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Not So Common Sense

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Friday, 09 October 2015
Common sense is sadly not so common amongst humans and comes in spite of, and not the result of, education.

These weighty words of wisdom are not mine, rather, the more erudite philosophy of Voltaire and Victor Hugo.

And more recently espoused by Beth Blackwood, the new chief executive of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia.

“There is a great deal of research now that states that children need challenges and obstacles in their path to learn, to be resilient, to learn to be problem solvers or to learn they can manage their own world and make decisions for themselves,” she said.

“The more common sense approach is to allow children to fail and to learn from those failures.”

It's a fine line for parents and carers who instinctively protect and cushion children from life's difficulties. So I've always found that somewhere between a stiff upper lip and a gentle warm heart approach is best. Like a spectrum of sorts. Sometimes a child needs a firm but fair hand. Sometimes lots of love and hugs. And sometimes a “you'll be right” in that moment they've fallen over and not sure if crying or getting back up and playing is what they want to do.

Situations require all manner of approaches and not just constant smothering.

You may think me completely balmy because I believe that falling down is good. As is making mistakes, failing and not reaching set goals. Mistakes are merely learning experiences and it is our job to help correct the behaviour to instil positive future outcomes. We aren't perfect all the time so why should we expect our children to be.

Ms Blackwood, added she had seen a “marked increase” in the number of students managing depression and anxiety since she first started teaching 35 years ago.

She had also noted an increase in the proportion of parents who were over-protective and anxious for their children to succeed. “Sometimes parents are living their lives through their child, placing their expectations on their child,” she said. Childhood is a precious time and a short time and there is plenty of years in adult life to be more responsible. Guide and love, play and learn. There is no set formula but these fundamentals don't change.

My Son Won't Settle Down

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 19 March 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

My 30 year old daughter has been happily married for 10 years now, while my 25 year old son is still drifting from one relationship to another. He introduces his girlfriends to us as the love of his life, and a few months later it's all over. My husband and I have enjoyed wedded bliss for almost 35 years. It is extremely upsetting that while one of my children seems to have followed our example, the other has not. I am becoming increasingly concerned by my son's erratic behaviour.

Patricia Marie says.....

Having blissfully happy parents can sometimes be an unexpected disadvantage. Your son could be approaching every relationship with totally unrealistic expectations. If he measures every one of his new relationships up against what he experiences at home, he's soon going to feel disappointed. It may be that you're applying unfair demands.

Your son could be introducing every new girlfriend as 'The One', because he feels that's what you want to hear - and it seems to me that he is desperately trying to seek your approval.

He is still young enough to be playing the field, and maybe you should let him do so, free from the weight of your expectations. Whilst it's a comfort for you to know your daughter is happily married, you cannot compare your son's situation to hers, as this could jeopardise your relationship with him. Your son has his own unique personality, that if you were to embrace, could enrich your relationship with him. Trust that he is an adult, able to make his own choices regarding his relationships, and believe based on his many experiences, that when he is ready, your son will hopefully be able to make a good decision that is right for him - not one that is expected of him.

Dear Santa

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 24 November 2014
As I write this I am terrifyingly aware of how quickly Christmas is looming and then how to offer constructive options for what to put in a Christmas stocking and under the tree.

No matter what your religion there is no use trying to hide the expectation for presents as, dare I say, we live in a society utterly focused on “things” and “stuff” and “belongings”. I’m not saying it’s a totally negative concept; however, sometimes it seems the delight is more in the quantity and largesse rather than the expression of love and gratitude.

So have a think about the following as an alternative to the latest fad toy and brand name blingy thingy…

A regular date with your children where everyone gets to choose a fun activity (bowling, arts & crafts, a picnic, bike riding, mini-golf) or maybe just a regular movie night at home with popcorn and all the trimmings.

Sign them up for a magazine subscription, library card, to tap into your child’s curiosity or membership at the zoo, science museum or gym. Maybe you could find an adults and kids yoga or swim class to enjoy together.

