When Both Parents Need A Break

I hear the following scenario(s) a lot:  Mom and Dad have a preschooler; Mom is at home: Dad has a lot of commitments: Dad would like to have some time to himself; Mom would like some time to herself and therefore would like Dad to spend some time with preschool-aged child OR Dad would like to spend some time ALONE with Mom but Mom is very attached to their child and finds it difficult to leave.(And I know some mothers who feel Dad cannot handle their child and won’t leave child with Dad or child doesn’t seem to want to stay with Dad).  Whew!  Lots of different things going on here!

I have many thoughts on these scenarios; let’s see if I can sort them out bit by bit.

Scenario #1Dad has many commitments. Mom would like a break when Dad gets home but Dad is rather tapped out.

Here are some thoughts:

The first thing my husband said when I said, “Quick!  What comes into your head with this scenario?” was this:   “Life before children is not the same as life after children.  Can Dad back off on some of these commitments for these Early Years?”

Yup, he said that.  No prompting, just honesty!  I love that man!

So, Number One:  BOTH of you look honestly at your commitments  outside the home and ask is it essential or not?  What is essential right now is  raising your child.  That has an expiration date and the time to this child-raising is now.

Also, these times may call for tough choices if all these commitments are economically necessary.  Could you move to something smaller to live in?  Could you go to one car?  Could you cut back anywhere?

Okay, moms, before you get all happy over that (“See honey, I told you so!  You need to be home!”) please consider this:  Dad may need some time to switch gears prior to walking in the door and being handed a child. There may be several ways to handle this:   Dads, can you stop on the way home and work out?  Listen to something that settles you down on the commute home? Or Moms, can Dad have some time when he walks in the door to switch gears – sometimes feeding the children a snack or having a craft at the ready keeps the children from attacking Dad the minute he walks in the door.

And Moms, make home a place Dad wants to come home to.  If all you do is nag and complain, why would he want to be there?  Think about this, meditate on it, pray on it.

The other facets of this scenario to consider include these three things:

1. Many small children really only want their mothers at bedtime unless you have worked to make Dad the main bedtime person.  Bedtime may not be the best time for daddy-child relationship success and yet it is the time of the day when mothers are completely tapped out.

2. So, if the end of the day is everyone (including the adults)  falling apart, it may be your child is completely overtired.  If you have a three or four year old who is not napping, they most likely will be ready for sleep at 6:30 or 7. Stop trying to keep them up to see Dad get home from work at 8 PM unless your child gets up late in the morning.

3.  Moms, if you are that worn out at the end of the day, look back to your rhythm.  Does it have a balance of out-breath and in-breath?  Can you gear your whole afternoon toward bedtime?  Dinner in the crock pot so  you can spend a good amount of time outside in the afternoon?  Switch up the routine so your child has a nice warming bath with a lavender foot massage, warm food, warm bed?  Snore.

Scenario #2Dad would like some ALONE time with Mom, Mom is reluctant to be away from child.

I say this a lot  on this blog:  It is Attachment PARENTING, not just Attachment Mothering.  A relationship with your child is not a substitute for the intimate relationship with your spouse.  Check out the back posts on marriage here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/

and https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/08/parenting-as-partners/

and https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

However, I think there are many ways one can accomplish this without leaving your child with a babysitter.  Much of this hinges on an early bedtime though.

Intimacy needs to happen sooner rather than attempting two hours after a small child falls asleep and is likely to wake up.  This time needs to be a priority for both of you.  The crafting, the computer, the TV, the reading can wait – let those things be the things that are interrupted, not the special time that holds couples together!

Scenario #3 – Dad is ready for a outings with child; Mom and/or child not sure about child having an outing with just Dad.

Mothers, you have to feel secure.  If you loved this man enough to marry him and have children with him, (and assuming things have not changed and you still love and trust this man), please give Dad a chance to do things his way with his child.  You may not choose to take your child to Chik- fil- A for lunch, but if Dad does, let that be Their Thing.  Please do not micromanage their relationship.

Experiment.  Is it better if you leave the house and have Dad and child do something at home or is it better to have Dad and child go out of the house while you stay home?  Can Dad take child for a walk regularly to build up confidence on both sides of the coin before a big date out? 

The other question is how involved is Dad in regular day-to-day care in general – it is parenting by both Mom and Dad that count. 

