Define unconventional?

Define unconventional?

So recently a lady by the name of Adele Allen has been propelled into the public eye after announcing that she wants to raise £100,000 to move her family to Costa Rica. Adele and her partner yearn to live an ‘off-grid’ self-sufficient lifestyle with their two young children. They are, now very publicly, anti-vaccine,  against traditional education and schools and they don’t use or believe in modern medicine. They give themselves and their choices labels such as alternative parenting, unconventional parenting and seem to favour terms like free range children. 

Now this lady has chosen to go by the name of The Unconventional Parent, which as you know if you are reading this, is the name I chose to go by when I started this blog a few years back. I don’t mind her using the same name however she has accidentally published my website address on her fundraising page instead of her own and the fact that our Facebook pages have the exact same name has directed a lot of traffic to my page and site! A fair amount of those people have decided to continue following my blog despite it being a far cry from the one they intended to find. This is most complimentary, so thank you. 

In light of this I have some issues I would like to address, hence the reason for this post. Firstly I feel it’s appropriate to mention that I couldn’t be more different from Adele, both in my lifestyle and my parenting practices. I love technology, modern medicine and all the wondrous advances our little species have made. I am grateful for all that I have available to me. I have four children; an eleven year old daughter with dyspraxia and severe dyslexia, an eight year old with a newly diagnosed hole in his heart, a three year old son with autism, vacant seizures and partial blindness thanks to a severe brain infection – bacterial meningitis and encephalitis – when he was just nine weeks old and a fifteen month daughter who so far is thankfully doing just fine. 

Adele and her partner state that they do not believe in modern medicine. They have also stated that should their children get meningitis they would, and I quote, starve it out of them. Consequently I would like to ask her the following questions in the form of this open letter…

Adele, 

If you found your nine week old baby boy to be suffering with a 40+ degree temperature, extremely drowsy and with an unexplained rash would you simply treat him with cool air and monitoring? How about when his temperature increased and he began to scream with an unusual painful cry? Or when he became so drowsy he only woke periodically to scream out in pain? Would you seek help then? We did – both in the first instance and again when his condition worsened. 

The second time the GP sent us to the Bristol Children’s Hospital where our tiny baby boy was rushed into Resus. His little heart was beating at over 200 beats per minute. He was fitting repeatedly. They spent six hours trying relentlessly to save our baby’s life in any way possible. Would you have declined the doctors, infection specialists and nurses help then Adele? 

How about when his little heart simply couldn’t sustain it’s accelerated rate anymore and he was on the brink of death? Would you have turned them away and opted for holistic methods then? 

Or the week long stay in quarantined intensive care with round the clock help to simply keep our baby alive? Would you have let your little boy die instead? 

Or finally, would you have accepted the following three years of assistance from his Neurologist who monitors his brain damage and seizures, his Opthamologists who helped him regain his sight in one eye, his Paediatrian and Behavioural Psychologist who help us manage and understand his autism, violent outbursts and sensory overload meltdowns? How about his Visual Support Teacher and his Mobility Assistant who help us manage his lack of depth perception, 3D vision and all the hazards the world holds for him that are invisible to us? 

Would you still support those parents who chose not to vaccinate their perfectly healthy children when their choice could result in further damage to your disabled child’s already weakened health? Or would you consider that simply survival of the fittest? 

Would you decline the support of school to help your daughter not feel stupid and unintelligent when she is really smart but hindered by dyslexia? 

Would you refuse the offer of a heart scan to determine if there was any chance the hole in your son’s heart could prematurely end his otherwise healthy life?

Unfortunately I fear your life choices, parenting practices and views on raising children are affordable to you purely because you have been lucky enough to not witness your children face unbearable pain and suffering or subsequent life altering disability. I can’t help but wonder should you find yourself in my shoes would you have altered your perceptions and made different choices? Honestly I sincerely hope you would. 

I could not, in any circumstance, allow my children to suffer anything if there was even a single tiny thing someone could do to help them. 

Mostly though, I hope that you remain as lucky as you have been so far, as I would not wish my experiences on my worst enemy let alone a stranger with alternative views to me. 

Yours kindly, 

Katherine

The Unconventional Parent

There it is. There’s the wall. 

There it is. There’s the wall. 

I woke up this morning and there it was. The wall. I had finally hit it. 

I honestly didn’t think I could face another day of caring for those four little people I have created. Our eleven year old daughter is pubescent and hormonal. Our seven year old son has been unusually poorly this week with an unexplained virus resulting in some time in the Children’s Hospital. Our three year old’s needs seem to increase daily thanks to his partial sight and autism. Our eleven month old has taken to copying her brother’s meltdowns and decided sudden blood curdling screams are a good way to protest when she doesn’t get what she wants. Another day of dealing with all that just seemed impossible at 7am this morning. I mean, how long until the cracks in my sanity really gain some ground and I end up in a corner, rocking? I can feel them there; the cracks, splintering through the carefully cultured patience and calming defusing skills I have relentlessly taught myself these last few years. 

