Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Sorry, not the greatest photo here from the 'models', but I hope you get the point.
What I am putting up this week is an article I found completely 'out of the blue', while I was researching a few weeks back. "The Family Stories That Bind Us" is written by Bruce Feiler and was on the site.
I hit the breaking point as a parent a few years ago. It was the week of my extended family’s annual gathering in August, and we were struggling with assorted crises. My parents were aging; my wife and I were straining under the chaos of young children; my sister was bracing to prepare her preteens for bullying, sex and cyberstalking.
Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I couldn’t help myself and asked him to stop.
Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.
Later, my dad called me to his bedside. There was a palpable sense of fear I couldn’t remember hearing before.
“Our family’s falling apart,” he said.
“No it’s not,” I said instinctively. “It’s stronger than ever.”
But lying in bed afterward, I began to wonder: Was he right? What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?
.... Myth-shattering research has reshaped our understanding of dinnertime, discipline and difficult conversations. Trendsetting programs from Silicon Valley and the military have introduced techniques for making teams function better.
The only problem: most of that knowledge remains ghettoized in these subcultures, hidden from the parents who need it most. I spent the last few years trying to uncover that information, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers.
After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.
I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families.
.... Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.
“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.
Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.
Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?
Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.
“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.
And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.
“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”
Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?
“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.
Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.
First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. ...”
Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. 
Then we lost everything.”
“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”
Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.
.... Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great,” told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins’s terms, they “preserve core, while stimulating progress.” The same applies to families, he said.
Mr. Collins recommended that families create a mission statement similar to the ones companies and other organizations use to identify their core values.
.... Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue (history-building)...  activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.
“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.
Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come."
MARCH 15 2013
There's a number of wonderful points in this article with cause mums and dads to desire to get-going and put this into action in their family. It is plain and  simple and 'rings true', because it directs families back to what many have forgotten to do - talk of the past, listen to parents tell of their background, find pleasure in our own family history, be honest about family mistakes and difficulties.
Many cultures for generations have invested great amounts of time doing just this, handing on their history through story telling.
We have been involved in this in my husband's family. 
He comes from a very large extended family, who have had the fortune of keeping connected for over 100 years. My husband's grandfather was one of 9 boys, and the place where they all grew up, west of Auckland, is still owned by many of the descendants. 
Our branch meet out there each ANZAC Day.
Nearly twenty years ago, there was a strong disagreement within our branch of the family. The effect at the time was devastating and continued to be so for a few years, until my husband initiated this get-together each April on ANZAC Day for all the  members in our family branch. 
At first it was awkward, some would come while others wouldn't. Gradually things started to improve and now there are natural, even strong relations across most of the family. 
What we do at those ANZAC Day get-togethers has been the medicine that's brought healing - and the article above showed me why.
Each year my husband gets one, two or three people to speak for 10 - 15 minutes about some aspect of the family's past. Topic such as, The Four Formidable Aunts, Uncle Jack's four years as a Prisoner-of-War, Uncle Grahame the Bomber Pilot (he gave that himself), Aunty Audie and Uncle Brian's Wedding in Papua New Guinea, Early Memories about Holidays Here, and so many more.
The few hours we are together in the sun or squashed inside, are filled with talking across four generations, eating, laughing, at times supporting those living in tragedies, but everyone leaves smiling, more connected, respectful and thankful for each other because we have been made aware again, that we ARE connected through our common history. 
I am not saying that our extended family is all sweetness, but being together and reminded of the history we share, is certainly building a strong family in terms of living well through tragedies including life-threatening diseases and life-changing accidents. - "They know they belong to something bigger than themselves."
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ Start sharing some of your past with your kids. The questions I underlined in the article may help you to set-off.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


"If the biannual tyranny of skeletal models - male and female - strutting down catwalks in New York, Milan, Paris and London wasn't bad enough, now there's a whole new demographic. In late March, for the first time, London played host to Kids Fashion Week where, for an afternoon, a parade of 'professional child models' and children of professional models mimicked the weird walks of their adult counterparts while showing off the latest designer kiddie looks.
To those of us who grew up in that decade of sartorial challenge - the 1970s, where the height of child chic was OshKosh dungarees and hand-me-downs - the very notion that there should be fashion for children, let alone catwalk shows, is anathema. Surely the whole point of being a child is that you don't have to care what you look like?
Not any more. Perhaps it's the influence of celebrities such as Katie Holmes (whose six-years-old daughter Suri Cruise is already a style icon, her looks copied and discussed), or the likes of Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce devoting an entire Pinterest page to styling their new tot Blue Ivy.
Children's fashion is now a 500million Pound (around NZ$900m) industry and that's just in Britain. More pertinently, it is the only expanding sector of the fashion industry worldwide - thus, I suppose, Kids Fashion Week.
The kinds of child-looks making waves on the catwalk were not conducive to tree climbing of mud pies. Armani Junior showed ice-cream shades of taupe and peppermint with a boy's leather jacket at NZ$730, a girl's handbag at $240 and a girl's silk grey dress at $305. Even less likely to be a good bet for glitter fun or finger painting was a red silk scallop dress - for a four-year-old - by Chloe: a snip at around $2200.
