Every once in a while I go on a decluttering spree.
The standard procedure is: open all drawers, cupboards and boxes in a room, dump contents on floor or bed, start shifting into piles, throw away and return what must be kept. Usually the stuff we keep is thrown back where it came from. But some things are removed from the general junk pile and kept separately in a special box.
The box is not fancy. Far from it! It’s a plain, stupid, light blue Ikea box. It is the content which is important, not the packaging. The things inside that box are the things that matter. It is a collection of random objects without any real value so to speak of. But each item represents a significant event or a milestone.
Such as our wedding invitations, the box that held our rings, an old locket with pictures of me and my husband dating from when we just met. Here are the hospital bracelets both daughters wore when they were born, their birth announcements, a pair of the tiniest socks knitted by my mother-in-law, my first Mother’s Day gift, my late godfather’s obituary.
I’ve only started the box recently. December 2014 to be exact. It was a difficult time for me, right after death of my godfather. I was sad and depressed, with a giant hole in my heart. I constantly wanted to return to the past but couldn’t because the present laid its claim on me and there was little time to reminiscence, let alone grieve. I had so many feelings, yet couldn’t channel them.
And then, during my last clean-up round, I started putting these thing into a box rather than tossing them back into the drawer where they had come from.
It felt cleansing.
There was no master plan involved. It was just stuff I wanted to keep with me, but not within arm’s reach. It stored my memories and the accompanying feelings of hope, joy, grief and despair.
Every once in a while I look through the box or add something. The content makes me smile and cry at the same time.
Just like life.
Do you keep a Memory Box? What does it contain?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tinne @ Tantrums & Tomatoes from Belgium. Photo credit: Antara. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
When you become a parent you soon realize that there are a million things you CAN and WILL do, only you never suspected you were capable of doing them.
You might gag the first time, but trust me, after a few rounds of ‘fish the poop out of the bath’ or a couple of midnight sessions of ‘guess what the baby threw up’ you will be surprised at how big that ‘I can handle this’ list becomes.
But what about the things you cannot do anymore? Here is my Top Five. Feel free to add your own.
1. Splurge a big amount of money on a whim. I’m not a Kardashian, a Hilton or the owner of a money tree. Life is expensive and kids cost a Gazillion dollars/Euros a day. Just feeding them might cost you a small fortune. So I budget and think each purchase through. Carefully.
2. Seeing a movie/ reading a book where something bad happens to a child. Along with the muffin top and the dark line on my lower abdomen came a strange new sensibility. Or rather an inability. Books, movies and documentaries featuring children getting hurt or dying are a NO GO these days. I cannot sit back and watch a drama about how a sick child tears apart his/her parent’s marriage and how they deal with the loss of said child through music/pottery/becoming crazy cat people. Tears will drop at an alarming rate and there will be sobbing. Because that could be my child. That could be me, grieving the most terrible loss a mother can experience. Just the thought of one of my children getting hurt or sick is enough to cut my heart in two and fill my chest with the blackest despair.
3. Get any satisfaction from cleaning /tidying any room or space in your house. Even though I’m a notoriously messy person I too experience those rare moments when I can no longer stand the filth or mess of my entire house or just certain rooms. It is at times like this when you might stumble upon a ‘Cleaning the basement: found the whatnots again! Thought it was lost forever!’ tweet if you follow me on Twitter. These little episodes used to leave me with a deep feeling of accomplishment and the satisfaction that I was – after all – a responsible adult.
Having kids sucked the joy right out of that feeling. As soon as they could walk, their tiny grubby feet left muddy footprints everywhere, and every room they entered immediately looked like a tornado had gone straight through it.
At first I tried to keep up, but honestly, what is the point in cleaning/tidying up when you know it will only be spotless for about a millisecond?
