Category Archives: Uncategorized

The nurturing role of Dad’s

 

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Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the role of Dad’s. Our daughters are 17 and 19, even before I was pregnant with our first baby we had conversations about our thoughts on the role of being a parent and the importance of both parents being nurturing,caring and engaged as parents. From my own experience, my Dad did a lot of the nurturing, caring, personal care when I was young, as my Mum was very ill for large amounts of my childhood. Also, I had been influenced and inspired by the way friends of ours, Jonny and Jenny Baker parented their boys, they shared a job between them and shared the childcare equally between them. From these experiences I knew that Dad’s have an important role to play in nurturing, caring, actively parenting their children.
When our own children arrived we decided to share the childcare between us, our girls had each of us caring for them 2.5 days a week. Nineteen years ago this was still fairly uncommon, sometimes people would question me if I trusted Iain to look after the girls, this always really annoyed me. In my parent’s generation nurturing parenting was often seen as a female role, the male role in parenting was often seen as either discipline or boisterous playing. I wanted my children to see that a Dad can be loving, caring, gentle, in touch with feelings and emotions as well as fun, playful with clear boundaries.

We both feel the decision we made to actively share the parenting role from the beginning and to intentionally both be nurturing, was the best decision we made for our family. I love seeing the relationship our girls have with their Dad, it is beautiful, rich and very loving. We are now in a new stage where our eldest daughter is about to leave home for university, often you hear of Mothers talking about their feeling of loss when children leave home, this is often attributed to them being the main carer or the main nurturer. We have recently realised you don’t hear Dad’s talking about their sense of loss, you rarely hear Dad’s express their sadness. I have had many intentional conversations with male friends recently, to hear their experiences and feelings around their children growing up. It is no surprise to hear men tell me how they felt deeply sad, anxious, worried, when their child started school, moved to secondary school or left home. When we are parenting in a nurturing, emotional way we will be effected with strong feelings when our children grow and develop, we will at times have moments of feeling a sense of loss and sadness. Of course, this is not unique to Mums, but to Dad’s as well and this is OK, we need to recognise it and acknowledge our feelings.

 

 

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Transitions

 

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For a long time I have been interested in transitions, the process of how we prepare, how we think and plan for transitions, for change. I believe we need to give careful time and thought to transitions and change. For my, under graduate dissertation, I did a piece of research around supporting 4 yr olds transition into school, and now 8 years on a large part of my current job is supporting 4 yr olds where it has been recognised they are going to find the transition into school very hard. A key component of a good transition is preparation and support. I know through the work with the 4 yr olds if we involve them in visiting the school, buying uniform, buying shoes , talking about the school, their teacher, talking about what they will do at lunch time, practicing with them carrying a plate with food on or eating from a lunch box and talking about the feelings they have, this all helps the child in the transition. I also encourage the schools I work with to make a booklet for the new children about their school, their teacher and classroom so the children can look at this over the summer.

I often believe what works for 4 yr olds often works with older children and adults too!, the new children moving into senior school, is another huge transition , these children respond well when they are emotionally and physically supported, again the process of buying new school bags, practicing the walking route/ bus route, practicing buying lunch in a cafe where they need to order what they want, carrying the tray, pay for the food, encouraging them to talk about their feelings, their expectations and their fears, all of these are important life skills. These can help ease the transitions when they are talked about, practised and supported.

In our house we are in a stage of a new transition, our eldest daughter is going away to university, we have had many conversations about what it will be like, how she feels about it, over the summer we have been buying new quilt covers, cushions for her new room, mugs, plates, thinking about what she needs to take away and what she doesn’t need, having conversations about independent living, managing money, safety. I am aware this transition is a huge one for all of us, this last year I have been preparing myself for her going, trying to recognise and acknowledge the emotions this brings, both a mix of pride, delight, excitement for her, plus some fear of the unknown and also sadness of a time that is ending but the recognition of the importance of this and looking forward to what is ahead.

