Let Them Go At Their Own Pace

September 23, 2016

Let Them Go At Their Own Pace

What’s the best approach?…

To let children go at their own pace? 

OR

To encourage, even push, them a little? 

My gut tells me that our kids know best. They are pretty good at knowing what they can handle and when they can handle it. 
So far in our parenting journey we have witnessed two very different responses from our children as they’ve dipped their toes into that ocean of independence. Despite my niggling questions and doubts along the way, in hind sight, it’s safe to say each child knew exactly what they needed and what they were capable of. Each child naturally let go of our hands and chose independence at very different stages to one another.

Scenario 1 

Here’s a quick snap shot of our 6 year old daughter’s personality…
From day one she was intense, high needs, alert and sensitive. Today she is still all those things, as well as compassionate, thoughtful, contemplative and passionate. Her heart is ready to explode with emotion and she often pauses as she “cries happy tears” during a heartfelt moment.

She is one of those kids who will stand back and observe when she is somewhere new. Or she will step aside at the top of the slide and let everyone else go down first. As an adult, everything in me wants to encourage her to be assertive, to take her turn, to NOT let everyone else go first. Surely, in this situation it’s ok to start teaching assertive skills and to encourage her to take her turn at the top of a busy playground slide. Isn’t it? I used to think so. I used to say things like “It’s ok, it’s your turn. You can go while the others wait for their turn.” More recently I don’t do this. This is how she operates. This is how she chooses to approach situations. My trying to push or change her will only serve to plant seeds of doubt in her mind about herself. Instead, I hold my tongue, I wait, I let her go at her pace. She’s building confidence step by step, on her terms. 

It’s no surprise that she has struggled with separation anxiety. She hated aspects of kindergarten. We went from being excited with anticipation and taking those typical Facebook style “first day” photos, to worried and tormented with doubts. Kindergarten was certainly a rocky ride to say the least. We skipped weeks and months at a time. We would stay by her side for entire sessions, 5 hour sessions, for weeks on end. You can imagine our fears about starting school. However, two things played a part in making her time at school happy and stress free. I need to credit her school, which is nurturing, esteem building and beautiful in every way. And our sweet girl. At 5.5 years, she was ready. She was ready to say goodbye to us on that first, nerve filled, uncertain day. A few months later she even announced she was ready to catch the school bus to and from school. My jaw hit the floor. My girl, who had been plagued with extreme separation anxiety for years, was branching out with independence and blossoming. I have no doubt though, that if we had ever pushed too hard or insisted she do kinder when she wasn’t coping, she would not be in the place she is in today. 

Scenario 2

A snapshot of our 3 year old daughter’s personality…

I call her our little firecracker. She is bright and funny, fast and loud. She too has a heart full of passion and love. Instead of a gentle cuddle, she will literally fly into our arms, clacking our heads with hers as she squeezes us tight. She’s never had a problem staying at her grandparent’s while I do some chores. She barely even waves goodbye. At the park she will shout at ten year old boys “I still using it!” Or “I next, it’s my turn.”

So, when her Waldorf playgroup teacher suggested she begin 3 year old kinder classes it made sense. Thus far her kinder journey has been an easy ride, except for my initial humongous failing. On day one, I barely prepared her. She’d always taken everything in her stride without a care in the world, and I absent mindedly assumed this would be the same. She wasn’t prepared though and didn’t seem keen when I explained I was going and would be back soon. The following week I stayed with her. While surprised at her sudden tentativeness, I was prepared to stay for however many weeks she needed me. Then, as we arrived in week 3, she announced she wanted me to go and that “Lucy and Summer can look after me, you go.” When I return these days, she’s hugging other kids, playing happily or sitting on Summer’s lap during story time. 

Pushing children, with the well intentioned notion that they need it, is not, from my experience, the best call. Please don’t get me wrong…there are times our kids don’t want to do things and we know in our hearts that they may love a particular event or activity. In these cases, I navigate this pathway very sensitively with my child, offering support and empathy. For example, our eldest was extremely anxious about starting school. She asked if she could do school at home. She requested that we stay at school with her. We answered questions. We listened. We were empathetic and understanding. We never told her there was “no need to worry and that it would be fine”. We didn’t diminish her feelings or dismiss her fears. But, on day one of school, after staying for a bit, we said goodbye, despite her feeling nervous and uncertain about it all. We knew she was in safe and trusted hands. Admittedly, we were especially fortunate to have worked at her school and a couple of our closest friends would be teaching her. At the start of the day she was teary and anxious. When we collected her she announced she had loved it and felt a little bit confident. 

