children have even been invited over by their friends over for an apero instead of a playdate! Usually there will be champagne or wine, beer, sparkling water and Champony (a sparkling apple juice in a champagne bottle) for the kids. Foodwise often you serve paté, foie gras and some good saucisson. It’s the perfect event to have with kids and parents, it starts relatively early and you are not required to serve real food for everyone.
Food Shopping: Parisians still go to the market on a Saturday or Sunday and buy their meat at the butchers, their bread at the bakers, their cheese at the cheese shop and their vegetables at the green grocers – it is one of the things I love about this city!
These are are just some personal observations. Other people might have had completely different experiences, which would be lovely to hear by the way!
Above, a photo of Place des Vosges, which is a typical Parisian park, which is beautifully landscaped, but definitely not full of rambling nature…
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I read this post on A Cup Of Jo recently and it has really stuck with me over the past couple weeks. Joanna suggests that instead of telling your child he’s a great piano player (for example), we should say ‘I love to watch you play piano’. She argues that the latter is a way of boosting your child’s confidence and encouraging him to continue his activity without putting too much pressure on him to be good at it, or without your child feeling critiqued. She points out how sometimes our well-meaning praise can actually shut someone down, make them more aware of their abilities.
I’ve tried this simple suggestion on my kids recently, and it’s really amazing what kind of response you get — how happy they are to play/sing/draw/dance/read, and how it becomes less about seeking approval and more about enjoying themselves. Because, after all, isn’t it more important that they enjoy doing something than that they’re good at it? I really believe so.
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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?
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I grew up in the country side, and my dad was the local country vet. I was always surrounded by animals; we had dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, a pig, sometimes we even had cows. And, lucky me, I was always allowed to have my own pony. When I left my parents to study in a different part of the country, I really missed having animals in the house.
For my kids, life is a little different. Living in a big-ish city, and a small-ish house, we don’t have any pets (not after the goldfish died). But when Sara started horse riding lessons at the local manage here in Amsterdam, I discovered a joy in her eyes that reminded me of what it is like to grow up with animals. To have that special bond, to take care of a living being, to cuddle up to it when you’re sad, to feel the warmth… It is such a very special feeling.
We recently visited friends in the centre of Brussels who just got a huge dog, and it was so cute to see the kids playing and cuddling with her. But, the parents did have some feelings of regret, after their beautifully designed back yard had been totally destroyed by the puppy, their vintage carpets were peed upon, and the sofa had become a dog bed…
Pros and cons taken, I’m now seriously considering getting a little dog or a cat… Maybe next year, when Casper is a little bit bigger. (Or, maybe we would be able to fit a horse in our tiny backyard here in Amsterdam? Or would our neighbours mind some chickens you think?)
What is your take on growing up with animals? Did you grow up with animals? Do you have one now, or are you thinking of getting one? Please share your thoughts and experiences!
PS Photos of Sara with her granddad’s horse. ‘Hello’ jumper is from Hello Apparel.
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Tila is deeply, strongly and firmly in the “WHY WHY WHYYYY and WHY?” stage. She just wants to know everything in great details. And recently she asked me two questions that made me clear my throat.
The first one was how did a baby get into my tummy and the second one was where exactly does it come out.
On the first one I simply answered that mommy and daddy love each other so much and wished for another baby so he decided to finally come. She raised her eyebrows and asked again (by touching and pushing against my tummy – demonstrating) – “but how did he get in?!” Then I just said I’m sorry sweetie but I’ll have to answer that when you get a little bigger it’s not the right time since this is a topic for older kids. She was ok with that.
I really try to always give her honest answers – her age appropriate of course. I still have trust issues with my mum because she didn’t do that while I was younger and I don’t want that to happen with us two.
Then when she asked where will the baby make its exit I took a moment and decided to tell her the real, bare and unembellished truth – from the vagina (well, we have a cuter name for it in Slovenian that all the kids use but it’s the same thing) and after I did it I was kind of confused for a while and wasn’t sure I did the right thing but after I saw she was satisfied with the truth, kind of proud to know it I was confident I did. I just hope it doesn’t bite me in my be-hind when she starts a conversation about it at the checkout line in the store.
What are your thoughts on this? How do you answer these kinds of questions? Are you straight forward and honest? Or do you change the topic and hope they don’t notice?
