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.