BELGIUM: Parenting Changes

BELGIUM: Parenting Changes

4289324169_93abdfaa2f_zWhen you become a parent things change.

Obviously.

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.

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes

Born in Belgium on the fourth of July in a time before the invention of the smart phone Tinne is a working mother of two adorably mischievous little girls, the wife of her high school sweetheart and the owner of a black cat called Atilla. Since she likes to cook her blog is mainly devoted to food and because she is Belgian she has an absurd sense of humour and is frequently snarky. When she is not devoting all her attention to the internet, she likes to read, write and eat chocolate. Her greatest nemesis is laundry.

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BELGIUM: Bah Bon

BELGIUM: Bah Bon

Bah BonI’ve  yet to meet a mom who is not monitoring her kid’s eating habits. Some might even be obsessed over it, others just make sure their kids eat enough or don’t overeat. Food can be filled with cultural, health or moral values and seems an important subject in most families I know.

Every single one of the moms I know, seems to have her personal truth about food, or is at least searching for it. I know quite a few moms who vouch for strict vegetarianism, sugar free, all organic, low-carb, macrobiotic, low-fat or a mix of those. Others cook without lactose, gluten, sugar, eggs, nuts, soy and other allergy or intolerance boosters, by necessity or by conviction. But there’s also quite a number who just like to stick to their grandmothers’ favourite mashed potatoes with pork chops and piccalilli, because that’s what they were raised with.

Myself, I mix quite a bit of the above. My life is all about compromises. As a student, I used to be vegetarian, but now we eat vegetarian for only about 3 days a week. I also restrict the amount of lactose, because of my daughter’s (mild) intolerance. I make sure they eat at least one piece of fruit per day, but most days it’s two or three. And because we are Belgian, we have our two-weekly take out of ‘French’ fries, which originally came from Belgium. Or maybe even from Flanders.

I would not call myself obsessed, but I do keep a detailed mental track of what my kids eat in a day, and try to compensate by the 80/20 rule I adopted from a fellow World Mom: if they eat healthy for 80% of the time, that will make up for the 20% they eat junk.

When a mom has found her personal truth about food, obviously she wishes for her kids to eat by it; which they aren’t likely to do without a struggle. Not after they’ve tasted the Belgian fries, they won’t.

When my oldest was younger, I used to think I had it all together though. He ate whatever vegetable I gave him and his favourite dish was Brussels’ sprouts. I even recall quite some occasions on which I, the former vegetarian, bribed him into eating his meat by promising him an extra stem of broccoli. After a while, even the meat didn’t pose a problem anymore. He would eat whatever I served him.

Those good old days are over now.

It all started when our daughter arrived, age 2.5. She came from Ethiopia and was not used to our diet, not mentally, but also not physically. The first time I served her something green, she just threw it on the floor. Not out of a whim, but because she was clearly convinced it was not edible. She even tried to take it out of my mouth. Having been fed mashed dishes all her life, she was also not used to chewing. She did like bread and she did her best chewing it, but we had to take her to a physiotherapist to sooth her jaw pains. So we customized our cooking to her and introduced new stuff every once in a while. The one dish that never posed a problem was, indeed, our Belgian fries.

Meanwhile, our son, then 5, seemed to finally grasp that there was such a thing as rejecting food. I don’t know whether it was his sister’s example, the TV shows he started watching, his classmates or just normal evolution, but he started getting more selective each month. He also ate with his hands more often, just like his sister was used to. I went from having one kid with excellent eating habits to two picky, messy eaters.

After two years of convincing myself it was just a phase, this year I started implementing some strategies to get them to eat more balanced. Ultimately, what they were eating wasn’t all that bad but I was getting tired of the drama and the struggle to get them to eat what I believed was good for them. And most of all, I wanted them to develop the discipline to choose healthy by themselves, and not just because I ordered or rewarded them.

First, I tried the Yucky List. A colleague of mine had it at home, and it worked perfectly for her family. The idea is that it is only natural to have different tastes and that you don’t need to like everything. The concept is that each family member can have three dishes they really don’t like, on that list. When it is served, they are allowed to refuse it and have bread instead. Or hope for a mom who cooks two different dishes in advance. Of course over time, you can change your preferences but when a fourth dish you don’t like is served to you, you have to eat it, before you can put it on the list (replacing another).

