I was raised a perfectionist. If I didn’t have perfect grades, I sensed mild, baffled disappointment – “What happened? Surely you can do better?” That expectation rooted itself in me and I came to see it as natural, and as my own. So for years I’ve tried to do things as well as I possibly can.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” When I’ve known that I don’t have the time or skill to do something well, I have chosen to not do it.

Now I am finally trying to unlearn that perfectionism and to practice “good enough” instead. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

See that chair makeover in the previous post? The seats of our kitchen chairs were worn out and stained and needed replacing. Reupholstering a seat is not much work: from beginning to end, it took me about an hour per seat. But there are also the backrests. Reupholstering those would require the chair to be disassembled almost completely, and then the actual reupholstering would be a lot fiddlier. I don’t even know exactly how the fabric is attached, but it would almost certainly require more than scissors and a staple gun, probably quite a lot of measuring and sewing. Given all the other tasks and projects on my list, it was clear to me that that just wasn’t going to happen. I could of course also have bought new chairs, or accepted them in their somewhat ugly state. But I opted for a good-enough solution, and reupholstered just the part that actually needed it. So what if the seat fabric now doesn’t match the backrest.

Likewise in the garden. For some time now (like, a couple of years) I’ve wanted to do something with the one and only flowerbed in our garden. To do it properly, we should replace the stones around it, because the lawn is creeping into the flowerbed. And we should probably move them a bit further out because the flowerbed is quite narrow. And we should really mix manure or compost into the soil, which is dry and poor. But… all that would take me an entire weekend, and that’s just not going to happen any time soon. So instead of waiting for that utopian weekend (with no kids to interrupt my work, and decent weather, and nothing more urgent to do) I just bought and planted a bunch of perennials that should hopefully be able to cope with the poor soil, in the narrow space that is there, and then threw in some cheap annuals to get some colour straight away. It’s not perfect, but it’s something, which is way better than nothing.

Our kitchen chairs have a new look.

We had a team “conference” yesterday. First we talked.

Then we had a nice dinner.

Word of the month: min!, “mine”, meaning “I want that thing”. This leads to occasional minor fights between Adrian and Ingrid (when that thing is the toy that Ingrid just picked up) and between Adrian and myself (when that thing is a sharp knife or the book I’m reading). But he is usually willing to be redirected towards some acceptable alternative.

Another favourite and frequently-used word is läta (for “läsa”, “read”). Adrian loves to hear someone read to him. He likes animal books, but also simple stories: we’ve read the various Max books, Bu och Bä, as well as Mamma Mu. For a long while the one about Mamma Mu hurting herself was a firm favourite, with the blood and the plaster and all the drama.

He doesn’t have a word for “sing”, although he likes music a lot. Instead he usually asks for a specific song, by singing the first few words of it. Singing fixes almost all problems, from nappy changes to boring stroller rides.

Animals and such are the theme of his first iPad app, Sound Touch. He tends to “touch” the screen with his whole and and half his arm, so the results are unpredictable, but he likes it. (Not because I think he particularly needs digital entertainment, but I wanted to be prepared in case we need in-car entertainment for some longer trip.)

Among animals he has his clear favourites: elephants and pigs and squirrels, ducks and horses and fish. He points those out whenever he sees them. His favourite dummy is one with a picture of a horse: at night when going to bed he always chooses that one over one with a dog. The previous favourite had a duck. He is much less interested in the ones with dogs, and abstract patterns of hearts and such are of no interest. But he also likes to point out apples and balloons and babies.

He also has favourite clothes. His stripy jersey hat is a sort of a comfort blanket for him, but he also has a favourite fleece jacket, a favourite pair of trousers and favourite pyjamas. For other clothes his taste varies from day to day, but he almost always has an opinion. I pick a shirt, he grabs it and throws it away, and picks a better one.

He likes playing with water. Dishes in the sink, waiting to be washed up, are a real temptation, hard to resist. He just has to touch the water, put his hand in it, bang at it with a spoon, pour it with a cup etc. He also likes wiping it up afterwards but is not very effective at it. He gets a lot of practice with words like blöt, vatten, oj, trilla, plärts and papper (“wet”, “water”, “oops”, “fell”, “splash” and “paper”). I sometimes suspect that if he could, he’d play with water all day long.

He has also discovered puddles and the joy of stomping his feet in them.

