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Brave

I heard once that being brave doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid; being brave means doing the very thing you are afraid of. I love this distinction because I think too often we let fear choose our path. We are good at avoiding the uncomfortable, so much so that it limits our growth. Isn’t it almost always the case that when we are in the midst of something hard we are growing in some capacity?  Maybe it’s emotional growth, maybe its social growth, it could even be academic growth. Regardless of what it is, it’s taking in experiences, and allowing yourself to be soft enough so that they mold you just a little bit.

A week ago my daughter wanted to get her ears pierced. This wasn’t a totally new idea, but one that has been coming and going for about a year. I’m not one of those mom’s that has big feelings about young girls having pierced ears – I personally think there are bigger things to fret about. What I do care about is honoring my daughter, while at the same time helping her to find understanding and ownership over this decision.

I could tell that this time when she asked it was different, she was committed. “When can I?” she asked us over and over. We set a date and made a chart – it would be 6 days until the big day. She was excited and giddy at the thought of being able to have earrings of her very own.

Over the course of the week we had conversations about the responsibility of having your ears pierced, making sure to clean her ears well every morning and night. We also talked about how ears get pierced.  I wanted to make sure she understood that there would actually be holes in her ears, and that it would hurt a little bit when they pierced them.  “I know!” she’d say with a smile.

As we filled in earrings on her chart each day and the big day grew closer we started to notice some behavior changes in Darby. She was a little more on edge, and a little more charged each day. It seemed like tiny events would send her into a tailspin. We saw lots of tears and her brain would get stuck.  Making decisions about something as simple as which shoes to wear for the day was nearly an impossible task. We kept asking ourselves, “What’s going on with Darby?” and then it hit us – she’s worried about getting her ears pierced.

This is the thing about young children – heck it’s even the thing with a lot of adults – they don’t often have the ability to put words to their feelings, let alone understand why they feel what they feel or even further know how to navigate them. Darby had been carrying this worry around all by herself and it was getting heavier and heavier each day. This worry was consuming her and we needed to help her work through it.

“Baby girl, I can see you have some big feelings, I notice that you have tears, and your eyebrows are furrowed, and your brain is kinda stuck. Is it sadness your feeling?”

“I don’t know.”

“I have a guess about what may be happening could I share it with you?”

She just nodded her head yes.

“My guess is that you are worried about getting your ears pierced.  I think that it is something you really want but you are afraid of how it will hurt.”

Immediately she burst into tears. I wanted to take all the worry away.  I wanted to just say something that would make it all better, in fact I think that is the natural reaction for most people.  The truth is there wasn’t anything I could say or do that would take it all away.  So I just held her for awhile and we sat in those feelings together.

I reminded her that getting her ears pierced wasn’t something she had to do, that at any moment she could change her mind.  I also realized that she was committed to the idea.  Yes, she was scared, but she wasn’t going to let that feeling get in the way of what she wanted.

“Do you wanna hear about a time when I wanted something so bad but I was also afraid?”

Again, she just nodded her head.

“It was the day you were born.  You were still in my belly and we were at the hospital because you were ready to be come out. Dado was there, and I just started crying. I wanted to hold you in my arms so badly, but I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to know how to be a good mom.”

She looked up at me with her blue teary eyes and giggled, “What?” she asked as if that was the most absurd thing I had ever said. “You were afraid?”

I looked at her, now my eyes filled with tears and said, “Very afraid, but I decided to be brave. Did you know you can be afraid and brave at the same time?”

We hugged for a long while and then she said, “I am scared of getting my ears pierced but I still wanna do it.”

We had to revisit this conversation a few more times until the big day arrived. When it was time she walked into the store like a boss.  She sat in the chair, they marked her ears and when the lady ran to the back to grab her earrings she quickly asked me “But can you hold my hand while they do it?”. My heart skipped a beat. “Absolutely” I said.

 

Thirty seconds later she was holding a mirror admiring her new crystal studs. “It didn’t even hurt!” she whispered.  We walked out of the store holding hands and it was everything I could do not to cry.  I was so proud of her, but not because she didn’t cry, because she didn’t let fear get in the way of something she really wanted. She was brave.

 

Teacher Work Days

We know how it goes, you see “No School – Teacher Work Day” on the calendar and you think, “Aaaack!  Gotta find care for my kids!”  It can be stressful, and they can make for long days for your family and us as well.  So what really goes on during teacher work days?  We thought we’d give you a behind the scenes look and what we do and why.

