Is there shame in being a shit parent? Yes. And guilt. And regret. And self-loathing. But it’s not the end of the story.
Parenting isn’t easy is fucking hard. There’s no sleeping in if you stay up late, you occasionally get another person’s poop on your fingers, and half your ice cream always gets stolen by someone a third your size.
But those are the easy struggles.
Sometimes you have a 4-year-old, virile monster who won’t settle down, refuses to relax during their bedtime stories, and keeps yelling for food and water when they literally just filled their bellies with both. And half my ice cream.
How I Know I’m Shit
It’s right about 45 minutes into that situation that I lose my shit.
As negative reinforcement for her already scrambled emotional-state (exhausted and playful at the same time) I take away a book each time she gets rowdy, then a stuffed animal, then they’re all gone, and she loses her back tickle.
Her emotional state deteriorates because I’ve just removed her bedtime routine entirely as a punishment for not following her bedtime routine. Great idea, Dad.
So she starts yelling and screaming in frustration, as toddlers sometimes do. So I threaten to put her things in the garbage. She doesn’t stop. Garbage bin: book. She screams.
It doesn’t stop until we’re both mentally and physically exhausted and pass out upset with each other.
Then comes the morning. The wake-up routine goes perfectly well, and I take her to school.
On the public bus ride back to my home it hits me like a baseball bat: I’m a shit dad. I handled the previous night like a rookie.
Where do I go from here? I asked myself a question, “how to be a better parent?”
I took myself on a three-step process to right where I had wronged.
If you’re how to be a better parent, do what I did.
Take These Three Steps to Know How to Be a Better Parent
Step 1: Recognize It and Admit It.
Say it with me: “I did something shitty. I can do better.”
This is probably the hardest part because you have to own it. But taking that ownership and letting go of the idea that you’re a great parent is freeing up yourself to committing to better. You’ll set your goals higher for yourself because you know you can improve.
Once your goals have been refocused, step two is a bit easier.
Step 2: Act Sorry.
When learning how to be a better parent, it takes effort. When I got Auburn home from school, I had her books and her stuffed animals laid out on her bed.
She’s very perceptive, “I thought you threw these out!”
“I did. And that was wrong,” I put my hands on her cheeks so she would look me in the eyes. “I overreacted yesterday, and I’m sorry about that.”
I’m not sure exactly what was going through her mind at that moment, but I hope it was understanding. Understanding that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay, even though my reaction wasn’t. Understanding that I’m trying my best and I can admit when I’m wrong. Understanding that I love her, even if I don’t always show it.
The important thing here is that I’m not just saying I’m sorry, I’m acting sorry. Her books and animals were cleaned and placed nicely on her bed. I made eye contact with her while I sincerely apologized.
It goes a long way, and if you’ve set your new goals to reach that standard of recognizing and reconciling your mistakes, you’re already on the path to becoming a better parent.
That brings us to step three.
Step 3: Do better.
I’m not going to be using my negative reinforcement tactic of throwing away books and toys anymore. It’s counter-productive and only escalates the situation. I want to honestly know how to be a better parent.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that my next tactic is going to be a useful and effective one, but I’m going to try.
I’ve been reading about using fewer words and remaining nonchalant in times of stress; enacting those behaviors have been a different story, but I like to think I’m improving.
And that’s what step three is all about: doing better. It’s about making an effort by reading, exploring, and experimenting with what works for you.
All you have to do now is repeat steps 1-3 for the rest of your parenting life, and you should eventually be a substantial parental figure.
Parenting is a wild ride–are you in control?
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So you want to live on an island in Thailand? You’ve seen the pictures of coconut trees backdropped by a beautiful blue sky with people snorkeling in the turquoise waters, right? If you haven’t seen it, check it out here, courtesy of Matador Network.
If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent and I live abroad with my daughter partly by running this single parent blog.
Thailand islands are as gorgeous as every backpacker blabs they are. Honestly, I didn’t want to write about the cost of living in Thailand, especially on the islands, because I like to keep my secrets to myself. So, foregoing my general feelings of disdain towards spoiling the places I love, here is the cost of living on Koh Tao for me and my daughter over our course of six months there. So you’re wondering about the cost of living in Thailand? Here it is, specifically for Koh Tao.
