a peek inside the fishbowl

10 Jan, 2008

Three things: two small and one bigger thing to think about

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Misc. life|parenting

1) As I walked home from the gym, swinging my umbrella, I realized something. Baton twirling has virtually disappeared. What happened? Why aren’t there more twirlers out there? Do you think it would be hard to teach myself how to do it? I always liked the thought of coaxing a steel tube to fly out of my hand, to soar in the sky, only to be pulled back again by gravity and will… the rubber stoppers covering the ends mere symbols of protection. I imagine it’s pretty easy to knock yourself in the head.

2) Every other house has a Christmas tree out by the curb, stripped and ready for recycling. How fun would it be if a bunch of them …  oh, say a baker’s dozen – suddenly appeared on our front lawn, stuck upright in the remaining snowdrifts?

3) I wouldn’t call this a New Year’s resolution, but I decided that I would try to be more mindful of my children.

I talked to Mark about, and he’s taken on a new stance too. (Although stance might the wrong word here, as it implies something related to war, shoot-outs and old fashioned duels. This is not that. :) ) 

I think the best parenting advice I’ve ever read on the Internet went something like this:

When your children walk into the room, smile like a 100 watt lightbulb … and show them, by the expression on your face as well as your body language, that they are important to you.

I don’t know where I read it (does this sound familiar to anyone? I’d love to reread the original thread) but it makes sense. And it works.

Conversations with kids are tricky things. On one hand you feel like you need to use a crowbar to pry information out of them.

How was school?
Did you learn anything new today?
I don’t remember.
How was lunch?
What did you do at recess?
Etc etc.

So when they do decide they want to talk, I now do my best to be mindful of the moment and try to remember that if they’re here, talking, it’s about something that is important to them. So I stop what I’m doing, turn around, smile a big “I’m so happy to see you” smile, and listen. And I ask a question to show that I’m listening.

Perhaps this all sounds contrived (and I know at least one person is rolling her eyeballs, thinking this is a bunch of modern-day hooey) but although it seems a little fake around the edges, I am doing this to establish better habits.

If they feel like I’m listening now, they’ll continue to want to share and talk to me later…  when the topic of conversation goes beyond rain puddles and broken umbrellas and wet socks.

And I’m not sure how this relates, but suddenly everything has gotten easier. Frustrations have fallen away, and I feel like a stronger person, who has chosen a path that is leading somewhere good.

13 Responses to "Three things: two small and one bigger thing to think about"

1 | Bob LeDrew

January 10th, 2008 at 10:32 am


It’s not new-agey stuff at all. We are living in an era of “continuous partial attention”, where we can’t just write, we have to write while listening to the radio, checking e-mail, answering the phone, updating facebook, etc etc.

Look at teenagers — they don’t “watch TV” — they watch TV while texting, playing PlayStationPro, surfing the web, and talking on the phone.

Mindfulness is a VERY GOOD THING. The more we all do it, the better off we’d all feel — enjoy the walk on the new path.

2 | mel

January 10th, 2008 at 10:37 am


Beautiful. And wouldn’t this be an astoundingly beautiful way to treat everyone in our lives?

3 | bethany actually

January 10th, 2008 at 11:20 am


Best parenting advice I ever heard? “If you have time to read parenting magazines, you’re probably not paying enough attention to your kids.” :-)

I think mindfulness is a great way to start. It makes me calmer and happier when I am only trying to do one thing at a time. And really, how annoying is it to try to talk to someone who is only giving you half her attention?

Secret Agent Josephine pointed me here, and I had to laugh when I saw you live in Ottawa. I keep running into bloggers from Ottawa, but I never meet any in Toronto. Why is that? Anyway, I’m American but my husband and I lived in Ottawa (Sandy Hill) for two years in 1999-2001, and loved it there! It’s always nice to meet an Ottawan.

4 | Javamom

January 10th, 2008 at 11:36 am


I have suspected for some time that getting information out of kids is kind of like pulling teeth.

Keeping in mind he’s only 2 and a half, nevertheless, he can SPEAK words. So why is it so hard to find out what he did in school today?

I tried at the dinner table.
I tried in the car.
I try randomly, like during making pipi in the potty or some other toilet training moment.

But obviously I’m trying too hard. Then, this happens:

He invites me to play lego after dinner. (Dishes can wait). All I had to do was accept. We were just making random conversation (“Mommy, what you making? – I’m making a Mr. Poopyhead who will be pooping in the toilet, want me to make a lego toilet? – Ok, mommy”).

Suddenly he says to me “mommy is a girl and I’m a boy”. I said “yes that’s right, where did you learn that?”.

Reply: “At school”. (which is actually a Montessori daycare).
“Teacher said mommy = girl”.

Now I know what they taught him…

PS I saw baton twirlers at our local Santa Claus parade. There were about 10 girls in the parade ranging in ages of about 10-mid-teens.

5 | DaniGirl

January 10th, 2008 at 12:43 pm


I think this is something I do pretty well (it’s always nice to find something you’re not screwing up about your kids, isn’t it?) The problem is that more than once recently, one of the boys has tried to engage me in what is to them a very serious topic at 6:30 in the morning while I’ve got my coat on and the bus is at the corner. Or, it’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m praying they’ll go back to sleep so I can, too. It’s like they choose those moments on purpose!!

Seriously, though, I remember my mom sitting in “her” chair when I got home from school, book in her lap but her attention on me, showing me that I was free to sit and chat as much or as little as I wanted. It’s a comforting memory.

I find bedtime good for this. The books get read, boys are tucked, kisses and cuddles are shared, and either Beloved or I will lie in bed with them for just a few minutes in the darkness, letting whatever comes to them burble up. Often, it’s nothing, but we’ve had some great conversations whispering in the dark.

6 | andrea

January 10th, 2008 at 1:23 pm


lol – yes Dani, you’re right. The kids have a sixth sense sometimes. They want to have a nice little chat when you’re in the biggest hurry.

Maybe the best thing we can do in this case is ask the kids to tell you – ha, in five words or less – what they want to talk about, and then you remind them about it later when you’re settled in the comfy chair. :)

7 | Julie

January 10th, 2008 at 3:11 pm


What a fabulous reminder of my job as a mother – to make sure my children feel safe and loved. It’s so easy to forget the things that are most important when you are busy dealing with things that are less important (school lunches, playdates, bills, etc…). Reminders are good.

8 | Julie

January 10th, 2008 at 3:12 pm


PS. I think the Christmas tree idea is very witty. Do it!

9 | Chantal

January 11th, 2008 at 10:09 am


I think that is a great thing. My hubby and I are mindful to do that with our kids every day. It is nice to know that other parents are thinking and feeling the same way. I know it makes a difference. It really does.

10 | MomOnTheGo

January 15th, 2008 at 12:19 pm


I like the word mindful. I say that I am trying to live an consciously but mindful is good, too, in contrast to mindless. When we speak to someone on the phone, we know when they start reading. I wonder why we fool ourselves that our kids don’t know when we tune out, even just to think of what to make for supper. A good post for the new year.

On the small thing, I was a majorette in a little band in a little town when I was growing up. Maybe big cities and small bands don’t go well together.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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