It seemed promising but after a few weeks, the kids started to change their list about every other day. Way too many family dinners were filled with  ‘I will put this on my yucky list for sure!’ and a lot of moaning and struggling, which didn’t really lighten the mood as I had hoped it would. We might pick it up again when they are older but for now, it doesn’t work for us.

After that, I changed my strategy to handing out a Yucky Coupon, Bah Bon in Dutch. I borrowed the idea from a friend who used to do cooking for youth camps. At these camps, each of the kids was given one Bah Bon for the duration of the camp.  They could hand it in if they didn’t want to eat one of the meals that was cooked for them. Of course, they only could do that once. And the ones who still had the Bah Bon at the last day of camp, could hand it in, in exchange for ice cream.

So that’s how we do it now and it works like a charm! The kids both have their weekly Bah Bon, which is very conveniently posted on the magnetic wall next to the dinner table. Whenever they complain about dinner (or lunch or breakfast), we just point to their Bah Bon and remind them they can hand it in if they wish. No strict words, just giving them a choice and a visual reminder. Our son hasn’t missed his Sunday ice cream once. Our daughter has, once, and she’s not likely to miss another.

Of course, this will only work if ice cream is really a treat for your kids. Mine don’t really get candy or other sweets that often, so for them this works perfectly.

And of course, it’s still kind of a bribe. But I like it much more than the daily ‘If you don’t eat it, you can’t have desert’ bribe. For one, because we don’t have desert every day. Second, because they have to manage the discipline to work all week for their ice cream, rather than getting an instant reward. Third, because I don’t exactly sell the ice cream as a bribe or reward but rather as an interpretation of the 80/20 rule: if they eat healthy and balanced all week, it is all right to have something unhealthy every once in a while.

Most importantly, I like this system because the kids themselves really like this system. They like being in control of what they (don’t) eat without any pressure from us, and most of all they absolutely love our weekly ceremony when they officially hand in the Bah Bon they saved in exchange for their well deserved treat.

Do you have a personal or cultural take on the food you serve your kids? And do you need similar strategies to convince them about it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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FIFA World Cup 2014 – Who Do You Support?

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Who Do You Support?

This week, the World Moms were found discussing the FIFA World Cup 2014 football. Here is what they answered to the question –

Is your country playing the World Cup? If not, what team are you rooting for and why?

The kids in the favela in Recife talking about football

The kids in the favela in Recife talking about football

Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA says: When it comes to the Olympics, I am Team USA all the way!!! But the World Cup is a little different for me. I root for USA and England because my husband grew up watching England play and our family in the UK is involved with the FA there. It’s both a country and a family thing for me and my kids!

Sophia of Florida, USA says:  This is very nationalist of me or … continental of me, but I go for any African country. I think this year the World Cup should have told Brazil police they need to stop killing children from the favela & as they have continued, the World Cup either needs to bring it up in mass conversation whilst there, or not hold the event there at all.

Check these news articles here and here.

Simona of South Africa says: Even though I live in South Africa, my husband and I are Italian and Italy is the only team I REALLY support! If Italy isn’t playing I root for Spain (my mom-in-law was half Spanish) then South Africa (although their soccer playing is worse than the Italians playing rugby)!!

Hannah Ashton from United Kingdom says: I’m a dual UK/US citizen. I’m not massively into football but I like the World Cup games. I root for England first and USA second. If either of those teams win I would be very happy but very surprised!

Maman Aya of New York, USA says: We are USA fans all the way in this house, unless they don’t make it, then we root for the underdogs.

Karyn Van Der Zwet of New Zealand says: Not sure if we are or not. (You can probably tell how much I’m into it. )

TaraB of Washington, USA says: of I cheer for USA but will watch any match. My father is a huge soccer fan, and we always watched the World Cup. We made signs, decorated, and created special food even though it was just us in the basement. And when the USA hosted the Cup back in the 80’s or 90’s, my dad took each of us kids to a game. I saw Norway play Ireland in a 0-0 draw. It was still one of the most amazing experiences. The people from all over the world … the costumes … such fun!

K10K of Belgium says: Belgium is in, so we (mostly the kids) will be following and cheering! It’s like the entire country has gone mad!

