FORGETFUL  

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I dread a phone call or text from my children once they have left for school. It can only mean one of two things – they are feeling unwell, or more often than not, that they have forgotten to take things to school.

I understand we are all only human and we forget things at times, so I have been known to dash up to school with missing items (particularly the day my daughter forgot her entire school bag – don’t ask me how she managed to make it all the way to her classroom before realising something was amiss!)

However, over the years I have come to the realisation that my kids need to take on the responsibility of packing the items they need for their school day and that they should also suffer the consequences if they are not prepared. If children are reprimanded for not being organized, hopefully the next time they will make more of an effort to plan their day in advance.

In theory for most kids this is the case, but based upon my son’s efforts he struggles to get organized regardless of the consequences. I have a timetable printed out that is a visual reminder of what is on each day and I admit I do find myself prompting my son in the morning to make sure he has his instrument, gym clothes, library books etc but nagging and follow through on his behalf don’t necessarily correlate! At least he knows that I won’t be at his beck and call as a delivery person for items if he has forgotten something.

Unfortunately his forgetfulness is a two way street, he also regularly forgets to bring things home from school – homework being at the top of his list! My notes to his teachers often resemble a shopping list of items for him to pack into his bag to bring home. Any item of uniform that can be removed is often lost, as are any loose objects such as books, instruments and his diary. I’m still waiting for the day he takes responsibility for his things, but until that time I just wish I could staple his belongings to him, so they can’t be lost in transit.

What do you do to get your kid’s organized? Do you find yourself constantly taking forgotten items to school?

(Picture courtesy of photostock, freedigitalphotos.net)

FIRST DAY FAIL

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The kids went back to school this week after their long Summer break. The morning of the first day of school was a flurry of activity in our household, ensuring kids were wearing the correct uniform, had eaten breakfast and had packed their bags with all their labeled stationery, textbooks and workbooks.

As each of my kids backpacks seemed to weigh more than their body weight, I decided to drive my kids to school to help them get settled in their new classes.

As luck would have it, we arrived at school in torrential rain. Every other parent had managed to wrangle their kids into their car at the same time I had, so the traffic turning into our school snaked back a whole block. No parking spots were available once I actually reached the car park. After doing laps with increasing frustration, my eldest daughters opted to make a quick exit from the car to enter school. I barely managed to wish them well before the car door was slammed close and they ran through the pelting rain towards their classrooms and awaiting friends.

I finally managed to snag a parking spot and in torrential rain, tried to squeeze two children, 70 kilograms of textbooks and my oversized handbag under my compact umbrella.

We finally located the new classrooms, identified the new teachers and discovered which friends would be in this year’s class. Feeling relief that I had successfully managed (although somewhat saturated) to deliver my kids to school on time to start their new year of learning I left to consume a well-earned cup of coffee.

It was only later as I was idly scrolling through Facebook, that I noticed that I seemed to be the only parent that hadn’t memoralised the first day of school with a photo of my kids looking shiny and bright in their school uniforms. I was just glad to get all my kids the in car without a meltdown (mine not theirs) and then delivered to school on time, to even give a second thought to taking a photo.

I clearly missed the nostalgic photo opportunity clause in the parenting handbook. So my question to you is this – would it be weird if I took a day 3 photo? I mean what’s a few days between friends? I swear my kids haven’t grown in the last two days!

(Picture courtesy of digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net)

ON THE SPECTRUM

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Growing up, I never knew about autism or people on ‘the spectrum’. Like many others, my first exposure to autism came from the movie ‘Rain Man’.

In hindsight, when I think back to my school years there were a few kids who were ‘quirky’ and were bullied dreadfully. There was one boy in particular who, upon reflection, was definitely on the autism spectrum. He was a harmless kid who kept mostly to himself. He couldn’t look you in the eyes or have a regular conversation, but he could recite the words to a certain television commercial as if he was reading from the script.

Twenty years ago there didn’t seem to be the awareness of autism that there is now and these autistic boys certainly did not get any special assistance in their schooling.

