How Can I Love Staying At Home With My Children?

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!  I hope you had a wonderful day with your children and family! 

Mothering, and this process of becoming the designer and architect of your own family’s culture,  can be wonderful and joyous but also challenging and daunting.  Mothering can be like a yoga pose that one cannot get out of, and must stay in and stretch.  Mothering can become a catalyst for one to learn more about oneself, about one’s biography and history.  Mothering can be a catalyst for developing oneself further as a human being, and for nurturing the qualities of goodness in ourselves. 

One question that I have heard over the years and that recently came up in a comment,  is this idea or question of “How can I be happy in my mothering? How can I be happy with my children?”

I think this is a very valid question!  In our society, there are very few models for mothering.  Many of us have had mothers who were/are  either physically or emotionally unavailable, or who  modeled  mothering for us in ways we do not wish to repeat.  

Many mothers I meet are trying to juggle many different roles in their lives, and feeling frustrated.  They are working outside the home and thinking about their children and trying to juggle work and sick days and teething days, or they are with their children and thinking about their outside work and feeling as if they are not doing the best job in either world.  This  is a true challenge, especially in the US, where we do not have a paid maternity leave, and many mothers are back at work before their infants are twelve weeks of age.

To me, this question is actually  not a question of happiness or love, but a question of satisfactionAre you satisfied being home with your children and would you change that?  Most stay at home mothers I speak with talk about how they would not change that for anything, even on the “bad” days.  These mothers may not be joyously happy every minute of the  day, but will find moments within the day to be happy, moments to smile and laugh with their children, and they feel satisfied being home with their children.  Even on the sick days, the teething days, the days when there are sibling fights, there is this sense of satisfaction that they are the one dealing with it.  Every day at an outside job is typically not fabulous, and neither is every day at home, but is it satisfying to be there.

1.  One thing  that goes with satisfaction includes having unhurried time.  If you have unhurried time with small children instead of rushing about, you have the time to catch those cute moments, the funny moments, the silence of being together that I mentioned above and they often redeem the time when things are not going so well.  If you can be present you will be available to catch these moments.   So my first piece of advice in terms of how to be happy at home is to try not to wear so many hats so you can have this time.

Here is an example from my personal life: many of you know  I am a highly specialized physical therapist in neonatal feeding and development.  There are very few of us in the country, and it was hard for me to think of not treating patients and using those skills to help families who were so desperate.  Yet, there will always be patients and families.  My children are only here once.  That is the only shot I get with them.  Can you slow your own life down enough to really be present?    Here is a  post that speaks to this subject: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/22/how-do-i-take-off-one-of-these-hats/

Many mothers I know who seem most satisfied with being with their children are ones who have a profound connection to a sense of Higher Purpose in their mothering, that this is a calling.  This also requires unhurried time, to be able to sit and think and listen.  You can get this even with small children running about, usually by being present and in those moments outside when your wee one is digging in the sand box.    This attitude can take time to develop, and I hope some of the mothers who feel this way will leave a comment below to help other mothers. 

2.  The second thing that goes with satisfaction is having confidence.  If you know developmental stages and have a proper view of the infant, the toddler, the child at different points in the developmental cycle, it helps you weather the stormy periods in a satisfied and calm manner.  You feel calm, you handle things, you feel satisfied that you are handling the more challenging things.   You don’t feel so defeated and take it so personally when things do not go well.  There are still two parties involved in mothering – you and your child.  It is not all you and some children really are more sensitive than others, or more challenging than others.  Confidence grows with time, but I think one way to gain confidence is to read about developmental stages, about gentle discipline, about where you are and to come up with a “box of tools.”  What tools do you have?  What do you use?  Are you using what is effective?  Do you beat yourself up if you use a tool that is not effective, and what does that gain for you?  What is the payoff of beating yourself up and being negative?  Is it helpful, does it make your family life wonderful?  Sobering questions, but ones to ponder. 

