Finding Rhythm With Littles

I think this is the time of year where many mothers of tiny children are re-thinking rhythm.  Rhythm is that elusive thing, that when done in a healthful way, feels nourishing and peaceful and helpful.  It should never feel like a tight noose around your neck that you cannot live up to nor get free of.  But sometimes, finding rhythm, especially with littles, is so challenging.

So, for those of you with small children out there (and by small I essentially mean the Early Years of up to age 7, with points for consideration for those ages 7-12)….

  • It is a great day if all the children have been fed, been diapered or gone to the bathroom and dealth with basic hygiene, played outside, rested or napped, and were loved with kind words, kind hands and a kind heart through the fatigue and exhaustion that often accompanies mothers dealing with small children 24/7.  All the rest, I really believe, is icing on the cake!
  • I always ask mothers who are baffled by the concept of rhythm and who are certain they don’t have any in their home to start with keeping a log of two to four days of what they are doing during each day. Usually a pattern begins to emerge around sleep and eating.  That is a great basic place to build upon!
  • There is no perfection.  I find mothers who want everything to be perfect often drive themselves to complete burn-out.  Please don’t!  People before things, as always.  With small children afoot, you may  not get a lot done, and that is okay.
  • Find your order.   The best thing to show children outside of laughter and having fun and playing is that work can be fun!  This means thinking about what piece of the things you do can be done by hand instead of by pushing a button, and then to think which of those “hand pieces” could little hands do?  That is part of rhythm, and part of purpose.  Littles weave in and out, littles make a mess behind you or in another place you are not – that is part of it.  However, there are parts they can assist with and become proficient as well.  Even toddlers!
  • Where is your rest?  I find mothers of littles are typically so exhausted.  Physical rest before other things.
  •   I think at this stage of life, your spiritual work is in your hands.  Make the work of your hands your prayer; say a prayer that instead of perfection  you are showing love and kindness.
  • Set up help and support.  Every mother needs help and support – from her spouse, from her extended family, from her friends.  Plan B, C, D, and E are really important since Plan A rarely works out in parenting!
  • Less is more. In my area, suburbs of a major metropolitan area, the amount of outside activities many 3-7 year olds are engaged in absolutely stymies me!  Three to seven year old are always far better served being at home and with small things – walks in the neighborhood, feeding the birds, care of the home and the family pet. It doesn’t need to be much more!
  • What makes you smile  and laugh?  Find that and do more of that!

Lots of love in the striving,

Carrie

 

What Are We Modeling?

I watched a little girl yesterday at the pool.  She was about four years old, and ran around the pool in hot pursuit of her older brother and his friends.  When he jumped in the pool, she jumped in the pool.  When he ran to the other side of the pool, she ran to the other side of the pool.  A mom sitting near me remarked, “Isn’t that cute?  She has to do everything he does.”

Yes, indeed, my friends.  This is the power of imitation for small children, and that is a foundational hallmark for young children in Waldorf Education in the early years.  I find though, that imitation extends far beyond the early years.

Children not only imitate what they see, what they hear.  They  also absorb our energy, our attitudes, our  ways of dealing with things right down into their soul. This is all the more reason to work on “our stuff” – whatever that spiritual stuff may be.  All the more reason to deal with our trauma – our own the trauma carried by how our past generations suffered.  Have you all ever read this article about how how trauma is carried through generations ?

There was an article about the ten habits of chronically unhappy people.  It was very interesting, and pointed once again to the fact that as parents and as homeschooling families, we have to be very on top of our own attitudes, views, and what we are modeling.

Every day we can get up and begin with a spiritual practice.  Many like to do this in the morning before their children awake.  I understand this with very tiny children.  However, do make sure you are modeling something of your spiritual practice when your children are awake!  Otherwise, they never see you doing anything.  This could be reading from sacred texts, meditating or praying, saying outloud positive things in response to  a situation.

Every day, I ask myself how can I model:

Gratitude for this present moment.  Accepting and finding pleasure with where things are in this moment.

Connection to others in community.  The biggest place of connection is within our homes and with our own family members living in our homes, and our extended families.  However, this can also happen in places outside the home and family.  It may happen for you through your neighborhood, through your friends, through a place of worship, through a group to which you belong.  Connecting and serving is so powerful.

