Simple Sunday-Staying Present, Moving Forward

The main goal of the ‘Simple Sunday’ post is to chronicle my journey to a more simplified, honest and intentional family life.  In all honesty sometimes this isn’t very simple at all.

In my last ‘Simple Sunday‘ post I wrote about how taking control of my own emotions and giving them a voice is beginning to lead me to a more peaceful, synchronized home life.  And it is, really and truly.  Learning about my own emotional landscape is quite a journey but one that seems to go hand in hand with parenting. I am up for the challenge. Every day uncover new and interesting things about myself or the way I respond to situations with my son or other children in my care.

All of this uncovering can come at a price though.  It is hard for me to ease up on myself sometimes.  Hard to remember that I am thinking in a new pattern.  There is a fine line balancing self-reflection with self-degradation. Sometimes things get busy or I get to stressed.  I am less than patient with Collin or I am not as organized as I should be.  As I learn to be more accepting of others around me (particularly my sweet boy and wonderful husband) I also need to work on being accepting of myself.

Part of being truly honest with yourself is accepting yourself.  We can all grow, read, and learn from each other.  Parenting done well demands this.  To stay healthy as a family I think it is important that we are always learning and growing.  Moving forward.  However we must make sure to appreciate where we stand, flaws and all.  In the here and now.  Simplicity is being truly happy without a rush to move on to something else.

To truly live a simple life there must be mistakes, allowances for real life.  Time spent giggling while in the midst of a mess. Time honestly apologizing for mistakes.  Maybe a few weeks with too many toys, disorganized still after a birthday party or Christmas gift bonanza.  Blog posts left unwritten and some books left unfinished.

As growing Mammas and Daddas what we need most is love.  For ourselves and our littles.  We need to give them the benefit of the doubt  and we need to do the same for ourselves.  Just being here, now, doing our best is simply the most wonderful part of our job.

Happy Sunday,

Melissa

Dear Mamma (an open letter to those who spank)

Dear Mamma who spanks (or swats, or hits),

I know we sit on different sides of the same coin.  The slightly tarnished, well-worn coin of parental discipline.  Chances are one, or both of us, sit on the same side as our parent and even their parents parents.  It is hard to flip to a new side.  We both love our children deeply.  I don’t deny that the sun rises and sets in your baby’s eyes as it does mine.

You worry about the future.  What will this crazy world hold for them in five, ten, or twenty years?   We hold the responsiblity for all of their triumphs and failures.  They are burned inside our hearts forever, even if they don’t truly belong to us, they will live there.

I agree with you that our babes need boundaries.  They need parents, not friends.  Someone who is firm and clear about what is safe and acceptable behavior.  Out of respect to them we must show them that we are the calm, loving and leading adult in charge.  Out of respect for them we must give them freedom within clear limits.

I agree they need to know who the ‘adult’ is.  But…what is an ‘adult’?  If we want them to grow to be a certain type of ‘adult’ then we must model this for them now.  Our hopes for their future must be reflected in the actions we take today.

I hope that when my boy is grown he will be full with the intrinsic understanding of his own value.  As an adult in his life I grow this by showing unconditional love and understanding, I love him now so he can love himself later.

I hope that my boy will be able to navigate the world using reasoning and critical thinking skills that guide him into making good choices.  My job as an adult is to allow him to explore things safely, have some control over his world and let natural consequences teach him as they may.  As he gets older I will be able to discuss more and will allow him to join in the analysis of his own trials of life.

I hope he will be deeply emotionally intelligent, with an ability to express his own feelings and needs.  I hope he will receive others with empathy, love and understanding.  I teach this now by giving him words to express what he feels and listening for the need/emotion behind his behavior.  I do my best to express my self and my feelings clearly to him.  I apologize if I am wrong.

I hope he will respect others so I respect him now.

I hope he will be gentle and kind so I am gentle now.

I am far from perfect.  Everyday I work toward being a better Mamma.  I know you do too.  I have bad days, I get too angry.  I lose my way and expect developmentally inappropriate things. I don’t always say the right thing and some nights I go to bed wishing I could do the whole day over. This, for me, is why I choose not to spank.  I can’t give myself an option that I don’t feel comfortable modeling.  I can’t do something I wouldn’t want him to do to others.

So you see I am worried too.  I hear you saying you are scared about what will happen if you don’t use firm enough discipline.  I hear you saying you are wonder how anything else might work.  I understand that you were raised with spanking and you love your parents.

Everyday is new with our child.  We have every opportunity to do what is best, to build the best relationships possible.  This is why I practice (and believe me everyday I am just practicing!) compassionate parenting. We can let go of the stress of punishing and controlling our babes and move towards the teaching of life lessons and compassion that will truly make a difference.

Our parenting today will simply be a shadow of the adult they become.  A soft whisper that speaks only to the deeply quiet parts of their souls.  A script they can barely hear that will color everything they do.  I hope I can leave my boy with a heart full of love.
With respect for all Mammas out there,
Melissa

What the Teacher Taught the Mamma (1 of 2)

When you are a preschool teacher with no children there is a phrase you hear on a regular basis. It is not said with disdain but it is said with confidence. Uttered by the mothers (and fathers) we work along side, the single teachers among us hear the phrase and secretly think they know better. It goes something like this…

“It is different when it is your own child.”

I admit that when I heard it I always thought something along the lines of “Yeah, but I’d still never let my child do [fill in the blank with some undesirable/socially unacceptable action]” but guess what? It is oh so different when it is your own child.

Years and years and YEARS of teaching preschool, directing preschool, nannying and babysitting couldn’t ever prepare anyone for becoming a Mamma. Being a Mamma isn’t being pregnant, it isn’t setting rules or just wiping noses and buns. It is so much more and no one else will ever be able to be your child’s Mamma.

As I grow into my Mamma self what I thought I knew has fallen away like a discarded cheerio. My teacher self has grown alongside my Mamma self as I view the world of children in a new, brighter light. There are large parts of my teaching history that have informed my parenting thus far and my parenting style has begun to change my teaching for the better. This is the first in a set of posts where I will attempt to reflect on the major ways each side has influenced each other.

What the Teacher Taught the New Mamma:

  1. Environment matters and it matters a lot. The Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy calls the environment the third teacher. I respect that notion in my classroom and my home. From the youngest age children need a simple selection of open ended toys that they are able to access and work with towards mastery (of the toy or a particular skill they are working on). When setting up an art activity, sensory exploration or playing with play dough keep in mind how easily the children can reach the materials to be used. Do their feet touch the floor, can they adjust themselves easily? How are materials presented? Try to imagine everything from your children’s perspective. Things like lighting, noise, and temperature of a room can enhance or interfere with a child’s experience. This goes for all times of day or parts of your child’s schedule. Calm music, dim lighting and a warm room go a long way to a relaxed sleeping baby.
  2. Modulate your voice Using your voice properly can be your best parenting or teaching tool. Speaking in a soft whisper can inspire a room of twenty two year olds to gather, stop and listen quietly. Or it can inspire your own child to focus and listen more closely to what you are actually saying to them. Turning directions into a song can get shoes on more quickly and children out the door. Firmly and evenly expressing that a behavior is inappropriate has a much more meaningful effect than yelling ever could. If you are yelling in a effort to get your child(ren) to calm down it usually has the opposite effect. Children feel before they listen. If they feel heightened energy in the room they will respond in kind, if they feel happiness they will join in the activity (even if it is cleaning up!) if they feel calm they will slowly calm down too.
  3. Children need structure and flexibility and they need them at the same time. Structure or schedule without the room for a little extra time spent chasing an ant up a tree or finishing a block tower puts limits on a child’s natural desire to follow their curiosity, learn, explore and play. All children, however, deserve an environment that (on most days at least) is predicable, safe and helps meet their needs. I see it as schedules without stress. Let your child guide you, they will show you if they need an earlier nap, are hungrier than usual or if they are learning so much from digging in the sand they need an extra ten minutes.
  4. If you feel like something isn’t working, its not You carefully plan an art activity but your toddler would rather throw collage materials on the floor. You sit down for snack and your child repeatedly asks to get down, smooches food around and throws it on the floor. If something is too hard, stop it. Let it go. Give up your idea of how things should have gone and give it up quickly. There is no point in trying to convince a child they are hungry or trying to get them motivated to do an activity they are not interested in. Move on or in the case of an activity let them show you what the activity was supposed to be in the first place.
  5. Actions speak louder than words Whoever first spoke these words was most likely working with children. If you tell a child from across the room to clean up while standing still, hands on hips staring at them its likely you’ll get the same in return. If you begin walking towards the toys and hand them a box to put them in they’ll start throwing toys in. You need to put yourself into action. Speak with your body, your eyes and your heart.