The other arm of building confidence is to have a MOTHERING MENTOR.  Pick someone who has children that you like, whose children are older than yours, and ask her to be your mothering mentor.  The Internet is wonderful, but there is nothing like having real flesh and blood people who know you and your children and who can support you.  Every mother needs a friend that is encouraging and supportive.   It is always amazing to  me to see mothers being snide to each other instead of loving and supportive.  Those “back-handed” compliments have nothing to do with support!  Every mother is doing the best job that they can in the place that they are with the information that they have.   

For those of you without a mothering mentor or a special encouraging friend, make a list of the qualities of a friend you would love to have, and pray and meditate over that list.  You may be surprised whom you find in your life!

3.  The third thing that goes with satisfaction is feeling as if you are actually not just reacting to everything, but that you have some sort of overall vision and plan. That is why I encourage mothers all the time to think about a Family Mission Statement, to think about what the rhythm of the day might look like (because the rhythm is for YOU even if your small children don’t fall right into it!)  Think about having a menu plan, and when you will clean your house and when you will shop.  Think about how you will handle things that come up as far as guiding your child; if you know developmental stages anticipating these situations and thinking through them is easier;  talk to your mothering mentor about these situations. 

Also, what would be FUN for you with your children?  Do you make time to snuggle, play games, sing together, be outside in nature together, laugh, tell stories, read?  These are the things that build those happy moments rather then the end of the day with exhausted children who are crying through dinner because they really just need to get off to bed! 

4.  The fourth thing to add to your satisfaction is developing yourself and your own inner qualities.  Many mothers do this through a spiritual or religious life; some mothers find this through artistic work, through meditation or  through certain activities that they do.   Taking a bit of time every week to really ask yourself, “Where I am this week and what am I striving for?”  can be really helpful… That person that I was before I was a mother, am I still really that person or am I finding a footing in a new world and changing into being a new person with new and different interests?  Motherhood can be the catalyst to developing yourself further in ways you were not open to before; with different interests that were not there before motherhood.  However, this too, takes time.

Also, please remember to ask for help.  On Mother’s Day and every day, you deserve some time to just think.  Your spouse really does want to help you, tell him what you need.  Time to think will help you process your own growth and lead to increased satisfaction and joy in being home.   If your lack of joy in being with your children stems from a developmental stage that they are in or something going on with your spouse, there are so many posts about sibling fighting, challenges  in marriage and each developmental stage on this blog.  I encourage you to check them out and I hope you will find them helpful.

I hope you have found this encouraging. 

Many blessings and much love,

Carrie

Renewal: Staying Home

In this time of renewal between Easter and Ascension, in this time of planning for  Fall for many homeschooling mothers,  and in this time of evaluation for many parents as we all gear up for Summer (or Winter, if you are one of my dear Down Under readers!), I invite you to breathe and ask yourself this question:  How often am I going out of my home?

  • Is it every day and you have children under the age of seven?
  • Is your home and your homeschooling and your parenting where you would like it to be?
  • Could your time of lessons or classes or activities for your small  children be better spent elsewhere at this point? 

I understand if you are suffering from depression and really need that social connection and support of other mothers.  I really do understand if you are extremely outgoing like me and just get filled up by being with other mothers and other people…I really do understand!    I wrote a post about Social Isolation for Stay-At-Home mothers here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/24/social-isolation-for-stay-at-home-mothers/

But there has to be a balance, and if you are going out every day and if your under-seven child is involved in a plethora of activities, I just gently am nudging you to explore this.  Boundaries are important, and showing and modeling for your child how to set boundaries and maintain them is REALLY important as they grow up into a world that will most likely have even more blurred lines between personal and professional lives due to increased technology. 

I invite you to try to discern what really are  the most essential things in your life, and how the time you spend reflects what is most meaningful to you.  I am working on this right now, and it really is challenging me!

Particularly for the parents of very small under-aged five children, it is easy to get caught up in lessons, classes, and other things.  The ages under five (and under seven and yes, even under age nine!), to me, is an excellent place to experience an  unhurried concept of  time.   They will never have these days again!   There will be so many other years for classes, for lessons and for other activities and for rushing about on a schedule (which is different than the flowing rhythm of being at home).

