“Warmth, Strength and Freedom” by Mary Kelly Sutton

This was a wonderful article by anthroposophic physician Mary Kelly Sutton.  I have permission to re-print it here from the owner of the Greentaramama group where I first saw it –  the list owner has a wonderful store to buy children’s woolens and silks by the way.  Here is the link to that store: http://www.greenmountainorganics.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6
Thank you Michelle for this article and your store! 
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WARMTH, STRENGTH, AND FREEDOM
There are times when I sound more like a grandmother than a doctor in
advising families how to be healthy. ‘Dress warmly!’ ‘Eat a good
breakfast!’ ‘Get to bed early!’ ‘Let your body fight its own colds!’
But each of this advisories is powerful, no matter how simple it
sounds.
WARMTH
Warmth is related to the element fire. All the other elements –
earth, air, water — are easily bounded. Warmth goes through
boundaries. This is no surprise when you think of the love (emotional
warmth/fire) you feel for your children. Nothing stops it. (That is
why you are reading this.)
Healthy human beings have a rhythmic body temperature of approximately
98.6, slightly lower in morning than evening. Cold is a stress for the
body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.
(If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts:
the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
lungs, liver, kidneys).
Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
focus and learn.
In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
first week her mother put her in wool underwear.
Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
into
the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
organs. This is an important way that complications happen from
common illnesses, such as a cold or chicken pox. In medical school, I
first saw in my Internal Medicine textbook, that chickenpox
encephalitis commonly occurs when there are very few pox on the body.
The
inflammation does little damage on the skin, but can do a great deal
of damage in a deeper organ. Keeping the skin warm keeps the battle
with a germ where it is safe for the body. I have heard a German
pediatrician describe how he recommends to parents of children with
measles that the parent rub the calves with dry terry cloth until the
calves are pink. This over-warming action draws the circulation to the
surface, and pulls
the battle with the germ to a safe place, outward and downward, away
from vital organs.
This principle can be applied in daily life simply by dressing warmly,
and being attentive to the warmth of our children’s extremities. We
both prevent illnesses, and keep their course uncomplicated if they
occur, by having warm extremities.
Physical warmth is an early sense for the newborn baby, along with
smell, taste, and hearing. But the child does not sense temperature
accurately until about age 9. You are not surprised when a toddler
runs around the house naked, and older kids and adults are reaching
for shoes and sweaters. We have all seen this. In New Hampshire, the
kindergarteners rush into the lakes on Memorial Day, and the third
graders look at them like ‘what’s wrong with you!?’
So you, the parent, must decide what is the right clothing for the
young person you are responsible for. Don’t ASK the young child ‘what
do you want to wear?’ This question is appropriate at times for an
older child, but it is scary for a young child to be the one making a
decision in the presence of an adult. It is hard in our culture NOT to
ask our
children what they want, because we hear it so commonly. I remember
falling into this and asking my 5 yr old son what t-shirt he wanted,
and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t know. You’re the mommy!’ So
often our kids show us what we should have known. Be willing to BE the
Mommy or the Daddy. Make the decision about the clothes you feel are
right for the climate, and say with surety: ‘Here’s your undershirt
and top, your tights and skirt. Let’s get dressed. You’re set for a
wonderful day!’ Your authority is their security. Their strength is
modeled after yours, so give them a strong, insightful, kind authority
figure.
But what to wear, if hands and feet are cold? The rule I’ve used in
New Hampshire is to begin with is three layers on the top with one
tucked in, and two layers on the bottom. One of these should be like a
second skin, closely investing the body, not baggy. This means long
underwear, or tights, or at the very least an undershirt. If the child
is sweaty,
take off a layer. If the child is still cool to touch, change to a
warmer fabric. Natural fabrics breathe best: cotton, silk, and wool.
Down does not breathe, nor do synthetics generally, so body heat is
trapped if the person is overdressed. Cotton can be both cooling and
warming, and is good for hot countries and Arizona summers. Silk is
more warming, then wool-silk, and wool is warmest. A source for
