Monthly Archives: August 2010

lemonade stands

Some things about summer are timeless – like lemonade stands.  Ask your parents and even your grandparents if they ever had a lemonade stand and they’ll probably have a story to tell.

My husband and I are push-overs for any children sitting at a lemonade stand, a homemade sign hanging crookedly, expectant faces ever hopeful.  We’ve even gone several blocks out of our way to return to purchase two cups after already passing by and feeling guilty as their disappointed expressions followed us.

A hot summer like this one is excellent for the lemonade business. 

 This afternoon, we stopped at a stand with a little girl selling lemonade.  I asked her how business was doing.  She had her stand neatly decorated with a vase of sparkly flowers and “taste of Madison” cups.  She reported that “actually, you’re my first customers”.

At the end of the block, we saw her competition – a group of boys huddled around their stand, some with signs on their bikes advertising their sale.

A few nights ago as I walked our puppy, Tootsie, in the neighborhood, I came across some other children selling lemonade.  Their slogan was, “Buy one, get one free”.

True appreciation – that’s what I have for these young, industrious children that come up with this idea, brand new to them, who feel the excitement and the satisfaction of  planning, preparing, organizing and working together.

Often, however, when the carefree days of summer are winding down and school opens soon,we start to panic a bit about whether our children are up to the task of applying themselves.  The urge to worry, remind, nag and hover over our children is strong.  We want them to succeed, to do their best, to follow through, to be engaged and excited by school.

So we can learn from the lemonade stands of summer. 

 Our children already have the initiative, the motivation and the desire to create, invent, cooperate, plan and learn.  Give them the time. Appreciate their efforts.

Trust them.

Here’s to a great school year ahead.

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Sit back and wait

Family Resources backyard space was finally “open for business” during Friday’s Play Shoppe.  It’s not a huge space but we’ve tried very hard to provide what we think children enjoy most – water, sand, and dramatic play choices.

As the first families arrived, however, I had to remind myself –  just give the children time – to observe, start slowly, be comfortable with the unstructured options facing them.

Many of the children did just that – stand there at first – not quite sure what they were suppose to (or allowed to) do.  But as I really knew would happen, they were soon totally engaged – mud pies baking, busy hands digging, playing in the water, driving the “semi’s”, pretending in the dinosaur garden, hammering out a jazz session on the sound wall, watering the flowers.

Jumping in too soon is something all of us adults should watch.  Always suggesting, directing, explaining what and how to do something can stiffle a child’s initiative, confidence and the selection process one uses when making choices. 

 This is especially significant when open-ended materials are involved.  There is no one way to do something –  thus the beauty of it.  It’s entirely up to individual imagination, ingenuity and experience.

What satisfaction is gleaned, however, from sitting back and waiting!

  To observe children engaged is to see children who are playing in their own zone – completely engrossed in their”work”. There is very little  “watch me” or “help me” or seeking approval or praise.

On Saturday, August 28th, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Family Resoures Children’s Festival will be held at Myrick Park. 

 It is my favorite event of the year!

We try hard to offer enough different activities, crafts and broad dramatic play opportunities to thrill every child.

There’s just one thing to remember.  I caution myself as well.  The children just might well need a moment to stop and wonder and watch. 

 Give them this time , then, step back and enjoy the results.

Children Festival buttons are available at Family Resources.  The cost is $4.00 in advance, 3 for $10.00; $5.00 day of the event.  Scholarships are available.  Call and inquire at 784-8125.

Children under 2 are free. The event is held rain or shine.

Hope to see you there!

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Sit Still

“Sit still” – do you remember hearing those words said to you as a child?  How many times do we find ourselves repeating this to our own children?

Recently I sat in the reception room at my dentist’s office waiting for my turn, along with several children and their parents.  I found it very entertaining to watch these children try their hardest to “sit still”. 

 There they sat in chairs too big for them, wiggling and twisting, swinging their legs, turning backwards, hands on the floor, then back up on their knees, straddling the arm of the chair – all this activity even as their parents whispered “sit still, please” in their ears.

I remember a sentence from a church bulletin that has resonated with me through the years.  It read, “Please be patient with the young children present at our service as it is God who put the wiggle in little children”.

What a refreshing notion – that the wiggles in our children are normal and as they should be.  It’s up to us to see that these wiggles get paid attention to – not in denying them but in celebrating them and appreciating the fact that our children are exuberant, energetic and healthy.

I am reminded of a picture book I like called Sit Still by Nancy Carlson.  A young boy just could not sit still.  His mother took him to the doctor and the doctor only confirmed that yes, it was true.  He can’t sit still.  So this wise mom decided if he couldn’t sit still, she would then find as many ways as possible to keep him busy and active in a positive way instead.

So that’s our mission.  We already know our children like to bounce and run, touch and help, create and sing, swim and dance.  Fill their day by allowing and treasuring the natural rhythm,movement, and initiative of children.

The more they are free to “shake, shake, shake their wiggles out”, the more likely they will also be able to “sit still” when sitting still is necessary.

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Collecting is all about discovering one’s passions.  They may change from age four to ten to thirty but they do, in a way, still define you.

I watched a young boy of seven wander around the park searching for just that particular rock or stick  that called out especially to him to pick up.  Then he’d run to show his mom and ask  her to please keep them safe.  His mom rolled her eyes as he darted off, but admitted to me how very much she loved his new interest. 

