Druidic Parenting – Making Dragon Wings part III

I got the dragon wings done in time for the Galstonbury Dragon’s May Fair on the bank holiday weekend and am really proud of myself.

We had loads of ‘aw look at the baby dragon’ comments which was hugely validating.

I didn’t have time in the end to make a dragon head but the wings should last a couple of years so I can always work on them for Samhain.

So here are the final stages:

 

I used a ruler to pin out straight lines to follow for the wing markings then used my rainbow coloured embroidery silks to do line of back stitch (which miraculously look ok on the other side too.

I looked up images of dragon tails on the internet to find a simple shape to work from and then cut out some waxed card to use as both template and insert for keeping the shape of the tail.  I cut the shape out of the sleeve of the t-shirt that I’d been working from using both parts to make a pocket.

I pinned the card into the pocket, back-stitched round the card (except for the top) and then turned it inside out to put the card back in.

I lopped off the bottom of the sock, taking advantage of the stripes to help cut straight then used a blanket stitch to get the tail onto the sock.

I made the straps using the other sock and a bit of the t-shirt collar

The shoulder straps are sewn at the top and tied to the collar loops at the bottom so it works like a rucksack and is adjustable as she grows.  The wrist straps are just loops of elastic made to measure so although there is some give, I will probably need to replace these before she outgrows the wings.

I didn’t work out what to do with the top of the sock.  It’s just tucked in on itself.

Here’s the final result (not a great pic, but staying still is not one of little monster’s strong points).

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The day itself was brilliant, although we nearly didn’t make it thanks to a mini-measles reaction to the MMR jab.  We cut our plan short and went for a day trip rather than a weekend camp.

My son (along with his partner and mine) volunteered to be dragon legs in the parade.

So I got to be Mother of Dragons for the day.IMG_0708

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Meaning in Task Avoidance

Today is the first day in a few weeks where I have had the time and space to think about writing.

I feel in the last month or so that I have lost momentum in most areas of my life so today has been about resetting intentions.

Rather than sit down in front of my computer with no idea of what to write about, I began the day by sorting through my clothes for the first time since before I was pregnant.

I’ve avoided this task for quite a long time and this morning I realised why. I’ve been looking at it as yet another task in the long list of things that just need doing, but with time and space to myself to think as I worked, I realised that my avoidance was much more than this.

My lifestyle and goals have changed completely in the last couple of years, I no longer need to look office presentable – I’m in a place where I need to work with much more creative energy.

My job was creative to a point, but only within very fixed parameters (even when I was responsible for setting those parameters myself). Now I have absolute freedom (albeit limited resources) to set my own goals. It turns out, that’s actually quite an intimidating place to be for no particularly comprehensible reason and I have not been bold or confident in my decision making at all.

When I did my Imbolc ritual on renewal, the word that came to mind as needing renewal, was courage. I’m beginning now to understand what that means in my life right now.

So the mound of clothes (which includes stuff that belonged to my mum who died while I was pregnant) was not just another tick box on the infinite to do list. Rather, it represents making decisions about what I need to ditch and what to preserve; decisions about how I want to be now and how I might reflect/ represent that in outward appearance.

Finally being able to reflect on and understand my task avoidance and get through it, hopefully will give me what I need to set my intentions and regain momentum in all areas.T

Druidic Parenting – A Spring Walk

Spring has most definitely sprung now and little monster is living outside. She is just better outside. Even last year when she was very tiny, if she was well fed and still unsettled we would take her outside and she would calm down the moment she was under the leaves of the ash tree. The leaf buds of the ash are just starting to sprout again now and I’m looking forward to seeing how she relates to it this year – I suspect lying down calmly underneath it won’t be high on her agenda now.

Outdoors now, she is full of confidence and adventure.

This week we visited our local bluebell woods. Some of the bluebells are out but it is not yet a full blue-mist carpet and the wild garlic is abundant. These particular woods are quite hilly and I wasn’t sure how well she would manage but her energy levels and physical capability have just sky-rocketed in the past few weeks and she was up the hills as fast as her little legs would carry her – which equates to a gentle stroll for grown-up limbs. For the first time, she is actually moving consistently and in one direction rather than stopping at every little thing or trying to wander back the other way – the little things are everywhere now so I guess there’s more incentive to keep moving and experience all of it rather than spending minutes at a time fascinating at a single daisy. This was great, it left me free on the uphill stretches to pick garlic. Downhill of course, I have to hold on – going as fast as her little legs will carry her downhill usually ends with her face on the floor.

