inspiration, life, Personal, self care

5 Lessons My Sons Have Taught Me.

IMG_2966As a parent, you spend a lot of time teaching your kids stuff – how to do basic tasks, why manners are important, how to share when you don’t want to, and why it’s a really bad idea to stab that slug that crept into the dishwasher.


But we learn from our children too, most often without being aware of it. With the arrival of 2019 I found myself reflecting on some lessons I have learned from my sons.


Taking action on a fear lessens it

This is one of those lessons you learn because you’re teaching it – a case of practice what you preach. I will often get paralysed by fear of bills or the fear of inadequacy. When I was terrified about sending out queries my sons reminded me that I always tell them to face their fears.


They were right.


I’ve seen them face down fear of public speaking, of telling the teacher they haven’t done their homework, of zooming down a big hill, of embarrassment, and of catching public transport by themselves. I’ve seen them learn that the fear is soon over and that once the action is taken and a decision is made the fear subsides. The movie ‘We Bought A Zoo’ has one of my favourite quotes about courage:


You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.


This last year I wanted to run away from my writing a great deal but I remembered the look in my sons’ faces when they conquered a fear and I did it anyway.


Being useful provides a good sense of self efficacy


Recently my parents came around to help us make my garden into something beautiful. The boys dug holes, planted the roses they’d chosen, carried clippings, mowed lawns, weeded. The next weekend they cleaned off the deck and helped clear the garage. They didn’t necessarily start out keen about these things but at the end both of them felt proud of themselves, they felt energised and capable. They had been useful, helpful, and active. All these things help build a view of ourselves as effective and help build our self esteem.


Patience is more than a virtue, it is a kindness


Many, many times, I have wanted to rush my kids through some less than scintillating recount of their latest computer game escapades before my brain explodes. I’ve wanted to rush the bedtime story to get to bed myself or to get on with my own writing or reading. But every time that I have stopped and relaxed into it, been patient with their enthusiasm, their chatter, their slow stories, I’ve seen the pleasure in their faces. Being patient with them and their follies, their passions, their mistakes, their stress about their homework, is a kindness. It shows them that they are valued. They know I don’t love computer games – what they take from this is that I love them. I have a tendency to be impatient in some circumstances but when I remind myself to practice patience I am always reminded that what I am practicing is kindness.


And what you reap is joy.


One of my best memories is going with my kids to North Head – there are a bunch of old military tunnels and slopes to ride down on cardboard, and seaside caverns to explore. Often on a day trip we go we do the thing and I’m “Okay we gotta go, we’ve done the thing, let’s go.” This day I didn’t. I was patient with them. I listened to the long stories and thoughts and I followed them wherever they wanted to go. We explored that whole darn place. I had so much fun seeing their excitement and pleasure in discovering new things.


You also, when you’re patient with the world, see magic.

‘Quick we’re going to be late! Quick! Why have you Stopped!’

‘Look Mum!’

‘What? What are we doing?’

‘Just look!’

There, on his finger, picked up from the fence, was a perfect dew drop, shimmering in the sunlight.


I took this photo towards the end of last year. I was so entranced by the beauty of these dew drops. I’m glad I stopped to look.

Sometimes you can’t fix things


Sometimes things suck. Sometimes you lose everything you’ve worked hard to collect on Roblox and you feel devastated. Sometimes you have to go between two different houses and two different parents and you have to deal with all your conflicted feelings about it. Sometimes you have to go to family things and not the cool thing with your friends. Sometimes you feel scared and sad and lonely and you can’t just wish the feelings away.


Being a parent all you want to do is make sure your kids are happy. When you’re able to rebuild the destroyed Ninjago dragon lego the dog knocked over (without instructions!!) you feel like a superhero.


But lots of times you can’t do that.


My oldest son was bullied a lot in primary school. I could help some, but I couldn’t make it go away. I’ve learned so much about acceptance and about positivity and about holding my kids while they cry for half an hour – not telling them it’s all okay because they know it isn’t, but just letting them know that I am there and they aren’t alone. I’ve learned about respecting people’s distress even if you don’t think Minecraft is anything to cry about.


Encouragement and Support goes both ways.


This last year was incredibly difficult for me (hence the lack of blogging). My sons have been the most extraordinary cheerleaders and supporters. The care and love they give me has lifted me from spiralling sadness so very many times. I didn’t exactly wander around weeping in front of them, but I was open with them about my battle through depression, I was open with them about my initial hurt over my writing being rejected, I was open with them about my insecurities about my writing, and my struggle to feel ‘enough’. I don’t want to burden them but I think sometimes knowing someone is sad but not why can be very upsetting for kids. My sons were able to cheer me, to remind me to be strong, to let me know they loved me regardless of what I saw as failings, and to show me through small but precious ways that they respect and value me for who I am and what I do.


