Cave Babies Don’t Cry – Notes on Paleo Parenting

Cave Babies Don’t Cry – Notes on Paleo Parenting*

Plato's Cave theories might apply to parenting too...

Plato’s Cave theories might apply to parenting too…

Paleo diets we have all heard of, but what about Paleo Parenting?

Life lately has been a little fractious. We parents have been thrown a few curve balls that have kept us on the edge. We sleep on the edge of the bed, we sit on the edge of our seats, and our minds are on the edge of sanity as we think, ‘What next?’

We stare at each other, dumbfounded and surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of a fast-paced life with kids.

Each time I find myself feeling frazzled, anxious and ‘over it’… there is a little voice in the back of my head that asks, ‘What would a cave woman do?’ I’m not sure where my cave voice has come from, but it is there all the same.

Most of my best parenting strategies have come from my grandmother’s generation (baking soda and vinegar for all cleaning, sunlight for getting out stains, homemade baking saving the day…) but what if we turn the clocks back further, much further, to be, like, Paleolithic?

Can we do without modernity, without expectation, without the mass ‘intelligence’ that is the internet? Could doing without the endless modern things we burden ourselves with potentially shine some new light on some of our old parenting problems?

Is Paleo Parenting the answer? I’m giving it a bit of air time.

On Philosophy and Feminism

I have struggled with my role as housewife. I left my job as a full time teacher to become a mother and I have resented the housework, the staying at home, the isolation and the running of the house that has become my new job.

I sometimes wonder if I would be happier if there was less expectation of me to achieve and more acceptance that being a mum/cave dweller is a full time job in and of itself. Pre-pre-feminism when women in the workforce were not even part of the equation.

Stop. Before you send a lynch mob – I don’t mean to abolish equal rights or to muffle any female voices, but it has occurred to me that IF I wasn’t so hung up on my own career and so caught up in what ELSE I should be then my role as a mother MIGHT be easier to accept.

Question: In a truly feminist household, who does the cleaning?

It still needs to be done and doesn’t it make sense that the person who is at home most should potentially be responsible for the lion’s share thereof?

My man can happily do the hunting because I am squeamish about killing things.

He can dig the drains because I am rubbish with a spade.

He can maintain the car because beyond tyre pressure and oil checks, I am less equipped to diagnose automotive problems.

He is stronger than me and he can do the heavy labour jobs outside while I take responsibility for keeping ‘the den’ clean and the babies fed and entertained. (see houseproud article here)

I have breasts…hear me roar.

IF I could get my head around all this philosophical stuff about the transition of a woman’s role as worker to house-keeper (which I still can’t most days), then potentially I would have less to fight about with my man. (It’s a recurring argument). I’m thinking aloud here – what do you think?

On Sleeping and Self Settling

A recent difficulty has been putting mister two to bed. He got a new sister nine months ago, a big bed and his own room around the same time. Before his little sister arrived, he went to bed and to sleep without any major drama. Now it is Drama Central.

He gets out of bed and cries. He clings to us and cries. He yells and cries. He hits himself and throws things and begs for kisses and more stories and cries. He slams his door and cries.

How does this relate to the cave?

I have tried closing the door. I have tried sitting on his bed with him. I have tried laying with him. I have tried telling him to stay in his room and I have tried growling at him with my stern ‘teacher voice’ (NOT to be messed with, excuse me).

But nothing has been working.

So, talking it out with my man, we tried to figure out WHY all this drama. To Paleo Parenting I turn…

In a cave he would probably just curl up in a corner near us and go to sleep, reassured because he could still see us. Reassured because he could see the flickering light of the fire (my cave picture is rosy isn’t it…) and reassured because he is with his clan and not outcast to his own separate den.

I’m not judging anyone for any kind of parenting or any sleep arrangements but we worked out that his performance was because he was not in the cave with us (so to speak) and he potentially felt insecure.

