Growing Up Global Read-Along: Greet Your Friend

Growing up Global Read Along

We’re back for the second instalment of our expat parenting book read-along with Chapter 2 of Growing up Global: Greet your friend (you can find the Introduction and Chapter 1 here).

We’re a couple of days behind schedule due to birthday celebrations (someone turned 4! Already!) and The Baby Who Refused to Nap for an ENTIRE DAY! I’m just lucky he has a very sunny disposition, otherwise it could have been disastrous!

Anyway, back on subject, I finally completed Chapter 2 of Growing up Global. I’m finding this book quite an easy read despite being a bit behind; I’ll blame that on my procrastinating personality.

Chapter 2: Greet your Friend deals mostly with language and, as you can guess from the title, sociocultural conventions regarding greetings around the World. Once more, I found this book to be very USA-centric, but I guess that is the general audience for it, so let’s leave it at that.

The first thing the author tackles hit a bit close to home with me – getting your child used to saying hello (and generally greeting) people. I’m going to publicly admit here, before having kids I was one of those people who thought “how rude! MY child is going to be brought up to be more polite and greet others (a simple hello – I never thought you should force kisses/hugs/etc.)”. Well, I’m eating my words. The author points out how, especially American children, are not used to greeting people they meet. I agree with her and have always emphasized this with my children. all went well until around the time Sprout 1 turned 2 and suddenly decided he was shy (yes, I’m aware it’s not exactly a decision – you get my point). Now I have a 4-year-old who not only will most probably NOT say hello, you might be greeted with a scowl as well. And there you have it. I honestly don’t know what to do. I tell him it’s polite to greet people and, at a minimum, not try to scare them. I’m hoping it will pass with time and was hopeful Ms. Tavangar would have some tips other than reading one of Emily Post‘s books on etiquette for children, but I do realise this isn’t the focus of the book. I’m open to any of your suggestions/tips though!

After getting into the habit of saying hello, Homa suggests learning greetings outside the children’s own culture, giving tips such as watching for cues and showing respect when you aren’t familiar with the proper way to greet someone. This chapter also has a list of general principles for greeting people according to continent. A good way to practise would be looking at the map with your child and talking about different ways people greet each other, as well as role-playing.

I’ve personally always found greetings in European countries to be a bit confusing. Being Portuguese, I’m obviously well aware of the rule of giving 2 kisses to everyone if you are a female and 2 kisses to women and a handshake to men if you are a male. In other countries, Belgium included, it’s not so straightforward. After living here for over 6 years now, I still don’t have it straight and all the other nationalities you encounter just seem to add to the confusion, so I’ve made a mental note to more purposefully educate myself on this.

All throughout the chapter there is a big focus on getting to know people of different cultures and ethnicities as individuals and not stereotypes, adjusting your behaviour accordingly.

There is an entire part on activities to do with children divided by over 10 and under 10, as well as many resources, both paid and free.  A few I found interesting for younger children are Muzzy, by the BBC, Beth Manners’ Fun French for Kids ages 2-6, Putomayo’s Playground collection of world music for kids (we have a few of these – really good) and looking for Listmania lists on Amazon by relevant topics, such as Father & son’s social justice picture books for children list.

How about you? Do your kids greet people? Can they do so in different languages?

Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase the book directly via these links, a small amount of the purchase price eventually makes its way to me. So if you would use Amazon anyway to get your books, please use my aStore. However, if you are lucky enough to have a local, independent bookshop stocking this book, please pay them a visit if you would like to buy it!

Brothers

I can hardly believe it has been almost a year since we welcomed our second Sprout into our family. From the moment we decided to have a second child the doubts were plenty. Not about the actual WANTING another child, but how it would affect the family dynamics, especially regarding Sprout 1.

Brothers

Would I be able to love another child as much as I already loved Sprout 1? Would they get along? Would he be jealous? Could we dedicate enough time and resources to a second child? What would I do about breastfeeding (I was still breastfeeding Sprout 1 when I found out I was pregnant)? Is this fair to Sprout 1? And on, and on…

Of course, looking back now these questions seem almost silly. It’s amazing how these little ones fill our hearts so completely, yet there’s always room for more. My two sons are so very different, yet quite similar all at once. My sons’ relationship has grown. I think they both benefit from having each other, and they both love each other… most of the time.