I have always strived to support and encourage and cheerlead my kids. To show them that I’m on the side lines and on their side. Knowing that they were wanting to do the same for me was one of the biggest blessings of a difficult year.

let down five

inspiration, life, motivation

Life is better when you find your cheerleaders

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Life is often tough, in many different ways. Self-doubt, economic struggle, confusion, emotional pain, lack of motivation. They all suck. They all help to convince you that whatever your goal is it is unobtainable.


That’s where cheerleaders come in. Not quite the ones with the pompoms although, you know, each to their own, but the ones who are there on the sidelines, giving their all to help you move onwards to where you want to be.


I was literally writing this post and chatting at the same time (because we love to multitask) to writing friends on Twitter. We were talking about trying to get lots of different tasks done and how its always such a balancing act. What happened next is an example of why I love this community and how important the cheerleading squad is:


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The writing community on Twitter is a vibrant and wonderful place! The @WriteFightGifClub is a group of amazing people who have fun and go crazy but at the same time they help with writing questions, beta read for each other, and give both emotional and practical encouragement on a regular basis. I am a happier person and a better, and braver, writer because of them. There are many amazing writing communities and groups on Twitter and finding your tribe, your group of people, or collecting them all (like pokemon) makes for a wonderful extended family of cheerleaders. Writers understand self doubt. They’ve experienced rejection and setbacks. They want to learn, they want to get better, and they want to help others get better. I’m sure it’s the same for many other likeminded communities on Twitter, but I do have to say that writers, in my experience, are particularly kind and welcoming.


It doesn’t have to come from someone who is doing the same as you either. I have a friend at school who knows I’m writing. I’ve been trying to get up at 5am every morning to get writing done before school and this hasn’t been easy for me as I’m much more of an owl than a lark. Whenever I see him he asks if I did any writing that morning; he high fives me when I do well, he listens with interest to my ramblings about my story, he makes it clear that he thinks what I’m doing is worthwhile and that I’m doing it well. He’s not a writer, but because he’s cheering me on he makes me feel like I can do it, like I want to do it.


Encouragement gives us a reason to keep going.

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Cheerleaders are like gold. There are always people who will tell you that you can’t do it, or helpfully point out all the obstacles in the way. The ones who lift you over the obstacles or pick you up out of the mud when you fall off them and cheer you on as you try again (or let you cry on their shoulder for a bit when you really just can’t, and then cheer you on) are the ones you want to surround yourself with. I have written before about facing vulnerability and fear and the importance of letting other people help you when you are faced with difficulties you don’t think you could overcome.


The great thing about having a cheer squad is that you become a cheerleader too. There is something wonderful about being able to support and help someone else. As a teacher we do it all the time with our students, and there is a wonderful Ted Talk by Rita Pierson – Every Child Needs a Champion that outlines the benefit to children of this cheerleading, this championing. But we need it too as adults. And we need to make sure we give it to other adults, whoever they are and whatever stage they are at.


Imagine a world where every person had a champion.


We can’t make that happen for everyone, but we can at least do it for the people around us. Take the time to find out what your friends, family, workmates are wanting to achieve, what they love, what they are anxious about. Make the effort to ask how they’re going and to cheer them on from the sidelines.


Find your cheerleaders. Be a cheerleader. Be a champion.



Friday Feeling, happiness, inspiration

Friday Morning Positivity Boost

Pollyanna 2

Dropping in on your Friday morning like a puppy with some love and some wise words. (Puppies don’t talk but if they could I think they’d have heaps to teach us).


Sometimes you have the tough days. You don’t even know why your mood suddenly drops – thinking back over your day it was okay. Well. They did give you a mocha, not a flat white and had to remake it when you were already late. Oh! and you were rushing to work and traffic was everywhere you wanted to be. Ah, and you realised your bank balance was a lot lower than it should be. Rain. Okay. Those are all reasons. BUT the actual day was okay. In fact, some bits were nice.


I had that day yesterday.


This morning I reflected on my day yesterday and realised – sure, there were some tough bits but on the whole I had a really nice day. I was really mostly just super exhausted.  I put myself to bed last night like a tired toddler screaming because it was all just too hard.


Sleep helps.


When we’re having the tough days there are two ways to deal with it. One is to just try and ride it out. Realise that there doesn’t even have to be a reason for the low mood – sometimes you have a bad mood and it just is. (or you need sleep. sleep is important). The other is to consciously step back and think about all the good things that happened, even if they were small.


A student was super happy to see me and say hello.


Someone brought me a coffee back from their lunchbreak.


I managed to squeeze some writing in during the day.


I got lots of super affectionate snuggles from my boys.


My friends are lovely and entertaining people who make my day so much nicer.  They also had my back when I was running late.