If you’re looking for a place to stay on Koh Tao, click here for a few ideas! It’s an affiliate link that costs you nothing but helps support this site. Cheers, my friend!
Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Thailand, per month
Buying a Motorbike: $300
You need to be mobile. I bought a motorbike for $300 and when I sold it before I left Thailand, I sold it for around $290.
On the islands, there seem to be mafia-style price controls that make it far more expensive to use a taxi each day than to simply invest in your own motorbike.
A few caveats: you’ll likely be driving illegally, random checkpoints will pop-up where police may stop you and fine you for XYZ (though this never happened to me once in 6 months, not even riding in Chiang Mai on vacation last month), and if you don’t already know how to drive a motorcycle then don’t try to learn in Thailand; you’re going to hurt yourself and possibly someone else.
Renting a Motorbike: $75
You can also rent a motorbike; it will cost you around $75/month or more depending on the bike you rent.
Gasoline wasn’t a huge expense because Koh Tao is quite small. You can drive from the north to the south in about 30 minutes pretty easily.
Food (local Thai food, western food, groceries): $300
Island food is a bit more expensive than the food you’ll find on the mainland, of course (you’re paying for the shipping costs, essentially), but it’s still incredibly cheap. Overall, food is likely to be one of your largest factors when calculating your cost of living in Thailand.
For breakfast I recommend stopping at a smoothie stand, they cost between $1-$1.33. Add on a barbecued pork skewer or fried chicken leg and at most, you’re looking at a $2 breakfast.
A pad thai will be as little as $2. A margherita pizza can be $3. A burger and fries will be about $5. You can go up from there, it just depends on your taste and spending habits.
Ice creams are as cheap as $0.45 in 7-11, or $0.66 from the guy who drives a scooter around selling coconut ice cream.
I’m giving you my budget based on usually eating pad thai or something similar, pizza once a week at least, and occasionally some monster BBQ skewers at a beachfront restaurant for $6 at sunset. Add in that I also have to feed a child and our food budget was about $300 each month.
You could easily eat three meals a day at $2 a piece and keep your food budget under $200.
Rent depends on what you want to rent. Do you want a tiny, ant-filled bungalow like I did? Or do you want to stay in a resort?
I’m not telling you where I found a place to stay for $150 per month on Koh Tao. That’s privileged information and it’s difficult to find. If you scour my blog and do the footwork on Koh Tao, you’ll be able to find it. However, you can easily find a bungalow for $200 per month almost anywhere on the island.
The best resorts on Koh Tao serve up a price tag of around $600 per month. They are gorgeous. You can get a private villa with a pool overlooking the sea where you can watch the sunset in privacy surrounded by palm trees for that price.
Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??
Many places don’t charge you at all for utilities. Other places do. If you find a place that charges you, you’re never going to pay more than $50 per month for electric, wifi, and water. If you do, you’re either getting ripped off, or you’re blasting your airconditioner non-stop.
Fresh Water: Less than $5
You can purchase heaps of one-liter bottles if you want but you shouldn’t. It’s bad for the environment, it’s a waste of resources, and a waste of money.
Instead, buy the giant, cooler-sized bottles from Green Fresh or the ice place in Sairee (not far from the main crossroad). The initial purchase of the bottle is $5, but you can refill it for about $0.66 each time. You’ll probably only have to refill it once or twice each month.
Pro tip: Place the bottle sideways where your feet go on your scooter. You’ll lose some water on the way home, but not much. Drive slowly and safely, no one is racing on the island. If your legs get tired, stop to take a break instead of risking your safety.
Charged by the kilo, you can get your laundry washed, dried, folded, and ready the next day (or same day for a slightly higher cost) for about $1.33-$2 per kilogram. I don’t travel with many clothes so I was spending between $2-$4 per week on laundry.
My daughter attended school on Koh Tao when she was 3 and 4-year-old. There are a few kindergartens on the island. They are both around Sairee. Both have their ups and downs. One requires you to sign a contract that sticks you if you need to leave early, the other doesn’t. One has a brand new playground, the other is quite small in comparison. All the staff of each are lovely. If you are looking for specific recommendations or have any questions about the schooling on Koh Tao, ask away!