Dads, be patient. Sometimes you have to get through “mommy-only” phases of development.  As our older two grew, my husband and I had a phrase called “PPW” (Preferred Parent of the Week).  Sometimes the PPW was him, sometimes it was me.  Sometimes it is hard not to take it all personally, but don’t, because it just is.  These phases come and go and pass.

And please, Dad pick things that are not too over–stimulating or crazy for the under-7 crowd.  An under-7 child would be just as happy going to see a construction site for free rather than a huge tour of the museum or a carnival.  Remember that under-7 children, while they love “new” and “special” don’t need to do everything under the sun whilst they are little.  New can be a walk where they see something new, a trip to a construction site, shooting hoops in the park…it does not have to be “big and better and best” to get a child’s attention. 

Just a few thoughts in this subject,

Carrie

Cultivating “No Comment”: The Inner Work of Advent

Yesterday as we were driving home from our farm pick-up, I was aware of my almost five year old’s running commentary on life.  She was tired, and definitely gets “more chatty” the more tired she becomes.  “Mommy, I want to have a sleepover with Timmy.  Older Sister could come and sleep with Timmy’s older sister and I could sleep in Timmy’s bed.  I wouldn’t be afraid…”   “I am so hungry, I am starving!”  “I am bored!”  “It’s cold outside but I am not wearing my hat! My hat itches!”   Chatter, chatter, chatter, complain, complain, complain.

How often do we feel the need to jump in to a tired, whiny, four or five year old’s world and talk them to death about it?  How often do we jump in and negate her feelings?    I could have said, “You are too young to go have a sleepover away from us.”  “If you had eaten your lunch, you wouldn’t have been so hungry now.” “Your hat is fine, it fits you perfectly!”

Why?

What does a tired, hungry, whiny child need?  No comment!  Especially no comment on future plans that are not even in the works with all the reasoning about said future event.  Stop talking!  A smile, some distraction with singing, a reassurance that “we will be home soon” is all that is needed.

A tired, hungry child needs their basic needs for food,rest and connection met.  If they cannot rest at that time (ie, it is dinner time and they need to stay up a bit longer and cannot nap now), how about some soothing repetitive physical activity?  Pouring water, a bath, winding yarn, carding wool are all good choices. 

Donna Simmons of Christopherus takes this approach with little children who are “chatterers” here: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/litle_ones_who_.html

Make it your work this Advent season to have “no comment” unless it is essential.  And this is morphing from children into Grown-Up Land, but please consider making it your work this Advent season to listen more than you talk, and  to gather information before you blurt out a conclusion or advice.  Remember what people want most when they talk to you is often just what a child wants – a warm smile, a hug, a bit of understanding.  Sometimes the journey is long and rough, and ultimately one experienced within that individual’s soul.

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Mouthodometer

(Many thanks to my dear friend Melissa for thinking up the concept of a mouthodometer!  Love to you!)

Okay, a mouthodemeter does not really exist, but wouldn’t it be great to have a little pedometer-type gadget that (instead of the number of steps one takes in a day) tracks  the number of words one uses?  Maybe it could have a shrill alarm when we exceed the word limit per day!    Beyond that, have you ever noticed that many us just open the floodgates of words when we are upset?  Verbosity at the highest level!

Those of you new to this blog are probably wondering what I am talking about, and what  this has to do with mindful parenting.   Perhaps these back posts will help:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/

and https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/31/the-need-to-know/

and this one:https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

What our children need are LESS words.  Logical thought starts to come in around age 14, so why do we waste so many words trying to reason with our children?  Why do we  talk to your three and four year old as if they have the same adult consciousness as we do?  Why are we talking to our children as if they are another adult friend?

I guess this is where I differ from what I perceive to be the foundation of gentle discipline in the AP movement.  If you perceive your child to be “good”, just less experienced, it makes sense to treat your child almost as an equal with an almost  equal say in things and being able to “talk” your child into good decision-making.  They are learning, but we can converse with them at perhaps a simpler level than a teenager- but we can still converse, right?

I don’t fully buy into this assumption, and one thing that bothered me after I read all the AP gentle discipline books was that almost the same techniques were used for a five-year-old versus a sixteen-year-old.

