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How much are you spending on gifts?

I’ve been assessing the damage to my wallet caused by birthday gifts for the many birthdays we have celebrated this year, and the results are not good. We’re still in the first quarter of the year, and already I need to start thinking of ingenious ways to spoil the people in my life without spending a fortune. I am a firm believer in gift giving. Firstly because I love receiving gifts myself, but secondly because everyone deserves to be spoilt on that one special day that celebrates their lives and the wonderful and unique value they place in YOUR life. I especially like to carry this through with my female friends and with the children in our circle – because us girls and kids like to be made a fuss over right?

However, recently I have discovered that gift giving is becoming outrageously expensive. And this has got nothing to do with my gift choices, but rather with the number of birthday parties my kids are being invited too. Not forgetting that almost every week, someone in our family or close circle is celebrating a birthday. I used to work on R150 for a child’s gift and R200 on an adult’s gift. This was a guideline figure and an absolute maximum amount, and even still I almost always get gifts cheaper than this amount. For me, the true value of a gift has very little to do with monetary value and everything to do with customizing a gift that you know the person will love. So if you wanted to buy me a gift, for example, spending R30 on a Lindt slab and R70 on a pair of bedroom slippers would be an awesome gift – and just for R100; because I love those sorts of things. Just as going to Bargain Books and getting three books for R100 would be an ideal gift for my kids, compared to a R250 toy from a popular toy store.

But even still, if we attended three school birthday parties and had three adult friends celebrating birthdays in a month, that’s about R1000 that was unbudgeted for. And considering the tough financial times we are living in, every penny DOES count, right?

So my questions to you are:

How much do you spend on gifts for your children’s friends?

Do you have any winner gift ideas which won’t break the bank – for kids and adults?

Share with us!

 

Girls rule, boys drool… or do they?

The age old debate about gender specific toys for kids starts almost from birth. Generally, little girls have all the pink stuff and little boys have all the blue stuff. Parents start subconsciously indoctrinating their children from the time they can walk… buying cars and trucks for their sons and dolls and prams for their daughters. I have no issue with this, it is the way of the world and I do believe there is merit in distinguishing boy things from girl things from an early age so that your kid is aware. Fine. Then your kids reach a certain age where they can choose their own toys, or they live in a house with a sibling of the opposite sex and they have access to toys which are not necessarily gender aligned… then what? I want to ask you, as a parent, how you deal with this?

My answer and opinion? Well I have no problem whatsoever with my son playing with dolls. I am growing a boy here with the purpose of producing a man who is nurturing, loving and not afraid to show emotion. I think a large percentage of our societal problems stem from men who were raised not to show emotion, who were taught that “boys don’t cry” and who were made to believe that it’s not OK to let down your guard. Just to be clear, in case you don’t get it, playing with dolls has no bearing on your sexual orientation whatsoever. By playing “house” a boy child learns how to be a Dad one day. Restricting your boy child to “manly” toys only prohibits the cultivation of his soft, caring side which all good daddies need.

As for my daughter. She is by all accounts a “tomboy.” And while I long to dress her up in everything pink and fluffy and sparkly, I can’t deny that her independent, fearless, firefighting streak makes me all kinds of good-tingly. The way she rams her brothers cars around her bedroom, the way she slings a shot with her sling and the way she kicks a soccer ball would make grown men quake. And all these silly things aside, I want her to know that she can do ANYTHING she sets her mind to, she is not restricted to pink and fluff and tea parties, no, she can jump in mud puddles and hang from monkey bars and do wheelies on her bike too. By allowing her to explore this side of her psyche, I hope I’m raising a strong, independent girl who will grow into a woman who knows no bounds, who knows that even though the world tries to tell us that this is a “man’s world,”  it simply isn’t.

I do not dispute the fact that boys and girls are different; from our psychological makeup, to the way that our facial hair grows, to the way that we pee, we’re different and we have different roles to play. Absolutely. But I do think it’s high time we start teaching our kids that gender should not constrain or obstruct your innate desire to just be a liberated emotional human being.

How do you parent when it comes to gender specific issues?

What work do you do, Mom?

My children are at the age where they are completely enthralled with the idea of one day being big people who go out to work. They have varied ideas of what work they’d like to do as adults, and it changes on the daily too. My son would like to be a policeman when he is big. And then when he is BIGGER, he wants to be a fireman, and when he is BIGGER than that, he wants to be a chef.

