Tag Archive | parenting

Singing Your Way Through Stress a New Parenting Tip

Puppet Show

Puppet Show

Today was the same as most days, I started off with lofty goals of no yelling, compliance with requests and at least one nap.  There were no total screaming moments on my part, but I couldn’t control what the kids did with their volume.  On a more worrying note my younger son, due to stress I believe, has begun to make sucking noises after he speaks.  The type of noise that comes from pressing the tip of the tongue to the soft palette and then sucking in breath, to punctuate his words.  Everyone in the family is growing weary of this action and its loud sound.  His other new tick is chewing on things; Legos, sheets, collar of his shirt – basically anything a five year old can stick in his mouth that may have germs on it.  These two habits join his already disturbing habit of rolling and chewing on his tongue which all add to my stress because they are signals of his stress. As my husband reminded me tonight on the phone, last time we made this awkward trip he started picking up odd idiosyncrasies, and they diminished once my husband was with us. My main concern is that with epilepsy these types of temporary self-stimulating stress relief techniques can become permanently wired pathways and truly long term habits.  This puts stress levels on high for me in a new way, a parent never wants to permanently mar their child in any way.

Our day proceeded on packed with driving and fun – and because this is a typed format I can’t tell if I mean that sarcastically. I know the first part of the day was not fun as I dealt with a teenager who is a really great guy who makes some poor choices at times.  For example, I asked him to accompany us down the elevator since I was pushing two strollers by myself and holding two cups of tea.  He instead went his own way then watched from inside the mall window as his sister spilled her tea on herself, I had to remove her from her stroller and make sure the other stroller wasn’t in the street – before getting in the elevator without us.  I thought of a way to handle this without much yelling and decided on a discussion of natural consequences that went down like so, “A natural consequence of not wanting to be a part of our family and help out means that you are on your own, so I guess you need to find a way to pay for your private lesson.” That didn’t go over well and  a more heated discussion of what had transpired ensued. The little ones and I went for a stroll before I watched his morning lesson. While I watched our skater the little ones watched Super Why next to me.  This is one of a few times when they really do share and act calm with each other, they take turns holding the phone, making sure the other one can see the screen and co-operatively determine which episode to watch – yes I know it is TV but a psychologist recently told me that the current TV viewing guidelines are unrealistic and must have been set by 60 year old psychologists who still believe in Freud and don’t have children (his words, seriously).  That being said, I do limit my children’s screen time as much as I can while preserving my sanity and I have found that less flashing shows (such as Super Why) don’t stimulate them in the same negative way as brightly, garish shows.  The best shows are realistic shows such as Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen.  The main concern with screen time of any type is my younger son.  He really loses all self-regulating capability when given screen time outside of these parameters. I digress, on to the rest of our day…

Shuttle Bus to the Museum Campus

Shuttle Bus to the Museum Campus

After the ice rink drop off the younger kids and I headed off to the Portland Children’s Museum again.  This time we split our time between the indoor grocery area and the outdoor adventure area.  My thesis paper for my

Outdoor Adventure

Outdoor Adventure

Montessori certification delved into the levels of parental engagement and developmental purposes of different play areas, including an observational study of play areas at the Children’s Museum – my findings were that realistic play areas create better engagement and have more developmental purpose / positive interaction outcomes so I always try to get them to at least one of these areas per visit.  Of course, I should temper that motivation with knowledge of whether or not we have extra clothing.  Suffice it to say, it was a soggy and oddly dressed ride back to the car on the shuttle with both of my kids wearing oversized, recently purchased museum t-shirts.  Getting them away from the Outdoor Adventure took a great deal of parenting wit to accomplish without screaming “Let’s go” so instead I relied on singing.  I sang a song about me leaving and sure enough they moved along – I was like the parenting piped piper.  I used it all the way to the shuttle to avoid having to carry anyone. To the tune of the “Ants Go Marching” I sang “my kids go marching” and they actually marched in line to the shuttle to the bemused smiles of other parents. Win for me!