children’s long underwear is: www.greenmountainorganics.com
A helpful image to use is that foxes and rabbits grow fur, thicker in
the winter than the summer. We didn’t — so we have to put on our fur
to be able to run around outside like foxes and rabbits in the winter.
Hats, gloves, sox are all part of the fur we didn’t grow. Clothed
well, we have new freedom to move outdoors. Long underwear in some
seasons
eliminates the need for bulky outerwear, and movement is less
restrained.
So you have the knowledge of WHAT to do, and are confident in your
authority as a parent being the best thing for them. Then life
happens. The child is simultaneously developing his will, so a
wonderful opportunity comes for the child to say ‘NO!!’ to any
parental statement, including clothes. This requires tact, cleverness,
determination –
every adult attribute in the book. Don’t rush into action. Wait,
watch, assess, and plan HOW to do this thing you know is good for your
kids. A young girl may need stylish (warm) tights or long johns that
you have seen ballerinas wear, because, after all, their leg muscles
dance more beautifully if they are warm. A fierce 4-year-old warrior
may need a swashbuckling (warm) pirate muscle shirt, leggings, and
sash, with a story of how to stand and walk like a pirate as they are
put on. A two year old may just need a chase around the room, a
friendly capture, and a lot of loving contact as he/she is poured into
warm layers. Some children will need to know you consider this so
important that favorite activities are actually dependent on dressing
correctly, or that some other consequence is incurred. And then, you
must stick to your word. Because if you don’t really stay home from
sledding because the long underwear couldn’t go on when you said it
must, then maybe you won’t really follow through on all the promises
of love you have made. The child’s mind is consistent even though it
is not fully conscious. It is better not to threaten a consequence
unless you are one hundred per cent ready to carry it out. Your word
is your word, whether it is spoken as lawgiver, or pledging love
forever.
There is no virtue to overdressing. July in southern Arizona is not
the time to insist on the 3-on-top and 2-on-the bottom. The way to
make the decision at any time is to feel the child’s fingers and toes,
rather than to abstractly apply a rule.
BREAKFAST
Eat protein generously at breakfast. (Breakfast like a king, lunch
like a prince, supper like a pauper, the saying goes — and it can be
changed to the other gender: queen, princess, bag lady.) Protein at
breakfast stabilizes the blood sugar for the whole day. (Lunch protein
cannot do the same job; the window of opportunity is past.) EVERYONE
has better co-ordination, endurance, moods, and ability to learn.
Options: eggs of any sort, cottage cheese blintzes, smoothies with
protein powder (preferably not soy), grilled cheese sandwiches,
cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, fish fillets.
(I had great success with my teenage boys telling them they would not
get a ride to school unless they ate breakfast. We lived 4 blocks from
school. They complained, they ate, I drove. As they got older and were
driving themselves, occasionally, they would wake up so late, they
would eat very little. I would just say ‘do the best you can,’ letting
them know what I think is important, but that I trust them. No rule
can substitute for human judgment, and older kids need some freedom to
vary from house rules and learn from life and how they feel; trust
your instinct and love for them in choosing an approach.)
REST AND RHYTHM
Machines are either on or off independent of environment usually,
while living beings have rhythms, gentle alternations of activity and
rest, breathing in and breathing out, that are fundamentally tied to
the Sun. Every Waldorf kindergarden teacher works very consciously to
provide focused activity, then free play or outdoors time. In this
way, the
child is carried through the day harmoniously, with the least
exhaustion, the least likelihood of overload or eventual illness. And
the greatest chance for unfolding his/her human potential creatively.
Our physical make-up is tied to the sun’s movement, light and dark.
The biorhythms of enzymes and hormones follow the diurnal (daily light
and dark) rhythm, even if we work night shift. Bigger rhythms of month
and year and lifetime are present, and more being discovered.
If we live in sync with the way our body is designed, we will have the
greatest health. For children, whose task is to grow and to learn,
this means regular waking, rest, and sleeping times, and regular
mealtimes. Like the gradual change of seasons brings gradual change of
light, we need not be rigid, but in general have a few anchors in the
day that are
constant. Most important are bedtime and breakfast time, in my
experience.
The hours before midnight are the most restorative. So for an adult,
eight hours sleep beginning at 9 pm is more valuable than eight hours
beginning at midnight. A child needs more sleep, in varying amounts at