Imagine the look on the yummy mummy's face when the dress gets daubed with choccy and ketchup. Even worse is the idea that the poor mite might be so terrified of wrecking such expensive clobber that she'd stick to water - or perhaps not eat a thing.
The rich are different.But the problem with Kids Fashion Week - and indeed the way every high street brand now does junior versions of its adult kit - is the pressure it puts on children to define themselves not by what they are or do but by what they wear and look like from an alarmingly early age. ....
What I worry about is the quotidian creep of children constantly being made aware of their 'look'. It's wrong for sartorial anxiety to be part of childhood at all. Children shouldn't be agonising over whether the Converse or the Uggs are more fitting, what brand their T-shirt is or whether social death will follow an unhappy pairing of top and trouser. We should be teaching our children that it is what is inside that counts, not the outfit."
Kids' fashion, it's been around for ages, decades, if not longer!
The idea of making children more "aware of their fashion look" to some parents would be a positive thing, as some children show no interest in what they wear, or are locked-in on one article of clothing or colour which is permanently 'on'.
Eleanor Mills' article, however, certainly gets our attention with, "But the problem... is the pressure it puts on children to define themselves not by what they are or do but by what they wear and look like from an alarmingly young age." and again, "What I worry about is the quotidian creep of children constantly being made aware of their 'look'. It's wrong for sartorial anxiety to be part of childhood at all"...
For those of us who need the definitions -
"quotidian" ~ ordinary, everyday occurrence.
"sartorial" ~ tailoring, clothes, style of dress.
The concern Eleanor Mills speaks of is valid, and this is what I  want to discuss in this post.
The real issue or 'damage' here is bigger than kids just becoming overly interested in their fashion and how they look. Let's be honest, the experience described above is only one example of "Child-Adults", where children experience life as though they were adults.
Children are taken to participate in the adult world via a variety of means. Here's some examples ~
* VIA the entertainment they watch - TV, movies, DVDs, You tube, computer and screen games...
* VIA the social situations they participate in - attendance at parties, being present at adult social situation both at home and out...
* VIA the conversations that happen while they are present - adult conversations/disagreements, parents discussing topics inappropriate for children with adult friends...
* VIA the hoisting of children years ahead of their age in sport, culturally or academically - children who are 'pushed', 'worked on' and accelerated up the line in these disciplines. (Some children are incredibly gifted however, and absolutely love their sport or studies. To them the fast speed they progress is pure pleasure to them)
* VIA giving children far too much responsibility, or the opposite, too much independence and freedom for their age.
When children are made to be "child-adults", their child mindset is being changed to become like the mindset of an adult. 
Kay S. Hymowitz has written a short article, "Ready or Not: What Happens When We Treat Children as Small Adults" .
This is what she says ~ 

“Children today grow up so fast!” How often we hear those words, uttered both in frustrated good humor and in dumbfounded astonishment. Every day the American people hear about kids doing things, both good and bad, that were once thought to be well beyond their scope; flying airplanes, running companies, committing mass murder. Creatures of the information age, today’s children sometimes seem to know more than their parents; in short, they are becoming sophisticated beyond their years. This leads us to wonder: Is childhood becoming extinct?
In Ready or Not, Kay S. Hymowitz offers a startling new interpretation of what makes our children tick and where the moral anomie of today’s children comes from. She reveals how our ideas about childrearing itself have been transformed, perniciously, in response to the theories of various “experts”—educators, psychologists, lawyers, media executives—who have encouraged us to view children as small adults, autonomous actors who know what is best for themselves and who have no need for adult instruction or supervision. Today’s children and teenagers have been encouraged by their parents and teachers to function as individuals to such an extent that they make practically every decision on their own, including what values they will adhere to. The idea of childhood as a time of limited competence, in which adults prepare the young for maturity, has fallen into disrepute; independence has become not the reward of time, but rather something that our children have come to expect and demand and increasingly younger ages.
One of the great ironies of turning our children into small adults is that American society has become less successful at producing truly mature men and women. When sophisticated children to grow up, they often find themselves unable to accept real adult responsibilities. Thus we see more people in their twenties and thirties living like children, unwilling to embark on careers or to start families. Until we recognize that children are different from grownups and need to be nurtured as such, Hymowitz argues, our society will be hollow at its core."
Hymonwitz gives parents things to think about. Are we are accepting the idea thrown around in the world about what children are and what our role as a parent is? This is a topic I have recently written on for my up-coming business to practically help parents.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ let them be KIDS. Give them lots of time to do child-orientated things. Keep material which is a source of adult behaviour patterns, to a minimum. Spend some time thinking about where you can go with what you have read here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Continuing on in the MUM theme - this photo taken a couple of years ago is of Dorothy - my Mum who turns 90 this July. 
This quote was given recently to me by my Father-in-law who read it MOST enthusiastically as he agreed with every word.
A woman, renewing her driver's license at the Motor Registration office, was asked by the counter clerk to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. "What I mean is," explained the counter clerk, "do you have a job or are you just a ...?"
