I know I’m not the only one lying awake at night thinking of our hurting world. I hold my babies tighter not sure of their future and what it might look like. I say this with a compassionate attitude towards those that are truly suffering. I’ve been feeling empathy pains and aches for those people whose lives have been shattered and live in fear on a daily basis. In order to keep moving forward, I choose to focus on the moment and pay attention to what’s in front of me. “Be present,” said Ms. Lei, J’s teacher during her Empathy Parenting workshop a month ago. She gave an example of when we treat ourselves to a cup of coffee. Often we are instantly pulled in six different directions, breaking the silence, and missing it’s greatness.
“When you are in the now,” she said, “you will be aware of every last sip.”
What a wonderful idea and journey we could all take through life. She shared with us the children’s daily routine of circle time at the beginning of each day. By asking each child to “come into the circle and feel your breath,” she’s inviting them to be present and practice mindfulness.
I challenge us all to begin to live our lives this way. When a friend shares with you her struggle over her child’s behavior, put aside your to-do lists and personal struggles. Be in the moment. Practice empathy friendship. This could just be undivided conversation and a hug or offering to babysit. If your child is struggling to put on his shoes and your arms are full of library books, purse, water bottle, and you’re halfway out the door. Stop. Put everything down (you can huff and puff in your head, if it helps) and help him through the struggle. If your partner seems tense from work (and if you two can grab a moment alone) lend an ear to those struggles, even if you have no idea what their job entails.
Mother Teresa said “small things, done in great love, bring joy and peace.” This is absolutely true. Tuck that note into your kids lunchbox. It might just be the lift they need to get through a tough day of middle school. Pick up dinner for a family of five, just because. Practice random acts of kindness. I can say with absolute certainty that the reward will be two fold. You get to make someone’s day but the joy in giving will be all yours.
In addition to mindful living, recognizing what we’re grateful for can also lift our spirits.
My son is a toddler. Two and a half years old. I refuse to call it the ‘terrible twos’, and instead call it the “trying twos” as a reminder of what we’re all experiencing. It’s a trying time for him – to carve his place in this world, and trying for us parents – to be patient and compassionate and to stay out the way when the urge is to ‘complete the task’ or soothe the tears. It’s okay to cry, and sometimes, it’s ok to let that be, or to soothe.
I call it the ‘trying twos’ because when you flip the script you also alter that old saying and knock it on its side.
About a week had passed and my son and I were stuck in a rut. There were nightly tears when I stopped our playtime and said it was time for bed. I read and attempt to practice RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) and mindful parenting. I often turn to the founder of RIE Magda Gerber’s wisdom when I’m stuck in a parenting moment and yet here I’d let almost an entire week pass. I’ve done my best at creating ‘yes’ spaces and I talk with my toddler in a conversation of adult emotional albeit simplified, detail. For some reason though, these ideas are hard to incorporate when I’m overly tired, or stressed, or in a hurry. It’s as though I’m hardwired to dictate as a parent (time to do this, let’s go, hurry up) and it takes real effort to think before I act and speak with the kindness I want us all to share with each other.
The night things really came together, I played with him, spoke to him and let him know that soon, after the ‘train ride’ we were on, we would tidy up and head upstairs to read, have a bath and go to sleep. He listened. He went to sleep that night without having cried, without whining, without telling me to lie down beside him, and I tuned into the news of the day – another mass shooting in America.
Fourteen dead. The same number of women killed by Marc Lépine at the École Polytechnique December 6th, 1989. Lépine claimed he was “fighting feminism.” Fourteen. The number I would explain to my child as an actor in a high school docudrama performed in 1990, when asked, “How many is fourteen?” “One plus one plus one plus one..” and so on, I replied. The impact of Lépine’s actions has never left me. And now, twenty-six years later, I’m wondering how I will explain any number of deaths to my son. Deaths by guns.
The nights I get things right, are the nights I think twice about raising my voice, when inside there is turmoil and rage for wanting things ‘to run smoothly’ to, ‘go as planned’. Parenting, like so many lessons in life, continues to ask me to slow down, to be present. Parenting asks me to let go of the lists and plans in my head, to be open and willing and accept the present state of not knowing and play.
“There are steps we can take to make America safer,” American President Obama said after the shootings in San Bernardino on Wednesday December 2nd, 2015. He didn’t suggest what those steps are though; he is perhaps not able to be so honest as to what it will really take. It will take a lot of courage in educating ourselves and our children to be strong, emotional, supportive and understanding beings for each other.
The nights I get things right, I am a very present parent, focused on listening and guiding with kindness. I still get things done, not through pleading or begging, or saying it’s so, but by listening, supporting, laughing and slowing down. Owning a gun if you live off the land, are a farmer, a rancher, or a law enforcer, makes sense. Otherwise owning a gun is nothing but a sign of fear. We can all be intimidated by the notion of other at some time. It is indeed, a whopping of an emotion. Think about how you felt when you met someone you really liked. There was an element of fear there. Of nervous energy about the unknown. Or that first time you played a sport, rode a bike, got on a plane, ate bugs.. insert whatever you want here, fear is a naturally occurring emotion. Does owning a gun erase your fear? No.
It’s hard to listen when you are afraid. It’s hard to listen when you ultimately disagree. It’s hard to listen when you don’t understand what someone is going through, is trying to say, or is speaking a different language. It’s really hard to listen with a gun in your hand. A gun in your hand closes your ears and your heart.
How can we disagree in our beliefs, in our religions, and still stand beside one another? A gun ends a conversation before it begins. One of things that RIE encourages is creating a safe space, a yes space for infants and children to walk/lie/climb and play without restrictions. No sharp edges, nothing that will spark an adult to say ‘no, put that down’ or ‘don’t touch that’. We do this, I think, to instill a safety that allows for uninhibited play and learning that embodies a sense of well being that hopefully paves a path to inspired, intelligent, emotionally open adults. How can we create this kind of space and build communities with guns hanging out of our pockets? Guns that shut people up. Guns that say, I have more power than you, when really all that gun is saying is, I am so afraid. I am afraid, listen to me. I am afraid.
How can we create communities where we put an ounce of understanding and acceptance in each other’s minds instead of bullets in one another’s hearts?
The nights I get things right, are nights I will continue to strive for. As a mother of a son I will do my best to ‘get it right’ by allowing for any anger or fear, or rage be heard and understood in a way that encourages open palms and the word yes instead of no. Words that take what a gun represents, all that violence and fear and says, ok, I hear you. Let’s flip it, let’s somehow try to make something work and live, let’s live for fuck’s sake, together.
The holidays are approaching and we definitely have a road trip or two planned. Here are some tips and tricks that have worked for us (alongside those things that definitely failed). These may help as you cross state lines and try not to fall off your sanity radar. I’m sure things on the list will change as children become older and more independent. For now, the toddlers and and tykes have given us these golden pieces of guidance.
Fail – cinnamon toast crunch, chocolates, and similar items that leave sticky residue over hands, clothes, and car seats
Score – froot loops, trail mix, and other easily vacuum-able dry finger foods
Fail – water bottles or juice boxes which result in inevitable spills, half empty leftovers, and excess trash in the car
Score – reusable water bottles that are both environmentally friendly & convenient
Fail – puzzles, legos, craft beads that fall and cause drama because butter fingered kid NEEDS to unbuckle from their car-seat or else…
Score – car DVD players, audio books, individual coloring books/kits to maintain a semblance of collective productivity
Fail – play doh. ugh. UGH!
Score – books and educational electronics
Fail – cute outfits that will get spilled on and won’t be comfortable to snooze in
Score – PJs. Comfy cozy cotton lounge style easy to sleep in snuggle gear
Fail – anything NEW or anything with buttons
Score – older clothes that you can toss in a gas station trash can after ultimate diaper explosions (without struggling with buttons)
Fail – paper towel rolls
Score – baby wipes. they clean EVERYTHING under the sun. EVERYTHING
Fail – trash bag because it’ll inevitably get mixed up with non-trash bags so you’re stuck digging out the useful things amidst junk
Score – trash container, sealed to contain smells and easily disposed and re-used after a quick wipe-down (see maintenance score item above).
Fail – asking children to pack their own
Score – filling individual backpacks with quick emergency essentials (diapers, extra clothes, emergency undergarments, a soothing stuffed animal or surprise)
Fail – packing bandages and emergency supplies in someone’s backpack (the number of fake emergencies we’ve had to address…)
Score – hiding away the actual first aid kit and replacing child’s backpack with toy bandages and medical equipment to diagnose and treat themselves
Pregnancy may be a miracle, but it sure isn’t dignified!
Warning: This post contains proper names of body parts, frank discussion of bodily functions, and details about things that happen when you’re pregnant. If this sort of thing offends you, don’t read this (or get pregnant for that matter).
At 7 months into my second pregnancy (I have a 5 year old son), I’ve learned 2 things. 1) When you get pregnant, take your dignity, put it in a box, and place that box on a shelf in your closet. You won’t be needing it for a while. 2) I will have a least one humiliating episode per pregnancy.
Embarrassing Story – First Pregnancy
All of my initial ultrasounds had been internal ultrasounds (this means a phallic shaped object is encased in a condom like sheath, lubed, and placed inside your vagina to better visualize your internal organs). This was the first time my husband had come to an ultrasound with me. After we were let into the exam room, before the tech arrived, I started to take off my pants and underwear. My husband looked at me, and asked what I was doing. Silly man. With a been-there, done-that tone of vast experience, I let him know that I had to take my pants and underwear off for them to do the ultrasound.
A few moments later, the tech came in then stopped, staring at me. “Um. You know, you don’t, uh, need to actually take your pants off for an, um, ultrasound. I’ll just, uh, yeah, I’ll be right back. When you have your pants on.” Needless to say, that totally busted my: “I’m the woman, so I know way more about this” credibility for at least a month.
Embarrassing Story – Second Pregnancy
Since it was determined that I had preeclampsia at the end of my first pregnancy, my specialist OB wanted a 24 hour urine sample for a baseline protein count. When my OB was walking me through the process, she explained that I needed to collect all my urine, during a 24 hour period, and return it in the provided jug. (Ewwwww!) She noted that after the visit, I should walk over to the lab next door and pick up the “jug and hat.” I thought to myself, “I must have heard wrong. Surely she said ‘cap’ not ‘hat’.”
I go over to the lab. The very kind gentleman tech searches, finds the jug, but notes that they are out of the “hats.” I couldn’t help but note, “You actually said ‘hat’ didn’t you?”
The poor, puzzled tech responded, “Yes, you use the hat to collect the urine.” (The “Duh” was unspoken.)
Still trying to understand the terminology, I ask, “You mean a receptacle?” “Sure, if you’d rather call it a receptacle.”
I don’t know why, but I feel the need to explain, “It’s just that it’s right before Halloween. When you say ‘hat,’ I get these images of a little, pointy, witch’s hat.”
The tech goes still, with a forced blank expression, “I don’t know how to respond to that. I’m not going to say a thing. Nope. There’s just no good response to that.” Realizing that my response could be interpreted in a more risque manner than intended, I try to diffuse the situation with, “I admire your restraint. I started that, I apologize.”
He was still a little stuck, “You can say those sorts of things. I cannot say those sorts of things.” At this point, I just want to get out of there, especially as there are now other people observing this interaction. Finally, the tech gives up, gives me the collection jug, and tells me to go back to my OB’s office to see if they have any ‘hats.’
Continuing the never ending search for this mysterious hat-thing, I approach the OB’s receptionist and say, “The lab is out of hats for my urine sample collection. He said you might have some.” At the receptionist’s blank look, I realize that I have now become one of these strange people who casually talk about using hats to collect urine. After a few moments, she gets up and goes to find one of the nurses.
She returns with the nurse, grumbling about how they lab is supposed to have these, not them (finally, someone using language that make sense!) and carrying:
Bonus: When I got home, I just dumped everything (paperwork, glucose bottle, unused jug, unused hat) on the counter. When my husband came home, I hear, “What is this hat-thing, and why is it on my counter?!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I exclaimed, “You called it a hat! I have a funny story for you!”
Random Pregnancy Thoughts
Oh my, this nausea is unpleasant; however, as long as eat 2 of each meal, I seem to be doing okay.
I love this! I’ve never slept better or felt more rested!
This is so cool – my food cravings are so healthy!
My mood is so stable and pleasant – and I was so worried about mood swings!
My boobs are getting even bigger?! How is this physiologically possible? How much do they weigh? (For the inappropriately curious, 1.5 lbs each.)
Okay, I’m slightly uncomfortable.
(Direct quote from 12 hours before my water broke at 36 weeks) “I’m finally ready to say that I’m more ready for pregnancy to be over than afraid of childbirth.”
(Upon water breaking) Where the heck is my pregnancy book? What do you pack in a hospital bag? Where in this book will it tell me what to pack to go to the hospital?! (Spoiler Alert – nowhere)
(In labor at the hospital) No one ever told me that it could be “too early” for an epidural.
This kinda sucks.
How can it be evolutionary beneficial to be repulsed by food, water, and other liquids when you’re trying to grow a human?