different ages, and sometimes differing from one child to the next.
The younger the child, the earlier the bedtime. poem A well-slept
child
generally will awaken spontaneously and be happy. If the child is very
difficult to arouse or repeatedly grumpy, the bedtime should be nudged
earlier until a better morning experience is seen. In adolescence, the
cycle shifts later, and the average sleep need is nine hours and
fifteen minutes daily. Since high schools often start very early in
the
morning, a significant stress is unavoidably part of the school week
for adolescents.
Lavender oil as massage, or fragrance on bedclothing, or as warm bath
as part of bedtime ritual, is very helpful for those children who tend
to be alert at bedtime. The bedtime ritual is wonderful to begin with
very young children, as a habit of letting go develops, leading to
sound sleep, and being secure enough to sleep alone. The ritual can
include
bath, story, tuck-in, prayer, kiss with calm ‘sleep tight. love you.
see you in the morning.’ The young child’s ritualistic approach to
life is hierarchical by nature, with Mommy and Daddy all-powerful in
his/her young eyes. The natural order of the world at this age can
readily include God or Higher Power and Angels or Guardian spirits and
be of value to the child’s sense of order and security in the world.
Later, when the nine-year-change comes, and a child senses deeply his
separateness from his parents, the early images of God and higher
beings protecting and guiding his daily actions and sleep can be
reassuring in facing this first big realization of separateness.
A light supper, with little protein or completely vegetarian, helps
sleep come easily. Remember, we want to wake up with an appetite for
breakfast, the foundation meal of the day’s activities, so it’s best
not to overload at night. Time-honored warm milk is a fine
sleep-inducer. Carbohydrates are sleepy foods, while protein, fat,
salt, and caffeine
tend to wake us up.
Almost all children are born with some tendency to one-sidedness, and
our task as parents is to help them find balance. The rhythm of the
day shows whether it is hard for our youngster to settle down, or hard
to get up and move about, and we can help bring about comfort with
both sides of movement, etc.
Should a child have difficulty waking up in the morning, even after
enough hours of sleep, rosemary lotion in cool water is an
invigorating fragrance and can be applied to the face (forehead, then
cheeks) carefully with a damp cloth to bring alertness. A positive
statement about the day ahead is an important medicine in this
treatment: ‘good morning! what has that robin done outside your window
since yesterday? I have a wonderful breakfast ready for you! rise and
shine! what a wonderful day it is!’
THE COMMON COLD, THE USUAL CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES
Recognize acute illness as an exercise class for the immune system,
and treat in a non-suppressive way. It is not a sign of immune
breakdown, it is a chance for strengthening. The big three to help the
body do its best in fighting acute illness are: WARMTH, REST, and
CLEANSING. Add a few low potency homeopathic remedies and herbs, and
you can support the body in this important immune work, not simply
suppress symptoms. See
separate writing for detailed treatments. person as medicine
CHILD DEVELOPMENT
All of these advisories support VEGETATIVE functions, the unconscious
health-giving parts of a human being that are the bank account we draw
on for growth, learning, and later, our work in life. (This vegetative
bank account is also called the etheric forces in anthroposophic
medical terminology. As adults, the strength of our etheric body
manifests as our vitality, our ability to recover, to have energy, or
to endure.) A child’s job is to grow, and to learn things appropriate
to his/her age. With a strong foundation of warmth, nutrition, rest,
rhythm, immune exercise from ordinary acute illness if the body in its
wisdom allows it — the child’s optimal development proceeds, and a
strong physical
foundation is laid for the entire adult life. The vegetative functions
are sometimes characterized by the cow, who is mostly a metabolic
creature, chewing, making milk, sitting and walking and lying down. No
executive tendencies here, nor highly developed sense organs. A
masterful vegetative existence.
The other pole of the human being, opposite the vegetative, is the
CONSCIOUS pole. The parent (or teacher) does this work in the child’s
life, so the child does not have to draw on the bank account of
vegetative forces by making decisions too early. Judgment, analysis,
logic, decision-making are characterized by the far-seeing eagle,
whose highly developed sense capacity is combined with the cunning and
decisive movement of a predator, a majestic lord of the skies.
As parents of young children (1-7 yr old), you are protectors of the
cow-nature, the vegetative foundation, which your child will use
throughout his/her life. As enormous physical growth takes place, the
