Lost iPhone, Renewed Commitment

My husband misplaced my phone this weekend.  He was juggling a toddler, a bag full of what-toddlers-need and trying to get to an Easter party with his dad’s group.  My first reaction when I heard that it was gone was to blame, yell or ‘teach’ him how to stay more organized so this never happens again.  Never mind the fact that a few weeks earlier I put a library book on the roof and drove off, only to remember when my two-year-old asked what happened to said book.

Then, while staying silent and breathing I started to use the work I have been doing in regards to Nonviolent Communication and taking responsibility for my emotions.  There was nothing helpful I had to offer.  No way I could make it better or make him feel less upset.  What I needed to do was let him feel how he felt (this is pretty novel for me, in the past I probably would have wanted him to get over it while simultaneously growing more irritated at him for letting it happen). My job was to figure out how I was really feeling and then manage myself appropriately.

As minutes passed and I kept breathing and thinking I realized that maybe this was not the tragedy it seemed. In some ways I felt relieved.  It was a reminder that I use my phone WAY TOO MUCH, despite the fact that I don’t want my son to be over exposed to technology.  I am modeling a “one hand on the phone, one eye on the person I am speaking to” mentality that is completely opposite from what I believe in. I was sad about the loss of un-uploaded photos and video but other than that perhaps this was a time for me to reflect.  Re-prioritize.

If I had acted on my initial frustration and anger I never would have felt anything more.  Or if I did it probably would have taken hours or days to come to it and only after causing unnecessary hurt. Instead I was able to really look at why I was so upset (because “What would I DO without my phone?!” ) and what that really meant.

I have a new phone now…I am a small bit poorer for it.  I was able to save ALL of the un-uploaded photos and video! (Here’s to syncing your iPhone regularly!) With it I have a new plan for its use: While at school I will only use it when I am not with Collin.  At home I will check it every few hours or so and then put it away.  I will only respond to calls or texts, not sit around facebooking or google searching for no reason.  That’s the plan, now lets hope this lesson stays downloaded long after the memory of losing it is gone.

Cheers to a bit less technology and a lot more interaction in our lives,

Melissa

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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 Mamma Taught the Teacher (2 of 2)

A little while back I wrote a post on how my expertise in early childhood education has been able to help me as my mother-self begins to emerge.  While it is true that there are many advantages to having such a history with children every mom knows there is nothing like being someone’s mom.  I had never before been so connected to another.  Never had I see the world so clearly through someone else’s eyes.  I can feel my own childhood through my son and I can feel everything he feels as he grows.

Yes, teaching informed my mothering but becoming a Mamma shifted my internal compass.  When I first starting teaching I had little to go on except my intuition.  I used a combination of culturally accepted ways of viewing children, ingrained models of parenting practices and what remained of my early childhood education (which I hardly remember but strongly feel affects me to this day).  I was gentle, I was kind but I was also overly set on order and control.

Here is what I have leared (so far!) :