I want to go back in time and punch my prior pregnant self in the face.
Why am I crying?
I hate everyone.
My husband must really love me.
My back and butt really hurt.
Why can’t I sleep? It can’t be good to not sleep more than 2 hours a night. (Upon consultation with my OB, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”)
(While the baby is frustrating the heck out of the ultrasound tech with non-stop motion) Heh. At least I’m not the only one she’s giving a hard time to!
My husband brought me chocolate cake for no reason. I love him so much, I have to cry.
My back hurts so badly, I can only lay in bed and cry. (Upon consultation with my OB, “Sorry, it’s like that sometime. Take some acetaminophen.”)
Oh, yay. Now I’m peeing on myself every time I cough. And my human petri dish (my 5 year old) keeps giving me colds. I thought I wasn’t supposed to be doing this much laundry until after the baby is born!
Hello my little pugilist. You better be very cute, or at least extremely mild mannered, because you’re an awful lot of work.
What fresh hell is this?! (Dizziness so bad that I the room is spinning while I’m lying down and barely make it to the toilet for the vomiting.)(According to the OB, this can happen sometimes. Call them back if it persists.)
Seriously, I’m still crying.
So that’s what the inside of my belly button looks like. I really wasn’t missing anything, was I?
Actual Google search: “Can a fetus kick the mother in the urethra?”
My husband better love me if I’m going through this!
Did I ride a bike for 12 hours yesterday and forget about it? Why am I saddle-sore?
My husband just licked his popsicle too noisily. He. Must. Go.
Why does it feel like I’m being stabbed in the pelvis and vagina when I walk, stand, or shift positions? (Upon consultation with my OB, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”)
Seriously, bladder, is that what you were making all that fuss about? That’s all that’s in there?!
Is it possible to become dehydrated from crying?
Anything Can Be a Pregnancy Symptom
As noted from above – debilitating back pain, severe nausea and dizziness leading to vomiting, stabbing groin and vaginal pain, severe insomnia
Stories from friends: craving non-food, increased energy, decreased energy, increased appetite, decreased appetite, euphoria, depression, skin/hair changing color and/or texture, visual changes (including astigmatism permanently changing from one eye to another), skin tags, hair growth in strange and unusual places, hyper-sexuality, sexual monasticism, bloody swollen gums, bloody noses, discharge, crusty nipples, “interesting” new smells, onset of new and life-threatening food allergies, pelvic separation due to over-lax ligaments, the list is truly endless!
I strenuously assert that my arm could fall off, and when I told my OB about it, she would simply respond, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”
Ways to Win Arguments
Yes, fine, I get it. No one wants to hear anyone complain all the time. I even get sick of myself. However, sometimes, when you’re pregnant and feeling rotten, other people just need to suck it up and let you win. I find these techniques to be especially effective with my husband.
The always classic, “I’m growing a human inside my body that is either going to be squeezed out of my vagina or removed by my being cut upon on an operating table.”
When faced with why you’re uncomfortable or having weird torso sensations, show them this web page (totally SFW).
Yelling, “My vagina hurts!” Especially while spreading your legs open and wildly gesticulating at the area in question. (In my experience, this strategy has the added benefit of ending the argument by making my husband crack up.)
What about you?
Please tell me I’m not the only one out there! Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories to share about attempting conception, being pregnant, being a parent? Please share! I’ve got 3(?) more months to go and need to feel the love (or laughter)!
Other people telling it like it is with humor:
I think I’ve linked to this before, but Beth Woolsey is my hero as far as “putting it out there.”
So, not long ago, in a galaxy all too familiar, there was a rainy day, and restless siblings at odds with each other. A decision was made to join the rebel alliance, and begin the Star Wars experience.
Since then, There have been moments of great despair, a night of confusion when the kids find out the relationship of Darth Vader and Luke (I’ll never forget the looks I got that night, as if all father’s were now suspect), there were times for parents to cringe (J.J. Binks), and times to rejoice for all.
But what we didn’t expect were the major parenting wins. Important themes and life lessons frequently met with eye rolls when coming from the mouths of my wife or myself, but suddenly appreciated and heard thanks to new friends in a galaxy far, far away.
Use The Force. Perhaps long ago, midi-chlorians were necessary to access the all-encompassing Force. Thankfully today, we have the knowledge of, and power to use Conflict Resolution. We all have the ability to solve problems, calmly with Jedi-like zen – and not let fear rule our lives and decision making ability. And we know “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Choices made in anger are usually not our best choices. How many times did I use my Yoda voice in my head when my middle child revolted putting shoes on, instead slinging them to the other side of the room. “Mmmm… much anger I sense in you. Anger is the path to the dark side.”
