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.

2014-09-12 11.10.16

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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Smartie’s Unintentionally Vegan + Paleo Yam Mash-Up

Hello there, my 3rd day posting in a row here!  Woohoo!
I feel like writing about something a little different for a change today.

I want to share with you something brilliant that nonchalantly happened right before dinner time. Smartie our six year old (his internet name 🙂 – inspired by one of the beautiful stories James Herriot, “Smudge the Lost Lamb” ), came up with this really amazing side dish out of the blue that is so completely on (health) trend and hipster that I must share with you all.

It is super easy, lip-smackingly delicious and it is unintentionally vegan and paleo to boot!

So here it goes, my first ever recipe share on this blog. Hope you will find it as tasty as we all did.  Note: I am guessing there may be variations on this recipe for a next little while to come because…well, read on.

 

VeganYamMashUp VeganYamMashUp2

 

THE STORY

We were clearing out the basement and Smarty found in the “give away” box a kitchen tool that I felt was not all that useful. It is a food mill we got years ago when we were trying to figure out the baby food situation. Smarty was obsessively curious about it – a strong trait of his. He felt a need to understand how it is can be used.

So I found the closest thing to a potato – yams for him to try the mill with. I peeled, chopped them into large chunks and popped them into a pot with a steaming tray. Ten minutes later they were cooked, soft and ready for the food mill to do its job.

I had planned to put some butter and salt in and that was that.

As I walked away to give him some space to nerd out on this kitchen tool, Smartie requested that he wanted to add Hemp Hearts into the mash. Hmm, okay not at bad idea!

Five minutes into his mashing yam bliss, he went to the pantry himself and brought out some toasted Black Sesame Seeds and sprinkled it in. By this point, I knew to not say anything and/or interrupt the beautiful mash up that was happening.

He threw in a pinch of salt at the end and voila, we’ve got this absolutely amazing, universally child + baby friendly, vegan and paleo of a side dish added to our supper this evening.

How can I not share this with you?!

This is my 3rd day of taking on this #YourTurnChallenge and so far I have yet to miss a day.  I’ve decided to give myself the freedom to not stick to a specific plan, just some notes taken down in the beginning of the week to inspire myself to share everyday this week. So far so good!

I am grateful to come across this opportunity to work on a creative habit that I have been putting off, and had been reading some fantastic stories on the YourTurnChallenge website where I am posting also. (You can find my last two posts here and here or my blog).

I hope you will try out Smartie’s latest creation and let me know what you think! I’m thinking adding a splash of Bragg instead of salt would be a nice touch too.  The ingredients and directions below. Enjoy!

Until tomorrow.

Much warmth,
Grace

SMARTIE’S VEGAN YAM MASH-UP

Total cooking time: 20 mins
Serves: 4 adults as a side dish

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Peel yams.
  2. Chop yams into toddler fist sized chunks.
  3. Place peeled yam chunks into a pot with a steam tray – I used this one.
  4. Steam for 15 mins.
  5. Mash them up with all the ingredients together.

Finding Our Own Special Tooth Fairy

PlentyOfSimpleToothFairy

LOOSING OUR FIRST TOOTH

Leland, our 5.5 year old boy woke me up in the wee early morning hour last Saturday with a tooth in his hand.

I was in a bit of a shock for it was only a couple of weeks ago that he mentioned a tooth was loose. Both my husband and I were in a bit of denial at the time for we both lost our first tooth much later – more closer to 7 years old.  I thought I had some time before I needed to figure out what to do with this part of our parenting journey.

I was not prepared. I did not grow up with a tooth fairy.  It was not the Chinese way.  At least it was not in my family.  We did not have much folklore and magic around these things.   We had bible stories and a few Chinese telling tales behind some of the traditional festivals.  Most of the time it was told in a very pragmatic linear fashion.

Now it is my turn to decide how my children experience these significant childhood milestones.  For both my husband and I, we feel that loosing one’s milk teeth, especially your first one is exceptionally important.   It should be celebrated in a way that is magical.  We wanted to create a tradition that all of us will look back with fondness.

We did not want our tooth fairy to give money.  We wanted something that magical and poetic, something that is also fun with an element of surprise for the whole family to enjoy together.