When walking got a bit much, she would do a few minutes in the carrier. This gave her the opportunity to throw her head back and stare through the greening branches to squawk at the myriad birds in the blue sky and shout ‘biiirdl’. I laughed at her – I love her excitement and get sucked right into it. I can’t stare up at the sky and keep moving or I’ll fall over and I’m not allowed to stand still when she’s in the carrier so I only get the occasional glimpse but I can hear the birds (maybe one day I’ll be able to identify them all by their sounds) and I love the way the light catches through the fresh green.

I love that she loves to be outdoors, and I’m fortunate to live near some beautiful wild spaces. I hope that she keeps her sense of wonder at it all – she’s certainly refreshing mine.

Druidic Parenting – Making Dragon Wings part II

No marathon naps this week so the dragon wings aren’t complete but I am making progress.

I searched the trunk of junk for some inspiring spine/ tail material and found a rainbow-stripe sock and it just so happens I have embroidery silks to match every colour in the sock except the red – so this is it laid out and ready to stitch up.
IMG_0604The tail needs fins at the bottom – partly because it just does and partly so it doesn’t just end in what is unmistakably the foot end of a well used sock.

I’m going to cut tail fin shapes out of waxed card (passata boxes or similar from the recycling box) and sew them in to the red material so that the fins keep their shape rather than just flopping off the bottom.  I’m using waxed card because it’s waterproof and much as I am absolutely sure that our Beltane celebration will be blessed with glorious sunshine – it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution.  The side of a plastic milk bottle would work just as well if there’s no cartons in the box when I get to that bit.

Wings now attached to sock: pinned and then blanket stitched so the stitching doesn’t show through.  I used the hem line of the t-shirt material to make sure I was going straight – unfortunately this means the hem line is just visible along the edges of the sock-spine.  I’m not unpicking it and starting over – once is enough but if I was to do this again I would either have made sure the hem was on the inside of the wings (I didn’t on these because there is writing on the other side of the t-shirt) or just sewn the sock slightly further into the wing.

The top of the sock is just tucked in at the moment – I’m not quite sure how best to finish it or even whether to leave it to attach to some kind of dragon-head hood…

Next steps: stitching the multi-coloured wing bones, making the tail-fins (are they called fins on a dragon??) and then adding arm and wrist straps.

Why equal gender representation in parliament would make for better politics

I’m pretty sure that most people who campaign for or talk about wanting gender equal representation in parliament have come across this question at some point?

What makes you think that politics will be better if there are more female politicians?

or

Why do you think a female MP would be any better than a male one?

or some variant on that.

Well the short answer is that there is absolutely no reason to believe that female MPs would be any better at politics than male ones.

Some people get pulled into the challenge and try to justify how women might be better and then all the positive gender stereotypes about women come out like how they are more caring or have more empathy for the people they represent or how they are better at working collaboratively.  And while for some women these normative statements might actually be true, for many they are not.

Firstly, this stance doesn’t help the cause of gender equality in a big way – it says that attributes such as caring are female and attributes like logic are male.  It locks us all into unhelpful normative positions and reinforces toxic stereotypes as well as positive ones, it leaves us all as man or woman or not fitting instead of allowing us to be human.

Secondly, this stance doesn’t acknowledge that whether male or female, MPs are the kind of people that seek positions of power.  They may think their goals are noble ones but if they are ideologically opposed to my political goals then I’m not likely to agree that they are positive goals regardless of the gender of the MP.  And playing with power often alters people, so whatever their start point – if they reach the top they will likely be different to how they were when they started (this could be positive or negative).

The fact is, women are not better than men.  Yet for some reason we are constantly being asked to argue or prove that we are better just to be treated as equal.  If we knew that women would make better politicians than men then we should not be campaigning for equal representation; we should be campaigning for dominance.

Equal gender representation in our powerhouses would not make politics better because women are better, it would make politics better because fairness is better.