There is also a local school which I’ve heard charges around $70 per month. You’ll need someone who speaks Thai to help you enroll in that school, I’ve heard.
Lifestyle Choices: $200
Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Koh Tao has a mini-golf course, rock climbing establishments, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, loads of bars and beer on the island.
Your cost of entertainment simply depends on what you like to do.
If you’re looking to smoke marijuana on Koh Tao, you can, but be careful, it’s illegal and fines can be steep. Jail time, I’ve heard, is worse. There are some bars that let you smoke openly and will sell prerolls, but do so at your own risk. Smoking pot in Thailand is safest on the islands, but be as discreet as possible; Thai police don’t take kindly to people smoking weed.
Other drugs: be forewarned, if you think Thai police will be harsh on you smoking marijuana in Thailand, try getting caught with anything harder. I’ve heard some horror stories.
Visas: $100/3 months/per person
This is actually more confusing and costly than it sounds. The initial tourist visa is going to cost $40. Towards the end of your first two months, it will cost you another $60 to extend it for the third month. You also have to go to Koh Samui to do this, so add in the cost of your boat ticket, taxi to the immigration department, and the time lost spending a day doing this. Unfortunately, visas and visa runs can add significantly to your cost of living in Thailand.
Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me
When considering the cost of living in Thailand, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the service I prefer: World Nomads. I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about.
Total Cost of Living in Thailand for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1200 per month
This price tag doesn’t include flights in and out of the country and is a rough estimate based on the information provided. Either way, for living on such a beautiful island, with healthy food, and a great place to raise kids, it’s well worth it.
There, I’ve given you the keys to my favorite place in Thailand to raise children and live–so when are you moving there?
If you’re like me, you’re never entering a toy store with your child. Why would you torture yourself like that? It’s the third level of hell. Most of the toys you’ll see are puracaca: they’re cheaply made, un-educational, and going to die a slow death crushed to pieces under the weight of all the other crap smashing it in your toddler’s overflowing toy box. Worse, your child is going to pull boxes off the shelves, shout about wanting every toy, and you might accidentally impulse buy a drone because, let’s face it, those look pretty sweet with the VR Helmets and attachable NERF rockets.
Thankfully the web helps us avoid those problems, but, being a parent is difficult enough without having to sift through the internet looking for the top educational toys for your child. Luckily for you, I have some free time today so I’ve compiled my favorite list of toys that I’m considering buying my toddler for the holiday season this year.
Top Educational Toys for Children for the 2017 Holiday Season
SmartMax Start XL
If you’re looking for a toy that will encourage your child’s spatial and logical awareness while building and replicating awesome structures with a long-lasting toy, then the SmartMax Start XL is the best choice for you! The pieces are large enough that it’s safe for children as young as 1-year-old, but they’re colorful and engaging enough for an older toddler. Your little architect can learn about the power of magnetism while practicing their engineering skills. Seriously considering this as the next toy for my little Auburn! Click the image to check it out!
Amazon Fire 7 for Kids
Honestly, I’m tired of my daughter taking over my Kindle to play her games, I wanna play my games! So it’s about time I get her the All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet with Kid-Proof Case so we can play together! For less than $100, this is perfect choice for my top educational toys! It comes with a two-year guarantee that if your child breaks, they’ll replace it, which is the best peace of mind you can offer us parents, in my opinion! It includes a free year of FreeTime, which gives them access to educational videos, games, books, PBS and Disney, for starters. And if you’re looking to buy more than one? There’s currently a variety-pack promotion that you can buy two of these tablets for just $149.98!
You know the drill, click the image or the links to check it out!
Mini Kick Scooter with Light Up Wheels
Okay, I’ve been geeking out over these Mini Kick Scooter 3 Wheels! So jealous I’m not a little kid and would probably crack the axels of one of these because I’m a chubby, old man super handsome, stacked, 30-year-old. I see other kids whipping around on these, wheels flashing multicolors, leaning to steer and slaloming between pedestrians, uggggh, I wanna do that! The next best option is buying one for my daughter so her childhood can be happy and I can imagine mine was, too. Without one of these scooters, however, I can’t lie to myself, childhood sucked. But how is this educational you ask? Duh! It teaches kids how to be awesome-looking. Also, balance and depth-perception are important parts of physical intelligence.