  1. Control is only an illusion (and power struggles aren’t worth your time)  Very quickly after my son was born I was hit with the realization that he was his own person.  Complete even in his soft, floppy, newborn-ness.  Never would I be able to make him sleep, make him eat or make him stop crying.  I could do my best to set the environment most conducive to calming and sleep but the task was up to him.  As he has grown I have been shown that team work is what works.  In my classroom the children (remember they are only all of 18-20 months old) are my partners.  We work together to clean up, help our friends, calm our bodies for nap.  Raising my voice backfires every time, and even when it works it is so very short lived.  Letting go of control is difficult for me but I am not in this profession to be ‘in charge’. I am here to supplement the lives of the little ones in my care, here to help them be them.
  2. Crying is okay! Yep, I said it.  Children were not born with the ability to express themselves.  They were born with one tool of communication and it is crying.  When I was a teacher (pre-Mammadom) I felt it to be my job to “Shhh”, quiet or otherwise ‘fix’ every child in my care.  This is simply unfair to children, plugging emotions up only cause them to leak out elsewhere.  Instead, now I offer empathetic touch and verbalization.  Perhaps a child may cry harder when I comment on how difficult it is to see a parent leave but more than likely the rest of their day will be free of such distress.  Overstimulated babies often need to be gently held while they diffuse all of the goings on of the day.  I’d like to clearly state that I am not an advocate of cry-it-out or leaving babies to cry alone.  Now I see crying as communication and expression that deserves to be listened to.  You can not really know a child until you can sit with them in their most difficult moments and come out the other side.
  3. Children are who they are (despite their parents efforts)  This relates back to what I said in number one.  Your child is not a possession to be controlled.  They are individual human beings with thoughts, feelings and intrinsic motivation from the very beginning. I know we are all guilty of holding specific wishes for what our child will be, how they will behave or what type of temperament they will show us as they grow.  As teachers and parents our aim must be to know the child we are working with and adjust to the paradigm he sets before us.  Let your child guide you to where they need to be.  In the classroom this is reflected by rules that are flexible depending on the needs of the child. Contrary to what one might think, all the other children do not expect rules to change for them.  If they feel their needs are met they have no problems with other children getting their needs met, in fact they encourage it.
  4. Punishment is of no value  In the classroom it is my job to teach.  To guide children to where they desire to be.  Help them to understand society’s rules and structure while they learn to operate in it.  As a Mamma I have the same goal.  I do not desire to frighten my child into submission.  Punitive measures like time-out or yelling are frustrating and unhelpful to all parties invoved. In our home we have a harmonious environment where clear boundaries give Collin the ability to explore the world without fear.  In the classroom I attempt to build the same feeling.  Children know what is expected and they rise to the occasion.  Acting out (hitting, biting, etc) is treated as a learning experience.  In the case of significant behavioral issues there is always an underlying cause, always.  Children are not born bad, we just haven’t figured them out yet.
  5. Everything is a phase  Sometimes children go through phases that we won’t ever understand.  There may be a bout of biting, a period of time where someone doesn’t want to eat lima beans or wakes up every hour of the night.  As a parent it has been helpful for me to remind myself (often) that this too shall pass.  They will continue to grow and change.  This reminder makes it easier for me to support my son through any developmental phase he (we?) may encounter.  Maybe I will never know the why but I know the how and I can support him in this moment.  In the classroom I am significantly more aware of children’s phases.  It is easier for me to be supportive of a child who may suddenly become excessively whiney when I can put it in the context of a phase.  Sometimes I can narrow down the reasons (mom out of town? nearing a develpmental milestone?) other times I can’t.  It just helpt to know that what they need is support, not puishment.

I realize many of these theories overlap.  The major change for me has been my view of the child.  My respect for what a baby, toddler and preschooler can accomplish if given the proper support has multiplied daily as I watch my son grow.  The gift of parenting drives me to know all children like I know my son.  I know it is not possible to know their hearts as deeply as I know Collin’s but I also know that they deserve a teacher who tries her hardest to understand them. All children deserve the love and respect of someone who accepts them for who they are and while I would hope most children get this at home I will do my best to offer it at school.

As always thanks for reading! Teachers, Mammas please share your knowledge below.

The most primal cry

A Baby’s Urge to Be Heard | Psychology Today.

I came across this article today thanks to Janet Lansbury and her wonderful blog.  I felt it was worth sharing.

1-This is Psycology today.  Meaning unbiased truth about how our brains develop from birth.

2-There is a long standing debate in the world of ‘parenting education’ regarding ‘Cry-it-out’ that, in my humble opinion, deserves more than just a passing mention.

Now, a little editorializing…

Decade after decade there have been new and ‘proper’ ways to raise your chlid.  There will always be well meaning friends, relatives or strangers who deeply believe that what they tell you about child rearing is the best.  This is most likely because it is how they were raised or how they raised their children.  I understand these paradigms are hard to escape.

However, there is a reality to how our brains develop. The more we learn about how to build cars, the better the cars are.  As time goes on we have gone from room sized computers to idevices in every pocket.  Why then wouldn’t we use that same growing wealth of knowledge to help guide our precious little humans into the most secure, healthy and loved people they can be?

As the article states crying isn’t brought on by cognitively based manipulative thoughts.  To the contrary hormones within your baby’s brain cause them to cry out of a need for YOU.  For your comfort, your food, your touch and the reassurance that they are not being left, quite literally, for the wolves.  Being left in a dark room crying doesn’t teach a baby anything except to give up on you.

This article is not meant to anger anyone. Though I am sure it will. I understand deeply how confusing and painful it can be to try to do the right thing for your family and child when your little baby just will not sleep. I offer no judgement. I also do not propose a completly cry-less life for your child.  To the contrary I believe that emotional expression should be allowed to develop fully along the broad spectrum of human feeling.

What I hope for is a broader debate.  Freedom from guilt ridden ‘sleep training’.  What if as parents we grew to understand more developmentally appropriate sleep patterens? What if we talked more openly about how hard it can be to stay calm, gentle and helpful to our darling babes at 3am?

What do you think? This article serves as just a beginning to what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue.