Monthly Archives: November 2012

cheers

I love history – whether if it’s 500 years ago or a mere few years – what happened when,  most especially as it affected the people involved.  Seeing the movie, Lincoln, this past weekend, I was moved by how much we saw and felt of Lincoln’s character and emotions – certainly as President, but also as husband and father – and how powerful that was.

This made me think about my own parents who have passed on and how much more I wish I knew about their early years, before me, their childhoods, young adult years, parenting years.  Granted I know the stories that have been handed down and repeated,  but there are still so many more unknowns.

My dad came to this country from Greece, arriving at Ellis Island.  He spoke often of the strong feelings of patriotism he felt, and how they were born in him as he arrived in New York harbor, passing the Statue of Liberty as a young boy of nine years old. And then, what happened?  I know the facts, but how did he feel, what was it really like? What was it like for both my mom and dad, as parents, raising seven children – from their perspective?

That’s why I’m determined to write about my life – not that it is full of historical significance by any means – but because someday, maybe one of my children or their children will wonder and be curious about who I was and how I felt -about this and that –  the questions and the answers that were never asked.

Friends have told me nothing has happened in their life worth writing about.  However, I took a Write Your Life course a few years ago that changed that assumption for me forever.  It was a very mixed group of people.  We wrote on different stages of our lives.  I couldn’t believe the power behind the written words, the emotion, the humor, the wisdom, the strength, the authenticity.  This very “ordinary” group of people had extraordinary things to say – to pass on.

At this time of year, the beginning of the Holiday season, when families are gathered and memories are strong, I encourage you to take the time to ask those in your life about their life  – and listen with your heart.

I am privileged everyday to hear many of your stories, your questions, your concerns, your feelings – about parenting, children, choices.  They add to the fabric of my understanding and connection for which I am continually grateful.

So…to our universal stories …  I say, cheers!

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oh no, potty talk

Okay, I’ll say it – the expression four, five, and six-year-olds love to say, giggle hysterically over and, as my mom used to say, “get their mother’s goat”  with  –  that magic phrase –  “Poopy Head”.

Granted our children unfortunately are overhearing and sometimes repeating much stronger language than that in today’s world, but “Poopy Head” still reigns just as powerful a word to throw around.

And once children learn its power, there is no stopping them!

How does that happen?  Well, picture this … sending a little sister wailing to mom after being called “Poopy Head” – having both mom and dad beg, threaten, and bribe their children to please refrain from using the PH word at Grandma’s, or in front of the new neighbors with their seemingly very polite children, or screaming it out in fury at the supermarket.

But then, just when all seems to be under control, Grandma asks your 5-year-0ld what kind of ice cream he wants, and he answers boldly  “poopy head ice cream”.

I remember one mom in particular who had two young boys close in age who tormented her with their overuse of poopy head word variations.  She spent so much time trying to impress on those two silly billies that saying poopy head was not polite, that they would have to leave the park immediately, that they would have to go right to their rooms.

But the attention that was paid to these two funny fellows, chanting potty talk words throughout the day, actually encouraged them to say them more often – to seek the negative but constant attention they got from their new vocabulary – their new-found  power.

So what’s a parent to do?

As parents, it is so easy to be affected by our children’s behavior and believe our reputation as a good (or perfect) parent is on the line.  But recognizing that this is a normal stage of development for most children to pass through can help parents put this phase into perspective and give it less attention. Parents usually notice it more extensively when there is at least one other sibling close in age.   (perhaps I need to add an extra session to my To Pee or Not to Pee toilet learning workshop – The Next Phase – Potty Talk 101!

Offering your children positive attention in little ways during this stage can be helpful.  Notice more, acknowledge, listen, engage so they do not have to resort to getting your attention in this negative way.

And try ignoring the potty words as much as possible. As we know,  giving them too much attention  gives using these silly words a big dose of power.  Some parents respond to being called a “poopy head” by saying “and you’re a purple popsicle” or some other nonsensical remark that makes your child laugh, surprises her, and reaffirms that you get his exploration of language and humor and there’s no more to it than that.

For this is the age your child is discovering his/her budding sense of humor.  For the child, what could be funnier and more relevant than joking about their new fascination with their bodies and the pretty recent phase and tensions of toilet learning.  The key, I think, is to ignore as much as possible, try a little humor if that can be your style, and create some boundaries on the use of this new game.

Some parents agree and decide to let their children have a “special time” every day to let loose and be totally outrageously silly with potty talk.  And then, that’s it – over and done.  Potty talk not allowed any other time.  Children who know they can explore the fun of saying these words during this silly time may be less apt to use them in anger, to get even and to get negative attention in inappropriate situations.

And then there’s the mom I read about who says she uses the magic of Potty words with her four young children whenever she tries to get the four of them to cooperate and smile for the Holiday photo.  Her trick …instead of telling them to all say “cheese”, she surprises them and says “now everyone all say” Pee pee!”.  Works like a charm, she says.  People always wonder how she manages to get all four children to look so darn full of glee!