I have more of an affinity for the anthroposophic view of the under-7 child.  This views the child as a neutral party; a spiritual being on a spiritual path who is learning about right and wrong.  The child is seen as having an entirely different consciousness than an adult.  The small child lives in their will, in their impulses, and therefore they need guidance through movement and imagination.  Because I see the child as learning, I don’t especially expect a child to choose a behavior and develop self-control based upon “good or bad.”   That comes in later!   I recognize that most small children just do things on impulse without thinking. I do have expectations of a child’s behavior, but I try to have realistic expectations.

Most of all, I try to think things out ahead of time, control the parts of the equation that are in my hands, and then be ready to PHYSICALLY help my child.  Less words, more action.  Less talking, more doing.  Following through 500 times until it sticks.

It would be much easier to parent from the couch and to yell at everyone, right?  I have moments where I too, grow weary.    That is when I garner support from my spouse, my family, my closest and dearest friends.  That is when I change the scenery and we all head outside. That is when I stop to breathe.  And I am getting better at asking for help as I get older. 

Stop talking.  Your children don’t need an adult lecture or sarcasm.  They need humor, follow-through, consistency and the chance to make it right.

Try it today,

Carrie

Using Our Words Like Pearls

Marsha Johnson has a document within her FILES section of her Yahoo!Group (Waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com to join) entitled something along the lines of “Use Your Words Like Pearls”.  In it she addresses using vocabulary, transitions in the home, many different aspects of the wonderful language we live in and speak every day.

This phrase took on new meaning for me today though.  A thread started over at Melisa Nielsen’s A Little Garden Flower Yahoo!Group (homeschoolingwaldorf@yahoogroups.com) in response to my post from yesterday entitled, “Raising Peaceful Children.”  One thing that was mentioned is how adults frequently relate to children these days is through sarcasm.

I have said this in other blog posts, and I will say it again:  Children do not need sarcasm at ANY age.  Small children do not understand sarcasm (but they will imitate it, and then parents wonder why their children are speaking to them so disrespectfully!)  Teenagers have enough of it on their own without you adding to it!  Children and adults of all ages truly need you to use your words as the pearls they are!

Many adults joke about the amount of sarcasm they use (“Hey, I had to have my soul removed to make room for all this sarcasm!”) and it also appears to be more prevalent in some parts of the United States than others.  Sorry Northeasterners, I am from the Northeast and I find that up there people are sarcastic without even thinking about it.  It just seems to be how everyone speaks.  It can be challenging to change this engrained and entrenched communication patterns.  However, let’s try!

I have a challenge for you today:

Just for today, let’s think about communicating in real ways with our children, our spouses, our family members and our friends.  Let’s eliminate sarcasm and speak to one another they way we should.  Let’s tell each other directly what we need.  We are all unique individuals and  no matter how well we know one another, we cannot expect others to fully understand our own individuality and read our minds!  Ask for what you need from others!  Make a request!  All that can happen is that person may say no!

Just for today, let’s try to listen more than we speak.  Let’s try to let people come to their own conclusions and ideas rather than force-feeding a solution.  Let’s help children who under the age of 9 come up with solutions to problems with other children through modeling, through example and through help rather than just telling them to “work it out”.

Just for today, let’s try to be compassionate and open to the world and not so jaded.  The world is still a beautiful place, even if you have forgotten that it is so.

Just for today, let’s slow down enough so we have time with our children.  Let’s ask for help so we don’t have to take our children to 4 different stores to run errands.  Schedule time to just be present.  Play a game with your children, and enjoy them!

Just for today, let’s evaluate whether or not the amount of things we are doing inside and outside the home is truly feasible for any one human being and let’s brainstorm ways to stop.

Just for today, let’s limit our time with the screens and go be with our family members. 

Just for today, let’s use our words with each other like pearls and remember that we are all tender and precious human beings.

Love to you all,

Carrie

Sexual Education for Children Under the Age of 7

I have myself  received and seen many questions on other on-line forums and discussion groups regarding sexual education for the child under the age of 7.  Children are very curious about their bodies, about other children’s bodies and yes, about sex.  This especially occurs at age four and again at age 6.

I have no problem calling a vagina a vagina or a penis a penis or talking about how boys and girls are different.  I personally am very grateful our Creator made us different!