While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about. ~Angela Schwindt

Patience is a virtue

Yesterday was rough. It was rough for me mostly. Collin was getting over a cold but mostly happy. For whatever reason I just couldn’t get myself into my ‘happy teaching’ place. Most days I feel I am calm, like a ship smoothly sailing in a sea of toddler emotion. Just gently guiding them along. Not yesterday. It was rough sailing all day.
I’d like to say the kids didn’t notice but I believe that they are deeply sensitive to our moods, body language and demeanor. I’m sure they could feel it. I’m sure it played a part in their extra neediness (as in “oh oh…something is upsetting her, better make sure I’m nearby lest something really weird happen”).
My brain tries to tell me all of the proper things. It tries to remind me where they are developmentally. It tries to get me to model the right behavior instead of snapping at them to stop. Usually the brains win but let me tell you my emotional side was putting up a good fight.
For my part I tried to be respectful of myself and the kids. I simply told them I wasn’t feeling well today. I needed some extra hugs and cuddles like they do sometimes. I don’t feel trying to ‘fake’ it through the day is fair to them. How can I expect my son to grow in his
emotional intelligence if he has a mother who always pretends everything is okay? Or worse snaps at him out of the blue as a way to relieve her own stress.
I have worked in enough classrooms to know I am not alone. Teachers are human too. We have busy lives, families and stresses like the rest of the world. When you think of the amount of time some of our youngest citizens spend in full time care by the time they are even in Kindergarten, that amounts to lots of confusing adult behavior. Especially in less-than-quality care situations.
Most reputable schools will talk about how they help a child grow socially and emotionally. They talk about how modeling is the best way to teach. Yet at the end of the day I bet many moms and teachers alike feel like we did a better job of modeling manners than emotional expression.
Isn’t it just as important to teach a child how to deal with stress as to be a good friend? How to verbalize when they are disappointed?
How do you guide your little ones through your rougher waters safely?

Just jump in!

I ‘started’ this blog a few weeks ago and today I will write my first post. I don’t know what was holding me back exactly. Yes, I am a full time working mom of a toddler. Yes, I cook a home cooked meal most nights of the week. Recently I have become magically better at keeping up with laundry (is this as skill that just grows from within once you give birth?) Did I mention that I teach toddlers, all about the same age as my son, ALL DAY LONG?

But that isn’t what was holding me back. It is a fear or insecurity from deep within. Something that tells me “Oh no! What if you do it and it isn’t perfect?” or *gasp* “What if you do it and people think it sucks?”
Watching my son and his buddies play today I was inspired to let it all go. They know nothing of this world. Just tiny 18,20 and 22 month old babes. Giggling, running around the room with crepe paper ‘tails’ singing, dancing and falling all over themselves. As I joined in laughing and smiling right along with them I felt free. This is why I love my profession, why I love my life, why I feel so blessed to watch my beautiful boy grow up. Not one toddler in the group stops to wonder what another might think. To the contrary they are constantly pushing limits to see what happens. Why can’t I?
They jump in and explore the tastiest parts of life. The most exciting, the deeply emotional, the physical and the challenging. So WHY CAN’T I?

In honor of my son, Collin, the joy of my life. I will put fingers to keyboard. I will document our lives together. I will throw caution to the wind. No more won’ts or can’ts.
This is me learning to be a mommy, guiding many little hearts through the day and hopefully getting dinner on the table on time. Oh! I forgot the laundry! 😉