It has been quiet here lately, I am busy working with future teachers and spending as much time with my family as possible. Today is the International Day of Peace, and I had to take a moment to pause and comment here.
Our world is hurting. Our neighbors are hurting. We are hurting. This is a time that can be overwhelming and scary. I want to hold my son close and shut the world out to protect him. That isn't protecting him, though, and it is not helping to be an agent of change.
I feel like we need to stand side by side and grasp hands and imagine that we have those tummies that shine love and rainbows, like the Care Bears. But that isn't enough. We need action. We need to speak up and speak out. We need to stand up to the rhetoric of hate and fear and division-- we are LOVE. We are PEACE. We are ONE.
Our children deserve a world where they are not judged by the color of their skin. Our grandchildren and their grandchildren are counting on us, right now. STAND UP to hate. SPEAK OUT against division. SHARE your love. Our world needs it.
My heart is hurting right now, friends. It is hurting for those families and communities that have lost loved ones. It is hurting for families that have to have difficult conversations and second guess the clothing choices that they make, just to keep their children safe. My heart is hurting for those families that choose not to talk about racism and perpetuate the belief that different lives are worth more or less, based on the color of skin, or where one is born.
I don't usually use this forum to talk about things that could be construed as controversial, but I am not going to be silent any longer. Our country is hurting too much. Too many people have sacrificed for the progress that has happened for us to go backwards. There is still so much work that we need to do together, as a community and as a nation. And here is the thing--- our children are watching us. Our children are listening to us. Our children see how we actually live and treat others-- the real us-- not the "post this on Facebook and it's all good" us, but the real us. The real us that has to look in the mirror and address our own biases and our own racism and our own privilege(s).
As an early childhood educator, as an instructor who works with teachers in training, as a small business owner, as a mom, as a human---- we need to start empowering our children to speak up when they see something not right. We need to empower our children to speak up for those that don't have a voice, or whose voice is silenced. We need to talk about how we do have differences and how those differences impact that person and that family, that neighborhood and community. As a white middle-class woman, I have the luxury of a certain safety and security, one that I often take for granted and don't even realize or think about. That is not right. My son will probably not have to worry about being profiled, or judged based on his clothing or his appearance, before he even utters a word. That is not the case for too many people in our community.
This is big work. This is hard work. This is work that people might want to ignore and wish it would go away. It won't. Is it uncomfortable talking about racism? Is is uncomfortable thinking about your privilege? Guess what- for the individuals and families who live with this reality every single day-- we must. We must work side by side, in solidarity, using our own two hands, using our voices, and using our hearts and minds to create a better world for ALL.
I like to think of our family as one that isn't addicted to t.v., as someone who shares information with families about the impact of screen time on children. Time to fess up. This summer our patterns changed big time. We used to have the t.v. down in the basement, but then we rearranged furniture and shifted spaces so that we could hold summer camp in that space. So the t.v. came upstairs. Slippery slope.
I was busy with coursework, or other deadlines and the t.v. would go on, while I was sitting next to my son working on my laptop. At the end of the night, once our son was asleep, we would turn on apple tv to "unwind", just watching reruns of shows we had seen before.
We hit a breaking point this past weekend and knew we needed to take bold action. We put the t.v. in the closet. It is still there, but we made the conscious decision to shift our priorities back to our family and our relationships with each other.
This big shift caused us to move other furniture around, which led to getting into a fresh space. We made piles of things to donate and we made a huge pile of things to consign with Rhea Lana's of North Cincinnati.
This shift gave us back time as a family. We went for a walk in our neighborhood, which we haven't done in awhile, I am embarrassed to admit. It is changing how we are interacting as a family and as individuals. I know that some people may feel this is harsh, but we can still watch one episode of a show on a tablet, or get the t.v. out for Friday night movie night. For our family, we had to make this change. We needed to reconnect with each other.
My new favorite spot- curled up on the couch reading books with my son. He has always enjoyed books, but now he is requesting at least 8 books a day! YES! We have baskets of books scattered around our home, mostly non-fiction, which ignites his mind and imagination. The place on the wall where the t.v. used to be now has a map of the world, so that when we are reading about Siberian tigers or cheetahs we can find their home on the map. The old t.v. stand is now his lego homebase.