4. Be a dirty, disgusting schlob. Picking your nose? Scratching certain body parts? Drinking straight from the carton? With children in the house these actions will either be ancient history or something you do in deepest, darkest secret. One of the delights of parenthood is that society expects you to educate your children about the many Dos and Don’ts of polite behaviour. To put it bluntly : you are expected to lead by example. Little Freddy/ George/ William will not see why he cannot adjust his boy-parts right in the middle of the store when daddy did so the last time he took the little angel grocery shopping. Nor will little Betty/ Grace/Jennifer refrain from digging that booger out of her wee nose and inspecting the find before putting it in her mouth when mommy did just THAT a few minutes ago.
5. Sleep in on a Saturday. No explanation required.
What are the things you can no longer do as a parent?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tinne at “Tantrums and Tomatoes” from Belgium. Photo credit: olnetchannel. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
“Are you sad, mommy ? ”
It was my eldest asking. She has a way of noticing these things.
Although the question took me by surprise, I had no alternative but to answer it. Truthfully.
Yes dear, yes. Mommy is sad.
“Why are you sad, Mommy?”
Mommy is sad because bad things are happening to good people. Mommy is sad because she will have to say goodbye to somebody very dear to her much too soon. She is sad because she kept hoping for a miracle of sorts, but it never came.
I know it is OK to feel sad, but I try not to show it in front of my children, for fear that the sadness in my heart will to spill over into theirs. And I don’t want that. My first instinct is – and has always been – to protect my children. Protect them from harm, from illness, from heartbreak. To prolong their innocent happiness.
So instead of crying I try to be cheerful, hiding my worries behind a smile. I try not to upset their secure world more than necessary. But they noticed anyway. Apparently my eyes weren’t smiling anymore.
Serious illness and death which sometimes follows in its wake are new to them. When my father was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago they were too young to really grasp what was happening. Granddad was sick and in the hospital, the doctor could make him better. He was in the hospital for a long time and visiting was no fun, because the hospital smelled weird.
But now, at 4 and 5 years old, my children are at that age when curiosity for EVERYTHING is at its peak. Although they may not fully grasp the situation or understand the permanence of death or the seriousness of illness, they do notice something is off. And they want answers and when they want answers they turn to ‘Mommypedia’.
There is no need to sit them down at the kitchen table and discuss for half an hour. I let them come to me of their own accord. This usually happens when they are colouring or when I’m driving them somewhere. It is impossible for them to NOT be active in any way, so when the body is forced to remain stationary the mind starts to work.
I try to keep things as simple as possible, try using the same words over and over so they won’t be confused. I compare the body to a clock which is broken and no watchmaker can fix. I explain why I’m sad, what will happen. If necessary I explain four or five times in a row.
But I don’t always have the answers. Even though the questions are so simple.
How do you talk to your children about death and grieving?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tinne of Tantrums & Tomatoes from Belgium. Photo credit to the author.
When you become a parent things change.
Saying that children turn your life turns upside down, inside out and back again is most definitely not an understatement.
Bodily changes, sleep deprivation and related mental breakdowns aside, one of the major changes is the relationship with your own parents. Because in a weird way you are suddenly equals. You are both parents.
Granted, your parents might have a bit more experience on the job, but you might consider yourselves employees of the same company now.
You are the newbie and they are the old stalwarts who will insist on explaining how the coffee machine works. Even though it has only one button. And just like in the office, you each have your own way of going about the daily job that is parenting.
It was my father who pointed this out to me when he remarked that I was a very different mother to my children than my mother was to me.
Of course this is true, mainly due to the fact that I’m NOT my mother (no, really, I’m not my mother, I might have started to look a lot more like her, use the same phrases, and have taken up some of her habits, but I AM NOT MY MOTHER).
Characterwise my mom and I are poles apart. She is one of those patient, focused, well-organized, grownup creatures we all secretly wish to be. And I am an impatient firecracker, who is working on a million things at once and who can never be bothered about matching socks.
But I have to admit that my parenting style is different too. Some of it is deliberate and some not.