The current male dominance of our country’s powerhouse is not based on men being better than women, it is based on the historical precedent that a small core of privileged and privately educated white men are entitled to make decisions for everyone.  There is some token divergence from this, but it is only token.

It is the question itself that is wrong and needs to be turned on it’s head.

Do you think that more women in politics would make our political system worse than it currently is, that women are somehow less moral or less intelligent than men?  If not, what justification is there for maintaining the current unfairness in the system? Why do women need to be better than men in order to hold only equal status?

If the question was asked by someone who just struggles to conceptualise the need for change then this is a challenge to help break away from being stuck in a socially ingrained thought pattern.  If the question was asked by someone who actually feels that inequality is justifiable and the privileged few really are entitled to make decisions for the rest of us, then this will at least serve to expose their prejudices which you could try and rationalise with if you have the emotional energy, or you could just allow them to make themselves look like a complete twonk and leave other people judge them.

Druidic Parenting – Making Dragon Wings

In just under 3 weeks, we’ll be heading off to Glastonbury for the Glastonbury Dragons Beltane celebration

We went last year and camped with a 7 week old baby.  This year we will be doing the same but the baby is now fully mobile so I imagine this will be a lot more challenging.  As well as being more mobile she also has heaps more personality and loves dragons -well she loves things that fly and things that roar so I assume she loves dragons even though she calls them bears or birdls.

So, I set myself the challenge of making some dragon wings.  The main criteria in looking for inspiration was that they need to not be wired, because I think wired wings on my child will either get crushed out of shape or transform themselves into a hazard (she is very good at magically transforming things into hazards) and also not to be made of cardboard just incase it rains.

After much searching for non-wired fabric toddler dragon wings, I found this

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and after clicking through to find out how to make them only to find it was a purchase item not a craft item, I figured I’d do my usual trick of making it up as I go along.

In one marathon nap session I got this far.

This is made using an old work t-shirt that belonged to big sis #1.

I pinched the middle double page out of little monster’s scrap book to make the pattern.  It’s soft paper so easy to pin without ripping.  Grease-proof paper works fine too.

I drew a single wing shape on one side of the folded double page and then cut both pages together to make two identical wing shapes.

The top edge of the wing is lined up against the side of the t-shirt so no stitching needed there.  The inner edge of the wing is lined up against the base of the t-shirt because the bottom edge of the shirt is hemmed neatly already so that means I can avoid stitching this altogether and leave an open side to invert the fabric.

Then I started stitching.  I’m useless with a sewing machine (so don’t have one) so this is all done by hand.  I’m using doubled thread to ensure it’s strong and then just a basic back-stitch to follow neatly along the wavy edge of the wing pattern.  I’ve kept the stitches really small close to the points so they don’t lose their sharpness when I invert the fabric.

Before I inverted the fabric I cut a little closer to the stitching so I didn’t end up with bulky bits inside the seam.

It took a bit of fiddling to pull the points out sharp and I’ve had to pin them in place or they will probably pull back in.  To stop this happening I’m going to have to sew a line tracing the edge of the wing but that’s ok as it can just form part of the markings on the wing.

To finish off for the day, I put more pins on to mark out the other markings to be stitched on – you could use fabric chalk or something if you have professional bits like that kicking round, but I just had a box of pins in front of me.

I’m pretty pleased with my progress so far – I think I might actually be able to complete this in the nearly three weeks I have before Beltane although it may involve some night work as marathon nap sessions like that are a pretty rare occurrence.

Druidic Parenting – the Unreal Life of the Child

To the teachers at school who told me my life was not real, the ones who said ‘you’re in for a shock when you get out into the real world’, I ask you this:

Do you think that the limits of your knowledge and experience are the limits of knowledge and experience?

There is so much that we don’t know yet and if you grow up enough you may yet learn that your childhood fantasies were real.

I was reading comments on a parenting forum the other day and was struck by one dad-to-be declaring that he would give his child everything it needs but wants would have to be earned, because in the ‘real world’ this is how things work, in fact you have to earn your needs too but he was prepared to supply those freely to his child as it grew.

My first thought was ‘are you sure you should be having a child?’

My second was to question what it is about the life of a child that is somehow less real than the life of an adult.