Our children know what they are capable of. 

They WANT to grow and learn and be independent.

They NEED for us to hold their hands and trust that they will fly when they are ready. 

It’s a precious gift to be exactly what our children need. To provide a place that nurtures and protects. And, all in good time, to provide them with our trust and confidence as they take their first steps towards independence and separation. 

Celebrating Autumn: A New Season is Here

September 22, 2016

autumn leaves celebrating a new season

Autumn arrives today in North America; the Autumnal Equinox. Leaves are changing, temperatures changing, daylight and darkness are changing. So much change happening. I love it! I love the briskness of the air, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, the bright leaves, the mix of rain and Sun, the smell of nature wafting through the atmosphere. 

With these changes, we notice a subtle shift within our household too. Cozy clothes start coming out, our walls and tables start to collect giant yellow leaves and pine cones, and soup is on the menu more often. 

This year we plan to celebrate the start of a new season by going on a nature walk in an area where Autumn is obviously thriving. We might gather and press some colorful leaves. We may splash in puddles and then get cozy in a pile of blankets and read some seasonal stories. 

One thing that I really love about Autumn over all the other seasons is that it feels like a downward shift from the chaos of summer. Everyday was filled with swimming and sweating and getting burned on the playground slides. Now everything seems to zoom in. It zooms in from the constant activity and focuses on the people, the relationships, and the daily rhythm of life. It feels simpler and refreshing.  It feels like a giant cozy blanket just pulled out of the dryer waiting to embrace the whole family after a season full of a lot of running and not as much connecting.  

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. -Albert Camus

I plan to simplify my own obligations this season; to slow down; to be present; to let go of commitments that don’t bring me joy. My kids’ childhoods are flying by and some days I can see clearly how much I miss at times when I’m preoccupied by other things; things that are, at times, just mindless habits. I will still do things that bring me personal joy, but I’m working on being more productive with my time.

Some fun experiences we want to have this fall are:

  • Getting outside everyday regardless of the weather. 
  • Spend more time in an open-ended environment when outside. For instance, playing around on hiking trails and dried up river beds instead of at a playground (although we will still do that sometimes!).
  • Read about fairies, love, and magic as often as possible. 
  • Make food preparation a bonding time rather than a give-the-kids-the-tablet-so-I-can-cook-faster time, even if that means there is more mess and dawdling. 
  • Create art more. Here are 16 sensory and open-ended Autumn art ideas. Art can seem overwhelming if you are aiming for a specific finished product. I want to allow for more creation of process art; pine cone stamping on paper; painting our bodies; pasting shredded up paper onto pumpkins; creating nature mandalas.

Autumn is a time where all the trees shed their excess (leaves) to make sure their bodies are strong and ready for winter. I love the symbolism for ourselves. A time of releasing what isn’t serving us and focusing on those things that are really close to our heart. 

What are your favorite Autumnal Equinox traditions?

You Know You’re a Sleep Deprived Parent When…

September 21, 2016

 

you know you're a sleep deprived parent when

The experts, family, and well-meaning strangers often tell soon-to-be parents to “sleep while you can.” What they forget is that it is impossible to sleep while you can when you are hugely pregnant, or better (worse?), when you are hugely pregnant and chasing a toddler or three. Once baby arrives, regardless if it is your first or fifth, sleep evades you, yet totally consumes you without your consent. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

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Why Babywearing is a Lifesaver!