Many mothers I speak with somehow feel their children will be “behind” if they don’t enroll in a number of things, and they point to things like elite Olympic athletes who start training at the age of four or something.  Actually, I like to point out that for a number of athletes, they started later or switched later from one sport to the sport that later became their Olympic sport.  I  also like to point out that if a four-year-old starts piano lessons, a seven or eight year old can typically catch up to where the four-year-old is in a matter of months because they are more mature and more coordinated.   There is something to be said for developmental maturity and neural pathways being mature and ready…. I am sure many with disagree on this point, but I guess what I am trying to say is that all is not lost if you take a summer and have nowhere to be or take your children’s under-seven years and be HOME.  That will probably provide a more lasting foundation  than any one-hour class that you are rushing your child and younger children and babies out the door for!

For homeschooling mothers, especially for mothers new to homeschooling, it is easy to think that one’s child should be involved in this and in that for “socialization” and for those things that just seem  harder to do at home.  Many times we tend to forget that home has its own advantages.

So, today, I am just giving you that gentle nudge to look into your heart as you plan for Fall. Think about how many days out of the home are necessary. If your children are small, it may not be what you think.  If your children are older, please do plan enough time to actually home school at home instead of trying to home school from your car.  Unhurried “digestion” of academic material is so important.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Renewal: Rhythm

So, we will be taking these forty days between Easter and Ascension as our time to discuss all things related to the renewal of your life and your family culture.  For today, I want to circle back around to rhythm.

I think many Waldorf homeschoolers are feeling this sense of renewal regarding rhythm!    Melisa Nielsen had a lovely post here about “Rhythm Or Routine”: http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2010/04/rhythm-or-routine.html .   Everything she says is right on!  I especially liked the part where Melisa talks about developing our own will enough to STAY HOME.  When you have children under the age of eight, it is important that you firmly entrench children in the home.  It is important that they learn how to create their own play and fun at home instead of relying on going, going, going, to stimulate themselves and to change their emotions.

In a family, there is a daily rhythm, a weekly rhythm, and a yearly rhythm.  This is there whether you create it or not, so I feel it is worth it to take an intentional look at these areas along with parenting.

The yearly rhythm is celebrated through the festivals of the year and is seen as a yearly process of in-breath and out-breath. How you implement this is up to you, I find it lovely to celebrate with the liturgical year of our church.

For a weekly rhythm, one must decide how many days a week one is going to go outside of your home/yard/neighborhood (because even if we stay home we still go outside for many hours a day!).  This is important for small children, to be home,  and it is also important in homeschooling once you reach the grades..  If you are interested in homeschooling, I would say it is very difficult, if not impossible,  to throw homeschooling on top of a completely chaotic flow of events to the day, and also on top of a chaotic house that is cluttered and dirty.  No, your home does not have to be perfect, we actually live in our houses because we are home!  However, keeping the house up and running is part of the rhythm to it all, and in order to do that, we have to be home.  We need to plan when to get groceries, what to cook,  when to do laundry, when to run errands,  so that not everything is completely last minute.  Therefore, it is never too early, nor too late,  to create a bit of an order or flow that suits your family life.

For a small child, the weekly rhythm includes what PRACTICAL work takes place when and planning on your part regarding HOW they may be included.  In cleaning, can they scrub the bathtub whilst taking a bath?  Can they manually grind a cup of flour to add to more flour to bake bread?  Can they use water to clean the sidewalk whilst you plant flowers? 

For a daily rhythm, this is where one needs to think about the flow of the day for times of in-breath and times of out-breath.  For example, when will rest and meal times will be, and when bedtimes and awake times will be?  If the baby needs a nap, will they sleep in a sling?  If you put them to sleep in a room, where will your older children be and what will they be doing?  When are the outside times and when is it time to tell a story?

But most importantly, how will you show reverence and the sacred parts of life throughout these rhythms of life?  When will there be singing and joy, when will there be silence, when will there be time to go outside and look at one small bug or bird and listen and feel the wind?  Reverence and gratitude is the thread that winds itself through all of these yearly, weekly, and daily rhythms. 