So, with Paleo Parenting in mind and listening to the cave voice, the last three nights I have kept his door wide open and told him gently (and repeatedly) to go to bed. He is not trapped in his room, he is not in the dark alone, the light from the lounge floods his room, he is nearby and he can still hear us, his sister is not stealing his place by the fire and, so far, my cave concept, appears to be working. Go figure.

On travel and trips

Last week I had my worst outing yet with mister two and it was entirely my fault.

I had a full vacuous 24 hours of solo parenting in front of me and I wanted to fill it with fun. Consequently I filled the day with errands and visits, with play grounds and activities and topped it all off with a late afternoon visit to a friend’s house to share Fish and Chips.

Mistake.

No nap + Big day + strange environment + interrupted routine + too many in/out of car dramas = MONSTER BOY

I don’t want to go into it but it was not fun.

What would a Paleo Parent do and how does cave philosophy solve this drama? It tells me to take life more slowly. Days don’t have to be filled with a hundred and one activities.

I rushed him and I overstimulated him and I overcooked him.

One trip would have been a big enough mission for a little cave boy’s little cave legs and little cave brain. We should have stayed near the den when his nap didn’t happen, we should have taken it easy and rolled the rock in front of our cave entrance and hibernated together in the cosy dark. The little monster may have still reared his ugly head, but I doubt to the same degree.

On babywearing

Where would I be without my babywearing devices?

Happiest is my baby when she is on me, with me, near me. It makes sense in a cave not to leave them on the floor or to sleep them far from you when lions and tigers and bears lurk about. (because we have those in nz don’t you know…)

To add to the ‘simple trips’ note above; if we wore our babies until they could walk, we would still only do short trips and potentially avoid the ‘overcooking’ of our children. (Doing too much in one day /venturing too far would mean that YOU would have to carry them back… so you only go as much as all of you can physically manage.)

Whenever I am in doubt or struggling with an unsettled baby, out comes a wrap or carrier of some description and I wear her. In most cases, this is the quickest way to calm her.

On baby food

Pre-blenders and pre-pre-packaged foods, what would you feed your baby?

When I find myself stressing about my baby’s diet, I try to keep things simple. She eats what I eat. If it is too tough, I pre-chew it for her.

Is that gross? Or is it just simpler than getting out a blender or relying on processed/packaged food stuffs?

Incidentally (factoid alert) the bacteria in your own saliva can actually help your baby’s digestion system. I read that somewhere… (glad I can read, let’s not go too ‘cave’ now…)

 

On maternal knowledge

How much do you rely on your mother for mothering advice? I call mine pretty frequently and it would be easier if she lived closer to us.

In a cave-dwelling society our mothers would be closer and knowledge could be shared more easily from generation to generation. We could have the village they say we need to raise our children.

Have you noticed that the passing down of knowledge from mother to daughter is not as natural as it used to be? We are having our babies later and later and the extended generational gap is making it more difficult for our mothers to recall what we were really like as infants. Their advice can be outdated and/or difficult to recall… Instead we rely much more heavily on the shared cultural knowledge of our contemporaries on the internet.

On play

Paleo parents would have to be creative. Rather than buy the latest toys, books and DVDs for children, parents would have to be resourceful and find things for their children to use with their imagination. A stick and some sand, some stones to stack or some leaves to sort would have to do.

Activities in nature are free and are often the most stimulating. Puddle jumping, stone throwing, sand drawing, leaf collecting, flower colour-sorting, stone stacking, mud smooshing, shadow making…

As an aside: Browsing pinterest recently I found a shaving foam painting activity. Armed with a can of shaving foam and a hose, I let my two year old paint on the windows and then wash it off. I supervised from inside where I was safe from getting squirted and it struck me that his little hand movements combined with the hand-prints he was enjoying making were not altogether unlike cave painting…

On isolation and the internet

I hinted earlier that housewifeliness doesn’t always suit me. It can be isolating being at home with children and the internet offers a sense of community in ways that could never have been imagined in the 1950s let alone in the Paleolithic Era.

