Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Episode Thirty Two: Don't Hold Them Back

OK, confession time: I'm afraid of heights. 

To be honest, I have a fear of heights in retrospect. I can climb up a ladder and I've even sky dived. But, if I think back on the event my brain thinks about all the things that could have gone wrong and I freak out. You'd think my survival instinct would kick in before the fact - but no. As a kid I used to walk across the Claudelands Bridge in Hamilton and if I think back to the view looking down, my heart races.

I don't know how this fear originated, but I am determined not to pass it on to my children. I don't like pumpkin and I'm not the biggest fan of Hootie & The Blowfish but I don't want to limit my childrens experiences because of my own fears or tastes. That might be taking New Age Parenting to epic new levels, but I feel like it's important to let your children be their own people. 

Look, I know that there is only so much I can do in the scheme of things. As parents we can't save them from having the same hair colour as us or even the same temperament as us. But, despite some studies arguing the opposite, I think there is a possibility we can save them from our own fears and limitations. We all know what impact those fears have had on our lives and if there's any way we can spare our kids, then why not give it a go? 

I remember I went to Cubs camp with my son. There was a father with his son there and he wouldn't let his boy get involved in any of the activities. No bush walks, no Burma trails at night, no climbing massive bamboo towers. The son was rearing to go but the Dad just wouldn't allow it. What was quite obvious to us, the other parents, was that the Dad was just scared. Maybe he has a bamboo phobia? Maybe he has a fear of the bush. Together we deduced that he was probably sacred of letting is son go. It can be terrifying to let your children take risks. But sometimes, you just need to feel the fear and do it anyway. In the end, we encouraged the father to try things out himself and his son was there all the way, talking him through it- reassuring him. It was an amazing moment and definitely a lesson I took away from that weekend that I use quite often.

You don't have to do anything as extreme as getting up on the roof with you children like I did. But maybe there is a small step you can make? Is there something you are afraid of or dislike that is disadvantaging your children? Are you denying them the greatness that is Hootie & The Blowfish? Are you stopping them from playing sports because you were not an athletic-type growing up? I'm not saying you're damaging your children by any means. But maybe you are closing off a little bit of the world that they may, in fact, thrive in. I may have a gifted rock climber in my midst, but if I never allow them the chance to experience climbing and getting up on the roof like a bunch of crazy people, then how will I know?

I don't want to come across as preachy and, to level with you, I'll never ever be able to mask the fact that I can't stand pumpkin. But, like anything to do with our children, to help them be the best they can be takes sacrifice. If that means grabbing the bull by the horns and facing your fears then why not give it a crack? I'll leave it up to you to decide whether it's worth it. In the end I did two things I didn't feel comfortable doing: I got up on the roof but, even worse, I got up there with my children. I think about what could have happened if they fell off the roof and broke bones and if my daughter fell off the ladder - but, it didn't happen. And they had a great time and in the end we are all better off for it.

Next week we will continue on this theme of sacrificing for the sake of our children's development. See you then and have fun!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Episode Thirty One: Get Stuck In

This post could easily be about how little time I have to do the things I set out to do around the house. I'll have to save that for another time.

Over the Summer my wife and I got inspired and decided we were going to get chickens. The problem being that we had nowhere suitable to put them. Upon looking around the section we decided if we chopped down three trees out the back we could build them a run there. The next problem was finding the time to actually do this. Cue: child labour.

My middle boy is into doing jobs. I don't know how that happened, both my wife and I detest them, but somehow this little boy has been asking to help since he could talk. He wants to mow the lawns, wash the car and, in this case, dig up tree stumps. When it comes to my children's interests, I try to indulge them within reason. But, having a kid with ridiculous amounts of energy and enthusiasm for things I've been putting off for months is a no-brainer.

I had already chopped the trees down a few months ago. To do this, I put said boy in front of a DVD to keep him inside. He would have been right there manning the saw if he knew what I was doing. So as a safety measure we employed the distracting talents of Wreck It Ralph. Then, a month or two later, after a particularly bad storm I knew that the ground would be very soft and the stumps would be easier to manoeuvre. I went out and started the job and within ten minutes the middle boy appeared asking, "Can I help?".

Using his hoe and spade he dug around each of the stumps for me and showed me where the big roots I needed to chop with the axe were. From there he negotiated a turn with the axe by telling me, "Don't worry Dad, I won't raise it above my head and I have shoes on!". I couldn't argue. I supervised him very closely and he had a crack at using the axe and freeing the stubborn stump from our back lawn. Soon enough my baby girl appeared, picked up the spade and got to work. 

Having them there in the thick of the mud with swinging axes and other "risks", I was reminded of this post by Needle & Nail. Sure, I was able to tell people that I had my little helpers and I was "just the supervisor". But the truth of the matter is that I was able to spend quality, engaged time with two of my children. I was able to teach them how to be safe with gardening tools. I was able to give them a job where there was a clear cut start and finish. They learnt job satisfaction after all three stumps were removed and no doubt, when we finally get our chickens, they can look at that run with pride knowing that they had a big part to play. 

Your children want to see what you are doing and they want to get involved. Well, it depends on what it is. While we were digging up stumps my eldest spent the whole time inside reading Lord of The Rings - and that's fine. When I watch a documentary about the Spice Traders you can bet your bottom dollar he will slide next to me on the couch while the two younger ones couldn't care less. The fact is that our children are interested in us and one of the best things you can do is involve them. I guess that's a variation on this blog: Involve yourself with your children and let them be involved with you. Who knows what you'll learn from each other?

