Friday, March 21, 2014

Anticipation

"anticipation is making me wait, keeping me waiting...
… for these are the good ole days."

Are you old enough to remember Carly Simon's hit song? You can hear it here.

I do remember being a first time mom and oh, I wanted it all for my child.
I was so excited to explore these Waldorf ways with him. I looked forward to all these delicacies of a Steiner based education: watercolor painting, geometric designs, beeswax modeling, marionette puppetry and woodworking. I wanted to bring it all to him.

I was blessed to have a lovely mentor in my life, who was grandmotherly to me and helped me see that it is a gift for the child to wait for things. Anticipation builds interest, curiosity, gratitude and joy. When we are given things before we are ripe for them, we cannot appreciate them. 

The child three and under is all movement and exploration: working hard in piling things up… and then... dumping, splashing, dropping, undressing the dolls. All process. No finished product. This is to celebrate, this is healthy development. This free self initiated movement is the foundation for creativity. 

Babies don't need to be born with a paintbrush in their hand to become creative human beings. The creativity arises from the whole being, the being who was free to be a baby and move around, free to be a toddler and toddle around. This is what I came to understand about Steiner based education, that we honor the age and stage of development and let children be children by waiting. 

Another realization that came to me with this bundle of joy and infinite wisdom, my first born, when I was so gung ho to bring him painting and crafts and modeling was that it was me who had the hunger. I  wanted to delve into these realms. So little by little, in taking up the painting and crafts and modeling myself, I was able to step back and allow my child to be a toddler.

So I began to paint and made things of the watercolors: invitations, cards, bookmarks, notes for myself. In doing this, indulging myself, I realized I was giving myself permission to nurture me. Just for me.

Around the same time, I began to focus my artistic energies on making practical things for my son, tree branch blocks, hand dyed silks and finger puppets. I made a sleep time marionette for me to use with him.

So, what I am wondering is this... if one has strong daily rhythms and breathing space in your day, and your child feels secure in knowing what comes when, do you need weekly rhythms? If you are getting to the activities that are important to you, does it matter?

With homeschooling the grades, I need weekly rhythms to figure out when we will do things, otherwise the week evaporates and we would not paint or do form drawing or have a rhyme and reason to Main lessons. And I would be totally lost at four o'clock if I did not have a plan for meals.

But if your child is under seven, what do weekly rhythms bring to you?

The notion of Weekly Rhythm in Waldorf came out of the kindergarten in which each day of the week is known by the children for what they do.

There is a baking day, a soup day (they remember to bring a vegetable) a painting day, a coloring day, maybe a woods walk day or a farm day or a eurhythmy day depending on the school. At the end of each day at school, the class holds hands and sings goodbye. The parents may be included in this. At the end the teacher says, and I will see you tomorrow for _______ (fill in) day. On Friday she says, "tomorrow and the next day are home days and I'll see you on Monday for painting day. Have a good weekend!"

The child lives with anticipation of what is to come. With excitement. And predictibility. This is an integral part of early childhood.

Children wait until they are old enough to go to college.
Children wait until they can get their own checking account.
Children wait until they are old enough to drive.
Children wait until they are old enough for the first date.
Children wait until they are old enough to go off to a movie with friends.
Children wait until they are old enough to use a computer.
Children wait until they are allowed to be at home alone.
Children wait until they are taught to write.
Children wait until they are allowed to cross the street on their own.
Children wait until they can get their own library card.
Children wait until the can ride a two wheeler.
Children wait until they are allowed to go out and play on their own.
Children wait until they are allowed to set the table.
Children wait until they are allowed to use a knife.
Children wait until they are allowed to paint.
Children wait until they are allowed to have crayons.

This list is just some elements of life that children anticipate.

As the adults we can frame them in the context of development. We can make it magical. We can celebrate these milestones of life for our children as they happen, simply and joyfully. When you are in first grade, you'll learn to write. When you are in 3rd grade, you'll join us for family movie night. When you are 16, you'll learn to drive. We teach the child through these actions, through anticipation that there is a natural order to life, that everything unfold in its own good time.

