COMMITMENT

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Over the years, all my children have made commitments to be on a sporting team or part of a music ensemble and half way through the term have wanted to stop participating in that group.

I must admit, as much as it would make my life easier to reduce the amount of running around I do, I expect them to honour a commitment so I will never let them drop out of a team activity. I’m a true believer that when you agree to be part of a group, no matter how good or bad you are at the task, you have given your word to be a team player. If every child were to drop out, there wouldn’t be sufficient participants to enable the groups to continue.

Furthermore, when children agree to be part of a group, this commitment also includes attending all practice sessions. This is a constant source of aggravation in our house, as a few of our kids enjoy the music ensembles they play in and sporting teams they belong to, they just don’t like the early morning starts to attend practice. But as saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’.

We recently attended a performance evening at our children’s school and it was interesting to watch the kids in the choir. You could tell the ones who attend rehearsals as they knew the words and actions to the songs, whereas the kids that obviously don’t attend regularly were left standing on the stage looking a bit like stunned goldfish either not doing any actions, or if trying to copy the other kids, were a few seconds behind.

I worry about the future of the children who are allowed to either not attend practice sessions or are allowed to quit their commitments as it doesn’t give these kids a sense of responsibility, tenacity or reliability. Sometimes ensuring your kids do the right thing isn’t agreeing to the path of least resistance, rather it’s a case of persistence.

(Picture courtesy of jscreationzs, freedigitalphotos.net)

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TRICK OR TREAT

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My pet hate is Halloween – which I must admit, doesn’t make me a very popular person at this time of the year!

I just find the entire palaver hypocritical of every lesson we try to teach our children all year long. From an early age we try to instill in our kids the knowledge that they must not accept lollies (candy for the American’s reading this) from strangers, then once a year we encourage them to actually go in search of strangers from whom to accept sugary treats.

Furthermore, in keeping with the tradition of Halloween, the kids ‘Trick or Treat’ meaning that if they don’t get what they want from that household they then play a ‘trick’ on the household (aka do something to damage the person’s property, albeit hopefully not in a permanent way). I can’t imagine any parent condoning this type of behaviour under normal circumstances, which is why I struggle to understand the compliance of parents to let their children participate.

I know this ‘tradition’ spans back to pagan times, but I don’t think it has any relevance in today’s society and I think the whole concept of trying to explain to small children about spirits and ghosts opens up a whole arena of tricky questions that need not be raised.

Before you call the fun police – don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against kids dressing up or having lollies for special occasions, I just don’t understand why it has to be done in a way that contridicts the lessons you try to teach your children.

I would prefer to see a celebration that sees children perform a selfless good deed and get lollies as a reward, rather than receive candy as blackmail so that they don’t play a practical joke on a resident.

OK – I’m climbing down off my high horse now. Let me know if you think I’m a stick in the mud or if you agree!

(Image courtesy of zirconicusso, freedigitalphotos.net)

BIG MOTHER

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My teenage daughters enjoy watching ‘Big Brother’, so I have seen snippets of the show in passing. This week, in an effort to inject a bit of fun (and less nagging) into our household, I adapted a task from that show to get my kids to do as they are asked.

The premise is simple – ‘Big Mother’ (my alter ego for this week) will offer the housemates (aka my kids) the opportunities to do tasks (ie. chores). They each only have one chance to not immediately complete their task or they are eliminated from the competition.

At the end of the week, the remaining housemates who have completed all tasks are involved in a cash grab. I will stand at a balustrade from our second storey and each housemate will get an opportunity to catch $5 notes that I throw down. My husband and I practiced the cash grab to make sure that you can actually catch some money, but that it is challenging enough that hopefully the kids won’t catch too much!

The kids and I have been having great fun as I periodically call out to one child or another “This is Big Mother. Please report to the bathroom, you have 3 minutes to brush your teeth – do you accept this task?” or “All housemates, please report to the dining room.” For fun I even add in a few fun tasks, like when I asked my daughter if she would accept the task of doing 10 star jumps!

So far, this week has seen the kids being attentive and chores being done promptly. I’m all for thinking outside the box to come up with new and interesting schemes to get my children to do as they are told. Maybe I should start watching ‘Big Brother’ regularly to get more inspiration to help manage the kids.

What wacky schemes have you used to motivate your kids?

(Picture courtesy of nirots, freedigitialphotos.net)

A CHILD’S WORLD

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In making idle conversation with my son, I asked him if he could go to any country in the world, where would he choose to go? After a few seconds thought he said he couldn’t choose between Japan, America and France.

Intrigued to know what his criteria was for choosing these countries, I asked him to explain what appealed to him most about those countries. In my mind I was visualizing the cultural splendor and beautiful scenery in each of these countries.

‘I’d like to go to Japan,’ he said, ‘as they have really cool toilets.’ Trying to keep a straight face I asked what he like about France. ‘It would be awesome to go to France because you could eat croissants.’

Finally I asked what he liked about America and he responded that America has Disneyland (of course).

It led me to think that there is a niche in the market for a large theme park with automated toilets that sells flaky pastries. It would be my son’s version of nirvana!

I love that kids have such a simplified view of the world, however I must admit, it made me cringe a little that my son would choose to visit a country based solely upon it’s toileting gadgets!

(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

INDOOR PLAY CENTRE

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When my children were young, our local shopping centre decided to expand to include an entertainment precinct. My sister in law and I saw an opportunity to start an indoor play centre to service all the young families in the region.