Sprout 2 (10 months) is still at that stage of adoring his big brother, even when he gets knocked over! Sprout 1 (almost 4 years) has moments ranging from adoration to frustration and occasional spurts of jealousy when baby is getting “too much” attention (think milestones, like sitting, crawling, eating).

We’re into a good groove at the moment, but it hasn’t always been this way. I was surprised to find after Sprout 2’s birth that Sprout 1 wasn’t upset at the baby, but rather was upset at us. At me in particular, for a while. he was NOT happy with all the time I was spending with his baby brother.

We found ways to help him with his feelings and things got better as they got to know each other and as baby grew and became more responsive (smiles for big brother! giggles! chasing! yay!).

One thing I found helpful was giving him a doll to take care of. He would change diapers, burp, carry and even breastfeed (too cute!). We were also very open and explained why babies needed so much attention and how he was when he was a baby. We never denied him expressing feelings of wanting the baby to go back in mama’s belly, or insisted he loved his brother when he said he didn’t. Soon enough things fell into a new sort of normal.

I also found books to be a big help with the process, both for him and for me. Here are four books which really helped prepare the way and that he occasionally STILL asks to read.

Books for preparing the arrival of a new sibling

There's going to be a baby, by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury

This book is brilliant. It’s a conversation throughout the seasons between mother and son where they both imagine what baby will be once he’s big. Sprout 1 loves the scenarios and really identified with the little boy. I loved that the little boy expressed his negative feelings toward the baby, yet ends with a “Grandpa, we’re going to love our baby, aren’t we?”;  brought tears to my hormonal eyes.

What's inside your tummy mummy?, by Abby Cocovini

What’s inside your tummy mummy?, by Abby Cocovini

This book was recommended by a friend and it’s perfect for little ones to get a month by month picture of what is going on inside Mom’s belly. It consists of month by month 2-page spreads with tidbits about the growing baby along with real sized pictures of baby inside the “mummy’s tummy”. Sprout 1 loved to have me hold it up to my belly. It’s great for preschoolers who want to know the why’s and how’s, without too much information. It ends with a push and some information about newborns (referencing both breastfeeding and bottle feeding).

My New Baby, Illustrated by Rachel Fuller

My New Baby, Illustrated by Rachel Fuller

This picture book depicts many scenarios of what happens when baby is here. Lots of discreet breastfeeding images and side by sides of what baby does and what big sister or brother can do. Also pictures of going for walks with baby in a carrier. It gives kids an idea of how they can be included in activities with baby (helping with the bath, etc) and how activities like story-time and singing can include baby as well. A great little book for toddlers and preschoolers.

What baby needs, by William Sears MD, Martha Sears RN and Christie Watts Kelly, Illustrated by Renée Andriani

What baby needs, by William Sears MD, Martha Sears RN and Christie Watts Kelly, Illustrated by Renée Andriani

This book is certainly geared towards attachment parenting families. It has images of baby sleeping in a co-sleeper attached to the parent’s bed, being carried in a sling, breastfeeding, etc. It has little tidbits for the older sibling, and includes more than one older sibling, so good for families with more kids. Sprout 1 loved seeing familiar scenes and could relate to the parts addressing the older sibling’s feelings like wishing the baby would go away.

Raising Happy Brothers and Sisters: Helping Our Children Enjoy Life Together, from Birth Onwards , by Jan Parker and Jan Stimpson

Raising Happy Brothers and Sisters: Helping Our Children Enjoy Life Together, from Birth Onwards , by Jan Parker and Jan Stimpson

Finally, a book for the parents. I must admit I’m still reading through this as it covers before birth to adolescence, so I dip in as I feel the need. I researched many books on sibling relationships and from the reviews, this one seemed to be what I was looking for. It addresses the many stages of sibling relationships and family dynamics. The book is peppered with anecdotes from real parents, children and health visitors. It’s easy to read in short spurts (is it too much information if I tell you this book sits in our bathroom?) and is packed with sound advice and reminders of simple things we sometimes forget or overlook.

Do you have more than one child? Are you thinking about it? How have you handled it and do you have any tips or stories you’d like to share?

Expat parenting book read-along: Growing up Global

Expat parenting book read-along: Growing Up Global

Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavengar

Life off-line has kept me away from the blog this past week. I’ve been busy preparing things for the BCT’s Nearly New Sale, plus we had a quick trip to the Emergency room with Sprout 1 (nothing serious, just a cut on the head after falling off a chair with a book in his hand and landing head first against our side-table), and now the snow. OMG the SNOW! Our balcony was covered almost to the height of Sprout 1’s waist (he’s almost 4)! Beautiful, really, BUT WHERE IS SPRING? Ok, rant over.

