iPad Free Parenting and The Babyccino
Lisa is the kind of mother I dream of being someday. Peaceful, kind, effortlessly gliding from the kitchen to the table while speaking Dutch to her two girls and English to my husband and I. Miles Davis is on the record player, our glasses are full, and the table is almost set. What is striking to me is that the girls are every bit as apart of this dinner as my husband and I are. They set the table, they drink juice out of special wine glasses like us, they sit up with pride knowing that they belong at the table with the grown-ups. I had seen them out at a coffee shop as a family. The parents sitting at a table with their drinks and the girls sharing a waffle with these tiny porcelain cups, used for espresso. I asked the girls what they were drinking and they said it was a "Babyccino." As a former Montessori teacher this pleases me. I have always been on a mission to make children feel dignified and to realize that their actions affect their environment and the people in it. While most parents would shy away from giving their child a porcelain cup, Lisa lets them take chances and trusts that her children will learn the power of their own strength. I am not a mother yet, but someday I will be, and out of pure curiosity and selfishly wanting to gather wisdom I had to ask Lisa what her secret was!
I’ve noticed that you have a really unique way of involving your children. Is this something you do intentionally or did it come about more organically?
I would say it’s a combination. I feel that any intention I have in parenting has to be held open-handedly as far as the implementation goes and needs to be given room to unfold organically. I have always had a high value for gathering around a table. I live by the principle that my children will learn to love the things I love and that they are more likely to take interest in something that they have invested themselves in. It seemed a very natural step to involve them in the process of feasting, from preparing the meal to laying the table. Beauty is another core value that I am passionate about cultivating in my children, hence creating an environment where they partake at their level is really important to me.
What about technology? It seems like a lot of folks these days can’t get a moment of peace without distracting their kids with their phone or iPad. Do you use technology with your kids? If so, how do you balance that? And if not what is your alternative?
Oooh, this is a subject I am passionate about! Technology is a tool that I want my children to be able to use effectively and skillfully. I am very intentional about technology time with the girls, and honestly, it’s as much about my heart posture and motivation in the moment, as it is about their benefit. Whenever I find myself using technology to distract/entertain out of my own frustration/control/impatience that’s a big red flag for me. I want them to know that they are a valued part of our community as a family and whoever else we invite into that space. Peace is not the absence of my children’s involvement in something, but rather the presence cultivated when we communally contribute our whole selves to the task/moment at hand. Children are such a blessing and I think it’s time that this belief is restored in our hearts and homes.
What are some things you do to involve the girls in your everyday life?
Well, it’s all about finding the sweet spot. On any given day the motivators at play vary, some days it’s really fun to fold the laundry with Mama and other days it’s a drag, so I try to find the balance between teaching and fun. I involve them in whatever task I’m busy at the moment. They help me fold laundry, they love to scrub the tiles in the shower, but probably their favorite is baking. Let me say right here it’s not always easy having a little helper, my idol of efficiency had to die a gruesome death in the process, but it is remarkable even now to think of how much they have grown in their competency with certain tasks. I like to have them do things that require little risk at first, small stakes that if they mess up it’s not a big deal to anyone involved. Then I gradually build upon their skill level teaching them more advanced things, if you will, as they are able.
Can you think of a time where having them help backfired?
Haha, all the time! Well no, jokes aside, their involvement takes a lot more out of me than if I were to just do it myself, however, the reward of them helping far outweighs my desire for efficiency. It is such a privilege to teach a small child a new thing, watching their little faces filled with wonder, contemplating all the endless possibilities this new experience has opened up to them. As for a funny story - the girls have a play kitchen of their own and for a while, I thought it would be a fun idea to store my baking ingredients in their cupboards so they could help me pull them out etc whenever we had a baking activity. One day I was working in the garden out front and the girls had been helping me but had slowly wandered back into the house I was clearing an area for our strawberry patch in the summer and was very focused on the task at hand, but presently realised the girls had been gone for a while and that I ought to go check on what they were doing. I came into the house and there was flour everywhere, the passageway through the living room was white with tiny footprints trailed through it leading to the kitchen. As I rounded the corner I saw two little flour covered faces throwing handfuls of flour up in the air and giggling in sheer delight as the ‘snow’ landed on everything in sight. I had a big choice to make in that moment. Was I going to explode in anger at the mess they had made or could I join in the fun and wonder and gently guide them in cleaning up the mess when all was said and done? I chose the latter and we ended up making snow angels running back and forth and vacuuming for an hour after! Thank God for a good vacuum cleaner and new storage for my baking supplies :)
Tell me about the babyccino? When did that start?
Babyccinos are a South African thing. It started with my nieces and nephews. I watched as my sisters entered into motherhood and navigated the new challenges life presented with a tiny human to take care of. We would often try to go out for coffee dates together and they would have never worked if it hadn’t been for babyccinos. It felt sad to me all gathering around something like coffee and there not being anything for the little ones to partake in and feel included by. So as I became a mother, and obviously loved coffee, I decided that I would incorporate this practice into my daily routine with the girls. We have a coffee and babyccino date together most mornings. I heat up a little milk with vanilla extract, froth it in a small french press and pour it into their special espresso-sized cups. Then we sit together and welcome the new day.