The world is getting smaller and more interconnected every day. That’s just modern reality. We are mobile and we are on the move. Most of the times we are no longer “confined” to living in the same area, city, or even country as our ancestors. If I look at my classmates from school, for example, almost none of them stayed in my home-country. My ex-classmates are now everywhere from Europe to Canada and from Brazil to New Zealand. But what about their families? Well, as we are now in our 30s, most of my ex-classmates have families of their own. Yet, this is not what I mean… Their parents, their, so-to-say initial families, families they were born into – they in a lot of occasions are still in Latvia. And that raises quite some questions. The first and probably most obvious one is: how do you truly stay in touch? Continue reading Family living far away: keeping in touch despite the distance
Already for a while I am pondering about extracurricular activities for our kids. When I was a kid myself I did a whole bunch of stuff – gymnastics, figure skating, languages (English, French, Spanish, Modern Greek), self-defense (street fight), aikido, theater, modern dance, salsa and some others. I was a busy kid. However, I also studied in a different system. During my school years we had much more time for extracurricular activities (further – ECA) with lessons starting at 8 o’clock in the morning and frequently ending shortly after noon. On the contrary, the schooling system in Belgium is different than that in Latvia. Our kids will study longer hours and basically will only have time on Wednesday afternoons or on Saturdays to do something else. Additional issue here is that every kid in Belgium has, for instance, Wednesday afternoons off, meaning that there are a lot of different ECA organized at the same time slot. All this calls for a fairly selective approach – you simply cannot have it all!
The subject of ECA in general has two main aspects: Continue reading Balancing act: Choosing extracurricular activities for kids – Part 1
Before I had kids the first thing I noticed when I entered a new location was the interior design, the color palette, the furniture and so on. Then came kids. I still do notice interior design and color palette, however the first thing I see is potential dangers and objects of potential demolition (giggle). It is like I am in the computer game – the red target immediately lights up the attention points.
Even though it is not possible to completely childproof your home nor it is actually needed, there are still certain things that makes sense to take into account. With childproofing like with everything else in life I prefer to stay reasonable. Of course, you can buy an indoor helmet for your kid (imagine, they really do exist!), remove all furniture, every potentially dangerous item and cover all surfaces with a sport mat, but that’s not the idea, is it?
Cutting long story short, below I have assembled some points with respect to childproofing which I personally consider important. This list is probably not going to be anything new for somebody who has several kids or who already has successfully survived through the first 5-6 years of a kid’s life, yet for “fresh” first-time parents it might provide some useful insights.
- breakables will break. That’s a rule. So if they are valuable to you pack them carefully for better times (those times will come, don’t worry!). I am referring to that Chinese vase you got from your granny, or nice collectible figurines, or even picture frames which used to nicely stand on the side table. Just put them all away.
- all small items – and by small I mean everything the size of a pet-bottle cap and smaller – have to be unreachable, otherwise they will end up in kid’s mouth in no time.
- sockets – we have safe ones, but if you don’t – buy those click-in protectors.
- cords: any type of cords is a potential danger – either for a kid, or for the thing the cord is attached to. Here I am talking about all the electric cords, dangling cords of blinds and drapes, in other words – anything that so temptingly says: “pull me!”.
- same logic for tablecloths – put them away for now, as babies just love to pull them down together with everything that’s on them.
- elaborating on appliances – if they are anywhere reachable unplug them after use. I mean: toaster, coffee maker, stand-mixer, you name it.
- we don’t have sharp edges anywhere, so for us it made no sense to buy all these corner and side protectors. At my mom’s place, however, the kitchen table has some silicon corners attached because otherwise those little heads can get injured. An alternative to special “equipment” that sometimes can be costly is to cushion sharp edges with cut pool noodle or with cut tennis balls, or simply have a look at aliexpress or even in your supermarket – they always have something cheaper than in kids specialty shops.
- furniture, like bookcases, chests of drawers and other potentially unstable objects has to be secured or blocked, or removed.
- medicines need to be put totally out of reach for kids! And another thing here – never refer to medicine as a “candy” when you talk to your kids. I still remember how I ate a whole jar of C vitamin myself when I was something like 5 years old. It was standing in the fridge and it was so tasty! Like candies… Luckily for me nothing major happened, but some throwing up. But don’t take any chances with this point!
