Monthly Archives: October 2010

Tea for two

When I start talking to parents about some of their child’s behaviors that they are concerned and frustrated about, we often begin to see that the real goal of their child’s misbehavior is attention seeking.

I talked to a mom with two children under three and a half recently.  She was feeling somewhat exasperated by the thought that her three and a half year old would be acting out for attention.  It seemed to her that, as a full-time-stay-at-home-mom, her whole day was spent attending to the children.

Almost every mom out there can relate to that feeling.  Even the comedians joke, “I do and I do and I do for you kids and that’s the thanks I get for it”.

But often, with so many demands placed on today’s parents, the missing link is not attending to their needs and requests but actual eye contact.  How often do we stop what we are doing and look our child in the eye and listen.

This particular mom got misty-eyed as she pondered this.  With a 15-month old into everything and needing more in-arms-time, constantly keeping up with things to do around the house, shopping, meals, activities to get to for the children, a husband who works long hours, the days were already packed.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing, I assured her – just a short time when her daughter would know that she had her mom’s ears and eyes.

I suggested having a tea party.  There’s something very intimate about sitting across the table from someone, chatting, listening, pouring, sharing, growing.  It opens up such an opportunity to be all ears, to laugh, to tell her about when you were little, to respond, to plan, to wonder, to notice … her.

By the way, this is not just for little girls. Most little boys I know would love to go along with a tea party, especially if they get to pour.

Tea parties can be simply sitting at a table together, sharing a hot/cold drink, (though especially important to be in a teapot) and perhaps a cookie to go along with it.

Fast forward to the middle grade years, the high school years and picture the same scene, perhaps at a coffee shop or fast food.  It might not be considered a tea party any longer, but the foundation of sitting across a table and sharing has been set.  Look forward to keeping it up, changing it up, as your child matures.

The idea of having a tea party declares to your child, there is time for just you – time for tea for two.

“Mama, put the kettle on, we’ll both have tea.”

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Children begin to learn about loss usually in very simple ways – a fly-away balloon, a smashed ice cream cone, a favorite bear left behind, a nukki “disappeared for good”. 

 But sometimes, unfortunately, ready or not, they are faced with a huge loss, such as happened this past week with the accidental death of Miss Alma, the director of the La Crosse Three Rivers Waldorf School.

I believe Miss Alma was bigger than life to these children.  She was both strong and gentle, the heart and soul of this special place. One mom whose daughter is a young teen now and no longer a student there shared a memory her daughter had.  She said she loved the way Miss Alma would put on a bandaid when you got hurt.  Snip, snap, zoop and there you go- caring, always, but matter of fact too – willing you to carry on with your play, your work.

As adults we want to protect our children from experiencing sad events.  We fear they will be too upset if they see adults sad, if they see adults cry.  But actually, this is a healthy way for children to experience grief and loss, to understand it from the inside out, to share it with others, to remember and cry, to remember and laugh.

For just as we believe children learn best by doing, they also learn best how to feel by doing, to be actively included in taking part in the process of grieving.

And this seems to be what is happening for the children and families at the school.  I’ve been told that the school was to hold a leaf ceremony for all the families and children.  They planned to walk together the four or five blocks from the school to the Black River, a familiar walk for all these school children. They would select a leaf to toss into the river with a private word, thought or prayer for Miss Alma.  That night there was to be a school get-together at a nearby farm with a shared potluck and a bonfire – community coming together in memory and celebration – a community modeling and showing children how to do both.

In times like this, our children immediately fear what will happen now.  Can this happen to me, to my mom or dad, to my friend?  Who will take care of me?

As much as we want to protect our children in every way, we are not able to control when sad things happen.  Yet it is through the embrace of these children in community, in inclusion, in sharing, in doing, in play and in work, that their loss will be assimilated and their understanding deepened. 

Thank you, Miss Alma – for your gifts.

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I did it

This was the scene observed at Riverside Park yesterday.  A little guy was pedaling away on his small two-wheeler, without training wheels on, but with his dad running along behind, holding on to the seat – until he wasn’t – and then the elation, the joy, the accomplishment as his young son wobbled off on his own.

This is such a beautiful example of the kind of support our children require as they grow.  Parents are there, behind them, as they face challenges, meet goals, succeed, fail – holding gently, letting go lightly, waiting for the balance to come, then watching as they take off with confidence and joy.

Even as adults we welcome the gentle boost that we feel when somebody we care about “has our back”.  I’ve watched children at Play Shoppe reach the top of the climbing dome, make it all the way around the balance beam – solo- yet call out to a parent to watch me do this – alone.

For at the same time our children are reaching these new heights on their own, seeking and proving their independence and capability, they want to connect, to share the unspoken, I did it,   while still feeling secure in knowing you’re  there to notice, to support and catch them if they fall.

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Two simple questions

Whenever I hear about the latest incident, I am in disbelief – young children, teenagers, college students taking their own life due to excessive bullying from their peers. 

We know this is a national problem in our communities, our schools, our playgrounds, our families.  It’s the talk of the nation.  Every school boasts they have a bullying program in place.  Yet still the incidents happen.  Bullying, to some degree, continues daily to many children, perhaps your own.

I believe children begin to learn the way to treat other people from day one of their lives.  It is “caught” more than taught – caught by the manner in which they see us respect or disrespect others, caught by the expectations we have for ourselves, our family, our schools, our friends and them.

I’ve kept a sticky note on my desk for a few months now, having written something I felt was significant on it.  I wish I could recall where I read it or heard it.  I don’t.  But I picked it up again a few days ago and remembered why I saved it.

It said, “There are two questions to teach our children to ask themselves before they engage in behavior. Is it safe?  Is it kind?”

That’s it.

  If we can raise children to honestly and conscientiously answer those two questions – to weigh their judgment – teasing and bullying could stop.

Think about weaving these two simple questions into the fabric of your family life.  They can bestow a measure of individual responsibility and accountability in our children, providing them with a simple tool in which to examine their actions.

Perhaps then the chubby child, the nerdy one, the child wearing the wrong kind of clothes, the child with different skin color, different sexual orientation, the child with special needs, the one who’s too smart, will be given a pass – when other children stop, think, and ask themselves those two simple questions.

 “Is it safe?  Is it kind?”

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