By the way – don’t you love the pregnant mommy doll on the photo? I’ve been meaning to get one for Tila for a while now and I think it’s the perfect time now. They are from Frida Tierchen and come with a baby that is united with an umbilical chord (a cotton string), and there are magnets in both of them that allow the representation of breast-feeding! Every doll also has a carrier to carry the baby in after the birth. And if that’s not cool enough the materials used are wool, cotton and polyester filling from recycled plastic bottles. Perfect or what?
To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!
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After a wonderful, lazy summer in the Seattle area with my family, we have just returned this week back to London. Every summer my husband flies out there with us, but unfortunately can’t stay the entire time… which means that every year I end up flying back home solo with all the kids. It’s the teensy price I pay for a nice, long, extended holiday with my family. Totally worth the trek!
Plus, I feel like I’m getting kind of good at it by now. Or maybe it’s that my kids are getting good at it and that makes an enormous difference. In any case, I thought I would share with you some of my simple tips for (long-haul) flying with young kids…
- Try to avoid the ‘oh my gosh, I’m flying for 10 hours on a plane with my kids – I must pack every single thing I have in the house to entertain/feed/care/clean/change them’ feeling, and pack as little as you can. I used to bring the kids their own headphones for the TVs, and those neck pillow thingies for sleeping, and a change of clothes, and an entire bag of snacks. But it meant that I was carrying on at least two enormous (and heavy bags!). It made the schlep through the airport tiresome, and we often ended up not using most things. This recent trip, I packed one bag and tried to keep it as lightweight as possible. (You can also give your kids their own backpack and ask them to tote around the things they need for the plane – toys, books, snacks, etc.)
- Use a baby carrier instead of a buggy. It’s so much easier going through security and navigating a busy airport if you’re carrying your baby instead of pushing them in a buggy. You can go straight through security carrying your baby – no need to empty your buggy, fold it up, have it examined by the airport security, etc. It also means you have your hands free to hold other children’s hands, or carry bags, etc. My favourite right now is the Ergo Baby Carrier .
- We always eat in the airport before boarding the plane and skip the first meal they serve on board. It’s not easy holding a baby and trying to eat off your little tray in front of you. And inevitably one of your kids will need his meal chopped up, or will spill his drink in his lap, and you’ll have to get up to help… and it will be extremely difficult if you have your food on a tray on your tray table in front of you. Just skip the meal entirely.
- Make sure your kids use the toilet before boarding the plane to eliminate any extra trips to the bathroom on the plane. It seems like common sense, but I have forgotten before… and there’s nothing worse than your child telling you he has to go potty when the plane is taking off and the seatbelt sign is on! (Also make sure to change your baby’s nappy.)
- Pack simple, non-messy snacks. I like raisins because it seems to occupy the kids for a while, trying to grab little raisins out of the box, and they’re not messy. I also like to pack nuts or trailmix, snack bars, dried mango, pretzels, fruit, etc. Before take-off, I always have a box of raisins ready for the baby in case she gets antsy sitting still on my lap when the seatbelt sign is on. (I also still nurse Marlow… and that is a big help for calming her down, and keeping her ears from popping during take-off and landing. Nursing is the easiest thing, but if you don’t nurse, you should have a prepared bottle on hand for the same reason.)
- Dress (you and your children) in comfortable clothing. I never bother with changing them into their pyjamas – I just find that it’s an extra hassle. Instead, I dress them in normal, comfortable clothes, and make sure everyone has an extra layer (like a hoodie or a cardigan) in case it gets cold. I always bring a scarf for myself because I always get cold on planes.
- Don’t bring too much, but make sure you have some simple entertainment on hand. I have always found that once kids get to the age of 4 or 5, they are much more independent on airplanes because they can watch TV or movies. My boys are so easy on airplanes now. I don’t even think they got up to use the toilet the entire time on our recent flight from Seattle to London – they were either watching movies or sleeping. So… for children under 4, you will need to have some entertainment on hand. Things like simple paper pads and a pen, sticker books and colouring books (you can often buy them in the airport bookshops), and paperback books (hardback books are too heavy – leave them at home!). If you have an ipad or iphone you should make sure you have children’s games or books on there (see here for ideas).
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. People are always so sympathetic to mothers travelling with small children. Ask the flight attendants to help if you need it. You can even ask for help when going through the airport. One time I had to ask for help getting my sleeping children and bags off the airplane and to over customs because I simply couldn’t carry everything. Someone came immediately to help me and got me all the way through the airport.