This actually helps me from becoming angry and to use the FORCE to solve problems. And that’s just for my benefit. Hopefully my daughter will eventually learn that it’s much harder to build up your block tower when you’re angrily throwing blocks at the tower. This also leads to…
Problems are best solved when we are calm. Young Padawan learner, “You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”
So in other words, when you’re brother takes your toy, and runs away, find a way to make peace, not scream, cry and chase with harmful intent.
Conflicts are going to happen. I love the squabbles of C3PO and R2D2. They are connected to eachother through all the movies, but they also drive their hard drive’s batty sometimes.
Much like the relationships of … well anybody in the household. We love each other, we are dedicated to each other. And we will drive each other crazy.
Size doesn’t always matter. From birth, our oldest daughter has been in the bottom of the percentiles for weight and height. She’s petite and likely always will be. But she has this longstanding dream of being “the biggest kid”. Friendships have been cast aside because a friend (truthfully) told her that she was the shorter child. So when our kids got to watch Yoda do battle with Count Dooku, my wife didn’t hesitate to point out that Yoda was physically smaller than his nemesis. Yet, not only did he hold his own, he clearly is a great warrior with a smaller stature. Therefore, it’s ok to be smaller because:
Hard work and perseverance are the way to achieve your goals. You may be angry, you may be sad, you may be scared, or you want to give up. Your ship may be deep at the bottom on a swamp in the Degobah system. But if you stick with your work, with your training, you can be a magnatile jedi, or a math jedi. Learn from your failures, and continue to push forward.
Even when things seem darkest, there is always reason to hope.
Maybe this one is more for us as parents. Even when your kids didn’t nap, and have been fighting for an hour, and at your heels with every move you make, you know that bedtime is coming. “Mmmm… sleep they will.” I say to my wife, “I am not afraid!” and she responds back: “You will be, you will be.”
“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”
You see it with Jengo Fett/Boba Fett, the climax with Darth Vader saving Luke from the Emperor, and even when Shmi Skywalker lets her only son go with the Jedi, there’s a feeling that these movies are a lot about relationships between parents and their kids. Our kids think a lot differently than we do – and that is an amazing thing that we should all appreciate.
Silly Jedi, Mind Tricks are for all of us.
Obi Wan might consider this an abuse of power, but my wife and I were pleasantly surprised how we can use The Force to our advantage over our kids. “You do not want to stay awake, you want to go right to sleep.” OK, that worked 0 times.
How about when we pass the $1 bin at Target, you just wave your hand and say: “These are not the toys you are looking for.” What Jedi Mind Tricks do you think your kids may be playing on you?
As I sat in a professional development class last week a new idea was brought to my attention that struck a chord with me. The idea is “the coalition of the willing.” Now, on further review there are some political ideas that might accompany that phrase, but this was not at all how the presenter explained it. We were embarking on how to be more blended in our approach with technology in the classroom. If you teach or deal with technology, sometimes the thought of really purposefully merging the two is quite daunting. Over and over the presenter said, we are not looking for perfection or to have everything figured out before you start, but rather a coalition of the willing.
Willing to try, willing to fail, willing to try again.
I am a person who loves learning and in learning there are always some failures. Most failures are great teachers. I like the idea of seeking out others on this journey that want to be in a coalition of the willing.
I can see many parts of my life where this is applicable:
I have much to learn and much to teach about kids and parenting.
I love to find new books to read and will talk to anyone about what they are reading even if it is a genre I don’t usually care for.
I aspire to learn how to crochet better and hope a high school friend that lives far away can be a mentor.
I tell my first graders that one of the most important things they will ever do is become a life long learner. How can I espouse that, and not truly be following my own advice?
In my adulthood, I have wanted to learn new things in certain wheelhouses or in my comfort zone. I now seek others that can teach me, guide me, learn from me, and fail with me so we can strive for new learning and new adventures.
May this fall be filled with adventures, learning, teaching, mentoring and fun with others that seek the coalition of the wiling.
I have two beautiful, loving, bright little boys. As with many families with two or more children, one of my children is more challenging than the other. However, unlike most families, my oldest son has ADHD, and the other does not. In raising them, my husband jokes that we could send our youngest child off to boarding school, pick him up when he turned 18, and he would turn out just fine. Before my older child received his ADHD diagnosis, we were often left scratching our heads at the end of the day, unsure of how to exactly parent him. Most parenting methods simply did not work with him.