This model is less expensive than some its better-known competitors but doesn’t sacrifice on quality. I honestly think the only difference in price (this is one better!) is the cost of marketing. Probably because they get free marketing from thoughtful parents like yours truly.
Check it out via the link or the picture, it comes in several different colors!
Tegu 42 Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set
I’m having a very difficult time choosing between the SmartMax Start XL and this 42 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set! I honestly can’t recommend one over the other because they both look awesome, have a sturdy build, and will teach your child about magnetism, engineering, and spatial awareness. I would like your feedback in the comments to let me know what one you like better to help me decide!
Again, click the image to check it out!
Super Nintendo Classic Edition
Yup! I’m going there, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is making my list of top educational toys for 2018. Firstly, don’t give me your ‘video games aren’t educational!’ nonsense. You obviously haven’t ever played video games, researched their benefits, or been crushed by a rival in Mario Kart. Video games teach kids all sorts of things: eye-hand coordination, pattern recognition, increases memory skills, improves brain speed, and if you’d ever been crushed by an annoying rival in Mario Kart, then would know that it teaches you humility and improved social skills.
Also, I grew up on a Super Nintendo so maybe this is just my nostalgia speaking, but Star Fox is the greatest game ever invented. You might disagree, but that’s because you’re an idiot. Click the link or the image to see what other games that come included you could incorrectly argue are better than Star Fox.
Whether you’re looking for the top educational toys to help your child build, improve their balance, or increase their eye-hand coordination, any of these can help your child grow into a more complete human.
I don’t take my choices for the top educational toys lightly. You’re welcome for doing your holiday shopping.
Shopping for children is a serious business of making smart choices–choose wisely.
A Daughter Abroad: Language-Learning, Dancing, and Dissing on Dim Sum
We’ve been in Hong Kong for roughly six weeks now and Auburn has been going to a local Kindergarten for a month. What do I mean by ‘local’ kindergarten? It means it’s not an international school where everyone speaks and is spoken to in English, as is very common for Western children to attend while in Hong Kong. So what does this mean for my little Auburn?
She’s Learning Cantonese
Being half-Chinese, with grandparents who don’t speak English any better than I speak Cantonese makes it difficult for her to get to know them. Also, it makes it difficult for her grandparents to discipline and take care of her.
So? She’s going to be spending this year learning Cantonese!
After one month, I’ve already seen some improvement in her Cantonese abilities. She’s definitely understanding some things and able to translate a bit of it and she’s able to chorally repeat things she hears even though her understanding and ability to come up with Cantonese phrases on her own isn’t there yet. If she’s asked to repeat something in Cantonese, she can follow the tones well, use the correct words most of the time, and it makes people here giggle!
Learning To Dance
Auburn started dance class yesterday. She’s begun her ballet! So how did the first day go? It was a rough start, but it ended with a giant smile on her chubber- face! Btw, she asks me what I mean when I call her ‘chubbers,’ and I just tell her it means super-cute, but really it means her cheeks are squishy and kissable cuz they’re a bit chubby!
Luckily, she had a classmate/friend in dance class with her, but that didn’t get her too warm because all the other girls had on their ballet costumes when we got there. Auburn was not happy about this, she did not want to dance without her costume so she crossed her arms, left the room, and walked to the door saying that she didn’t want to dance.
Luckily, her grandma had purchased her dress, tights, and they just needed to size her shoes to get her a pair. Once she saw she would be able to get into a sparkly, purple dress, her mood quickly changed, as is common with my little monster girl.
After dance class, she spent the evening showing her grandma and me all her moves and making sure we were practicing them, too. She slept in her tights and insisted she wore them to school this morning. Fair to say she’s obsessed and I might regret this decision in the future! We’ll see how it plays out, though. Auburn already has what Hong Kongers call ‘gong zhu bang’ (pardon my horrible pinyin), or what roughly translates to English as, ‘Hong Kong Princess Disease,’ and I’m certain letting her into ballet will only reinforce her princessy-ness.