I hope these tips were somewhat helpful and not just redundant things everyone already knows. Please feel free to add any tips I may have forgotten below. And lastly, I’ve written my tips for beating jet-lag here if you’re interested.
p.s. Photo above is of my children on the ferry overlooking Seattle, and a photo of Marlow in the Ergo carrier.
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One of my friends once admitted to me that she spent at least one session with her therapist discussing her frustration about her kids continuously losing their belongings at school. If I remember correctly — I think that even her husband was present in that session! And I can see where she’s coming from — clothes do continuously seem to disappear without a trace, never to be found again. Winter is especially bad — isn’t it a fact that mittens (like socks!) prefer to lead a single life instead of being one of a pair?
My friend’s therapist, by the way, simply advised that labelling her children’s clothes should eliminate (at least one of) her stress factors. I took note! So this school year, I have started to iron name labels in my kids’ bags and coats. The Stuck on You name labels were very easy to iron on, and my kids find their personalised coats and bags the coolest ever! (So let’s hope they will make a bigger effort at not losing them!)
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After the physical act of birthing a baby and the initial days of discovering your baby and getting into some sort of a rhythm, to me weaning a baby is the next major event in the first year. After the first hectic months have passed, when finally there’s a bit of a routine with the baby and (breast)feeding goes smoothly, then the next moment of insecurity comes… Weaning! Solids!
Out come the baby guide books again (all of them!), and there you are — back in the land of the unknown. When to start? What foods to introduce first? How to cook it? Or steam? The insecurity hits again.
When I had my fist baby, I did a lot (a lot!) of research, like I’m sure most, if not all first time mums do. Still not entirely sure what to do, I decided to follow the advise most doctors were giving at that time: I started solids after exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months. Ignoring the fact that Sara was already litterally grabbing the spoon out of my hands if I was trying to eat (which I did all day long because I was so hungry because of all of that breastfeeding)!
I started with baby rice because the guide books said so (and none of my babies liked it). Then I introduced vegetables first (I read somewhere that otherwise the baby would develop a sweet tooth!), repeated this for three days before introducing the next ‘ingredient’, so allergies could be discovered immediately. And then after that (although it wasn’t completely clear exactly when as to avoid the dreaded sweet tooth), I introduced fruits. All of this was exclusively home cooked and organic, and carefully frozen in mini batches, meticulously labeled.
I remember my mum raising an eyebrow but cleverly not interfering (she had simply mashed up a banana for my first bites when I was around four months old).
Thankfully Sara was a good eater and the whole process went well. So for the second child, I repeated the process. So far, so good. My third baby however, refused to eat. After her first taste of baby rice, she decided that food was not her thing, and she refused to open her mouth again! (I wrote a post about it here.)
It’s funny how things change. How I have changed! Even though I try to cook meals for Casper whenever possible, I do end up squeezing shop bought baby food in his mouth an awful lot of times. (Hey — it’s organic!) My old me would be appalled. Also, the general advise has changed — I understand that nowadays, doctors say to start earlier — at 4 months, 3 even! — and to introduce all sorts of food at the same time, peanut butter and all.
So what is wise? To me, it seems sensible to wait until your baby shows an interest in food. When he follows your spoon with his eyes when you’re eating, and is grabbing for objects and bringing them to his mouth, it might be a good time to start. Possibly with a mashed banana! And also: cooking for your baby is fun (the BabyCook is a big help I find!), and surely very healthy, but there are plenty of great, ready-made baby food products on the market that are yummy and can bring stress factors down dramatically. Finally, mashing half an avocado with half a banana and mixing it with a spoon of full yoghurt is the easiest home-cooked baby meal I have in my repertoire.
I’m very curious about your thoughts and experiences about weaning in general. And if you’d like to share your fool proof baby food recipe — yes please!
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This weekend I was sitting in a park in Paris with Courtney and Emilie, feeding Casper. The three of us were talking about breastfeeding in public, and Courtney then took this photo of Casper and me which started up a discussion: Could we post this photo? Would we post this photo?
When I had my first baby I was much more shy about my boobs than I am today. Yes, I would breastfeed in public, but first I would find a dark corner somewhere and I made sure my boob and baby were covered with a scarf completely. I had the feeling breastfeeding in public was frowned upon, and it should be done in private.