Sometimes I manage to canalize that desire to play with water towards something more useful. He likes helping me cook, especially when there’s something to be poured or stirred. If water isn’t available then he’ll pour peas or chopped veggies from one bowl to another.

Adrian has also learned to crack an egg, and gets very excited when I bring out the egg carton. But he is always slightly shocked when the egg white gets on his fingers, so I try to be quick to take the cracked egg from him, to make sure he doesn’t just let go of it. (The trick is to put a large plate under the bowl, to catch the inevitable spills, which can then be poured back in the bowl.)

He sometimes works on cutting his own food, but generally prefers to either let us do it, or just eat with his hands. Also he is learning to spread margarine on bread (and everything else).

Buttering bread and grapes

He likes running and climbing and slides. We think he actually runs (with both feet off the ground) but it’s hard to see. He can and likes to walk up and down stairs as long as they aren’t too steep, or he has something to hold on to. We removed the bar blocking the stairs at home some while ago and there haven’t been any falls at all. He actually doesn’t climb them much: usually there is no reason, and they’re too steep to be fun.

In general he is pretty sensible and not too wild. When we’re out walking in our local, quiet streets, I don’t hold his hand except when a car approaches. In our local supermarket I can let him have a kids’ trolley and let him walk around – supervised, so he doesn’t “buy” everything he sees, but I don’t need to hold on to him.

He talks a lot. Two-word phrases come all the time, and sometimes he does three-word phrases: emme titta hää for “mummy sit here” for example.

He tells us when he has pooped (but with frequent false positives). But when we then go to change the nappy, he often objects. So he wants to be changed but does not like the way we do it?

He is happy at nursery, rarely complains when we leave him, but is also happy to go home in the afternoon. Often he wants to cuddle on the way home, so I take him in my ring sling and use the stroller for the all our bags and stuff instead. The moment we get home he wants to nurse, and we spend then next hour alternating between nursing, snacking, cuddling and reading.

This Thursday afternoon Ingrid’s preschool had their summer party, officially ending this term. Preschool is still open for another two weeks but in “summer mode”, with freer activities and less focus on the educational side of things. And I am actually getting used to the idea of Ingrid going to school this autumn.

I still haven’t quite gotten used to how much more mature she now seems. I wrote about it last month so I’m not going to rehash the details. But it reminds me how these things really seem to happen in waves. For a long time it feels like nothing happens, and then suddenly I realize she’s grown. Not in size but inside.

Speaking of size, though, she weighs 19.9 kg and has size 110/116 in clothes (closer to 116).

Ingrid more mature emotionally and socially than just a few months ago. She’s more capable, and more willing to be capable, and less inclined to ask us to do things she is able to do on her own.

She can focus and concentrate very well, as long as she finds the task worthwhile. At the preschool summer party the kids performed several song and dance acts, and I was impressed by how concentrated she was during the dancing: really focused on the music and the moves, and doing them all in the right order and at the right time, rather than looking around or dreaming away (like some other kids were).

She’s also gained confidence. During that same show, she and a friend of hers performed a song together: just the two of them, in front of 30 families or so. And they did great. She sang loudly and clearly and seemed pretty relaxed about it. The whole show was planned by the kids, so this was something she and friend M wanted to do, not something a teacher put them up to.

The song, by the way, was Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Ingrid first sang it in English, and then M repeated it in Swedish – “for those of you in the audience who need a translation”. Ingrid has gradually been learning English of her own accord. She’s been watching movies in English for a long time, but she has also started asking us what things are called, speaking to us in English rather than Swedish or Estonian, etc. “I am eating bread”, “This is a book”, “I want to go out”, “Adrian cannot eat this”, “This apple is red”, “Where is the fork” etc.

To Adrian, she speaks Swedish. She clearly views Swedish as her native language.

Her confidence also shows in physical bravery. She swings high and climbs high, and jumps from one tall structure to another, and hangs from things.

Yesterday we went to a swimming pool, and after a few practice rides with me, she was going on her own down the cascade, which ends with a big splash in a deep pool where she can’t touch the bottom, as well as through the water jet tunnel. (With flotation aids, though, since she cannot yet swim well enough to keep her head above the surface.) Last time, a few months ago, she would not do either of those without holding on to me.

She is also happier. There are fewer sulky faces, and more laughs and smiles.