So what is it like to raise a daughter abroad? It’s complicated 🙂
She Hates Dim Sum
If you’re not sure what dim sum is, it’s a traditional Chinese cuisine that is made of unrecognizable food if you’ve only eaten Western food, served on plates that everyone eats off of at the same time. I know my first time eating it in Hong Kong I thought it was slimy, bizarre, and a struggle to eat and understand the etiquette of. Now that I’ve had it probably 10 times, I know it’s delicious, healthy (mostly), and I have no problem sharing plates with people anymore.
Auburn, however, does not appreciate anything that comes with eating dim sum. Except, that is, for the Chinese donuts that come with a sugary, creamy sauce she can dunk them in.
A Daughter Abroad: I’ll Keep You Informed
Month-by-month I’ll be keeping you updated on Auburn’s experience and, most importantly, how she is coming along with her language-learning. I hope you stay in touch!
Do you think it’s important to teach children a new language? I do! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂
If you’re a single parent, you may think that single parent travel is out of the realm of possibility. There are always commitments and reasons to put yourself on the back burner, but the truth is, taking time to travel by yourself can be extremely helpful in getting to a place of self-discovery. There’s no reason to feel like you need to be forgiven for this.
It’s difficult to be our best selves when we’re faced with daily stresses and a schedule that never eases up, so in taking time for yourself, you’ll be doing something to help your relationship with your children… and yourself. So do some single parent travel and be a better person for it.
The key to traveling solo is planning. Safety is always a concern, especially when you’re in a new country, so being prepared is essential. Packing the right items and knowing how to get around once you’re at your destination can help your trip go smoothly, as well.
Here are some of the best tips on traveling solo and staying safe while having fun.
Single Parent Travel, Plan Well
Do some research on your destination to find out local customs, such as how they handle tipping or shaking hands, and find out what the local scene is like. Is it customary to wear certain items of clothing?
If so, come prepared so you won’t have to go shopping once you get there. It’s important to be able to blend in when you’re in an unfamiliar place, as tourists are often targets for theft or are taken advantage of because they don’t know any better. The more educated you are on where you are traveling to, the better off you will be.
Work out a budget
Solo traveling doesn’t have to break the bank, but you don’t want to find yourself in a tough position in a strange place, so work out a budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you’re in a foreign country and exchanged currency when you arrived, try not to carry too much of it when you go out. Ask the hotel manager if you can keep some things in their safe, including any expensive jewelry (though it’s best to leave these items at home if possible), and your ID and passport, which you can make copies of to carry with you. That way, if you lose your bag or wallet, you’ll still have the originals.
Focus on yourself
When you’re a single parent, your focus is likely almost always on your children: making sure they’re well fed and rested, taking care of anything related to school and childcare, dealing with illnesses. There’s very little time to focus on yourself, so make that a priority on your trip. Book activities that you’ve always wanted to try, and explore areas you’ve always wanted to visit. Bring a camera and journal to document everything and solidify your memories.
This experience is especially helpful if you’re going through recovery. Substance abuse, grief, and anxiety can take a toll on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Focusing on yourself during a solo vacation can help you get back to a healthy place and can lead to some self-discovery, which is an important part of recovery. Spending time in a new place can really help you see what areas you want to work on and eliminate from your life when you return.
For more information on how traveling can help during recovery, read on here.
Improving Yourself Improves Your Family
Remember that this trip is all about you, but that doesn’t you reap all the benefits. Find the best ways to enjoy yourself and relax, but remember to make your safety a priority at the same time so you can return safely to your children. Stay connected to someone back home and let them know where you’ll be at all times, especially if you’re going exploring.
One of the best things you can do for your children, in my personal experience as a child and as a parent now, is get them outdoors. The majority of my childhood memories are outdoors, and memories are what makes your life longer and more meaningful. Sure, I remember playing video games and watching TV as a child, as well, but I don’t have any particular memory that comes to mind that is nearly as enjoyable to look back on as my memories of being outside.