Child Psychologists, C.B. McNeil and T.L. Hembree-Kigin, describe the difference between a neurotypical and a child with ADHD, when they write:
Suppose a child with ADHD and a classmate are both eating pudding and become silly. They make pudding mustaches and pudding earrings. You respond like most parents by saying, “That’s disgusting. You’re supposed to eat pudding, not play in it.” How will the calmer classmate feel? He will probably feel sorry that he disappointed you, and he will immediately wipe the pudding off of his face. Yet, when you use exactly the same parenting strategy with the child who has ADHD, what happens? He laughs, makes a pudding beard on his face, and throws his pudding at you. So for the average child, criticism is a very effective deterrent. That child will probably never put pudding on his face in your house again. But, for the child with ADHD, the criticism is like the tall glass of water for a thirsty person. He was under-aroused and the criticism provided the stimulation he needed to feel better. Rather than being a deterrent, the criticism was actually a reward.*
While I have never had a “pudding” experience, the psychologists summed up the experience of parenting my two children perfectly. My youngest child misbehaves, but he reacts to my behavioral corrections, frustration or disappointment. My oldest child often escalated his behavior when I tried to correct him or got upset. The old standby of positive and negative consequences either didn’t fully do the trick or took much longer to work than with my other child. For my oldest child, I read countless parenting books (123 Magic, Love and Logic, the Difficult Child, etc.). I read blogs and attended parenting lectures. Afterwards, I would leave each lecture thinking that I had tried all the old tricks and followed the advice of therapists, but my son seemed to be able to outsmart all parenting advice. He also pushed almost every limit, and he didn’t seem to learn from negative experiences or consequences (Why not touch that hot grill or jump out of a parked car’s window head first?). My youngest son tests limits, but he doesn’t test every limit over and over again. He also occasionally throws fits, but he doesn’t frequently throw such extreme fits that it sounds like someone is beating him. When he plays with friends, he doesn’t get so overly excited that he cannot calm himself down. As for the parenting books and therapist blogs, most of the parenting tricks work on my youngest son. In fact, I rarely need to do any research. I can just parent him. I love both my children with all of my heart. I am in awe of them and their individual strengths every day. However, I can say that parenting my oldest child has taught me a lot of humility in ways that parenting my younger child never will.
Perhaps the most difficult part about parenting my two children is the disparate ways that people react to them. When my oldest son was between the ages of 2 and 5, I rarely left the house without someone remarking, “Boy, you’ve got your hands full,” or “You must be tired at the end of the day.” I didn’t mind the comments, but viewed their remarks as coming from a place of sympathy. In truth, I did feel tired at the end of the day, and I did have my hands full. I did mind the people who judged my parenting by my oldest son’s behavior. Teachers asked me, “Have you ever disciplined your son?” or “Has your child ever had any structure?” Other people asked, “Have you ever tried telling him about inside voices and outside voices?” A well-meaning friend even offered, “Give him to me for a week. I think I could straighten him out.” In reality, we live by routine in my house, not because I am a particularly structured or organized person (in fact, I’m quite the opposite), but because my oldest son behaves much better when there is a routine. We have a morning routine prior to school, an afternoon routine and a bedtime routine with free time scheduled within each. For my older son, I have made behavior charts to encourage positive behaviors and given far more negative consequences (time-outs and taking away toys or television privileges) than I ever have created for my younger son. I also talked about inside voices and outside voices with him frequently (something I have never even had to mention to my younger son). In general, my oldest son acts pretty well at home. His main behavioral problems occur when he is over-stimulated, bored, around a lot of children, or in a new situation. Knowing this, I used role-play with him, demonstrating different ways to act when children wouldn’t share their toys, when he felt angry with a friend or when he felt overwhelmed. When we began therapy, the therapists were impressed with the amount of things my husband and I had tried.
With my youngest child, I generally receive positive feedback from both strangers and friends. I also rarely hear anything negative about him from teachers. His preschool teacher loved having him in class so much that she cried when I told her that he would be leaving preschool early last summer because we were going on vacation. People also rarely comment on my ability to parent him or give me advice about how to raise him. No one has ever offered to take him off my hands for a week, so they could parent him better than I did. While most parents probably would attribute their child’s good behavior to their parenting abilities, I don’t pat myself on the back for my youngest son’s good behavior. I feel much more successful as a parent when my older son behaves well in circumstances that are difficult for him to manage. That is when I know my husband and I have truly done our jobs as parents.