What would Paleo Parenting suggest? See real people. I like to have people over to my cave. I like getting out of my cave and I also love returning to my cave by contrast.

In my experience, too many days spent ‘in the dark/trapped in the cave’ do not a happy mummy make. If you were to think about your home as a cave, would it make you more motivated to get out?

A daily walk keeps me sane. Seeing real people keeps my life real.

Philosophically, living a social life on the Internet is like being in Plato’s Cave.

I prefer to be part of the real world to help me to keep perspective.

On comparison and happiness

By extension, the internet must be responsible for an awful lot of unhappiness.

Social media is a highlight reel of everyone’s triumphs, holidays and heavily filtered versions of events. Do you think I want to share my worst moments for all to see? That monster boy I created didn’t get any mention…

We all edit our lives to paint a version of our world we are happy with others seeing.

‘Comparison is a thief of joy’ – Theodore Roosevelt

A Paleo parent would see a lot less of what other families are up to behind their door-boulders. Potentially then, could a Paleo parent be happier with less to compare their lives to?

What do you think? Are some aspects of ‘Paleo Parenting’ worth considering? Or should I crawl back inside my cave…

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

Kurt Vonnegut

* new term I invented just now

Thanks for reading This is food for thought anyway. Please click ‘follow’ (on the right) before you go and check out my little shop.

Mwah! Love Outie.

Every way is the right way around for once

I have been thinking about my Art School days a lot recently. We learned a certain way of thinking that pushed us, as artists, to revisit an idea from every angle until we were happy with an outcome. The same applies to critique of objects and aesthetics, that it takes a few angles and changes in perspective to truly appreciate an idea and/or form.

I didn’t really see that certain forms that I was interested in all those years ago have been repeating themselves in ways that I hadn’t noticed. It seems it just takes time to work an idea out in order to bring it around full circle.

In my paintings I have been obsessed with circles. I have used them to frame portraits and looked at them as symbols of halos and suns and holes in the atmosphere of painted worlds. In my business, I love putting images into round shapes , framing them within circles. My series of t-shirts was always inspired by the round bump of pregnancy. Similarly, my favourite shape for my Splat Mats has always been the circle. Some argue that a square is more functional as a messy mat under the high chair, but I just love the aesthetics of a circle because it can never look crooked and it seems to frame the designs better (I reckon anyway).

And recently I was thinking about circles and the way they keep repeating in  the things that I make and do and I was looking at my Snuggle Shrugs and I was admiring how there are no corners and how the shapes of the pattern pieces are all round…

And the idea just hit me in the face.

I am not sure why I haven’t thought of this before, but it makes perfect (circle) sense.

Introducing ROUND merino swaddle blankets.

The benefits:

  • there is no right way around
  • they look perfect when laid out flat on the floor
  • they are like a coloured ‘spot light’ to show off your baby
  • they can be folded along any edge to be used like a conventional swaddle blanket
  • they can drape over car seats as a shade and there are no corners to drag on the floor
  • they are large for a swaddle blanket so their utility is enhanced
  • they are now more like a real-life baby burrito
  • they are the perfect accompaniment to the 120cm round Splat Mat (which provides a super-durable and waterproof backing underneath)
  • they are just better all round

 

I know it seems like these are ‘just a blanket’ but they are actually much more than that to me. They are the realisation of a set of ideas all falling into place. Like a perfect circle.

 

Get yours here.

Love Outie

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Signs you are a Bad Mother: Unpacking the symbolism of odd socks

Recently I was tempted to confess to strangers that my son had odd socks on – just in case he kicked off his gumboots to reveal my terrible parenting.

Why did I care? They were just odd socks, right?

But somehow odd socks made me feel like I was failing.

But, when I thought about it a little more, it meant something very different.