child uses limbs and explores movement thoroughly. The child is
imitative, copying the way Daddy sits with the newspaper, or insisting
Mommy sit at only her right place at the table, like a learned ritual
the child has mastered. This physical life is accompanied by a mental
connection with images, not reason. Thus the love of bedtime stories,
preferably told, not read, and repeated till every beloved detail is
memorized. Also you find the young child’s questions more
satisfactorily met by a picture than an analytic explanation. Some
questions can even be better avoided, if they are asking for adult
information. But you can always comment ‘What a wonderful mind you
have! You ask such wonderful questions! Let’s get your teddy bear next
to you for nap/lunch.’ The child has made contact, you have responded
lovingly and appropriately.
You see that spark, the flashes of individuality that is waiting to
show itself fully. Your wisdom holds the child’s day steady, rhythmic,
fed and bedded, building the strength of the vegetative side of your
eagle-to-be. It requires trust and patience to let the child unfold in
his/her own time, and not call on adolescent or adult qualities too
early. This time of life can be boring for parents, who have full
adult capacities and thrive on change and excitement, not routine.
Your sacrifice is commendable. Parenting is among the hardest jobs
there are, and each stage of childhood gives parents an opportunity
for a
different form of selflessness.
The heart of childhood is 7-14 yr old, when a respect for worthy
authority is natural, and feeling opens for beauty itself in the world
around. More than vegetative support is required now. The lion’s heart
of courage and strength must be met, with stories of the same, and
exposure to real artistic expression so the beginning of the moral
nature is fed with the beauty and strength it is seeking. This is
often the age of the least illness, and the most harmonious time of
childhood.
But change comes, and the young Philadelphia lawyer casts a disgusted
glance at the parents who have brought him/her thus far — usually
some time around 8th grade. The eagle’s predatory power is evident. No
more contented baby learning movement and the physical world, nor
sweet-natured heartfelt child growing before your eyes. The intellect
is unfolding, and the first object of critical analysis is often the
parents. It’s good timing that powers of judgment and analysis begin
to unfold just as puberty begins. Let the intellect’s sharp powers
master the hormones that rage. From 14-21, the individuality is more
pronounced, decision making should be shared and guided in preparation
for independence. Privacy is important. Learning results of choices,
such as wise consequences in the home, helps put control of behavior
inside the individual.
The wise ‘governance’ of a child goes in stages somewhat like human
history has evolved. The young child is benefited by a benign despot,
the loving parental authority; in the middle years, the child natively
respects authority, but has a developing sense of contributing his/her
wants and needs though not ready for independent decision making;
democracy is built into the adolescent, and the parent gives the
structure of what is or isn’t tolerated by virtue of a structure of
consequences.
The stages of development are given at their usual ages, but there
will be early hints of what is to come and echoes of prior times
varying with each individual. Behaviors I described may be different
due to the family dynamic, or the particular learning path the
individual child carries as part of his/her destiny, or our culture.
The culture we live in pushes adult information into even the very
young child’s life — computers and IQ testing are part of some
preschool programs. Adult decisions are often part of the oldest or
the only child’s daily diet of conversation. Sexualized clothing and
media surround children of every age, and give parents a challenge to
minimize this early maturation influence. Early intellectualizing and
early sexual information pulls the young child out of the vegetative
physical mode that is home for him or her, and spends the child’s
etheric forces on coping and understanding rather than physical
growth.
****************************************
As nuclear families rear children alone in today’s culture,
grandmothers are hard to come by. The pediatrician and family doctor
assume the role that aunts and grandmothers had in helping with
illness and childrearing. But the swap medicalizes common events, and
we take a further step down the pharmaceutical-answer-for-everything
road.
I hope this work can reawaken faith in the capacity of the human body,
enlarged with the scientific understanding that shows why this faith
is reasonable, reconnect us with the healing gifts of nature as they
are enhanced with human insight and become remedies,
and show through the caring for our children, the presence and power
of the human spirit.
Mary Kelley Sutton

__._,_.___

An Anthroposophic View of Walking

Anthroposophy views the tasks of the child’s first three years to be learning to walk in the first year; speech in the second year; and the emergence of thinking in the third year (and yes, a later post will address why we start academics around age 7 when thinking begins to emerge before that time).  Today we are going to look specifically at walking and why this is important in anthroposophic terms.

I am currently re-reading Karl Konig’s “The First Three Years of The Child:  Walking, Speaking, Thinking.”  For those of you new to Waldorf and anthroposophy, Karl Konig was a physician who founded the Camphill Movement in Scotland in 1939.  The Camphill Movement includes schools for children who are differently abled and also villages for adults who are  differently abled.

Konig talks about the progression to being upright as starting with controlled eye movements amidst that generalized chaos of random lower extremity movement that begins in the first few days of life.  The sequence of walking begins from the head down, and Konig remarks that “This process seems to be patterned after that of actual birth.  Just as in birth the head is the first part of the body, so here , out of the womb of dissociated movements, coordinated movement is born and oriented step by step toward standing and walking.  At the end of the first year the process of the birth of movement is completed.”

The head occupies an important place with learning to walk because as long as the head is “restless and wobbly”, as Konig puts it, walking cannot be attained.  Other important things leading up to the development of walking and seen in newborn includes a positive support response (ie, a newborn will take weight on his or her legs when the soles of the newborn’s feet come into contact with the ground), a stepping response and a crawling response.  These responses disappear and then come back as the true crawling, walking and standing.  Konig writes, “The ability to stand, the reflex walking movements, crawling and the athetotic movements of premature births differ fundamentally from the new phenomenon of walking.  They must disappear in the course of the first year to make walking possible.”

Most of all, anthroposophy sees walking as very important for several reasons.  Walking upright differentiates man from animals.  “Endowed as they are with a horizontally oriented spine, the animals remain part of the world.  They are overwhelmed by sense impressions and the abyss between self and world does not open.”  In anthroposophic terms, walking is also related to the ability to control feelings and moods and also the conscious use of memory.

Happy hmusings for your baby’s first year of life,

Carrie

The Baby Update

Well, our little guy is now two weeks old!  Time flies!  In one week he gained 26 ounces so as  to now be 1 pound, 3 ounces above birth weight and he also grew a half an inch.  Obviously, nursing is not a big  problem for him.  :)

We wanted to thank everyone for your well wishes!  It is so much fun to have a baby in the house again!  I will try to post another picture soon!

Love,

Carrie

The Baby’s Intense Need For Mother

The baby has an intense need to be with its mother throughout the early years.  In traditional terms, the biology of the baby and, in anthroposophic terms, The Madonna Cloak, deems this to be so.  The baby and mother are one.

Many breastfeeding mothers talk about wanting to give their baby a bottle so “Dad can feed the baby and be involved.”  I understand mothers wanting their partners to be involved, and I especially understand first-time mothers who may be viewing this bonding experience between father and infant as something that needs to occur right away.  And I agree that too many attached mothers forget that the baby is attached to the family, not just the mother.

However, just like everything under the sun, there is a time and a place and a way.  Dads are wonderful at taking care of mother while she does the job that only she can do – nurture their baby at the breast.  Dads can cook and clean and help with the older siblings.  Dads can help bathe the baby, do diaper changes with the baby, walk the baby around, sing songs to the baby and hold the baby after the baby has nursed.  Dad can establish connection with the whole family!  Dad can feed the baby solids when that time comes.  (If you have questions regarding that, please see this insanely popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/11/starting-solids-with-your-infant-and-picky-toddler-eating/). Dad truly does not have to feed the baby a bottle to be connected!

After three children, my husband now sees this newborn period as a time to  nurture me and our older children.  He is involved with the baby in terms of holding, walking the baby around and other tasks, but he also shrugs his shoulders and says to  our little guy, “ Especially when you get a bit bigger, what a wonderful time we are going to have together!”  He recognizes that in this early period, there is a connection between mother and child that is paramount.  He also recognizes the critical role of fathering for both boys and girls, but knows that right now the needs of the infant are best met at the breast.  For more about mothering and fathering, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/

I have heard many first- time mothers talk about the changes in their marriage and relationship with their spouse  having a baby  causes.  I have written many posts regarding this,  and here is one of the most popular ones for your reading pleasure:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

You do not have to leave your baby behind in order to nurture your marriage. If you only have one baby, you can work toward having a special dinner and a movie cued up for when your baby goes to sleep.  You can have great conversation while your baby nurses.  If you have older children as well, many attached families are still comfortable with being together at home after the children are in bed.  If an attached couple with multiple  children does feel the need to “go out”, many times the older children  may stay with a trusted relative or friend, but the baby comes with the mother. This is not my personal choice for babies due to my Waldorf leanings, but at least we see respect  for that biological and cosmic unity in this scenario.  Perhaps protection from assaults on the senses can occur if the mother and father either celebrate being together at home or somewhere quiet!

At this point, I personally am committed to being home for at least 40 days if not a bit longer.  I am so thankful to my husband, family and friends who are supporting me in this endeavor.  I know the baby appreciates it as well.  :)

Think about how you can meet the needs of the youngest member of your family today.