Now, 8 years and 4 babies later, I don’t feel that I have to cover myself completely anymore. I’m so much more comfortable! I feel I am breastfeeding my baby, which is a very natural and beautiful thing to do, and I think I shouldn’t have to be shy about it. I also have the feeling that these last years, breastfeeding in public has become a bit more acceptable; people are getting used to it now and the general feeling about it seems to be more relaxed. Which is so great!
So, I decided to be bold and bare (!) and post a photo of me feeding Casper in a public park in Paris. Is it too much you think? Do you breastfeed in public? Would you? I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
PPS Following up on our discussion in the park, Emilie sent me this link — a fabulous poem by Hollie McNish which helped me decide to indeed post this photo here. Nobody should have to feed her baby in a public restroom.
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This is a post I have been thinking about in my head for months now! It’s a post I have wanted to write, then changed my mind and thought I shouldn’t write, and then have come back to it again. I want to talk about sleeping with your baby. Not because it’s what I think you should do… but because it’s what works for us.
I have always slept with my babies, usually from birth until around 10 or 12 months when they start to sleep through the night. It’s not that I feel strongly one way or the other about co-sleeping, it’s just what has always felt more natural, and frankly more easy, to me. In fact, with every pregnancy I would set up the moses basket before the birth thinking that’s where the baby would sleep… but once the baby was born, I just never felt comfortable putting them into their own bed. My husband and I both felt more at ease having the baby in our bed, close to us, to be in tune with their little bodies and sleeping rhythm. (I’m a very light sleeper and wake at the teensiest sound or smell or touch.) Also, I just find it easier to nurse my baby in bed, often in a hazy half sleep/half awake state — I find it less disruptive to my sleep than getting up out of bed to feed and put the baby back into her own bed. Perhaps sleeping with my babies has come out of pure laziness!?!
The funny thing is, that while it feels completely normal and natural to me, it doesn’t seem to be common practice, at least not amongst my friends or the other mums at my children’s school. I remember when Marlow was a baby, even just a few weeks old, I was constantly asked ‘how is she sleeping?’ or ‘is she waking in the night?’ or even ‘does she sleep through?’. (It must be one of the most common questions a new mother is asked!) When I told people that she sleeps with me and that I feed on demand sometimes up to four times a night, I would get such shocked replies. For a while I even started to doubt our co-sleeping ways! But then I read this post about co-sleeping on A Cup Of Jo, and I also read this guest post on The Littlest blog by James from Bleubird where she shares how she sleeps with her baby. It made me feel comforted to know that other mothers do the same… and it made me wonder if perhaps it’s not really so rare?
Marlow is 7 months old (today!) and she’s still sleeping in bed with us. I usually put her to bed in her own bed around 7pm and she goes to bed willingly. Around midnight (sometimes even 1 or 2!) she will wake and I will bring her into our bed. She usually feeds a couple times through the rest of the night and then we usually wake up together around 7am. Of course I would love to have a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and some days I really do feel so tired… but I love waking up with Marlow in my arms, and I love nursing her in bed, and the way our bodies fit perfectly together like a puzzle piece. Some day… we won’t fit together as easily, and when that day comes, I will miss these wonderful sleep-deprived nights.
So anyway… I would love to hear from all of you. How goes it in your family? Do (did) you sleep with your baby? Or does your baby sleep in his own bed (or even bedroom)? What works for you? Please do share!
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I read this article today and thought it was really interesting. Courtney, Esther and I all had/have Bugaboos and I actually never thought about how much design, engineering and development goes into designing a push chair! So funny thinking that someone spent years coming up with a concept that I take for granted…
I also thought it was interesting that the Bugaboo was originally designed for men, which is such a clever approach to the buggy market. I will never forget buying our first buggy before Coco was born. We went to this baby section in a big department store in London. In all the sections the women were in charge: picking up breast pumps, outfits and furniture. All sections, apart from the buggy section. There, the dads suddenly came into their own and were testing wheels and suspensions and velocity of all of these buggies, as if they were cars. Hilarious!
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Before I had children, I genuinely thought that when I had children I would be producing miniature clones of myself. Even after I had them, the thought lingered on. After all, I had two girls, they looked similar to me, why would they not be similar in character?
Fast forward 7 years and I cannot help laughing about how wrong I was. Not only are my two girls nothing like me, they are also nothing like each other. One of them can pick up a stick and give it a complex life story that is longer than a Harry Potter novel. The other one will see the same stick and see nothing but a stick, and have a great time poking random things with it. Experimenting, she calls this.