The three year old takes so much of my time and attention that the baby has to wait a lot more than she should (no doubt that’s why she started the screaming), the eleven year old has the freedom and independence of a much older child and the seven year old has a fully established case of middle child syndrome. My husband works his ass off all week then comes home to the chaos of four children all battling for his attention.

Me? I just long for an hour where no one wants to touch me, talk to me, or needs me. At all. No, more than that, an hour without my brain. An hour when I can shut off the relentless theories in my mind of how to help our three year old eat more than just beige foods, stay calm, and deal with everyday experiences without having a full scale meltdown. Stop searching my mental calendar for when I can squeeze in an hour to play video games with our seven year old because he’s been asking all week. Cease psychoanalysing our eleven year old and her overflowing hormones. Let go of the fear that the baby will mimic her autistic brother’s behaviour and become that kid in the supermarket with no actual issues except a penchant for dramatic screaming tantrums. 

You see I could grab an hour off here and there and go for a coffee, catch up with a friend, wander around the shops. But it’s all still there in my head. How do you turn it off? 

My husband left for work this morning and I just led there. The baby was trying to escape the bed, the three year old wanted his cartoons on downstairs. So up I got. Began the routine. 

Then something magical happened. All four children were sat together, nicely, in the lounge. I took a chance and went for a shower. Those beautiful little creatures not only played nicely but they took care of each other. No arguments, no screaming, no crying. 

I took my shower, dried my hair and got half dressed before the three year old appeared, wanting to watch his favourite cartoon on his iPad. It was amazing. Just what I needed right at that moment to get me through another day. 

There is hope. There is. I’ve got this. Keep going. Stay strong. Keep going. Keep. Going. 

Thanks kids. I love you.  

 

Fancy a bite of my plasticine?

Fancy a bite of my plasticine?

You’ve all seen the memes (I hate that word) that read ‘when I was a kid I played outside until the street lights came on, dug in the mud and played in the woods’ etc etc and such like. Most of us around the 30 mark and above can relate to it and fondly recall our childhood memories of minimal technology and imaginative play. 

These days however we live in a much more dangerous world; full of germs and bad people and injuries waiting to happen. As a result of this we cocoon our children in safety and risk assessments, striving to remove such hazards before our children have to even consider encountering them. Modern day children are safe and protected without even having to think for themselves. A click of a button tells you where your child is by tracking their smartphone, a pocket sized bottle of hand sanitiser removes all germs in one foul swoop. A detailed risk assessment that every child caring establishment is required to make covers all the broken branches, steps, trip hazards and possible exits so the children can play safely.

Now don’t get me wrong I totally track my eleven year old daughter’s smartphone when she doesn’t pick up my call after school and I recoil in horror at the thought of any of my children unsupervised in a public toilet (oh my gosh the germs and the other people’s pee and the grossness! I can’t cope). I really appreciate the risk assessments my childcare providers take time to complete so that my partially sighted son only hits his face/head/body a minimal number of times each day. Even so I have to question is it necessary to push our concerns and precautions to such extremes? 

We survived didn’t we? I know a couple of my friends broke bones and one or two must have picked up a bug here and there from our outdoor antics but we survived? Quite well might I add! Our experiences surely contributed to the well balanced common sense we all use to make sensible, reasonable decisions when it comes to our own children’s care. 

What concerns me is that we are too obsessed in modern times with sheltering our children from the horrors of life that many of them will not grow to have the same standard of common sense as their elders. A friend recently pointed out that we already have a generation of graduates with an inflated opinion of entitlement and deflated ability in common sense. What will this next generation of kids be like? Too scared to experience life in case they catch a cold? Incapable of making decisions that should be second nature to an intelligent species like us? 

My husband travelled to Eastern Europe with his band a year or two ago. He was amazed by the low hanging, head height barbed wire and open manholes he saw as he walked around. He asked his guide why there were no signs warning people of the dangers and clearly very little health and safety considerations. The guide’s reply was quite simple; he looked at my husband with some confusion and said “if you’re stupid enough to not look where you’re going and you fall in a hole then it’s your own fault, no one else’s!” This is both obvious and true. In modern society we are all too quick to blame others and immediately stake claims of damages, negligence or fault. Health and safety has definitely reached extremes in our society. Do we want to pass on this mentality to our children? Or would we prefer that they develop to be the intelligent, observant and sensible species that we are designed to be? We are after all the most intelligent species on our planet, right? We are also the only species who requires a sign to tell us the floor may be wet by a water fountain or that there’s a gaping hole in the floor. I mean we obviously wouldn’t see the hole if it wasn’t for the sign so we’d all take no precautions and totally fall in it. We are not using our brains, we are just waiting for someone else to tell us how to do everything. Our children are learning this same behaviour from so young that they accept it without question.