Since I could not  improvise from my own childhood experience, I gently took his little tooth and said I will look after it until bedtime.  After breakfast, my husband took both boys out and left me with the rest of the day to figure this out.  So here is a rundown of how it all came together:

SEARCHING FOR OUR SPECIAL TOOTH FAIRY

First, I sent out an “Calling Emergency Tooth Fairy Help!” email out to the wonderful Waldorf Homelearners email group to solicit advice from more like-minded parents for help.

Then I searched for: “Waldorf tooth fairy stories”.  After a few quick website hops around, I came across a beautiful poem about a Tooth Fairy that I felt we all would resonate with.  It is a poem about how the tooth fairy takes the child’s tooth to a Gnome in which he turns it into a crystal.

Here it is (my apologies for not being able to find the original author or this poem). If you know who the author is please let me know!  I also have attached HERE a PDF version for you to download and print out (for your own personal use only of course).

” This night it is a special night
As fairies dance upon the roof.
All the fairies must alight,
For _______ just lost a tooth!

The Fairy Queen gives her commands-
Twelve bright fairies must join hands
Then together in a circle stands
To guard _____ while s/he sleeps.

The Tooth Fairy into the circle leaps
The hidden tooth she takes
Ah, but has far to go
Before ______ awakes.

Three times around the world she flies
Over valleys deep and mountains high;
Skirts the storm clouds thick with thunder,
Wings over waves all wild with wonder.

Deep within their earthly homes
Finally she finds the gnomes,
Who upon the tooth must work
Never once their duty shirk.

Some are hammering, hammering, hammering,
Some the bellows blow
Others sweat at the sweltering forge
And then cry out, “Heigh Ho!”

The tooth’s been turned to a shining stone,
A glimmering, glowing gem
The tooth Fairy takes the gnomes’ good gift,
And bows (curtsies) to all of them.
Before the sun’s first rays are shown,
She returns to _____’s bed,
And then – – – away she’s flown!”

DOWNLOAD PDF PRINT-READY OF THIS POEM >

 

GATHERING THE DETAILS

I looked up the closest gemstone shop and off I went.  Luckily, it turned out to be a large establishment filled with a plethora of all things gems and stones related.   Where do I begin?   I asked the clerk to see if there are any animal stones.  Yes, she said and lead me to this little bin full of tiny little stone animal pendants.  Jackpot!  And I started to dig in.

In a sea of little stone creatures, a beautiful Plume Jasper Dolphin surfaced and I knew it was the one for his favourite stuffy is a dolphine. I also inquired about  what stone is a symbol for this time of year.  A Carnelian is what she said.  I looked up the meaning/representation of it: courage.  Oh how appropriate for this occasion!

The Carnelian and the Plume Jasper Dolphin

The Carnelian and the Plume Jasper Dolphin

I had no idea of what I was going to do with these two pieces of gemstones, but I knew I will figure it out.

As bedtime story hour rolled around, I had made a small orange pillow out of recycled orange wool felt and teeny felt pocket to hold his little tooth in, and the poem ready to present to him.

Tooth Fair Pillow made with recycled wool felt.

Tooth Fair Pillow made with recycled wool felt.

He loved every little detail and went to sleep with the deepest kind of ernest anticipation only a little boy can have.

After our boys went to sleep, my husband and I were giddy preparing for our family’s tooth fairy “offerings”.  We decided that since it is his very first tooth, we will mark it with a special memento for the occasion.  He is going to get both the Carnelian stone and the Plume Jasper Dolphin pendant.  One is going to be from the Gnome and one is going to be from the tooth fairy.

We each wrote out a little note, one “from Gnome” about how he had turned his little tooth into a Carnelian and that it is also a symbol for courage, and the other note “from Tooth Fairy” on marking the significance of this first tooth.

We wrapped each one with a leaf and slipped it into the pocket of his tooth pillow.  I went to sleep that night relieved to have found our family’s special tooth fairy.  Now we can really have fun with helping both our boys build a special Teeth Crystal Collection that they can enjoy.