However, when a six year old starts asking direct and specific questions regarding  how a sperm gets into an egg or how “males and females mate” or something very direct along those lines, I have a few thoughts.

From an anthroposophical perspective, the child is a spiritual being on a spiritual journey.   We address the under-7 child with these questions the same way we address other questions children under-7 child asks.  We provide pictorial imagery through fairy tales (think of the number of fairy tales where a baby just “shows up” after the parents wish for a baby- Thumbelina comes to mind, the Polish tale of The Hedgehog Prince and many, many of the Grimm’s tales).   These really point to the spiritual longing for a child to be a part of the family and I  think is a lovely thing not to bring in right the moment a child asks a pointed question, but at bedtime or at other times since you know this is on your child’s mind!  (Yes, nothing like asking a pointed question that like in line at the grocery store and you launching into a repetitive version of The Hedgehog Prince right then and there, LOL). 

Nature tales, not pointed factoid nature tales of animals mating, but of animals creating a family and a space for new life also come to mind.  Looking for animal babies on nature walks, looking for baby birds in nests, rejoicing at all the new life about and around is an important part of establishing reverence for

Some families answer these types of questions from a religious or spiritual  perspective and say that God helped put the baby inside Mommy, or that the baby choose the Mommy and Daddy and big brother or sister and how lucky we all are!  Sometimes if you are just calm, warm and silent for a moment the child will provide their own answer to their very own question!  That is a special thing to be witness to!

You may say, well, if my child is asking a very direct and pointed question, isn’t it my job to answer that question?  Yes, but in an age appropriate way.  A six-year old is not ready to hear an intricate accounting of sexual intercourse and is at the height of sexual curiousity and  play, so  providing pictorial imagery that coincides with the wonder and beauty of new life is most appropriate.  The more factual (and often devoid of wonder and reverence) descriptions found in “child discovery” kinds of books can be kept for later as the child reaches greater depths of understanding and maturity than an under-7 child possesses.

Sometimes children ask us innocent questions and are not asking us to provide the factual answer we as adults think they are asking.  The point is not to pull them into their heads regarding all this, but to point out this journey of new life that is created by love.  Honor that, cherish that, nurture that, and provide the right information in the right way at the right time.

Blessings,

Carrie

Parenting the “High-Needs” Older Child

This post is one that has been hard to write, as there are many varying perspectives out there.  Typically one reads something along the lines of, yes, there are children who have “difficult”  behaviors, but if Mother and Father just get through it, the child will grow up to be a wonderful person.

Sometimes it seems these authors never really had a child with “difficult” behaviors to be gotten through for years on end, right?? 

I am talking in this post about children who are essentially within normal development, not children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorders or autism spectrum disorders. 

I have a few things that I have found to be helpful with my own “higher-needs, intense child”, not in any special order:

1.  Get rid of that label. When I first was a parent, I thought “high-needs” was wonderful…..Now  I think this label serves its purpose when the child may be in infancy so you don’t feel as if you are going insane, but really as the child grows, I think it is better to just accept where they are and what things are more challenging for them than labeling it.   Every child brings challenges and things that need balancing and guidance and I think that can be easy to lose sight of if you consider  your child “hard” and everyone else’s child “easy”. 

I have also heard too many parents refer to their “higher-needs” child with the child standing right there!  The child truly does understand this, and even if you think this is a nice way of saying “difficult”, the child translates it as such and feels something less than positive about themselves!  Stop it!  Stop telling the horror stories of your child’s infancy if your child is there, and even see if you can re-frame those thoughts in your head before they come out of your mouth.   How about these instead:  “We got through together the best we knew at the time.”  “We did a great job in that situation.”  “There were positive moments.”  

Positive thoughts equal positive parenting, which is often exactly what this little person needs and longs for because sometimes these children are not the first to look on the sunny side!

Secondly, think about the fact that human development takes a LONG time and that three, four and five and even six  is still little, is a period overall of rapid growth and often disequilibrium, and that in many cultures the child is perceived as  not really having a set personality from infancy onward the way we look at this in the  United States.  Ask yourself, how would I be treating my child if I thought this “higher needs”  was not so ingrained within them?  Would I be able to be calmer and patient because I was guiding them, teaching them?  Maybe not, but interesting food for thought.  Your child may be a much, much different person at 7 or 8 than even at 4,  5 or 6.  Seriously!