Similarly, find a drawing or singing class, chess club, dance, riding, drama, skateboarding, indoor climbing, to give them a challenge for something new they might not have considered. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure but a learning experience and an adventure into the unknown.

Family coupons like an extra half hour before bed, my favourite dinner, sit and read with me, Anything Goes (give 3 options), cupcake baking & decoration, or something unique to your family. Children love personalised and thoughtful activities and usually the messier the more opportunity to giggle and be creative.

Outdoor supplies to get stuck into the garden together; board games, puzzles or cards for a rainy day or the evening; or you could visit a charity shop together to pick out dress up clothes for your afternoon tea date back at home.

Dear Santa, this year I’d like to give my children my imagination and time. I’d like to create new memories. I’d like my children to feel the joy of family and love. (Oh and if you have any magic sleeping dust for sprinkling on my children at night for an occasional morning lie-in, I’d like a box full please, to share with all my sleep deprived friends of course).

Dining out

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 27 October 2014
Children are messy. Sometimes loud, naughty and frustratingly disobedient. And yet there are parents who expect cafes and restaurants to smile politely as they step over little Sarah in the midst of a tantrum or balance a tray of hot drinks as Mr Timmy dashes past.

"If you are looking for a cafe with a children’s menu, baby chinos, a play area, lounges for your children to jump on, vast space for your prams, an area for your children to run rampant, and annoy other customers, whilst you are oblivious to them - then the short answer is No we are not child friendly," was the online response from a café owner who had one too many exasperating moments.

And rightly so.

It perplexes me why parents imagine their little darlings would somehow miraculously become little angels when dining out or that fellow customers could be enchanted by their disruptive misbehaviour.

"I have been subjected to children emptying salt and pepper shakers into my fireplaces, parents changing nappies on my lounges, kids grinding their own food into my carpet, parents sitting babies in nappies in the middle of dining tables, kids running around the cafe like it's a formula 1 track, jumping on the furniture, screaming - just for fun - not pain, and encouraged by their parents, upsetting the rest of the customers and I'd really just had enough,” the post continues.

Parents, nannies, grannies, and pops, I blame you for putting too much responsibility on the children in your care. Why do you expect them to behave differently from when you ask them to sit still at your dinner table at home?

So before you venture out with the mini-me’s in tow, check out the child-friendly establishments who welcome you with open arms. They love chaos, the crumbs, are deaf to the squeals, have extra toys if you’ve forgot yours, and most of all; they want you to come back again, and again.

And let me allow our weary café owner the last word.

"And yes, I am a mother. A single mother at that. Instead of being a "burden" on society, I scrimped every last penny and put it into this cafe, and I'm very proud of it. When I have to stand there and watch people disrespect and damage MY belongings and property, it breaks a piece of my heart every time”.

How do I get my wife back?

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 11 September 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,

I am writing as I need some advice on a terrible decision I think I have made. I am a 45 year old man, I had a lovely life, an excellent job, comfortable home and three adorable children along with a doting wife. I met a younger lady and after some time I left everything for her. Six months on, the excitement of being with somebody new has worn off and the grass is definitely not greener on the other side. I have just ended the relationship with my new girlfriend and would do anything to have my old life back, but am so ashamed and embarrassed of what I have put my family through. My wife refuses to answer my calls, and ignores my texts. Her mother drops the children to me when they come to stay, so I don't even get to see her. My sister-in-law contacted me recently to tell me my wife still loves me, but at the same time despises me for what I have done to her and our children.

With your professional guidance I am hoping that I can fix this and my family. Any advice would be highly appreciated.

Patricia Marie says...

The decision to leave your wife and children for another woman would almost certainly have had a huge effect on your family, and you cannot expect everything to fall back into place just because things haven't worked out for you. Wanting your wife to conform to your wishes so soon after the hurt you have caused her would be unreasonable.

