Thursday, October 11, 2007

Three Year Olds and Schedules

My 3yo is a classic textbook high energy kiddo.

Since she turned 3, Barefoot and I have been running around after her non-stop. Lots of dumping, lots of messes, lots of smearing and stirring and mixing of things that shouldn't be smeared or stirred or mixed. :-P

I finally had an "aha!" moment one day when I walked into the kitchen and saw she'd poured an entire carton of rice milk into a half-empty jar of peanut butter, and was dutifully sprinkling the soggy mess with a bottle of oregano. I asked in exasperation (after muffling a big blue streak), "WHY would you DO that??" She answered proudly, "I'm sorry you're mad. I'm making a recipe just like YOU, mommy!! It's tasty!"

My anger melted as I watched her bravely wince and ladle to stuff into her little mouth, grunting in forced satisfaction.

Snorking down a secret giggle, I seriously sat her down and we had a talk about respecting things, how she wanted to do things for herself, and how we could do both at the same time.

The solution was that she would be allowed in the kitchen and could have access to the fridge, as long as she only took food from a special shelf designated for only Mirth. She wanted a box with dinosaurs with snacks in it on the shelf. I went out the next day and got supplies to make the box, which ended up being decorated with dragons and knights after a failed search for dino stickers. :-P


In addition, that evening, I took a blow to my free-spirited side (as well as my adult-oriented nature) and made out a schedule for our weekdays. (A big "Thank You" to my friend Allison for prodding me in that direction ;-) )

So far, it's working out well, and I'm staying a few steps ahead of her fairly easily! Whoot!! :oD

I'm trying to plan out "outside" time (at least 2 hours of it) every day, along with a general theme for the week that goes along with the season of the year. This week, it's harvest time and apples. :-)

Our schedule is completely subject to Mirth and Lark's natural rhythms, more a general order of planned things rather than a rigid itinerary. A few things, like lunch and naptime are non-negotiable and sacred. No trips or projects or stimulating things during sleepy time of day, lol, or disaster will surely follow.

(Soapbox of the Day: I, btw, completely take issue with the notion that parents who attribute "bad" behavior to sleepiness or hunger or illness are simply making excuses for sinfulness, and that recognizing rough times of the day will set them up to be "wild" adults. I don't know anyone who acts nicely when overly-tired. :-P I agree that parents should teach children self-control for times when they feel badly...I just believe that doing so means teaching them to take good care of themselves and getting the needs for sleep and food met ASAP, if possible! Jesus slept when he was sleepy and ate when He was hungry- I can't expect more than that from my kids! ;-) )

I found a lot of fun Waldorf-inspired hands on activities and nature themed verses to go along with our work and play. I love the playful teaching and structure it adds...

So far, so good! She's like a wild rose with a trellis to climb now, and we're all pleased with the result: the family's things are treated with respect, and so is she! :-D

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The labyrinth

I really enjoyed this article that a friend shared with me. If you don't have time to read it, I'll give a short synopsis.

The author talks about how women who experience intense or fast births can experience a shock-like state after the birth train screeches to a halt. After sky high emotions and physical sensation (and extreme attention from her caregiver), suddenly labor ends. The new mother can often feel left in the lurch and forgotten at the abrupt end of labor, even to the point of going into a state of shock. According to the article, the people around the mother can help guide her out of the maze intact by helping her process her birth and by continuing to care for her mind and spirit in a generous way.I really appreciated what the article had to say, and it was good food for thought while reflecting on my own birth experiences.

My first birth was really painful, then really medicated at 7cm. I remember an odd, unfinished feeling after the epidural, and the pushing phase was hard work and gradual. Everything was a haze, and my clearest memories are holding my baby and her being brought again from the nursery.

My second birth was fast. My labor was peaceful, at home and very intense at the end. I went into labor with Lark in the midmorning, and was delivered by that afternoon. The time between the urge to push and her being on my chest was so short, and the birth were so intense. I felt so shocked and surprised and happy and relieved at the same time. And if my immediate care from my midwife, doula and family had been any less than nurturing, I can't imagine how empty and lost I would have felt.

Fortunately, this is what happened: I was dried off and wrapped in a warm blanket, and helped from the pool to my bed. My baby was glued to my breast, nursing like the calm, methodical little one that she is. Dh was on the bed beside us, beaming and telling me that he'd caught our baby, and my doula was spooning good food and drink into me. My midwife helped into a warm tub filled with good smelling herbs, and my baby came along with me. My mom and dad arrived with my excited firstborn, and brought me a favorite meal. I was allowed to sleep a long sleep.