Change can be hard, but I have to say, this change is welcome, and is having impacts that I hadn't even imagined. This picture was taken before we were totally set up- we moved some of the artwork around, and shifted a few things.
How can you re-think or re-imagine your space to better meet the needs of your family? Contact me if you would like my help.
Looking for an easy weekend project that will make such an impact for your child(ren)?
Create an outdoor shelf!
* Choose a shelf that you are okay with if it gets messy/muddy/sandy/dirty, and one that will hold up to the temperature/possible moisture-- the thrift store is a great place to pick one up.
* Keep a selection of art supplies available- colored pencils, crayons, colored chalk, paper (again- recycled is okay- it will get crinkly, and that is okay!)
* IKEA has inexpensive easels which are wonderful for outdoor art creations!
* Keep a basket/caddy with garden tools
* We have a small basket with color wheel paddles- our son is practicing naming the colors and he goes on color searches often in our garden and in the backyard. We have conversations about rainbows and all sorts of other topics with these simple little paddles.
* We love including books on our shelf, knowing they will get warped- that is okay-- character! Hit your local library book sale, yard sales, and Half-Price books.
* We keep a few tins with other objects that are open-ended-- a container with matchbox cars and a container with models of animals. These cars and animals can travel and be used in the sandbox, in the mud/digging pit, in the stone quarry or in the water table. Drawing creations on our driveway with chalk is also fun and the animals/cars move within those spaces.
* Involve your child in the process, and encourage them to be a part of the clean-up as well.
Have fun! When I am working with parents, I remind them that our job is not to entertain our children. We provide supplies and ideas and support, then give them the space and time to create, tinker and discover. Have a wonderful weekend!
This week. Just wow. I feel like my heart has been opened wide by the events playing out around our world. It is so hard to stay present and live in the moment when you know that there are so many people suffering in countless ways. I choose gratitude and I choose love.
I am so incredibly grateful for this life that I live, with all of its challenges and quirks. The people that are in my life. The fact that I have the honor of being a mom and walking side by side with another human being. I want my son to grow up with a heart that is full of love and gratitude. I want so much for him, and at times this world is so incredibly scary. Scary to think about my child growing up in times, but even more reason for us to choose to stand on the side of love.
When I started writing this post, it was going to be a story about how my son is reminding me to find my own zen. To be a stone in the river and let stuff flow past. Can I tell you how many times I feel like I have to fight with him to sit in his carseat? I was becoming a version of myself that I didn't like- so instead of arguing and pleading and fighting, I simply closed his door, went around to my side, sat in the drivers seat and just waited. I told him that we could go once he was sitting in his seat. Do you know what? He was in his seat so fast! He was arguing with my husband about dinner. Once we stepped away and just did our thing, he took himself out to the table and sat down and ate. Fighting us about bedtime- we both went into our office and he came in and got large sheets of paper to color on and fell asleep on the floor within five minutes. Be the stone, my friends-- don't get sucked into the battles. Let if flow. Clearly he is working through something right now and needs to feel like he has more control, so the less we try to control him, the better it is all the way around. Are there non-negotiables? Of course, but it no longer feels like a daily struggle.
That is how life is. I will stand up for my beliefs and for justice and love and acceptance, but I am not going to get sucked into the comment sections on Facebook and other outlets. I tried it. It is such a drain. People are going to believe what they want to believe, and behind the anonymity of a computer screen, people can be very nasty. So again, I choose love. Love and respect for myself to know that I don't need that. Our kids don't need that. Turn off the t.v., get outside and be together as a family. Spend time in your front yard talking with your neighbors. Build your community on a local level and the ripple spreads. Be love.
Memorial Day... growing up, this weekend meant that our family would be spending time at our neighborhood pool. It brings back memories of countless potlucks and cook-outs, friends and family, and the beginning of summer.