The commendable thing is that you have not only seen your errors, but have understood the consequences of your actions. However, you are going to have to do a lot of hard work to convince your wife. I would suggest you initially write her a letter of which she would be able to digest in her own time. Explain that you do not want to put any pressure on her at all, but would love to meet up to tell her in person how very sorry you are for the hurt you have caused.  You've learned a hard lesson, and hopefully you can give some consolation to your wife by accepting and owning your share of the blame, and most importantly, whatever the outcome, be able to continue a positive relationship with your children.

A huge concern and something you need to ask yourself is: why did you feel the need to walk away in the first place?  Clearly something wasn't right between you and your wife and this needs to be addressed before any thoughts of a reconciliation, otherwise, you could end up in the same situation as before. Perhaps before any life-changing decisions are made, you could both benefit from attending Relate (relate.org.uk) as having professional help would enable you to explore any issues that contributed to the breakdown of your relationship. And do remember, sometimes we search long and hard for something that we fail to realise we already have.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Pass the Panadol please

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Friday, 05 September 2014
Some days are going to be tough. That’s life.

The Dalai Lama may be the happiest person on earth but even he must suffer the occasional ache. Whether he succumbs to a pill to help him along is not really any of my business and who am I to judge him anyway.

I’ve witnessed parents, carers, nannies, grandparents, all surrender, or is it crave, chocolate/crisps/a glass of wine/beer/ice cream to cope. My downfall is salad bowl size of muesli & yogurt to satisfy the hunger of room full of sweaty yoga types.

So when I heard the following story from a teacher, it gave me pause to consider what our seemingly harmless behaviour may be instilling in the young minds who observe us.

 “I was asked to assist with a crying five year old who was refusing to go back to class. His problem was huge. Huge to him. He didn't have money for the Mother's Day stall.

Me: Hey it’s OK. Not everyone has money for the stall.

Him: (backing up)

Me: Have you got a daddy at home?

Him: (nod, yes)

Me: I think your daddy might buy you something to give to your mummy. What's mummy's very favourite thing? Chocolate?

Him: (shakes head, no)

Me: What then?

Him: PANADOL.

We established HIS favourite thing was jelly beans and he was given five, cheered up and went to class”.

Me: Note to self to have a quiet chat with mum”.

The empathetic adult in me laughed when I heard this. The responsible adult and nanny then realised the poignancy.

Children have ears and eyes and hearts bigger than we imagine and give them credit for. They soak in everything, good and bad, that happens around them. Just because they may not understand, they do learn from these moments.

I’m not advocating you hide in the laundry or under the table to munch on your mars bar and skull your wine, just temper and be aware of what your children will pick up from what you do.

My husband is insensitive

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 28 August 2014
Dear Patricia Marie

My husband spent his early 20s working away in the states doing all kinds of jobs, and he still describes that period as the best days of his life. I find that so insulting since he's now married to me and we have two lovely children. Recently we were at a party when he started bragging about his US years and I just lost it. How do I make him understand how insensitive he's being. He also tells our friends at any given opportunity that he has always popular with the women and hasn't lost his charm. How dare he make such comments. I do love him, but am beginning to think he's not the man I married which is causing me to resent him. I do not think he deserves me or our beautiful children. My friends think he is a joke which is very embarrassing for me. Please can you offer me some advice.

Patricia Marie says...

A relationship shouldn't be a battle to see who has had the best experiences, and it can be difficult to live with someone who gives the impression they have seen and done it all.  Sometimes for whatever reason when things aren't going right, people look back on the past with rose tinted-spectacles.  The need for your husband to convince you that others think so highly of him, is a sign of insecurity, and by shifting it and projecting it to you, he is reassuring himself. He is covering up his lack of confidence by displaying unacceptable behaviour, typical of the sort of person who values themselves so little they're always afraid there not loved. The only way to work through such anxiety is to work on self-esteem. Counselling will help, but first, he needs to admit he has a problem which may not be easy.