This business venture was totally outside our realm of experience as I had previously worked in advertising and marketing and my sister in law was a solicitor. Having said that, we both had small children and had visited many play centres and so we knew what appealed to us as parents and what pleased our children.

We created ‘Fair Play Café’, with fairground themed play equipment. We also hoped the name would direct kids to play fairly with each other! We designed the centre from scratch and sourced equipment from overseas. We were determined to ensure the equipment was kept clean, as we had visited many centres where we were concerned for our children’s health as they sucked on dirty balls and slid down grubby slides.

We incorporated a ball-cleaning machine into our ball pit, where the kids could feed the colourful plastic balls into the clown’s mouth. After being cleaned, the balls would whizz around in clear pipes above the kid’s heads then periodically the balls would rain down on top of the kids. This fun activity was helping to keep the environment clean for the kids. To ensure every ball got washed, once a week we had a staff member put every ball through the machine then they would vacuum and mop the floor. It’s amazing the things we found in the ball pit – lots of hairclips, plastic jewellery, coins and little action figures.

Having small kids, we thought it was an ideal business, as we could take our kids to work with us. They were happy to play whilst we reviewed the running of the business. The only problem was that my then two year old became a bit territorial. She started to tell other kids this was her playground and let them know whether she wanted them to play there or not. I had to make the decision to leave her with her grandparents when I went to work so that she wouldn’t upset the paying customers, as she wasn’t following the ethos of playing fairly!

I believe the business model of our business was sound, but we found it hard to succeed in a large shopping centre as our rental was so high. We also never had the passing customer traffic that was predicted when we signed our lease. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when our landlord decided to put a free playground at our front door. They tried to infer this would help our business, but realistically, who is going to pay for play when you can get it for free?

We entered into a David and Goliath battle against our landlord and eventually were allowed to get out of our lease. The whole experience was draining, so we chose to sell our business rather than relocate.

I don’t regret having the indoor play centre as I was proud of what we created, plus it provided a great learning curve and was a good experience to have when my kid’s were young. The business is still running today under its new owners who moved it into a warehouse space, which is where it should have been in the first place!

The way our landlord dealt with us wasn’t, in my opinion, Fair Play, but I gain satisfaction knowing that a generation of local kids got enjoyment out of our fairground themed play centre.

(Photo courtesy of kongski, freedigitalphotos.net)

HAND ME DOWNS  

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I had a system – a perfectly good system! With three daughters, I would buy clothes for my eldest, when she grew out of them they were passed down to her sister and again in turn to my youngest daughter. Then when we finally had maximum usage out of the clothes, I would bundle them up and pass them on to my nieces.

This system worked really well, until my eldest girls became teenagers. My two eldest started to wear the same size clothes – destroying the ability to pass down clothes between them. They also decided that they wanted to wear clothes that were ‘in fashion’ – deeming them either:

  1. Out of fashion before I could hand them down
  2. Inappropriate to hand down to my youngest daughter
  3. Too large for my youngest daughter by the time they were made redundant.

Luckily I can still pass my son’s clothes onto his cousin, although sometimes my cheeky little nephew helps himself to my son’s clothes before my son has outgrown them.

I must admit; my kid’s clothes have sentimental memories attached to them. When I see my nieces in my daughter’s clothes (pre-teens) it reminds me of places we have been, or things we have done and I feel happy to see that my kid’s clothes haven’t been turned into commercial rags and still have a valid use. I once had a dress that belonged first to my eldest niece before my daughters all wore it and then my two younger nieces both wore it – it outlasted six little girls and I have a feeling my sister may have passed this onto one of her friends with a daughter. It is a perpetual dress – it was obviously so well made that it has lasted twenty years and counting!

My eldest daughters are almost fully-grown now – they are both taller than me already and all my daughters wear the same size shoes as me. The hand me downs have almost ceased and instead the system has now turned into open slather on my wardrobe! I guess the answer is for me to increase my wardrobe to allow for my daughter’s raids!

Do you recycle your kid’s clothes or do you dispose of them when your children outgrow them?

(Picture courtesy of digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net)

BASKETBALLERS  

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I have agreed (maybe foolishly) to play basketball with a group of mothers from my children’s school. Our team’s experience is limited to watching our kids play and an odd game of basketball or netball twenty or so years ago.

Having watched and scored my children’s basketball games for the past ten years, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the game. Turns out that it is:

  1. Far more exhausting than the kids make it seem
  2. Far more brutal
  3. The hoop is a lot smaller than it appears

After a hard played 20 minutes our team limped off court, struggling to comprehend that we had only just completed the first half of the game. Watching and playing this game were really totally different experiences.

In the second half we lost a player after she provided the soft cushioning for an opponent who fell on top of her, leaving our player badly bruised and batted!

This experience has given me a new found respect for the energy levels of our kids and a wake up call that, whilst I may be an expert on how the kids should play the game when I’m a spectator, the same can’t be said when I’m actually the one playing the game.

Our aim was for the opposition to not double our score, which we managed to achieve. At the final siren we all gathered together happy to have played our first game whilst discussing appropriate triage for the numerous muscle strains, bumps and bruises.

They say you shouldn’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes – well now that I’ve run more than a mile in basketball shoes I plan to take a back seat on giving my kids pointers on how they can play basketball! Forty minutes on the court has proved to me that the game is harder than it seems and that at the end of the day, you are just there for some exercise and fun!

(Picture courtesy of digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net)