Many blessings during these forty days of renewal,

Carrie

Peaceful March: Simple Parenting

I think this is a wonderful month to have a “spring cleaning” of the mind for peaceful, simple parenting for the expansive Spring and Summer months that are coming.  What do I mean by that?

  • Look, really look at your children.  What developmental stage are they in?  What areas are they having a hard time with?  What could you do to help guide them?  What have you tried in this regard previously?  Don’t do that again if it didn’t work – you know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results!  Try to think outside the box! Get support, gain fresh and new ideas!
  • How am I doing with gentle discipline?  Am I falling into places I would rather not be? How can I change that? What is my plan?
  • What am I doing to protect and nourish my child’s twelve senses and movement?  How much are we getting outside?
  • How many hours of screens is my child seeing each week and can I cut that back, down, out completely?
  • How is my child eating?  Homemade nourishing foods?  See if you can refrain from buying processed foods for a week and really focus on whole, simple foods.  How many raw fruits and vegetables is my child eating?
  • How much sleep and rest is happening in the family?  Do we have a rhythm toward bedtime and rest times?
  • Am I happy with the number of things I, my spouse, my kids, our family is committed to?  Does it need to be less? Can you take a break this Spring?  Will the world come to an end if the kids take one season from sports off and you all hike together instead?
  • How are you doing with your spouse?  Do you really know him and where he is these days or is he last on the list at the end of the day?  What is going on these days at work?  What are his favorite things?  Does he feel loved and respected in his home?  Are you spending time together? 
  • How are you doing?  Are you feeling healthy and energized?  If not, what are you eating, are you exercising, are you getting enough sleep and rest?  What time are you going to bed?
  • What are you reading these days to increase your skills as a positive person, a positive mother, a homeschooling teacher or as a wife?  What artistic work are you doing each week to replenish your own soul?
  • Does your family have a mission statement?  If not, now would be a great time to write one.  If you have one, does it need updating?  There is a back post on this blog regarding family mission statements, actually there are several.  If you use the search engine, it should come up for you.
  • Finally, are you in connection with that Creator that is higher than yourself if that is in your belief system, or what are you doing to nourish your own spirituality, your own sense of reverence toward the world, your own sense of gratitude and love?

Take that sketch pad I suggested you keep around at the beginning of the month, those colored pencil and crayons and draw yourself a map of these areas and write down or draw your ideas for change!

Happy Spring Cleaning,

Carrie

Simple February: Hospitality in The Home

Hospitality is the art of  offering a “generous and cordial reception of guests” according to Webster’s dictionary.  Another definition of hospitality, according to Webster’s, is “offering a pleasant or sustaining environment”.  Hospitable can also allude to being open and receptive.

Making our homes a place of generosity, cordial reception is a wonderful goal.  Perhaps the best way to start this is to do so with our closest family members – our spouses and our children.

I feel my husband is worthy of my respect.  Do you respect your husband?  Do you respect the way he handles the children or are you always stepping in? Do you find fault with your husband frequently?

Can you start by making your home a place of hospitality for your husband?  Can you be cordial and generous with him?  How could you make your home a place of greater comfort for him?

Perhaps he needs some downtime when he walks in the door instead of being jumped on by children.  What could you do to facilitate that?

 Are you hospitable to your children?  Are most of your words to them commands or demands or nagging or yelling? 

Children under the age of 7 learn by imitation; they learn how to treat other people by watching how you treat your husband, how he treats you, and how you treat them.

That being said, treating a child kindly is not enough to make them always treat you back respectfully.  They are learning!  Remember to have appropriate expectations for their ages and to respect the fact that they are indeed learning.

Is your home place of comfort?  Are there things of beauty, things that bring joy into your eyes in your home?  These do not have to be expensive things; an old table worn by good meals, a single flower in a small vase are all wonderful.  What do you have of beauty?

Is your home a warm and  nourishing place where time slows down?

Finally,  what are you doing to be hospitable to yourself?  Are you expecting too much of yourself?  What is nourishing you these days?  Crafting, writing, having time to sit down and read all can be nourishing.  Do you have wonderful, close friends to love and share with?