It’s her little secret!

Also, just so you know, the two little silly boys who frustrated their mom so are now in high school and middle school and are polite, well-behaved and well-adjusted young boys who would probably die of embarrassment to be reminded of their childhood antics.

It is a stage.  Keep that in mind when you think this post does not apply to your child and suddenly you hear your child in the backseat with his two best friends believing they are the first ones to ever think of such funny words to say.

All we can do is put it in perspective.  Give me a call if you’d like some help in planning your response.

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Let’s pretend

Most of you know how significant I believe pretend/dramatic play is for our children – how essential it is to have access to materials and props children can pick up, look at and magically have them become whatever they need them to be.

For you know… a rectangular block is not just a block.  It can be a boat, a cake, a present, a house, a cell phone and more in any veteran- child- pretender’s imagination.

Cleaning closets this weekend, I came across a few empty shoe boxes.  I have to admit I find them hard to throw away.  They seem so functional.  But they also nostalgically remind me when my sisters and I were young and we’d use a shoe box to make cradles for our dolls.  The top would be taken off and inserted vertically at one end of the box.  With a little pillow or blanket put inside and string that my mom would attach, we were thrilled to be able to pull our “babies” wherever we went.

There were other uses of shoe boxes too.  They were particularly good for collections – of shells, rocks, popsicle sticks, chestnuts – you know, treasures.

I love the story of the two young sisters who began with an empty box and turned it into a doll house.  For weeks, they created things out of cardboard and junk – furniture, people, everything made by them, by their own hands and their own initiative.

When their grandmother saw the fun they were having with their doll house, she decided how much more fun they would have with the one she would buy them for Christmas.  It was a brand new perfect doll house, completely furnished, a set of people ready to take up residence.  The girls were excited, of course, at first – but the enthusiasm, satisfaction, and magic that was fostered in the making of their own house from a box – from scratch, was not present with this already perfectly finished house.

It soon was just another toy in the corner.

I bring all this up now because I read about the nursing baby this weekend.  It’s a baby doll on the market that comes with a colorful vest for the child to wear that has flowers over the nipple area.  When the doll is lifted to the flowers, it makes a suckling motion and sound.

However, I can’t tell you how many times nursing  moms have told me how their young children take their doll or teddy bear and pretend to sit and nurse just as they’ve seen their own moms do. A child watching and copying – on their own – without the need for instructions that come along with the nursing doll.

For that’s what pretending and dramatic play is.  It’s children observing their world and interpreting it through their play.  The more basic and raw the material they have at hand, the more their imaginations and creativity are put to work, the more intrinsic the understanding and development that occurs.

There is much important research out now that recognizes the value of imaginary play.  There’s also more and more toys on the market that provide children with such absolutely realistic play things that they leave little to the imagination or problem solving skills.  Play is most valuable when children interchange objects to represent something else – when their creative process is being fully utilized, when the fun is in the discovery and the satisfaction of using their own clever devices.

Otherwise, it becomes just another toy in the corner.

Let’s pretend…

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final answer

Recently a parent asked me why must we continue to go outside for The Parenting Place’s Play Shoppe’s first Friday of the month?

“Why couldn’t we just always have Play Shoppe inside – especially now, that it’s colder outside?”

I considered this question as I have done from time to time previously.  Perhaps I should give up on this fervent desire of mine to introduce young children to the joy of the natural world.  But, then, first Friday came – Seminary Park in the Fall – and I knew my answer.

What a lovely morning it was!

Granted our group size for our cooler outings is a  bit lower, but I believe that’s only until word gets out how much fun they can be.  The beautiful part of being outdoors  is to observe the children exploring and discovering with such a sense of freedom and independence.

On Friday, the children ran and jumped into a large pile of leaves,  giddily threw them up in the air (who cares?), climbed in and out between two adjoining trees ( a very brave feat),  scaled small embankments (mountains perhaps to a young 2-year-old), discovered a cache of large pine cones – “This is the most pine cones I have ever seen”,  as all the children spontaneously began to collect them, industriously and with great purpose, to make a very huge pine cone pile.

The beauty and unquestionable power of mornings like this is the freedom it offers to children – unrestricted movement (yes, running, no problem) , stopping to observe and look, ( of course),  loud voices (why not?), getting a bit dirty (to be expected),  rosy cheeks (refreshingly adorable).

Outside adventures offer a laboratory for children to observe, pick up, smell, throw, roll, skip, jump, fall down and get back up, to run ahead of mom and have it be okay.  It’s the easiest way to begin social skills, for one child to naturally follow another child’s play.  There are plenty of pine cones for all, and leaves, and sticks, and time.

It’s science at it’s most organic level.

You know what they say in Whoville ? -That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day?

Well, I believe that when children have access to the freedom of the outdoors  and the sense of wonder and exhilaration that comes from that, like on a first Friday Play Shoppe adventure,  our children’s spirits grow three sizes that day!

Come on out and join us!

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