It’s a scary prospect but most of the time if you allow children to have the relevant information they usually make good choices. Granted, once in a while they may choose to play in the rain with no coat or eat chocolate cake for breakfast but what harm would it do, really? They’d soon make a better choice the next time once they are cold and shivering or nauseous and tired from the post chocolate cake sugar crash. They would learn to make the link between a cold, wet day and a warm, dry coat or a delicious piece of toast and jam and not needing a nap by 10am instead of just learning that someone tells them to so they must, without understanding the reasoning. 

Then again, what do I know. I played in the mud and the rain, fell off a great many things and tried to eat plasticine as a kid so my brain is probably fried. 

Divide and…

Divide and…

Parenting; the one thing that can divide even the strongest of relationships. Not completely, obviously, I mean I’m not implying that all relationships are doomed once you produce offspring. However, it does seem to be one thing that can cause a passionate divide in a couple. 

It seems to be the belief of both parties in a parenting couple that each one has it harder, or alternatively that the other has something good that they themselves do not have as much of. Please note that I am not saying either party wants to swap places with the other, simply that something, albeit usually small, about the other person’s life seems sweeter perhaps.  

For example, the parent who stays home the most may feel that the other parent has more time to themselves without the stresses of young children while the parent who goes out to work more feels that the other has more quality time with the children and is lucky not to suffer the stresses of work. Neither person is wrong in my humble opinion; having been on both sides of this particular coin at various points in my life I feel I can defend and argue both viewpoints.

So, my train of thought behind this blog post is simply questioning why it has to be such an opposing situation? Why do parents, who are ultimately happy with their circumstances, find themselves driven to fuel this age old argument? It gains nothing and simply leaves both parties feeling that the other doesn’t appreciate all they do for the family when that is not the case. In fact that usually couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Surely it would be so much healthier for both parents to just acknowledge and appreciate that both positions are hard, tiring, mentally and emotionally draining but also rewarding and of course, necessary. So why is that so hard to do? I would like to think it’s because of the level of emotion involved in such matters. Love is powerful and turbulent after all. 

I guess all we can do is try to be better. Be more selfless, more compassionate, more understanding. Put our faith in the love and bond that is family and hope that it prevails over all obstacles. Because if you’re lucky enough to have family then you have it all. 

Patience and Potty Training

Patience and Potty Training

Our third child will be three in just thirteen days. He was very ill as a baby, suffering Bacterial Meningitis and Encephalitis at just nine weeks old which nearly cost him his life but thankfully only cost him the sight in his left eye and some problems with fixing and focussing. Our beautiful boy was also late eating and late speaking but he has made up for it in leaps and bounds.

I was told a few months ago that our son should not be wearing nappies at his age and that the new owners of his preschool may not be too pleased to have him return in September in nappies, as apparently nappy changing takes staff away from an otherwise strict ratio of staff:children. I have also heard other stories from friends and fellow mums of other parents and childcare workers criticising those who allow their children to remain in nappies past two years old. I have even heard tales of parents attempting to potty train children as young as one year old.

In my humble but somewhat experienced opinion this whole sense of ‘the earlier the better’ when it comes to our children’s milestones is ridiculous. I believe it places unnecessary pressure on everyone involved with caring for the child, especially impressionable first time parents.

Why does it have to be a race? What are we, as parents, racing towards? Where is the finish line? School age? Teenage? Or adulthood? And what the hell is the prize? Rushing through your child’s delicate and amazing development, pausing only briefly to celebrate each achievement with a quick Facebook post and obligatory picture before commencing training for the next milestone? The stupidity of this astounds me and genuinely makes me sad.

So, in demonstration of my views I would like to share the following experience with you; our son has worn nappies both day and night since birth. We have not attempted to ‘train’ him to use the toilet. We have explained the toilet and allowed him to witness his parents and older siblings using the facilities in a hygienic and explanatory way. We have explained that big boys and girls wear pants and not nappies. We have allowed him to wear pants each time he has asked, less than a handful of times over the last year, but each time has been unsuccessful very quickly and he has simply not been able to identify the need to ‘go’ until it is already in motion. Each time he has cried his little heart out and asked for a nappy. We obliged.

Today he got up and while choosing his clothes for the day announced that he did not want to wear a nappy and instead wanted to wear his digger pants (they have a cute graphic of a digger on the front). We of course said yes, as always, but explained that there was no need for jeans under the guise that we were not planning on going out, but in truth because no jeans makes for easier clean ups!

