Simple Sunday-Some Simple Honesty

Something has changed in the way that Collin relates to those around him.  He is more conversational and will stop in mid-sentence to look deeply into our eyes as we discuss something.  He will look up at me as we are reading a book to judge my face, my tone and my reaction.  When I try to express my frustration calmly and honestly he will say “Mamma angry” as he analyzes what is going on.  It isn’t that his looking at me is new, this is looking into me.

As a teacher I have built many strong relationships with children I work with.  My support of them emotionally during the school day can noticeably enhance their learning experience.  With your own child  the ability to deeply connect is ten times greater and within the moments of connection lay building blocks for emotional resilience that will last a lifetime.

I admit that as I look deeper inside myself I don’t find answers.  What I find is more confusion and work that needs to be done. This week a few articles have been circulating regarding building resilience, emotional intelligence  and handling strong emotions. (Awesome articles, check them out!)  As I read through these I think two thoughts:

1- Wow, I totally do this!  I empathize with what he is feeling, connect to his emotional side and put words to his complicated emotions!

2- Oh my gosh, this is rough! How do I express my emotions without labeling or blaming him? How can I stay calm and empathize with him when I am frustrated as well?

 

I have found that expressing myself as calmly as possible in very simple terms is all I can do.  It is also one of the best things I can do for him.  I can help to empathize and verbalize his emotions for him, until he is able to do it on his own.  I can be honest with myself, not expecting too much.  Giving both of us the gift of a relationship worthy of those sweet eyes that look so deeply into mine.

Of course I continue to do work on myself.  On understanding him.  On managing my daily stress level so he is not an innocent bystander if something explodes.  But really, as parents we have so much to do.  So much to do right, everyday.  The beginning of strong relationship is built on honesty and care for others.  That I can do, everyday.  The rest we have a chance to do, again and again and again until we get it right.

Happy Sunday! Have a simply great week!

 

 

The storm within-Dealing with a toddler’s emotional self

In an earlier post I spoke of being honest with my own emotions. I think that it is deeply important we are honest about our feelings in a simple and age appropriate way with the children that inhabit our lives.  They deserve to see that we have bad days too.  They have much to gain from watching those they love in their lives grow and recover from minor or major emotional issues in life.

Sometimes I have found that it is far easier for me to be honest about my emotions than to let the children around me express theirs freely.  This can be for many reasons.  Sometimes I see myself prejudging their experience, “Oh you’re okay!”, even though I should know better.  Other times I just find myself trying to fix things in order to help keep my toddler happy or calm, again…I should know better.  Finally, at the end of a long week when the kids around me are worn out, sick of being away from home and need more than I can give (I know every preschool teacher has been there) I just lose the patience to tune into each individual emotion.  In those cases I just want to do ANYTHING to get them to be quiet.

An article by Janet Lansbury that describes a small girl’s emotional expression of grief as she comes upon a squished snail got me thinking about how frequently we cut children’s emotions off at the core.  Especially with toddlers.  With their less than stellar language ability, lack of self-control and healthy lungs it can be difficult to let a toddler’s emotions run the gamut on a daily basis.  For those of us that work with toddlers we often mistakenly use tools like distraction to halt emotions in their tracks.  In many ways it is what we have been taught to do. Keep our babies ‘happy’.  There must be something wrong with a crying baby.  With the best of intentions we try to quiet the emotional storm that is attempting to work itself out inside the mind of a toddler.  This work is born of love but is it the best we can do for our babies?

I would argue that it is not.  In this article on toddler’s grief the toddler is allowed to go through their own process of feeling for the snail (who probably seemed like a friend to them).  This included an obvious period of cathartic toddler tears.  Then the toddler, allowed to work though things on their own, helped heal herself and move on. This toddler must have had many chances to feel through the issues and struggles that weave their way through her daily life.  If she can do this now (and I know many of us still have issues with processing pain, loss and grief in an effective way) how much easier will her path be as an adult? What then does this mean for children who aren’t as lucky?

In our ever changing society we need increased resilience to life’s many challenges.  As parents and caregivers it is our responsibility to trust children from the very beginning in the knowledge of their emotions.  The phrase ‘You’re okay!’ should be wiped from our collective memory.  Instead I would like to replace it with a sensitive adult who will sit by with quiet empathy as they go through what they will.  I don’t want to confuse the issue by in any way implying that children should be left alone with their emotions.  To the contrary I feel that children, especially young toddlers and preschoolers, should be well supported during emotional stresses.  We just need to be careful we aren’t stopping them in their tracks.

I aim to sit on my hands, bite my tongue and take deep breaths as I let Collin (and our daily troupe of buddies) reach into the deepest parts of their emotional selves.  Even as every bone in my body might tell me to just get that baby quiet, or as strangers stare in a public place.  I WILL give him the freedom of emotion he deserves because he deserves it now, and because he will better handle emotions on his own one day if he knows freedom now.

On toddler time

Yesterday was a very different day than usually for my little man and me. We are used to routine. Every weekday we get up and get dressed with the help of Dada. We climb haphazardly into ‘mamma car’ and drive off to school. There we share the majority of the day with our little toddler buddies, from breakfast to diaper changes and every adventure in between.

Today however, he and I were alone at home while Mamma had to run loads of errands, some of which included *gasp* using the computer without the help of the bunz. We were on a strict time schedule as I had to be at school/work by the early afternoon. Collin was on toddler time.

I felt the pressure of accomplishing all of this with him before I got out of bed. He was a great help, and for the most part I kept a calm exterior, anxiety taking route in the pit of my stomach. However, as I watched the minutes tick by and felt less getting accomplished I started to feel the anxiety rise within me. I started to rush him slightly. Started to push him past what should be developmentally expected for a toddler. Maybe I even rolled my eyes at him once or twice.

“Come on, just come up the stairs…yes, yes, I see the wall, hold the wall if you want, just come up the stairs!”

Collin bunz looked quizzically into my eyes as if to say “Alright Mamma, I was just discussing it with you, geeze!”

Things got done, I continued to get more tense, and we made it to the door. I asked him to go get his shoes and turned to print something off the computer.

This is what I found

My baby’s big brown eyes staring up at me, in MY black flats, holding a water bottle bigger than his head. Water dribbling down his Elmo shirt. He said “come on Mamma!” As he walked to the door in MY shoes with his huge water bottle.

I felt the question rise in me. Do I wrestle with him to put on his shoes, socks, leave the water bottle behind etc? Lay down the law, show him who was in charge here? Or just LET. IT. GO.

And so I did.

It may not seem like much, moms everyday run around busy, busy, busy. Toddlers push buttons and are not the most cooperative sort.

But on that morning, as he toddled out the door in MY shoes. Climbing into his car seat, with shoes in had and a beaming smile. I knew I chose humor, joy, and maybe a time delay.

I chose gentle, compassionate parenting and I felt at peace for the first time that day.

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! 😉