Love,

Carrie

The Parenting Passageway is about Parenting, afterall

Hello and Welcome to all of Carrie’s Readers!

I wanted to share with you a special time in our lives: The introduction of the newest member of our family, Robert Kaj Dendtler (Kaj).  Kaj was born this morning (October 9th) at 8:25A and was 7lbs 11oz!  (Sorry to all of Carrie’s readers outside of the United States, I can’t do the conversion to grams in my head :))

Kaj's Birthday 086I want you all to know how much this Blog means to Carrie.  She enjoys sharing her philosophy on parenting and Waldorf homeschooling.   This little blog has become a true passion for her, and a year after its launch the blog is receiving in excess of 18,000 hits a month!

Thank you all for making that possible and I hope that you not only continue to read, but share this blog with others.   That’s one of the pillars that makes this blog so much fun, the sharing of life stories and all the tips and tricks you provide!

 

 

Peace to all, we’ll be back soon!

For Parents of Intact Boys

For those of you searching, here is a good article:

http://www.kindredmedia.com.au/library_page1/only_clean_what_is_seen_reversing_the_epidemic_of_forcible_foreskin_retractions/401/1

and another good website:

www.nocirc.org

and a link to their 2009 newsletter:

http://www.nocirc.org/publish/2009nocirc_newsletter.pdf

The NoCirc website also has a whole section devoted to the issue of religion and circumcision.

Hope that is helpful to those of you searching for information on this topic.  There is also a very active sub-forum regarding this issue over at the MotheringDotCommunity Forums:  http://www.mothering.com/discussions/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Nokken: A Review of Two Books and A Few Thoughts

(Post updated 6/28/2012)  Nokken has come up on almost every Waldorf Yahoo!Group and Waldorf forum I am on, so I thought it was about time to address the work of Helle Heckmann.  More and more, Nokken is being held up as an example within the Waldorf community of what to do right within child care for young children, and as an example of the value of outdoor play and outdoor time and connection with nature for young children.  For this post, I read both “Nokken:  A Garden for Children” by Helle Heckmann and “Nokken:  A Garden for Kids September 2003 Celebration Edition.”  I hear there is also a lovely video about Nokken that I have not yet seen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nokken, Nokken is a Danish approach to  Waldorf-based childcare in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The minimum age for children to enter is walking age.  Helle Heckmann writes, “The child must be able to walk away from her mother and into the world on her own,” on page 26 of “Nokken:  A Garden For Children.”  The center is open for six hours a day only, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  “Our idea is that we share with the parents,” writes Helle Heckmann on the same page.  “We look after the children for six hours, the parents have them for six waking hours and the children sleep for twelve hours.  In other words, the family will still exert influence on the child’s development.”  The staff at the center does not change during the day, unlike child care centers in the United States that are open for long hours that necessitate shift changes.  The children are together in one group from walking age to age 7, and sibling groups are welcomed and kept together, which is again different from the vast majority of child care centers in the United States.  Most Americans would agree this is a huge and vast improvement over the majority of daycare centers in the United States.

Helle  Heckmann writes on page 27 of Nokken,”  It is obviously difficult.  Parents often need longer opening hours, while at the same time they want the world’s best early-childhood program with a motivated and relaxed staff.  This is a difficult task, and knowing that we cannot accommodate all needs, we have chosen to favor the children.  It is a conscious choice we have made as a child-care center. Most of our parents also have to make a choice.  They change jobs, reduce their working hours, or work flexible hours:  the solutions are many and varied as they consciously choose to spend a lot of time with their children.”

She goes on to write that the role of child care has changed; in the past it was for primarily for social stimulation and now,  “The centers must teach children the basics to help them achieve the necessary skills to choose their life style at a later stage.  The parents’ role is mainly to stimulate and organize activities of a social and/or cultural interest.”

Ouch.

Okay, I guess since I am home with my children, perhaps I have a different perspective on this as a homeschooling mother.  Why as a society do we throw up our hands and say, this is the way it is?  People have to work, people have chaotic home lives, so the children are better off in child care than with their own families?  Why are we not coming up with more ways to support and develop parents?  Why in this age of abundant information (yet, often contradictory and just plain wrong information!) are parents feeling so confused and isolated as to what children truly need?  Why is there not more understanding of children as children and childhood development and such as opposed to treating children as miniature adults?