Play it Forward Piano at the Entrance

Play it Forward Piano at the Entrance

We piled into our rental car super soggy and super sleepy -viola! one goal met, both children took a nap.  They were completely exhausted and we headed back to the rink to pick up our skater.  From the rink it was a short trip back to the hotel to jump in the pool; because sure enough those naps were short lived. I can still feel the effects of our pool visit – three kids hanging on me, jumping on me and requesting to be thrown into the air has taken its toll on my back and provided me with a really strenuous water resistance workout – I may never hit the fitness center here and I am okay with that.  Our pool jaunt reaffirmed my

Plumb Tuckered Out

Plumb Tuckered Out

belief that loud areas are not conducive to small children following instructions.  I think that the cacophony of the filters, the hot tub and the echo in the pool enclosure is way too over stimulating and of course this results in a failure to comply with requests which in turn escalates the requests in my world.  My younger son decided to throw a pool towel into the pool, the older one threw it back, this went on for five minutes during which time I used positive phrasing “pool towels are for drying ourselves, you may put the towel away” etc.  None of these worked, I yelled – and I kicked them out of the pool – again it started with a calm request “you may sit on a chair” and then after my requests went unanswered I yelled for them to get out of the pool. If you are keeping track I have a pitiful winning streak by this point in the day but ever a glutton for punishment (or feeling my own inadequacies as a parent) I proffered up a trip to Washington Square Mall to visit the puppies and the Lego store.  

The pet place, Hannah, always gives me a weird vibe having participated for many years in pet rescue and having worked as a vet tech.  They claim to be a pet society of some sort and set you up on a monthly payment plan, of more than $100,

Soft Play Area

Soft Play Area

for the lifetime of your pet which includes vet and food; however as our visits have been frequent, I get the distinct feeling it is nothing more than a dressed up pet shop and far less than a pet rescue.  They always have puppies and really hard sell – which is not what rescues normally do.  Not to mention today Michael F asked “are you looking to adopt a pet” while holding a tiny bundle my daughter wanted to pet – and before my no stopped resounding he had haughtily walked off to a corner of the “store” for no other reason than to make a point that pets were for petting by people who were interested in this scam. We left without a new pet, thankfully, because we are not ready for one which is sadly a thought I had for many of the people who were easily gaining quick access to “adoption”.

Angry,Contemplative? Who knows.

Angry,Contemplative? Who knows.

Never chagrined by others, my daughter gayly ran off to the soft play area for a bit. I didn’t fare much better at the next stop. The Lego store didn’t involve any yelling but it did involve a return before we left the store and a discussion with my older one who dropped a pouty face several times.  I’d like to say that I don’t understand him some days, but its more like every other hour I call into question my understanding of the world and human behavior, as well as facial cues. Being the parent of a teenager is pretty stressful at times which is why I am sure Montessori suggested Erdkinder and the idea that teens should live on the land away from family learning life skills.

Veggie Grill and Lego Building

Veggie Grill and Lego Building

The mall is just down the road from Veggie Grill, a place I know all of the kids will eat something and I can order off of their garlic-free menu with ease. Last time we were in I was sure to grab their app which allows you to snap photos of your receipt and earn points.  So far we received a free appetizer for signing up and have 300 points good for a soup or dessert – I’m accruing them for a free entree.  As usual the kids ate “wings” and mac n cheese.  I dined on the All Hail Kale, mashed cauli-potatoes and gave the new street corn a try – it was great.  Everyone finished their meals and we decided to walk over to New Seasons to pick up detergent for hotel laundry night. If you have every been to Meijer you know how easy it is to get sucked into general merchandise purchasing, or even little bits of things you don’t really want or need – well New Seasons takes this to a whole new level because everything looks adorable, handcrafted and high-end decorative.  That we have not left with tiny gurgling fish pitcher shot glasses on our last four trips is completely a feat of ultimate will power – everyone in our family wants one.  We walked back to the car singing once again a song about how everyone was walking – this is a favorite of my youngest, she adores any song about what she is doing. 

In retrospect my day was a huge win.  There were dozens, maybe hundreds of other interactions with my children when I was able to keep my cool during bouts of crying, screaming, stomping or all three.   

