Make Time + Take Time = Better Parenting

Being a parent is more than just popping out a baby and making sure he or she is clothed and fed. Being a parent can mean many different things based on many different variables, believes, routines and circumstances but what all parenting has in common is time, quality time. If you don’t spend enough one on one time with your child, I assure you, you don’t even know who they really are.

Since we moved to Spain, my “workload” with Ean has decreased a lot because of family that helps out and the fact that Ana isn’t working. For the past month I’ve been really busy with a house renovation as well so that meant unusually little quality time spent with Ean.

The time spent together was during this period more or less always with other family members but lately things have started to pan out and I’ve been able to set aside time to be alone with imh, to take a ride to a nearby park or watch the sunset in the mountains and I learned something very important.…

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We Never Made It To Malaga

The plan was to move to Malaga to see what life would be like away from Malta, in a more diverse, metropolitan and well connected country, but we never made it there. We were supposed to stay in Granada with Ana’s family while looking for accommodation in Malaga but one thing lead to another, I fell in love with the tranquility in this tiny village in the mountains, Ean loved being close to his grandparents and I came up with an idea to renovate an existing space on Ana’s parents property and turn it into an apartment for us while looking for property to buy and renovate in Malaga. It made more sense to put money into renovating and expanding her parents property than to flush the money down the drain on some semi decent rental apartment owned by strangers, 1.5 hours from the grandparents.

I had no idea how Ean would react to the move from Malta but he hasn’t indicated or mentioned anything about his old daycare, friends, home or anything else. On purpose we haven’t mentioned anything from Malta to him, in fear of sparking a memory, triggering sorry, longing or confusion. Not even today when he saw an old photo of himself in our kitchen in Malta, not a single reaction, he just wanted to scroll forward to the photos from the airplane and it really surprised me. After all, it’s the only home he’s known in his short life and I assumed he would feel some kind of connection to it but no, nothing… what a relief. I felt a little guilty uprooting him like this but judging by his reactions so far, it was all in my head.…

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Quackquack – Ean’s Fluffy Friend

Last night, Ana had packed a box of Ean’s old toys and stuffed animals that he never pays attention to. She put the box by the front door to take outside the next day. In the morning, as I and Ean were getting ready for our daily morning run, he discovered the box and started pulling things out. Out of all the things in there, the goose from Jysk caught his attention and he started walking around, exclaiming, quack quack!

Oh, I said. Is that quack quack? Yepp, he replied enthusiastically. Mind you, he almost never plays with toys and has no emotional bound to any materialistic items. He generally prefers songs, learning and educational things on our iDevices but never feels the need to take any of that outside. But, as as we were getting ready to go, I asked him to give me Quackquack (that was his name now of course) so I could put him to sleep while we went for a run. To my surprise, all of a sudden he broke into hysterical tears, sulking and repeating, quack quack, Quackquack!

Whoa, easy easy fella… chill. Okay, I said, here let me strap him in with you in the stroller, and all is right in the world again.…

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RAIN RUN!!!

Among the rare things for Ean to have seen in his short lifetime, unbelievably enough, rain is one of them. We live in a country (for 9 more days!) where it almost never rains between June and September. For me, as a child of Sweden, it’s suffocating at times, especially when not even the sea is enough to give a refreshing break from the summer heat. This is all Ean has ever known though.

So seeing rain, a proper down-poor is something he hasn’t seen since last winter and judging from his reaction this morning, it wasn’t something he was familiar with. I mean, he identifies it as rain from Super Simple Songs “rain, rain go away” but he hasn’t had any personal relationship with it as such, which is a shame!

This morning, when I opened the front door and he ran away in fear when he heard the loud gush of water from the sky, I picked him up and stood by the front door so he could see it wasn’t anything dangerous. So I put him on my shoulders to take him outside for a second to feel the rain.…

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Terrible 2’s – The Salvation From Timidity

Ean has always been a timid child. Shy and reserved at first, blossoming and interacting more freely with confidence once he felt safe. It has always been a struggle especially to get him to interact with other kids but things got easier once he started at daycare at the age of 1.5 years.

