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Parenting The Youngest

After less than two years with Meimei, I can fully understand why the youngest often turns out to be spoilt more pampered than the older siblings. I have been giving in to her so much that even Hubby (who is the Good Guy while I am the Bad Guy) has commented about it. I used to wait out the boys’ tantrums, even if they were rolling around on the floor wailing while we were outside, no worries about embarrassment. But now, even if it’s just a whimper or sad face from Meimei, I usually surrender.

I am very sure that by 19 months old, both boys were already walking on their own 100% of the time while we were out without Hubby (he’s the Good Guy, remember? So they often ‘target’ him to carry them. But they never try it on me since eons ago.) But now, I am still carrying Meimei almost everywhere, almost all the time.

I guess no mother likes to be harsh strict firm for no reason. When Kor Kor was 19 months old, Didi had already been born, so I couldn’t possibly carry two kids. When Didi was 19 months old, I was already six months pregnant with Meimei, So there was strong motivation for me to train the boys to walk on their own. Not so for Meimei now. It’s easier to give in to her and just carry her.

It’s also out of necessity that now I must train her for certain things. For instance, she was sleep-trained at five months old, so that I could take care of three kids without help and maintain my sanity. And I really must train her to either play on her own or sit and listen while I am reading to them. Now she crawls all over me and grabs the book from me, which means that it’s very difficult for me to do any reading with the boys while she is awake. Not much time to read during Meimei’s nap either cos that’s almost Didi’s naptime too.

But no matter what, Meimei is always our princess. The boys know that unless there are special circumstances, the default mode is to Give In To Meimei 😛

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Princesses don’t need a reason to wear princess dress!

I had resisted buying princess dresses for Meimei because she did not have much hair yet, i.e. she didn’t look very girly yet. But when The Sunshine Kids offered to gift a dress to Meimei and I browsed through their online catalogue, my heart just said ‘yes yes yes!’ See, she does look girly and princessy, doesn’t she? *melt*

The dresses at The Sunshine Kids are designed especially for special occasions. They are also expanding their apparel line to include casual line for both boys and girls soon.

They have partnered with Agape Babies, to form a multi-store. This means customers can shop between both stores and checkout in one shopping cart. I have shopped at Agape Babies many times before, for baby essentials such as diapers, milk, skincare, organic food, toys, books and more! They are partnered with over 150 premium brands and retail over 3000 products. Do check out their new lifestyle & parenting blog, The Agape Lifestyle, too!

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Mummy is going to buy me more dresses for Christmas parties!

If you are also shopping for dresses for your girl this festive season, we have a discount code for our readers! Use the code “stayathomemumof3” to receive 15% off the dreses. Valid till 27 December 2014.

Disclaimer: We received a dress from The Sunshine Kids for review purposes. All opinions are mine.

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Wait Till Mummy Is Free…

One commonality of the numerous routines I have thought up for my kids is to leave blocks of free time for them. The amount of time I manage to crave out varies, and I am on an ongoing quest toward more and longer stretches.

Our current routine includes a 3-hour block of free time for the kids. And the boys have free, unlimited access to a wide variety of art materials, building materials, etc. I have set up many learning corners / play areas for them, hoping to create a conducive environment to support their free play and exploration. But it seemed that despite the abundance of things, somehow at the end of each day, I felt that they had not really done anything much. And I really don’t think the problem was having too many things, because I am quite confident that I have done a pretty good job of decluttering and arranging, and our home is neat and organized. (This is actually part of the problem….)

I guess as with many other situations in life, the first steps are awareness followed by observation. I made an effort to take note of how our morning went, and the very first morning, the answer was loud and clear. Everytime they asked for my help…

“Mummy is not free now. Wait for me to finish…. (cleaning/cutting/cooking/whatever)”

“Now is not the time for… (doing craft/playing whatever/making a mess)”

…………………………

In my own defense, I am not scared of the kids making a mess. I am very ok with them making a mess creating art with lots of glue or tearing paper into a million small pieces for a collage or scattering beads everywhere. The thing is, they often need my help to get started or just with a couple of steps. Wanna do science experiments? Need mummy to bring the stuff outside. Wanna make something with egg cartons? Need mummy to cut the egg carton into the correct sizes first. (They have access to scissors but egg carton is too thick for them.) Wanna paint? Need mummy to squeeze the paint from the near-empty bottles first. Wanna whatever? I have to get Meimei settled so that she can copy whatever her brothers are doing. (E.g. I might only have to squeeze paint for the boys, but I also have to get paper and brushes for Meimei. And most likely, stop her from grabbing her brothers’ stuff.)

So how is being neat and organized part of the problem? Because the root issue is my Type A personality! I don’t have much difficulty keeping the house tidy and reinstating everything to its place every night, but being task-oriented has its price. Thus, even though the kids have so much free time everyday, it’s far from the same for me. My ‘automatic’ mode is to try to complete all the chores first – put the dirty clothes in the washing machine, boil a kettle of water, wash all the breakfast dishes, do the meal prep (everything except the actual cooking), wipe the table, dry and put away the clean dishes, and the list goes on. All these seem like simple tasks but they add up. By the time I am done, maybe there’s only 20 minutes left before I have to start cooking lunch. AND if the kids are engaged in an activity then, I won’t interrupt them, which means one whole morning would have gone by without mummy doing anything with them.