Simple times,

Carrie

Social Isolation For Stay-At-Home Mothers?

Many, many mothers have told me their day goes smoothest for their children when they stay home but that there is an issue of feeling isolated themselves when they only go out  two times a week or once a week!  It really is a fine line, isn’t it, between doing what is really good for small children, who do need to be firmly entrenched in the home, but also keeping our sanity!  Do you all remember that post where I wrote the average woman speaks 25,000 words a day or something like that?  I  mean, those words have gotta come out somewhere, right?  It can be hard when we only have a small child around, and then we tend to start talking just to hear ourselves talk and we overtalk that poor child to death!

Ladies, again, I think this is a fine line.  For many mothers I know who suffer from post-partum depression, they have to be around some people to keep them on an even keel, so this whole forty days at home doesn’t work well for them unless they have a strong support system of folks willing to come to them.  I also encourage mothers to get their friend fix without their small children if possible, because let’s face it, to get support we want to talk about the challenges of parenting and I think that is so hard to do with all your children listening!  Perhaps that is a possibility for you!  (Obviously I am all for breastfeeding infants and toddlers coming along because they have such an intense need for their mothers!)

So, I think of this depends upon where you are in your parenting journey, and some of it depends upon your personality.  I am completely extroverted, (uh, other than I need my quiet time at night so I can write!) but I LOVE people, I love to hear their stories and all these connections go off in my head.  It is like pinballs bouncing around in my head, ping, ping, ping.   I bet you all could hear that in that Waldorf Connection Radio Show, LOL!   I am very lucky that   I have a pretty great circle of friends.  However, that took time to build up! 

So what do you do if you have no friends locally yet?  I don’t think entrenching your children in your home means you never go out of your home – can you walk to the park?  Play outside in your subdivision or street?    Do you have neighbors?  Is there a homeschooling group you could attend?  Can you go to a La Leche League meeting or an Attachment Parenting meeting and meet some mothers?  Do you have ANY friends that you could take turns going to their house one week and them coming to you one week so you both could be home one extra day during the week?  Just remember that small children really need you to hold that space in the beginning with a structured activity, and to really keep those times with other children short!  There are many posts on this blog regarding “playdates” for small children, perhaps those would help you to have a successful time of it!

Some mothers feel very isolated when they have that first child, because maybe their friends haven’t had children yet, so it is like building a circle of friends all over in many ways.  That is a challenging time of transition!  At the time you are challenged by finding your way in parenting, you are also feeling separate from all your former friends!  I think in  that case you do need to get out and meet some new people – neighbors, people at your place of worship whom you don’t know well but would like to get to know, people you run into with children at the store even!

Make a list – do you know women whom you would like to get to know better?  Can you call them up and arrange a meeting?  What qualities do you want in a friend?  Write them down!  I have seen mothers post flyers at their local health food store, yoga studio, etc  asking for mothers with children of certain ages to call them to arrange a meeting… Yes, it is a risk in some ways, but sometimes one has to be proactive!    Sometimes mothers meet over message boards, forums…Did you all know my local Waldorf homeschooling group actually started with three of us who met on-line?  It was like this:  “What, you are in Georgia?  I’m in Georgia!  We live really far apart, but so what, let’s form a group! Probably there will only be the three of us!” (now we have about 25 families as members! Never thought that would happen!)  Everything has to start somewhere!

Sometimes Waldorf homeschoolers have a hard time getting together with other families because they feel the other families won’t understand the way they parent.  That can be true, if the other children are really media-saturated and can only play in reference to media, but I have to say:  search for that common ground.  You may be a really positive influence for someone else!  Also, check with your Unschoolers!  I find in the Early Years, we often have quite a bit in common with our unschooling friends as far as more of that unfolding gesture in our educational philosophies!

This is SUCH an important issue, please, please leave a comment and talk about how you handle this balance – being home, making new friends who might be conducive to your parenting style, what to do!

Connections make the world go round,

Carrie

Toys! Toys! Toys!