Favourite pastime: Bamse, still. The first thing she does on Saturday mornings is to ask for her weekly Bamse. She reads that, and then buys another one for some of her allowance, and then some more. During the week she may talk about saving money for this or that, but when she has the money in her hand and the stack of Bamse back issues in front of her, all of that goes right out of her head and she spends it all on that. She now reads so fast and effortlessly that she can easily plow through ten of them in a day.

I want to share with you my favourite piece of parenting advice. I am generally cautious about preaching about my parenting approach here – what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. But this is such a universal technique, and so useful, that I wish everybody knew about it. Again and again, when I hear arguments and raised voices between kids and their parents – at preschool, at other kids’ homes, or just random strangers in the street – I wish there was some way I could tell those parents about this.

When a child tells you what/how she feels about something, listen and acknowledge.

That’s it. And it is amazing how many fights, quarrels, breakdowns and tantrums can be avoided using this simple technique.

Consider this scenario, variations of which I have experienced repeatedly, sometimes as a participant and other times as an observer. The kid has spent Saturday afternoon at a friend’s place. You now turn up and say it’s time to go home – grandma will arrive soon to have dinner with you. The kid has had a lot of fun and is not at all interested in going home.

The kid says, naturally: “I don’t want to go home! I hate having dinner with grandma!”

Now as a parent you could do a number of things.

Deny the feelings. “Of course you want to go home – you love being with grandma!”
Forbid the feelings. “How can you say that about your grandma? Never say anything like that again!”
Cajole and bribe. “Come on, we can have ice cream after dinner!”
Distract. “Oh, look at that cute dog – shall we see if it is going our way?”
Try to fix things. “Well, why don’t you invite her to our place for tomorrow morning?”
Appeal to reason. “Well, we have to go home anyway, because grandma will be there waiting for us.”
Philosophize. “That’s the way life is, you know, everything comes to an end at some point.”
Ridicule. “Well, you can’t stay here all night!”
Diminish the feelings. “Don’t worry, you’ll see your friend soon again.”
Ignore. “I don’t care, we’re going home anyway.”
Threaten. “Stop whining right now or you’ll never come here again.”

Some of these responses may work sometimes, more or less effectively. Others may give you the feeling that you’re doing your job as a parent, but are unlikely to actually be productive in any way. I’m sure you can imagine what your kid would reply to any of these – and it probably isn’t “you’re right, Mom, let’s go home”.

The next time, try this instead:

Kid: “I don’t want to go home! I hate having dinner with grandma!”
Mom: “You really don’t feel like going home now.”
Kid: “No! We were having so much fun with Elin just now!”
Mom: “You really enjoyed playing with Elin today.”
Kid: “Yes – and you came just as we were preparing a treasure hunt!”
Mom: “You had something great planned and I came and interrupted you.”
Kid: “Yes, and we even had the maps all ready. Here, look, this is my map and this is Elin’s.”

And by this point, or maybe after two more turns, the situation has usually been defused. The kid has gotten a chance to express her disappointment and frustration. She can now let go of those feelings and move on.

It sounds silly. It seems too simple to work. But it really does – assuming that you do it for real and don’t just pretend to listen to their feelings. Serving canned responses will sound fake and the kid will pick up on it.

I learned this technique from How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, a great book that I would recommend to all parents. It’s got other useful tips, too, but this is the one that I’ve benefited most from. Do read it.

In fact I think it’s time I re-read the book myself, again.

Find the book on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Adlibris.

Summer party at preschool: a song-and-dance-and-magic show by the kids, and then an orgy of strawberries, ice cream and merengue.

When I was browsing cardigan patterns for myself, Ingrid saw some photos of cardies with flowers around the neckline and asked if I could make one of those for her. Economizing, I bought a simple cardigan from H&M and just made the flowers myself.

I have lost my blogging routine and I am not happy about this.

I used to leave blogging as the last task for the evening. When all kids are asleep and all musts are out of the way, I can focus on blogging and not feel like there is stuff I should be doing instead. But now I have imposed a 22:00 computer curfew on myself, to make sure that I can go to bed at around 23:00 and actually have a decent chance of falling asleep. (Adrian has not been sleeping very well recently and I really need the sleep.)

This clashes with my old blogging habits and I have not yet found good new ones. Those of you who blog, when do you do it? Do you have a set time of day? A weekly schedule?