During this year I have thought a lot about the physical experience of being wrapped, I noticed over the year that several of the children I worked with responded really well to having a blanket that they could wrap themselves or be wrapped in when they were feeling overwhelmed, sad or anxious. Over the Summer I bought myself a large shawl, it is soft, and I find it really comforting, I have worn it a lot over the last few weeks, I am beginning to think it has been a way of nurturing myself, providing myself with some comfort, not that I have been feeling overwhelmed or sad, but maybe instinctively I have known that I need that extra sense of holding. One thing I have discussed a lot with Lily has been how cold her  new room might be! with this thought I have been knitting a blanket, it is one I started several years ago but now I am rushing to finish it. It’s a blanket of coloured squares, it’s not perfect but it is a blanket made of love, it is a blanket that hopefully will provide some comfort, some warmth and some nurturing at times when that is needed during this transition.

Choosing to be bold

 

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There have been various moments this week when I have been thinking about boldness and how sometimes we need to be bold. We need to step outside of our comfort zone and safe place to discover something new, sometimes this enables us to do something that brings us joy and sometimes this can be scary and feel uncomfortable.

At the beginning of the week, I met with a friend, Julia. She was telling me how she has been offered a job in the Congo with the UN. I love her passion and her courage. I find her belief and determination to be involved in justice so inspiring. I was struck by how taking this job is a bold move, it is to an area she has never worked before and not an easy place to be. Another friend, Jenny, has been bold this week; over the past year, she has been treated for breast cancer and has spent this weekend running the Palestine half marathon. She was raising money for breast cancer services for women in Gaza, as the cancer service in Gaza is massively inadequate. This year has been really tough for Jenny, but again she is a bold woman, who has come through treatment and has continued her passion of running. She chose to raise money for something she passionately believes in, the act of running for Jenny brings her joy but she says the act of asking for donations makes her feel deeply uneasy and uncomfortable, so again an example of being bold.

At the start of this weekend, I helped organise a poetry event with Ian Adams and my husband Iain Cotton showed some new artwork. Somebody asked the question to Ian if he was able to earn money from making poetry, which made him laugh, as this is very very hard!. What struck me while listening to both men talk about their work and creativity was that the very act of choosing to be creative, of choosing to do something that brings them joy, but also choosing to do something which puts them in a place where others will make a judgement about their work, is bold, and at times that can be uncomfortable.

Over the last few months, I have been working on a project developing a children’s story book about living with a parent with Bi-Polar. This is a subject which is very important to me for both professional and personal reasons. I asked two work colleagues this week to look at a draft. This felt so scary, I have huge respect for their knowledge and expertise in working with vulnerable children. I realised as I sent them the draft their opinion really, really, mattered. If they thought it wasn’t very good then I wouldn’t go forward with the project, but I knew that I needed to put myself in this uncomfortable position if this project was to move forward. For me that was a bold move, thankfully their feedback was good and really helpful!.

To be bold can be scary and it can be uncomfortable but it can also lead to some great things.

 

Image of a  finger labyrinth carved by Iain Cotton

 

 

Stories of belief, in ourselves and in others

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This week I read these words by Ian Adams, ‘Belief is stepping into a story that rings true and allowing the story to form you, the story must shape again in you. The belief finds its believability in your life today’

These felt very pertinent words to me this week; I have spent some lovely moments this week on Exmouth beach, sitting, wandering, thinking and reflecting. In these moments of reflection, I became aware of the voices of doubt, questioning, and a sense of blagging, that have crept back into my head, without me really realising it. I became aware of the destructive story that was creeping back into my head.

The stories we have in our head about ourselves can be very powerful, sometimes they can be destructive and sometimes they can be really positive. For years, the story in my head about myself was that I was stupid. I failed at school, largely due to being a young carer. Fifteen years later I eventually did an early years degree and got a first, but I still felt that I was just blagging my way; I then did an MA in early years, and this began to quieten some of the voices in my head about being stupid.

Ian’s words helped me think a lot about the story I have been living in my head recently and how I can change that; how I can believe in a new story and live that new story. Importantly the words also really got me thinking about the stories the children I work with have in their heads, about themselves. Often their stories are about being stupid, naughty, angry and unloved. I and the educators I work with need to help these children to have a new story. One that is about being unique, special, loved and able. Our role in the year we work with them is to start to change the stories they have, enable them to believe the new story and to begin to live it.
Ian Adams– 40 temptations – Proost 

Hope

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I am a really keen gardener, I am not very good at it, mainly because I have no spatial awareness, I can’t do straight lines and I am rubbish at following instructions. So my planting is very haphazard and I often forget how much space things need to grow. But I love it, I have realised that being a gardener, particularly my style of gardening, requires a lot of hope.