One girl is easy going and off with the fairies, the other one is headstrong like a bull. As my grandmother once said, at least I was not boring and did not mass produce. Not quite sure where I am going with this, but I am quite interested to hear if you were as naive as I was and thought you were going to produce mini versions of yourselves.
P.S. Quick disclaimer: I am incredibly glad that my children are nothing like me, that would be sooo boring!
P.P.S. The above photo was taken last week when we were in the south of Spain. On the left, headstrong Violette, on the right dreamy Coco.
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As I mentioned in this post, I took my first yoga class when I was pregnant with Marlow and after just one class I knew it would become an important part of my life from then on. I don’t know what took me so long to start up yoga, but I am so thankful I finally did. I loved taking pregnancy yoga classes when I was pregnant, and I am so convinced it helped prepare me mentally and physically for the birthing experience I had always longed for.
When Marlow was 8 weeks old we started taking yoga classes together. Once a week the two of us hop on a bus and head over to Triyoga in Primrose Hill for the Mummy & Me yoga class with Nadia Narain. It is always a highlight of the week for both of us! I love that I get to practice yoga even though I have a little baby who still can’t be left with a sitter, I love that every Wednesday I wake up and my muscles are slightly sore from the previous day’s work out, I love being surrounded by other mums with young babies and chatting to them about motherhood and baby stages, and I love ending the class with a little dance with Marlow – a special time for the two of us to share with each other. Marlow loves the bit at the end when we sing songs (Incy Wincy Spider is her favourite!), and she loves checking out all the other sweet babies in the room — I’m certain that she loves our yoga class as much as I do.
p.s. Marlow’s romper in the photo above is from Marie Puce.
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Elizabeth from The Littlest blog (and our lovely LA-based contributor) has started up a wonderful new series on her blog called ‘As They Grow’ which features a different mother & baby duo to highlight the monthly stages of a baby’s development from birth up to 24 months. Each mother will describe how they engage with their baby – how they play with their baby, what songs they sing, what games they play, etc. She asked me to describe the third month in a baby’s development and Esther to describe the fourth month.
Take a peek at The Littlest blog to see our contributions and to see what other mums say about the different months. We’re excited to read about the coming months (months five, six, seven, eight, etc.) in anticipation of our own babies being at that stage. It’s always nice to hear ideas for how to engage and play with your baby at the different stages.
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Our son Pim (he just turned 6) recently went through a period in which every night he would stand next to our bed because a nightmare had woken him up. The nightmare was very consistently about bears, and would leave him very scared, the poor boy. During the day he would sometimes ask me if there really are no bears here in the Netherlands! (There are not, in case you were wondering.) Of course I tried to comfort and reassure him, but the dreams kept coming back.
After a few weeks I suddenly remembered something my sister-in-law once told me after my nephew had a series of bad dreams when he was around that same age: she had given him a toy sword in his bed to fight of his bad dreams, and it worked like a charm. That night, I taught Pim the following magic spell to empower the bears that would surely come to haunt him in his dreams:
I am Pim
And I say:
All the bears
Now go away!!
That night, he didn’t have a nightmare. And ever since, he has been sleeping very well. No nasty bears in his dreams anymore! And when a few weeks ago wild boars were threatening to disturb his sweet dreams, we simply changed the magic spell, and again, it worked!
I think the secret is to give the child a way to empower whatever scares them in their dreams. For Pim, the spell worked wonders, for my nephew the toy sword did the trick, and Courtney has told me that for her 3 year old daughter Ivy a magic princess wand was all that it took.
I just thought I’d share this little trick in case your child has been suffering from bad dreams. I hope it helps! And if you know of another magic remedy — please share!
PS The above illustration is of two of the creatures that were haunting Pim’s dreams recently: a bear and a boar are having tea together under a table — it’s by Lieke van der Vorst, and part of this poetry poster. I love it!
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The other day I was riding the bus with Ivy when she pointed out another passing bus. “There’s the C11 bus,” she said, “The C is a letter and the 11 is a number”. I was so impressed she knew the difference between letters and numbers, that I nearly fell out of my bus seat! And then I realised that I have been so bad at sitting down with her to work on her letters and numbers. I have completely relied on her nursery school to teach her those things. And the fact that I didn’t know she was able to tell letters from numbers is really a testament to how un-involved I have become. Sigh.
With my first child, I remember teaching him his colours, numbers and letters at such an early age. I would sit with him for hours and do puzzles, read books, play with letter games and practice flash cards. He knew every letter by the time he was 18 months! And here I am… four children later… and my 3½-year-old doesn’t even know all her letters.