If you’re looking to get your child outside, take them camping! If you’re unfamiliar with who I am and what I consider to be a proper camping experience, then you should know straight away that I don’t consider using an RV to be camping. Plenty of people do, that’s fine, but we have a difference of opinion on that. Going camping is about connecting to nature, engaging with the elements, and removing as much of your comforts as you can. Now, some people are more extreme in their views of camping than even I am, but everyone has their own tastes and preferences. Here’s what I believe to be a camping experience and why is it important to go camping with your children.
Auburn and I went camping several times this summer. Tahquamenon Falls, Kitch-iti-kipi, and lots of smoked fish was on the menu. Rockstar of a summer. My dad even came out camping with us once!
Why Should I Go Camping With My Children?
#1 Prepare for Doom!
Not really, but sort of. What if the electric grid goes down? What is a solar flare knocks out all the satellites in the sky? What if you get lost on a hike someday and can’t find the trail? Have you spent enough time outside to know that, hey, the end of the world isn’t so bad? I have, and Auburn is on her way there. She can help set up the tent, gather firewood, and prepare the food.
Camping is essentially wildlife survival training if you do it correctly. I’ve been trying to become more and more rustic in my camping adventures, but I’ll admit that I still bring along a blow-up mattress, an electric coffee maker, and a waffle iron so I definitely do not completely do rustic camping.
#2 Meet the Animals
Children love animals, at least mine does. She may be slightly frightened of some of them, but she adores little mammals like squirrels, chipmunks or ‘chick-monks’ as she says, and rabbits. One of the coolest things about camping is that the animals who live near the campsites are generally used to humans. They are still skittish if you get too close, but if you camp for a week or so, you’ll notice that the little animals will get quite close to you if you’re nice to them.
#3 Get Comfortable in Uncomfortable Settings
You’re not going to have a lazy boy, a big screen TV, and a microwave unless you are using an RV. And that, dear reader, is why using an RV is not going camping. You’re certainly not camping with kids if you’re using a wheeled home. An RV, no matter its class, is a home, and simply going from your usual home in the city to a home with wheels under some trees is not going camping.
I’ve been in campgrounds where there are 100 campsites full, and 90 of them are RV’s. (Sure, it’s because I’m in the RV area because I need an electric outlet for my waffle iron, coffee maker, and blow up mattress, but I’m hoping to cut down one day and get some cots, boil water over the fire for coffee, and simply not eat waffles.) But the point is that when the 90% of my fellow ‘campers’ experience rain, or thunder, or both, they retreat into their wheeled homes.
They aren’t taking the time to experience what camping is meant to give you, a level of discomfort that removes your brain from the plugged-in, electricity-driven world. Sleeping in a tent in a rainstorm is amazing: it’s loud, your tent may shake from the wind, and if you have to get outside to use the toilet, you’re gonna be part of the storm. If you’re not comfortable in those situations, you’ll probably be one of the first people to die when doom happens (see #1).
#4 Get Dirty
You know you’ve witnessed a parent who tells their child to stay out of X, Y, or Z because “they’ll get dirty.” Makes me cringe, ya’ll need to go camping with kids. One of the top reasons (hence why it’s on the list) that I like to get my daughter outside, especially in a camping situation, is because it gets her dirty. If anything, I fear the clean. When I take her to school in the morning, I’m probably the only parent who opts out of the teacher at the door holding hand sanitizer, “no thank you,” I say.
I’m not afraid of germs, dirt, but leeches yes because they’re weird, wormy vampires. Go camping with kids and show them that being dirty is okay! Getting filthy improves the immune system, calms the soul, and creates memories that last a lifetime. Just stay away from leeches, they’re little graboids trying to grow big enough to eat your truck, I think.
#5 Pee on the Trees
There’s no better feeling than being able to let loose on a bush with no one judging you. That’s all I need to say about this.
So go camping with kids, it’s fun, educational, and an experience that adds time to life because memories are what makes life long. A comatose person will not have memories of their coma (usually), and an able-bodied person who spends their whole life indoors is just a thinking comatose patient.
Do you already enjoy going camping? Where is your favorite place to go? Let me know in the comments and I’ll comment back with one of my favorite places 🙂
From planting a garden, to swimming at the lake, to camping and canoeing the Tahquamenon River, we have had a refreshing and relaxing summer, mostly.