If you insist on your child earning everything she wants then how will she learn the pleasure of giving as a simple act of loving-kindness? Is your real world made up only of work for money and material possessions? Is there no love or pleasure or compassion in the real world?

You are teaching her that all the knowledge and experience she gains that is not part of supporting this status quo is unreal and invalid. Furthermore you are teaching her that this status quo is not just how things are, but how things should be.

You probably also think that ‘one of the most important lessons you will ever learn in life is that life is not fair’ as if this is somehow both self-evident and self justifying and therefore should be accepted without question.

You want to teach your child how to think and how to be so that they can learn their place in the real world and keep within those limits.

You can keep your real world; I want no place in it.

I want to offer my child a place of safety so that she can explore how to think and how to be so that she can learn to create her own place in a world that she contributes to shaping.

This is a lofty ambition for a toddler, but following the druid goals of nurturing wisdom love and creativity in order to achieve this can start right from the beginning simply by noticing and by validating the reality of your child’s experience and allowing them to explore and learn at whatever pace that needs to happen for them.

The reason I was looking at parenting forums was because my twelve month old has started having tantrums. This is something that I thought was normally associated with the ‘terrible twos’ and I was curious to see if she is displaying advanced (albeit ear-drum shattering) behaviour or whether this is actually normal at twelve months and just happened to be something my older children did not do (the older ones also slept through the night by three months but this was in the days before high-speed hand-held internet so I assumed it was normal – it turns out I was very wrong). I typed ‘my twelve month old has terrible twos’ into the search engine and instead of getting developmental milestones, I got forums where people were discussing behaviour management tips and strategies for babies. Yes, really!

One of the tantrums was caused by her not being allowed what she wanted (a piece of orange peel from the compost heap); the other was caused by my failure to understand whatever it was she was trying to communicate. On both occasions I just picked her up, said something soothing about the world ending (validating her experience) and took her off to do something else. Behaviour management did not occur to me so it wasn’t what I was looking for but I felt compelled to read anyway.

It turns out that time-out and the naughty step are popular strategies for dealing with 12-18 month old children that throw food. That shocked me; throwing food at that age is not naughty it’s just part of being that age. One of my standard responses: ‘Ooh, how did that get on the floor did you drop it? –food doesn’t belong on the floor silly – food belongs on your plate or in your mouth’. Obviously this response makes no immediate difference to what happens to her food. Why food ends up on the floor is very variable: sometimes it is a game to make mum or dad bend over and pick it up, sometimes it is poorly coordinated self feeding and sometimes it is because she doesn’t want to eat any more so her food magically transforms into toys. Whatever the particular reason, it is all part of exploring and learning about what happens and about how people react, so whatever mess it leaves us clearing up it is a step on the path to wisdom. (This article on mealtime milestones  covers it pretty well although the specific ages will vary from child to child.)

Learning what happens and how people react is experiential learning, it is exactly about finding out how the ‘real world’ works. Food has always fallen to the ground when dropped ever since Newton invented gravity back in 1687, but this only becomes real to a child when they discover it for themselves. As children learn and grow, their questions and experiments change. I remember exploring some pretty big moral and metaphysical issues as I grew up from the existence of the tooth fairy through the sentience of a foetus to attempting to recreate the drug enhanced shamanic wisdom of don Juan Matus. My world does not feel any more real now than it did then. I did not experience any seismic shift in consciousness when I started paying for my own food. The big questions about life, the universe and everything still matter to me, I believe that imagination is often a manifestation of the world of spirit or collective unconscious or whatever you want to call it and that the fears and worries and loves and desires of a child are just as real as those of adults and I still rally against unfairness.

I have learned the important lesson that life is not fair: I have seen bad things happen to good people that human intervention has been powerless to prevent and I have been hurt by it and had no choice but to come to acceptance of it. I have also seen bad things happen to good people as a direct result of human-created social structures and hierarchies and even though I am now an adult I see no reason to accept that these are an immutable unchangeable fact of life that can only be challenged by children who are apparently ignorant of the ‘real world’.

I hope that by supporting and validating my child in her need to explore and experiment and push boundaries and question perceived injustice (even in the ear-splitting form of toddler tantrums) that she will find the wisdom to have a positive impact in the real world.