a job

Trying to keep children entertained during long summer days?  How about giving them a job?

As parents we often miss a golden opportunity to engage our children, from a young age – when they are most eager to participate – to help us in meal preparation. And summertime produce lends itself so perfectly to this task.

While shucking the corn on the cob that we enjoyed this weekend, I remembered doing this as a child with my two sisters.  There were six siblings – so my m0m always fixed a lot of sweet corn – and the job of shucking fell to us.

We thought it was fun, sitting in the back screened porch, playing with the corn silk, watching out for the occasional worm living inside – and, oh yeah, husking the corn.

I think we all recognize that when parents are in the kitchen, preparing and busy, that’s when our young ones always need “something”.  I think that “something” is usually because they love and want to be involved in what we’re doing – “real work”.

So – let them.

Pull up a chair to the sink.  Give them carrots to  wash, potatoes to scrub, fresh peas to shell (watch them eat most of them!), green beans to snap off the ends and break in half (a job of “very great importance” to a young child.

Having roasted veggies for dinner?  Let your child arrange them on the pan – now this could turn into quite a creative process. How about a mindful, peaceful job like peeling off the onion skin for you?  I know one little guy who thoroughly lost himself in this careful endeavor.

And, are you ready for this?  Put the garlic cloves you need pressed in a plastic bag, and let your child smash them with the back of a spoon.   Now there’s a job most children would not turn down.

Or did you hope to do that?

Once you get going, you’ll start to think of all manner of things a child can do to help- sorting, stirring, pouring.  There’s so many positives for both you and your children – involvement, mastery, pride – and most significant – positive time spent “working” and “being” together.

You just can’t beat that.

For fresh summertime produce, check out The Cameron Park Farmer’s Market (a fun family outing besides!),The Kane Street Community Garden, where everyone can get involved, and the various other farmers’ markets in La Crosse and the surrounding communities.

 

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a magical world

A little boy – not quite three years old – played in the yard as the adults around him chatted.

And when one sees small pieces of bark and twigs in the grass, one sees boats – when you’re almost three – and your imagination is rich.

He brought the first little “boat” alongside the house to an empty planter he discovered.  On his way back, he announced that the little boat “misses his family”, so that began the one-by-one migration  of all the boats to join the others.

Now they were a family – a together family.

He was pleased.  Yet something was missing.  This young boy  knew about boats –  and when you have boats, you need to ask for some water, of course!

And then as we watched the boats floating in the water, I was unable to resist.  My own imagination kicked in.  I picked a leaf off a nearby plant.  How about a sail?

His look was priceless – as he waited expectantly for me to fasten the stem (I mean the sail) in a very primitive but very acceptable manner.

Watching this little guy play, watching the satisfaction and joy on his face as he carried out the “story” in his head – energized me, gave me hope.

Maybe we can be saved from the world of Pokemon Go.

Maybe, just maybe, the magical world can be our own.

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Words

As parents we are often surprised to hear our own words coming out of the mouths of our children.

Sometimes these words are cute, hilarious, entertaining in a fashion – sometimes embarrassing, sometimes shocking.  However, one thing we can guarantee is that little ears are listening to what we say to them  – and to and about others – and these words will spill out in often the most appropriate or inappropriate moment.

This past week, on the national news, I listened to a haunting recording of a 4-year-old little girl comforting her mama who was hysterically grieving at the sudden death of her boyfriend.

The little girl, in her car seat in the back of the car, had witnessed the crisis situation ongoing in the front seat.  But it was when she heard her mama’s unbearable grief that the words of comfort came out of her mouth – repeating them to her mama –  as most likely, at sad or scary times –  she had heard them repeated to her, over her four short years.

“It’s okay – it’s okay – I’m here with you Mommy.”

“It’s okay – it’s okay – I’m here with you Mommy.”

The words we choose to share and say to our children become who they are, become what they believe, become what they can offer to the world.

And this little girl, helpless to do anything else, remembered them, spoke them in hopes they could work the magic that happened when those same words were spoken to her.

“It’s okay – it’s okay – I’m here with you Mommy.”

Blessings to this little girl with the loving heart and the huge emotions, and the right words.

 

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C.S.T

Summer – it’s a heady time of year!

There’s much going on and the weather is fine – so schedules be gone – let’s do it!