 

 

The Role of the Adult in Supporting Child Development

The Montessori Adult is commissioned with the task of leaving his past history behind in order to best serve the child. At its core this statement means within the controlled Montessori environment but in practice this should apply to the interactions with all children, whether they are members of the Casa or not. Ideally we would not just train self-realized Montessori guides but all adults who ever experience contact with a child would be moved to change their self-constructed views of childhood and children and in turn shift their interactions with children to be more aligned in a developmentally appropriate manner.

In order to give a child the breadth to create her complete self the adult world needs to turn its thinking on its head, and kick it down the road a ways. If adult’s could halt the creation of obstacles to child fulfilling their self-manifestation by creating an environment within our own adult world that catered to the developmental needs of the child that would be a start. But it is not merely the act of making a safe environment or child-sized environment that will change the world for children and future mankind. The adult also needs to discontinue the act of interference. It seems imperative to development that the caregiver or adult learn the difference between mothering, healthy child driven response to needs such as nourishment and comfort, and smothering, obsessive adult driven needs for control and adult order.

With humility and patience adults can redirect their actions to create a more child-centered, developmentally appropriate environment in which the child can flourish. The old ways of dealing with children are not working and have produced many unhappy, unfulfilled adults. It is up to the adult to take up arms in the task of solving our current problems of conflict with children through our own self-development and refinement.

Refinement of the adult has three major areas; the physical, the mental and psychological, and the spiritual aspects. Physically the adult should appear well kept, tidy, graceful and enticing (once normalization occurs the adult should fade into the background). Mentally and psychologically the adult should be aware of biases and past experiences. The adult should also strive for more information. This starts with education or training in the developmental stages of children and the materials. Then through consistent practice and experience the adult will gain knowledge that can be applied to interactions with children and with their own self-dialogue. Spiritually the adult should have a deeper investment in their work, a deep rooted belief that change is needed for the good of humanity. There also needs to be an understanding that children present a unique life force we can no longer visit ourselves and this alone should help to cultivate humility and patience, as if dealing with a new and awe inspiring life form all together.

These outlined tasks are not insurmountable for the adult and because we have left the absorbent mind behind we are able to move from being a child driven by forces beyond her control to an adult who can form abstractions and adaptations from and to the environment. Becoming a Montessori Adult isn’t an overnight task. Due to our past self-construction and the adult’s propensity for least effort work the change needed may be difficult at first; however, brain plasticity lasts long into adulthood and if we continue to travel the paths physically and neurological to becoming a Montessori Adult it will soon be our very nature.

What Being Adopted Has Meant to Me

My life is an open book for the most part. Honestly isn’t blogging like keeping a diary that the world can see.  I have spilled the nitty gritty on everything from my eating disorder to my homebirth and tidbits in between.  What I really never talk about is being adopted.  I suppose it is for many reasons and not all of them relevant at any one time.

As a child I was always told that I was adopted.  I remember age 5 being on the brown velour couch in our sunroom in New Jersey and my mom asking me “Do you know what it means to be adopted? You and your brother are adopted.  Someone loved you enough to bring you into this world and give you to me.”

I remember traveling in Canada and a frantic mother racing up to my mother, shop keeper in tow, waving a finger at my then five year old brother because heDSC02836 was so proud of being adopted he had told her little girl, “I’m adopted.  You know I could have been an abortion, but I wasn’t. You could have been an abortion too!” Probably not the highlight of the adoption campaign but he was right.

What does REAL mean

Flashes of times when I shared my being adopted also weigh on my mind.  In the first grade, playing on the monkey bars I mentioned to a classmate how special I was because I was adopted.  Her reply, “Well where are your real parents?”  “At home.” “So you aren’t adopted, you lied.” “No, I’m adopted.” “Then where are your real parents?”  I just jumped off the monkey bars and went home to discuss this newly acquired distinction with my mother.  The next day I was armed with the reply, haughtily spoken “Oh, you mean my biological parents, I don’t know where they are but I live with my real parents, the people who love me and take care of me.  Don’t you live with your real parents?”