In the last year, since my son received his diagnosis, I now have a new lens through which to view his behavior. Because ADHD is often an inherited condition, I have stopped blaming my child’s impulsivity, hyperactivity, low frustration tolerance, or loudness on my own failed parenting skills. Instead, I try to provide him with tools to manage his own behavior. A year of family therapy has taught me that I couldn’t have intuited a lot of the parenting skills we needed to use with my son. Have you ever narrated your child’s play, step by step, in a neutral voice, to encourage self-talk and awareness? That was not something I would have initiated on my own. We also have to ignore a lot of non-harmful, attention-seeking behaviors that others probably would not, and praise my son when he behaves like your average, neuro-typical kid. A friend with a child, who also has ADHD, recommended Ross W. Greene’s book, The Explosive Child. Of all books, that one has helped the most, because it begins with the notion that all children want to act “good,” they just don’t always have the necessary skills to make the right choices in a given moment. Both my boys want to behave well, but my child with ADHD simply needs a little more guidance and coaching.
*C.B. McNeil, T.L. Hembree-Kigin, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Issues in Clinical Psychology, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-88639-8_15, Copywrite Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
While writing a few weeks ago, a photograph of Perez Hilton showering with his toddler came across my newsfeed. (Technically, I was taking a break from writing and scanning Facebook. Writer’s downfall.) Anyway, I struggled to move beyond the obvious questions, like, Why should I care when victims from the latest mass shooting remain in the hospital? and Why is this even news? Why would he post this? I stop and take it in. They look happy, like they’re having fun. Father-son clean-up time. In our home, there were many times whoever was going into the shower took the dirtiest toddler for a quick rinse-off before dinner. Universal commonalities of parenthood.
I read the comments. (Ugh! Why do I do that?) Some people were outraged. Mortified. Scolding. Outspoken, in a way only the internet allows, because a grown-ass man shared a shower with his son.
Let me acknowledge something. I’ve worked in environments where it’s frowned upon to discuss showering with your child, sleeping with your baby or letting your child run around naked. I worked where these activities waved red flags of inappropriate adult-child behavior. I’ve been among sexually abused adolescents and adolescents who were perpetuators of sexual abuse. It’s not pretty. It’s humbling and it’s a million other things all at the same time. I know these photos can spark the dark things in life.
Back to Perez’s shower posts. Granted, they weren’t the most well thought-out in Instagram history. They were, however, mild compared to other instagramming celebrities. They appeared authentic moment-capturing posts of a day-to-day parent living in a selfie-riddled world. Could they trigger those living in fear of an adult hurting a child? Absolutely. People who fear abuse happening again; individuals who fear they themselves may be tempted to abuse a child in a shower; and those living in a world of generalized constant fear could easily and grossly be triggered by that photograph. Sometimes, fearful people live shackled by rules. Rules including: Thou shall not shower with your toddler. And, thou shall scorn and judge all those who do, for they most certainly have evil intentions.
Somewhere, we have to step back. We have to take ourselves from the centricity of every post, every photo, every story on the news. We can relate it to our lives, without making it our lives. Relating to others makes their lives relevant, meaningful to us. We have to be mindful of where they stop and we begin. We also have to tend to our needs and identify and understand our triggers.
Somehow we’ve got to find the good in others, for it most certainly exists. Check your surroundings. If you hear a meow and you’re not in Africa, a zoo, or a big cat refuge it’s probably not a lion. It’s most likely a common domestic house cat. If you live in San Antonio, it’s probably a feral un-neutered stray. You definitely don’t need a high-powered rifle or bow and arrow to shoo it away. Don’t let fear become negative judgementalism, leaving you in fear for your life and the lives of everyone else.
No doubt, terrible things inhabit our world. I believe we’re called to speak up and protect the lesser among us. BUT, not everything is horrid. Not every white van wants to kidnap you. (Women understand this, men may not – another post lurks here.). We can be mindful of our surroundings walking to the car at night, without frantically running in a chaotic panic only to lose our keys while fumbling in the parking lot darkness.
When I walk across our pasture, sometimes I get stickers in my socks. Sometimes, I find beautiful, tiny things. Some of the beautiful tiny things have pointy sharp edges. I don’t stop walking and I don’t quit looking. The beautiful things I find are worth it.
