Play parties: When large families have friends over

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Oh the chaos. Oh the noise.  This mumma duck is still getting used to the size of her family.

We had a play date today.  Can you call it a play date when you already have so many kids? I think not. I’m officially renaming play dates in our family, Play Parties! Seriously, you add an extra child or two to my five kids and there is so much extra noise, chaos, and fun, it feels like a kids party.  When the friends left this afternoon, I needed a nap.

I’m having fun wading through the big family waters, although I know especially in the Middle East, 5 kids isn’t really that big.  As a teacher, 5 kids is manageable, but for me, it’s the noise that kills me.  Some days, I wonder whether I’m the one with Sensory Processing Disorder, and not my child. The excessive amounts of noise coming from kids with shocking volume control makes me stressed! It makes me want to hide in a corner with my hands over my ears and rock.  Yes, yes, it does.  This is one of the big skills I am still to learn as a mum of lots of kids, how do I stop the noise from causing stress? It’s not fair on the kids that I get stressed and grumpy with them.  They didn’t choose to have a big family so it’s no way fair to get cross with them.  As part of my new year (as mentioned in my previous post), I’m trying really hard to have a heart of gratitude. I want to find more joy this year and to do this I’m working hard in having gratitude in every moment. Having thankfulness in all situations, is changing my attitude and renewing my joy every day.  I guess this is why I’m feeling so proud of my big tribe.  I’ve been working through the things that are stressing me out, and finding joy in those moments.  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). I love the book of James, but I was finding it way too challenging to find joy in tough situations that would arise.  By focussing on gratitude and looking for the positive in challenging moments, I’m having way more success. For instance, rather than getting down and frustrated at the noise, I try to smile and thank God for my awesome tribe of mini Thorpes, or the particular clown causing the chaos.  I find I smile more and frown less throughout my days. Nobody is perfect, so there will be days that I forget to try and find gratitude, and end up in a stressed, frazzled mess.  For those days, I think I need ear plugs!

Does the noise of your large family cause you stress or is it just me?

Tornado Max: Embracing the storm

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I wake each day wondering what the weather will be like in our house.  We have a particular little person who is the weather man in our house.  For reasons beyond our predictability, he will wake angry at everything and everyone, defying EVERY single request, or he may wake peaceful.  Even he doesn’t know why the weather is the way it is. But, one thing is for sure, the second you know it’s a stormy day with a chance of tornados, you have to embrace yourself, put on your armor of God, yes, but also equip yourselves with your storm gear, or else the tornado will whip through the house leaving nothing but debris and emotionally exhausted people.  I try and stand strong but sometimes I get swept up in the tornado and spat out once it’s done.

When I write it down, the reality of the intensity of our day to day life living with an emotionally unstable and intense kiddo is apparent.  The hard part is, when the storm is raging and the tornados are coming, I know this isn’t my kid.  The anger, aggression and defiance is not the child I gave birth to.  This is the extremely frustrating part. It’s devistating. I don’t get the super calm, chilled, summer vacation kind of weather in our home often, but when I do, it’s divine.  It makes me teary because I get to see a glimpse of my actual son. Unfortunately it only comes a few times every three months or so.

There are a few things that I’m doing to try and help him with some success which I’d like to share in hope they might also give anyone experiencing our challenges with some tools to use:

Detox that stuff out 

Straight to a hot bath with Epsom Salts.  I put on some candles, an audio book and leave him be for about 30mins.  Goodness, maybe I should lock myself in the bathroom and give myself a calming bath too.  How good would that be?! With 5 kids, it’s something I can only dream of doing.

Supplements

We have started working with a Biomed doctor. She has really helped so far.  He is definitely slowly improving with her help. Citrate Mag and Zinc helps his farm to be more calm.

Emotional control

We use the Zones of Regulation for our son.  It’s a wonderful tool to teach children to recognise their emotions and how to get them to their calm, happy place.  They learn what each zone is like (ie, in the Red Zone my body is angry. My hands get sweaty, my words are loud).  They then decide on a few activities they can do to get out of that zone back into their calm and happy Green Zone.  This tool has been really helpful, especially in my husband and I having a common language to use with our son, and pre established activities that can be used when he is struggling in the red zone (the chart is on his wall for quick reference). I highly recommend this.