It’s now just after ten o’clock in the evening and our little man has been safely tucked up asleep in bed for two hours now, albeit in a nighttime pull-up. Today’s score? Just one small accident early on, two pairs of pants and every single wee for the rest of the day successfully requested by him and done on the toilet (the real one, not a potty) with no panics or tears and even time to spare. After two years, eleven months, two weeks and one day the penny dropped, the switch flicked and our little boy gained control of his bladder. All by himself.

Today’s lesson? They all get there in the end but none of them before they are ready. Anyone that tells you otherwise has simply honed the skill of reading their child’s involuntary body language and chasing their child with a potty. Take your sweet-ass time and enjoy your child, they come with enough stress without adding make-believe milestone deadlines to your load. Give them the information and opportunities and they’ll let you know when they are ready.

It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it counts the most. 

It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it counts the most. 

I moan. Who doesn’t? I’m a mum with a busy life, a hardworking husband gone for eighty percent of the week and four crazy little people – two of me, two of him – running riot. I think it’s human nature to seek out the occasional negative. It helps to make the good times shine bright right? A friend once enlightened me to an old Jewish saying that goes something like; “Without the darkness you cannot appreciate the light.” I think that just about sums it up right there.

However, it is all too easy, as a busy mum with a busy life, a hardworking husband gone for eighty percent of the week and four crazy little people – two of me, two of him – running riot, to forget about all the light sometimes and only see the dark. In these moments I moan. In my head mainly but also to my closest friends. This post is to serve as a reminder to future moaning me that I do not in fact, have it bad at all. Not by any means. 

It’s officially day two of the summer holidays and I took our four minions out to an adventure and wildlife park for the day today with a couple of my lovely friends and their minions. It was a brilliant, fun yet long and exhausting day. We have another such day planned for tomorrow. 

We got home tired and dirty, I unpacked all our luggage from the day and put tea on. Then I ran a bath for the smallest two. My husband walked through the door shortly after, conveniently as the oven timer announced his chicken burgers were ready. Without even stopping he dished up his dinner then sat down to eat with our freshly bathed fifteen week old baby so I could continue with other chores. After that he got the two year old out of the bath, dried and dressed him, put him to bed along with our older two and then brought the baby back downstairs. He then insisted that I sit down and relax with the baby while he went to the supermarket to do our big shop, a task that I had mentioned I didn’t have time to do in the coming days due to our plans for various day trips and adventures so I was intending to go tonight instead. As I type he has just walked through the door with all the shopping and put the kettle on. He’s now putting the shopping away. 

I said ‘You’re my hero’. His reply? “Nah babe, I’m just an average man trying.” I grinned and he added “Oh and I’ve changed the music in your van, it’s like your previous choice but even better, you’re going to love it.”

This man rocks my world. It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it matters the most. The next time I moan, someone please slap this blog post in front of my face? 

  

Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

My hair smells of baby vomit, it sounds like there is a small scale riot taking place in my lounge and my laundry piles resemble the New York skyline.

Our two year old son is marching back and forth across the lounge, intermittently pausing to join his seven year old brother in a wonderful game of jumping up and down on the large sheet of bubble wrap laid out on the floor. Our ten year old daughter is sprawled out on the sofa, headphones on, oblivious to the ruckus happening around her. Our nine week old daughter is quietly regurgitating possets of milk onto my shoulder while I’m desperately trying to complete the obligatory end of day kitchen clean and general tidy up. I feel a little like I live in some kind of modern day asylum where all the residents go about their day like it’s just normal, real, every day life but from an outside perspective they are all acting crazy.

My husband is due to walk through the door at any minute, laden with takeaway fish and chips in place of the home cooked meal I didn’t find time – or enough child free limbs – to make. You know what?
I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have four children and a very hard working husband. The latter means that I spend a lot of time alone with our children. Some days I am an outstanding, almost OCD level cleaner, other days I am a parenting magazine-worthy nurturing mother or a Michelin starred chef and occasionally, when the planets mysteriously align, I am all of the above all on the same day. More often than not however, I am the frazzled, scatterbrained asylum patient who lives under the illusion that she is in fact not a patient at all, but a Nurse in charge of the other patients. That is fine by me.

My children are happy, healthy and free, my home is beautiful but lived in and my marriage is solid and full of love. These days I hear far too much talk of competition between mothers, criticism being carelessly delivered to the most vulnerable of parents and ridiculous standards demonstrated through rose tinted representations on social media. Screw that.

Time flies, children grow in the blink of an eye and you look in the mirror one day to see you’ve aged ten years when your mind has barely aged one.

Enjoy it, appreciate it, embrace it. Every sick-covered, noisy, insane second.