You need to have a proper chat, make it clear that you're not a jealous person but his trips down memory lane are wearing you down. How would he like it if you were constantly reminiscing about the fun times you shared with your friends? Discuss what you can both do to enhance your relationship. Whilst working hard to bring up a young family you can sometimes lose sight of each others needs as a couple. Make some special time for each other, so you can both feel loved and appreciated. Hopefully your husband will begin to see he cannot continue to act in this way, as he could risk losing the life he has now. Memories are precious but the past cannot be allowed to intrude on the present.

Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

I love one of my children more than the other

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 10 July 2014
Dear Patricia Marie

I'm worried that I love one of my children more than the other. While one is sweet-natured, funny and full of character, the other is sullen and unresponsive. My husband doesn't seem to notice the difference, but to me it's obvious and I find it hard to treat them in the same way. I hate myself for it, but I'd rather spend time with one than the other. How can I stop this cycle?

Patricia Marie says...

If you think favouritism is no big deal - think again. The consequences for both the golden child and the least favourite can last a lifetime. Many adults embark on counselling due to the psychological damage of having either been the rejected, or indeed the favourite sibling. That early message of  "you're the special one " to a child can give a distorted view of themselves and their place in the world. For those parents who show preference and turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour, the child can then grow up struggling with rules, as well as lacking in morals and may struggle to find a partner who cherishes and spoils them in the way their parents have.

The least favourite, on the other hand, can go through life never feeling good enough, constantly feeling they are undeserving of love and kindness - often embarking on relationships with partners who treat them poorly.

Step into their world and try to imagine how they are feeling. Indeed, both are victims of your favouritism, and unless you see things more clearly and break the cycle, you could jeopardise any future relationship with them.

Your letter indicates you are feeling guilty for your behaviour -  this recognition is a good step towards promoting positive change. Start by treating your children equally. Lose comparisons and begin celebrating, rather than criticising their differences, as this will allow you the opportunity to turn things around and create a healthy, happy family.
 
And finally, sibling love is unique. Who but your brother or sister remembers, the family rituals, the good, bad and crazy fun times -  all those childhood memories that help to bond this special love. Favouritism can ruin a relationship between siblings, depriving them, sometimes forever, of a precious resource. It is one of the best gifts you, their parent, will ever give them: one another.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Winners

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Thursday, 10 July 2014
Am I the only one watching the World Cup and blushing?

Oh I get excited as anyone when a GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL is scored but then I have no choice but to turn away as the players celebrate because what ensues is downright excessive.

The emotions are heightened and egos blazing but is it really necessary for adult men to be so loved-up in public each time the ball goes into the net? If they weren’t on a field they’d be arrested for indecent behaviour (if such a law exists). And if it really is so absolutely necessary, why can’t they wait til the match is over? Where is the decorum, the style?

I’m blaming the sports psychologists for the constant high-fiving and grandiose behaviour with every goal or point scored in table tennis and volley ball, and the over-zealous parents on the basketball sidelines. It seems more time is spent revelling than playing and sadly I see it all too often at the playground as children mirror the behaviour of their adult heroes.

Sometimes I wonder why this obsession for winning is paramount rather than the enjoyment and the sense of participation. Playing games and sports is so much more than the final result.

A sense of achievement does not only mean being first as a child learns and develops skills. It’s the effort, focus, team membership, learning from mistakes and failure (and yes, even the lessons from winning), building character, and laughter we should be encouraging.

A trophy or medal eventually loses its sheen whilst a memory of fun and sharing an experience with friends is more beneficial to a happy child.

So let’s demonstrate a little class when we support them and make time for a debrief to acknowledge their effort and fun. And if you must, MUST indulge your inner champion, remember that a little style goes a long way.

She doesn't want children

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 15 May 2014
Dear Patricia Marie

I utterly adore my fiancée but she is adamant that she does not want children. When we met three years ago I was OK about that, but I have since changed my mind.

She says she is not the maternal type. I am 34 and she is a year younger. We both have well-paid jobs, so financially it would not be a problem.

Now, when I see our friends with their young children, the thought of not having any makes me feel so sad.

I try to suppress these thoughts but they keep returning. How can I marry the woman I love and have her children?

Patricia Marie says...

The problem is that you have changed your mind but your fiancée hasn't.  At around 30, a woman's biological clock often kicks in as she becomes aware that after 35 her fertility levels can decrease. This doesn't seemed to have happened with your fiancée.

You need to tell her how much you want children. Don't try to pressure her, but discuss why she doesn't want them. She may bring up some interesting points that you may not have considered and could understand better after hearing what she has to say. If she remains adamant that she does not want to have children, you have a decision to make.

What is it is about fatherhood that appeals to you? Are there ways that you can accomplish that without having children of your own? For instance, do you have nieces and nephews you could enjoy spending time with? For many childless couples they can help fill an empty void, bringing the greatest of pleasure to their aunts and uncles.

If you give up your desire for children you could end up resenting your fiancée and regretting that decision deeply. Also, most importantly, do you value having babies more than you value your future with your fiancée? If the answer is yes, sadly, you have to ask yourself, would it be better to end the relationship, and in time find someone you love who does want children? Before making a life-changing decision, you may both benefit from contacting www.bacp.co.uk or www.relate.org.uk for some counselling.


Got a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

A lesson in marathons

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Last Sunday, as I was looking on in awe and horror (in equal measure) at the London Marathon, my mind started to race. Is there a bigger message in this no-mean-feat other than just sweat and blisters?

As many as 40,000 people pounded the pavements of the capital to run, walk or hobble the 26.2 miles. Ranging from elite (Mo) athletes to the average fit-loving person to some pretty comical run runners, the entrants all seemed to have a point to make.

Aside from the crucial fundraising, it seems that a personal best time is the main driver. A challenge, a goal and (hopefully) an achievement drive the best of us on a daily basis. And this must be the main attraction. But does it justify the sheer pain that so many of those runners clearly experienced en route?

From what I can understand from questioning those with now aching muscles, all those signals sent from the body to the head scream: ‘PLEASE STOP’ and ‘THIS HURTS’ and ‘MY LEGS ARE KILLING ME’. But those on this running race mission hardly stop, absolutely overruling any body weaknesses. The gig certainly sounds tough.

The biggest tonic of all is the crowd. My sister-in-law, who ran the race (in admirable time), told me that the cheering of her name while showing admiration for her drive gave her the power she needed to finish the race.

And so my point this week isn’t really about running a race but more about how we introduce our children to idea of realistic challenges in their lives – therefore giving them the possibility of that glorious feeling of achievement and recognition. With our encouragement and some sheer determination, they should be made to feel that they can finish the course. Whatever that course is. And without even caring about winning.


You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

Inexplicable life.

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 13 March 2014
Have you ever realised just how much you can’t tell the under 10s? A fair amount you can, of course, re-word. For example, the world wars can be simplified into goodies and badies. 9/11 was caused by some mad, mad people. Burglars are Robin Hood. Mostly. But there’s one whole lorry load of bad smelling stuff that you simply can’t ever explain.

This morning Absolute Radio won the vote (from the back seat) for the school run. We rocked along to the Killers (in theme with the above paragraph) and squealed with the delight at the weather forecast. Then came the news. And now Small is fixated on the missing airplane.

I mean why wouldn’t he be? It’s beyond curious.

‘How can a plane take off and never land? Where is it now? Aren’t the people on board hungry? Are they there yet?

How on earth can I answer these questions? Nine nations have now joined the attempt to find this Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared. 239 people left Kuala Lumpur on Friday and now there is no sign of any of them.

If anyone knows any answers my 8-year-old son could stomach, do come forward. Meanwhile I have tried to interest him in the 34 aircraft and 40 ship search mission.