Back to the things that are good about Nokken.  On page 31 Helle Heckmann writes, “Our first priority is to spend most of the day outdoors.  We spend five out of the six hours we are together outdoors.”  The children and staff walk daily to a park with open natural spaces and also have a garden with many fruit trees, berry bushes, sand pits, a hen house, rabbit cages, a pigeon house, a vegetable garden, a herb garden, flower beds and a laundry area.  The children who are younger and need to nap sleep  outside in an open shed, which is common in Denmark.

Children are met in the morning with a handshake, which I find uncommon for Early Year Waldorf programs in the United States.  This seems very awakening for the child, and something I truly only hear of teachers of Waldorf Grades doing with their students in the United States.  Perhaps my Danish readers can tell me if this is a cultural difference?  My husband’s family is from Denmark but have not lived there for a long time, so I have no one to ask!

The daily schedule is something that is lovely and takes into account the ages of the children.  On page 60 of Nokken, Helle Heckmann writes, “We are careful not to let the youngest children participate in story-telling.  If it is a long story, the three year olds sit in another room and draw, because in my experience it is important not to engage them in activities for which they are not ready.”  She also talks about how festival celebrations are mainly for children over 3 as well.  I love this.

The part I have the most difficulty with however, outside of the few things I mentioned above, is the perspective of child development based upon the work of Emmi Pickler and Magda Gerber and their Resources for Infant Educarers.  I realize this puts me outside of most in the Waldorf community, which has embraced RIE.

I liked Helle’s description of the need of the infant to cry as a form of communication.  However, much of the thrust of her perspective of infant care seems to be “to leave the infant in peace and quiet to sleep or, when awake, to get to know herself without constant intervention from her surroundings.  Often it is difficult to show this infant respect and leave her alone. Constantly satisfying your own need for reassurance and your need to look at your beautiful baby will often influence the infant’s ability to be content with herself….By giving the infant peace and quiet for the first months of her life, she will get used to her physical life; the crying will gradually stop, and the baby may start to sleep during the night without waking up at all hours.”

As an attached parent, I believe I can respect my child and still enfold her within my protective gesture and be physically close.  I believe I can still carry her in a sling and nurse her and  have her act as a (passive) witness to my life without overly stimulating her.  I believe in our particular culture at this particular time, parents need reassurance to enfold their child within themselves and their family unit, not to separate their children in their infancy to be independent.  Perhaps this is a cultural difference than Denmark, I don’t know.

However, I also have to say that I  do not believe baby-wearing is an excuse to take my children everywhere I went before I had children.  I believe in protecting the senses but doing this in an attached way.

I do agree with some of Helle Heckman’ s statements regarding infants, including her statement on page 17 of Nokken that, “The more restless the adults are, the more restless the children will be.”  However, statements such as “The less we disturb the infant, the better chance she has of adapting to her life on earth,” rather bothers me.  I agree in not initiating the disturbance of  the infant, but I fear too many parents will take this as license to just set their infant down and let them cry or to keep them passively in a crib.  I do  agree with Helle Heckmann’s assessment that it is difficult to care for children under walking age within a child care setting  because of the high needs of care and because infants need peaceful surroundings.

As a homeschooling mother, what I take away from Nokken is the lovely thoughts of a forest kindergarten, napping outside, using action to communicate with small children and not words (see page 32 of Nokken), using singing as a way of talking to small children (page 51), Helle’s constant inner work and development, her obvious love of the children.

And as a homeschooling mother and attached parent, I don’t like the whole notion that is invading Waldorf Education that children under the age of 4 or 4 and a half should be out of their homes, I don’t like the notion that the child care center, no matter how outdoorsy “shares” the child with the parents, and I don’t like the idea that parents are not as empowered as they could be in childhood development.  Why are we positioning anyone but the parents to be the experts on their children and acting as if someone else knows better?    Waldorf schools are also taking children earlier and earlier into Kindergarten, and I also have an issue with that.   I would like to see more effort to again, empower and inspire parents within the Waldorf movement to be home.   The hand shaking to greet a small child with such pronounced eye contact also baffles me.

There are many wonderful things at Nokken, and many American parents who need child care would be thrilled to find a center such as Nokken in their neighborhood.  Many mothers attempt to create such an environment as part of their homeschooling environment or take in children from outside their family for care so they may stay home with their own children.  These are all realities.