2.  Stop drawing individual attention to that child’s behavior as much as possible, and accentuate the positive as much as possible. Less words for judging (because even saying, “Gosh, you are feeling aggressive today!” or “You are  being so persistent” is judging in my book.  Why go there?).  Try meditating over your child while they sleep, try warm hugs and smiles, try really looking at the positive with your own warmth toward the child and finding the humor.  Humor can diffuse a lot.

3.. Understand normal developmental stages and what works best – less words and don’t reason,   more movement, more play, more imagination, more humor. 

4.  Be ready to accept your child’s behavior, pull back and be okay with that.  This can be a real challenge for the adult, and I have been there.  It was a challenge for me.    So your three-year-old doesn’t do well at playgroups, so what?  It used to be a child really didn’t have any play dates until they were over four and a half or so – maybe there was wisdom in that!    It used to be small children were mainly at home with siblings and not off to gymnastics and art and museums and such.  If your child doesn’t do groups well, look at it not as a character flaw, but normal development!  It is really okay, and again, unless your child has been diagnosed with some sort of autism spectrum, it is likely to change as they grow. 

5. Be calm and be patient.  Try to understand things from your child’s point of view, and let your RHYTHM carry things. Have some limits that just include what you do, “We will play after lunch.”  “We wash our hands after going to the bathroom.”  We works really well.

6.  Be aware of any reflux, food allergies or things within the environment that your child is sensitive to that triggers things not going well.

7.  Make sure this child is getting enough rest and sleep.  That is an absolute cornerstone of rhythm.   

8.  Are you feeling positive and centered? C’mon y’all, you knew I was going to say that one!  Work on your own stuff so you can be what this child needs.  Guard your words and your thoughts toward the positive and away from the negative. 

Most importantly, FORGIVE YOURSELF.  You are a wonderful mother, you are working hard, you wouldn’t be thinking and worried about this otherwise!  Give yourself a break!  Love yourself and use that as a model for how you can love and forgive your child!

9.  It is okay to help your child play.  Children under the age of 7 are in the height of the imitative phase, and may NOT be able to come up with what to play out of their heads.  It is okay to help them out – set up play scenes, give them ideas (“I am the old woman of the villager who is washing dishes and you are coming to my village on  a train!  Here is a train cap and train whistle!”)  Invite them to help you with practical work.  Tell them stories and things that may spur their play.  Your oldest child might really need this help, your younger ones will have the older one to imitate.

10.  Try to spend some time alone with this child every day in a positive way.  Whether this is just curled up together reading a book, tossing a ball, rolling around on the floor, just be together. The more you are together in positive ways  the more  you can love each other.

11. Again, this post was not geared toward children who have been diagnosed with something specific, but if you think your child is having issues with anger, or processing sounds or textures, or whatever, get help.  Don’t wait!  Trust your gut instinct because you are the expert on your child,  you know your child best, and you are the advocate for your child!

Peace and cyber – hugs,

Carrie

“The Brain Trust”

Not too long ago, my husband took me aside and talked to me about my life.  He essentially said there were several friendships and organizations he noted I was nurturing, but he could tell the effort I was putting forth was not being met equally from the other side.  (Has anyone out there ever had that experience?)  He explained to me that he would love to see my cultivate some friendships that were especially supportive to me and nourishing to me.  He asked me, “Who in your circle of friends truly nourishes you when you spend time with them? Have you seen any of them lately?”

Well, I sat down and made a list and then I picked three ladies off my list whom I don’t get to see as much as I used to, and I picked up the phone and called them.  We all agreed to meet for dinner at a local restaurant without our children for  true night out to nurture ourselves as women and as friends.

What a delightful and illuminating evening!  What wonderful, frank conversation we had as we discussed our lives and held council together.  Three wonderful souls surrounded me that night, and I hold them as my “brain trust” – the women with whom I can speak with and garner support from.

How much time are you spending on friendships or organizations or on things that are just not nurturing your soul?  Or, conversely, do you have any close friends whom you can really talk to?  I think every woman really needs that. 

My husband is my best friend, but he often reminds me men can be true problem solvers and not always as patient regarding the “venting” of life that another woman can provide.  Other women can give us strength and wisdom as we travel this path.

I urge you to connect with your close friends and value your relationship,

Carrie