Stoicism saved my life and makes me a better parent.

“The task of a philosopher: we should bring our will into harmony with whatever happens, so that nothing happens against our will and nothing that we wish for fails to happen. “

– Epictetus, Discourses, 2.14.7

A cliché I know.

For a while now I have been on a journey of self-improvement of mind, body and spirit.
It as been my saving grace, along this journey I have found ( as enlightening as “found ” sounds ) Stoicism

Stoicism has saved my life.

I am depressed in the same was an alcoholic is an alcoholic. In the same way that once you are an alcoholic you always will be an alcoholic. Hopefully a sober one.

I’ve looked back to try to pinpoint when I became “depressed” to continue and use the analogy of an alcoholic I don’t think they is one specific moment when I had my first drink and that was it. It’s been somewhat of a life long slow spiral which ultimately resulted in hitting rock bottom and almost taking my life.

I hate excuses and actively try not to make them for my circumstances or frustrations or for the reason that I am depressed.
Our actions knowingly or unknowingly ultimately lead us to the lives we live and are living today. It’s then for us to adjust it accordingly. This can mean taking several paths constantly trying to change the course of our journey as we take every step. Many of us live in a system we can’t change and for many years I fought against it. Blaming the way the world is set up as the reasons for my depression and frustration.

Stoicism as helped to change how I think and view the world. I would often stay awake debating in my head how I could help countries that I’ve never visited change their laws and the way they treat their citizens. Frustrated at the way people are forced to live, in my own country the depriving situations people find themselves in. Angry and deeper into my depression, using the excuse of the way politicians act to justify how I acted and felt. Blaming them for my situation and unhappiness.

The repetitive consistent daily practice of Stoicism along with regular exercise keeps me balanced more than any medication, like many things in life you can’t change and become “better” until you are open and willing to. Thankfully I was willing to.

The one thing that Stoicism has given me is the tools and a different way of thinking to deal with life. Tools I either forgot, lost or never had before.

Tools that I try to pass on to my children.

I don’t want my children to be depressed. I don’t mean sad. I mean depressed like I am at times. Unless you have felt or lived with the suffocating feel of depression its a very hard thing to imagine or sympathise with.
I want them to be strong.

Mentally strong with the tools to handle life and the shit that is often continuously and relentlessly thrown at you.

For a long time I saw parenting as a sprint race I wanted them to know me and all the skills needed for life, now !!!!
I didn’t expect to be alive and was very aware of how quickly it could all end.
I now see parenting as a long ultra race. Months and months of preparation ready to steadily hit the path in front and keep going through the highs and lows along the way.

Toddlers lose their shit at the slightest thing.
Their socks feel funny, the kiwi fruit looks too hairy, their sister said they’re a poo head. The list goes on and on.
I would try to force wisdom into them at these moments explaining that a hairy kiwi was normal, that this is how it had grown. That the amount of hair on the outside was irrelevant when all the tasty bit was inside of it.

yes it went as well a you are imagining it went.

I now try to lead by example, not losing my shit when I get cut up in traffic or when the cashier at the till is rude.
Little sayings and mantras are drip fed without their knowledge. Mantras they now repeat, changes in behaviour with each other and there frustrations as become visible to us for the better. slowly but surely we are all getting better. slowly there are developing coping measures that they need to live life.

Of course all of this is well and good until they lose their shit over the last crisp they are eating falling on to the floor.

At which point my Stoic practice goes out of the window and I go and rock in the corner until the crying stops.

Realising I know nothing and to just try to hang on to my own sanity and hopefully they will turn out right.

If they don’t I’ll give them a few books and wish them good luck.

Andy.

Be like Goggins, Live like Jay

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The Arts and young children. 

“Creativity is an area in which younger people have a tremendous advantage, since they have an endearing habit of always questioning past wisdom and authority.”

-Bill Hewlett

It feels that the arts have never been more important than when the world is portrayed as a world split and in disarray. It can be used to challenge authority, to make people stop and think, for culture to be explored and celebrated. The arts are often the first to be hit by cuts and austerity.


The arts can often be over looked when raising children. Parents avoid galleries and museums worried about their children running around touching exhibits or that they may ruin the experience for others. Since a young age our children have attended museums and galleries mainly because I enjoy them and on a wet miserable day it’s a good free indoor space to take them. The two older girls still talk about Damien Hirst’s Lamb in formaldehyde that they saw when they were just toddlers along with some exhibitions that at the time could of been classed as risky exhibitions to take them to 

Art is often pushing boundaries and holding a mirror up to society this not only opens interesting questions from the artists to consider but also opens up interesting discussions with growing and young imaginative minds. There is nothing more powerful than a question from a 4 year  to stop you dead in your tracks.

Our girls had their own art work exhibited, which reinforced the message that anyone can be an artist. 



Make art and culture a normal part of your children’s lives. Encourage them to question the things they see. In doing so they will open your eyes and change your perspective of how you view the world.

Now more than ever art galleries and museums need numbers through the doors. Please don’t ever let a stuffy old fashioned museum or gallery make you feel that you shouldn’t be there with your child.

This coming weekend seek out a local museum or gallery that you’ve walked past and never thought of going into.

You may find be surprised If not just remember 90% of them sell coffee and cake.

So there’s always that.

Andy

Be like Goggins, Live like Jay

That day again. 

“A house without books is like a room without windows.”
– Heinrich Mann

World book day.

I’m always amazed when teachers say you can really tell you read to your children and sad knowing that some children are not been read to on a regular basis if at all.

One of my daughters this year has said she would like to go as Mrs Armitage on wheels a character from a Quentin Blake book.


I got a txt from my wife asking to bring home a box from work so she could turn it into a bike.




She’s done a brilliant job.

Keeping a very excitable 5 year old from running around the house holding it has been the hardest part.

It can sometimes seem a pain in the arse when you get the txt from school reminding you to bring your child in a costume. It also puts a lot of pressure on some parents but the kids do love it.


Mrs Armitage. 


The snow queen. 

I’m not sure if I agree that some Schools ask people not to allow their children to come has super heroes on world book day. I’m not sure if it’s always laziness of parents sending their children to school wearing a hulk mask or an Elsa dress or a lack of imagination. Sometimes it’s life getting in the way.

So don’t worry if you forgot its world book day and the old faithful Elsa dress has come out again try to enjoy world book day.

I know your kids will.

After all it’s only once a year.
Be like Goggins, Live like Jay. 


Environment, wealth and health. 

“It seems, in other words, that poverty tends to make people less fit primarily when they live in a relatively rich country. Being poor but surrounded by fast food, automobiles, and television is more detrimental than being poor in a rural environment where physical activity is a necessary part of daily life.”

The below youth fitness chart is taken from a recent article over at Outside.

“We see big disparities in where the fittest kids come from. They typically come from Africa and northern central Europe, whereas the least fit come from South America and right here in the U.S.,” says Tomkinson. Photo: Courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario

Whilst raising four young girls to be healthy, strong and positive people in today’s world and has somebody who has an interest in nutrition (predominantly plant-based) and environmentally aware of the impact that humans have on our planet, I am always drawn to articles like this.

In the U.K. If we want to look five years in to the future to see trends and how they may impact our health or environmental policies we need not look any further than to the USA.

I was surprised and delighted to see the U.K rank has high as we have on the above table.

“In a study published this past August in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers combined data from 177 previous studies conducted around the world to better understand the link between a country’s income inequality and youth fitness. Specifically, the researchers compared a country’s Gini Index, which measures how income is distributed throughout a nation, with children’s performance on the 20-meter shuttle-run test in that same country. They found that the greater a country’s income disparity, the less likely their children were to do well on the shuttle run.”

I urge you to read the original article linked above.

The study as thrown up some very interesting data regarding not only the gap with wealth. But also the impact of the environment we live in having such an impact on our health.

We used to live in an inner city (Birmingham. UK) we chose to move to Yorkshire to give a better quality of life to our children. Even though we had more on our doorstep in Birmingham than we do in Yorkshire we spent more time moving about in a stationary manner, be it using the train, tram and car. We now live in a more remote area and are more active on a daily basis such as walking the children to the school, park, villages etc.

The more wealth and more possessions Humans have the less happy and healthier we seem to be, putting aside the poverty to fast food health equation to one side which is often found in more urban areas such a large cities rather than rural areas you will often find the fittest, healthier and happier people are those content with less possessions be it by default or choice and living in a more natural and rural environment.

As the abnormal increasingly becomes the normal it becomes harder to reinforce what is natural. Girls from an increasingly younger age are more and more body aware. As obesity and larger children become the norm, more and more children are bullied for been a natural and healthy weight. Medical assessments take averages and children who are healthy are told they are considerably underweight due to the average of their peers.

The scales have sadly changed for the worse. A challenge parents have to tackle head-on, on a daily basis. In going against the grain to raise healthy, fit and happy confident children.

Andy.

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Always aim to be better than yesterday 

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Andy.
Be like Goggins, Live like Jay