"Of course I have a job," snapped the woman. "I'm a Mum." 
"We don't list 'Mum' as an occupation, 'housewife' covers it." said the clerk emphatically.
I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our Medicare office. The clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like, 'Official Interrogator' or 'Town Registrar.'
"What is your occupation?" she probed.
What made me say it? I do not know. The words simply popped out. 
"I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations."
The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and looked up as though she had not heard right.
I repeated the title slowly emphasising the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written, in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire. 
"Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field?"
Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I have a continuing program of research, (what mother doesn't) in the laboratory and in the field, (normally I would have said indoors and out). I'm working for my Masters, (first the Lord's and then the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14hours a day, (24 is more like it), but the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money."
There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.
As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants - aged 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model, (a 6 month old baby) in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than 'just another Mum'. Motherhood! What a glorious career! Especially when there's a title on the door.
Does this make grandmothers 'Senior Research Associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations', and great grandmothers 'Executive Senior Research Associates?' I think so!!!
I also think it makes Aunts 'Associate Research Assistants.'"
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ repeat you new job title each day and enjoy it while you go about another normal week with the kids.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Three women who now live in New Zealand, write about Mothers Day in the lands where they were born and grew up - India, the Netherlands and Australia.

"Celebrating Mothers Day on the second Sunday of May is very new in India and it can be said that in a time span of less than a decade, in the presence of umpteenth number of existing festivals, it is a concept slowly making its presence felt in a vast and culturally diverse country like India.
Globalisation, to a great extent has helped to make this Western concept to make its presence felt in India. Migrant Indians living abroad have helped in a big way to pass it onto their Indian relatives. Internet and technology has made information about other cultures more accessible than ever.
Mothers are loved, respected and even worshipped in India, yet there is a need for such a day which is devoted solely to mothers. Mothers Day gives them all the opportunity to celebrate such a day.
Just as in the West, Indians too take Mothers Day as a time too reflect on the importance of mothers in their life. They take it as a time to think about all the pains their mother took while they were sick, the hardships she went through in bringing them up and all the sacrifices she made so that they lead a better life. Mothers Day is the time to say a big thank you to mother for all this and for being a constant guiding force in our lives.
In India, people send cards to their mamas on Mothers Day. Make a special meal for Mothers so that she can have a days rest from the kitchen. Tradition of giving gifts on Mothers Day is also rampant. The whole idea of celebrating Mothers Day is to thank a mother, to make her feel important on the day and be happy about mothering and caring for children. Mothers should be pampered on the day by children and on the whole should be given a happy Mothers Day.
Awareness about Mothers Day is much greater in metros and other big and happening cities than in smaller towns. Thanks to internet & mass media, who keep reminding people about when Mothers Day is and how it must be celebrated. 
Mother's Day Celebration in India is slowly catching!"
(from my friend Rachel)
"At an early age of 6-7 years, Mothers Day celebrations received much
attention through school. A rhyme was given to be written in my own,
“developing” scribbles, decorated with all sorts of colourful artistic
pencil drawings. It had be read out loud on Mothers Day. I remember
feeling embarrassed because the rhyme was from somebody else so I
couldn't relate to it as a kid. I thought it was really weird saying
these things to my mother. I was so unsure about it, I hid it away and
hoped she would never know it was there. That again made me feel ashamed
that I did not have the guts to read something like that on her
“special” day.
Later in life I bought her small presents from my limited pocket money.
She was always very exited about any present you bought for her and the
attention she received from my brother, sisters and dad.
Later in life it turned more into a social gathering. Although we all
disliked the commercialisation of Mothers Day, the endless adds on the
radio and magazines to buy something “special” for mother, we did buy
her presents like flowers, creams and trinkets. But most important, we
all were there on Sunday. There always was cake, booze, snacks a happy
face and heaps of laughter from mum. I think that was for her the
greatest mothers day gift, to have the whole family together having a
great time."
(from my friend Christine)
"Mothers Day in Australia comes at the end of autumn, and I remember many a Mothers Day afternoon as a young child, spent in our garden at home with our family catching and savouring the last of the sun. We would have tea in special teacups and cake (a sponge cooked by Mum filled with her homemade lemon cheese and topped with whipped cream). 
I remember spending the days leading up to the day making a card for my Mum - the lines of a soft pencil image pricked with a pin, then backed with a piece of black paper, or an attempt at a poem with huge effort poured into getting the spelling right.
Mothers Day was simple, no dinner out or fancy presents, but always white  chrysanthemums and stopping, being with Mum.
My Mum will be celebrating her 65th Mothers Day this year, with 2 of her 4 daughters, 2 of her 18 grandchildren, and 5 of her 14 great grandchildren at home. Happy Day Mum, wishing you many more!"
Last night I flew back from Australia, having seen my Mum, and my mum-in-law. They are treasures, both in their 80's. They still enjoy conversation, think about innumerable things to talk about, are very thankful for what they have and still display care and thoughtfulness towards others. 
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ let your kids be with you - especially on Sunday. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!!