Afterwards, my midwife warned me to not go downstairs too early, and to expect an emotional low if I tried to return to "normal" life too soon. If I tried to act normal, it would tell others I felt "normal" prematurely. How right she was! She encouraged me to revel in the afterglow of birth, and to treat my body and emotions with kid gloves for a while. She was telling me how to walk through the labyrinth of the birth experience.

When we enter labor, to cope with the strong emotions and sensations of birth, we tend to go "somewhere else" in our minds. Thoughts, emotions, fears, joys that are normally deep in our hearts come bubbling to the surface as it feels we are cheating death to embrace life fully. Our minds are tested as we relax our bodies and embrace each new contraction as it furthers our baby towards birth. It's an intensely holistic experience, calling body, mind, spirit and emotion to work together full force.

If a woman is in the care of people who realize the importance of post partum support (and if we ourselves are indeed aware of the need to surround ourselves with such individuals), then at the end of the birth she will be taken by the hand and guided and nurturing and recognized as vulnerable. When a fast labor screeches to a halt, those around her will be there to validate her feelings, help her process and sooth her pounding hearts and racing emotions.

If a woman is surrounded only by people who are concerned only about making sure she's breathing and physically intact, she is more likely to feel shocked, abandoned and numb after birth, and possibly duped by all the attention she received while laboring. Especially if the only the baby is the main focus, and not the mother-baby relationship, the mother is likely to feel disconnected and strangely empty.

Nurturing the mother and her relationship is soooo important for their next 18 or so years! Feeding mama, bringing her water, teaching her how to nurse, praising her birth effort, helping her mentally process the birth, carefully gaging her emotional needs, making sure she sleeps, delighting in her motherhood are such precious gifts that women NEED. They need these more than flowers and balloons (although these are super-nice too ). Doing this tells the mother "You're loved, you're worth loving, and you're going to be a really supported mom. You can really do this!"

Not only does it take a village to raise a child, it takes a community to birth a mother. I absolutely love the imagery of helping to guide the woman through the maze that is birth and recovery back to participating in daily life. I cannot think of a greater gift to give a child than a loved,nurtured mother.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why, yes! She is rather lively, isn't she?

Our eldest has been special since day one. At 2.5, he's a friendly, sensitive, fiery little diamond who embraces life with passion, vim and vigor. I embrace each day with a dose of caffeine and a heartfelt "HELP!" shot up to heaven.

She's a smart little cookie. She likes to be understood. She'll repeat whatever she's saying until she feels you've fully experienced the heartfelt emotion behind her thought. She needs lot of verbal feedback and physical contact. Her mind and body stay in motion long after she starts rubbing her eyes and feeling cranky. She has a really tough time letting go of a day, especially if she's been learning something new.

She climbs, stacks, squeals, runs, experiments, talks, demands, shrieks, feels deeply, eats, swings, dumps, pours, splashes, scrutinizes, hugs, badgers and runs. All day long, her little body lives in perpetual state of motion and intensity.

She's very, very much like me.

I cringe sometimes when I'm out. Don't get me wrong, I burst with joy and pride over my sweet, energetic little one. But sometimes, as I run and scoop my bolting giggler (or screamer) into my arms in a grocery store, I can feel "The Look" burning into the back of my skull.

The Look says, "If that were my kid" or "You *know* what would fix that..." or "If you don't teach her who's boss now..." Sometimes the owner of "The Look" will even say those words out loud. And I feel tempted to blush, make excuses, and become angry with my little one out of intense social embarrassment.

Then, it starts. On the way out to the car, with my toddler yowling for a rice cake, doubt creeps in. Maybe that sour old man or the snarky college student or the mother with the perfect, docile child was right. Maybe I'm a lousy mom. Maybe I should just be meaner. Maybe I need to go home and practice "The Look". Maybe....

The problem with all these maybes is that they're against my better judgment. *I* know my daughter. I know what she needs. I know how she's feeling, what kind of week she's had, that she's itchy/tired/thirsty/missing daddy/adjusting to a new sibling. No one else knows that.

I know that a good, harsh threat or a "pop on the leg" will be enough to turn a bad day into a REALLY bad day for her. I know this trip to the store needs to be shorter, and that she *needs* the rice cake she's been asking for incessantly. She doesn't need a good spanking. She needs a few good laps around the back yard, a snack and a good rocking session.

So I start the realistic self-talk. Yes, it is important to consider others, and so if my spirited child is actually damaging something/someone, or making life unpleasant for those around her, I will see that she respects those boundaries and redirect her (or simply remove her from the situation).

