learning, unlearning and relearning

Kia ora friends,

so … um … yesterday at about 2pm I submitted my PhD thesis. I have decided this is like winning a quarterfinal – worthy of a little celebration, a wonderful milestone, but TEAM we ain’t done. Still needing to be examined and defended … but we are getting there.

You’d have thought it was a fab time for champagne popping, but a) I didn’t want to drink a whole bottle, b) I didn’t want to waste any, and c) I had an appointment for jabs in the afternoon, which made day-drinking pretty unappealing. So I’m as-yet-unchampagned!

I promised myself I’d have June off for resting and knitting, but sheesh it’s gonna be a process, getting used to not chipping away at the huge PhD goal.

Can I tell you a bit about what a long road? I am the first in family to graduate from a tertiary institution – got my Diploma of Teaching in Early Childhood straight outta high school in the early 90’s.

My lil’ Dip T and I punched above our weight for years, enjoying the BEST JOB EVER at the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance housed at Tennessee Tech University at the turn of the century (go Golden Eagles!), and when I was a new mum in the early aughts I slowly clawed my way to the BTchLn upgrade, one distance paper at a time, finishing in 2006.

I guess it was a couple of years later I started trying to convert that into some postgraduate quals, and my path to the PGDip was interrupted by the collapse of the city, the need to provide care to my dear mum, followed by my next (precious) pregnancy.

Eventually I finished the PGDipHSci in 2018, by which time my sweet mother had died, so she never knew about my successful completion of a Master’s degree by research in 2020, or this gargantuan mountain I’ve been climbing since.

A PhD is not for the faint hearted, and I am just beyond grateful for the support of my exceptional supervision team, my beautiful family, and the Child Wellbeing Research Institute at the University of Canterbury. We are on track to finish ‘er up midyear.

So here comes enforced rest! Weird. I started yesterday with cleaning out slime from the nooks and crannies of my washing machine. Unbeknownst to me, there is a world of cleaning videos out there, and I am so jazzed by the notion of having some time to indulge in a bit of oikology! All the jobs I’ve been walking past and ignoring for YEARS … here we come …

on self-forgiveness and sass

Kia ora friends

Here we go, 2024.

So I’ve employed my dad’s excellent life advice to wait till you’ve had two sleeps after a difficult situation, in order to decide whether to succumb to despair, or not.

Two days ago I attended a fraught public meeting in my community, surrounded by neighbours and facing off against a villainous bunch of corporate bad guys. I was reminded of Mr Burns from the Simpsons (in vibe, not in looks). I feel like I am living inside a Disney movie. The health of our river is under threat, and I cannot be dispassionate about it.

here’s me by the river in question, a couple of years ago before I let all my silver tinsel hair grow in 😉

So yeah, I got a little sassy at the meeting. My best, highest self found it difficult to engage, and with the hindsight of two sleeps and my knowledge of neurobiology and homeostasis, I say “no wonder” – it was really hot in the sun without shade, it was rolling on to dinner time and my blood sugar was dangerously low, and the neurosequential model will remind you that the effective functioning of our prefrontal cortex is at risk when our limbic systems are raging. Which they’ll do when our homes and happiness are under threat!

All this to say, I have forgiven myself for my public display of imperfection and I acknowledge that I would not be the person I am if I was unwilling to call out nonsense when I see it and hear it. It’s one of my best qualities, I think, so I stand by it. In fact, I call on that trait right now as I share links with y’all

First up, here is a link to a write up about a great piece of qualitative research out of Auckland, it is based on interviews with parents of adolescents and YUP it’s about phone use. I emailed the lead author and congratulated her, told her I’d be quoting the following passage in my thesis:

“The narrative in the media now is tending to be all about how tech can be good and bad, implying a balance. However, the evidence—whether from our study or the US Surgeon General’s review [9]—increasingly supports the idea that the harms seem to outweigh the positives.”

Yup. Consider the Ledger of Harms from our friends at the Center for Humane Tech, consider the untrustworthiness of social media platforms, consider how liberating it is for our young people to be free from phones at school, and then read this updated version of the excellent “Disrupted Childhood” report from 5rights in the UK.

Then, we gotta finish up by looking for the helpers. Those who are working hard to heal and repair and be positive and create goodness.

too little too late (too busy!!)

Kia ora friends,

The busy is a bit much at the moment. In my life, the hurtling will be somewhat inevitable till we put the thesis to bed, in about 7-8 months. Hurtling. Data collection is complete, analyses mostly done and the descriptive chapter will burst into life in forthcoming weeks.

It’s a weird wee patch, where I’m having to pause and see it through, even as I can see what needs to happen next.

As ever, it’s hard to put my attention too squarely on the ol’ work during school holidays. The (not so) small person is now eleven, and I gotta keep finding ways to focus on her and be super productive in the moments that surround intentional interactions. That link is a funny gag, btw. I will be working my bum off at every available moment! It’s the only way!

