The Sweater That Keeps On Giving: Knitting As A Parenting Tool

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Hello there!  Good Sunday evening.  How has 2015 been for you so far?
I am amazed that I have kept this #YourTurnChallange of posting on this blog 7 days in a row.  It had been in unexpectedly exhilarating week to be able to stick to a promise to myself and following through with this challenge.

Today I want to share with you one of my favourite activity and to me it is also an amazing parenting tool: knitting.

My earliest and fondest memory on knitting was from my kindergarden friend’s mother.  She was a ferocious and prolific knitter.  She would knit a whole kids sized sweater in a day.  My favourite thing to do when I go to play at their house was to sit next to her and just watch her hands and needles go.  I loved and cherished every sweater she made for me and I always felt sad whenever I got too big for them.

Not until after I became a mother, I learned to look at knitting as something outside than just a craft, that it is more than just something to do for grannies and people who have extra time to have a hobby.   Knitting now has become a nurturing and healing activity. I never realize that something seem so trivial can be so powerful.

HOW DO YOU HAVE TIME TO KNIT WHEN YOU ARE TAKING CARE OF YOUNG CHILDREN?

I know right?

After I woke up to the fact that children (as young as from birth) do not need to be “entertained”, I took to knitting as my way to have a little time to sit down in between changing diapers, cleaning the house, manage everyday household chores, feeding and putting the little ones to bed etc.

But mostly I love knitting because actually has these amazing qualities:

1.  To show (especially the in the fast paced first world) that some things are made by hand.
2.  To illustrate that whatever the end result may be, it takes time.
3.  To demonstrate perseverance.
4.  To instill virtues like patience and delayed gratification.
5.  An opportunity to show children that joy is in the process, in the doing of.
6.  And if you are knitting something for your kids, they will feel loved, valued and cherished in ways that buying them a toy can never convey.

KNITTING AND TANTRUMS GO HAND IN HAND

I must say I have knitting to thank during many episodes of toddler tantrums.  It depends on the need of my boys (whether they need to be held or not), when they are expressing their huge feelings, I often sit down beside them and would start knitting.  Instead of trying to talk to them or ask them a ton of questions,  I just keep steady, grounded, knit and wait patiently until they have let it all out.  I would remember to breathe deeply during these episodes while knitting and send out a kind, loving and gentle energies towards the whirlwind beside me.  Knitting would help me stay strong, focus and anchored for my children, which is the what they truly need when they are in despair or confusion.

THE SWEATER THAT KEEPS ON GIVINGIMG_5130

With all that being said, I have this one sweater that I have been knitting over and over again that I want to share with you today.  It is a classic raglan top-down sweater, pattern designed by a wonderful Canadian designer Jane Richmond.  To me it is great for both girl or boy.

This had been the sweater that both my boys have worn day in and day out, in all four seasons (I always use the same wool yarn) in the past 3 years.  When it comes to dressing, especially with children, I like to keep things simple and options minimal.  So both boys have only a few pairs of pants each, a couple of basic wool under layers and 4-5 plain-jane short and long-sleeved T shirts for the rest of the year.

This sweater goes on top of every outfit and we layer up/down with winter jackets, vests, hats and or scarfs according to the seasons.  This pattern is so easy to follow,  it is so rewarding for our whole family.

If you are looking for something more than a scarf or hat, maybe you can try this sweater on for size?

Have a great week.  Until next post.

Much love and warmth,
Grace

 

MISSING: Purposeful Work for Young Children

Hey there, its the 5 day in a row posting here!  This writing a post for 7 consecutive day from the #YourTurnChallenge is quite the regimen to behold.

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Today I want to share with you a topic that really changed my way of seeing children and therefore it has change my life.

Before kids came into my life I was not really interested in them.  I never babysat.  I might hold an infant for about 10 minutes but I always thought I did not habour natural nurturing instincts like other girl friends I knew.  I was always very content with the idea of not having children and just enjoy being a modern working woman.

The story of how I got here, not only a mother to two boys but a homeschooling mama to boot (gasp!) should be written in another post for I want to focus on sharing with you one of the biggest lightbulb moments my my parenting journey.

“Young children from infancy do not need to be entertained.”

Yes that was the message I got – and really needed to hear from a “professional” – on the first day I walked into a Waldorf parent and tot class, nineteen months into motherhood.  While before that day, I was fortunate enough to have encountered some amazing resources (oh I will share those!) that had lead me to find “Waldorf” and the philosophies of Dr. Rudolf Steiner.

Well, if children do not need to be entertained, then what do we do with them at home all day long?! (That is if you are at home with them).  That was the question that came up right after that statement from this amazing Waldorf early childhood educator.

“Young children need to do purposeful work, this is how you help them build their true will and their sense of self.”

Now please note that the “true will” is different than “willful”.  If anything a willful child is actually a child that lacks true will.  This topic was so well explained to me when I went to a lecture by Kim John Payne – the author of the game-changer book Simplicity Parenting.  (I think this is a must read for all parents)  Sorry, I digress so…

The big question:

What is it that we do with children if we are not to entertain them or find them something to be entertained by?

The big answer:

We engage them in doing purposeful work.

What is purposeful work we ask?

Well, isn’t that what is really missing in our modern culture today, especially in first world countries where knowledge and winning trumps everything?

Purposeful work is in my opinion the hallmark work of building true character with strength, values and empathy in our children–and for the rest of their lives– without having to actually verbally teach it.  That is the glorious beauty of engaging your young ones in purposeful, meaningful work.

What actually is meaningful work one would ask.  Here is a list of example of what it may be:

  • washing dishes
  • cleaning the floor
  • laundering clothes
  • ironing (yes! tell me who irons these days?  Who do you know has the patience to do this job today? Ironically – no pun intended – ironing actually is one of the best activity to develop focus, patience, hand-eye coordination, and last but not least something that most people complain about our youth today for not having: followthrough.  Yes ironing is actually something that can build character!!  Oh but it is so hot and it is too dangerous, I will not let me kid touch an iron.  Well of course you are not going to let a baby or 3 year old actually iron but if you actually do ironing in front of them on a regular basis as part of your weekly rhythm, out of the blue one day when they are 4.5 years old, they will ask if they can use the actual iron and be able to iron and fold napkins better than your grandmother.  True story. )
  • cleaning windows with newspaper (with vinegar diluted in water)
  • taking care of the garden ie. pulling weeds, raking leaves, mixing soil etc.
  • grow food (yes you can do this even if you don’t have a garden or balcony)
  • caring for pets – everything from grooming, taking them for walks, feeding them.
  • setting the table
  • help prepare meals.

Oh the list can go on.  I’ve been asked about how one can make an infant, preschooler actually do purposeful work?  The answer is that YOU actually are doing this purposeful work in front of them while they are by your side shadowing you while they…the drum roll…PLAY ON THEIR OWN!!! (Refer to my post on letting kids be bored and here as well.)

Of course the icing on top would be that you sing while you do these “chores”, but that is asking for a lot isn’t it?!  Okay one lightbulb moment at a time.

I would love to elaborate more on this for I love talking and helping people figure out how to be purposeful at home with young children but it is Friday evening and I am going to celebrate the end of a hard working week hanging out with my love.  Yes the kids are sound asleep and peace has reigned in our home.

Until tomorrow.

Much love and warmth,
Grace

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Feeding Your Kids Boredom, Another Cornerstone of NOFOMO Living

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Here it goes, day 2 of my #YourTurnChallenge
(I am challenging myself to post everyday this week – so bare with me, very little editing is done.  Apologize in advance the spelling and grammatical errors.  I really want to practice the “just ship” discipline. )

Many people would not believe me when I first tell them our boys do have not watched a day of television, a lick of computer time and played with my phone, let alone a learning app on the iPad.

But when our friends and family experience them in person, (they are six and three and a half years old) they do feel there is something quite different with the way they interact with the world and mostly they cannot put a finger as to why that is.

This is not a post bragging about how amazing my children is. This is a post on our experience and objective observation on the effects of our No Media discipline.

I too had my doubts. For a long time I just chalked up my first born as one of those rare kids that is naturally good at playing on his own, by chance. We lucked out.

But when the second boy came along, I began to realize soon after his birth that this is not the case OR that I have won the lottery twice.

After six years into this discipline, I feel I can safely say that the No Media Policy (for the kids only, we do use our mobile devices but rarely in their faces, and watch movies when they are asleep) that our commitment to trying is out is paying off in thousand folds.

Most people don’t see how it can be different, they think that kids are kids, and like candy, they just have to experience it somehow, somewhere. Such is life.

I am speaking merely to the early childhood phase of course. I know things will change as they get older but during these foundation years, this kind of discipline we are upholding really does play a huge part on our children’s overall development.

Here is what we have learned and observed:

1. They can keep their attention span for a long time on any given subject of interest. From watching someone cook, to a construction worker working on the siding, to a person playing the violin on the street.

