As I watched the movie version of Where the Wild Things Are with my little monsters this week, I thought back to being pregnant with my first child (more than 10 years ago) and having no idea of what I was letting myself in for.
I remember people telling me that parenting is the hardest job you'll ever have – I scoffed.
I had already had some high pressure roles, but perhaps I was wrong. Turns out parenting is a tough gig.
This year has started with some challenges and talking with other parents, I know I'm not alone. And I've got some definite advantages with a fridge full of food, supportive family and friends around me, and my own happy childhood to lean on.
It's all about putting those boundaries in place but, as a bit of a softie myself, turns out it's quite hard! That said, I remain a fan of the peaceful parenting – a patient approach that isn't all about punishment.
Yes, it can mean slower change with challenging behaviours, but I believe you get a lasting outcome in the long run. Having children who are obedient because they are scared just doesn't produce well rounded adults.
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However, that's not about avoiding consequences – as my children are discovering!
The removal of screen time seems to get a reaction pretty quick. But I also don't want screen time to be the greatest reward. I want my children to seek time in the outdoors because they love it, and not because they've been forced outside or because the Wi-Fi has been turned off.
I follow educator Pennie Brownlee on Facebook via @DanceWithMeInTheHeart and a recent post quoted "Childhood: for best results, use outdoors."
When I get my boys outside, it works. Trouble falls away and we have fun together.
Last weekend at Kai Iwi beach was glorious – great to swim between the flags given the rip; lots of laughs under the watchful eyes of the surf patrol.
We need to have time in nature to recharge and refresh ourselves – get away from the screens that dominate our lives these days.
Paul Rangiwahia, an artist and inspirational speaker, posted this week about how our relationships with others are often channelled through technology these days (yes, ironic that I stay connected to this old friend through Facebook).
As he said, we know that the majority of communication is through body language, followed by tone of voice, then the words spoken are the smallest factor, but we missing that with social media. One of his suggestions is reinstating the tradition of family meal times.
"Most of us, when we think about health, we think about diet, exercise, sleep. But it's really quite striking because there are decades of evidence that show, in fact, the biggest contributor to our health is our relationships, especially ones that occur face to face."
I was fortunate this week to catch up again with people closely engaged with our river and the status it has in legislation as Te Awa Tupua.
This concept of a relationship with the river is not new for the hapū and iwi of Whanganui, but knowing that all who care about this river are invited to share in this may be new to some.
As stated by Ngā Tāngata Tiaki in the book From the Sea to the Mountain published by Henry Newrick, "all communities have an interest in ensuring the health and wellbeing of the river".
I read another piece this week about our relationship with nature, written by Sir Rob Fenwick (available at www.noted.co.nz). Sadly, he writes that he is dying.
"Although my doctor has exhausted all the options, we as a nation have not exhausted ours … This is a crisis. Time is running out for the treasures of nature that we love … We must make change."
Fenwick sees the answer in native trees – and more of them. I see the answer in how we mirror our relationship with nature in our relationship each other, both children and adults.
Everything is connected and in Whanganui we are fortunate to have world-leading legislation that makes this concept tangible through the river.
Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it simply and well with this: "Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things."
•Nicola Patrick is a councillor at Horizons Regional Council, leads Thrive Whanganui, a social enterprise hub, is a Green Party member and has a science degree. A mum of two boys, this fortnightly column is her personal opinion.