Optimism

Accountability and responsibility for my own actions.  Where was I wrong? I am wrong a lot; mistakes are okay. A mistake is just moving forward with more experience.

Perspective.

What we are being called to is so much more important than what curriculum we pick, what activities our children do.  What we are doing is literally being called to stop generations of trauma, pessimism, and fear.  What we are being called to do is to help our children learn how to cope with the world.  It is not going to be perfect.  Life is messy, but let’s show them how it is done.

Blessings,
Carrie

The Heart Behind Rhythm

 

It is indeed a grievous feature of present-day life that when man meets man there is no understanding between them.” (Rudolf Steiner, 1924, p. 91 – The Roots of Education)

As the new school year is dawning, and I am thinking about how to fit in “track classes” (ones that run all year) and  subjects taught in blocks for our ninth grader, plus two other grades, rhythm is at the forefront of my mind.  But it really isn’t an intellectual function, a head function,  to look at rhythm, is it?   It is a function of the heart and being able to breathe. The breath is something mentioned in Waldorf Education  over and over again. Our physical breath comes from movement, but perhaps it is safe to say that the breathing of our soul forces come from rhythm and the balance that rhythm brings.

It is a function of our love and our kindness toward our families to have unhurried time, unrushed time and to be able to give our children the gift of long periods of time at home in which they can sink into play and rest and dreams.  The most fundamental deep place where rhythm comes from is the cosmos inside of us, and from love and kindness.  This post from Cedar Ring Mama in 2012 has stayed with me for some time. If you haven’t read it recently, you can find it  here.

In a world where we cannot seem to connect to the understanding of each other and humanity of us all, rhythm is a good place to nourish health for our children who will be leading and hopefully changing the world for the better one day soon.  We must begin with the health of these children in mind.  We encourage the base of indepedent thinking through experience when we give time in our rhythm.  We see the humanity of all mankind inside ourselves.

So, I can tell you about how I make a little chart with the 12 months on it and ideas for festivals, or how I choose subjects for blocks and look at the development of my child and where those blocks fit.  I can talk about how to plan blocks and make individual lessons breathe.  I can even tell you how I fit all the things my children need in a school year for learning into each day.  That is important in homeschooling.  But, if I don’t think about the overall rhythm to my family and how homeschooling is a part of this bigger picture of family love and kindness and healthy development, I have not led with my heart.

Kindness and love, the things that happen in unhurried time, is what matters in parenting and in homeschooling.  May all of our values be protected in promoting and encouraging our children to just be and to take time.  May they see and find the cosmos and the unity of humanity within themselves this school year so that we may all understand each other in love.

Blessings,
Carrie

5 Ways To Make Gentle Discipline Work For Your Family

Gentle discipline is not just a toolbox of tricks; instead I like to view it as the art of connecting and loving as we resolve a conflict together.  It is about hearing the other person, yes, even if that person is a toddler or someone who is small; it is about not reacting in a defensive and emotional way; and it is about forging a path as a family together where the family agenda is the priority and all needs can be met (but perhaps not all at the same time!)

There are five ways I have found to really help families as they work through problems and conflicts together:

Commit to gentle discipline.  If you have a partner in the home, commit to it as a team and agree to back each other up.  The commitment is important.  It may not always be perfect; gentle discipline is a process.  For some families, gentle discipline comes easier than other families.  Some of us have more baggage from our own childhoods to overcome.  It may feel unnatural to try to connect to a child who is being difficult in our eyes.  We may all have different things that our children do that may really bother us.  We need to be able to step in for one another when things are flaring,  and to back each other up as loving guides for our children.  We must commit to the process of connecting during conflict every day.

Know yourself and your partner and how to nourish each other.  What really upsets you and sets you off?  Does knowing what is normal for each developmental stage of childhood help you?  I find this can often help parents feel calmer, to just know what is normal for the developmental stages.      Where is your self-care?  If you are empty, it is so much harder to respond in a connected and loving way to your child.   How do you love one another so you can respond to your children lovingly and patiently so you can guide them when they are having big feelings or big things happening?  This is so important for all stages of development, but I think especially with teenagers.