Well after listening to him, it’s clearly obvious that children are still being taught the Big Five: fireman, policeman, doctor, nurse and teacher. He thinks these occupations are all wonderful because these people help others and helping is kind – his words, not mine. My children were highly disappointed that I have a boring office job, and I like to write. And I mean HIGHLY disappointed. They want to know if I’m still planning on being a nurse (at least) when I am “bigger.”

I tried explaining to them that there are so many career options and that the world is their oyster… so he could be an artist who brings joy to people in the work that he creates, or she could be a star piano player who brings joy to people’s senses, he could be an I.T guys who, although people in the workplace love to hate, do effectively help the company and of course he could be a doctor/teacher/policeman or anything he chooses.. AS LONG AS they love what they do! And yes, they’d still be helping people.

I want them to go after something passionately because they truly WANT to be in that field. Not because my son’s crazy mother forced him to study medicine so that he could look after her in her old age. While the paycheck is important, of course we all want our kids to live comfortably, I first want them to be happy. There are times when I think I missed my calling, and while I don’t like to live with regrets – it’s such a wasted and useless emotion – I do sometimes wonder how things would have turned out had I done things differently. So for my kids, I want them to pursue their passions FIRST. I do believe that you can make a success out of anything if you have the passion and the drive. And I also think that doing something that you really love, makes the hard work of achieving it, easier. Like if you seriously WANT to be a doctor, the 7 – 10 years of studying is easier than say someone who has been forced to study medicine and who sees those 7 – 10 years as a prison sentence. That’s why I think passion is so important!

So after passionately describing this to my 4 year old in the best age appropriate language I could muster, he responded with “then I’m going to be a chef.” Huh? How did he figure that? I’m guessing he came to this conclusion because he loves food and is currently his biggest passion. Kids.

 

Learn to kiss

Parenting 101: Learn to KISS.

 

Every so often, I find myself wondering if I’m being the best parent that I could be to my children. Am I making the right decisions for them? Even though I’m coming from a place of love, am I sometimes too hard on them? Do I sometimes forget that they are just kids and selfishly force them to grow up? Do I stick to a routine for their benefit or for mine? I often contemplate on how things could have turned out if I had said that better, or reacted differently or let them “get away” with that. I used to find myself constantly second guessing myself. But what I’ve come to realize is that children really are simple beings who require simple things. I think it’s us parents who blow things out of proportion, when all a kid really needs is love and fresh air and perhaps a good medical aid plan. I have made it my mission to always try to eliminate the fluff that comes with parenting.

My children do not have to wear the most expensive clothes, I do not have to buy a bigger house to give them more space to store all their fancy gadgets, and they do not need to attend a private school which costs the same price as my mortgage, if I so choose. Those fancy things are on me, not them. Their love language is time spent together. And that’s it.

As a new parent, I used to want to sign up for every parenting workshop, read every book and trawl endless sites to get advice, but more so to get affirmation that I was doing it right. I would feel guilty if I could not console my crying child, or if my child ate food out of a bottle instead of preparing it freshly, or if they were not reaching their milestones as per “the book.” I was a Momzilla. I had to change my approach because I was driving myself crazy and ruining my whole parenting experience.

I’ve become far less dogmatic in my approach – I still believe in the value of a routine – but I don’t let it dictate our lives. I now know the routine is there to benefit both my kids and I, and we all function better if we feel secure in knowing what’s coming next. It benefits me because I know that at 7h30pm each evening, I can let my hair down, and I most definitely do not feel guilty about that anymore! I don’t beat myself up about snapping now and again or confiscating toys or needing to discipline – if I want to raise these children to be upstanding citizens, they are going to have to experience some form of tough love.

Choosing your battles wisely when dealing with kids, is still the best advice I have ever received. I no longer fight over what to wear, what to eat, and how to apply body lotion (they seem to like the taste of it).  I’ve learned that letting them discover things for themselves, rather than me dictating it, works really well for us. It doesn’t always work; in fact it backfires quite a lot, but I’ve learned that backfiring plans create the perfect opportunity to learn.

I’ve learned to loosen up, I know that what worked even yesterday, may not work today. I’ve learned to be more flexible and to accept that I’m going to make mistakes and not to beat myself up over it. The most important thing for me is to know that my kids feel loved and valued, that even when I’m at my worst and I’m on a shouting, grouchy warpath (happens often), they don’t doubt how I feel about them. I’ve learned to go with my parenting gut and KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). 

Buckle up!

If you don’t buckle up your children in your car, we can’t be friends. 