We pay a hefty sum for constant media and never-ending connection into all the world’s multiplying minutiae. Within this sum, we lose something valuable. It’s conscious work to see things for what they are. Instead of a photo of a smiling dad and an impishly grinning toddler in the shower (all parts, but smiles covered), do we, instead, see a pedophile? Do we see a toddler at risk for becoming (gasp!) gay from showering with his father? What are we seeing? I’d really like to know.
I see a dad, a happy (and squeaky clean) toddler. That’s all.
There are and will continue to be movies of the week; best-selling books; heart-wrenching recollections from a best friend who, as a child, suffered at the hands of an adult; and maybe our own traumatic haunting childhood memories. The dark side exists. If we don’t take care of ourselves, and seek counsel when needed, that free-reined darkness can permeate our perspective and existence leaving us seeing the world through a dark lens. What do we miss? Do our children begin to see the world through our darkened glasses? Do those dark lenses affect how we treat others? Our health? Our soul? and so much more? Therein lies the tally of the cost ringing up a long receipt.
We need balance. Something between fear and full-on devil-may-care destructive risk taking attitudes and behaviors. How is balance found? Where is it found?
This brave new interactive open-viewing world calls for introspection, honesty, and mindfulness. And dialogue. Dialogue without fear. Courage to ask questions of ourselves and others. It calls us to show up — for ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and our children — show up before fear takes over. It’s begs perspective, too. We need to acknowledge of our perspective.
In re-reading my post, I want you to know, it didn’t escape me — the nonchalance with which I wrote this sentence: “Why should I care, when victims from the latest mass shooting remain in the hospital? and why is this (Perez Hilton) even news?” And, then, I talked and talked about Hilton’s photograph and the thoughts it bore, anyway. All the while those victims still recover. That, my friends, is a whole other post whose words currently bounce off the walls of my brain.
As autumn kicks into gear, we are marveling at the vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red that adorn the trees, treating us to a magnificent display of nature’s beauty…
Just kidding! We’re in Houston and that whole leaves changing colors thing doesn’t happen here. Bummer. As we more accurately reminisce about the beautiful changing colors on trees – a special playgroup project sticks out in our mind.
The Shukr Tree.
Shukr is an Arabic word for gratitude and thankfulness. The feeling of being sincerely appreciative is something we as adults struggle with on a daily basis. Likewise, our children require a constant dialogue of finding contentment and recognition that what we have is very valuable and special – and so many people in the world aren’t as lucky as we are.
The Shukr Tree was something one of my dear friends planned as a playgroup activity for our preschoolers during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Traditionally, this month signifies 30 individual days of fasting, self-reflection, and charity. Since children didn’t have to participate in the actual fasts or supplemental worship – we playgroup moms concentrated our efforts on helping them learn how to be grateful.
Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re really excited to re-visit this project and utilize it again to continue our reminders of appreciation and thanks. Shukr is an internal state with an external expression. Dialogue can only encompass so much in terms of a child’s comprehension. Their innate ability to internalize and express can be so much more profound with a visual, hands on activity. Having a child verbalize what they’re appreciative about, writing it down, adding it to a growing list of other items that generate thanks was an eye opening experience for all of us.
The first year we did this project, our leaves generously included belly buttons, grandparents, and umbrellas. After a nudge, mom was added, followed closely by lollipops.
How to create your own Shukr Tree:
1 – Trace and cut the outline of a large tree with ample branches – best done on a poster board. Allow children to color or paint (parents & guardians may assist)
2 – Use different colored construction paper and cut out leaves large enough to write a word or two legibly but small enough to fit on the branches comfortably as they fill up
3 – Use glitter glue or glitter pens (those are a doozy, aren’t they?) and encourage your child to write down or help them write down something special they’re grateful about
4 – Adorn with leaves all at once or once a day for a countdown to a special occasion
5 – Display proudly
We tend to cultivate our habits and nurture our spiritual psyches based on our surroundings. Having a giant reminder of our blessings is a wonderful sight. Even when it’s not Thanksgiving, a religious occasion, or a child’s birthday, spending a few weeks growing your own Shukr Tree can make hearts blossom with goodness. Supplementing this activity with something more tangible to include helping others (volunteering at nursing homes, soup kitchens, other community based organizations) may result in more leaves – just a fair warning.
My personal goals from the Shukr Tree include developing more inner peace & empathy. My kids goals? Gluing on as many leaves as possible before the tree is hanging by a corner, overloaded with happy reminders.