It has been pretty darn hot lately, right?
And with the heat and high humidity, we often end up spending more time inside to stay cool. That’s not the way most of us want to spend a summer day.
And then when bedtime approaches, you might find that your children still have some extra energy to burn off – or just need a calming change of scene – some time to unwind before bed.
That’s what Theo and his mom decided on one of these hot and sultry evenings. And so they took a pajama walk.
A pajama walk – I love the idea of it!
Alright – I admit – I have gone out for the newspaper – in my pajamas – but that just does not qualify as a pajama walk.
A real pajama walk takes place after relaxing in the bath, putting on cool pjs, and walking with a special person – to talk, to laugh, to connect.
The temperature might still be warm, but the sun is setting, and there’s a special peace in the neighborhood.
A special moment for a mom and her boy.
I’ve heard sibling rivalry described as not rivalry between sibling and sibling, but actually between sibling and parents.
Hmmm! That’s something to think about.
It does make sense though. Children always want their parents’ attention – and so when they hit their sibling, take toys away, shut them our of their room, tease them to tears – that’s what they get – their parents’ attention.
Negative attention for sure – and then …nobody really feels like they won.
So is there any easy answer?
Well, we could start by noticing and commenting when the siblings are actually enjoying each other, or helping one another, or sharing, or protecting. Just a quick comment, “nice job”, a high five, a wink , a quiet thank you as you kiss goodnight.
It might be that you have to really search at first for the smallest positive interaction.
But if you pay attention – if you begin to notice – something small just might turn into something significant… like sibling friendship.
It’s definitely there – but sometimes children just need their parents to help them find it.
Conversing with a young boy of almost five years old on Friday at Play Shoppe, I listened as he told me what he knew about dinosaurs.
And then he wrapped it up by sharing that dinosaurs “are ‘distinct’ – ‘astinct’ – I mean ‘instinct’ “ he finally decided upon as he slipped off to play.
I enjoyed that.
And so I have been thinking about instinct.
As parents, we often hear the question, “what’s your instinct telling you?” For instinct is our natural intuitive response. It’s when you know in your heart – in your gut – what you should do.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you don’t seek professional help when needed, or advice from friends. But it’s listening and sorting out what works for you and your family.
I see this often in “seasoned parents” who have weathered through many a challenging decision with their children and find now they are more confident to trust and listen to their internal compass.
So the next time you are faced with a new parenting situation and you’re trying earnestly – like my young friend – to choose exactly the right word – the right response – take some time.
And listen to – and trust your instinct.
Sometimes you’re just happy you did something – something you could have ignored.
That was Saturday morning for me – and I believe the other parents and families from The Parenting Place Parent Advisory Committee who attended the Hmong Cultural Community Day Celebration at the Hmong Center in La Crosse felt the same.
What a warm and friendly reception we received from all – so happy to have us there. And our families experienced pieces of Hmong historical culture, their dress, their dancing, their language, their food.
A salute in Hmong to some Hmong Viet Nam War Veterans who were there in uniform brought questions from one school-age boy in our group to his mom who will continue the conversation and offer more information to this curious boy.
Another young girl was so thrilled watching the young girls dancing in traditional costumes.
And other children enjoyed the sticky rice and the colorful cool and refreshing tapioca drink offered as part of a large spread of traditional food.
So yes – it was a morning to experience cultural differences, but overwhelmingly it was even more a morning to experience so many similarities.
And they were abundant – as young families with babies, older generation with smiles on their faces watched and visited while children the same age as those in our group – ran and laughed and jumped and splashed in the bouncy houses and pools filled with water.
There were no differences there – just families sharing a beautiful summer Saturday morning.
It only takes a turn of the head for a “quick -on- his- feet- toddler” to slip through a cracked- open door. That’s what happened at Play Shoppe on Friday morning.
Another parent and child had gone to the rest room, and the door to the playroom was closed behind them, but not tightly secured. I noticed a Dad’s eyes scanning the room – the various areas where a child can get happily lost in play and exploration.
But then I noticed a different expression on his face. His child was not in the room.
And so we were both out the Playroom door and down the hall.
It was probably only a minute or two before this little guy was found, sitting cozily and quietly out of sight between two shelves in the Toy Lending Library, playing with a toy.
And now there was yet another expression on this dad’s face – one of total relief, one of immense joy, one of love.
I think as parents we’ve all experienced momentary panic when we become unexpectedly separated from our child – only to find him or her playing behind some bushes at the park, or in amongst the clothes racks at a department store, or dawdling and missing the bus at school and not being at the bus stop when you arrive to pick him up.
And so its not hard to understand the relief this dad was feeling.
And we can easily empathize with any parent’s fear and pain of being separated from their child.
And so, in my heart, I hold all parents and children everywhere – and hope for their security and togetherness.
Almost every Friday morning a few princesses show up for Play Shoppe. They might have come in princess attire from home – or else found just the right garments in our dress-up area to fit the role.
Then there’s always both boys and girls seeking out the colorful capes that swirl behind them as they run.
I’m always pleased that these princesses and knights do lots of other things besides just being princesses and knights.
In fact – they’re actually very involved with the all important work that is Play Shoppe – that is childhood – that is play.
Come with me now to last Saturday night at Logan Middle School for the Logan/Central High School production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida”.
Watching this lovely performance made me realize how much of my time is spent focusing on young children – both at work – and personally as grandparents.
For the one word that kept going through my mind was Wow! Look at these once little people, young princesses and brave heroes themselves, who grew up to be so… well, so grown -up …so... wow!
It was a wonderful performance by these gifted students. To see this many young people come together and put in hours and hours of practice – and have it unfold so smoothly and coordinated is very impressive.
The poise, the support, the effort, the energy, the maturity, and of course the talent of these young people was awesome.
And yes, actually there were two princesses in this grand show as well as soldiers which brings me back to my Play Shoppe world of young princesses and fearless knights – children who will continue to pretend, dress-up, imagine, play hard, grow up- until they too reach this other magic age of Wow!
I read recently that the women in rural villages in Africa would make their daily journey to distant wells to draw water for their families.
It was during this daily journey that these women would enjoy their social interactions of the day with one another – their personal time to engage, share, laugh, and support each other.
But after wells were installed in the villages by Engineers Without Borders, the need for this daily routine journey ended. And in the Patriarchal culture that exists there, the men no longer saw any reason for the women to meet up with one another, and the women were left feeling socially isolated.
Of course the wells were a hugely generous and much needed program that raised the health and welfare of all in the village. Yet the women felt deeply the loss of this simple but significant act of social support, sharing and interaction between them as they journeyed to the well.
All of the above – support, sharing, interaction, connection – coming to the well – sounds like what our participants seek, enjoy, and find helpful through the support programs offered at The Parenting Place – programs like our Parent Connections and Play Shoppes.
And we hear everyday how significant families believe these programs are to them.
At Friday Play Shoppe this week, we said good bye to a family who is moving – a family who attended regularly – whose three children and both mom and dad contributed to the sharing and caring and purpose of our programs.
To the Mortenson family we say thank you – to their children who played so delightfully, to both parents who shared and welcomed other participants so graciously, who came “to the well” regularly and offered and received support and friendship – we wish you good luck and much happiness in your new venture.
You will be missed.