It was a pleasant experience to read a headline in our local news which astonishingly left me jumping for joy. I know right, not often that THAT happens in Sunny SA. An excerpt from the article went something like this:

The Department of Transport {has taken this fatal anomaly into account, and} has published amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations 2000 under the National Road Traffic Act, 1996. “There is also a requirement that will require that children that are being transported in a motor vehicle to be buckled up with appropriate child restraints,” says department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso. Full article here: http://www.southafrica.info/services/carseats-251114.htm#.VH7U_jGUdic

One would hope that parents do not require a law to ensure that they transport their children safely on our dangerous roads, but judging by the horrifying statistics, this is not the case. But as of April 2015, there will be a law against travelling with a child who is not correctly restrained in a moving vehicle.  And it’s about time.

I grew up in a family where the people in the front of the car absolutely had to wear seatbelts. But you know what the funniest thing is – and believe me, it’s only funny now because I have actually survived to tell the tale – my parents never insisted on us wearing seatbelts at the back of the car. Perhaps it was because we were 4 siblings in the back of my father’s beat up Toyota. Perhaps road accidents were not as numerous or as devastating back then. Perhaps taxi drivers from the 80s/90s were more law abiding, thus minimising deaths on the road. Perhaps it was because you only got a fine if you were caught riding shotgun without your seatbelt. I don’t know why, but from as far back as I can remember, I used to hang out of the car window, roll around on the back seat and lean forward between the two seats to see the road or fiddle with the radio. My parents were, in fact, down right irresponsible! Had this law been passed while I was growing up, my parents would have had serious criminal records. Bless them.

Then I had my own children. I clearly remember driving my firstborn home from the hospital in his Graco car seat. I remember yelling at my husband for driving more than 50 kilometres an hour with my precious cargo on the back seat. I was terrified that some idiot would jump a ride light and kill us. It took me a long while to be OK to drive with the baby in the back. And five years later, although I don’t give a second thought about driving with two noisy preschoolers in the backseat, we do give serious thought to our safety.

We have to remember that we need to drive with the other driver in mind. We may be law abiding citizens who adhere to traffic regulations and whose cars are roadworthy, and all that is wonderful, but unfortunately we have to share the road with people who do not necessarily have the same reverence for the road rules as we do.

It’s so easy to become complacent. Believe me, I know. I may or may not have let my kid sit on the front seat to go and buy bread and milk at the corner shop. I may or may not have sat in the back seat with a baby in my arms because I didn’t want to wake her by putting her into her seat. And I want to punch that foolish me for being so negligent, irresponsible and stupid. I’ve learned that being complacent about road safety, almost always ends in injury or death.

Forgive me for being doubtful, but I don’t think that this new law will see guilty parents/carers storming to their nearest distributor to get a car seat. Our legal system still has a long way to go to make offenders nervous enough to comply and the idea of getting a ticket from corrupt police officers doesn’t scare anyone these days. But I do believe that the more we talk about this, the more airtime this topic gets, the more parents will understand the devastating implications of driving with an unrestrained child. And I do believe that THIS will spur them into action.

With the festive season upon us and people acting all kinds of crazy on the roads, make sure you and yours are buckled in safely.

xxx

Childside: your one-stop-child-friendly-spot

Let’s not kid ourselves; the internet is full of resources on how to grow a kid. What’s good for them, what to feed them, how to discipline them, how to get them to talk, and then how to get them to shut up! Two days ago my 5 year old sprouted two new molars. I assumed that children at this age were done with teething; so you can imagine my anxiety because I assumed something was wrong. But thank goodness for the internet which told me that this was completely normal and that his molars were a bit early, but otherwise completely normal. My point is having this sort of information on your fingertips has made parenting in the 21st century easier. (more…)

The Flintstones versus Modern Day Parenting

I’m beginning to think that the primitive world was probably a simpler place to live in. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot imagine my life without WIFI or the comfort of water in my taps and light at the flip of a switch. I certainly can’t imagine rubbing two sticks together to create fire just to boil some water for a cup of coffee, oh wait, you’d probably need to grind the coffee beans by hand first. It’s no lie that the practice of co sleeping, baby wearing and breast feeding for as long as possible, probably dates back to the days when these were your only options. (more…)

The Wonder Years

I was born at an amazing time in history, I was alive at a time when the world was rocked by events which changed humanity forever.I have lived through euphoric moments, with the release and election of our first Black president, Mr Nelson Mandela; the end of Apartheid put South Africa at the forefront of the global arena. South Africa took centre stage again in this generation, showcasing probably the world’s most cataclysmic pandemic – AIDS. Yes it was a worldwide problem, but the South African statistics shocked the world. On a positive note, the Soccer World Cup came home, and it was one of the proudest moments to be a South African. (more…)