 

the Plume Jasper Dolphin pendant on a red hemp rope.

the Plume Jasper Dolphin pendant on a red hemp rope.

the two mementos for our boy's first tooth

the two mementos for our boy’s first tooth

 

It is such a great feeling to know that we can help carve out some of the childhood magic for our little boys and that the four of us will grow up having the same memories for these special occasions.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER – A SUMMARY

Here a quick recap of the components to create our tooth fairy, in case you may want to create something similar for your family:

1. Find a special little rock crystal (s) from your lock gem shop.  They are usually under $2 for such small size.  Note:  I would start finding them NOW if your kids have yet to loose their teeth.  You never know when they fall out on you.

2.  Sew up a simple pillow, I made Leland’s out of recycled wool felt and a little remnant piece of cotton print fabric, and wool stuffing.

3. I took a piece of wool cutout, folded up the sides and sewed it together to make a little pouch for the actual tooth.  I took the pouch and wrote the date on it and stored it in a little box in my own special secret cupboard.

4. A leaf from the garden for wrapping – no need for paper or tape!

5. Some hemp string for tying.

What was your tooth fairy like?  Did you come up with something different from your childhood?   I’d love to hear your story for I am so curious to know how others celebrate their children’s teeth.

Until next time.

Much warmth,
Grace

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Implementing Rhythm in Our Home Changed Our Lives, Kept Our Sanity and Improved Our Relationships

Do you live with rhythm in your home?  I didn’t because I didn’t even know what that meant.   After I learned about it and started to really implement it, my family and my life had been completely transformed.  Here is the story of how it all started…

I was brought up in a home that did not have much structure.  We had meals at mealtimes but not always together, especially breakfast, it was often eaten standing up and completely rushed.   A lot of times packing it with me to eat on route to school or an event.  Sunday church was the only thing that was non negotiable.  Other than that, most family activities were off the cuff.  Of course I did not see anything wrong with this picture.  I turned out “fine”, as most people have.

My adult life before kids were just things that happen to me and all decisions were based on the result of how comfortable I would or would not be.  No one would realize and see how self indulgent one is until you become a parent, no matter how giving you think you have been. Don’t feel bad about this if you don’t have kids. It is only natural that you would want to be good yourself.

Parenthood will bring out the dark stuff, from the inside out.  What you do with these feelings/emotions/realizations and whether you want to learn from it is entirely part of your path.  To me it is a choice, you either choose to ignore/bury it or you face it head on.  If you choose to face it then it will probably be the most uncomfortable, self inflicted hard core (pun intended) decision you would have to make.  The worse part is, there are so many layers and once you go in, it is hard to come out unscathed.  The layers are extremely overwhelming.  It takes courage and guts to face this darkness.  To me, this is actually THE hardest part about parenting – dealing with your own crap.

Most new parents talk about how hard it is to take care of highly emotional infant/toddler set, about how to deal with their tantrums, asking around for tricks and tips on discipline, seeking for the best methods to getting them to sleep through the night…the list goes on.  The truth is, when your kids are “acting out”,  it is actually them asking you to look into yourself.  And if you want things to change, you have to change yourself first.  In the world of kids, words are cheap especially in the early years.  I have learned that one has to model the behaviour you want your kids to have.  THAT to me is why parenting is not easy, the smelly diapers and the tantrums do not come close to the difficulty of inner work.

There is light at the end of this blog post/tunnel.  I worked hard on my own crap and I got rewarded.  Let me tell you how it happened.  Lets get back to the topic of rhythm.

From the beginning of my parenting journey, I thrived on the attachment parenting philosophy of how to be attuned and keeping close awareness of your child’s needs.  I was that mother who “wore” her baby everywhere.  First slings then wraps and then the Ergo carrier.  The used McClaren stroller we purchased via craigslist the day before he arrived collected dust.  I was into keeping my baby close to my body as much as I can and as close to my face and head as I can.  He and I definitely bonded.  I was happy and he was happy (so I thought).  I was breastfeeding on demand and I was okay with him needing to feed throughout the night (and day).  He could sleep when he falls asleep and eat when I sensed he was hungry.  I would prepare meals for him first, feed him and then think about what we’d eat AFTER he falls asleep – a lot of times that is after 10pm.  This baby-led lifestyle was working for us – so I thought.  I remember even commenting to myself on how “rigid” this mother was when I learned that she would put her 6 month old to nap and sleep for the night everyday at the same time.  I remember thinking: “Kids would sleep when they are tired.”