What is the family agenda?  It is  incredibly hard for a child to know what is expected and how to live with the other family members in the household if no boundaries are set.  The earliest harbinger of boundaries can be found in rhythm, and this happens when children are very small.   As children grow, they can understand the boundaries (rules)  of the family reflect values of the family.  However, in order to have that, the adults of the family must get together and talk about the values you are creating together. Values are something that teenagers can respond to and discuss with you – are your teenagers’ values the same as your family values?  Why or why not? What conflict does this create and how do you navigate this?

Recognize the patterns. Most families have recognizable patterns – this is what happens, this upsets this person, this is how this person reacts.  It is hard to change conflicts within the family if you don’t ever see the patterns or if people are not willing to try something to change the patterns, especially the adults in how they react to what children do.  Who is the calm one in conflict? Who shuts down?  Who walks away? Who gets angry?

How do you resolve conflict?  Because children are not miniature adults, they are not going to reason like adults in times of conflict (and even adults often do not do well in that!)  Small children  do not need intellectualized verbal sparring in order to resolve conflict; what they often need is distraction, rhythm, a boundary that is held lovingly without many words at all, the action of restitution.   I find children ages 9-12 often function not much above these tools.  What helps to limit conflicts in these ages is boundaries that are set up ahead of time and are known.

For teenagers , decide on how you will approach conflicts.  The steps in our family, which we just wrote down recently so everyone was on the same page  include:  taking the time to calm down, making sure the problem is really and actually a problem ( some of the more verbal family members really need to write it down so the problem can be defined and not just a whole slew of emotions with nothing definable other than feelings), meet together in order to discuss  without blaming others and  in order to take responsibility for their own part in things, to really listen and paraphrase what the other person has said and then brainstorm solutions that work for the whole family.  Lastly, we forgive, affirm, or thank the other person and make restitution.  So that is a longer process appropriate for a teen who can really do these steps.

I would love to hear what you steps you think make the difference in making your family a home of gentle discipline and problem solving.    I also have many, many back posts on this blog dealing with gentle discipline if you just search.

Many blessings,

Carrie

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: July

 

July, with its long and sultry hot days, is almost here.  I am so excited that this will be a slower-paced month than our June turned out to be and can’t wait to just be home.  July feels like that – long, sometimes bordering on dull to me, but so needed in the cycle of the year for rest and rejuvenation.   With older children, I really look to summer as a season to balance out some of the other times of the year when we are busier.

Here are the things we are celebrating this month:

July 3rd – The Feast Day of St. Thomas the Apostle

July 4th- Independence Day of the United States

July 25 – The Feast Day of St. James

Some of you may also be celebrating:

St. Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day is July  22 and The Feast Day of St. Anne and St. Joachim will be on July 26th.

Here are a few of my favorite things for small children:

Here are a few of my favorite things for older children/teens:

  • Swimming and sliding on rocks in creeks; maybe even venturing to a water park or splash pad
  • Catching fireflies
  • Gazing at stars
  • The Magic of Boredom

I am contemplating…

The peace to be found with unhurried time

The July Doldrums  and The July Doldrums again…  I think this July is going to not be a time of the doldrums, but just in case, I want to refresh myself!

Homeschooling planning..

is moving along.  I am usually much farther this time  of year, but I have accepted that slow is okay.  It will all get done, and I am feeling peaceful about it.  I have sixth grade mostly done, and I think I can plan first grade in about three weeks since I have been through it twice before.  High school biology, our year long course is planned, and I have a few blocks sketched out that just need to be finalized.  How is planning coming along for you?

Please share your favorite ways to celebrate the month of July!

 

 

 

Celebrating Summer Solstice

Here in the Northern Hemisphere and the United States, we are full of celebrations this week.  Today is Father’s Day, so Happy Father’s Day to all my dad readers, and tomorrow is Summer Solstice.    Our family is celebrating St. Alban on the 22nd, and the 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, affectionately referred to as “St. John’s Tide” by many and in Waldorf Education.