I know this is probably a very common parenting issue, the difference between parenting your first child and your third, but I totally remember thinking I would never be that mum who runs out of time to devote to all her kids. I suppose the reality is… there is simply not enough time in the day. And also, I’ve realised that if Ivy doesn’t know all her letters yet, she will learn them when she starts school next year. And that all kids eventually learn to read and write, so it doesn’t really matter if they learn them when they’re 18 months or when they are four. Right? Or have I become one of those mums?
p.s. Alphabet Flash Cards available here .
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This weekend Violette was invited for a sleep over so Coco and I were all alone. We ran some errands, grabbed a cup of tea together, she had a friend over, we talked a bit about school and life, we then did some crafting and went out for some food. Nothing extraordinary… but at some point in the middle of this, she turned to me and said: “You know mommy, it is quite nice to be just the two of us”, and she was absolutely right. Though I obviously love her little sister, it is really nice to spend one and one time with my big girl and I really don’t do it often enough.
The thing is, Coco and Violette get on very well and the three of us have a really good rhythm going on, so I have suddenly realised I have the tendency to regard them as a unit. Doh! (as Bart Simpson would say)! So this is my new resolution: trying to sometimes take a day with each kid individually. It a good resolution and hopefully I can stick to it! I am actually curious, do you manage to spend one-on-one time with each of your children?
PS The photo above of Coco and me was taken by Esther when we visited her in the Auvergne last summer. Happy Times!
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It was only when I had my third baby (Ava) and was struggling with one of those typical nappy explosions, that someone shared with me a little secret. Something so simple, I couldn’t believe I’d never been told this before or that I never thought of this myself.
As all new mothers of all new babies know: nappies don’t always do the job properly. I will spare you the details, but baby poo can seriously end up in their necks at times. (In our case this happens multiple times a day.) Which makes nappy changing a messy affair!
So here’s the trick: onesies can also be pulled down, over the shoulders. Instead of taking them off over the head, you can take them off over the bum. Which makes a huge, huge difference! I can’t believe I didn’t know about this trick for my first two children. Did you?
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There are a thousand great things about being a mom, but one of the best things can be the total undulated love you get from small children. I have heard the rumours it changes for a couple of years when they get older but I am still privy to my kids thinking I rock. Now, I do also get my fair share of insults: “You are not nice” is often said straight to my face or, when they really mean it: “You really, really are not very nice”.
But there are moments I am put on a pedestal and it makes me very happy and warm inside, all at the same time… I recently tried to do some trapezing and even an elephant would have looked more elegant than me. I was afraid of the height, I had no upper-body muscle, I could not summersault down – it was a catastrophe. And yet a while later when we went to see a trapeze performance with artists literally flying through the air with the greatest of ease, Violette turned around to me and said in awe: ” Look mommy, just like you!!!”.
Now that is real love, a bit delusional, but real love none the less. Do you ever get showered with love just because you are someone’s mom?
P.S The above photo was taken by the super talented Sarah Gardan this summer in the place des Vosges!
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Right next to our front door there’s an ever present collection of sticks. Our 5-year-old son Pim is like a dog, seriously! Every time we go to the park, he will find a stick and insists on taking it home. Some of them are too big for him to carry alone, so he has to convince his big sister to help him.
Because I don’t allow them in our house, the sticks are displayed right next to the front door — which is the closest the sticks will get to his bed, because he would take them up there if he could, I am sure about it. My husband once threw away all the sticks, which was a mistake — Pim was inconsolable and I admit that even I was upset. Those sticks seriously meant so much to him!
Emilie sent me the link to this interesting article in the Guardian last week. Hannah Evans is a mother of three boys and her article did shed some light on my little boy and his stick obsession. I quote:
‘And thus, sticks. For I have learned that boys like, nay love, sticks. But a stick to a boy is far, far more than an inanimate object. A stick is a toy, a weapon, a friend and a foe. A stick is adventure, possibilities, destruction and danger. A stick is, in the right time and place – or even better, in the wrong – everything.’
‘”Stick significance” is part and parcel of being a boy. And so, “Will you put that bloomin’ stick down … it’s only a bit of wood!” is a bit like telling me that my coffee would taste just as good out of any old mug.’
And so they stay, the sticks, next to our front door. And the collection grows. Do you have a son (or daughter) who collects sticks too?