The Nest Is But An Empty Shell.

The nest is but an empty shell. It sits on the lowest branch of our neighbour’s palm tree. I can see it from my window as I write.

To look at it now, in mid-winter Adelaide, it looks cold, hard and lifeless.

A pair of Murray Magpies built it from mud last Spring. Then they took it in turns to bring materials to line it with warmth and love–and a Murray-Magpie-mud-nest-full of our roof insulation. We had enough to share.

Over the next few weeks the birds kept the nest warm and each other company much of the time. Of course, they may well have been guarding the nest from neighbourhood cats and possums. Beware anything that gets between a Murray-Magpie-mum and her eggs!

The day arrived that we saw tiny beaks poke up to be shoved full of whatever mum and dad bird collected.

But, as happens, the chicks grew–too big for the nest. The chicks flew away.

Too soon the nest was empty.

Summer passed. Autumn too.

And now, Winter sits. Its long, dark clouds hang like a lifeless shroud.

The nest is but an empty shell. It sits and sways on a dying palm branch, waiting silently for the warmth of Spring that promises new life and love.

And this empty shell, from which I watch, fills with the warmth of hope.

 

Julie Hahn 12th August 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Relationships With Your Kids Can Rescue You

There were no spiders on my garden chair when I sat down today.

I checked.

 

The last time I went to sit on my garden chair, I used my hand to knock off a few dried up leaves from its cushions. But, as I went to brush a couple of leaves off the back of the chair, I noticed two big, beady eyes looking up at me.

 

I shrieked–evidently too quietly for my husband to hear me. But one of my sons yelled from inside the house

‘’You okay, mum?’

 

Bravely (I thought) I went inside to create the least fuss possible and sought out my daughter who had named the previous year ‘The Year of The Spiders’. That year she worked at an outdoor education camp and took it upon herself to transfer spiders from inside dormitories to outside, away from the screams of hysterical campers.

 

‘How big is it?’ she asked me as she proceeded to the pantry.

‘Oh, not too big,’ I said.

She raised an eyebrow at me, turned to me and held out her hands. In her left hand she held a square-round tupperware container, big enough for half a sandwich. In her right, a four-litre ice-cream carton.

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Medium-sized’.

She grabbed a different container and headed outside to my chair… and the spider.

‘Ooh! He’s a big guy isn’t he?’

 

My embarrassment dissolved. I felt vindicated.

 

I also realized how much I enjoy having my young adult kids close enough to me to have them rescue me.

 

The tables are turning.  We rescue each other.

And I’m so glad of our investment in our relationship with them–or I’d be chasing my own spiders.

Grumpy Pants

Have you got your grumpy pants on?

It was the day before our daughter Gabby’s 21st birthday party. Unfortunately, the timing of the party coincided with a busy time at work, and I was really stressed. For the second time in a few short minutes my husband Chris was the focus of my irritation.

Gabby, who was just passing by, looked at me, put on her child-care voice and asked, ‘Have you got your grumpy pants on?’

In a few words she had summed up the situation, acknowledged my feelings and given me a different way of looking at the situation. Instead of accusing or shaming, she’d pointed out my undesirable behaviour but had not personalised it.

It could have sounded much different.

‘Don’t say that, Mum! You’re always having a go at Dad! He’s done nothing wrong. It’s about time you acknowledged your attitude and took more control over what you say!’

It’s funny how a few words can completely change the atmosphere. They can poison the mood, or sweeten and brighten it.

Gabby’s words absolutely brightened it.

I was able to smile and recognise that Chris was not the cause of my grumps. He was able to smile and forgive me.

And we were able to get on with spending our time more productively and again enjoy each other’s company.

 

Before we were married Chris and I were given some very practical and useful words of advice:

‘Avoid two phrases: You always … and You never

That advice has been very helpful and we’ll never know how many times it has saved us from having horrible, blaming arguments.

Fighting words or Friendly words

Since then we’ve learned about ‘fighting words’ and ‘friendly words’.

Friendly words have become more of a habit in our home than they used to be. For years now we’ve been practising how to use encouraging (friendly) words to build each other up rather than discouraging (fighting) words that tear each other down. I’m not saying that we’re perfect, but it’s quite amazing how choosing words (or choosing not to say something) can completely change a home’s atmosphere.

I don’t think we realised what a difference it made until our kids grew into teenagers and began to bring their friends home. It was their friends who pointed out what was different about our house.

‘I wish my parents would speak to me like that. They just nag or yell, or worse, they won’t speak to me’.

Does nagging happen in our house? Sure does!

Are we perfect? Sure aren’t.