2. Their imagination is pure and dreamy. I would know that almost everything that they express is authentic to their character coming forth.

3. Their speech is clear and articulate. They don’t talk like a cartoon characters.

4. On a scientific level, boredom will help with a young child in the enrichment of the wiring of their brains, their neural plasticity.

Specifically from new born up to 4 (approx), the most optimal way to protect and aid in the synaptic refinement to their full potential is to keeping their environment as serene as possible.

In other words, less is really much more than we think, especially for a young child, contrary to how our modern society pushes the more is more philosophy.

In Dr. Lise Eliot’s book “ What’s Going On In There?, she mentioned :

“ The initial wiring of a particular brain region (the period of synapse overproduction) marks the onset of a particular ability, such as vision in the first few months and language in the second year. But it is the prolonged pruning period that fixes the overall quality of that ability, because this is when experience –translated into neural activity–decides which connections will be preserved and, consequently, how the brain will be permanently wired for certain ways of thinking, perceiving, and acting.

As long as an excess number of synapses are present, the brain remains maximally plastic and can develop in a variety of ways. But once those excess synapses are gone, the critical period is over, and it must make do with its existing circuitry; there is no trading up for a faster computer.”

So the next time your little kid is looking bored and staring out the window or in “space”, know that there is a WHOLE LOT going on in there and please do not “snap” them out of it.

5. Through boredom, we are giving them a gift of the space to rise above it and come up with new ideas on their own. Hence, in no time, especially when you are not afraid of “letting them be bored” from an early age, they will be come so skilled in playing on their own.

6. Last but not least. I have yet to teach our boys the actual word “bored”. So in many ways, they have yet to experiece it cognitively therefore they have never nagged and whined about being bored. In other words, what you don’t know won’t hinder you.

Now imagine how nice it is to be able to be in the same room as 2 toddlers and we are all doing our own thing together without the television on? Well, I really want to share with those of you who do not think it is possible that it is. It just takes the vision and the willingness to try out this discipline for at least a week. I can guarantee that peace will reign upon your household, and much longer than a tv program to say the least!

Go on and unplug that TV and iDevices. Just like weening off anything, the first few days will be tough but have the faith and know that in doing so, you will see a difference in the overall energy in your household and you will not want to turn it back on again…until they turn ten years old, maybe.

Much warmth,
Grace

NOFOMO living + the Your Turn Challenge

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Hello there!  Happy 2015.  As the title may suggest, we are a NOFOMO (No-Fear-Of-Missing-Out) kind of family.

My husband and I have never been the new years resolution type but we do love a good challenge when it comes to self/family improvement.

I stumbled upon this interesting “just ship” challenge through a Seth Godin blog post about blogging something everyday for one week called the #YourTurnChallenge.  So here it goes.  I’m going to try posting everyday this week.

I did ponder for a while about what I want to write about everyday this week.  Honestly, there are so much I want to share with you about the interesting experiences we have been going through as a family ever since we have committed to a not-fear-of-missing-out way of life with ourselves and with raising our two little boys.

So on this first post, I want to make a disclaimer/manifesto about some of the topics I will be sharing.

1.  Just because we do live with habits that may not be the mainstream, it does not mean we do not hang out with people who enjoy the things we don’t.

2. We live in the suburbs but we do not frequent big box stores.

3. Our boys had been raised (so far) in what I would describe as “Analog”.  They are six and three and a half years old and never have they watched a TV program and/or used the computer – that includes iPads and handheld devices.  My husband and I want to do an experiment/challenge to see how hard it is to be completely media free with children.

With that being said – re: our analog kids, both my husband and I LOVE and work in the tech field.  So we are NOT luddites.

4.  Even though we live by a simple is better, less is more, slow is awesome philosophy, we do not hate money, people with money, beautiful things, things and ideas of quality or people who like facebook etc.

5.  We are interested exploring how learning and education can be different than what my husband and I grew up with – going to school, earning your “stripes” and one’s place in the world through this tradition system.  In other words we have become a homeschooling family and I will be sharing a lot of our NOFOMO experience through the insights of homeschooling and/or one can use the term unschooling.

6.  Last but not least – we are two first generation Chinese/Canadian kids (which spent our early years in Hong Kong) that got together when we were in our mid-twenties and feed our kids chicken feet, play them Dustin O’ Halloran in the car and we drink bone broths (almost) everyday not because it is cool.

I look forward to writing more tomorrow!

Much warmth,
Grace