In June he turned 2 years and since then I’ve been waiting for those terrible two’s and tantrums to set in and a few weeks ago we started to see the tendencies growing from random “no, no, no” protests and stubbornness to more audible scenarios. As I’ve explained in previous articles I’ve taught Ean to deal with strong emotions by focusing on breathing and by doing so, recomposing himself and regaining control and understanding his emotions better. Up until now that has worked flawlessly, in fact the other day he got really upset and was close to start crying and without me having to coach or tell him anything he just took a few steps away from us and we could hear how he started breathing really deep and slow, a few seconds later he was okay, as if nothing had happened.

Anyway, I digress…

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Making Sense Of 4 Languages (bi/tri/quadrilingualism!)

Before your child learns your language, you’re going to have to learn theirs. It’s a funny thing to experience, the seemingly nonsensical gibberish that you understand perfectly fine. If you’re a frequent reader, you might also know that Ean is being raised to speak 4 languages. Most people disagreed with this idea and thought it would be confusing for him but being a child of trilingualism, I can easily hold conversations in different languages at the same time, without any problems.

Ean has come to that point where he’s putting words together into simple sentences. He does it in Spanish with Ana, in Swedish or English with me and has no trouble distinguishing which language to speak with whom whether it’s us parents, people in the park or his grandparents.

To teach him what languages are, I used numbers. He first learned to count to 10 in English, then Spanish, Swedish and finally Assyrian. He doesn’t mix the numbers up by language so I used this to my advantage, saying “uno, dos, tres is Espanol”… and so on. So if I said, “Count to 10 på svenska” he understood what I meant and subsequently when I teach him new words now he can separate them by the name of the language based on the numbers he learned. Besides giving each language a label, it also helps him get an idea of what the language sounds like.

For the sake of simplicity I say the name of the language in each respective language. So I say, “svenska, espanol, english” and so on. By doing that, it makes the learning more efficient rather than having to learn 3 different words that describe each language. It’s hard as it is to make sense of, and understand the concept of languages at that age so I just simplified it for him and it works great!

A good example of how this can work, even without the prep work, is how I did with my cousins kid. He’s 3 years old and understands Swedish, two Assyrian dialects and English. With all of us in the same room, it became a big soup of languages so I started to explain the names of the languages. For example I said, the language Ana is speaking is English, if you want Ana to understand what you say, you have to speak English with her. It took a few days but he got it! Identifying and giving a label to those series of sounds we call languages, is key. Once you do that, it becomes much easier to comprehend, compartmentalise and expand on the kid’s vocabulary.

I’ve always believed that a child’s mind is a super computer and I’ve heard many horror stories of parents and families underestimating their kids and ending up under-stimulating them, ultimately crippling their abilities long before they’ve developed an interest for anything in particular and that’s just sad. If we are to live up to our potential, we have to be challenged, encouraged and stimulated, and that’s true for all of us, not just the little ones.…

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Teach Breathing, Teach Control

What if you could stop your child from crying hysterically or throwing a tantrum in a few seconds? Whether your kid hurt himself, didn’t get his way and got upset or is for whatever reason having a strong, painful (and probably very loud) reaction/experience… there are very powerful and simple tools you can use to help your child regain control of themselves.

I’ve been practicing meditation and yoga since I was about 14 years old. Depression has always been a part of my life and simply by meditating and using breathing techniques I’ve been able to stay away from medication. Not to say medication is wrong, for some people it’s the only way to cope, but as people we should generally strive for balance and peace within ourselves, regardless who we are or what we do. It’s like the difference between someone who exercises and someone who doesn’t, obviously exercise benefits us.