Wow, did I have something to learn.  Enters my own unhealthy connection to sleep.  I grew up not having a set time to sleep.  I was allowed to sleep as late as I wanted throughout my childhood (a lot of times, pass 11pm).  I never recall on having to nap or being asked if I needed one.  I slept because I was exhausted, not because it was bedtime.  I was always tired during the day and would crash out in the library on a desk while trying to do homework after school.  As a result, when I got older I had insomnia and would stay up two days or more in a row during exam times throughout university.  I did not know how to self regulate.  That was my normal.  Yeah.

Here I am, totally “handling” my sleep-deprived life like a pro.  As this lifestyle continued, I was starting to fall apart and not realize it.  I would have trouble keeping up with housework, I couldn’t take a shower without thinking that I would wake the baby up, I was also working part-time.  I thought I had a handle on it.  I thought this stressful, surviving-by-a-thread mode was normal and that was what parenting a young child is like.   I accepted it and both my husband and I were game for the challenge.  Until one day I came across the Waldorf School and their child development philosophies while researching for schooling around my community.

Enters a WHOLE NEW WORLD. Total and absolute epiphany.  What an eye opening experience.  This was the first time I had encountered the words rhythm, home and family in the same sentence.  Rudolf Steiner?  Who is that?!  (I’ll have to take a rain check on the elaboration of Mr. Steiner.  What I have learned from his philosophies are many a blog posts to come.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here is the link to his wiki world to make it easier for you know now )

From the moment I “walked-in” to this new-to-me world of Waldorf Education and its philosophies on child development, I knew I had found something I can really sink my teeth into.  No one, and I mean NO ONE I knew throughout my diverse life experiences had ever talked to me about the existence of this philosophy. It felt like I was censored from it my whole life and all of a sudden the curtain was lifted.  Eyes wide open I went in head first into the deep end of this fascinating new pool.  I may as well have just discovered a new planet.

I am a really fast learner.  I’m even faster if I feel a fire in my belly about something.  Well, my stomach was burning alright.  I only had to read a few of books and articles out of the milieu of teachings for me to change our family’s way of life 180 degrees.  Of course I have the best partner who was in complete support to this new research and was so on-board with trying anything new if it has to do with improving our family life.  So we went out there, worked our butts off in making changes within ourselves and got us some rhythm in our home.  Here is what it looks like (please keep in mind that we have pre-school age kids, this will change as they grow of course) :

  1.  7am: We have an epic un-rushed breakfast before father goes to work.  When I said epic, i mean we all eat together sitting down, with table set, no cereal in a bowl of milk but instead fresh fruits, yogurt, eggs cooked in different ways in different seasons, sometimes bacon or sausages and toast.  On weekends and special occasions we take it even slower and grander, doing pancakes or french toast etc.
  2. 8:30am: After breakfast activity (for the ages from infant to around 6/7) consist in the form of a walk around the neighbourhood visiting cats, saying hi to the postman, chatting with neighbours, pick berries and throw rocks in the river or a short hike in the forest, then back home for a bit of circle time – singing, stories and snacks then free uninstructed play while I prepare lunch.
  3. 11:45am:  Lunch time happens in the same time frame everyday, again together, no matter where we are.
  4. 12:30pm:  2 to 3 hours of nap/quiet time in a room where there is a bed – no sleeping in the stroller, in the car seat or in a carrier.
  5. 3pm: After nap activity would be similar to after breakfast and 2 days out of a week, we make get in the car and go explore somewhere a bit further.
  6. 6pm: Dinner time happens in around the same time frame, and dad would do everything in his power to be present for this meal – even meaning having to work a bit in the evening.
  7. 6:45pm: Bath, story and a song – for the first 3 years we didn’t even read books.  We would all lay in bed in the dark and tell stories that would pertain to our boys’ day/life.
  8. 7:30pm:  Lights out.

So this is what the basics framework of what our rhythm looks like.   Of course it gets flexed with the ebb and flows of the seasons and developmental milestones.  In general,  everyday of our lives now looks more or less like this ever since I’ve discovered this way of organizing our days, yes even on weekends!

It may seem boring or its just a time schedule if you look at it at face value but the kind of discipline and creativity it takes to sustain this EVERYDAY takes a lot of hard work, especially when you have never experienced this throughout your life.  We have been at this for over 3.5 years now and we are constantly refining the details and making it even better.