I’m back now and I have lots of things planned here! Can’t wait to get it all ready.

First up, our Expat parenting book read-along. The winner of the poll (with 50% of votes) was Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavengar.

This book has 9 chapters, plus and Introduction and Conclusion. I’m thinking of doing one Chapter per week, plus one for the Conclusion, which means this series will run for 10 weeks. I’ll include the Introduction with Chapter 1: Be a Friend.

I propose “meeting up” on Wednesdays, when I’ll post about the book and you can feel free to join in in the comments. To give those who wish to read-along time to get the book and start reading, the read-along will begin on April 3rd.

I have the Kindle Edition, even though I don’t actually own a kindle, because I like reading on my iPad or iPhone (great for those times when I keep my kids company to fall asleep at night). You can get the Kindle app for other smart-phones and tablets as well.

What are you waiting for? Let’s start reading!

Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase the book directly via these links, a small amount of the purchase price eventually makes its way to me. So if you would use Amazon anyway to get your books, please use my aStore, or the above link but for the Kindle edition. However, if you are lucky enough to have a local, independent bookshop stocking this book, please pay them a visit if you would like to buy it!

 

Online reads

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I hope you had a nice weekend, even with the cold, the fog and the snow if you’re reading from Brussels!

Here are some things I’ve been reading on the inter-webs. Feel free to add any other links you’ve enjoyed in the comments.

Activities for Kids and Parents in Brussels, over @cheeseweb – http://cheeseweb.eu/2013/02/activities-kids-parents-brussels-belgium/

Ages and Stages: Overstimultaion in babies – http://simplekids.net/ages-and-stages-overstimulation-babies/

A birth-story at St. Elisabeth in Brussels – This one is in French, but you can always use Google translate if you can’t read French. This is actually a very interesting project. Lots of birth stories from mums demanding a more humane birthing experience – http://moncorpsmonbebemonaccouchement.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/120-sylvia-bruxelles-2012/

You are your child’s strongest advocate – whatever their age @childhood 101 – http://childhood101.com/2013/02/you-are-your-childs-strongest-advocate-whatever-their-age/

Recentering, reconnecting and taking it easy

I’ve had an impromptu hiatus from the blog these past 2 weeks. First The Sprouts got sick (yet again – will it ever end?) and then we had mid-term break, which meant Sprout 1 was home all week along with baby Sprout 2. I tend to switch the screens off more around the kids (setting the example and all that), hence no blogging.

Finger painting hand

We pondered signing him up for this holiday “stage” (kind of like day camp for the non-bruxellois) at Turtlewings, which sounded wonderful and he was actually interested in, but in the end decided to keep him home.

Finger painting

You see, this son of mine is of the sensitive, introspective variety and sometimes just needs to be in a safe, quiet, familiar environment in order to recenter and calm down. He has been moody and angry (which many times means aggressive) ever since we came back from our 3 week Christmas holiday in Portugal. He loves going to Portugal, but it ends up being quite a sensory overload for him, with the different routines (or none to speak of), presents galore, lots of travel, and plenty, plenty of attention from family and friends. Add sugary treats to the mix and we have a time bomb!

fingerpainting

What he was really needing  was quiet, relaxing time at home. He actually realizes this himself, which is great, and asks to stay home in pj’s all day. One thing he sometimes complains about at school or in other settings with lots of children/crowds is the noise. He doesn’t like it when recess is longer than usual because of this. I must admit, as a highly sensitive person myself, I totally get this. (If you click-through the link, you can take the test to see if you are too.)

Finger painting scratch

Something which really helps him reorganize himself and settle down is painting. Any kind really, but no other beats finger painting for the sensory experience.

Brothers playing

I’m happy to report that, although I was a bit overwhelmed going into a whole week with mostly just me and both kids – especially with the mammoth meltdowns we had been getting every. single. day. – it was a truly wonderful week and no sign of meltdowns. We had ample time to reconnect, which I really think is what every child needs, even if in smaller doses. As an added bonus, my two sons had a blast playing together.

Anyone else have highly sensitive children? What is your experience?