It’s easy to dismiss the thought of any more sticks or stones with a quick response, “You don’t need another rock.  Leave it”.

But valuing what your child considers significant and worthy to her, offers a perfect connection betweeen  the two of you, and fuels her interests and  confidence in her ability to make  choices you approve of.

As a child, I have wonderful memories of collecting stashes of chestnuts (I still love them), acorns, seashells.  Our daughter was an avid bottle cap collector at a time when bottle caps were hunted in gutters and along sidewalks.  Finding the rare one, or adding to the pile to trade, is a thrill as well as a possible strategy.

A dad recently told me how his first grade daughter saves her quarters from chores to be able to buy and add another twenty-five-cent colored stone to her collection from the Children’s Museum.

Developmentally, collecting teaches children how to discriminate, evaluate and classify as they spend time organizing and arranging their collection.  It also builds concentration and the ability to use their personal and independent time in a positive way.

Providing a place for your child to house his finds validates his interest as well as demonstrates your understanding and appreciation of his treasures.  A shelf or table top can work well and give a child a sense of pride in sharing his interest with others.

 Some children love the privacy of a box all their own.  I suggested to this mom at the park to keep an eye out for the old tin trays that are so often found at garage sales.  They allow for mobility and offer a firm workplace, even on one’s lap, to move things about and arrange.

The important thing is to refrain from dismissing their interest as unimportant, annoying, or nonsense.

Whatever captures your child’s curiosity, appreciating this developing interest will help your child trust her ability to choose and  her desire to delve further into subjects important to her.

But one word of caution.  Appreciating and sharing your child’s enthusiasm is not the same as joining in, collecting things for him, even if you think that would make your child happy.  Believe me, collections are a personal hobby. 

 Picking up a bird feather on a walk to offer to your child for her collection is thoughtful.  Getting all your friends and relatives to collect a ton of  shells on their island vacations or buying a bunch of mini airplane models to quickly increase your child’s collection will end in disappointment for both of you.

Your child’s delight in selection, choice,  anticipation, and joy will be lost.

Look forward, instead, to what your child will discover, on his own, to be his precious find, watch, and enjoy it.

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Anybody can experience burn-out.  It happens in every workplace and every profession.  It happens when we find ourselves doing too much, too fast, too repetitively and enjoying it less.

As parents, we are not exempt from this state that can leave us feeling drained, listless, disinterested, guilty, and lacking the reliable get-up-and-go that we count on.

A mom described feeling this way to me recently and was surprised when I told her it was not at all uncommon for a parent – especially a stay-at-home parent-  to go through a period of experiencing these let-down feelings.

The demands of young children, the expectations today’s parents put on themselves, the number of activities, places to go, things to keep up with begin to multiply and we can easily feel stressed and out-of-sync.

This state of mind can be troubling and we find ourselves questioning what’s wrong with me and what can I do?

The first important step to take is acceptance. Yes, sometimes I feel this way and it is okay that I do.  Parenting is demanding, challenging and exhausting at times.  It doesn’t mean I’m a failure as a parent.  It does mean I need to take this opportunity to reflect on what I’m doing and change things up a bit.

A good cry – I’m not being condescending but have you had one lately?  It doesn’t mean you’re weak or not up for the match and it can miraculously relieve the pressure and sometimes even begin the process of refocusing.

Write down what you’re feeling.  Put the pen to the paper and go – for five minutes – without worrying about grammar, punctuation or even making sense.  Just get the raw, honest emotions out.

Renew your priorities.  Make sure what you are spending your energy on is what is most essential in your life.

Simplify – meals, activities, to-do lists.  Sometimes it only takes a few days of laying low to feel ready to start up again.  Give yourself the liberty to decide.  Pick and choose the activities you want to go to.  Your children will not suffer from not attending every fun-sounding activity or learning opportunity that’s being offerred.

Soul time – that means time just for you –  to stare into space, with a cup of tea, and put things into perspective, daydream, be at peace.  Add this time to your to-do list. 

In all relationships, we reach different stages when it’s time to redefine our interactions, expectations and responsibilites.  Even with our children, we can get in the habit of doing things for them that they are ready to do themselves. Take a close look at the things you are doing that are making you feel unappreciated.

Check the children’s bedtime.  Make sure there is some time for you and your spouse or partner to connect when the children are not around.  Sometimes bedtime hours have a habit of creeping later and later.  Early bedtimes are good for both children and parents.

By the way, check your own sleep habits and adjust them to make sure you are getting enough rest.

Plan an adult activity with your spouse or partner, with your best friends.

Choose to be free from constant texting and phone calls for a good chunk of your day.

If you’re lucky to have grandparents in the area who will gladly take the children for an overnight, don’t use this precious time to get all the chores done.  Instead, sleep in, go out for breakfast, take a hike, go to the movies, communicate.

And if communication – or the lack of it (which happens easily in our busy lives) seems to be part of the equation, call Family Resources  and sign up for the Communication for the Parent Team workshop, Thursday, August 5th from 6-7:30 p.m.

Registration is necessaryLimited childcare is available for up to ten children. 

Bring along your spouse or partner.  It might just be the spark that you need.

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