Of course, I came home to make sure my mom was fed and kept on her meds while she recovered, but it wasn’t the only thing I did. Now that she is starting to get back on her feet again, I feel I have finally have enough time and energy to get to updating you on our life and a relatively mistake-free summer.
We started our summer with getting some plants in the ground. The garden beds needed some TLC and Auburn was happy to help. She helped shovel in new soil, plant some vegetables, and put in this beautiful sunflower that is now standing taller than me!
What We Grew
From tomatoes to kale, marigolds to other types of marigolds, the garden did quite well this summer. That is, except for the tomatoes. Why? Because we planted a few varieties with indeterminate growth and didn’t have a trellis system in place to support them. So what did we do? Improvised!
Gardening is a learning process year-to-year. To me, it doesn’t matter if the garden looks professional, is well spaced out, or has an particular aesthetic to it. As I’m trying to learn in life and gardening: plant your seeds, care for them, and make due. If people want to judge you, oh well, that’s on them. Set your own standards and you won’t be flailing for reassurance from anyone else. The tomatoes will turn red either way, and they taste no less delicious.
If there’s on plant I can’t recommend enough to grow, it’s kale. It’s a delicious superfood that goes great in smoothies, salads, and steamed with butter. It grows quickly, has a a solid yield per plant and is also quite attractive on it’s own. Gardening with children helps them learn about where food comes from as well. You may find your own children are more likely to eat vegetables with them grow them themselves.
Marigolds are a great addition to any garden. They come in many varieties and colors and are incredibly easy to take care of. Give them water, and dead-head the dying flowers. At some point you might even be overwhelmed with how well they do. One of plants went from a tiny sprout to a flower plant nearly 2 feet in diameter with flowers sprouting from all over!
Gardening with Children
Auburn has helped me create the garden at my Mom’s for several years now, but this was the first time she was actually helpful! Previously, she was keen to shovel out the soil I was shoveling in. This year however, she managed to fill several of plots all by herself and loved it! There’s nothing like watching a little kid get dirty and enjoy themselves, it makes me wish I was still a child sometimes. Aside from the fun they having gardening, there are numerous health benefits to it: fresh air, exercise, relaxation, and the microbes in the soil that get under your nails are beneficial to your immune system. Dig on, my child! And parents, try gardening with children and see how they do, it could be your next family activity 🙂
So my daughter brought her dinosaurs to the park, and you didn’t. You want to play with her dinosaurs, and she says no, tough luck, kid. She’s not obligated to give you a dinosaur and if you run to me to tattle on her I’m gonna say, ‘so? Get your own dinosaurs.’
Forcing your child to do anything they aren’t comfortable with, including sharing with a stranger who rudely interrupts her play session thinking they have a right to her toys, is not going to help your child develop into a well-rounded adult. Likely, your child will grow into a pushover, someone who gets used and abused by the adults who were once kids tattling on other children who wouldn’t share with them.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but teaching my daughter to not melt like a snowflake is not one of them.
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Do You Share As An Adult?
No, you don’t. If you’re at the park, ‘watching’ your kids by falling face first into your phone, I doubt very much you’re going to let me watch a few YouTube videos, no matter how politely I ask. That’s because you’re setting boundaries for yourself, and that’s okay. You don’t even have to ask for forgiveness, because non-snowflake adults will understand just fine, and the snowflakes will melt no matter what.
So when my daughter says ‘no’ to your little snowflake about her dinosaurs, teach your kid to suck it up and find something else to do instead of coddling them and suggesting to them that my daughter is the rude one.
Boundaries Are Healthy
Teaching my child that it’s okay to set boundaries, and that it’s equally okay to be refused something because someone else set a boundary, is part of learning to be a good person. I don’t want her to grow up thinking she has to be a super kid, to do everything that someone asks of her (like I did), or else think of herself as rude, or an incomplete person. Why? Because doing so lead me to saying yes to peer pressure throughout my young life, doing things I didn’t want to do when I was emotionally or physically exhausted, or losing time for myself because I didn’t want to appear to be rude.