If you think you might have a highly sensitive child, I wholeheartedly recommend this book:

The Highly Sensitive Child

Storytelling with children

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I am very lucky to be married to an excellent public speaker. I think what makes him such a good public speaker is that he’s actually a natural storyteller. Our son loves listening to his stories, but so do other children. In fact, the other day we were at a little friend’s birthday party and just towards the end, at that time when the children start going wild, he pulled everyone in for a story and all went silent. Their faces were priceless…

So today I’m handing the blog over to him so he could tell you a bit about how he does it:

The other side of the story

I tell stories to Sprout 1, my 3 ½ year-old son, and he loves it!

I think telling stories is a great way to bond with my son, a special one-on-one time when we can be together just the two of us. It is also a good way to help him settle down and do something calmer (plus, I get to rest too!).

I want to share the way I do it and encourage every dad (editor’s note: or MOM!!) to give it a try. If you have another way to do it I would also like to hear about it in the comments.

The first thing is to decide what story to tell. I never tell a story that has been written by someone else like “the three little pigs” or “Cinderella”. For those, I prefer to read the book to him. The stories I tell I always make up. They are always different and new. Even when he asks me to tell the story again I always change it, simply because I would not be able to tell it the same way even if I wanted to. Sometimes I record the story on my wife’s phone and if he wants to hear the same story again, we can just play it back for him. And he does. A lot!

Sometimes I do not have to decide what story to tell because Sprout 1 does it for me or I simply ask him what kind of story he wants to hear.

When I have to decide I simply think of a topic like “pirates” or “super-heroes” or “walk in the park” and I build it from there.

I do not build a plot in advance. I make up the stories as I go along. I have realised that the interesting thing about the stories, for my son, is not the plot or the logical sequence of actions. Of course, it is important to have some logical sequence between what happens before and what happens next but not for the story as a whole. For example, I may say “there was a car that had wings and began to fly. It flew to the moon and back and when it got back, it had no place to park”. It is not logical but there is a logical link between the different parts. This way I can just say (almost) whatever comes to my mind.

My intention is not to write a children’s book but simply to entertain my son for 5-10 minutes per story. And, (believe me!), I’ve already spent an hour and a half telling these short stories and if I don’t say “this is the last one” he keeps asking for more.

The main elements that I believe make these stories interesting for my son are:

–          I make them personal. There are always things that relate to him and his own personal experiences. E.g. the characters are either his toys or a cartoon he knows or even himself. “This is the story of how Sprout 1 helped Santa Klaus”;

–          I make them short and simple (unlike this post) and I tell them in a simple way. Short, direct sentences with clear ideas;

–          I make them realistic; almost real: I use characters that exist (even if only in books or cartoons) and put them in real situations even if with fantastic twists;

–          I enact them. I modulate my voice, whispering when there is a moment of suspense or roaring like a big dinosaur, or simply acting silly.

On the contrary, there are things I try not to do:

–          I do not convey moral messages or try to preach a lesson. My stories are pure entertainment. They may contain ethical messages but that is not the purpose of me telling them;

–          I do not make them too realistic. I always try to make fantastic things happen in my stories but in a simple way like “the cat jumped over the house”.

This is MY recipe, my son loves it and that’s good enough for me. It is far from perfect! The other day Sprout 1 did not want to give me a goodnight kiss because he didn’t like the way the bedtime story ended. I let the pirates get away with the treasure and he wanted them to be caught by the police. Smart boy. What did I do? I retold the ending. He was pleased and I got my kiss.

Do you do storytelling with your children? We would love to hear what works for you!

Are SAHMs more depressed? The rehashing of an old conflict

A link to an article on the UK edition of The Huffington Post was recently shared with me on Facebook. The title read “Working Mums Vs Stay At Home Mums: Is There A ‘Healthier’ Choice? “ (click through to read) and stated that stay at home moms were more likely to feel depressed than those who work outside the home. I was intrigued. I must admit, I expected to find the results of said study, with indicators as to why this may be. That is not what I found. Instead, I found  a “debate”between two bloggers based on a recent study by Dr Susan Harkness of the University of Bath (You can read an interview with her regarding the study here.). I didn’t find any link to the study itself. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to do my research on this, but at the moment, that is not the reason for this post. This article got me thinking and there are a few issues here I would like to process, and what better place than this little old blog.

