She can (almost) laugh about it now, but when journalist and broadcaster Carly Flynn’s 3-year-old son, Jude, put cooked rice in his sister Tilly’s ear earlier this year, the consequences were quite serious. The 4-year-old had to have it removed at Starship Hospital under anaesthetic.
“Parenting is full of endless everyday challenges from getting your kids to finish dinner to teaching them to be kind. Then there are the bigger challenges like my son’s current interest in putting things in cavities, like noses and ears,” says Carly.
Not long after the rice incident, the family was back at Starship – this time with Jude, who put a button up his nose at preschool. It too, had to be removed under anaesthetic.
“One of the things I’m learning as my kids get older is that you can’t control everything,” says Carly, “As much as I made these little people I haven’t made their minds.”
Put a plate of meat and vegetables in front of her two, and one will eat the meat, while the other tucks into the vegetables. Tilly is easy going and social. Jude likes to challenge all authority. The fact all children are different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to parenting is something she’s written about recently in Parenting by the Stars, a newly released book of parenting tips and anecdotes from 68 well known New Zealanders. Carly got involved in the project because of its message that parents are not perfect - and that’s okay.
“Parenting is a great leveller. No matter who we are, the Prime Minister or whoever, we all face the same kinds of challenges. Parenting by the Stars is full of fabulous anecdotes and parenting advice from people from all walks of life who we might view a certain way, but hello, then we read their daughter had to go to hospital because their son put rice in her ear!” she laughs.
Asked about her parenting strengths Carly is momentarily flummoxed. Like many parents, it’s not something she’s thought about often.
“Probably that I really like cuddles. I’m quite affectionate naturally and my son particularly responds to that,” she says.
She and husband Dave are also mindful of including their children in their own interests like yoga and water activities, and taking the time to help them develop and pursue interests of their own. Tilly loves to draw and Jude loves nothing better than to kick a ball around.
“It’s hard sometimes when dinner needs to be cooked and there’s washing to do and Tilly is making her fourth paper and cardboard mailbox creation and needs help – but there’s always jobs to do. They won’t always be children.”
Carly’s top five parenting tips for new parents:
Treat every day as a new day. If you ‘fail’ today, whether it’s to get your kids to sleep/eat/move how you want them to, start again tomorrow
Ask questions. Parenting is a great leveller, I’ve found the best advice has come from the most unlikely people. Share your parenting concerns/questions/success with others (chances are you won’t be the only one having that particular problem).
Recognise each child has their own personality and parenting isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Read with your little ones. We did it from day one and love that both Tilly and Jude have a love of books and great imaginations.
When they’re old enough, get them involved in sport. There are so many benefits to keeping kids active, from team work to ball skills, to learning to win and lose.
Parenting By The Stars is a collection of short, entertaining and interesting ‘real life’ parenting stories, tips, family photographs and favourite family recipes sourced from a wide range of New Zealand celebrities, personalities and parenting experts. It offers a unique insight into the ordinary, everyday lives of many of our best-loved stars. And it champions the message that, when it comes to parenting, there is no right or wrong path to follow, and that however you’re feeling, others have been there.
Click here to buy a copy of Parenting By The Stars (RRP $29.99).
All proceeds go to the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand