maple seeds

Maple seeds – you know the helicopter ones that are fun to throw up in the air and then watch them whirly twirl down to the ground. Well, this weekend, it was the wind having all the fun with the seeds on the maple trees that surround our yard.

Our lawn and driveway and that of our neighbor’s is literally covered with these seeds.  And what’s so amazing to me is that these seeds flutter down with such purpose and intention. Their job is to embed their nose into the ground (which amazingly they accomplish) with hopes to grow and develop into a maple tree.

Every Spring we expect this cycle will occur and we watch and wait patiently (and very often impatiently) for it to end.  We accept it, acknowledge it, knowing what needs to be done; sweeping at first, raking, and at last resorting to the big blower to finish off the job.

But a few seeds always manage to escape this fate – and instead snuggle into the ground against the fence – and begin to sprout – and become a seedling and develop leaves – with hopes to being like the big maple trees surrounding them.

Hmm – sound familiar?

Development and growth can often be messy.

From babyhood to toddlers to preschoolers to school-age, children go through so many developmental cycles and behaviors, both lovely and challenging. When we realize even the difficult ones are normal – that this is how our children develop and grow on their path to becoming adults, we can learn to expect them, understand them,accept them, work with them and help our children and us ease through them.

And as parents, that’s what we do – mostly.  But sometimes, during our children’s challenging stages, we fret too much, take things too personally, compare, push, distrust – want to resort to the “blower” to stop the behavior immediately.

However, just as we can understand and appreciate the purpose and the promise of the maple seeds (in spite of their messiness) so it is with our children’s development.

We can embrace the challenges and the messiness of parenting as we trust, watch and nurture our children’s sprouting, growing, whirling and twirling, and developing into strong, mature human beings.

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ten seconds

Ask a young child a question – and you may get a blank look or stare. It is very typical of young children and deep thinkers to take up to ten seconds to respond to questions – as they go about processing their thoughts.

So often, though, as adults, we rush through – asking another question on top of the first one – trying for an immediate reply from a child – impatient, as if they didn’t understand the first one.

But there is something to be said  – and something to be learned – for taking our time, for pausing, for collecting our thoughts before answering. This is especially significant when we are reacting to our children’s many requests and endless questions.

It’s all about responding to the issue at hand versus reacting to it.

So often as busy parents, we find ourselves delivering a knee-jerk reply to an issue that had we taken the time to think it through and collected our thoughts, our interaction with our child would come from a more peaceful, positive place – a place of compassion and understanding.

That’s why maybe we can actually learn from our young children who take ten seconds to think about their answers before blurting them out.

Try it the next time your child, of any age, comes to you with a request.  Stop for a second, listen to what the request is, check out how you’re feeling about it.  Do you feel your emotions rising – are you ready to just spout out a spur-of-the-moment, off the top of your head response?

Because it’s not always necessary to give such a quick answer.

Why not request some time – “let me think about it before I decide”, “give me a few minutes”, “I need to think about it and we’ll talk about it after dinner”. Then when you have made your decision, your answer will be more composed,  more sensitive,  more clear, and your child will feel heard and considered.

For even if you have to decline permission or adjust the request in some way, your child may not be thrilled but you will have modeled a more positive way of communicating to your child.

And that’s worth ten seconds at least.

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don’t worry

Sometimes you look up (if you’re like me) from the book you’re reading and actually take notice of a TV commercial – because it works so well.

That’s the way I feel whenever I see the Gundersen Lutheran television commercial (yes – a local commercial) with a young mom standing by her infant in the neonatal unit.  She has her hand extended inside the incubator as she gently touches her baby.  The lights are low – all is quiet as the mom sings softly, over and over again, to her precious treasure – “Don’t worry – cause every little thing’s going to be alright”.

A seasoned nurse stops by unobtrusively to check something without disturbing them and then continues, quietly on her way, humming the very same tune as she goes.

I applaud this serene depiction of universal maternal love, hope, quiet determination and trust.

For as parents, we’ve all been there with our children, at varying degrees.

Whether it’s nursing common childhood sicknesses, more serious illnesses, emotional upsets, struggles, challenges,fears and pain, a parent’s love is palpable, strong, and comforting, even though our hearts may be afraid.

We often see this love come full circle.

I have an old friend now in her very last days of life.  It is her adult children who are there, holding her hand, and perhaps, silently mouthing the very same words, “don’t worry – cause every little thing’s going to be alright”.

The beauty and strength of love.

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love connections

I know a mom whose child can have strong emotional melt-downs – angry, yelling, crying, hitting. But instead of dragging this tornado of 4-year-old emotional dis-regulation to time-out and  holding the closed bedroom door shut against his struggle, she stays with him, tells him she will stay near him and keep him safe.  The outburst doesn’t stop immediately but when it does, mom is there and her son settles, snuggles into her and says “I love you Mommy”.

This wasn’t always the way for this little guy and his mom.  Time outs were the rule, taking away toys and TV time, in addition to angry shouting exchanges.  Mom took her child’s behavior personally – believed he did things on purpose.  But when she realized that he really didn’t know how to handle the big scary feelings he had built up inside him, and that he needed her to be there for him when he felt that way, the frequency of these melt-downs began to diminish.

Emotional connection – so powerful – and as necessary to our relationships with our children when they are struggling with strong negative feelings as when they are delighting us with their affection and positive behavior.

For we are their secure base in sunny times and stormy times.

And when we have been their secure base, even during the negative times, our connection will be strong.

Strong enough for what needs to be done, explained, sorted out, accomplished – with trust and with love.

If your child is experiencing melt-downs or you are just feeling at odds with each other, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125 and we can find that connection together.

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Earth Day

The rain showers have helped.  All of a sudden the colors of Spring are appearing, buds sprouting, daffodils swaying, grass greening, forsythia blooming, and lilacs looking promising.

It’s a lovely time of year – a perfect time for the celebration of Earth Day on Wednesday, April 23rd.

Earth Day – we really should celebrate – we really should take note.

Tell your children and plan something to acknowledge the occasion.  Create a new family tradition.

Plant some flowers; clean up an elderly neighbor’s yard; clean up your own yard; brush away the old leaves and debris and let your children discover life beneath; don some old gloves, grab a paper bag and choose a park or a block to pick up the litter; count the robins you see in the neighborhood; go on the first picnic of the year, even if it’s chilly; go eagle watching along the river; grab some binoculars and peek in on the baby owls in their nest in a dead tree in the marsh; climb a tree; hug a tree.

Speaking of trees, it was only last week that La Crosse saw more than a hundred ash trees on Losey Blvd be taken down. A family,  participants of The Parenting Place, was there to observe, to understand, to honor.

Oliver, five years old, was interviewed by a TV reporter as he stood watching with his dad and little brother.  Yes, he knew that “the trees had a bug, and they didn’t want it to spread – so they need to cut them down”, he told  the reporter. When asked what Oliver hoped they would plant to replace them, he answered, “maple trees so I can collect maple leaves.”

It was a sad day to see these seemingly healthy trees be toppled, one after the other, along the length of Losey Blvd. But it’s also encouraging that new trees will sprout, (maybe even maples), young boys will remember, and future good stewards of the Earth are being raised.

Happy Earth Day 2015 everyone!  Go on out and celebrate !

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Ah … sleep

Sleep – children often fight it – parents mostly crave it – for themselves and for their child.

Sleep issues are one of the most frequent concerns that arise when parents talk about their children. How can we get this child to sleep – to stay in bed – to sleep alone.

Other concerns parents have may not start off being about sleep, but after sharing tales of a child’s behavior, outbursts, tantrums, hyperactivity, it may all come directly back to a child’s need for more sleep.

In today’s busy world we live in, where expectations and doing more is valued highly,sleep often takes a back seat, becomes an afterthought.

So how can we change this drama of bedtime to the peace of dreamland?

The prime key is to provide a routine – develop a rhythm that helps your child feel and be ready for bedtime. Most parents will swear they do have a routine yet bedtime still remains stressful for all. However, there are many factors that affect whether a child accepts and responds to a bedtime routine or puts up his defenses to fight it.

Some children co-sleep with their parents, some children sleep in a “nest” on the floor in their parents’ room, some siblings share a bed, some children sleep alone. All of these situations can work to provide a good night of rest for your child and you. What’s essential,however, is to respect the value and significance a good night’s sleep can offer for your child’s well-being and for your own well-being and to keep this as a strong priority in your family’s life.

If you are one of the many parents wondering why bedtime is often challenging, call and register for the workshop “Ah Sleep” at The Parenting Place, Tuesday, April 21st from 6-7:30 PM.  Join the discussion and learn ways to make nighttime more peaceful in your home.  Call The Parenting Place – 784-8125 to register. Limited childcare is available.

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routine maintenance

It’s that time of year again for me. I want to throw open the windows and let Spring come in – let the fresh air blow and linger in every little corner.

I want to clean, organize, discard, imagine, create, make over.

I want to find every little piece of Tootsie hair, dust ball and spider web hidden in every forgotten corner.

I want to shine!

In parenting, we often go through stages where that’s exactly how we feel about our families.

We’re going to get this family into shape – make some changes around here – big ones. We set up new rules, schedules, commitments, have-to-dos, behavior charts, consequences.

We’re going all out – tackling everything.

We want to shine!

But – what we’re really creating in either one of these scenarios is, most likely, a set-up for failure – or disappointment at best.

The other day I noticed my husband walking down the driveway to converse with a city crew doing something with the street sewer. He came back, stuck his head in the kitchen door and reported, “routine maintenance”

Exactly – the real answer to this urgency I feel.

Routine maintenance is preventative. It is an essential part of the care, heart and soul of a home – or a family.

We’ve heard it before of course, but reminders are always good. I recognize how taking just five minutes a day to efficiently straighten up a different part of your house each day will maintain a sense of order in your whole home.

And, parenting experts tell us that at least five minutes of very focused connection with a child or other family member every day can restore connection and strengthen relationships.

So – maybe we need to start small. Maybe we need to take five – on our homes, our children, whatever change we want to see happen.

I bet we’ll shine!

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