Purnima of India says: I already wrote about it elaborately here. India is completely a cricket-crazy nation. In our household, (mostly my son) is supporting Brazil for reason known to himself. I am of course partial to Brazil myself, but I am happy to see the most talented team win.

Did you all catch our World Moms’ posts the past week about the World Cup? EcoZiva from Brazil wrote about it here and Purnima from India wrote about it here. Two different countries talking about it in two different ways.

What about you… Which country do you support for in this year’s World Cup?

This post has been compiled and edited by World Mom, Purnima of India. Photo credit to her.

– World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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BELGIUM:  Lottery

BELGIUM: Lottery

Lottery_K10KI’m going to ask you all to journey with me into an imaginary world. A parallel universe if you will. This world bears some similarity with the one of H.G Wells’ Eloi from his book The Time Machine. And possibly something from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games as well.

It’s a nice world to live in, really. You are relatively happy there. You get to spend a great deal of time with your child and you generally feel fulfilled. There is this small matter of the alien usurpers that govern the world but in daily life, you don’t even notice them. Afterall, they did manage to rule out world hunger and poverty, so at times you are even grateful to them.

Every once in a while, however, the aliens impose their Lottery. It is a constant little threat that buzzes at a corner of your head. The Lottery picks out subjects at random, which are then summoned to the alien High Office. No one really knows what happens there but everyone agrees it’s nasty. Sometimes the subjects are adults, sometimes children. Even babies don’t escape the Lottery. But it has never happened to you or anyone you know. So, you are quite comfortable and don’t even mind following the Lottery outcomes.

Until that fatal Lottery Day. You don’t even know your child’s name is picked until you see his hypodermal chip changing colour. At first you try to deny it. It has to be a play of the light. A mistake, maybe.  But then it is on the news as well. Your son is the new subject and he hasn’t come in yet like he should have. The aliens are coming for him.

Being accustomed to human habits, they allow you to go with him, although they advise against it. Of course you go. All parents do, the aliens say. Humans never listen to reason.

In the following weeks, your child is poked around. Needles, infusions and pills. He has to swallow big magnet-like sensors and gets extra chips. Wires go in and out. He is brave and endures. You can see his anxiety, but you assure him it should be over soon. That’s what they tell you anyway.

Then the pain comes. And his screams. Oh, his screams. You kiss his forehead, telling him to hold on. The aliens don’t give in to your pleas to stop. To please stop.

The pain comes and goes. In between, he is exhausted, but brave, still. You believe he is so much braver than you are.

One day, the aliens take you aside for a little talk. They inform you your child isn’t going to be one of those subjects that gets to go home after a memory wipe. Their studies show he actually is an excellent subject for their experiments. He is quite special. He is going to stay at the High Office forever. As long as his little body can endure anyway.

It’s your time to scream now. Your legs give in. You beg them to take you instead. There must be some similarities between the both of you, you plea. Maybe you would make an even better subject. You might be able to endure longer than your precious little boy.

Of course they don’t give in. That was not how the Lottery works. It’s your child they want.

So, day in, day out, you watch your child suffer. When you can’t bear looking, you still hear him anyway.

One day, the pain is exceptionally hard to cope with. Out of breath, your child tells you again he can’t do it anymore. He doesn’t even care for going home anymore. He just wants it all to stop.

For the first time you can’t find the strength to tell him to hold on. Why would he? The door is locked and guarded. And the aliens seem more thrilled with their results every day.

They will never let him go now.

This is why in Belgium, as of February 2014, euthanasia for minors was legalized.

We don’t have aliens here (yet) but we do have children suffering from terminal illness. Children with no other perspective in life than death.

Some are born into it; others see their life changing overnight. Some are in constant, barely sedated, pain; others are sitting out their time. Some have a clear will about what they want from life; others only know the difference between comfort and discomfort. Some will want to live; others will want to die.

I don’t expect you all to fully agree with this law. I do understand there are various objections, moral and religious. I do realize there are fears of misjudgement, or even misuse.

But for me, I’m mostly relieved and confident.

Relieved these children will now be able to make the most important decision of their lives. Confident they will be able to make the right choice with the support of their parents and doctors. They have my support too. 