Diet

Histamines are his ANGRY foods.  Especially Cocoa, bananas, anything with starters like yoghurt or cheese, probiotics and tomatoes turn him into a beast. We have to watch his diet very carefully.

Exercise

Being out in nature without any boundaries or expectations help because to add to the fun, when the storm is about, oppostional defiance accompanies it.

Hugs

During the storm, aggressiveness and impulsivity kindly join us alongside the ODD.  We have a ‘no excuse for abuse’ rule in our house.  Whether it be a verbal or physical abuse incident, its consequence is timeout and making amends.  It’s important that he takes responsibility for his actions, even if he didn’t mean to.  But, there are some days he is struggling so much that when he is in the midst of a tornado, when asked ‘do you need a hug?’, it is usually met with a ‘yes’ and sob from both of us. We usually spend some time in prayer together at this point too.

It’s our heartbreaking reality.  I keep praying for my calm, happy guy to hang around more consistently. Our Biomed doc is giving me hope this may just be around the corner. I sure hope so, as it’s this kind of hope that keeps me going.


It takes a village to raise a child: But where has the village gone?

 

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I’m constantly amazed at the size of the families here in the Middle East.  I don’t know the average, but I can confidently say each family would have at least 6-8 kids.  At times, I wonder why I feel overwhelmed with four kids, ‘how on earth do they do it?’  As any mum does, these insecurities cause me to observe and compare what our family does differently.

By observing these amazing families, I’ve come up with some thoughts, some of which are making me feel more at peace with my feelings of inadequacy.

Gaps between kids

While working out in the gym, I once met a Jewish mother of ten kids, yes TEN! Once I had regained my breath from what she had just told me, I asked her how she did it.  She quickly went onto explain that she had five close together, then she had a break, then had five more.  She did it this way so the older kids could help out.  Village theory no 1 – a village in amongst the immediate family. 

Families live with each other

It’s very common in the Middle East (well, from what I’ve seen in Jerusalem and Jordan), for families to live in the same apartment building.  My address in Jerusalem was the name of the family whose building I was living in.  I would simply instruct the taxi driver or home delivery person to come to the house of Smith (I’ve changed names obviously to protect the privacy of the family where I lived).  Half the time you can tell when a family have an unmarried child living with them, because there are foundations on the roof ready for an extension to be built for when a son marries and his new wife moves in. There’s an expectation that the family will stay together. I guess you could say families are close in this country, as they all live together and spend a lot of the time in each other’s apartments.  It was inevitable when I’d visit a neighbour, the house was often filled with sisters, sister-in-laws, and cousins, all there having a cuppa, or Grandma had a pile of grandkids playing together at her house.  It is really special and unique, but I guess it would be tough if you couldn’t stand being around your family.  Village theory No.2 – the village lives together.

Families live life together

Families do live together, but they also do life outside the house together.  If you visit the doctor, mum will be there with her daughter.  Visit the shopping center, it’s rare to see a woman on her own.  They support each other taking turns in carrying the baby, they do most things together.  This togetherness starts from birth.  Aunty, Grandma, Uncle, cousins, Grandad, they are ALWAYS there, physically there, feeding baby, pacing with baby.  I used to watch my neighbour, a Grandma, pacing for hours with a baby or standing outside watching the toddler play.  This family is a village. Village theory no.3 – the village does life together EVERYDAY.

This entry is not written by someone who doesn’t feel supported, I absolutely do.  My parents and In-laws are wonderful grandparents and loving aunts and uncles to my kids. But, I did have the wonderful experience of my parents staying with us for the first two weeks of Laila’s life.  It was an amazing blessing and gave me a glimpse of what parenting was like living amongst a village.  It gave me a chance to heal, establish feeding, go on outings leaving baby with a loving grandparent, something I could do last minute with very little organising.  It was amazing and I cried big tears when they had to go.  Having the opportunity to experience this way of bringing up kids and being a family was insightful. It sure does take a village to raise a child.

So my question is, where are the villages in the western world?  Our idea of village involves fences and lives that are seperate to each other.  Our families do our best at making a loving, supportive village, but it is very different to the Middle Eastern village.  Whose village is better? Are you happy with your kind of village? If not, what is needed?  I wonder if incidences of postnatal depression are lower in the Middle East.  Is the western kind of village enough for child rearing? I don’t know if I can even make that call seeing I’m living over the other side of the world, far away from my village.  Think I might be doomed. I’m missing my village!