However, I would love to see a movement toward empowering and inspiring mothers to be homemakers, to be truly spiritual homemakers, to encourage families to make tough choices to be home with their children,  because I feel this is where the power of the next generation is truly going to disseminate from.

Blessings,

Carrie

The Newborn: Traditional and Anthroposophical Perspectives

From a Traditional Physical Therapy Perspective regarding Normal Development:

Full-term is 38 weeks onward.  37 weeks’ gestational age is NOT full-term.

The neonate has NO experience with life outside of the womb – Please remember that as you expose your infant to his or her first sounds and sights of the outside world.

Very little movement is independently controlled – most movement is random and affected by gravity (gravity is also a new experience).

The elbows, hips, knees, and ankles have strong flexion, meaning that they are bent up and if you try to straighten them they will recoil back into a bent position.

Newborns are usually moving when they are awake and display a wide range of vigorous movement with rotational components of the ankles and wrists.  Usually one can see this better when the infant is lying on his or her  back.  There is much about tummy time and its importance out there, but giving an infant opportunity to freely kick and move while lying on their back is also important.

A neonate is interested in breastfeeding, being held and cuddled and in hearing their mother’s voice.   If you are a first-time mother, I am here to reassure you that less material things are needed than you think.

A neonate can fixate on your smiling  face and track briefly. They typically see best when the object (your bright smiling face!) is about 9 inches away. 

Extension (lifting) of the head and neck while lying on the stomach is one of the first things you will  see against gravity, but I am not so personally  convinced that a neonate needs a whole separate “playtime-tummy time” on  the floor on a blanket by themselves.  Tummy time can also be achieved over your legs, over your lap or being held with the infant’s tummy on your chest as you are laying down.

There are a wide range of reflexes that help the infant organize themselves and drive an infant’s ability at this age, along with the  musculoskeletal constraints already mentioned (strong flexion) and the way the bones start out.

If your baby has a history of prematurity, intraventricular hemorrhage, bronchopulmonary dyplasia, low birth weight under 1500 grams, or lack of oxygen to the brain, please follow your baby’s development carefully.

From an Anthroposophical Point of View:

(One of the best resources on the Web regarding The Waldorf Baby can be found here:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby.html).

Rahima Baldwin Dancy talks about in her book how the infant experiences space, time and gravity differently once born compared to life within the womb.  Birth also is the first experience an infant has with temperature regulation and the rhythmical qualities of breathing.

With the first breath,” she writes, “inner emotional life begins, and the breath serves as the connection between the inner and outer worlds.  With the first in-breath, the possibility exists for the soul life to enter into a deeper relationship with the body, a relationship it will keep until the last expiration.  Although the baby is spiritually present and physically responsive to stimuli while in the womb, the soul cannot come into the body without the breath.  Then the soul gives expression to our emotions through the breath as sound and speech.”

Incarnation into the body is a gradual process.

The infant is viewed as entirely a sense-organ where all impressions from the environment go into the infant without filters and influence physiological processes – such as digestion and circulation of the blood. 

Sleep of the infant is seen as needed to “shut-off” from the world because if one is a sense organ where impressions are just flooding in, imagine how exhausting that is!

Things typically recommended by authors such as Rahima Baldwin Dancy, and Joan Salter  include having a special place for the baby to rest, such as a bassinet or co-sleeper, and draping this with silks to provide rest for the infant’s eyes.

Provide harmony and rhythm through singing.  You can also play a soft flute or kinderlyre.

Provide a sense of warmth for your infant and keep your infant’s head covered throughout the first year.  Remember, an infant does not do a great job regulating temperature by themselves!

Think about 40 days of rest and of being at home – there is an entire post on this blog regarding that subject here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/17/40-days-after-birth-and-beyond/

Joan Salter asserts that the baby’s most natural position within the first six weeks is HORIZONTAL, not vertical. 

You may consider keeping your infant inside for the first 40 days and after that introducing your infant to the wonderful sounds of nature outside.  Trips to the store, in the car, in a bus, etc should be avoided if at all possible. 

Joan Salter recommends swaddling with the upper extremities bent and the hands near the infant’s mouth – as a therapist, this is the position I most frequently recommend as well.

I suggest if you would like to read more about The Waldorf Baby, to go back and re-read pertinent chapters in “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” and “The Incarnating Child.”  Sometimes a third or fourth read of these chapters can really provide further illumination!

Many blessings,

Carrie