But if my daughter is simply singing "Twinkle Little Star" at the top of her voice in the grocery, or running in the halls of the church, or having a two year old explosion at the park over some firm boundary she doesn't like...tough cookies. That's who she is, and she is, in fact, two. If someone doesn't care for children doing childish things, perhaps they should consider re evaluating the way they participate in humanity. Or becoming a hermit.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Assigning Positive Intent

Here goes the first entry...Dun dun dun!

What on earth is "assigning positive intent"? Sounds like psychobabble, right?

Basically, it means trying to see the need behind a child's behavior. Or, as Dr. Sears vividly put it in an interview, get behind the eyes of your child. What are they trying to tell me? What words do they have to express the complicated emotions they're feeling? All behavior communicates a need. Sometimes, the communication is immature or inappropriate (ie: tantrums, yelling, exploring in "no touch" items, "sassing", name calling...), but it's an attempt to communicate a need, nonetheless.

The problem comes in when we try to assign adult reason and values to a child who is still physically, emotionally and verbally immature. (even for those of us who are "grown up", how many times a day do we communicate in a sarcastic. passive aggressive, rude, or inappropriate way when we're tired or hungry or emotionally drained, right? And we have mature morals and vocabularies under our belts!)
Around 20 times a day, I'm having to remind myself to step back and re-evaluate my own perception of my daughter's behavior.

Scenario 1: Is she melting down over me taking away an ink pen because she's rebellious and "never listens"? This was my first impulse: to get angry and feel she should realize the frustration she's caused me, as if she were an adult. Lose the labels, Aisling. And see this through her eyes.*Deep breah.* She wants to draw. Take the pen away, remind her it's not for her, and help her ask for appropriate drawing utensils.

Scenario 2: I found her in the sink. Again. Either she's directly defying my orders because of her sinful nature, -OR- she's intensely curious about the properties of water and in need of texture stimulation. (a very legitimate need for most toddlers!) I decided to view the scene through the latter lens, and told her "no.", pulled her down, and showed her how to ask for appropriate water play. We went to the tub, nursing baby and all, and had a great time.

Truly? I doubt "I will test mommy and directly defy her to see how angry I can make this much bigger adult" ran through her mind. It was likely more like, "Oh!! Water! I like the way it feels in my hands! I can climb!" Funny thing? Even if she did do it to deliberately test me, she's still expressing the need for boundaries. So my response would have been the same.

Cool thing? Assigning positive intent works for tired parents, too. Because if we chose to see the legitimate need behind our own negative behavior, we can work on finding a positive way to fill that need so the error isn't repeated over and again. So when I blow it, I can step back, assess the situation, pinpoint the need, and find a way to meet it instead of just saying, "DOH!! I'm a royal jerk, and a lousy mom!" hehe

Here's a moment a never want to forget from this week, mostly because it illustrates how my chosing to assign positive intent can seriously effect her entire life. I feel so grateful that I didn't miss this one. *happy tears*:

During a brain-spasm moment, I agreed to let Mirth watch the "non-scary" parts of the Prince of Egypt. Because I recalled it being a beautiful and touching scene, I allowed her to watch the "burning bush" scene.

Fast forward to evening snack time. Essie is slinging food and spilled milk off her tray with great concentration and fervor. In fact, she's so concentrating on her angry slinging, that she doesn't notice when I tell her to stop. (which, for us, is a sign that something's up)

I feel angry. I feel inconvenienced because I now have a mess to clean on top of cooking dinner. My first impulse is to smack her hand and growl, "No!!"

But I remembered to shift my attention (thank God), and noticed how very tense she looked. And angry. And very, very thoughtful. So I asked, "Hey Bee, you look upset. What's wrong?"

I kid you not, she looked up and said with a sad little voice, "I don't like God." After I picked my teeth up off the floor and desperately tried not to freak out and pull out the anointing oil, I asked her why. "Because He pick up Moses. God He picked up Moses and put Him in the air and I don't like it!" *splash splash*

"Ohhh, I see. And you're feeling worried that He might pick you up that way, too?" Sad little voice, "yeah. "
*splash* "Well...did you know that God doesn't ever want us to feel scared or worried? We're really safe with Him. He wouldn't do something to scare you, Bean. He loves you, and wants you to feel safe." Big smile. "OK."

Then, we talked about the tray, and she helped clean it up. And I thanked God that He urged me to keep my angry mouth shut, and my silly hands still.