Yes, child-led, self-initiated free play is important. (I would say it’s the most important.) But at their young ages, I think it’s fair and reasonable for my kids to require some help from me. Furthermore, children need some undivided attention and time so that they will not engage in attention-seeking behaviours (i.e. being naughty!). To have three hours of free time…. and to wait and wait more than two hours before mummy is finally free for them…? : (

Realistically, I can’t possibly be as free as my kids. Fact is I have to cook and clean. I don’t subscribe to the saying that a clean house is a waste of time and I believe a clean house is necessary as a conducive environment for learning. But I have been trying something different – stop trying to finish the chores first. Help the kids whenever they need my help. Allocate a certain amount of time for chores and try not to do anything before it’s time for the chores. This way, I will have about two hours of ‘free’ time for the kids.

Prioritize. I am reminded of the story about putting the pebbles in the bottle before adding the sand. Somehow, I am still able to do all the chores and spend time with the kids!

[Tell you a joke. When I first started on the current routine with three hours of free time for the kids, I was wondering what I should do with this extra free time for myself. I mean, I used to spend this time rushing about, setting up activities for the kids. Was deliberating betwen cross-stitching or… In the end, I did not manage to do anything extra at all. Flitted the time away, somehow. Cross-stitch? Ha.]

 

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Our Nature Table(s)

The problem with reading blogs is getting too many ideas! (Which is supposed to be a benefit, right? Everything has its flipside haha.)

For VERY long, I have wanted to do up a nature table for the kids. Even bought a bargain side table for this purpose. But… the idea was shelved for sooooo long that the side table got repurposed 😛 The delay was due to a few reasons – no space for another specialized table, no idea what to put on the table (most of the ideas on other blogs are for seasonal setups, not applicable for the year-round tropical Singapore), I was worried about the nature items attracting bugs…
Then one day, I wanted to move an extra table out of the boys’ bedroom. Was looking around the house for a suitable spot to place the table… and ah-ha! I have dumped the cardboard kitchen a while ago…. free space! And the rattan table with glass top was perfect for a nature table!

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The beginning.. when I was at a loss what to put on the table..

One of Didi's creations. Out of the 3 kids, he's the most interested in the table.

One of Didi’s creations. Out of the 3 kids, he’s the most interested in the table.

Admiring his work from another angle : )

Admiring his work from another angle : )

To avoid bugs, I set up a second nature table at the corridor, heehee. Cos I really don’t like bugs. Here, they play with the things we collect at our outings, i.e. not so clean stuff.

Seashells, saga seeds, pebbles. I also gave the boys some foodstuff like cinnamon sticks and star anise.

Seashells, saga seeds, pebbles. I also gave the boys some foodstuff like cinnamon sticks and star anise.

And a yucky experiment inspired by The Magic School Bus In A Pickle. Yep that's a pickle-wannabe, a decomposing cucumber, and a very unorganic tomato which just refuses to rot!

And a yucky experiment inspired by The Magic School Bus In A Pickle. Yep that’s a pickle-wannabe, a decomposing cucumber, and a very unorganic tomato which just refuses to rot!

The nature table changes according to what we have on hand… and what happens to inspire mummy!

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The Best Season

I feel like we are finally where I want us to be.

We have settled into a routine where each day is predictable. Mornings are usually spent at home, so that the kids have their fill of free play. Classes and outings are mostly in the afternoon. So the kids know that it’s time to go out after their nap almost everyday. I like this routine too, because I feel accomplished by the time the kids go for their nap/quiet time – even if we do nothing else, the kids have played the whole morning!

Kor Kor has started attending the classes which I envisioned him to take up since he was very young – swimming, wushu and Mandarin speech & drama. Before this, he was too young for the classes… and also too young for the daddy to be willing to pay for his lessons 😛 Three classes is a bit too much on top of school I think, so we will stop the speech & drama classes before he starts primary school in a year’s time.

Didi is also attending wushu. Though a bit young, he’s happy and enjoys the classes : ) Now, just waiting for a vacancy at swim class! And for Meimei to be old enough to start ballet and guzheng, heehee.

Now that the kids are older, we can be more flexible in terms of naps when we do go out the whole day. The boys can go without a nap occasionally, and it is quite easy to get Meimei to nap in her stroller. This means that it’s easier for us to go for nature outings, yay! (I am exploring joining Nature Society as a family. Shall update if it’s interesting!)

I am also loving our home environment. The last round of decluttering was very successful. But it’s definitely not just one round of decluttering that did the job – it’s the accumulated results of many, many rounds. I read Simplicity Parenting almost one year ago, and it’s still having a huge impact on my parenting now. I love our work spaces / activity corners around the house – art station (which I have added on to since the post), playroom, reading nook, science lab, nature table (post coming!), construction area (very new), and others. (some areas have made way though :P)

Most importantly, my firstborn is growing up to be so sensible! He gives in to Meimei a lot and offers his help when I am tired or busy. To be frank, Didi is still very whiney at 3.5 years old… But he’s really very super cute! Makes me laugh at the most tired or stressed times : ) And Meimei, our princess, she’s getting spoilt and naughty, but never mind, she’s our princess! It’s good training for the boys anyway, to learn to give in to younger ones and girls. And urmm, I am confident of correcting her wayward behaviors, hiak hiak hiak, no more always getting your way now that you are older, Meimei!

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Yes, I am happy and love my days together with my children. I love being able to be with them and to seek learning opportunities together.

But let there be no illusion. Happy is one thing, TIRED is still very real. Just because I manage to do it, doesn’t mean I don’t feel exhausted. I am half-dead by mid-day, after the lunchtime rush. I don’t know what my point is here, just want to say, I am really very, very tired. Oh well 😛