September 19, 2016

babywearing is a lifesaver

When I had my first child, I honestly had no idea that babywearing existed. I’m not sure what rock I lived under, but it’s the truth. I saw my sister attempt a moby wrap once and she was drowning in a 50 foot long piece of fabric. She never figured it out and I definitely did not want to take part in that long strip of frustration. My first kid was also super high needs and I frequently heard myself saying, “I sure wish I had as many arms as an octopus so that I could hold my crying baby and cook food at the same time (although I’ve learned that is a babywearing no-no).” I always chose holding crying baby over food which equaled one very hungry and cranky new mama. When he was a couple months old I discovered some form of crotch-dangling carrier at Target and bought it right away! We used it a couple of times, but it was terribly uncomfortable so I gave up on any pair of artificial limbs. (It should also be noted that I lived in Arkansas when he was born. It isn’t exactly a progressive area and babywearing (and breastfeeding, for that matter) were not the norm, at least not in front of other people.) I was pregnant with my second child while living in Portland, Oregon. Portland was a hub for natural living, breastfeeding, and the definition of progressive. Every mother I knew wore their babies in carriers and wraps.  I had never even heard of a woven wrap until I lived here and joined a local babywearing group. I swore to myself that I would give it 2 full weeks with a woven wrap before giving up. By day 1, I wanted to light the thing on fire. By day 3, I was slowly getting the hang of it. By the end of the first week I couldn’t imagine how I ever took care of an infant without some form of carrier. Continue Reading…

How to Get a Break When You Have No Help

September 16, 2016

how to get a break mom in solitude

Do you ever have those days where you have a toddler pulling on your shirt, a preschooler begging you to feed him his food, put on his shoes, put on his clothes, a sink full of dishes, a to-do list a mile long, and no one to lean on but yourself?

What you desperately want right this very second is just 5 tiny minutes to just be, without having to do anything for yourself or anyone else. You just want quiet. You just want silence. You just want a magically clean house. You just want that to-do list to be finished and off your mind. You just want your kids to entertain themselves for a moment without needing you. You just want a break. So much neeeed. It can feel suffocating sometimes. Then to add salt to your wounds, you realize that the only person that your child has to depend on in that moment is you. You have no back up childcare, you don’t have a partner at home to help, or you don’t have a partner at all. It’s just you and you have to find a way to pull yourself out of the anxiety and desperation screaming from within every particle of your body without taking it out on the innocent little beings that depend on you. No pressure, right?

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How to Make Your Home a Yes Environment

September 15, 2016

a yes environment

“Don’t pull on those cords!”
“Please stop taking all of the pots and pans out of the cupboard.”
“That vase is glass and will break if it falls off that shelf that is exactly your height.”
“Be careful with all of those framed photos, they are very special.”
“It’s not safe to drink that toilet bowl cleaner, little one. Stay out of this cabinet.” Continue Reading…

Nature Hike: An Unschooling Day With Sam

September 14, 2016

Unschooling and nature hiking with kids

Hi lovely community! We are starting a new weekly post series; peeking into the lives of our writers. We always enjoy seeing glimpses of other mamas living their day-to-day, so we want to share what our life is like without a bunch of bells and whistles. Sure, some posts and activities may be more extravagant than other days, but we want to show real life doing real things. Some days, like this one, will be a hike on a gorgeous trail. But some days it may be rainy days, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, and we may watch tv half (cough..all) the day and not set foot outside.

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Back to school? When homeschooling doubt strikes

September 9, 2016

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It’s the MOST wonderful tiiiiiime of the year. Nope, it isn’t Christmas. It’s back to school season. For many families, this is the time of year that feels magical. There is excitement in the air. There are shopping trips. There is preparation. There is buzz and hope and possibility.

It begins with the lure of the school supplies. You see the rows of beautifully organized binders, folders, pens, and pencils pop up in store shelves with more than a month of summer vacation left. Soon the back to school talk is everywhere. Kindergarteners meet their teachers. Older students find out whose class they are in and whether their friends are in the same class. The annual tradition is enough to make the most diehard homeschooler feel the occasional pang of doubt.

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7 lazy mom steps to being a happier parent

September 2, 2016

Lazy parenting day

Today is National Lazy Mom’s Day. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder than I have since becoming a mom, and that goes for most other moms I know too. In fact, if you give us a free moment to relax without kids, chances are our minds will immediately turn to those unwashed dishes in the sink (or strewn around the house), that basket of laundry, or that looming deadline at work. We could all use a few tips on how to be lazy. So from one mom who can’t relax to another, here are a few tips on being lazy (without setting the kids up with a bag of candy and stack of movies).  Continue Reading…