I encourage you to celebrate Memorial Day with your family and to consider the true intent of this holiday- to remember and honor those who have died in service for our country. There are many great books that you can share with your child, and ways that you can make this holiday more real and concrete for children. It is a fine balance with young children, but I believe that it is important to give your children information that they are able to understand.
Talk about how there are men and women who are no longer living because they were protecting our country and our freedom. If your family has a connection to a service person, talk about that person and their role in helping to keep us all safe. Consider going to a parade so that your child is able to participate in an experience in their community honoring local service-people. Talk about the American flag and how the reason why it flies at half-staff on Memorial Day.
There are many organizations that are accepting monetary donations to held defer the cost of placing flowers on the graves of our fallen soldiers. A simple internet search will give you some options. You could also participate in local events- here in Cincinnati, Spring Grove Cemetary has a number of events. Check your area for events hosted by various groups.
I had the opportunity to help create a special space for children at my chiropractor's office-- this project was one close to my heart.
We have all been to waiting rooms before with our children, and we go back and forth with wanting them to be occupied but also worried about all of the germs on the plastic toys. This project was all about supporting the mission of this incredible woman to serve children and families- her entire family is involved in her practice, and it is so obvious how much heart and love she pours into her life calling. This is a prepared space for the children, to meet their needs and maintain the healing energy.
The goal of this design was to keep the peaceful flow going throughout the office. There are no cartoons playing. Instead, there is a space for children to relax and prepare for their adjustment, or to wait while their parent gets adjusted. The space is designed for babies up through middle childhood. Talk about a wide range of developmental needs! The key is to simplify. We used a few pops of color, and found books that each age range will enjoy, plus a comfy rug and pillows to settle in and look at the variety of books. We included a special book that a patient wrote! We also included some stuffed animals and puppets, a few toys for babies/toddlers, and an etch a sketch and pattern blocks for the older children.
The best part is the paintings on the wall- Doctor Stephanie's three children are the artists!
This is what it is all about-- family. It was such fun to design this space.
Whew. How did that happen? My son has exactly one week left at school. It has been a year of growth and challenges and grace. His teachers are amazing, and it has been a year of me learning to let go and trust his experience.
Now we have the summer ahead- no big plans for vacations, just spending time together as a family and creating/protecting opportunities for him to be a child. If you read my posts, you know we are a fan of mess, and encouraging independence, and TONS of exploring and discovering.
I have had conversations with parents lately about their summer plans, and some have expressed concern about what they are going to do with their children all summer. I am not going to entertain my child- we are taking time to deliberately create a prepared environment for him in our backyard and in our home. We will have lots of trips to the library, and maybe join a story time, and we will be hosting a summer camp here for children for a few weeks, but other than that, our summer will be largely unscheduled.
Children (especially my guy!) need structure, so we will create summer routines with the flexibility to take a short road trip to visit Grammy and Grampy, but really--- unscheduled. Big time. Will my son be bored this summer? Potentially, but in that boredom he will realize that he has the power to create. When we continually entertain and schedule our child's days, they lose the ability to choose and to develop these skills.
What to do?
* Keep a basic routine and expectations- they have to help make bed/get dressed/etc.
* We are going to limit technology/tv time- our new routine has been pizza party Fridays and we watch a family movie
* Declutter toys- simplify-- have something that your child can use to build with- depending on their age/ability- wooden blocks/legos/recycled boxes to create structures; have supplies that they can create with- paint/markers/tape/glue/paper/sidewalk chalk; have books that they can read; provide a variety of spaces for them to be comfy and have alone time
* Follow their lead- if they request friend time, then set it up, but again-- don't over schedule.
* If you have a summer nanny or college/high school sitter, go over your expectations and family rules so that you are all on the same page
* Summer camps are fun ways to meet new children and new ideas, but for some children, a new experience like that can cause anxiety. You know your child the best and what makes them thrive and what their triggers are... trust your child.
* Traveling with your child-- I will write an entire post on that- but my biggest suggestion-- go into the experience with patience, an open mind and prepared to support your child through the experience.