For instance, I never deny my children a food or beverage using the words ‘it will make you fat’, opting instead for ‘it is not healthy’ or ‘it is bad for your teeth’. I know this is no guarantee for avoiding any body-image/food–related trouble but I like to think it gives them a better chance for avoiding the damage some of us (myself included) went through.
Neither do I use spanking as a means of punishment. My parents spanked, but I quite frankly don’t see the point. Within a few years withholding privileges and time outs will probably looked upon as barbaric and the toddler shock collar might be all the rage but for now the “Go to your room and no movie” or “Pull out all the weeds from the garden” work for us.
My girls enjoy a greater amount of freedom then I did at their age. For instance there are A LOT of unscheduled play dates. Especially during summer, it is not uncommon for me to walk into the kitchen and find myself confronted by five children. My friends were welcome to come and play, but there had to be a call and confirmation from both sets of parents in advance. Permission still has to be asked and we need to know approximately in which house they’ll be. But planning… nope.
I won’t even begin to describe the difference regarding electronics and their use. Remember I was born in a time when a phone with push–buttons instead of dial ones was considered cutting edge. The mobile phone was something straight out of a science fiction movie. Plus I lived in Africa, where there was no such thing as TV. Although we did in fact own a television the only thing it played where VHS cassettes (remember those!?) which were sent to us by friendly relatives left behind in Belgium.
The one thing we do have in common though is that we both do our best.
We do our best to ensure our children grow up happy. We try to avoid ‘mistakes’ of the past. We try our best to make sure the little humans in our care grow up to be level-headed adults and can only hope our pottering along will turn out all right in the end.
Do you ‘parent’ differently compared to your own parents? If Yes, how so?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes. Photo credit:Eric Danley. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
These days, the internet is humming with all things Mother’s Day related: special brunches, crafts, gift ideas. All for that special person you get to call ‘Mom’.
Mother’s Day earned its place on the calendar thanks to the efforts of American Anna Marie Jarvis. She organized the first Mother’s Day to commemorate her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, who had helped organise the ‘Mother’s Day Help Clubs’ during the American Civil War. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson decided that Mommy Dearest would get her special day each second-Sunday of May.
Not here. In the rest of Belgium, yes. But not in the province of Antwerp. Here we wait until the 15th of August.
Not because we disdain the second Sunday of May, nor have a problem with holidays coming from across the Atlantic. No, as a matter of fact both the American and Antwerp traditions originated at much the same time.
For Antwerp and its surroundings it all began in 1913 when Antwerp born artist Frans Pieter Lodewijk van Kuyck started the tradition as a way of getting people to pay more attention to family values and social order. Modernisation and the industrial revolution, Mr. van Kuyck felt, had screwed society up a wee bit too much and it was time to take a stand, to defend traditional ways.
And since Mother is at the core of the family, when better to highlight her importance than on the 15th of August, the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. A Catholic feast already celebrated in Antwerp with a huge procession honouring the Virgin as protector of the city. There already was a party going on anyway, so why not add a little extra?
Mr. van Kuyck was not only an artist, he was also alderman for Culture and Fine Arts of the city of Antwerp. So in this official capacity he set up a propaganda committee, mobilised schools, companies and media into promoting the celebration of Mother. Children were to make a special gift and fathers were expected to buy flowers or jewellery. Brunch had not yet come into fashion then, otherwise I’m sure he would have made it mandatory too.
The rest of Belgium did not follow, but instead adapted the new ‘American’ version. Thus, during May when every other mother in the country smiles her lovely so-happy-with-the-macaroni-necklace smile and updates her Facebook status with pictures of her breakfast in bed/fresh flowers/chocolates/whatever…we trudge on and wait our turn until August.
Have no fear, thanks to the school’s Craft Hour, I too receive a pretty handmade gift from my daughters in May. But my husband still has to buy my flowers in August. Nah.
Does your country have a special Mother’s Day tradition? Or do you celebrate differently?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Belgium, Tinne, of Tantrums and Tomatoes.
The image used in this post is credited to the author.