Being adopted has meant a myriad of experiences for me, from supporting a friend who found out on his 18th birthday he was adopted to sharing my story with clients who became parents through foreign adoption. It has also had some glaringly uncomfortable moments.  When I was pregnant with my first son I experienced a lot of pain and my mother was unsure of what it was so I rushed to the hospital to find out later it was only ligament pain.  After his birth when I wasn’t too keen on bringing him to see his paternal grandmother (she had some psychological health issues) I argued with my own mother who let slip “Well, she’s more his grandmother than I am.” The cat was out of the bag.  During prenatal visits I was always asked about family history, health and birth.  My only answer, “I am adopted.”

Locked Away Secrets

My mother had always held that if we were interested in locating our birth parents when we were older we should never pay an investigator, she had files on us in her safe.  That information was locked away until I became pregnant.  I asked once for medical information and the next morning my mother concluded she had looked at my files and everything was normal. My mental state during my first and even second pregnancy though, was not normal.  Maybe it was, I don’t know but I think sharing my history may shed light on it and help other adopted women out there.

For as long as I could remember I was always told that I was adopted through a private agency that worked with the United Way.  That my parents were older, in their late 30s and professionals who just didn’t feel they could take care of me well.  Somewhere along the way scientists were added into my birth history too, as if they were scientists and very devoted to their work.

I went through the tail end of my first pregnancy (unmarried) and second pregnancy (married) wanting to give my baby up for adoption so that it could be raised well by another family who could take care of it better than I could.  In hindsight it all makes sense now, I was always told about how much scrutiny my parents had undergone to adopt me. Home visits, psychological tests, references were all required to adopt me from a couple of professionals, scientists, who thought they couldn’t provide a good enough home.  It makes sense now that in my mind I felt I wouldn’t be able to do enough if two successful scientists couldn’t be good parents how could a simple yoga teacher, and her starving artists husband making below minimum wage, be a good mother?

So what changed? My second son came back with a heal prick test positive for Galactosemia a rare metabolic condition.  He was a fussy baby and profuse vomitter so I was really scared. I went to my mother to air my concerns because I believed heredity put me at risk.  The response “Oh, you aren’t from there, I’m sure he’s fine”.  It was a rough blow to find out that my heritage was not what I thought it was but a second test revealed that the first was a false positive from the sample sitting out too long and my mind was at ease.  Later my son developed epilepsy and this time the medical questions took on new meaning. I was tired of having to ask for information so I opened the safe to take a look.  What I read changed my third pregnancy dramatically. 

The Truth Shall Set You Freebaby

My mother was a 32 year old secretary who had a long term relationship with her boss who was a married man with kids.  She did not tell him of her pregnancy and ended their relationship. She was of Irish descent, wore glasses, average height and weight.  He was tall, blonde wavy hair and I like to believe that he would have at least wanted to get to know I existed if given the chance.

This information lifted an invisible weight from my shoulders.  Never once during my third pregnancy did I think I couldn’t do a good enough job. I spent my whole pregnancy completely happy with the idea of my new baby becoming a part of my family. Through a series of events I became estranged from my parents during my pregnancy but a curiosity about my medical history and therefore my kids medical history prevailed.  I contacted the adoption agency for a copy of my medical records.  They sent photos of me from the foster home I was in for the first month of life.  Another shocker.  I cried for two weeks straight.  I had always been told that my parents picked me up directly from the hospital the day after I was born.  To find out that I was alone as a baby in some interim housing really effected me, the photos were at different angles, with me propped up, in different outfits – they made me feel like I was on sale, or display for prospective parents. I know that was not the case truly. I was also shocked to find out about my biological medical history, heart attacks back two generations both female and male, no information given on the biological paternal side, diabetes caused by pharmaceuticals and more questions floating in my head.

You don’t have to be perfect

My goal in sharing this story is to help ease the suffering, doubting or fearing of any would be parent out there, not just those effected by adoption.  You don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.  Truly. You just have to live with love in your heart.