How about you? Would you be able to support a child or a parent on such decision? Are there laws for or against euthanasia for minors in your part of the world?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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BELGIUM:  Mother’s Day? Not in Antwerp…Yet.

BELGIUM: Mother’s Day? Not in Antwerp…Yet.

flowersThese 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.

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes

Born in Belgium on the fourth of July in a time before the invention of the smart phone Tinne is a working mother of two adorably mischievous little girls, the wife of her high school sweetheart and the owner of a black cat called Atilla. Since she likes to cook her blog is mainly devoted to food and because she is Belgian she has an absurd sense of humour and is frequently snarky. When she is not devoting all her attention to the internet, she likes to read, write and eat chocolate. Her greatest nemesis is laundry.

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BELGIUM: Rino

BELGIUM: Rino

Rino_K10KWe have a cat. A lot of people have a cat. Ours is named Rino. As in rhinoceros, minus the “h” and the horn.

Looking back, I got him when he was still a little too small, so he definitely sees me as his cat-mom. He slept in the Big Bedroom during the first months of his life, with me stroking him upon every little yelp. When he wants to cuddle, he tucks his head in my armpit, as if he wants to get nursed. He’s the cuddliest cat I know. And the best frog catcher as well.

Rino is get-out-of-jail-free card. He radiates reassurance. Peace of mind. When I’m overwhelmed by motherhood, he can convince me to allow the children to come back downstairs after their time-out. He reminds me I prefer talking above time-outs.

When the kids are finally asleep, he crashes the couch with me. There’s nothing like the sound and feel of a purring cat to take the daily stress away. Did I mention he’s fat and orange? The perfect blanket. Matches most of my cloths too.

When our son is having a bad morning, he usually refuses to put on his cloths. He goes on strike on the couch, with his head beneath the cushions. We aren’t able to get through to him nor make eye contact. His sister will try, but she always manages to make things worse. Not her fault, and she earns her credits for trying the impossible.

And then Rino comes pawing in. Takes a few bites from his food and then goes straight for his ‘big brother’. The minute I tell my son who is coming for him, we see his face again. Eleven minutes, fifty three strokes and fourteen cuddles later, he will be dressed and heading for breakfast. The same goes for homework, violin practice and heart break: Rino will drag him through.

When our adopted daughter first met Rino, she nearly jumped to the ceiling. She only knew cats as thieves that should be chased from the orphanage’s kitchen, so she hissed and motioned to get him out, hiding behind my skirts. She didn’t develop a liking for stuffed animals either, with a brother sneaking up on her with those. He didn’t particularly like his new little sister those first months and couldn’t stop scaring her away, so we ended up hiding all the stuffed tigers and cats from them both.

Two years later, their bond has grown. They do continue teasing each other. They fight like little demons over who gets to open the curtains in the morning but an hour later in school the little one will call for her brother when she’s running from kissing boys. They always end up wanting to play with the exact same box of Legos that was untouched for weeks before, but just as frequently, they will team up against me, especially when candy is at stake. I was told that is universal proof they’ve developed a sibling bond.

The same goes for Rino. Our daughter considers him part of the family now. She demands we talk about him with first ànd last name, our family name, and she doesn’t believe it’s fair he’s not allowed to go to the zoo with us. He would love the big cats, you know. I’m glad Rino is visibly terrified inside moving vehicles so in the end our daughter’s more or less convinced he wouldn’t really like joining us.

A few weeks ago, my daughter asked how Rino came to our family. Did he come willing? Or was he taken from his mommy?  After we hesitantly told her it was the latter, she immediately went to find him and whispered in his ear, “You’re just like me!” Ever since, she considers him her little brother even more.

He has become her mirror, in a way. Whenever she’s fantasizing about what she would like to tell her birth mother, he’s a major part of her story. She would like to send her birth mother pictures and drawings of Rino, but not of herself. Pictures of Rino sleeping in the bird house, of Rino coming from the woods when he hears our car approaching, of Rino sleeping with his paws in the air and head to the side, like a wrongly assembled toy.  She wants to tell her all about him.

But most of all, she wants to tell her birth mother that we are such great and loving parents.

For Rino, of course.

Do you have pets that enrich your family? Do they help your children cope with life’s sharp edges? Feel free to share about their funny and serious contributions in your daily life!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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