Here are some quick and simple ideas for celebrating Summer Solstice:

I love making little medallions of beeswax and giving them as gifts.  It is not difficult.  Melt the yellow beeswax just like for candle- dipping but instead melt the beeswax into candy molds and put a yarn loop into the top before it hardens .  Little sun molds would be wonderful, and you can hang them from a beautiful branch.

Cut lemons in vases with flowers can be lovely for decorating the table.

If you are looking for something sweet to eat, how about lemon-curd filled cupcakes?  There is also this recipe for honey cookies that could be delicious!

When our girls were little, I often would set out miniature gifts from the fairies on Midsummer’s Night for them to find in the morning.  There are sweet little ideas at  The Silver Penny.  Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream could be fun reading as well for older children.

For crafts ideas with children, how about making dragonflies and butterflies?

I know some also have bonfires and such for Midsummer; in our family we tend to try to do this on St. John’s Tide.  That day, to me, is also a time to set new intentions and to write the bad things that have happened during the year down on a piece of paper or our weaknesses and let it go in the fire.  Sometimes a stone is thrown into the center of the fire with a special prayer; sometimes the embers of the fire are for folks to jump over in gaining strength for a new endeavor or for cultivating new character traits.  Again, some do this at the Summer Solstice but we do it on St. John’s Tide.

Happy Celebrating!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

I wrote a post  a long time ago based upon my experience as a physical therapist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that consistently is one of the top posts ever on this blog.  It really was meant for those parents with premature infants or infants who were neurologically immature to be able to look for stress signs and help their infant with soothing and calming techniques.  However, that post ended up turning into something more than that….and I think this there is a reason.

What I have noticed in leading breastfeeding support meetings over the last 11 and a half years is that mothers today are almost like these infants –  they are not only new,  but super vulnerable, and feeling so stressed about trying to mother.  They are so afraid of making a mistake, and seem almost paralyzed by normal infant behaviors.

Mothers, have confidence in yourself.  YOU are the expert on your baby. Yes, it is probably harder than you thought it was going to be.  It might now be as intuitive as we thought, because many of us use more analysis and fact.   I think there are several reasons for this stressful, anxious ridden beginning that many parents today seem to be experiencing –

  1.  Many times we are afraid to ask for help, so we don’t and just try to tough it out.  If we do decide to ask for help, we turn to the Internet.  We don’t necessarily want to do things the way our parents or grandparents did so we don’t ask them, but when we turn to the Internet, we often get  100 different answers/choices/experiences on any given topic, which is confusing.
  2. This leads to decision-making fatigue.  How do we know which one of the answers/choices/experiences is the RIGHT answer?  We might be messing these poor babies up FOREVER.
  3. The stakes seem to be too high to make a mistake.
  4. We are exhausted.  No one told us it would be like this.  We don’t have a lot of support,  we have too many decisions to make,  and we can’t decide what the answers to these topics or infant behaviors are, and it seems too mystical.

It is so hard.  Parenting is often about trying things and learning to let go, making the wrong choice and having to make it right, or discovering that the things that worry us so were just not that big an issue after all.  And I fear sometimes that as a society we are wearing ourselves out on these small things, and we therefore have less energy for the really big things that  matter and happen as children grow and go through developmental stages.

I think finding people in real-life who can help you – whether that person is the grandma down the street in your neighborhood, a caring health care professional, a support group,  or friends you really trust – can  be helpful.  Staying off the Internet can also be helpful – it will give you a lot less decision fatigue.  See if you can figure out what is going on, what YOU think,  before you turn to the Internet and look it up.  Find some trusted resources.  I think when we had our first child, we wore the pages of Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book” right out.  It was my reassurance because even though I worked with a lot of infants and very sick infants, this baby who was not on a monitor and did full-term baby things was challenging!  And that brings me to my last point: before you have children, it would great to spend some actual time with babies and toddlers.  If you didn’t grow up in a large family or babysitting frequently, you may not really know the normal things that babies and toddlers do.  Pregnant mothers are welcome at many support meetings and that can be a good place to start!

Let’s stop the epidemic of anxious stress that pervades our parenting beginnings.  Let’s take it back down to enjoying the beginning of the newest life in the family.

Much love,
Carrie