We don’t have to get into hippie phrases and chanting ohm, we can stick to the simple physiological benefits of increased oxygen intake, lowering adrenaline and cortisol, slowing down breathing and heart rate or simply reducing stress hormones. I will give you a simple and concrete example.…

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Potty Training, The Easy Way!

It was a funny coincidence that Ean decided to stop peeing in the diaper right at the time when I wrote the previous article, asking for advice about your experiences with potty training. I got a lot of response and feedback from people both in the comments and especially in messages and I thank you all for indulging me with your experiences and giving me more knowledge and feedback to weigh into my own ideas of how to get this done and this is how it went.

Let’s start at the beginning. On purpose, for as long as I’ve been able to hold Ean with one arm, I’ve been taking him to the bathroom with me to see and understand the connection of how to use the toilet. Once he had started to walk, which was quite late, about 1 year and 3 months, I thought it would be time to start working on the toilet skills. At about 1 year and a half I started putting him on the potty and the toilet on a regular basis but he was very reluctant, simply because he hadn’t developed the muscle control needed yet. He was still heavily relying on the diaper and didn’t have control over when it was time to pee or poop.

Once summer came around the bend and it got hotter, I let him run around naked in hopes that he would be more inclined to just run to the potty and do his business, but I could have him on the toilet for 5-15 minutes and still as soon as he got off the toilet, he could have an accident somewhere around the house. I was stupid and thought I could teach him by making negative associations, not scolding him, but showing disappointment and frustration with his actions, as I do with behavioural discipline to teach him when he’s doing something bad but here is the key point……

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One Sweet Moment Out Of Many

Pretty much since Ean was born, I’ve sung and rocked him to sleep for all his naps. Since about 1 month back though, he prefers to be put down in the crib directly, or like for the past week, to fall asleep next to me in bed and then placed in the crib.

Today he modified his request again and it was the most adorable thing. First I had to lay down next to him, then he wanted to face me and hug me. He kept shifting position, kissing my shoulder, my cheeks, holding my face in his hands and looking into my eyes, saying mama, papa, Ean.

Then he turned to his back and continued, mama, papa, Ean. Finally he took the position his mother finds to be heaven on earth, the spoon.

And there, while continuing to kiss my hands and arms and repeating, mama, papa, Ean… he slowly closed his eyes and drifted to sleep.

What a privilege it is to go to bed with your heart so filled with peace, love and happiness. To be wrapped up in your maker whose embrace and gentle breath gave you life not too long ago. To be in a cocoon of your own flesh and blood, your limbs woven tight with mine, like the DNA that binds us.

These days that pass so fast and slow, weaving time, experiences and memories into a person who will one day go out into the world and make your own mark on it with tools honed with the souls and minds of the people who love you the most. And long after we’re gone, that gentle breath that gave you life, comfort and peaceful sleep, will be yours to pass on in every word you speak and every action you take, for the rest of your life.

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It Starts With, Hello!

Being a parent can be quite isolating. Most of your time goes to fulfil someone else’s needs and your needs and wishes become second priority (if even that!). A simple way to break out of that monotonous pattern is to simply look up from your mobile device or helicoptering around your kid for a moment when you’re at the playground and see what’s going on around you.

There are tons of people in the same position as you, or similar at least, and if you have a regular schedule of going to the playground, most likely, so do the people around you. So, if you’re there and they’re there it probably means you have the same schedule.

This is the case with us and these two lovely people in the photo. We started chit chatting once we started recognising each other coming to the same park regularly and one day I told them we’re going to the beach for a swim. They decided to join in and since then we see each other every day and the kids love to play together. We go to the park and play and then we go swimming. Whether on the beach or the park they love to play and learn from each other in a natural, socially mature way.

I see parents complain all the time about their kids and their obsession with mobile devices but kids learn from us and if we ourselves can’t be bothered looking up from our phones long enough to interact with the people around us, why do we expect our kids to be any different? It’s easy, fundamental, rewarding and it all starts with, hello.

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