Perhaps if I’d been able to consciously step back and think about these things yesterday, the bad mood might not have taken such hold. So that’s my goal for today – focus on the things that make me happy. Relish those moments.


And if that doesn’t work, I just have to remember something very important.



giphy feels like friday


That’s right! It might not be Friday yet in most of the world but for us lucky Kiwis it is. And trust me, we’ll be sliding into that Friday day like we own it.


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So if you have a bit of a rocky start today, just remember – you’re not alone, it’s Friday, and Friday is for happy.


Have a fantastic day.


giphy happy dance 1


happiness, inspiration, life, Personal

Silly Play All Day – How silliness helps you adult


Do you remember how old you were when you stopped playing? Chances are it was about 13 or 14, the cusp of teenagerhood when you sometimes played with the little kids and mostly started hanging out with the adults or in your room. Playgrounds became places to hang out, rather than run around and play. Any play had to be done ‘ironically’, or online in video games. Kids come into High School and wonder where the adventure playgrounds are and six months later they are ‘hanging out’ with the best of them.


This is no bad thing. It’s a part of figuring out your growing identity.


What I think is a shame is how silly play is then often frowned on after a certain age.  “Act your age”. “Don’t be ridiculous”.  Every so often at school the boys (sometimes girls) start playing tag, or manhunt, or some other version of chase. Mostly this isn’t a problem (we have a big school) but when it’s the huge 17 and 18 year old guys crashing around wildly laughing and not noticing the little 12 year olds trampled underfoot then the silly police (us) have to step in.


“Aw Miss! we’re just having fun!”

“Sorry kids, not here. Take it out to the field.”


This is an age where we learn about appropriate times and places for fun. It’s a good lesson. But it is also a shame in some ways.


The playing adult steps sideways into another reality

– Erik H. Erikson


Play is really important. We know this and protect it in our children’s learning times in a way that many other historical eras didn’t, and in ways that places with less privilege can’t do to the same extent. Play does lots of good moral stuff like teaching you how to share, how to take turns, but imaginative play in particular can also teach you empathy. It can give you a chance to become someone else for a while and to explore different parts of your identity.


My youngest son likes to play on the computer a lot at the moment. I think it is something to do with the suddenly big age gap between him and the oldest, who is entering that teenagedom I spoke of before. I’ve noticed that when he gets really into whatever roblox game he’s playing (usually something to do with cars or a shop) he starts whispering to himself. I recognise this. I did it with dolls, or outside in the garden on my own. Even though the game is not a role playing game, he is creating his own world as he plays. This is the power of play for kids, but also for adults.


There are adult based play activities available – such as the escape room, paintball, laser tag. But play doesn’t have to be based around those things. Play can simply be being silly.


And silly is important.



We have a staff fun day out every year where we do fun activities – things like mini golf, beach cricket, caileigh dancing, and on one memorable occasion we did zorb soccer. I get claustrophobic and hated not being able to see people behind me knocking me down, but being part of a group and running around and (KEY THING) being ridiculously SILLY made me incredibly happy. You bounce off other people’s happiness (in this instance quite literally) and it forms stronger connections and boosts your own morale.


Silly helps.


One of the things I love most about my colleagues is their level of silly. I best say here that silly doesn’t interfere with professionalism, it doesn’t affect at all the way you do your job. In fact, if anything, I’d argue it makes you more able to do your job well.  Nerf gun battles. Ambushes. Kazoo duck quacking. Making posters of each other and ‘decorating’ desks. Singing. Dumb jokes. All this silliness creates an atmosphere where happiness happens and people feel positive about where they are. We become friends, not just workmates. Laughter releases stress. Students come in to hand in work and then say later ‘Your department always seems so happy. I like going in there.”


What matters to me is not that this helps people to be better workers (which I believe it does) but that it helps us to be happier people, it lifts our wellbeing.


When you’re a parent, or are around kids, and they want to play with you, sometimes it’s just not the right time, or you’re tired, or you just want to have time to yourself. But when you play, when you really play and unleash your silly, magic can happen. My sons recruited me to play in their nerf war. I wasn’t that keen but said yeah okay. Then a little tendril of silly came out. I became a double agent and ‘stabbed’ one boy in the back then stole his gun. The expression on my kids’ faces when they realised that mum was playing along with them was worth all the missed feet up coffee in hand time in the world. Being around kids does give you an excuse to be silly. You can start singing a screechy song and do silly actions and you’ve got an excuse. You can change every fourth word in a story book to ‘fart’ at bedtime reading and you’ve got an excuse (yes I did this, yes their reactions were everything you would most desire, and yes it went on waaay too long). The point is, when we can do that silly for ourselves and let other people be silly even if they are ‘grown up’ I reckon we can be happier.