First of all, the title, or at least part of it: “Working Mums vs. Stay at Home Mums”. This really saddens me. Why vs.? Now, many may argue it’s just a matter of semantics, but I’m afraid it’s such a recurring theme in parenting that it goes much deeper than mere semantics. We hear it all the time. Breastfeeding vs bottlefeeding. Attached parenting vs. stricter styles. Public school vs. homeschooling. Stay at home vs. working outside the home. And it goes on. I understand how convenient it can be to put neatly classify people, in this case parents (more frequently, mothers) and put them in these little boxes where it’s a matter of one versus the other, one better than the other, black and white. Well, you know what? Life isn’t neat. Or black and white. Life is grey. Many, many shades of grey. I really dislike this dichotomy, this us vs. them mentality. I understand parenting involves many choices and strong feelings. It rehashes our old childhood issues we may not even be aware we’re carrying. Everyone has an opinion it seems, and we tend to become very certain and defensive of our positions because, quite frankly, it’s scary not to. However, there is no “one size fits all”. Not for the parents and not for the child.

As you’re aware if you’re reading this blog for a fair amount of time or know me personally, I am a stay at home mom. At least for now, for this season in my life. This was a decision carried out by my husband and I reflecting what we felt was right for our circumstances. It was not a decision made lightly, or because that’s what we should do, or that was in any other way “imposed” on us. It was right for US. It may not be right for others. I never would have thought, prior to having children, I would be a stay at home mom. I never thought it would fit my personality. I always admired my sister for doing it and agreed it was a great thing. I just didn’t think it would be for me. I’ve always been extremely independent – financial independence being central to this – and thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I’m lucky enough to be married to someone who I truly feel is my partner and not someone “supporting” me. On the other hand, I’ve also always admired my mom for working so hard and setting such a strong example of self-sufficiency, despite being indirectly affected by her stress in an unsatisfying job. I don’t think the mere fact that she worked harmed me, but I was lucky to have my grandparents take care of me. The same probably cannot be said of my sister who had to remain in less than adequate (to put it lightly) childcare.

All this to say what really bothers me about this title, and the message I feel it carries with it, is how easy it is to judge others, especially when we’re talking about parenting. How it seems we have to take sides, be on different teams, prove ourselves. Is this really helpful? Or is it just a way for us to feel at ease with our choices?

Another issue that bothered me was how there was basically no information regarding the actual study. I would like to know what was taken into account? Why is it statistically stay at home mothers feel more depressed? Are we talking about mothers who were free to make this decision? Or mothers who became unemployed? Maybe mothers who couldn’t justify going back to work due to their low income not covering childcare? This, I feel, is what should really be discussed. I’m sure we can all agree we don’t want depressed mothers. How can we help change this? There’s no discussion on that, although the article on working mums magazing does refer to some points and seems to indicate mothers who work part-time are the ones deemed with better health. It also touches upon economic circumstances and unemployment, but it’s unclear if this is what makes sahm more depressed, or if it’s just a worry for the future.

This brings me to a deeper issue –  lack of support for parents (in this case mothers). There’s the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but in today’s world, despite the “global village” and all the information we have at our fingertips, despite the online forums and blogs, this village, these people engaged in the upbringing of the next generation, seems to be disappearing. Sometimes non-existent. Parents are expected to care for their children on their own. If they can’t do this, their expected to pay for help. There is much less a sense of shared responsibility for the upbringing of children. I speak in general of course. I know of cases where community is very supportive. I don’t think community is very supportive in big cities though. Parenting is tough. I have to admit to a few tiles in the early months where I just thought I couldn’t wait to get my son into crèche so it wouldn’t be so much MY problem anymore. There were times, especially in the early days and while I was still working from home, with no outside support, where I felt overwhelmed, lost and second guessing my every decision and my ability to parent my high need baby. I luckily never entered depression and I don’t know if I would have been considered a stay at home mom at the time since I was working, albeit from home. What I’m trying to say is I can see how women taking care of a baby 24/7 can feel such a loss of identity and so isolated from the world. I don’t think it stems from the decision to stay home with the child, but more so from the lack of support networks when you are new to the gig, especially if most your friends/family are far away, working and/or childless. I would have to write an entire post to address how/why we seem to identify ourselves with our jobs. Maybe for a next time, since this post has already run so long and I guess I’m lucky if anyone read through to this point!

So, do I think sahm are more depressed? I would answer it depends on individual circumstances more than anything else. All I can say this sahm feels very lucky to be one and does not feel depressed or regret it one bit.