But we’ve tried some techniques that others have recommended. And when new things work we’re happy to keep using them.

We’re also happy to recognise that what works in somebody else’s house might not necessarily work in ours.

 

John and Julie Gottman, through The Gottman Institute, have been studying what they call, ‘The Masters and Disasters of Relationships’ for decades. They have observed thousands of couples over many years and have identified the common important factors that make a relationship successful.

Pretty much it boils down to the way couples speak to each other and the way they fight that determines whether or not a relationship will be successful. Couples can learn to apply these factors to their relationship and improve its quality. Learning different ways of speaking to each other and replacing negative criticism and complaining with positive words and interactions can really change a whole relationship.

Unfortunately, for some of us, we’ve grown up accepting that teasing, criticism and complaining are a part of life. We are so used to nagging or yelling, whining and complaining that we think that is how it must be. I’ve seen many families change (ours’ included) when they’ve been prepared to learn some new language and tactics.

 

I’ve seen many families take this on board and begin new dialogue and create a different atmosphere in their homes. Focus this week on how many times you say ‘Don’t!’ and you might be surprised, especially if you struggle with kids (or adults) who don’t listen.

Maybe they are good listeners but are waiting for positive instruction.

Turn your words around into positive instructions and let the kids be the problem-solvers as much as possible.

Who knows, your kids might be the ones who turn to their grumpy parent to say,

‘Have you got your grumpy pants on?’

 

Originally Published in The Lutheran

Question: How to manage conflicts in different parenting styles

How do you resolve conflicts in different parenting styles between yourself and your partner? e.g. where one parent is stricter than the other

According to The Gottman Institute, in every successful relationship most (69%) of the conflicts are unresolvable*.

Some of those conflicts might be about inconsequential things, such as our favourite flavour of ice-cream. But many of the unresolvable issues are more important than our taste buds. Knowing they’re unresolvable helps us to manage them, rather than waste our time and energy arguing about them.

What about our attitude and parenting style in bringing up the kids?

I’m an ex-nurse and used to bandage the wounds of other people’s adventurous kids who ended up in the Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. So my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach when I see a child anywhere near where they might possibly fall. I am a scaredy-cat.  I would happily ban trampolines and all kinds of other adventures – but there wouldn’t be much fun left.

DH (dear husband) grew up climbing trees, rambling over rocks and yabbying in dams and creeks. He has several scars which show that many wounds heal by themselves, eventually.
He encourages climbing – with the theory that if you let them climb, as long as they know how to climb down, they’re safer if you leave them to it than if you make a fuss.
Our way around that was for me to stay well away from the adventurous parts of playgrounds – so the children couldn’t sense my fear. Chris would be in charge of the kids in playgrounds. And I left him to it. It meant that my kids learnt to climb, and jump, and do normal kid things without my unfounded fear.And the kids knew that if he ever said ‘That’s enough!’ their lives were in mortal danger.

That’s pretty much how we still handle situations on which we disagree .

We go on the side of the person with the most factual knowledge or experience about a situation:
Anything requiring medical or nursing care, he leaves to me.
Anything microbial i.e. what’s safe to eat that we find in the back of the fridge, we leave to him.
Anything we’re not sure about, we still err on the side of caution – unless it looks like fun and we feel that it can’t do too much damage.

Interestingly, the issues we used to find most difficult, we can’t even remember now.

Perhaps our ways aren’t what every couple would choose. But that’s the beauty of families. We’re all different.

When it came to our natural parenting styles, we’re opposite. But we discovered the Parent-Coach style, through ‘Toolbox Parenting Groups’ from The Parenting Place. Both of us could work together on that, with the same goal in mind.

Doing whichever courses came our way, about relationships and parenting, we learnt new tactics and decided together which ones we didn’t think would work for us, and happily tried ones that sounded hopeful.

We made time with each other a priority. When the children were small, we hired a student once a week to mind the kids while we went on a date. Later, when the kids were at school, we had a regular Wednesday morning ‘date’ at a coffee shop next to the bus stop.

Making time for each other helped us to understand how we were travelling, and what made us react and respond to our kids and each other in different circumstances. We could talk things over when not in crisis mode, and often made decisions about the kids in semi-relaxed circumstances. It really helped us with our communication during crisis moments that inevitably have happened.

And our parenting decisions are guided by our family values. More about that in the article about family values – but, in summary, when we have worked out together what are the most important values to our family, all sorts of decisions are much easier to make.

*(John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman, 2014 Bridging the Couple Chasm: Gottman Couples Therapy: A Research-Based Approach)