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.

Ten Easy Indoor Activities for Toddlers

I love hanging out with my kids and I especially love coming up with new things to do. 

Here is a little list of my recent favourite indoor activities to keep my toddler busy.

These ideas are brought to you by the Outie Splat Mat.

 

1) Washi tape shapes on the floor

I made a square, a triangle and a star on the floor using washi tape. My son knows the words for triangle and star but hasn’t yet recognised squares – so the teacher in me wanted to give him a new shape to practise saying and the square is THERE on the floor so we keep using the word as we pass it now.

We ran across them and shouted the names of the shapes as we stepped on them.

We jumped in them.

While he ate his lunch, he directed me to hop from one shape to another.

We put his toys in them.

We talked about ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the shapes.

We hopped in them.

We sat in them.

He even chose to eat his lunch inside the triangle.

August 1270

 

2) Matching shapes

This is an extension to the washi tape shape idea. Cut shapes from card or draw pictures with the shapes in them. (I.e. a house could have a square AND a triangle in it) and put the cards into the right shape as a giant sorting activity.

 

3) Indoor bowling

You don’t need a bowling pin set to have fun bowling down structures. You can make towers with blocks to bowl down. I like to use my son’s stacking robots to set out like pins then we roll balls at them to try to knock them over.

 

4) Toddler petanque

I made some simple bean bags with lentils in them out of some scraps of fabric. Here’s some instructions (they are fun to juggle with too). Put plastic tea cups out as targets and try to throw the bean bags into the cups or onto the saucers. We can play the same game using toys as targets and rolling balls to them. A teacup and saucer stack (make sure they are plastic) is super fun to throw things at to try to knock it down too.

 

5) Indoor painting

Use a Splat Mat for this one. Squirt paint onto the paper or Splat Mat and let your toddler smoosh it with their hands. Have an old towel handy for the inevitable spills…

 

6) Bath painting

Add food colouring to shaving foam and take your painting into the bath. (This is a personal favourite because he can paint at my feet and I can have a long shower).

August 076 August 077

 

7. Baking/Breaking/Mashing

I love making weetbix slice with mister two because he gets the job of crumbling the weetbix (use a bowl and sit them down on a Splat Mat) and my second favourite is banana muffins (he gets the potato masher and loves mashing the banana).

 

8) Button Banking

I made a piggy bank out of an old pop bottle with papier mache and I give my son the piggy bank and a jar of buttons to ‘bank’. (The nose unscrews so he can start again).

Tip 15 trash to treasure

 

9) Santa sack

This is a great activity for keep toddlers ‘busy’ while you change the sheets. Simply wrap toddler up and carry over your shoulder like a mad santa… I recommend a strong sheet for this one as my toddler likes to be swung about and you need to be sure that they won’t fall out.

 

10) Kitchen Drum Kit

This is an oldie but a goodie. Sometimes when I am stuck for things to do I ask myself, what would my Grandma do? Tin cups, chipsticks, wooden spoons and whisks with metal bowls or saucepans are a nice and easy noisy play solution.

 

We have loads more ideas for fun play but ten is a good number to start with. What are your fun play ideas?

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Love Outie.

 

 

 

 

Houseproud House Cleaning Tips With A Toddler

I often pine for the delicious state my house used to be in pre-children – but I do get little windows of clean house that I like to enjoy alone before it all gets messed up again.

 

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The best advice I have for new mummies – is to do your chores with your babies so that you can rest when they do. I never did this with my son and raced around making myself miserable while he slept doing all my chores and never got a break!

I have only found the time to write this today because I have managed to get my cleaning done with both my babies awake. Now that they are both sleeping, I get to have some down time.

Here are some of my cleaning tips: (I also like to clean just before nap time so that all the activity wears my toddler out nicely. Hee hee hee he doesn’t know I am on to him…)

BABY

First make sure that the baby is changed and fed and safe from toddler terrorism. I like to wear my baby while I vacuum but I can’t really wear her when I want to clean the toilet or bend down for something. I use a baby bouncinette or I set her up with a play gym for the duration of my super-quick house clean. If she is not ready for a sleep, she just comes along from room to room with us.

 GEAR

This is my cleaning kit:

Bottle of white vinegar in a spray bottle

Bottle of 50/50 bleach and water spray

Spray bottle of water

Three cloths

An old tee shirt

Newspaper

Eco-store cream cleaning solution (like jiff)

 QUICK CLEAN UP

Involve toddler in a series of slam dunking ‘pick up’ activities to clear floor ready for vacuuming.

Use brush and shovel for fun ‘digger’ activity if you have lots of smaller toys.

SWEEP

Give toddler brush and shovel or broom to help.

VACUUM

Give toddler pile of books to sit and read in a special sitting spot. Wear baby to zen her out ready for nap.

Put baby down to nap and move on to other chores.

Sometimes I like to give my toddler some baking soda with a sieve to sieve baking soda over the carpet as a home-made deodoriser (he has fun and afterwards I get to ‘see’ how clean my house is).

BATHROOM/S

Occupy toddler in dry bath with bath crayons or give toddler bottle of water to spray around bathroom to ‘help’.

Spray toilet with bleach solution and leave.

Spray counters and mirrors with vinegar solution and leave.

Squirt jiff around toilet and quickly scrub bowl.