Time is precious, we know that.

Time is the thing we can’t make more of. We can’t forget that.

And our kids are kids just the once! My firstborn will soon be twenty! When’s the last time i pushed her on a swing? But many of us are still on the phones more than we are with our children.While we’re thinking ’bout it, we could do a bit better at keeping phones away from children (babies!) too.

Can we agree that’s heartbreaking?

And sheesh, may I hold my hand to my heart and whisper sadly about the passing of a beautiful and beloved early childhood kaumatua, who I have acknowledged here in the old bloggity many times, and I’ve quoted her liberally in work for OHbaby! and others. Darlings, Pennie Brownlee has died. My go-to book for gifting to new parents has always been “Dance with me in the Heart” and many of you will also know “Magic spaces“, both of which were written by Pennie.

Yeah.

Exhale.

Life is short and precious and there is heaps to do.

The things which Pennie wrote so well about were the truly important bits that make child development magical and wonderful and make the most of the exuberant synaptogenesis of brain growth that rockets along in those early years.

Relationships. Play.

That’s it, y’all. that’s what makes children thrive.
and both those things are disrupted by by-God tech!

Anyway.

Walking in the woods is good for us, says Harvard, and this is the website of Diana Suskind, whose work I was reminded of by a lovely colleague last week. Cool rock play. Love. Here is a fab new post from our friends @ Sensible Screen Use, about the need to think more critically about our tech use in classrooms. OH! And ECE centres, brothers and sisters. It is most unsatisfactory what seems to be going on all over the show. May I remind us all that what’s ‘normal’ and what’s ‘healthy’ are not always the same thing!!

I’m doing that broken record thing again, so I’ll send so much love and go put a load of washing on. x x x

All Hail the Bold and brilliant Special Interest Group in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health of the Psychological Society of Ireland!!

Honestly … the tenacity and ferocity of their advocacy meant that my work was featured in TWO national newspapers in Ireland – the Irish Times and the Irish Examiner … and I just did a radio interview for a nationwide station, TodayFM (although my voice held a nervous wobble, and apparently they don’t say “judder bar” in Ireland!)

I’m in Dublin because I’ve been attending & presenting at the 18th Congress for the World Association for Infant Mental Health. It’s been amazing, but I’m ready for my house, bed, cow, chickens and routines now, please.

Arohanui x x

June gloom, multiple rooms, and exciting zooms

What a privilege to share a play with Otis and pals 🙂

Kia ora friends

When I lived in the USA, they used to talk about the weather in terms of June gloom, and I thought “not in North Canterbury, where the winter nights are frosty and the winter days are shiny”. But this last wee patch has been rather gloomy, so much so that I heard a gentleman say, at the recycling centre over the weekend: “this is like England in November!”.

The other reason for the gloom in my heart is a rough 1-2 combo of death-a-versary and new loss. Processing sadness even as trying to support others … not easy. But important stuff often isn’t.

Anyway, I need to do the important work of sharing links on this blog … I will start with a shout out to Canterbury Playcentre and their fine “Babies Can Play” project, which I was lucky enough to gatecrash a couple of weeks back, with my li’l buddy Otis (and thanks to his fam for allowing me to share the above pic).

That thought may segue nicely into sharing this paper, which was thrust into my hands by one of my mentors, and deals with infant voice and subjective experience. YES! Preach. Vital, and all too often absent from the research realm.

Some terrifying links, now – this is from the Guardian, it’s about the role of Instagram and Facebook in child trafficking. Gross. But don’t look away. Stare it down. Likewise, this from the New York Times about how chat rooms within gaming communities are breeding extremist (violent, racist, misogynist) thinkers, and over here is a piece about how You Tube algorithms are tilting gamers toward actual videos of real life shootings. Unacceptable.

Some good news – this from the Washington Post about banning use of phones in schools, this is a topic which has had a bit of attention here, lately, thanks to the work of Paddy Gower, and lest we forget we’ve known about the benefits of removing phones from school for ages – this write up from the Guardian is in response to a report from the London School of Economics from 2015, for flip’s sake. How many distracted children in those intervening years … hmmm?

Here is an English translation of a position paper written by the German Association for Infant Mental Health, it’s about things digital in the lives of babies & families, and this is a press release from Canterbury Uni (whoop, whoop!) about screen use in early childhood. Guess what? Limits are a good idea.

This is from Teen Vogue about the aftershocks for children who have grown up in the public eye in ‘influencer’ families (ew) and this is about legislation in France, designed to curb such weirdness.

Finally, a chuckle for the pottymouthed …thanks, McSweeneys x x

How can this possibly be my first link share of 2023?

