Monday, 8 June 2015

Episode Forty: Grieving

Warning - some of the content of this post might be upsetting to some readers.

Our cat died. Our poor old, eighteen year old cat that was a big part of our family finally left us. We knew it was coming as she was very old and was starting to look a bit frail, however it was still a very sad shock for us all.

As parents, my wife and I knew that there was going to be some difficult discussions and questions coming about our cat Porridge's passing. When Porridge died we jumped headfirst into the honesty and tried not to hide anything about the experience from our children. This included letting them see her (although she was hit by a car there was no blood or visible trauma which was a blessing), letting them touch her and talking about the realities of death. We didn't tell them she'd gone to live on a farm or anything fanciful - just the truth.

We found a place to bury her behind the house and I started digging. The children were keen to be involved and asked for turns with the spade so I let them. I was glad they were asking to be involved in what was a pretty crummy situation.  

To see them comfort each other in their grief was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Loss isn't easy and to see the children hugging each other and talking through their thoughts and feelings made me feel hopeful for any future times of grief they'll go through together.

I have to say that a lot of their tricky or left-of-centre questions were helpfully answered by a book that we already had in the bookcase: 'I Miss You - A First Look At Death' by Pat Thomas (this can be purchased here). It's a great book that talks quite matter-of-factly about the nature of living things dying but also covers the emotions that go with grief quite tenderly.

I personally don't have a great amount of experience with the loss of loved ones so this whole experience was important to me to share with my children. I wanted them to know that feeling sad or asking crazy questions is perfectly normal and OK in our house. That if they wanted to poke and prod their cat's lifeless body that was fine. If they wanted to put flowers in the grave, that wasn't a problem. If they were worried about the soil being thrown on top of their cat's body, that wasn't a silly thing to think. It was also important for them to see their parents crying and feeling sad about saying goodbye to a family member they loved.

In the end, I was pretty thankful to that cat for all that it taught our children while it was alive and finally when she died.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Episode Thirty Nine: Toasting Marshmallows

Hey Team!

A lot has been going on behind the scenes with Ideas For Dads including a brand new website. I can't wait to share that with you. I've also been working on a wee giveaway that I hope to share with you within the next month. Keep your eyes peeled.

Toasting marshmallows is my latest idea and, admittedly, it's nothing new. This was one of my favourite past time as a kid usually reserved for evenings on the beach or around a bonfire somewhere. But at my house we're quite fond of having a brazier going and a few beers. It's also a good chance to burn the results of our tree pruning etc.

While we were camping at our favourite, local campground our children invited themselves to a bonfire on the beach where the kids were toasting marshmallows. Part of me relived this fun childhood memory while another part of me wondered how this could be transferred to home life.

My father-in-law got handy with some number eight wire and created perfect skewers for toasting marshmallows without burning your fingers. Armed with some dry firewood, some circulars from the letterbox and a trusty box of matches we fired up the brazier and brought the magic of that evening at the campground home to our house.

We have a great time figuring out who has the best technique for toasting, who has the most patience and who can fit the most marshmallows on a skewer without them falling off. The best part about this whole idea is that you can do this so easily in your own backyard plus it's a neat thing to do in the Winter with the heat from the fire keeping everyone warm and entertained.

There are some excellent opportunities to teach your children about fire safety and get them comfortable around fire, smoke and all that fun stuff. But most of all it's a great chance to bring the whole family together outside and doing something that will put a smile on their faces. As demonstrated above.

Have fun!