One of the most common questions one hears in the Waldorf World is about toys –  those beautiful, expensive, wooden, natural fiber toys.  How does one transition into those, what does one do with the plastic toys, how does one handle inappropriate gifts?

Uh, pour yourself a cup of tea and come back, because this is a big subject.

I really respect all the natural toymakers out there and Waldorf sellers of natural toys.  They are wonderful.   (Also, I am not against plastic toys at all, some of them – legos come to mind, some families love Playmobile or matchbox cars).   However, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding toys, before you start adding to your child’s toy collection with natural toys.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you do not need many toys at all.  I wrote a post about this awhile back, why not click over and see if it resonates with you?  Here it is:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/23/holiday-gifts-for-children-how-much-is-too-much/

Kim John Payne also gets to the heart of this in his book “Simplicity Parenting” (for a review see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/26/favorite-waldorf-resource-2-simplicity-parenting-using-the-extraordinary-power-of-less-to-raise-calmer-happier-and-more-secure-kids-by-kim-john-payne-and-lisa-ross/)  I believe Marsha Johnson also has a wonderful article in her FILES section of her Yahoo!Group (www.waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com to join) addressing this very topic.  Both of these resources talk about the positive effects of LESS. 

Under this topic, I  have to mention that a beautiful wooden kitchen is still a beautiful wooden kitchen, but a box can be a kitchen, a spaceship, a house, a cave…the possibilities are endless!  So, I guess my point is that whilst I too love the wooden toys and natural toys, do keep in mind that the simplicity of it all should be in toys that can be more than one thing, toys that can transform as a child’s play flows from one thing to another.

Toymaking with children or with your children in mind is also important.  You don’t need a lot of skill to start, and the book “Toymaking With Children” really lays this all out for you:  http://www.amazon.com/Toymaking-Children-Freya-Jaffke/dp/0863153674/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266602196&sr=8-1   Why not consider making your own toys?

The second thing to keep in mind is the age of your child and the development of play, so you know what toys are appropriate and needed.  This way you do not put out all the toys a child from birth to seven will go through at once, but only the ones specific for that age and only a handful so you can rotate them in and out.

Ages Birth – Two- and –a- half:  Their own hands and feet are the best toys in the first year, and perhaps I would add a beautiful mobile or Nature Table to look at.  Around the toddler years, one could add a VERY SIMPLE knotted or  bunting -style doll.  There are instructions on how to make one of these in “Toymaking With Children”  Meredith has a nice post regarding dolls here over at Waldorf Reviews:   http://www.waldorfreviews.com/?p=66

Wooden spoons, pots, bowls are all welcome as well, along with baskets to fill and dump, and also some playcloths to set up a corner in which the child  can hide or rest.  I would also add blocks, pails for the sandbox, a basin to put water in for play. 

It is important that every toy has a home and is cared for with love and reverence.  A doll should be included in your rhythm as part of the family and cared for with love.  :)  Here is an article from Gateways regarding the relationship of the child to the doll:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW56raichle.pdf

More Notes About Play During This Period:  “Toymaking With Children” has this to say about birth to the third year:  “The adult’s actions are absorbed not consciously but lovingly.  At first, children limit themselves to apparently purposelessly imitative activity.  They go around the room like their mother, picking up things which she has just tided away, only to put them down again somewhere else.  When the mother fills her pot with potatoes, the child fills a basket or cart with building blocks.”

So, being able to show your child some WORK is of utmost importance.

Ages Two-and-a-Half to Age Five:   This is where fantasy and imaginative play really emerge.  The children of this age take the toys and pretend they are whatever they need at the moment – things for a store, things for the farm.  Open-ended toys such as playsilks and clips to make a house is wonderful, playstands are often used at this age, and baskets filled with open-ended objects from nature such as shells, stones, pinecones, etc that can become whatever the child needs in the moment. 

Playing in nature is very important at all ages, but especially at these ages.  Mud, sand, water are all the child’s playground. 

Work hard into picking up WITH your children and making it fun; they will not go and pick up by themselves with just a verbal command.  They are imitating you, and you get to be the leader of a fun game for cleaning up.  Put the time for clean-up into your rhythm.