You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

Half term half baked

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 20 February 2014
One of my Smalls (aged 9) is half way through her half term break. I say ‘break’ because that’s what I thought it was. But, as far as I can work out, she’s mixing any relaxation with some hard core work. Yes, WORK. Science exam revision, a Beethoven written project, a poem to be learnt, music theory papers to be completed and some good old fashioned piano practice. And I’m left wondered if the 9 year old (one of life’s true grafters) deserves a REAL break?

Which leads me to my question: which skills do these kids actually need? I mean, what do they really need to know under the age of 10? How to speak Mandarin? Which materials make effective thermal insulators? How many flats B flat minor has? I suspect not.

While I’m mildly interested in the temperature of the hottest part of the sun (16,000,000 degrees Celsius, if you’re wondering), I’d rather give this traditional curriculum learning a miss. At least for the week. Instead, I’m fantasizing about teaching her the following:

1. how to read a map of London
2. how to draw happy, quirkily-dressed people
3. a little Brit history – maybe a king or queen from years gone by
4. a mean bolognaise which includes more than 4 vegetables
5. how to change a plug

It would certainly feel a whole lot more fun, less pressurized and might leave her better refreshed for next week’s exams. But I fear that by doing so, I will let her down. And so we dive back into electrical conductors…


You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

WHY IS IT CALLED AN AARDVARK?

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 17 February 2014
Sam: “If I drink my milk what will the baby cow have to eat?”

Nanny V: “Good question young man”.

If only I had an answer to everything… “Why is the colour of the sky called blue?”, ”why is my hair blonde and yours is black?”, “why do I have to brush my teeth/put away my toys/step over the puddle/always listen to you?”, “why why why?”

Being a child can sometimes be confusing. There are so many things to learn. Almost everything is new and at times puzzling, or daunting, and maybe a little scary.

And yet I have always delighted in this wonder. The questions may be challenging when the subject is delicate (like the inevitable, “how did I get in/out of my mummy’s tummy?”), and even mindboggling when I had no idea how to explain “why is my tummy at the front of my body and not at the back?”

Being a nanny does not mean you have all the answers but hopefully you know how to find them. It is also important to ensure there is a right time to explain and describe the details for a young mind to comprehend.

For example, if you are walking or driving and don’t have access to an encyclopaedia or google to describe the theory of relativity, it can still be fun learning. Ask the question back, “why do you think?”, “what if …”, “how would we …”. Create a game and see who comes up with the silliest idea.

After dinner and bath and play when you have a reasonable explanation, take the time to talk and be prepared for even more questions. Accept you won’t and can’t know everything so “I don’t know” sometimes has to be all you can offer. Otherwise, “let’s ask mum/dad/grandpa”.

I still have no answer for the aardvark question, however, in German it is an Erdferkel which sounds far more fun. Any suggestions?


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News of an affair

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Tuesday, 21 January 2014
He came home with some ‘news’ last night. Over a city lunch, a friend had confessed his ongoing affair and announced that he is leaving his wife.

‘What!’ I exclaimed. ‘I thought they were so happy? What about those poor children?’

‘Yes they were,’ he confirmed ‘ before he met someone on a deal he was working on… now he’s going to move in with her.’

Just like that, there it was. All the information I was going to get - or in fact need.

I quickly started rustling up some dinner (from a bare fridge), asking how the rest of His day had been. Then, when the Smalls came down whining of insomnia, I ushered them upstairs leaving Him with His whisky, evening paper and the football on.

After I had cleared up our dinner, I (even) asked him what he’d like to watch on TV. AND didn’t touch my laptop nor phone. Avoiding the subject of the cost of the fake grass I’m currently lusting after and the trip to New York I’m planning, we sipped our chamomile tea.

Perfect wife. Perfect home. Perfect life. Anything but the thought of a perfectly awful affair.



You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

READING IS FUN

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 09 December 2013
“Once upon a time…”

Four magic words a child will often respond to with glee. And what comes next begins a world of possibilities and adventures for learning and fun.