Of course the symptoms of autism vary widely, but these boys had stereotypical key idicators:

  • They were both socially inept and struggled to form close friendships
  • They took things very literally
  • They had issues with personal space
  • They made repetitive movements (one boy flapped, while the other rocked and gulped air)
  • They each had a special interest that they could recite every fact about.

I once had a discussion with a child psychologist who specializes in autism who made the interesting point that in her opinion, most university lecturers are autistic. They are perfectly suited to this role as they have the ability to focus their energy on one specialized subject and become an authority on that topic. They can lecture to a room of people, without the concern of having a close personal conversation. Her point was that, being autistic doesn’t mean people can’t lead successful and fulfilling lives.

She also discussed the fact that often parents don’t like to acknowledge their child may be on the spectrum purely out of pride. They don’t want the stigma attached to the title of their child being autistic as, regardless of their diagnosis, the child is still the same person. While this is true, the difference is the funding given for assistance for the child to ensure they have a smoother transition through school. If intervention to assist in routine starts when kids are young, they tend to learn and adapt much better than older people. Also, if a child on the autism spectrum has a teacher’s aide to ensure they are being taught in a way that will suit their idiosyncrasies then that child will gain great benefit.

I’m not sure if autism is more prevalent or if it is just better diagnosed, but there definitely seems to be greater awareness of the condition and better access to support networks to assist these people cope with everyday life. I think if kids are aware that another child is autistic, it gives them a chance to empathize with them and understand their behaviour. Hopefully kids can learn to adapt the way they interact with children on the autism spectrum and that these autistic kids are celebrated for their individuality and not subjected to bullying like the boys in my school were.

(Picture courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net)

SICK DAY

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The eternal struggle as a parent is to decipher when your child is sick and should stay home for the day or if they are just feigning illness to get a day off school.

I’ve had times where I’ve given my child the benefit of the doubt to stay home and after a few hours they have suddenly perked up, having a complete recovery (usually mid way through the day when they know it isn’t worth taking them to school for the remainder of the day).

On the flip side, I’ve had times when I’ve been sure that my child is faking and sent them to school, only to receive a call from the school to advise me that my child is sick and needs to be collected.

I have a few criteria that I use to make my decision as to whether they should stay home:

  • Has a temperature
  • Has been up through the previous night
  • Is showing obvious signs of illness
  • Is willing to take pain medication (if needed)
  • Is willing to stay in bed or do educational work

I don’t accept tears as an indicator, as I have a few accomplished actors who can cry on cue – very convincingly I might add! If my child meets most of the above qualifying points then I figure they must be sick or at the very least, they are willing to commit to having an extremely boring day.

I don’t let my kids watch TV if they are home ‘sick’ as I believe that if they can sit quietly and watch television then they can sit quietly and listen to their teacher.

As I’m writing this I have master nine sitting in bed reading. He assures me he is too ill to go to school and given the fact that he scared the living daylights out of me when he tapped me on the shoulder to wake me at 3am to tell me his nose was running, I’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I just hope he has a quick recovery so tomorrow I can catch up on all the things I was going to do today!

Has your child ever fooled you into giving them a ‘sick day’?

(Picture courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitialphotos.net)

PERFECTIONISTS  

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I recently had an interesting discussion with a mum who has been attending a course addressing anxiety in children. The lecturer made the point that people who are perfectionists often suffer anxiety if things are not done to the standard they desire. This requirement for perfection is then forced upon their children, also making them anxious if things aren’t done right.

She went on the say that parents who have a high level of expectation on their children, often intervene and actually take over the task their child should do (eg. homework, making bed, packing bag etc) to ensure it is done to their standard. This creates a vicious cycle because the child doesn’t learn to do the tasks for themselves and if the parent forgets to do something for the child it leaves the child feeling anxious and upset.

The advice the lecturer gave to the parents attending her course, was to let their children be more independent and to learn the consequences of not having things done perfectly. This will help build more resilient kids and will teach them a level of responsibility for their actions. A teacher is more interested in seeing a child’s attempt at homework, rather than the polished version that a parent has assisted (ie. done) for their child. If a child forgets to pack their library books, then they need to understand they can’t borrow new ones, until they remember to return the ones they already have.