Well, crikey. Blame the workload (helloooooo data collection!), blame the family, heck – blame me if you like. It’s been a long-ass time since I posted, but the good news that accompanies this is that I have a backlog of fascination for you to peruse.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin!

First, may I share this super practical piece from Oregon Public Broadcasting about supporting young people’s positive body image through purposeful use of … you got it … smartphones/screens. Because let’s face it – as those behind this lawsuit understand, social media messes with people’s minds, and especially the young fellas. In breaking and yet unsurprising news from Bloomberg, Zuckerberg had been warned about this very thing.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – I volunteer to give that young man a crisp and hearty slap.

Here’s a smart essay about the creepiness of AI, and this is another smart essay, about attention.

I highly recommend this article from the Cut, about the trap that is inherent in giving a child their first phone, and LISTEN! How have we not been following the work of the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development? (Thanks to my colleague at Auckland Uni for the detective work).

Speaking of child development, here’s a wee piece I wrote for OHbaby! a while back, it’s about play and toys and it’s tech free (no surprises there). And here’s what Scientific American assert is the best way to soothe an infant. Hot tip: It has absolutely nothing to do with birthing in a full face of makeup. Ew.

This is an alarming description of the ways that TikTok tracks you across the web, and this is about an increasing number of schools and universities who are banning the platform from their campuses.

I love this, from the Washington Post, about making children peer reviewers for science writing, to ensure its digestibility, and this is pretty interesting … from Stuff, about the rise of for-profit childcare in NZ. Also ew.

Three quick links to end this … all more personal than I usually post here! This is a review to an amazing concert I was lucky enough to attend, here is a piece about George Michael and the injustices of “that” scandal (because I have loved him since I was a literal child) AND I’m super proud of my friends who hosted this gig. For flip’s sake, Tennessee. Stop reinforcing the stereotypes of small mindedness and redneckery, would ya please?

a blessed bee sting

kia ora e te whānau

the other day I set off across the paddock in an open toed shoe – RECKLESS. I barely made it through the gate when OUCH I was stung. When sharing this story (my version was about pain, discomfort, self pity) one of the gorgeous women in my dance class saw this as a wonderful thing – the health of our bees is so important, and she hadn’t heard of anyone getting stung for ages. For her, this was evidence of bee-flourishing!

Speaking of flourishing – hurry, lovelies, and you can join this international online conference about human flourishing. YES, please.

Here is a timely reminder to all parents about letting children decide who to kiss & cuddle at holiday shindigs (thanks Mighty Girl!) and this is a resource to local families in the Chch NZ area… nature play, darlings!

A couple more links, then I might oughta get back to work. I’m organising my surveys so I can start recruitment as soon as my Chrissy hols are over!

Here’s a lil something from the New Yorker about algorithmic anxiety, and while we are at it … this piece asks why American teens are so sad and anxious. No prizes for guessing. This is the Guardian talking about the overexposure of kids to tech, and this article gives reason to pause when it comes to ‘sharenting‘.

Take care out there … life is busy and beautiful. xx

good and bad things

One good thing is this latest issue of OHbaby! So nice. And within is an article I wrote about parenting styles. Enjoy …

Conversely …let’s just put it out there. On the record:
I FLIPPING HATE DAYLIGHT SAVING. There. Said it.

We just changed our clocks in NZ (“Spring Forward”) and this is faux time. I mean, all time is a bit faux. As my dear, late mama used to say “Time is a societal construct”. Clocks are only a thing cos we say so. And as for changing them, depriving whole communities of circadian goodness…? I’m agin it! NOT A FAN.

I mean – if this is about making those dreamy summer nights longer… guess WHAT! Mother Nature already does that! Our days get longer in summer without any need for tampering by silly people and their dumb timepieces. Even my delight with the “extra” hour of sleep when we ‘fall back’ and put our clocks back to normal time – it’s not worth the price of admission. This springtime grumpiness is REAL, and I blame Daylight Saving. HUMBUG!!!

Right. Rant over.

Now for some links for my geeky brothers’n’sisters! After all, that’s what we do, here 🙂

First up, here is an academic paper which describes a study using the Still Face Paradigm as a mechanism for understanding the impact of technological interruption on mother-baby interaction.

Also tech-related: here is a piece from the Conversation about toddlers’ use of touchscreen technology (*hot tip: use in emergencies only! eg on aeroplanes, or while a parent is receiving medical care!) and this is from the Washington Post, about making a media plan for your family. Bloody good idea, and the basis of my PhD research… what, WHAT?

I’ve been reading/hearing/thinking a lot about TikTok, lately. She’s not your friend, y’all. Here is a piece which highlights the advocacy of Fairplay (formerly the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Loved them then, love them still!!) and YOU GOTTA hear this podcast from our pals at the Center for Humane Tech. It casts a calm and concerned eye over the platform. It’s not all cute dance moves, my darlings. Our poor young people need protection from data harvesting and capitalism, itself!