Today is the first day in my new gardening year. Today I planted broad beans and sweet pea seeds in my greenhouse. I had forgotten how exciting I found the start of a new gardening year; the anticipation, the planning, the preparing. I love the rituals involved at the start of the new gardening year, cleaning the greenhouse, sorting out pots, sorting through seeds. I had forgotten how meditative and calming I find this whole process, but also how happy it makes me. So much hope goes into the process of gardening, at the start of the new year you plan and think about what you will grow, you hope that the seeds that you carefully nurture will first of all appear and then grow and flourish. You then have the hope you experience as you put your small plants out into the garden, desperately hoping that slugs and birds wont eat them. From previous experience I know that I will lose some plants, I know that I will have another battle with slugs and birds and I know that I will probably overestimate how many plants I can grow in my veg patch, but that doesn’t matter, the hope for some good things is what I am hanging onto, because I also know some things will work.

As I was planting the seeds this morning I was thinking about how hope is an important part of my work life too. The hope as a self employed person that people will want to buy in my services of training and consultancy; the hope as a nurture worker for the small children I work with, that things will improve for them, and that I and the education staff can help them to feel safe, loved and secure. I know that there will continue to be some difficult times in my nurture work, and probably some scary times ahead being self employed, but I also know that having hope is a good thing.

Trying hard not to catastrophise

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I am very good at imagining the worst; at catasrophising. Since using mindfulness I am now far more aware of my tendency to do this but there are times when it is very hard to stop. Over Christmas I was dreading this first week of January, I had a strange week planned, I was going to Centerparcs with friends, but also still working in schools as Centerparcs is only 20 minutes from many of the schools I work in. My sister, her family and my mum were also going to be at Centerparcs; and then my sister and her family were leaving on Thursday to emigrate to New Zealand! I imagined awful things, I presumed that I would spend the week crying, that my Mum would be a mess and the children I work with would all be distressed at returning to school. I couldn’t imagine anything good about the week and all I really wanted to do was hide.

On the Tuesday morning I left early to go to work. My journey was a walk through the beautiful Redwood trees just as the dawn was beginning. I heard owls, I heard the birds morning song as they awoke and I saw rabbits. I made a decision that morning that I needed to choose to have some fun, that this was the last time for several years I would see my sister and her children and I needed to decide to enjoy it.

The week is now over, all the things I dreaded did not actually happen. The children I saw were mostly in a good place and pleased to be back at school, happily there were no tantrums or distress from them. My Mum coped amazingly well; I did cry as I knew I would, but not all week! and I had a lot of fun playing in the pool with my family and friends. As I am writing this piece I am also having an i-message conversation with my sister on the other side of the world. She is 13 hours ahead and telling me about their day on the beach where the sea is warm! So my fears of the plane crashing and never hearing from her again were very wrong! I am reminded again that catastrophising doesn’t help and often the things I really fear don’t fortunately happen.

Finding beauty in darkness

 

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Sometimes it can feel that we are surrounded by dark things. This last term has felt at times full of darkness, the world news has been bleak, there has been deeply sad news affecting various friends and some of the stories I have heard through work have been really distressing. Over the years I have learnt that I can’t escape the darkness, that I need to learn at times how to live in the darkness, but within the darkness there can be moments of beauty.

I went for a walk this morning looking for some beauty. I felt that I needed to put this last term behind me and begin the process of finding rest, relaxation, peace and beauty. I have spent the last few days writing a chapter about outdoor play and helping children enhance their wellbeing through the outdoors. Writing it has reminded me that I need some wildness, I need some time outdoors, for my own wellbeing I need to find some beauty.

The moments of beauty for me this morning were in seeing the sunrise, hearing birds singing, seeing a tiny wren in my garden and finding a rose that is still growing. My aim over this remaining advent and into the end of the year is to keep looking out for the moments of beauty.