I felt vindicated that a professional has the same opinion as I do on the subject of letting your children do things for themselves. I wrote a post last year ‘The fine line between assisting and doing’ on the subject of giving your children guidance but leaving them to do their homework themselves.

Children need parents to set examples for them, teach them life skills and give them a chance to take responsibility for their actions so that they grow into well-adjusted adults. So if you are a parent who is a perfectionist, take a deep breath and try to live with a little imperfection in your life so that you don’t create anxiety in your children. Kids need to live and learn – so let them!

“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect.” – Adam Osborne

(Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitialphotos.net)

SCHOOL CAMP

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It’s that time of year when our kids head off with their school friends for a few days at camp. This week my two youngest have had their turn to go to camp. Their ‘camps’ actually consist of them sleeping in cabins with plumbed bathrooms and all meals prepared, so calling it a camp makes it seem so much more hard core than it really is!

Based on past experience, I gather they will be doing lots of team building exercises, getting clothes wet and dirty, not getting much sleep, playing games, getting clothes wet and dirty, eating plenty of food, participating in sport and getting their clothes wet and dirty!

It is the first year my son has gone to camp, so I have been warned by other parents of boys to expect to see him arrive home in the same set of clothes he left in. Hygiene is not very high on the list of priorities for boys without parents there to enforce it. If this turns out to be the case, the upside to this scenario is that at least not all the clothes will come home wet and dirty!

The camps do ramp up their intensity in high school where the kids actually have to sleep in tents and do have to prepare their meals. Last year, my eldest daughter’s camp shelter was just one tarp strung between trees over the entire group. The kids were all freezing, with some even opting to share sleeping bags for body warmth. They had to dig their own toilet in the bush with ‘Doug’ the spade and had to fetch and boil water before drinking it. My daughter came home stating she was traumatized by the conditions, but it was a character building exercise and she survived to tell the tale!

For now, the house is awfully quiet without half of my kids here, but I know come tomorrow afternoon, our home will be filled with excited voices recalling funny incidents that have happened on camp and discussing new friendships that have been formed. I look forward to being able to give my kids cuddles and hear their tales – before I begin washing the basket loads full of wet, dirty clothes!

 

 

(Picture courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS, freedigitalphotos.net)

INADEQUATE MOTHER

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It is this time every year, that I truly display what an inadequate mother I am. The kids have just started the school year and the teachers do something that makes me quake in my boots – they send home books to be covered in clear contact.

I am the world’s worst contacter! How a roll of clear shiny vinyl can cause such misery and frustration is beyond me! Over the years, I have taken advice from far more accomplished contacters than I (those perfect mothers who churn out covered books like they are professionals), but alas I still haven’t mastered the skill of creating a covered book that doesn’t have air bubbles and wrinkles in it. On a positive note, it does provide my kids with entertainment in the classroom when they push the trapped air bubbles around in the contact!

A few years ago I found the best thing since sliced bread (actually since I’m gluten free, I’m willing to deem it an even better invention than sliced bread!) –clear book sleeves! These are made to have an exercise book slip easily into the pre-made cover. They are simple to use, look great and if your kids look after them, can even be re-used. I use these as much as possible, however, the only shortcoming with them is that they only come in standard exercise book sizes. Whilst most of the books coming home are A4, there are still a few that are odd sizes and still require manual covering.

These books are normally covered in a precious piece of my child’s artwork, so I only get one shot at covering it. There is no peeling the contact off and trying again. I like to think my kid’s artwork takes on a three dimensional feel after I’ve finished with it! 

I’m not really the sort of person who likes to be incompetent at anything, but in this department I am willing to admit defeat and declare that when it comes to covering books, I will always be an inadequate mother!

 

 

 

Are you incompetent at covering books or are you a book covering pro? Leave a comment with any advice and tips you have!

