Walking with Children

I’m a big advocate of communication with children (as in talking and listening) being one of the most effective ways of keeping a good relationship going, building trust, getting to know one another, guiding and advising them and just staying close to one another throughout their whole young life.

Image credit
Image credit

I find one of the single most easy times to get your kids to open up and talk to you, to ask  you questions, to listen to you is when you are walking with them. When you get them outside no matter the weather, no matter their age (we have things like microfibre and waterproof shades for prams and umbrellas now) and you take them away from technology and interference, leave phones in pockets or at home if it’s safe to do so and just go for a walk you are onto a winner. Walk anywhere, it’s free, around your neighbourhood or a nicer neighbourhood if yours isn’t too nice, along a beach if you’re lucky enough to live near one or to be able to drive to one easily, around a woods, a park, a community garden… anywhere where there are few modern day interruptions. Walking at night is especially relaxing.

I used to walk my kids to school and back rather than drive them so that we always had that daily opportunity to talk and for me to listen and even now when one of them is grown and the other in mid teens we still walk regularly and they open up to me in ways they just don’t normally, we talk about everything and anything and it’s not only fun and bonding for us but it lets me into their world and into their mind and their heart, I find out what their passions and joys are, I find out about their friends and their jobs or school, I find out about their ambitions, their fears… it all tumbles out during a walk.

What’s more you can go a long time without a walk (we went about 2 years) and it’s easy to bring back as a feature of your life together, it doesn’t have to happen daily. Weekly or even monthly is good. Also of course there is the added benefit for you and the kid/s of it being healthy easy exercise, of getting some fresh air into your lungs and to relax and destress away from everything for ten minutes, half an  hour or several hours it doesn’t matter.

We should all walk more and if we can do it with people we want to always be close to even better.

If you’re looking to start to lose weight and exercise more and build stronger relationships start with adding a short walk into your life and by drinking more water. Two top tips which are easy to do and which you will thank yourself that you did one day.

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The Simple Things in Life

I was really busy the other night and my son asked me if I would mind singing for him while he practiced his accompaniment for the school choir. Each year they hold a beautifully atmospheric concert in a little old church, it’s always packed to bursting and just the most important event of Christmas for us all. We’re not church goers but we find it grounds us, it prepares us in the correct spirit for Christmas. It’s when Christmas begins for us.

This year of course is the first that my daughter will not be there. We have attended each year since she used to sing in it and so this is our 12th year. We’re going to miss her so much that night.

I didn’t really feel like singing and I didn’t really have time. But I had a look at the list of songs and was already decided that I would do it of course, as long as we got it over with quick. For the first time in a number of years, all of the songs were traditional carols and I realised that this task was going to call for my best soprano which was rather rusty. I asked for a few minutes to exercise the vocal chords and to glug some warm honey and my son said that while I did that he would set up some recording equipment so we could send a recording to his sister. Glad he thought of that.

We started with Oh Holy Night and knowing what a perfectionist he is when it comes to these things, knowing that a bum note would cause him intense pain (I think he gets his dramatics from me sometimes) I feared I’d never achieve the power required going into the chorus and manage to hit and hold the appropriate notes. He said that he would forgive me this time. He had set up some accompaniment on his iPad and opted to accompany me using an electric guitar played through his wonderful iRig (great invention). I’m not sure what he does but it sounded amazing.

He began to play into the recorded track and I began to sing. It was going well, I was sounding good. I felt that beautiful heart swelling that you get from singing those timeless epic tunes and all of the memories associated with them come flooding in from somewhere in the recesses of your mind. For me, memories of singing with dad, memories of listening to choirs as kids, memories of family Christmas as a child, smells of Christmas, memories of my children being tiny snuggled up with mama in blankets listening to carols and hymns while having Christmas stories read to them, the wonderment of Christmas Eve, all of those wonderful carol concerts I’ve participated in and watched the kids in, all that and more.

You sing and that stuff comes thick and fast, flowing from your brain into your heart and it swells. Somehow that swelling lifts your voice, you hit and hold those notes because that full to bursting feeling in your heart takes over the control of your voice and you hear yourself singing without conscious thought to what you are doing.