Another piece from the Conversation, now: about phones in schools (*I know – let’s just DON’T!) and just cos it’s fascinating – enjoy this cognitive biases cheat sheet.

Finally, please enjoy this piece of relatable satire from McSweeney’s, and some exceptionally beautiful Land Art. Let those beautiful images hold you till the pain goes away!

Lets get LOST

Kia ora friends, colleagues, and geeky folk of all stripes,

Here I am, post COVID #1, mostly normal (whatever that means). Still longing for a nap, at all times, but otherwise groovy.

I have some deluxe links to share, some of which will invite you down the best type of rabbitholes, the ones that are evidence-based, informative, and even inspiring. I’m talkin’ ’bout stuff like THIS … The Center for Integral Wisdom.

A couple of most interesting “tech and education” links for you now: here is the work of Zak Stein, this is the homepage of Jon Haidt, and those fellas together do some deluxe work as the Consilience Project.

This essay from the Consilience Project, about education, is rather USA-centric, but bloody relevant and fascinating nonetheless. Worth it. Promise. Oh, while we are thinking about education and technology … check this out, from The Hill, about student privacy issues with EdTech (kids are the product!!)

I’m also rool interested in this side hustle of Dr. Haidt’s, Let Grow, which is about supporting children’s play drive. What my mate Pennie would call their sacred urge to play.

Something’s up, for sure. Our young people are bummed out like never before, it’s all been made worse by this pandemic (THIS study is about adults, but still…). Actually, I really like Audrey Tang’s use of “Twin-demic” … behold … …”both a pandemic and an infodemic – a lot of disinformation and fake news was circulating in the internet.” I also love their use of Humour as shield and weaponry. Fab.

Here is a link to the latest report from Pew about teens and the internet/social media ETC, a piece from NPR about recognising when to log off, and in a weird twist … Chuck Norris is a voice for children’s online safety. Wha…?

What else? This is from the WAIMH (*World Association of Infant Mental Health) and it’s about the rights of babies and infant mental health. Speaking of babies (which I do all the time!) here is a lovely resource from Pasco Fearon (legend!) and a link to some new tech/baby research (which is the corner of the world where I live, at the mo). Truly, darlings … there is new work published EVERY DAY. Impossible to keep up! Aaaagh!

In a completely unrelated subject, I was really inspired by this, from the Harvard Medical School newsletter, about resisting ageism. Growing old is a by-God privilege, and I reject all other philosophies!

Here is a beautiful essay about the value of domesticity and care, written by the late, great Donella Meadows. This is another of my fave topics! Love me some Radical Homemaking!

As always, I covet. The work of Aho Creative is gorgeous. Now, to finish up the “have to’s” so I can go and exercise 🙂

trialing a new coronavirus therapy

kia ora friends,

flipping ol’ August – I guess I utterly failed to post in the month of July. Sheesh. Not that I was sitting around idly, though. Friends: I have been nurturing my PhD project through multiple layers of ethics approval and have temporarily stalled in my mission to register the work as a clinical trial owing to having succumbed to the dreaded virus.

Flip. Fudge. Fart.

I started to feel very crappy on Sunday night, sweating like it was my chosen profession (well above the norm) and aching so aggressively I couldn’t get comfy enough to sleep. About 2am I got up, tested, and LO! After 2 1/2 years of fearing it – COVID 19 is in my body!! Luckily my office is in a separate building so I can isolate effectively from the rest of my fam, who (miraculously) are still well!

Anyway, I felt pretty wretched for the first 2-3 days, and then I remembered my great healing strategy for all upper respiratory sorts of illnesses – – WEEPING. Focused, purposeful weeping. Dripping the virus from my system. Tears contain cortisol, tears are a tap that expel tension. Crying lowers blood pressure and I believe it to be a wonderful medicine.

For joyful crying, I find it hard to go past AURORA, and you can enjoy glorious concert performances both HERE and HERE. This gal might just be an angel on earth. No jokes.

The end of this documentary invoked a less joyful type of cry, but friends: please don’t let that put you off. It’s a SUPER important watch and I urge all parents (well, and grandparents, aunties, professionals, teens, kids … ) to watch it. Childhood 2.0. SHEESH.

I have also been watching telly & movies, listening to lotsa podcasts and RNZ, sleeping like a champ, and sweating.

Did i mention all the sweating? So elegant! Classy! Self esteem through the roof!!

My attention span and thought abilities seem a bit shot, too, but that might just be tiredness. I found myself talking about “brain frog” so that’s not ideal. When the fog is a frog you got troubles.

Take care out there, my darlings. OH! And mark your calendars for Phone Free Day, October 6th.