All parents reading this will know that at times in your parenting journey, certain phrases become akin to mantras as you struggle through a challenging phase. Whether it be something you tell yourself or partner (this too shall pass, your child is your mirror…etc) or something that you tell your children, it’s easy to liken yourself to a broken record as you trot out the same old tired pep talks to an increasingly uninterested audience. For us, currently it is reminding the big two that Elijah hasn’t yet developed impulse control.
Having just turned two, he is doing what all toddlers do…smashing down towers newly built by older siblings, biting when rough play gets too exciting and generally trying to include himself in everything going on around him without any care or caution. When there are no older siblings, this phase is generally easier to manage. But when you have a lego mad 5 year old who keeps getting his creations kicked apart or a 7 year old suffering a tiny terror walking through the midst of her beloved card games, it can be a bit of a struggle to maintain the peace. A common shout in our house at the moment is ‘Muuuuuuuum!!! Elijah just….insert random act of destruction’ usually shortly followed by Eli bursting into tears as his older sibling reprimands or tries to stop him.
Obviously I try to stay nearby to manage situations pre-emptively but often, that is simply not practical or possible. Instead, I find myself comforting a wailing toddler whilst trying to simultaneously explain to him why his brother and sister shouted at him and to said aggrieved party that he didn’t do it maliciously but doesn’t yet have the impulse control to resist the urge to disrupt their play so physically. When Sophia was around the same age and doing a similar thing, I remember tearing my hair out wondering why my lovely little girl was behaving in such a manner. I tried all sorts of parenting techniques to curb the behaviour before someone pointed me in the direction of some well researched articles explaining that the area of our brain that manages our impulses doesn’t develop fully until we reach an older age.
It was like a lightbulb moment. This is not naughty or deliberately mean behaviour. It is age appropriate, innocent and most importantly, temporary! Of course I think it is still important to explain to the mischievous toe rag why their actions are undesirable but I’m not going to punish a 2 year old for something they can’t help. Of course this is not of much comfort to Sophia and Isaac as they endure his exuberance but we have developed strategies such as decoy towers or simply playing in a separate, enclosed space from him. Luckily, this unwanted and often trying behaviour is balanced out and more than made up for by his deep belly laughs and overflowing affection at the moment, epitome of cute he is! How about all of you parents out there, are you going through a challenging phase with your little ones at the moment? How are you managing it? I would love to hear from you!
Like many people, I’ve heard with increasing horror about the latest emerging famine in Somalia. Tales of children starving to death after more failed harvests have shocked us in a country where food is bountiful and often, wasted. It has only been six years since the last major famine in Somalia which left a quarter of a million people dead, a shocking statistic in these supposedly advanced times that we live in. What I can’t get over though is the huge gulf between ‘us’ and ‘them’ when it comes to food.
On one side of the world, a drought occurs and the consequence is so severe that millions of people are displaced, left hungry and searching for food whilst their loved ones die along the way. There is obviously no significant store of food, no back up for when the weather or nature doesn’t behave accordingly. And on the flip-side, here in the UK (and most of Europe), we have food coming out of our ears. Our supermarkets, lit by their bright lights, are eternally stocked, drawing us in with their bargains and offers. The average family in the UK throws away around £500 worth of edible food each year (a staggering 7.3 million tonnes nationwide). Our cupboards are often stacked to the hilt with tins and packets and perishable goods. We have the luxury of choice and not just a little choice but a veritable smorgasbord of delicious edibles are on offer. We can cook from scratch, we can buy ready meals, order take out, eat at restaurants. We can feast on Italian cuisine, Indian delicacies, Mexican street food, seafood…anything our hearts or bellies desire.
We’ve come a long way from the ‘meat and 2 veg’ of earlier decades and even longer since food was simply a necessity for survival, something that was consumed for fuel with little more thought beyond where the next meal was coming from. Obviously I, like most people, am a big fan of food and love the fact that we can enjoy it more than we used to. But when I think about how primitive (and not guaranteed) it still is for millions of people all over the world, I can’t help but feel guilty. As always, I have no answers. Of course there are charities that I could donate to and I intend to try and find out who is able to directly help those suffering the most.
However, I suspect the problem is bigger, it’s systemic. I’m sure I’ve read that there is enough food for everyone in the world to survive and more. But it is not distributed evenly, not at all. And I don’t know how we can change that. It can only happen if led by governments and international governing organisations. I don’t think though that that is an excuse to bury our heads in the sand, ignore and carry on though. We can at least try to adjust our own consumer habits to make our tiny difference to things. We can stop buying food that we don’t need, stop throwing away things that we can still eat. We can try to buy food that is in season or produced locally. It’s not always possible but perhaps if we were all just a little bit more considered in our approach to food, we would start to see things shift for the better. Call me a naïve optimist if you will but I’d rather try than not. There must be a healthy mid point between feasting and famine.
After three weeks of no running due to an ankle injury, I’m finally back to pounding the pavements and continuing training for my impending marathon (which, I just spotted, is only 13 weeks away – yikes!) I feel relieved to be able to run again with no pain although a little frustrated with the dip in my stamina and speed from having had the enforced break. Although I stayed active and continued to lift weights during that time, just three weeks of no running has caused a bit of a setback. Still, nothing insurmountable so onwards and upwards is the goal.
It got me thinking though about how, when nothing is going wrong, I (and I’m guessing others) tend to take our bodies for granted. During this time of recovery, I’ve been doing my best to get more sleep, drink more water, consciously spend time outdoors and to choose healthy options to fuel myself. Although I’m always aware of these things in the back of my mind, it’s taken an injury to make me try and be more consistent in my approach to caring for my body. If I don’t let it rest, feed it properly or move enough…how can I expect it to perform at optimum capacity?
In an era where we are more busy than ever, I dare suggest that a lot of us skimp on the self-care in order to fit more and more into our schedules. Choosing the pre-packaged, unhealthy meal, staying up until gone midnight to fit in just a few more tasks, forgetting to get outside and breath fresh air, even if just for a few minutes. It’s so easy to just keep pushing and pushing our bodies, giving them no consideration or maintenance in order to fit everything in. Until that is, something goes wrong. Then everything grinds to a halt and we have to cut out everything and painstakingly start from scratch in repairing our physical vessels that carry us from A to B. Much easier to maintain something from the get go than try and repair it once it’s on its last legs (metaphorically of course).
So I may be back in the game with my running but I’m trying to carry the lessons I’ve learnt from the last few weeks with me; sleep more, eat well, drink lots of water, go outside. And most importantly, to remember that I don’t have to do everything. It’s ok to say no to things, to go to bed early and try again tomorrow. It is absolutely fantastic that there are so many opportunities available to us these days but (carrying on from last week), we don’t have to take them all. It’s ok to go slow, to rest or concentrate on doing whatever your body needs you to do in order to be revitalised and ready for the next challenge.