- same applies to all cleaning products – the further the better. Luckily most of the cleaning products nowadays have the “anti-kids” cap but still. And your cosmetics – that’s a bit less of a danger, but if a kid drinks your facial tonic that will cause serious poisoning as well. And garbage. Keep it safely away.
- when you are cooking, even if you are sure that your kid is playing somewhere else, even if you are 100% confident that you are not moving anywhere yourself, please turn pot handles away from the edge, so that they are impossible to be grabbed and pulled down together with a boiling content. You would amazed how fast it might happen and how often it does.
- I don’t lock the drawers, but it is in general not a bad idea. In our case I made sure that the lower drawers don’t have anything dangerous in them. Yes, the upper drawer of my kitchen island has a nice set of very sharp knives and my 3 year old can easily reach them. However, by this age she knows that it is dangerous and why it is so, and she actually knows how to use them, as I wrote already before (link). Another small lifehack – even though opening kitchen island drawers without my permission and immediate supervision is not allowed, there is one compromise drawer – the one with my baking “equipment”: silicon muffin cups, silicon cake forms, some other silicon kitchen helpers (yes, I love Lekue!). If kids get into their special exploratory mode I would allow to get their hands into this drawer, and as kids love winning (who doesn’t?), they enjoy that little victory of theirs and keep hands off everything else.
- if you have stairs, install gates at the bottom and at the top. Also for fireplaces – use special fences. We don’t have neither stairs nor fireplace at this moment so for us the only gate / fence is in front of the door to the garden. The part of the house where we currently live is basically a glass cube that doesn’t have windows, it only has doors. Thus if I want to ventilate the house I have to open a door, and if I open a door and turn away for a split second, kids will run frrrreeeeee. Hence – the fence (LOL).
Phew! Two more points and I guess the main idea is clear:
- even if everything is childproof (you hope) you need to explain to your kid why certain things are dangerous from the very early on. Don’t expect them to understand and obey, but keep on explaining. And not just “because I say so”. It is easy to show in a controlled way what is sharp, what is hot, what does falling mean.
- and finally, after you think you have childproofed your home entirely, get on all fours and crawl around. That would allow you to discover a whole new “world of possibilities” (and maybe some dust here and there, and perhaps even your lost earring).
As a final note just be reasonable – not overly worried about how dangerous this world is (easier said that done!) but also not too reckless. Be aware and be prepared, but don’t forget to notice the interior design either!
Norms… Sometimes I am under the impression that a lot of norms that exist regarding different aspects of life are just there to make us feel bad.”I don’t feel happy every day, what’s wrong with me?”, “My kid is 5 month and he doesn’t roll yet, what’s wrong with him?“, or “Oh, but my kid is almost two and he doesn’t talk yet, what’s wrong with him?“… Did somebody actually ever wonder if there is anything wrong with the norms?
I almost failed my physical education class in school because I could not run the 4000-meter torture that I was supposed to. I got 4 out of 10 (the last passing score) merely for my persistence. I ran the first 1000 or so meters and the rest I walked. I am no runner! Does it make me a failure? My daughter started rolling only at the age of 5 months. Only the lazy one did not ask me if I was not worried. I was not. She was physically in a perfect condition. She did not want to roll. Does that make her a failure? My son started walking at the age of 9 months. But that’s not normal! And what should I have done? Tied him to the chair?!
It gets worse. You should go to school, you should get a degree, you should get a job (and preferably in the same domain where your degree is), you should buy a house, you should get married, you should have a ring, a dress, a party for 200 people, you should go on the honeymoon to the fancy location at the sea, you should have kids before 30, you should lose weight in the first 10 days after giving birth, you should have a career, you should have a dog/cat/hamster/horse/alligator… You should… Have a riffle to use every time you hear it? That would be a great idea.
I did not invent this quote but I like it:
All I should is enumerated in the Tax Code; all I should not – in the Criminal Code; all the rest is in my discretion!
I don’t believe in “shoulds”. I don’t believe in norms. And most importantly what I don’t believe in – is in being worried and feeling yourself down just because you or your kids don’t fit some stupid norm written by somebody. What I do believe in, however, is in respecting the choice of others that they made for themselves and their family. In the end you are the only one who knows what’s right for you.