When we set it up this way, developmentally, it take us out of the picture as the one who grants or denies their wishes and places it squarely in the context of age an development. It takes this off our shoulders and eliminates the power struggle.

Oh how I wish I had a chart that said, when you are ___ you will _______ but it comes with time and with input from wise like minded parents and the first child, the "first pancake" as the oldest in a movie of that name described herself, is the test pancake.

When we prepare to cook a batch of pancakes, it is with the first one that we are testing the heat of the pan, the amount of butter in the pan, the readiness of the batter, and it gets easier with experience. Now we can talk about the first born.

See how interwoven life is and especially with Waldorf! We all can draw on each other, once we have some clarity to our own values for our child.

Anticipation is a powerful parenting tool, for it creates a picture of what is to come, with time for the child, and takes us out of the power struggle.

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Is anticipation something you struggle with? Is it a conscious part of your parenting?


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pull Them in Closer

Since we are delving into conscious, connected, creative parenting over on the eCourses in February and March, I thought I'd offer some reflection here on a common parenting practice ~ the time out 

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Let's imagine a child is cranky for some reason or another and is complaining or disruptive. Mama is tired of his whining and sends him to his room for a time out.

Let's look at what it means to send a child to his or her room for being miserable. Misery is a feeling, an expression of emotion.

A miserable child is having some big strong emotions, like sadness and disappointment. Children do not know what to do with these big strong feelings, so they lash out and have meltdowns and have tantrums.

This is completely normal and to be expected.

Children have big emotions. They squeal with joy, cry in frustration, stamp their feet, interrupt and whine in the most annoying way.

Our initial impulse is probably to push it away, make it go away, or at least put it out of earshot. (this is probably a protective impulse of sorts!)

Yet the more connected we are with the child and the more accepting we are of their feelings in the moment, even if they want to pummel big brother, the more easy it is for them to get it out and move on.

And the more we ignore it, or discount it or poo poo it, the more likely it is to resurface with new found intensity in a completely unrelated moment. For our emotions go somewhere. They go in deeper and get stronger and heavier to carry around. They emerge with more force the next time. Sometimes they come out in adulthood, and take shapes we had not imagined could exist. But they do.

When we name it and acknowledge it, the child will usually moves through it, like this, "you're feeling sad about not going out to play, you want to be with the other children. you are angry at me for saying no."

Right there we help the child be in his body, be fully present and grounded and aware that he is feeling something strong and it is sadness and anger. If we share a story of our own about being young that helps too sometimes. No need to process the feelings or get into to them deeply or talk about them beyond naming them and acknowledging the child in the moment.


If we send them off to be alone because we are feeling uncomfortable with their feelings, then we have some work to do on ourselves. Sending them off when they are in distress is a form of abandonment.

This is a great example of  where inner work helps us grow and understand our children by understanding ourselves. Then we can respond with calm action rather than react all over the place and make a big mess of it, make our children fearful and teach them to stuff their feelings.

When my children's behavior arouses feelings in me, that is a sign that I have something to look at and release from my own experience of childhood in order to really see my children and respond healthily. We all have it. It is part of being human. When we ignore it and get angry and frustrated with our children's behavior it is very difficult to guide them. We need to take care of ourselves first. Then we can be grounded to really see, hear and feel them and guide them through the big emotions and challenges of life.

When we send our children to their rooms because we don't like their behavior, we are missing a chance to look beneath that behavior at what the child is trying to tell us, what does the child need in this moment? Usually it has to do with connection. A separation only drives it all deeper and makes it harder for the child to grow and learn how to get their needs met in healthy ways. And then we feel bad about ourselves.

Rather than have bad feelings, let go of them, remember we are all learning. Our children are our teachers.

Here's a beautiful and inspiring example of how a teacher pulled them all in closer, children and parents, when a classmate's behavior was challenging.

Come on over and join the eCourse here if you'd like to plunge into some parenting practices practice, connect with others on this path of conscious, connected and creative parenting, and find ways to ease the struggles, while deepening your understanding of the underpinnings of Waldorf education.

Blessings on your parenting journey,



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