Ages Five to Seven Years:  A doll with arms and legs to dress and undress is important at this age.  Simple toys and crafts Waldorf sellers that focus a bit more on fine motor skills may be appropriate at this point for those times of inbreath, but time in nature and developing gross motor skills is still so important – can your child ride a bike?  Walk on stilts?  Do the monkey bars?  Swim in the deep end?  Jump rope?  Play hopscotch?

You might be saying, this is wonderful, Carrie but what do I do with all of my plastic toys?

Families I have known have approached this in several  ways.  First, do sort through the toys and discard the ones that are broken.  Your children may  enjoy finding toys to give away to goodwill, but in my experience, many children do not.  Yet, many parents feel badly about going through their children’s toys and donating them.  Sometimes what works is to leave out a few toys and put the other toys in boxes for rotation into the play area.  If you arrange your toy area in a beautiful way, you may be surprised about your children being more content with LESS.  You may even be able to donate a few of those boxes of plastic toys as no one asks for them ever again as some more open-ended toys come in to the space.    I also encourage families going through this to cut back on media and plan some activities outside. Get the children involved in your practical work.  Set up play scenarios to show them how this would work.  Tell them fairy tales, spark their imagination.

Here are a few back posts to help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/29/more-about-fostering-creative-play/

and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/05/fostering-creative-play/

Most of all, please be confident!  You are not taking toys away from your children but increasing the quality of their play through the power of less!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Dads Out There?

Most of what I write is geared toward  mothers, but I am becoming aware of a number of fathers who also come to this space!  Hello to all the fathers out there!  I appreciate you being here!

At the end of last night’s show (see www.thewaldorfconnection.com), a Dad called in asking how to make use of the limited weekday time with the under-7 child.

Families do things all different ways; I have seen families push back bedtimes so the children can play with Dad, have a snack with Dad, etc before bed.  Some children do wonderfully with this and some children go waaaaay off the deep end with this end and the night ends with tears and do better with Dad parenting them to sleep – walking a small child around, singing to their child, back rubs, massages, telling wonderful stories.

I have harped on this time and time again:  you are creating your family culture together.  Parenting is in the doing!  Mothers, give up control and parent together.  You love this man enough to marry him, to have children with him, he is the parent as well!    Mothers  will wail to me,  “But he doesn’t do it the way I do it!”  Uh, yes, isn’t that the point?  There is a place for mothering and fathering and we are thrilled to have both! 

Children need to have their fathers; fathers bring so many wonderful things to the table for children.  I will write more about this in the future, but in the meantime, here are some back posts to read and ponder:

An old favorite: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/18/fathers-and-daughters-part-one/                                                             http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/20/fathers-and-daughters-part-two/

Dads and homeschooling:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/15/a-letter-to-all-those-dads-undecided-about-homeschooling/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/20/dads-waldorf-homeschooling-and-parenting/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/23/when-both-parents-need-a-break/

Love and respect:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/06/simple-february-love-for-your-partner/

Dads might be interested in this:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/30/rite-of-passage-parenting-four-essential-experiences-to-equip-your-kids-for-life-heading-up-to-the-nine-year-change-and-beyond/

Just to keep you busy!

Blessings,

Carrie

Simple February

We focused a lot on joy in January, and February is now the month to really look at how simple life can be; how confidence can grow when we intuit onto the right path.  Mothers in my local area have often  asked me how they can gain confidence with their parenting decisions, with the decision to homeschool, with the business of raising a family and creating a family culture.  I think this goes back to making life simple:  what do you feel in your heart?

I live in a large metropolitan area.  When I go to the giant Farmer’s Market, it really strikes me to look around at just the large number of people of all different races, backgrounds, ethnicities in one area.  They were not all raised the same way.  Their culture, perhaps their religion, perhaps their education, all influenced how they became who they are. Their experiences, the people they have loved and the people who have loved them, have all contributed to who they are and how they see things.  We all have similarities, but we all look at things differently.  And for some reason, that brings me comfort.  The world is a big place, there are many ways of doing things,  and certainly I cannot err if I approach things gently and with love and with patience.  I can be  easy with myself, and know that while there may be one path that works well for me, it is not the same for all families and there are many wonderful people in the world raised in different ways…Again, if I am gentle and kind and patient, I am doing the best for my family.