At that moment I glanced across at my son, I’d been looking at the words (memory is not as sharp as it was) and I’d felt him looking at me. He was sitting relaxed on his guitar stool, the instrument looks like a natural part of him now, he wasn’t bothering with following the music, he knew it by heart already. He was looking right at me, his dimpled cheeks glowing red (he has yet to grow a whisker thank the Lord, I can’t bear that baby soft skin to disappear just yet) and he had a big smile on his face and his eyes were glistening with tears. We held one another’s gaze for the rest of the song and when we’d finished he came over to me and hugged me tight. “Mummy, you’re a beautiful singer. Well done” he let me go and I looked at him, my own eyes filled with tears now. “You’re a beautiful musician” I said and we had another hug.

We finally finished singing and recording music for my daughter at 1am. Nothing else mattered as much as those songs and making that precious memory with my son. It struck me each time I sang and that familiar heart swell came, how this very moment would forever be one of those heart swelling moments for each of us when we sang, played or heard these songs again for the rest of our lives. Something shared uniquely between us and through the recording which my daughter was delighted with,  perhaps for her as well.

Sometimes we make life too complicated. Sometimes we neglect wholesome talents and skills while we’re busy chasing around other things.  The simple things really are priceless.

This moment inspired my post earlier on my Music Blog too where there are three versions of Oh Holy Night to choose from, I haven’t included mine, I’m not that brave. But as I prefer male voices (I know I know so anti feminist) here is a fourth version by two of the very finest male voices. 

Kids, the hard parts of mothering teens

My son was quite upset tonight. He doesn’t need to tell me, I can sense it, a glance, just the way he holds himself, a tiny change in behaviour. I asked if he wanted a cuddle and he said no, that was sure sign that I was right, he never turns down cuddles unless he’s upset and worried a cuddle will turn into tears – he’s nearly a man don’t ya know 😛

3ca764aeae78dd7183bdde88ab8ad9c3So I left him a moment and then went to his room, he was lying on his bed, a worried look furrowing his otherwise smooth brow, a movie on his TV (he never watches movies in his room he’s very sociable and loves to sit and watch in the lounge with someone) and I climbed onto his bed next to him (I’m still allowed to do this but don’t tell anyone) and noticed he had his favourite teddy from when he was born, all raggy and worn and loved to shreds under his arm and I definitely knew then that my hunch was right. I saw this near six foot, strapping ‘bloke’ as my baby and I hugged him up tight and he had some tears and without a word from me he told me that he just didn’t get dying, why it had to happen and why good people die or how people can be so sad that they just don’t want to live and why couldn’t anybody just love them? It all tumbled out and I was glad I’d noticed the signs and that it all flowed so freely in the safety and comfort of the moment.

It broke my heart but I’m mum so I have to keep it together and come up with the answers. I ran my fingers through that gorgeous silky curly hair of his, snuggled him up and I gave him my take on it all and saw an opportunity to guide him by telling him that some people just feel they can’t talk to anyone, kids often feel (wrongly) that if they tell their parents they are struggling they will make life harder for their parents (the kid who took his life’s mum died of cancer), they don’t want to seem weak, they might not have a strong relationship where talking is easy, they may not feel able to break through their surviving parent’s grief, they may take literally what people say that they are strong and brave or that they have to look after their surviving parent or their little sibling yet feel ill equipped to do, they may not want to admit they miss their mum, it might all seem too sissy for a teenage boy to want his mum.

I told him about mental illness and depression and how it stops people from thinking rationally, they are in such turmoil and pain they can’t find a release, they don’t think there is a release, nobody can help them.  I reminded him that he does have a strong relationship with me and he doesn’t have to worry about talking to me yet tonight he felt sad and made out like he didn’t need a hug when he really did and he was just feeling a little sad, not depressed. I told him that he should always know that no matter what is happening in our lives, my life, his life, the world, that he can always get a hug, he can always talk to me or to his sister, in person on the phone however he needs us. I begged him never to feel that we wouldn’t be able to help him and reassured him of how precious life is and how much we love him.

These are the bits of being a mum I don’t like, where you don’t feel very good at it, where you don’t know what to say, where you take on their sorrow and it hurts you probably ten times more than it hurts them. Where the possibility of losing them hits you when one of their apparently happy, adjusted age mates passes away.  I was glad that I’ve taught my kids to let their angst go, to let their questions out, to talk, to find answers, to make sense. But I was also reminded of how  important it is to keep your teens close, to watch them,  make sure you know them, look for signs that they are struggling with anything and give them the space and love to open up, the closest of parent/child relationships can sometimes leave a space for something bad to creep in. Sometimes no matter how big they seem, how cool they want to be, they just need you to notice they need you.