THE SYMBOLISM OF ODD SOCKS

This mother is behind on laundry

This mother has a washing machine that eats socks

This mother miraculously managed to find two socks

This mother cares that her child has warm feet even if dressing the feet in odd socks

This mother doesn’t care about having perfectly dressed children

This mother recognises that parenting and perfection don’t go hand in hand

This mother knows that even the most well-heeled women often hide odd or silly socks under their knee high leather boots

This mother had fun sock hunting with her two year old

This mother priorities fun over chores like washing

This mother wears odd socks too to make it a game

This mother shows her children that little things aren’t worth getting upset over

This mother has better things to do than care about odd socks

Or

Maybe dad dressed the baby (an incredibly useful out clause if peer pressure does get to you).

Image

(Photo credit – my two year old. Installment one of ‘Big Blurry Nothing’ – a photography portfolio)

 

Love Outie

(We make fun stuff for fun parents).

 

Everyone Else is Coping So Why Can’t I?

Everyone else is coping, so why can’t I? Here is a collection of small truths to make your life brighter.

Image

 

The problem with noticing how awesome everyone else is, is that you often overlook the little bits of awesome that you are already doing.

Small truths that will help if you are feeling a little low:

 

Truth: Other people’s negativity is not your problem

Truth: Highlight reels (like facebook) are not real

Truth: Comparison is the thief of all happiness

Truth: Pain is part of growth

Truth: Positivity is a choice you can make every day

Truth: Every little thing counts towards something greater

Truth: Every small struggle is a big step forward

Truth: Your heart can and will endure great things

Truth: There is always something to be thankful for

Truth: There are good and bad chapters to every good story.

Truth: Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them. (P.J. O’Rourke)

 

Love Katrina (I like buttons. They make me happy.)

Outie – A bit more fun

No one said parenting is a walk in the park (yet walking in a park might help too)

Things change in ways you cannot know

Image

Before I was a mum (and before I began my little business Outie)  I was an art history obsessed Art History teacher (I also taught English and Art). My Masters thesis was on the construction of childhood as a ‘Denkbild’ or ‘thought picture’ – an imaginary picture of childhood that we carry in our heads and hearts. I wrote screeds on the works of Loretta Lux and I added filter upon filter of philosophy and theory writing myself into a memory-filled labyrinth.

But I was also writing as a non mum.

My theory on how we construct childhood (in a nutshell) was that we construct memory anew each time we remember something. And each time we remember something of our childhoods, we take something of the present with us. So if you are looking at a painting, for example, that makes you remember something of your childhood, then that painting will now be forever part of the path that builds that childhood memory.

What’s new for me now, though, is that I can’t ‘undo’ my mother-ness. ‘Mother’ is at work reconstructing everything I remember and think. Every thing that I look at, remember or process, is now filtered (and stongly so) by the fact that I am a mum.

And yesterday I stumbled upon this painting ‘Kids in Bathtub’. I couldn’t find a date but I am guessing 1920s.

As an Art History teacher (pre-mum) looking at this painting I would have spoken about the diffused use of light to show the yellowness of the electric light bulb and the use of single point linear perspective and how the fashion of the mother figure is typical of its time yet also indicative of class. I would notice the discarded toy boats as a compositional device and how they aid the viewer in finding a focal point. I would also notice how there is an unheard dialogue framed by the reflected architecture that the woman is not involved in and how the painter has allowed her to be unaffected by it – how she stares adoringly at her children.

This painting is a domestic illustration by an American/Canadian painter called Norman Wills Price (1877 – 1951).

BUT

There is a new filter that I bring to it now. And I only really became aware of it yesterday.

The new filter is me looking at it as a Mum.

What I see now is the delicate sentimentality of the approach.

I see the idealism of the painting and how it adds a rose tinted filter to a simple daily task.

I see how the mother is dressed up yet she chooses to be in the bathroom with her kids.

I see how the fallen toy boats are a part of the whimsical detritus of parenting and childhood that the painter has carefully chosen to include.

I see how the electric lighting is rose tinted and casts a warm glow on the scene that matches the warmth of the observed (or remembered) event.