Have fun!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Review: Rolston Rifles

When I was younger, my Mother was on the local Play Centre committee and was a huge proponent of the 'No War Toys' movement. We had the stickers all over our car, our front door, our toy boxes - everything. Growing up in a farming community where most of the kids we knew were shooting real guns and killing real animals, it must have been a radical idea for people to swallow.

One day my brother brought home his woodwork project from school: A handmade, double-barreled shotgun. It was beautiful. The barrels swung on a wooden hinge to reveal two drilled holes emulating where you would put your shotgun cartridges. I remember holding my breath as my Mother looked at the gun and tried to figure out how this work of art would fit in with her ideals and values. We had our paintings on the wall and regularly ate the hokey pokey that my brother had learnt how to make in Home Ec. So why couldn't the gun stay?

In the end Mum relented and this piece of art became part of our toy collection. I was over the moon! I was a farmer, riding on my yellow and red plastic trike with this gun slung over my shoulder. I was an Olympic target shooter, lying on my trampoline yelling "Pull!". That gun changed my life in the sense that neon coloured Nerf guns give me the heebie jeebies. I can hear my Mother's voice talking about glorification and turning war and suffering into a cartoon parody. I would rather my children learnt how to shoot a real .22 than have a bright blue Super Soaker. Is that wrong?

When the Rolston Rifle arrived at our house it wasn't attached to a cardboard backing featuring a muscled cartoon warrior or clip art of explosions and helicopters. It was simply wrapped in corrugated cardboard and bubble wrap and immediately I was taken back to my childhood bedroom and the great standoff between my Mum and Brother. This gun isn't a war toy, it's a lovingly-crafted art piece.

Now featuring a real, functioning scope or a clever hose fitting to replicate a scope - these rifles are incredibly realistic. Made up of a beautifully crafted stock and single barrel, this gun has little details that piqued my interest. The bolt lever is genius and I love the customised name branding on the underside of the forestock (offered as a free option!). My son adored the fact that it had his name on it, possession is everything with an older brother!

Grandfathers and Koros will look at this and think "Now, why didn't I think of that?". Children will cradle it in bed on Christmas night. Believe me, both of these things happened to our family. If you've been sitting on the fence on whether to let your children have guns or if you want something to trade with your children for those Nerf guns - I suggest this. It's incredibly well-made, it's made in New Zealand by an inspiring father of five and it comes with a pretend gun licence so your children grow up knowing the true reality of guns and gun ownership. Awesome.

And because the team at Needle & Nail are so awesome, they've offered up a Rolston Rifle for you to win. All you have to do is follow these three easy steps:
3) login to the nifty widget to the right of this post (if you're reading on the blog) or go here if you're on Facebook.

An eligible winner will be drawn on May 23rd 2014 at 8:00pm (local time).

Have fun and good luck!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Cool Stuff: Fencing & Sword Fighting

Sword fighting seems to be a bit of a theme in our house at the moment. Lord of The Rings movies are on repeat and the epic battle scenes are being replayed on the trampoline, to the couch, to the lounge floor.

Check out these cool videos on realistic sword fighting and, my favourite, fencing:

Have fun!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Episode Thirty: Go Fish!

Hey Team! I missed out last week as I was in Australia for a few days and totally forgot all about you. Never mind, I'm back this week with a classic one.

I can't believe I haven't used this idea yet: Fishing! First, a little disclaimer: I'm not a fishing kind of guy. I used to go fishing now and then with my Dad when I would stay at his place. All in all I was pretty crap at it and not very patient. I remember once I caught 13 Herrings off the Kinohaku Bridge and another time I caught 8 Kahawai in a net in the Kawhia Harbour. That is about the extent of my fishing career.

But, now that I have two boys who are old enough to not run off the side of a wharf into the water below, I'm really enjoying the idea of fishing. Luckily for me, my boys seem to enjoy it. Either that or they humour me. I'm happy either way. On sunny Saturdays we try our luck and put our rag-tag collection of fishing tackle in the water to see what happens. 

We don't really have much luck and that affects the enthusiasm of these two guys, but they still stick with it. I find it's a constant struggle for them to keep their lines in the water. Every two minutes they want to check your bait - that might have something to do with our success rate.

There are so many things our children can experience in an afternoon of fishing: The practice of patience, getting their hands dirty/fishy, learning sustainable fishing practices, hand/eye coordination and the practice of patience.

We've combined a lot of our fishing outings with the local kid's fishing competitions that are held in our town. These are great because they're geared around encouraging a new generation of fisherpeople. Not only is there the promise of prizes for heaviest fish etc etc. Often times the kids will get prizes for entering or be eligible for spot prizes. The last two we have been to have had a free sausage sizzle. Good times.

My three tips for you are these:
  1. Be prepared to end up doing most of the fishing yourself while your children 'just check out that boat at the other end of the wharf'. Happens every time.
  2. If you do end up hooking a fish while you're holding their rod - resist the temptation to reel it in yourself. Ask them to check the bait. They'll wind in the line and voila! They've caught a fish.
  3. Always have a contingency plan that involves stopping in at the local fish n chip shop to drown your sorrows. It's almost tradition, right?
Have fun!