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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Little Things Long Remembered


It is half term and two days in, already I am banging my fevered brow against the walls of the proverbial cabin.

Oh that I was not so resentful of the time stolen and the mess created!
I tell myself that childhood is short and Finn won't be my baby forever and that everything that is so darn loveable about him more than makes up for the mess and the noise, the relentless questions and six year old theories, the bumping and the banging and all the rest of  the general chaos he and his cousin Gabriel manage to inflict upon heart, head and home during every school holiday. I tell myself off for being so downright bloody intolerant: for wondering what life must be like for the Mommies of angelic little girls; for wishing him back to school when he is so very, very thrilled to be at home...

And then instead of joining in the lunatic games of Pokemon and referring to Wikipedia when he wants to know anything from who invented God to how you make sugar, I make myself a moving target: I wrap myself up in needless chores and flit past him and his cousin like the kind of domestic busy bee I am certain both of them want to swat!

All this while I steal moments to read "Little Things Long Remembered", a gorgeous little ode to Puttery Parenting, from a woman who would probably never dream of telling her children to boil their heads when they have lost yet another essential piece of Lego, (the size of an ant and just about as useful), and set about implying that you who were minding your own business on another floor of the house altogether were no doubt responsible for their carelessness regardless.

But enough already with my kvetching, instead indulge my hypocrisy and allow me to sing the praises of Susan Newman's little book, because even I have my golden parenting moments and this book makes it easy to fit teeny, tiny little indulgences around working family life and full time domesticity, for even the grumpiest of Mama's...
Laid out in eight chapters, the book reads rather like a long list of my own Puttery Post, with treats and ideas for different periods of time: whether it be five minutes or an entire weekend you have to spare for making your children feel special. Though many of the reminders are very, very simple and for many will sometimes seem terribly obvious and indeed occasionally nothing more than the basics of instinctive parenting: dig deeper into the book and with more than four hundred ideas listed, I defy any family not to find something that will become a long term ritual throughout the course of parenting any number of scrumptious babbas.

My own favorite idea's from Little Things Long Remembered?

Sunday Papers
Read your children's favourite comic strips to them until they can read them to you...

Dyno Power
Definition: Imaginary extra strength children get magically when a parent needs help with a job. Call for "dyno power" when you need something retrieved from upstairs, wood for the fire, or the dinner table set. This silly concept somehow overrides the fact that you have asked for help...

Problem Central
Call yourself the "Complaint Department" and "be-open" before final tuck-in so your child can get what, if anything, is bothering him off his chest.

Dear Laura
Send your child a quick note or letter once a week or once a month that details what she's been doing or the fun she's been having. Save the letters.

It really is a lovely little book and it has been a long time since I happened upon one stuffed full of ideas I felt were manageable: parenting idea's that did not presume I have no life or emotions of my own, nor work that must be done or grown up relationships that must be worked at.  That some of the ideas are so simple doesn't strike me as patronising or even unnecessary because being a Mum is hard: sometimes when we are growling with barely suppressed resentment we need a little reminder to remember to look to our little people and tend to the hearts they wear so vulnerably on the sleeves we stayed up till midnight ironing.

I for one need reminding daily which is why Little Things Long Remembered will be joining Simple Abundance on my bedside table hereafter, and in the meantime, me and my munchkins are off to flip pancakes and talk about the whys and wherefores of Pokemon...

Wish me luck Sweethearts!

12 comments:

Jenifir said...

I like to practise what my Mum called beneign neglect when being swarmed by boys and their games: doing my household duties within refereeing distance but letting them get up to their own conversations and then limiting how much Bioincles, etc. talk when we share a meal or snack and instead direct them to discussing things with more universal appeal. It allows me to do what I need to do while they play and then when we have conversations they learn that not all subjects of conversation are of interest to everyone. The "Little Things Long Remembered" sounds like it recommends things that you already are doing; it is so helpful to have written encouragement and support of your (our) parenting syle. I hope you enjoy the school break (ours is in March).

Alison May said...

Jenifir I love the idea of benign neglect: makes me feel less guilty that others practise it too!

As for the teaching them that not all subjects are not of interest to every one...I'd never thought of it like that, and I suspect it might be a valuable lesson...

Thank you.x

Vee said...

Alison, that book sounds fantastic...it's being added to my long list as soon as I finish commenting. And you made me howl with laughter remembering all the things I told my children. I can distinctly remember telling one that I'd remove his arms and shove them up his nose if he didn't quit whatever. thing. it. was. But boiling heads? Nope, never thought of that one! Now do enjoy the remainder of this vacation week...

myletterstoemily said...

what a lovely report on a wonderful
book. will buy one ASAP.

this is absolutely the funnest, liveliest
blog i have encountered.

thank you!

Gena said...

Oh I hear you Alison! I feel guilty I am being such a grumpy cow today(raging hormones)but that book does sound lovely,childhood is so fleeting,I know this,and I really was looking forward to half term (mainly because its a week of not running around like a maniac first thing every morning) but somedays I just fail miserably in the parenting department!xx

The Homemaker In High Heels said...

Oh, I was never so happy to ecscape to your world as after coming from my 15 year old son's room.We argued about everything it seems...grades,disrepect,whatever...and my heart hurts.I know I am saying and doing the right things,most of the time...but I just don't understand how it is that he's the one having teenage "growing pains" and I'm the one hurting, while, bless him...he's secure in the knowledge that nobody's mother was ever as ignorant as his.
I am sorry to say that this evening,at least,misery does love company.Thank you for being a normal mom and for making me feel like I am, too...

The Hausfrau said...

So sweet--this is the kind of book that can easily make me cry!

Dinah Soar said...

I think the advice excerpted from the book is wonderful..my babies are grown and I have no grandbabies..sure do wish I'd had such advice when mine were little. I might have employed a different tactic rather than nagging and raising my voice. "I need some dyno power'..ingenious!!

Diane said...

I bought this book years ago when my girls were little. I loved it. I'll have to dust it off for my little granddaughter not quite two.

snewmanphd said...

Hello Alison,
I am delighted that you like and refer to my book for ideas...seems you have a million of your own.
All good wishes,
Susan Newman
www.susannewmanphd.com

sbgirl said...

Oh Alison, how I would love to just come to your house for a few days and just follow you around! I consider you my online "friend" and wish I could ring you for a good chat and mutual venting! Invite me! I'd make the trip across the pond! I would love to experience your life for a little while. Your blogs always make me smile and feel a little better about the day.

Katie said...

Just bought a copy! Thanks so much for the recommendation. Childhood is so important. Little details are so often passed by in trying to shape them into little adults. It seems that everything I gravitate towards is something that has to do with preserving childhood -- my pottery business, my collections of vintage children's clothes and books, my obsessive viewing on ebay of vintage dress patterns for children...I just can't get enough. I hope to learn some great things from this book -- they will grow up so fast and I am NOT looking forward to it.

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