You breastfeed until your kid is 2,5 y.o.? Good for you both! And you stopped at 6 months and your kid already eats steak at 1? Perfect! You chose to work and your kid goes to day-care? That’s fine. And you decided it’s best that you stay at home? Also great. You do Montessori and a whole bunch of other early development activities? Good choice. And you don’t believe in the value of an early development? You’re also right. You co-sleep with your little one? Super! But yours learned to sleep in his own bed since the beginning? Wow!
Bottom-line is: Universal “normal” applicable to everybody does not exist. Normal is defined by lots of factors, amongst which your unique life circumstances, but also your vision of the world, your attitude, your values and your perception. It is what you personally feel comfortable with and what is acceptable for your family, but not what somebody else tries to force on you.
And by the way all the great minds of the past and present were not “normal”: they did not fit, they challenged the norms, they rebelled against them and went their own way. They followed their own normal. They were square pegs in a round hole and that’s what in the end contributed to their greatness.
It was my long-term dream to learn to play golf and finally last summer my husband and myself took golf lessons and obtained our green cards to get us onto a golf course. Our kids also participate in the game but so far mostly by bringing back the practice balls when I am pitching in the garden (using kids labor, I know!). However we do intend to teach them the actual game of golf in the near future. Why do I think it is a good idea? The short answer would be a quote on the matter by Bobby Jones:
“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies“.
Golf is by no means a lazy and boring sport of the old fat rich men. Yes, it is still not cheap yet neither is tennis or hockey or skiing. And with respect to gear: there is a huge second-hand market for clubs and bags if you want to minimize costs. I got my first basic set of clubs together with a bag and a whole bunch of balls for 50 eur.
Playing golf good requires you to be in a decent physical condition, as every golf stroke uses numerous muscles on core, hamstring, shoulder and wrist. It is highly addictive and once you are in you’re in for good. I actually do love everything about golf: from the actual game to an equipment and an outfit of a golfer.
A bit off-top: if you are struggling to find good-fitting pants (which a lot do!), try looking in the golf shop. Golf pants are simply the best pants you can get! They usually have a perfect fit, with a bit of lycra in them, and you don’t really need to go for the insane golfer’s checkers, as the choice of classic colors is also abundant.
However, I am deviating from the answer to why would that particular sport be a good idea to introduce kids to. Mostly not because of the so to-say “physical qualities” of the game, but because of its philosophy, because of the underlying principles of golf.
Golf teaches you a number of life lessons that are also useful to teach to kids:
- Golf teaches you honesty and integrity. When you are playing you are also the one keeping track of your strokes. It is not really done to cheat in golf.
- Golf teaches you strategy. It is not just about hitting the ball, it is about hitting the ball while already thinking about your next stroke. If there is, for example, a water hazard in front it might be a good idea to go a bit side-wise first in order to be able to succeed at your next stroke.
- Golf teaches you humility. Even when you are a PRO, even when you have a great technique and perfect clubs, the game can still go wrong. You learn that sometimes a human effort is really futile and sometimes you are just damn lucky.
- Golf teaches you endurance. The average game of 18 holes takes about 4-4,5 hours and implies walking for 8-10 kilometers (unless of course you take a golf-cart, you lazy bastard!) And by the way, walking outside, breathing fresh air, enjoying the beautiful greens of a golf course – isn’t that what’s called “healthy lifestyle”?
- Golf teaches you that your main opponent is yourself. You can of course participate in different competitions, but you can also go solo. And competition or not, it is anyway about your score against objective par (number of strokes allowed to get a golf ball in a hole) that matters the most.
- Golf teaches you not mere equality but fairness. You can equally play golf with those who are stronger and with those who are weaker players which is not possible in other sports. Thanks to the adjustment that the handicap system provides, your allowed stroke count on each hole is calculated based on your handicap. That means that you as an amateur can play together with a professional golfer and maybe even beat him in the particular match-play (because he is allowed e.g. 3 strokes, but your handicap gives you additional 3 strokes on that hole). So you will not feel yourself a loser!
- But above all golf teaches you to enjoy. I will add another quote here (but in the context of kids, better park it until their adulthood!): “Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at them“. So true! (giggle)
In other words, this sport is a unique combination of being a way to stay toned and energized and at the same time being a teacher of important life lessons. Hence, thumbs up, golf, you’re on my kids to-do list!
P.S. This year is also special for golf because for the first time since 1904 golf is included in the list of sports for the Summer 2016 Olympic Games – hurrah!