Let me start by saying that it is never too early to introduce reading and telling a story to a baby. Even if too young to understand the words the relationship you create, the routine you establish, is one of the most wonderful experiences for both adult and child.

And don’t be too disheartened by a toddler whose attention span challenges your patience. Focus on the pictures; ask them about colours, shapes, and anything you think will help concentration. Maybe assign a specific reading chair or comfortable corner. When they start to fidget, a gentle reminder that “now its quiet story time” may also help.

If nothing works and they are just not interested ensure you confirm that story time is over and we will read again in bed or tomorrow morning. By being firm and consistent, and if possible, enthusiastic, hopefully this special time will become easier and more enjoyable.

As their language skills improve, prompt memory to encourage them to complete the sentence or fill in the blank. You can also use the opportunity to discuss feelings.

However, the most exciting aspect is not stopping at “The End”. You can ask “what do you think happens next?”, “where is the rabbit/monster/car/girl now?” The aim is to use stories to tap into their imagination and you might just learn something new or even better, you are inspiring a young mind to develop and enjoy the first steps of creativity.

Move beyond the words to incorporate stories into art and activities. A Gruffalo hunt in your local park, high tea with princess fairies, finger painting an enchanted forest or even a paper mache sculpture of a hungry caterpillar, are a few great ways to play and learn.

But why limit yourself and your charges to someone else’s story. One of my favourite memories is helping 8 year old Zahra write and illustrate her book, we then had professionally bound and covered. A memento she will treasure like “Sammy the Silly Seal”, my own childhood contribution to literature. Well, my mum said she liked it.



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When the Smalls are away…

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Lord and Lady Y have just called offering to have our Smalls for a sleep over this Saturday night. The offer makes me feel literally giddy with excitement and before I had even hung up, all activities previously planned for the weekend had been mentally cancelled. Because, quite frankly, 24 hours without offspring is Father Christmas come early for ANY parent - even if his big red sack isn’t yet full.

And now, while I should be sitting here working, I am dreaming of my freedom. Our freedom. We can talk, without being interrupted. We can read… to ourselves. We can just be, without being parents. I mean, how many films d’you reckon we could squeeze in? I know He wants to see Barry Humphries as Dame Edna so we could try and get returns for that too. Oh and I could trick Him into a little festive shopping before an early cocktail at the chic new Winter bar at the Churchill Hotel too?

Winter Wonderland also opens this weekend. But we wouldn’t want to see anyone else struggling with their smalls so we should avoid that. Our 24 hours must be childless, a make-believe world where little people and their running noses don’t exist. We need to remember those days without the responsibility, the nagging and the incessant planning.

Of course the list of what I SHOULD be doing is also endless: the tax return, client invoices or even a tidy up of this mess we call home. But that would be NO fun at all. Instead, this weekend I’ll sleep and play, because the Smalls are away…!



You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

His children are against us

Posted by Patricia_Marie
Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 01 November 2013
Dear Patricia Marie,

I am so delighted to have discovered that The Lady offer an agony aunt to help their followers. Could you please give me some help?

Recently I have been dating a man who is widowed with two children aged 31 and 35. We are getting on really well and are planning to travel the world together but his children are so against our relationship they have asked my friend to choose between me or them.

I am so distraught - I have a chance of personal happiness and I am fearful that it is all going to be destroyed by his selfish unthinking children.

Do you think I should just walk away and make life easier for him or should I pursue my chance of happiness and just consider my future?

Patricia Marie says...

You say you have only just met a widower, yet feel your chance of happiness is dependant on you travelling the world with him? You would be left distraught if this wasn't to happen?

There seems much pressure and expectancy not only on yourself, but on this gentleman to be responsible for your happiness.

You describe his children as selfish and unthinking. After the loss of their mother, their father is clearly very dear to them and yet in a short space of time you wanting to embark on a world trip with him must only intensify their loss and grief.

I'm wondering if you could consider things from their perspective. A meeting with these children, where you can all speak openly and discuss everyone's feelings may help.

