Monthly Archives: June 2017

If you don’t stop then you can’t….

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As a child, it was not uncommon to hear some form of “if you don’t stop that you can’t do this”.  It could be “If you don’t stop crying you can’t [insert fun activity]”, or “if you don’t stop aggravating then you will have to sit in time out”, often “If you don’t change your attitude than you can’t go to that place you want to go”. Etc., etc., you get the point.

These threats were often given in angry whispers while in pubic or on the way to our destination. Public “misbehavior” was a big trigger for my mom. There was no thought given to what need may be inspiring the undesired behavior. No connecting grumpiness to hunger or tiredness. No considering that I may be struggling with anxiety about something (I have dealt with this since I was a child), or having some over-stimulation related to sensory issues (something I now know about myself). No thought to what had happened before we left, such as a disappointment or argument with a sibling. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom very much. I know that she was doing the best she could as a young mom. She did what she knew, and I was always loved.

Kids are often held to a higher standard than adults. Not allowed to show too much emotion in public, not given the benefit of the doubt, or some extra grace for an off day. I know that is how I was raised, and sometimes that old tape start playing in my head and I don’t even realize it. Words come out of my mouth, and immediately upon hearing myself say them I know it isn’t right. Those words don’t represent who I want to be as a parent. Instead, they represent things said to me in the past, things I may have internalized.

As I progress on this journey towards gentle parenting, I am getting better at catching myself before I say the words that flash in my head. I used to always say them and then apologize and say what I wanted to say (whether that be right away or after some further reflection). But now, more times than not, I catch myself right as they start to come out and I take a moment to breathe and rethink what I want to say, who I want to be in that moment.

Sometimes, I start to say those old words and by the time my logical brain has caught up with me, I am halfway through a thought and then quickly try to turn that very sentence around into something else. This happened the other day. We were on the way to a local amusement park. The kids were excited to be going again. We purchased season passes and this was our second visit. My oldest was being grumpier than usual though. She kept snapping impatiently, and was feeling sensitive very easily. I knew she was tired, as she woke up early in anticipation, and she fell asleep for the last 20 minutes of the hour drive.

While we were organizing all our stuff, getting our water bottles in the bag, and putting the toddler shoes back on again, she was just really in a tough mood. I could feel my frustration building because I knew this was supposed to be a fun day, and I worked hard to prepare for it. Not only that, it was mine and my husband’s anniversary so in some illogical way I wanted the day to be smooth and lovely. The old tape turned on in my head and I heard myself say “If you can’t calm down and enjoy your day you can sit out while your brothers ride the rides with your Papa.” I knew instantly that this wasn’t a fix, or would it do anything for our relationship, so I got down on my knees to make eye contact and took her hand. “What I mean is, if you are having a tough time that is okay. I know you didn’t get as much sleep as you normally do. You can just take my hand and I will sit with you until you feel calmer. You can ride rides when you are ready, and I will help you until then.” I could almost feel the relieve in her body. Her breathing slowed, and she relaxed into my body for a hug and said, “Okay Mom”.

That wasn’t the end of her rough times. She had skipped most of breakfast and didn’t eat what I packed in the van, so I had to really encourage her to eat something for some energy. Everyone quickly finished their snack but her, she needed some extra time. So, they went to a nearby ride while I sat with her and waited. She nibbled slowly and then when she was ready she told me. Then we enjoyed the rest of our day.

I am not even close to where I want to be as a parent. I am trying and I tell myself that if I do better today than I did yesterday most of the time, then that is progress. Rewiring our brains to a new way of being, a whole new perspective, a new form of communication isn’t easy. But it is worth it, so so worth it. It matters.

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Avoiding childism at social gatherings

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In a world that is filled with unrealistic expectation of children at its best and downright prejudice against children at its worst, sometimes it is hard to explain to my kids why adults say or do certain things in response to them. Many adults were raised in a way that expected children to be seen and not heard, to only participate in conversations they were invited too, and above all do not say or do anything that is bothersome to adults without expecting immediate discipline.

When you are a child that is raised in a way that you are treated with respect, treated in a way that values what you have to say, and seeks your contribution to the family choices, it can be quite a shock to be abruptly cut off, ignored, or talked down to. I try to only take the kids to outings that I know the adults parent similarly enough, or at least will mind their own business and not butt in with my kids. Out in the real world, sometimes it is possible to avoid, but I am very thankful to be able to have friendship groups where children are valued and respected by all.

I was reminded of all this recently. We were invited to a friends house for a graduation party she was throwing her oldest daughter. This friend is a wonderful example of someone who values individuality and cultivates respect for all types of people. She has raised her kids in that vein, and it truly shows with her teenagers. There were many people of all ages at this party. Everyone was having a good time.

 

My oldest, Hailey (7)  is my extrovert. She loves being in social settings, making new friends, and being the entertainment of the room. Many times throughout the night, I seen her sharing jokes, stories, recipes, or ideas with other people. The adults listened to her, interacted, told jokes back, and overall treated her the same as they would any other guest. It was then, a large feeling of thankfulness for these type of people in our life flooded over me. She wasn’t seen as an annoying kid who talked too much or a kid who didn’t realize social expectations (things I remember feeling as a child). Actually, the opposite was the case. My friends shared with me how they noticed her creative side, and they took joy in her. I felt very much the same way about their children. It was so special to me to share that.

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This sense of respecting and admiring all people was present in the teenagers of the house as well. I was outside and Hailey went inside. After a few minutes, I went to go check in on her. She was telling jokes to the group of older kids hanging around. They were listening and laughing. They made her feel heard.

I want my children to feel just as welcomed as I do in social gatherings. That means sometimes we leave when that isn’t happening. That means sometimes people get put into the acquaintance relationship category, instead of friend. That means sometimes, the kids and I have hard talks about why things happen and children are treated differently. I am so thankful to have found people in my life who share similar values.

Unschooling Today 6/2/2017

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We closed on our house one week ago today. We moved 6 days ago. Most things are still in boxes, or scattered around in an unorganized manner. I am doing my best to gain a resemblance of our typical routine back. Unpacking and maintaining a connection with kids is challenging. It means I have to take it slower than I’d like. I have to live amidst the chaos a little while longer, so I have more time with them.  Elijah wanted me to

We had breakfast outside today. We have been doing this most mornings. I love that the weather is finally cooperating and we now have a space for this to happen. It starts our morning off from a good place. Elijah then wanted me to help him draw hearts with chalk.  We talked about our new house number, and how all the houses have numbers and that is how the mail carriers knows which house our mail goes to.

The kids asked for ice cream and I made them some in waffle cone bowls. They ate outside, while the toddler napped. I worked a bit on unpacking and laundry. We had lunch and played Headbandz. The kids also played Guess Who. The toddler “played” with some flashcards he found in a box.

I sorted through some clothes a friend picked up for us at a local swap. I showed the kids their new things and they both immediately changed into their favorite pick. Elijah played with Lego’s for a bit and Hailey on her DS.

I remembered that Elijah had been asking to make Jell-o and I bought the stuff for it at the store a few days before. So we went into the kitchen and whipped that up. Hailey picked hers to stay in a bowl to set so she can just scoop it out. Elijah picked our heart shaped gummy holder to make his into heart shapes. They are excited for it to set up and eat it.

I laid with Elijah and played a game with him on his tablet while Papa was installing a part into our air conditioner.We are about to dinner. I am hoping for an early night since we have had so many late nights and early mornings with the move.

What did you do today?