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There’s a group of writers on Twitter with whom I have long hilarious gif filled conversations (you can find them on #WriteFightGifClub should you so desire). They are the epitome of silly. They’re also incredibly supportive and generous with knowledge and very talented people, but the reason people keep being drawn into their vortex is the silly. You can play act and take on roles and voices and it’s like a big improv or kids playground romp. It made me realise how important that silly is to me and how much it helps me with everything else in my life.


Adulting is hard. It is full of bills, cats who don’t like the cheap catfood, rushing, oh my goodness always rushing to school to work to home to appointments to gym to socialising.  It is full of chores. It is not full of sleep. It is not always full of fun. I know no-one said life had to be all about having fun but man, when you think about it – if we get 90 odd years to be on this planet and only in 12 of them do we get to be silly and have fun whenever, well that seems like a big waste to me.


Silly helps the adulting go down.  It’s a lot easier to cope with all the grown up demands if you get to have time to play as well, whatever form that play takes.


So this week, think about what you want to do to introduce some playtime into your life and let your silly out!

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inspiration, life

Dealing with Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Lots of us don’t like change, even as we wish for it.


‘Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.’,

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky



One of my sons has always struggled a bit with change, whether it is a new swim teacher, a switch in daily routines, or going to a new school. I think it is often linked to a feeling of having no control – when plans change and you can’t do anything about it, it can be very unsettling.  No-one likes to feel out of control of the big things, and sometimes losing perceived control of the small things makes us think the big things are all changing too. Forced change is probably the hardest to deal with because we didn’t decide to do it. In this instance, the best way to cope with it is to focus on the positive things that can come from change. Find the silver linings.


Yesterday, a student emailed me to ask if she could change into my history class. It was a sweet and funny email and she said that she needed to change because my teaching was what had helped her to do well. It was very flattering, but what she’s really afraid of is that if she changes to a different teacher she might not do what she needs to do to pass well. This is unlikely to happen but this discussion happens every year with different students – and with different teachers. When we form a connection with someone and we attach our own achievements to them, we want to keep that going, not change to an unknown. The unknown is scary in its uncertainty. We worry that if we lose that tether to the person we think is responsible for our success we might not be successful. This is generally not the case. Certainly in this instance the student is capable of doing just as well (if not better) with a new teacher. There are some students I love but whom I think will actually thrive under someone else’s teaching. Change in this instance is positive – you get to see many different perspectives and styles of thinking.


Teaching is all about change. The curriculum changes, the course shifts, your classes sometimes change from what you were first timetabled, and the biggest change of all is that every year you get 120 new students to get to know, to help shape, and to motivate. Each student is unique and the way they respond to the content, and your teaching, is different from other students. The dynamic in a class also changes how you approach the material. This is why I never get bored even if I’m teaching the same content year after year.  I might get stressed, but never bored!  It has also taught me that despite the constant change, the basic system and structure and experience remains largely the same – safety and familiarity encircle a multitude of changes.


Change can be difficult to deal with if it feels like there are too many options, too many possible directions, and we don’t know which one to take. Like the train tracks above and the switching tracks – we worry we might make a change and hurtle down an unintended and unpleasant path. The thing to remember is that you can always change back. Sure, it might mean a bit of a detour, but the thing about detours is that you can still learn from them. You can enjoy the detour, hate it, wonder why on earth you followed the car in front as if it knew where it was going and it turns out you followed it home instead of to the detour route (ahem). But in the end, you can circle back to where you want to be and you might even have learned some stuff on the way.


Sometimes we fear change because we know it’s going to be hard. No-one really loves doing hard stuff, especially when things might already be tough. I say no-one but I’m sure there are some who do. I don’t understand those people. This is particularly the case when we are trying something new or making adjustments to our lifestyle.   The thing to remember is that change is vital for things to be different. If we want that difference, that improvement, we need to do the change. When you fear change it’s a good idea to surround yourself with some cheerleaders who help keep you accountable while you do the hard stuff, or some people who will give you guidance and help you through the hard bits. We don’t always have to do the changes by ourselves.


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We also fear change because change might bring negative consequences, it might bring failure, it might bring ridicule. Usually it doesn’t. But even if it does – failure is an important part of learning, of getting to that improvement or difference that you want. Society is not big on failure but everybody fails, that’s how we get better.


It’s a bit cliche but cliches work because they’re true – butterflies are the ultimate example of change. I like them especially because they don’t just wake up one morning switched from caterpillar to floating fluttering fanciness. They go into a chrysalis and WORK on changing. It’s an extraordinary process. And, even better, this is not their first change. Caterpillars go through 4-5 stages of shedding their skins and becoming larger and physically different before they enter the chrysalis stage. So they demonstrate not just significant change, and beneficial change, but staged change.  They remind us that it’s okay to take small steps when we make changes, and small steps aren’t as scary as giant leaps across massive chasms. But one day, if we embrace change, learn from it, adapt, we might be able to fly.

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