Except –

Hearing from parents conflicted about too late bedtimes for their little ones – resulting in too many cranky, dis-regulated children.

Hearing from parents expressing concern about too many activities, too much to choose from – children over-stimulated, not listening well, wild.

So –

A little bit of being off-schedule for your family goes a long way.  Young children focus and thrive best when they know what to expect – when predictability is strong and comforting – when routines are present.

But –

We already know this – so how do we deal with too many options, too many obligations to choose from?

Well –

Don’t take on more than your family and you can handle.  Less is often more.  Turn down an invite or two just to hang out at home – run through the sprinkler, lie in the hammock and read together,  dig in the sandbox.  Let the day stretch ahead with no particular agenda.

Let the children feel the peacefulness, let everyone feel the pause.

Because, as much as we want to be part of what’s happening, to take advantage of every opportunity for our families, the truth is – children fare best in their own time zone, no matter where they live – C.S.T. – Children’s Standard Time.

And in C.S.T., children find their play, their peace and their pace.

Embrace it.

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high expectations

Am I expecting too much?

I hear that from parents of children of all ages.  And sometimes the answer is clearly “yes” and sometimes the expectations just need some tweaking.

Parents explain “I just want her to…”  “why can’t he do …” why is she so negative?” … “I know she can do this…” “why   won’t he listen?”

I think the measure for ourselves as parents is to recognize that new skills and changes in behavior take time.  When our expectations for our children become too high, too soon, too insistent -too important to us – our children will react, with behavior that says “no”, “I won’t”, “You can’t make me.”

Little children – big emotions.

And that’s your gauge, your time to slow down, take a break.

For young children have radar and they recognize and react to the stress in a parent – that pressure from us as parents, caught up in our own agenda.  So easy to do – sometimes so difficult to recognize. But as Polly Berrien Berends, author of Whole Child/Whole Parent tells us, “What governs a parent governs a child.”

So when we feel resistance, negativity, stress in our children, we need to take a break, and reflect on our own intentions, stress and behavior.

Slow down a bit and check on our connections.

There might be a loose one that an extra hug, a cozy lap, a listening ear, or some playful giggles shared might fix.

Love trumps all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shells

While on my recent trek to my childhood hometown, Sag Harbor, on the very eastern shore of Long Island, New York, I visited the lovely beach I went to as a child.

To my delight, it remained unchanged – and the years peeled away as I waded in the water and collected sea shells on the beach.

This past weekend I finally got around to sorting out my collected shells.  As I reached in and took each shell out of my bag, I realized it wasn’t that every shell was a different kind of shell, but that each shell was unique – in size, shape, feel and hue – each one very special.

And as I sorted through, my thoughts wandered to the horrific scenes of the recent shooting in Orlando – young people in the prime of their life –  also unique in size, shape,feel and hue –gone.

As parents, our children need us to nurture and value these differences in them – the personalities that flavor our families, that make our world exceptional.

As parents, we need to deliver that message of love and support to our children – loud and clear – to our friends, to our community, that we welcome and appreciate diversity in our lives.

For like my sea shells, each of us is beautiful in our own uniqueness.

               Remembering those who died and all who suffered in Orlando.

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your day

I can’t say enough about how significant routine is in a child’s life – how predictability and secure connections enable a child to understand and appreciate his/her day.

As parents, we pretty much know what we plan to do for the day – at least what we hope to do for the day.   But, how about our children?  The busier our day, usually the less time we have to inform our little ones and the faster we move.

And so as we adults soothe ourselves by checking our phones and watches and schedules, we zoom through the day, feeling on task, yet often unaware of our sometimes bewildered children tagging behind.

Letting a child in on the plan for his/her day, most especially when not a routine day, gives these young ones a sense of security – that all is right with the world – their world.

Granted infants and young children will not understand all the words –   but the sound of your voice, the assurance of your voice, is their assurance that all is okay, all will be well.

At this time of year, especially, when routines are in transit, vacations planned, company coming, this simple exchange a parent offers can help relieve tensions and fears and even behaviors that often the anxiety of not knowing can bring on.

And bonus – by doing this with your child(ren), by speaking the words aloud, it can also benefit you, provide you with a sense of order of the day ahead – one that can be faced and welcomed – together.

So…what’s your day like today?

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