Setting boundaries for yourself is what will keep you sane and healthy, and helps you avoid overexerting yourself. And if there’s one thing you should be doing, Kamal Ravikant described it well, love yourself first.
Share When You Can, Not When You’re Asked To
If you have an abundance, you should share it. If you don’t think you have an abundance to share, you’re likely lying to yourself. Unless you are on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society, then you have an abundance in someone’s eyes. And if you’re reading this post, then you’re not on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society. You have access to the internet with hands to type, you have food in your belly with fingers to pick meat from bone, you have fresh water to drink with lips to hold it in your mouth, you likely have a roof to sleep under and eyelids to close. Believe me, these are excesses that not everyone has. Let me share a story with you.
The Woman On The Street Of Hong Kong, After I Fattened Myself Up
I don’t even much like fastfood because I know how it destroys my gut’s biome, adds an inordinate amount of fat, sodium, and calories to my diet, and makes my love handles wiggle like Kim’s or Kylie’s ass. I don’t really know who they are, I just know they are over-indulgent celebrities who are known for not much more than their asses, so I’m taking an unnecessary cheap shot there to make a stupid point.
That point is that I indulge in excess without even wanting to. So when I was walking home down some streets I had never taken before in Mongkok, I heard a soft and lovely voice singing in Chinese, amplified by a small speaker. This isn’t uncommon for Mongkok, there’s plenty of street performers, hawkers, and political activists making noise in this area. But this one was different.
As the crowd parted near the corner, choosing one road or the other to cross, I saw a woman sitting on an unfolded cardboard box, clutching a microphone between her forearm and bicep, because she had no hands. Boils were rolling over her stump of a wrist. Her ear was bulging, her eyes bloodshot and twisted. Her nose and lips weren’t even shadows on her face, they just weren’t there. Now, I can’t read Chinese well enough to understand what her story was, but if I had to guess, she had been a victim of an acid attack (obviously I can’t be sure of this, but that’s what it looked like to me).
For me, it’s automatic to avoid beggars, not because I don’t feel compassion for them, but because I generally feel that if I’m going to donate my money and time, it is going to a cause that I believe in, or a program I trust. So I walked past her and crossed the street. I could still hear her singing into her microphone, occasionally saying ‘xie xie’ (thank you in Mandarin) to people who dropped money into the box in front of her. As I made it half-way down the next block I began to realize what I had just done.
I had just obscenely filled my belly with disgusting, tortured, chicken meat, washed it down it a bubbly cup of fat juice known as 7-up, then absent-mindedly walked past a person who has obviously had a terrible life, without a second look. I was devastated with myself. So I stopped, walked back across the street, dropped a $50 HKD bill into her box and told her what I should have been feeling from the moment I saw her, ‘Wo ai ni.’ (I love you, in Mandarin).
She didn’t pay me any extra attention than anyone else who gave her money, but she held my gaze for a moment as I told I her I loved her, and uttered in her best, broken English, ‘thank you.’ I doubt very much that it had as much of an impact on her that it had on me, but I hope she goes home tonight believing it and feeling it and knowing that her looks aren’t what make her loved or unloved. Nor is it her soft, lovely singing voice. It’s that she is a person and we should all love each other.
I walked away, tears filling up my eyes, crushed, as I thought about whatever had happened to her in her life, knowing I’m probably wrong, but accepting the fact that I’m a privileged, entitled American, with a ridiculous excess in my life. When I can, I share, but not because someone told me to, or asked me to. I shared with her because I love her, because she made me connect with my own heart and take responsibility for myself. She gave me insight into the person I am, just by being there, being strong, and being human.
Do What’s Right For you
Don’t share because you have to with everyone you see, don’t force your kids to share with snowflake kids at the park, and don’t expect anyone to have to share either their time or their money with you. Just be human, love everyone you can, and then you’ll see sharing and receiving becomes a part of your life, like breathing in and breathing out. That’s what being an adult is, that’s what it means to a raise a well-rounded child into a peaceful and loving global citizen, cognizant of the world around them. So quit melting snowflakes, and little snowflakes, realize your life is already amazing, carry on, and share what you can, when you can, and don’t melt when someone sets a boundary for themselves they don’t want you to cross.