Mothers ask me:  well, but how do I find the right path for my family?  I am just researching myself to death!

I have a suggestion for you!  For February, look at yourself.  We talk a lot about biography in Waldorf, but I also think it is really relevant in parenting as well.  Who are you?  What do you believe?  Why do you believe that?  How have your experiences influenced what you believe?  Your values?  The truth is, the way to gain confidence in parenting  is to really know yourself.  Dig deep. Know what irritates you, what calms you, what and who you love, what matters and what doesn’t.  Know what is essential for you and your family and what is not.  There are only so many hours in the day, and to me, I cannot waste these short hours and days on non-essential things.

Once you decide how your biography plays into things, the essential and non-essential things in your life, then your confidence will grow.  You will also be able to pull one thing out at a time and work on changing that one thing for forty days.  Once you decide what is essential and non-essential, you will handle criticism with confidence.  You will be able to carry on!

Simple days in February!

Many blessings,

Carrie

January Focus On The Home: Meal Planning

Hi there!  Do you know where your meals are?

A very important part of both La Leche League, Attachment Parenting and Waldorf is a focus on nutrition derived from whole foods.  Waldorf also brings in the concept of warmth through food.

I don’t like to dwell specifically on HOW one should each – that really does make me bonkers and you can see my post when I was ranting about this here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/05/the-mini-rant-discussing-food-with-children-under-the-age-of-7/  , but I do think no matter how one chooses to eat, it should involve mindfulness. 

I will at some point post some things about an anthroposophic view of eating, just for fun, but here are a few things to ponder to help you get organized:

First, do you have a menu plan each week?  If you abhor making your own and making the grocery lists that go with it, here are a few options for dinner:

Do you have a plan for breakfasts, lunches and snacks?  If you say that the first snack of the day always involves the grain of the day or is always cut-up vegetables with a homemade dip, this simplifies meal planning.  If you are searching for the grain of the day and trying to incorporate that into your week, try this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/23/steiners-grain-of-the-day/

Melisa Nielsen has a lovely post about her “Snack Tray” here:  http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2009/03/behold-the-wisdom-of-the-snack-tray.html

Do have a rhythm as to what day of the week you shop and what you buy when?

For the way we eat, and for those of you who want to eat with whole foods, many times there are no cost-savings coupons available.  I suggest connecting with your local farmers or farmers market and eating what is in season.  I have farmers now to supply any meat my family would eat in bulk, eggs, cheese, raw milk, vegetables and there is a farmer’s market (granted 41 miles away!) where I can buy cases of organic oranges and young coconuts, for example.  Sometimes smaller ethnic grocery stores also have good deals.

If you do shop in a store or at a farm, don’t rush.  This is a great opportunity for your small children to learn in life.  Make a morning of your “market day.”  Too often I see parents rushing through shopping and I wonder why. Nourishing our families in warmth and love should be important enough to teach our children about it in an unhurried manner.

Third, do you have a daily rhythm to how you cook?  I think with small children as much preparation ahead of time is good as many children are not happy around meal time – that witching hour!

Here are some suggestions for dealing with the dinner hour:

  • For those of you who are not eating raw and are cooking things, I suggest using a crock pot for wonderful bean soups and other warm meals.
  • Try feeding the children a small snack whilst you cook.
  • Involve the little ones in your cooking as much as possible – keep your gestures light, warm and loving.  Start dinner early so you have time.
  • Give your children some leftover spices or dough or whathave you to make their own concoctions!
  • Try also setting up a small play scenario near the kitchen so your little ones can weave in and out of work and play.

Please don’t forget that an integral part of cooking is the tender way you wipe the counters down, clean off the cabinets, dry dishes – sing, hum, immerse yourself in the task and your children will see the revernce and love one can find in the ordinary.

Much love,

Carrie