 

 

(Photo courtesy of Africa, freedigitalmedia.net)

FIRST DAY

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This is one of my favourite days of the year. The first day back at school is the only day when my kids are dressed and completely ready to go to school by 7am. I’m not sure if it’s nerves or excitement that spurs them on, but I wish I could bottle whatever it is and feed it to them daily! /p>

A normal school day morning consists of my husband and I waking the kids (sometimes several times), giving them breakfast, making lunches and then as the time for the bus gets closer a frantic nagging begins. What starts out as gentle reminders to pack their bags, brush their teeth and make their beds turns into louder demands to get ready, followed by threats of what the consequences are for missing the bus. This is usually the time when I am handed a permission slip to sign (that was meant to be returned a week ago for an excursion the next day) or told that they are missing their hat or other item of compulsory uniform.

With frazzled nerves I bid them farewell as they run towards the bus stop with fingers crossed they haven’t left their dash too late. 

I take a deep breath and survey the debris they have removed from their bags and wait with baited breath, hoping that they don’t saunter back down the driveway begging for a lift to school as they have missed the bus.

So today I am relaxed and relieved to know that my kids are capable of getting ready for school on time. If only I had confidence that they could do this every morning!

 

 

(Photo courtesy of nuttakit, freedigitalphotos.net)

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

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It’s that time of year again when I brave the shops to replenish pencil cases with new stationery and purchase new workbooks for the year.

To me the kid’s pencil cases from last year seem to be bulging with pens, textas, pencils and an assortment of stationery paraphernalia, whilst my kids assure me that they are simply a barren graveyard of used and broken items with no possible further use. 

So with four kids, I have to take a trolley and try to maneuver down isles where chicanes of overflowing boxes have been placed to make the path as difficult as possible to pass. With precision the trolley (with the one wheel that refuses to synchronise with its mates), is pushed through the obstacle course with children wildly throwing items in with gay abandon. ‘I definitely need an erasable pen,’ and ’24 colours are not enough when it comes to colouring in’ are mumbled as they frantically try to find all the ‘essential’ items required to ensure they have a successful year ahead at school.

I finally put my foot down when one child tries to persuade me that twelve multi-coloured animal erasers are far more suitable than the two white rectangular models that are listed for purchase. ‘You see,’ she reasons, ‘they can then have matching paperclips, pencils, sharpeners, rulers and…’ I return the animals to their cage and insist on the plain white erasers before this gets even further out of hand.

As I coax the trolley up to the checkout, the bored assistant looks annoyed that she needs to scan through a bulging trolley load of stationery. I mirror that annoyance, but it is more at having to pay for the stationery and then knowing that I will have to sit down and individually label each pen, pencil and eraser with the appropriate child’s name.

I take a deep breath and realise that this is one necessary step to get the kids ready to return to school – a time when once again my days will be my own. Only nineteen days to go (not that I’m counting!!!)

 

 

 

(Picture courtesy of adamr, freedigitialphotos.net)

MY DAUGHTER IS AN ASS

Today my daughter is being a horse’s ass! I don’t mean that to be rude or insensitive, she is literally being a horse’s ass. She and her friend have hired a two-person horse costume to wear at a school celebration day and she has chosen to bring up the rear!

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On this circus themed day, my other kids are going as a ringmaster, clown and lady acrobat. It is really great to see them want to participate in this themed event that is designed to reward them for a great year of study.

My kids don’t play board games or cuddle toys much any more, but the one plaything that gets used more than any other in our house is the dress-up box. When they were little it was for pretend play (being fairies and super heroes), then as they got older it turned into skits and then mock web-shows and music videos. No matter how old they get, they still love mucking around with dress ups.

I used to think that the fancy dress costumes would get used less as they grow up, but looking at my niece’s Facebook photos from university, it seems they wear fancy dress more the older they get. 

I guess no matter how old we get, it is always fun to escape reality for a little while.  Maybe today I might don a flower lei and lie by the pool, pretending I’m in Hawaii. Who am I kidding? I’ve got to clean the house, do washing and buy groceries, as well as do boring bookkeeping! I might have to settle for pretending to be in Italy as I sip my coffee!