Every since we got rhythm, both my husband and I been rewarded with quality “me and us” time every night starting from 7:30pm.  The boys sleeps through the night.  I get to have a bonus 2 hours of quiet uninterrupted time in the middle of my day where I can recharge.  But the real reward is how the kids are.  They both feel secure and joyful knowing their day is predictable, they are well rested therefore able to absorb new things with much focus and ease, well feed with regular timed meals and snacks to keep energy levels even-keeled, the pro list is very long. Ultimately they are genuinely happy, physically thriving and has an overall great sense of peace about them.

What I really want to say to all the struggling, sleep deprived parents out there, is that you CAN keep your sanity, have time for yourself and your relationships even with very young children in your home.  Two years ago when our second boy came into our lives and into this developed rhythm of ours, his ability to self-regulate from the very beginning never cease to amaze us.  So yes, you can have rhythm in your home from day one.

I strongly urge all families to try this out.  There are lots of trails and errors that we’ve worked through and ironed out throughout this journey and we know with every developmental change, there will be a new shift in the details of our rhythm.  I will be writing more on these shifts and changes in many posts to come for if I can inspire one family to develop a peaceful fulfilling home life, I would be more than happy to share our stories.

To learn more about how to set rhythm in your home, here are some great resources to dig deeper into:

Carrie, one of my biggest parenting inspiration from The Parenting Passageway,  has many many amazing insightful posts on this topic, this one is a good one to start with:  Eight facets of a family culture: Rhythm (Part One).

Helle Heckmann, renowned Waldorf Kindergarden teacher and author of books like Slow Parenting wrote an in-depth and detailed article on how to create rhythm in the home.  It is called Daily Rhythm at Home and its Lifelong Relevance.

These two articles alone will open the door wide into looking at parenting from a different perspective than what we are mostly exposed these days.  It is truly inspiring to know that there are such great resources out there and I feel so grateful to have stumbled onto this for it has changed my life significantly and continuing to do so.

Please feel free to leave a comment or sent me and email if you want to discuss more about this, especially if you are thinking of making this change.

With much warmth and love,

GracePlenty of Simple

Our simple yet epic breakfast

Our simple yet epic breakfast

Birthdays and Parties – A Simplified Outlook Part 1:

Our sweet Leo will be turning 2 next month.

Confession:  I have yet to do birthday “parties” for either one of our boys where invitations were sent, neither via an e-vite nor snail mail.  In today’s parenting culture, from time to time I do feel a bit reluctant to admit that it is actually not something we are very proactive with.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, have people over to our house, preparing delicious meals, the sharing and the connection . It is the over-the-top, the more the merrier kind of parties that make me think twice.

Now that I am more aware of my own childhood, as I look back I realize birthdays were not such a big deal in my family.  Partly it is because my birthday is on Christmas Eve (Church and Jesus took center stage) .  Mostly it was because everyone was just too busy.  It was remembered and a family dinner was prepared or dining out was scheduled.  I was not modelled on how a good kids birthday party was thrown.  As I got older, and went to other people’s birthday parties, I didn’t recall having that much of a good time.  It was usually frenzied, chaotic, noisy and rushing to get the candles and cake part done – and then the presents.  It was always tearing out the wrapping and trying to get through the pile before anyone can take a breath.  There was never any order to these parties and it often just felt messy to me.

As our youngest boy will be turning 2 in a month, the idea of “to have or not to have” a birthday party has been circling my thoughts.  The first thing I always ask myself is:

“If we are going to have a birthday party, is it going to be a party for me (the adults) or is it going to be for the little ones?”

Leland1stBdayCake

For Leland’s first birthday 3 years ago, I made a rich dark chocolate cake for just us (the grandparents and the two of us) to enjoy.  We did have candles and I did put his name on the cake and we even took photos of him watching us blow out the candle.  It was truly simple and sweet.  We knew that Leland would not remember this particular birthday but the photos will show him that it was important, acknowledged and celebrated.  We didn’t at all feel the pressure of having a big shindig, in fact we felt it was quite authentic to our own (developing) family culture.

