Monthly Archives: October 2013

Surprise

Certain things really bring me an extra surge of joy.

One of those moments this week happened during a spontaneous group response to a new action play we did during our circle time at Friday’s Play Shoppe.

Here’s the words I said to this group of little children:

Keep very quiet

Keep very still

Don’t make a sound

Don’t move until …

BOO!!

The children,  sitting on the floor bent over with their heads on their knees and their eyes shut tight, were absolutely still.  I said each line very deliberately … and very slowly …  and very quietly…  building up the anticipation and the suspense …  until …  an emphatic – BOO!

What a response – one I only wish I had on video – it would have been sure to go viral.

The children shrieked,  they giggled, they laughed hysterically, they jumped up and down – giddy with the power of surprise.

We repeated this three times and each time the surprise element remained.  For after that first time, they were in on the joke and were thoroughly enjoying the anticipation.

Actually, no one was more surprised than me – and delighted – to have such young children listen so carefully and respond so gleefully.

For is there anything more joyful than the spontaneous burst of children’s laughter – so genuine and pure?

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Take care

“This is one thing they forgot to mention in most child-rearing books, that at times you will just lose your mind. Period! “ Anne Lamott

I was thinking about that quote recently because I realize how often my Parent Pulse blog encourages and celebrates what children need from us, as parents, and how we should try to be empathic, aware, compassionate, loving, understanding, positive,  funny – even during our children’s most difficult times.

But there are definitely moments – days sometimes – when finding those particular responses are slow, hard and very challenging – at a parent’s most difficult time.

And so we may miss the mark when a child comes home and has a huge meltdown because there’s not time to go to the park before dinner,  or you’ve just experienced a morning of whining from a child who can definitely talk in “her big-girl voice”,  or when two children are arguing over whose turn it is to choose the bedtime story.

This when you are the one who actually  needs someone to read you a story, tuck you in bed, rub your back, listen about your day – all the time feeling held and embraced as your eyelids grow heavy and you drift off to sleep.

Wow – that image makes me feel good just thinking about it.

And that’s the answer, I guess.  Knowing what it is that can make us feel well – renewed – affirmed – so we will have the energy to meet our children’s emotional and physical needs.

So …perhaps it might be on this particular long rainy day that the children do get to watch one of their favorite videos;  that you take a bubble bath at 1:00 in the afternoon while the children nap;  or spend that time curled up in a cozy chair reading whatever you want, cell phone turned off;   that you order pizza delivery for dinner; bring out the coloring books and crayons your aunt sent and zone out together, sprawled on the rug; arrange for a sitter so you can take a hike up the bluff;  make plans for a girls’ night out two times a month, mind and hands free.

Whatever it takes to restore ourselves for the difficult but lovely challenge of parenthood.

On our new phone systems that we have installed at The Parenting Place (thank you, volunteer Randy Mathe) a bright light flashes on and off when there is a new message for us to notice.  It’s hard not to pay attention to it.

In a way we have one of these message systems installed within ourselves.  I think we all know when our emotional selves are needy, when our personal light system is perhaps dim rather than bright.   So that’s the time we should cut ourselves some slack, and recognize there needs to be some room in parenting for taking care of ourselves as well as taking care of our children.

Pay attention to the light from within and the message it brings.

Take care.

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“It’s okay – don’t be shy”

“It’s okay…don’t be shy” words that little 2-year-old Wren has heard her parents say to her as she approached new situations.  At The Parenting Place Costume Swap on Saturday, I was so amused to hear this precocious little one use the same words back to her parents when being told to be careful, to wait, to stop.

“It’s okay  don’t be shy” she told them as she moved ahead figuring out how to squeeze herself into one of the costumes.

Her parents had used those words to convey to Wren that she was safe, to encourage her to explore, to feel secure, to be brave in new situations.  So it makes total sense that Wren uses those same words to her parents when they are nervous and insecure about her emerging independence and exploration.

Last October I blogged about Malala, the young brave Pakistani girl who was brutally shot by the Taliban for being an active and passionate advocate for schooling for girls. Remarkably recovered, living now with her family in England and back in school, Malala is more committed than ever to continue her quest for the freedom and gift of education for all.

“It’s okay, don’t be shy.”

Malala just turned 16 years old and on her birthday made an address to the United Nations and has also become the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

“It’s okay, don’t be shy.”

Malala is such an impressive young woman.  I saw her as a guest this past week on the Jon Stewart show.  Malala’s words of unbelievable wisdom, bravery, strength, joy and presence humbled the usual quick-witted, not easily impressed Stewart speechless.  “Malala”, he told her, “I don’t know where you come from but I am very glad you’re here”.

Why these two stories together?

I’m not sure exactly – perhaps it’s the spirit, the confidence and the attitude of these two girls, of different ages, that resonates for me – and the words “It’s okay – don’t be shy” as understood by a 2-year-old to mean –” Don’t worry, I’m okay, you’re okay too, let’s be brave together” as we  each  grow, and explore and choose our own way.

Thank you, Malala for your inspiration and vision and thank you, too, Wren, for your pure innocence and ” joie de vivre”.

(Malala has written a book, I Am Malala, a perfect family holiday gift to share with older children.)

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900 weeks

Walking through  Festival’s  parking lot on late Saturday afternoon, I saw a dad joyfully pushing a grocery cart with two big orange pumpkins inside and two children, one on each side of the cart, hitching a ride.

No sooner had this family passed by me, when I heard huge eruptions of shrieks, laughter and shouts of “I didn’t even notice you did that”.  Apparently, Dad, taking advantage of an unusually empty parking lot, had safely let go of the cart momentarily, and gave the children a surprise free-wheeling thrill ride before grabbing hold once again.

I stopped for a minute to observe this interaction – the children immediately begging Dad to “do it again”.  By then, however, they were at their car and Dad, in good humor, loaded both pumpkins and children into the car.

Grabbing the moments that we can throughout the day to surprise, amuse and be silly with the children in our lives builds a strong connection with our children, and helps relieve the day-to-day stresses that build up in all of us  – both parents and children.

I recall recently watching a family of five enjoy throwing a foam football up in the air on the lawn at Riverside Park.  Whoever grabbed the ball first ran with it as the others chased, tackling and falling together, in a  good- natured heap, definitely the biggest and most fun part of this informal game.

Something to think about  – for all of us – a few minutes of surprise, humor, outright silliness can change the mood, get a job done, multiply the endorphins, make life smoother, create memories, increase the harmony.

I just read this simple enough statistic that our children only have about 900 weeks of childhood with us before they leave home.  Yes, I know that’s like almost 18 years, (and that seems like a very long time)  but put in terms of weeks and  how quickly every week goes by, it seems even more urgent to intentionally fill a few moments of those days with a spirit of joy and playfulness .

Helping to put on a child’s socks can be humorous, taking them off can be too.  It just takes a minute to find that giggle spot, whatever and  whenever the situation calls for it, that changes the equation from a “have to do” to a “want to do”.

Shared laughter really is the best medicine.

I wonder – how many minutes are in 900 weeks?

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