Run shower and swap toddler’s water spray bottle for vinegar spray bottle.

Scrub shower while in shower with toddler. (this is my shower) ‘Rub out’ drawings as part of cleaning method – get them to help by spraying vinegar.

Leave plug in shower for toddler to splash in bottom (if it’s a bath one like our one) while quickly wiping vanity down.

Use newspaper to polish mirror.

Polish taps with dry t-shirt.

Wipe down all surfaces. Finally wipe toilet and throw first cloth away/in wash.

Take wet toddler with you to do bedrooms.

BEDROOM

Dress wet toddler and chuck wet towel in laundry.

Strip beds and make tent with dry laundry for toddler to play in. (roll up and make a round ‘nest’ or hang over couch cushions to make a hut)

Add teacups for tea party.

Play ‘red rag to a bull’ or ‘whoosh’ toddler with sheets.

Put toddler on bed to jump and ‘help’ tuck in sheets.

Put toddler in duvet cover and carry around for a while like a mad santa.

Put duvet cover on duvet.

Finish making bed/s.

Use second cloth to dust surfaces in bedrooms and move to kitchen.

 KITCHEN

Set toddler up in high chair with pre-nap snacks.

While they eat, spray counters of kitchen with vinegar.

Boil kettle for coffee.

Empty dish washer while kettle boils.

Wipe all surfaces and load dish washer. Turn it on.

Polish taps with dry tee-shirt.

Make coffee.

Clean up toddler, wipe high chair and put to bed.

 

Relax with coffee and enjoy your down time.

 

OK. So I didn’t wash the floors yet. But that one has to be done when the toddler is out or asleep otherwise the slippery floor is dangerous…

And this way I get to have some me time in my lovely clean house. Even if it is only clean for me to see.

 

And finally, four small confessions:

Sometimes I scrub the toilet and leave the soapy stuff in the bottom so that my work can be ‘seen’. This is my ‘thank you prompt’.

Sometimes I fold the toilet paper and pretend I am in a hotel.

Sometimes I skate on the floor with wet towels soaked in detergent when no-one is around as a more fun way to mop.

I pay myself to clean the house instead of paying a cleaner so that I feel more valued and do a better job. (So I keep the money that I would otherwise pay a cleaner – that’s paying myself!)

 

How do you manage your chores with children?

Love Outie.

Trumping the me that I see (raising a mini-me)

Trumping the me that I see (raising a mini-me)

 

 “I know that I am messing with him and I know that I am annoying. I would find me annoying too. But I do it anyway.”

My son is a spitting image of me and, as he grows older and is revealing his Will, I am realising that my will is greater (for now). Some of the behaviours that I have adopted towards him, I recognise as things that would have really annoyed me in the past. And even though I can see that I annoy him, I do it anyway. I knowingly trump the ‘me’ that I see all in the name of motherhood. I can get away with it for now. So I am milking it.

Seeing me: love of personal space

Sometimes my son is happily playing in his room on his own. I have to confess that I ‘attack’ him with hugs and kisses. He pushes me away and I tickle him and give him more hugs and kisses. Some of his cuteness is just irresistible and I have to shower him in affection despite his protests.

When I was young my grandmother used to do this weird snuffly kiss on my neck right beside my ear. I loved my grandma and we were very close, but I really hated the snuffle-kiss. Now I shamelessly snuffle-kiss my son at every opportunity. He protests but I win.*

Seeing me: doing my own thing

Once in high school, my art teacher painted on my painting. I hated her for that. I probably took years to get over it if I am honest.

Having been a teacher prior to starting Outie, I was always sensitive to ‘demonstrating’ on a student’s work and I always asked before I made any mark on the page.

With my son it is an entirely different picture (excuse the pun). I draw all over his work even though he clearly wants to fill the page himself. I excuse it as ‘helping’ but, deep down, I know what I am doing. Trumped!

Seeing me: particular about food

I love fresh tomato and avocado on toast. I love it with salt and pepper. I especially love it with fresh basil leaves or drizzles of pesto and my son is the same.

Once a friend made me a surprise breakfast and brought me breakfast in bed with grilled tomato on toast. Grilled tomato on toast? Ruined.

I hate grilled tomato. What a waste of toast.

I confess that I make things my son doesn’t like under the pretense that I am doing something nice for him. He responds with a distinctive ‘yuck’ noise and pushes it away but I make him try it again the next day (even though if I was in his shoes and had decided I didn’t like something, I probably wouldn’t eat it either).

Seeing me: in my own time and in my own way

My son has a Will with a capital W for ‘whoa’. If he wants to play trains now, then trains it shall be (in his mind). But if I want him to work with some flash cards or a sensory play activity, I confess that I hide his trains so that it is easier for me to win. It is worse now because he sees me hiding them and knows where I have hidden them. Still, for now, I win. Mini-me is foiled again!

I know that I am messing with him and I know that I am annoying. I would find me annoying too. But I do it anyway. I can’t seem to help myself because I just love hanging out with him.

All else being the same, experience and treachery will beat youth and enthusiasm any time (or at least most of the time). My will is greater, at least for now.

 

Love Outie.

 

*He invades my personal space all the time so he does get his own back.

 

Outie: we do messy parenting good

 

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(This photo was taken shortly before his first haircut in December 2012. He did not want one… I won).