Don't expect them to embrace you immediately, but if you are able to come to an understanding, this will be a good starting point for you all. I urge you to consider where your fear of his children destroying your happiness is coming from and would recommend embarking on some counselling sessions to explore this issue at a greater depth and enable you to hopefully find the happiness you are searching for and so deserve.

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy have a directory where you can find a qualified registered therapist in your area. www.bacp.co.uk



Got a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk
Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.



In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Email: patriciamarie@tenharleystreet.co.uk
Telephone number: 020 7467 8389

If you’ll excuse me

Posted by Mum About Town
Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 17 October 2013
If Downton Abbey were to have a catch phrase, it would have to be ‘if you’ll excuse me’. The Earl of Grantham, for example, hardly leaves a room without uttering these words. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the library’, he says as he leaves the dinning room. ‘If you’ll excuse me, Bates, while you fiddle with my cufflinks, I’ll tell you what’s really on my mind.’ And so on. As a huge fan of the Sunday night period drama, I’m going to borrow this phrase as an introduction to me, my life and my new home here, The Lady’s website. You see, I’m the magazine’s new blogger and, at present, you’ll have to excuse me as I have more than slipped out of the room.

Actually, I’ve slipped out of the country altogether and I’m currently on board a BA flight bound for New York. Unbelievably, I am being excused of my normal life for a WHOLE WEEKEND. That’s right: no homework, spelling tests, ballet run, recorder practice, laundry washing nor cooking for me. I’ve given Him and the Smalls the slip. Or at least I’ve fed them a good yarn and they’ve gone and swallowed it. Heading for the Big Apple, I’m destined for some precious time with my brother and his family, cleverly combined with a sprinkling of shopping and a line-up of interviews for my blog.

You can imagine how giddy with excitement I am. Mums, in general, are rarely given the freedom ticket and as a freelance working mum (i.e. no big fancy business trips), solo trips are most definitely few and far between. I’m determined to savour every moment of this adventure.

Of course, the troops back home have been instructed with military precision. A detailed document lists all that He could need. During a rushed goodbye, I thank Him profusely for my sneaky freedom, throwing in that as long as I return to a standing house with the same headcount, the rest is His ballgame. Meanwhile, I’m off to make the most of my blue moon where bath time, bedtime and long division quite simply don’t exist.



You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 02 September 2013
Can a nanny have a favourite?

There will always be moments and even far-TOO-long-and-torturous-times, when one of the little darlings in your care is bound to be more likable than the others.

However, there is never a time when your behaviour towards each one must, and I stress, should not be fair and healthy, and without reproach.

Whilst one may be easier to engage, to enjoy, to be around, or to have fun with, this is a situation that should be a challenge rather than unjust.

Sweet, accommodating, respectful, versus frustrating, disobedient and just plain exhausting. Sarah pushes your buttons with her hyper, head-spinning behaviour, and her more subdued older sibling Jimmy embodies raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Reality is that you won’t be able to sing your way out of a rock and a hard place, but don’t discount a cheery jingle under your breath. Think “The Sound of Music” and smile, Smile, SMILE!

Actually, forget the muteness, warble as loud as you can. Maybe one of you will soon be giggling.

Another approach is to turn this taxing time into an ideal opportunity to reinforce some ground rules and offer learning lessons. Be clear and consistent. Calm. Talk through what’s happening and aim for an outcome of understanding on both sides, even if you are the one stifling the tears. Life is not a TV sitcom solved in one episode, so don’t get too disheartened.

There is much research by learned souls confirming that attractive people favour more attention. Similarly, a cute child can also be more popular and a genetic lottery should not be an excuse for favouritism. Society's standards of beauty and the media don’t help, again no need to deliver inappropriate messages to impressionable minds.

A child is a blank canvas for new experiences. Depending on their age, first times can have a life-long impact so as the nanny it’s your job to make it positive. A happy memory. Constructive.

And when in doubt, hug.



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