Biggest advice--- keep it simple. Truly. Keep everything simple. Don't over think/over-plan/over-schedule. Sometimes we get so caught up in creating this Pinterest worthy childhood that we forget that all our child wants is to know that they are safe, that they are loved, and that they are known, their interests and passions are supported and acknowledged.
So here in our little part of the world, we have experienced so.much.rain this spring!
I have been reading (and re-reading) so many books all around getting children connected/re-connected to nature. There are so many resources out there that promote children's interaction with nature. Don't feel like you have to tackle it all at once, one small step at a time. For example, I used to keep the "lock" engaged on my son's window in my car so that I controlled the air that he received. New perspective--- he started copying me and wanting "fresh air" so I have backed off quite a bit on that little lock. Something so small and simple, but one that makes a huge difference for him. We go the long way around to his school so that we are able to drive through the woods/local park, with our windows down, sunroof open, allowing our lungs to breathe in clean air and to feel the wind on our faces. He noticed the smell of the woods on the way to school this morning-- with all of the rain, that classic woodsy smell was obvious, and he was intrigued.
Back to this rain, and what to do with you children! GO OUTSIDE! Invest in a few pairs of rain boots, a good raincoat, and know that there will be mud and mess. Deep breathe. It is all washable. Giving your child "permission" to jump in the puddles and feel the rain on their faces- to navigate over a slippy muddy patch of grass, to witness how the animals respond to the rain.... I guarantee you will see things that you would otherwise miss if you were nice and dry in your home.
Prepare ahead of time- keep an old towel handy near your door where you/your child will be entering once you come back inside. We bought one of those black shoe liner mats and it has been a lifesaver this winter and spring. Boots/shoes come off immediately and go there. Depending on the level of mud, my son might take off his wet clothes and put them into the dirty laundry bin inside our door (which also collects our cloth napkins from meals). Sometimes he takes a bath, sometimes we cuddle up on the couch and talk about/draw what we observed, and other times he wants some alone time and plays by himself.
If you aren't quite ready yet to venture out in the rain with your child- bring back something that was a staple of my childhood--- fort building! Super easy, and so much fun! Children often need a little nook or space that is their own- this is such a great way to engage their imagination and problem solving skills. Blankets, pillows, and I have used waldorf clips in the past to secure sheets together as well.
Talk about the rain- I am sure your child is curious about it. Head to the library or your local bookstore to find some books on rain and on the weather. Encourage your child to draw/write what they observe. I have seen families make "weather calendars" before.
Know that all too soon, the heat and humid summer months will be here, this is the moment to pause and enjoy this season.
Mother's Day.... for some of us, it is a happy day full of joy and love, but for others, it is a day that is painful because our own mamas are not with us, or our children are not with us, or our unborn babies are gone.
Take a moment to acknowledge those women who have helped you on your path as a mama. Our doulas, our teachers, our nurses, our caregivers- these women love our babies as our own. Think about all of your friends who are moms-- I am sure you have seen the commercial floating around with the "different types of moms"- wherever you find yourself, know that you are not alone. There are women who have come before us and led the way, and we will do the same for the next generation. It is this incredible circle of love and support.
Being a mom is one of the hardest things I have ever done- there is a level of humility and awe and frustration and pain, but the joy and the gift to witness and walk alongside another human being is like nothing else. My mom is pretty amazing. She has 5 children, and raised us as individuals with different dreams and interests. She is my model of how I want to be with my son. Do I stumble and make mistakes? Absolutely. In those moments, I know I am learning a lesson, and my 3 year old son is the best teacher.
Mamas, I acknowledge all that you do for your children and for your families. I acknowledge the intense joys and the struggles- I share your pain and your grief and your confusion. I celebrate with you.
Try to carve out some time just for yourself on mother's day- you have been on an incredible journey and so often we forget to take care of ourselves. Let go of expectations, take a few moments to reflect on all that you have experienced as a mom, and set an intention for the coming year. Honor those who have helped you on your path, reach out to another mom, let's continue lifting each other up and strengthening our sisterhood.
Beth is a mom first and foremost. She is also a trained Montessori teacher who is passionate about making the lofty ideals of the Montessori philosophy more real and manageable for families.