Leo1stBdayCake

For Leo’s first birthday last summer, it was a bit different.  Since the older brother was 3 and much more aware, we decided to do a simple birthday breakfast with just the 4 of us.  We made a blueberry pancake tower and sang a few songs.  It felt as though it was Leland that enjoyed the experience the most.  For him, it was all about the candles, lighting them and blowing them out.  There were no presents, except for a birthday ring that had photos of Leo throughout the year and ONE wood decoration on the ring.

So far my goal it still trying to keep birthdays and celebrations as genuine and simple as we can.  While they grow to become more aware of their own birthdays, so will I in regards to how I will be carving out our own kind of birthday traditions.  My goal is to be part of developing with them a healthy, meaningful and heartfelt outlook with their own birthdays as well as the birthdays of their loved ones.

The Big Picture

Beach Combing

The fact is our parenting journey goes by so fast.  During the early years, the days may feel so long but the years are short.  Now that we are a little over four years into this phase of our lives, we are finding time is speeding by faster than ever before.  We just blinked and our first boy will be five this year.

Recently, I stumbled upon this Podcast by Jack Petrash, an author, a parent/teacher educator, a master Waldorf Teacher and the founder and director of the Nova Institute.  This Podcast was a talk he did a few years ago about the basic overview of his book Navigating the Terrain of Childhood” – A Guidebook for Meaningful Parenting and Heartfelt Discipline.  His talk was one of the most beautiful rendition of the big picture of the parenting journey that I’ve ever heard in less than 60 minutes.  It was so simple, earnest and heartfelt as well as moving and exquisitely descriptive using the metaphor of a road trip through the United States, starting in the east coast from North Carolina to the west coast ending in California.

My heart was so full by the end his talk, my eyes were filled with tears that streamed down with overwhelming knowledge these beautiful years of wonderment with our boys will just fly by.  It is not like we don’t know this – that children will grow up fast – but it was how he told this story, almost like a fairytale that made this talk so different than all the other ways it had been presented to me before.  It was so moving and most of all inspiring.  It has inspired me to become even more conscious that I feel I already am, and to live in the present with even more conviction that I will not take ANY moment with my boys for granted.  I want to be able to be real and truthful with them with as much clarity as I possibly can.  I just want to be there, with eyes wide open.   I’m not here just to serve them and help them grow, I am doing this for Vince and myself too!

I’m not sure who will stumble upon this post, but if you are reading this and you have children then I would strongly recommend listening to this wonderful gem.  It will open your heart and your mind to see the humanity of all our journeys, it will add some more depth to the way you see the world and your children and most of all, yourself.

I would love to hear your feedback and listen to your thoughts on this.

With much affection,

Grace

A technical note on the Podcast:  It is divided into 11 Segments and they are not arranged in chronological order, so you will need to select each one as you go along.  Also, the time stamp of these segments are incorrect, each Segment is only about 5 minutes long so don’t be taken that this is going to be a long drawn-out lecture.  

Speaking Less as More

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Parenting with less words.

One of the main shift in paradigm for me after becoming a parent is to truly understand the importance of not talking too much to a young child.

I was under the impression that I will need to “teach” many things to my child and tell them all about their world and surroundings.  It is such a common thing in our society when talking to very young persons is to ask about what is their favourite,  ask them to name an object or colour and mostly sentences will start is the word “What”.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite animal?

What would you like to eat?

What would you like? This? or That?

This is usually how we adults think to engage in a conversation with kids.

My husband and I don’t do that anymore.  It was not an easy habit to break but after understanding how questions can actually stress and pressure a young child’s development, we simply cannot  continue as “normal”.  The normal in our household now is to listen and observe more.  We comment and ask much less.  Ever since we’ve become conscience of this, we have noticed a significant change in the overall energy in our environment.  It is much more peaceful and the day goes by with more harmony.

Some days, I get commented on the gentle and calmness of  our little boys’ dispositions.  Our society’s expectation of the behaviour of boys is usually loud, physical and rambunctious to name a few.  As if gentleness and calm are something so rarely “natural” in children (especially boys) and that we must have won the lottery (twice!).   Most people are in awe at how observant and engaging they are.

Since I usually do not talk about parenting unless when asked, I just make a mental note to myself that I know I have found one of the secrets to parenting that will result in overall serenity:

In speaking less to your child, they will blossom (even more) before your eyes.

I’m sure I will be writing more on this topic…

g.