I see how the dialogue in the reflection doesn’t even affect the mother because she is absorbed in the moment with her kids.

I also see how she smiles thoughtfully holding a towel ready to embrace them, wriggling and all.

~

My ‘mum filter’ makes me see how idealised this painting is – but it also reveals how sentimental it is.

There is no dressed up mummy in heels at bath time at our house.

There is no maid to cook the dinner while mummy indulges in a romantic moment.

But the rose-tinted stuff is still there.

Because becoming a mum has changed me in ways I could never have known.

 

 

Love Katrina (Outie)

 

PS> Please vote for me for Best Parenting Blog in The Baby View Best In Home Business Awards.

 

 

I’m not ready

I’m not ready.

We crossed a significant line today and cut some apron strings – or at least lengthened them a little. It was our son’s first day at preschool.

It probably shouldn’t be a big deal, but I felt apprehensive and a little sick. I had butterflies in my tummy like it was my first day at school (and he was pretty much oblivious and just keen to start playing).

My butterflies caused me to over-plan everything. I packed him an extra drink bottle (why?) and double-labelled his lunch box and I even stuffed in a puffy vest at the last minute ‘in case he gets cold’.

 

The worrying voice in my head was yelling at me:

‘He isn’t ready!’

‘He’s too young!’

‘Keep him at home!’

‘You’re doing the wrong thing!’

 

But another gentler voice was also whispering:

‘He needs to be extended’

‘More play with other kids will do him good’

‘He is ready’

‘Two days a week will be great for all of you’

 

(DISCLAIMER: I don’t ‘actually’ hear voices for the record)

 

But even when I ignored both voices, there was still a little squeak inside me saying something else entirely.

It was saying ‘you are not ready’.

So this problem is entirely my own.

 

Because at the other end of the day I have a happy kid who had lots of fun and still gave me delicious kisses before bedtime. I have a happy kid who is sleeping now and looking forward to another play-filled day tomorrow. I have a happy kid that is thankfully oblivious to the turmoil that he has put his mummy through.

 

And when I reflect on my lack of readiness the feeling is really familiar.

 

I haven’t been ‘ready’ for any of this stuff.

I wasn’t ready to get pregnant.

I wasn’t ready to become a mum.

I wasn’t ready to leave my job.

I wasn’t ready to give birth.

I wasn’t ready to wean him.

I wasn’t ready to put him in his big bed.

I wasn’t ready to tackle this big parenting ‘thing’.

– I have never been ready for any of it.

 

So what’s the moral of this little end-of-day tale?

 

We  are never ready for anything. Whatever will be, will be. And maybe it’s best to just go with the flow.

Be like water.

Be like the ping pong.*

Be like the kettle.

Whistle when you are done.**

 

 

* Be the Ping Pong  -a philosophical post on parenting

* *the hotter it gets, the more we should try to whistle a happy tune.

 

Love Outie.

kawakawa leaf

 

 

 

 

The Universal Answer (The Parenting Whys Un-packed)

Why is doing the dishes the new sexy?

Why do I have the feeling that I am being watched?

 

your child knows why

 

Kids are infamous for the big ‘why’ questions. But parents have some of their own.

Thankfully, there is a universal answer to many of the ‘whys’  that parents come up with.

 

A list of parenting whys*

 

Why is there a lego in my foot?

Why do I talk in third person?

Why is my shoulder wet?

Why do I have Bob the Builder in my head?

Why do I have the feeling that I am being watched?

Why do I know basic Spanish?

Why can I hear my baby crying in the shower?

Why is my coffee always cold?

Why can I smell vomit?

Why is there a raisin in my bra?

Why is my hair falling out?

Why do I dream about going to the pub?

Why do I keep finding snacks hidden in the car?

Why is doing the dishes the new sexy?

Why is there a balloon in the glove box?

Why is white noise my new zen?

Why am I talking to myself?

 

*the answer to all of these: because…