Every year we are required by the State of Colorado to complete 15 hours of professional development (PD) training.  This is something our licensing inspectors check every year during our inspections, and they are getting pickier and picker about it.  15 hours is not a small chunk of extra time to squeeze in the school year, and finding meaningful PD opportunities can be challenging.   We could meet this requirement though a variety of trainings such as online courses, early childhood conventions, evening continuing ed classes or talks, or outside specialists.  We could complete these hours during our free time, after hours, or on weekends – and some schools require this of their staff.

For a number of reasons we choose to hold three Teacher Work Days a year to fulfill our PD requirement.  Our staff is the heart of our school – and we feel that in order to be able to teach and guide as a team it is imperative that we learn and grow as a team.  Working at school without the children affords us the time to connect as a staff, slow down, reflect, and grow.  This is the time where new ideas are born, and old ways are challenged, and new insights about the children and their learning are uncovered.  And just as everything we do for the children in our classroom has purpose and meaning behind it, the same holds true for our own learning.  We feel it is important to bring in relevant, meaningful and inspiring specialists to help us grow.  It most certainly aids our development as professionals.

In  past years we have refined and re-ignited our Montessori craft with the help of P. Donohue Shortridge.  We learned how to better support the needs of children who are struggling with sensory, speech, focus, or physical development issues.  This year we decided to focus on learning about Brain Gym – how moving with intention leads optimal learning.  We’ve implemented this in our classroom and are seeing some amazing things happen!  Ask your children about brain buttons, or belly breathing!

During teacher work days we also have time to make some new materials for our classroom.  Here are a few we made that the children are already enjoying!

These are some simple addition cards and manipulatives.

This is fraction cutting.

These are emotion cards.

For us Teacher work days are busy and long.  And for you they may cause stress or break the routine.  Our hope is that in the end, all we are learning and doing is trickling down to all the little ones we care for, and if that is happening then we think it is a win for everyone.

 

 

 

Holding The Line

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.  Holding the line that is.  It’s one of the hardest parts of parenting, but also one of the most important.

You’re getting ready to leave for the day, kids have been fed, all their school belongings are gathered, lunches packed, coffee in hand… “H put your shoes on so we can be on time.”  Read that again.  Notice my careful choice of words?  It’s a command, not a request.  I’ve recently learned the importance of not confusing the two.  Also notice how the focus is on the outcome I want which is to leave on time.  I didn’t say, “H, please put your shoes on so we are not late”  That is a request that he can say no to, and the focus is on being late which is exactly what I want to avoid.  I’m not perfect at my word choice all the time, in fact it’s something I’m working on every day, however, I will say, when I say it right, and my word choice is on point, it’s much more effective.

Back to the story.  I could see it coming a mile away, this was a day for battle.  This was a day where my line holding had already been tested and I knew there were going to be more tests. And those tests no matter what I do are unavoidable.  “Shoes.” I reminded him.  I could see him getting frustrated, eyebrows furrowed, stalling at the whiteboard to draw a quick monster truck.  I handed him his shoes and asked, “Would you like me to help you?”  Now if you ask any parenting expert they would tell you that I’ve already lost the battle, I shouldn’t give him so many chances, I shouldn’t have even offered to help him because it is something he most certainly can do on is own, and does often.  But at that moment in time not being late for work was more important than waiting for my son to finish his drawing and put on his own shoes at his leisure.  I asked him again, “H, would you like help with your shoes?”  He looked at me, scowled, said nothing, and returned to his drawing.  Immediately I got my wits about me and realized it was time, I needed to hold the line.

Without saying anything I grabbed my things, and headed for the car.  H came running after me in tears shouting “I need my shoes!”  I responded in a calm voice, “It’s time to get in the car.”  At this point he was screaming, raging mad, begging for his shoes.  My husband stood by me communicating with just his eyes, “Are you really doing this?”  I responded with just my eyebrow “Absolutely.”

We drove to school, H screamed the entire way, and I said nothing.  Less is more, there was no need for words.  Mine would probably be less productive then necessary, and he already knew what was happening. When we arrived at school, I gathered my things from the car.

 H asked me, “Can I have my shoes?”

“I’m sorry, I do not have your shoes, you chose to not wear them today.  Let’s go”  Inside I was dying.  I did have his shoes, and I didn’t tell him that.  Is that a lie?  Or is a necessary part of this lesson?  We walked into school.  H followed behind me, while I shed a few tears with him just footsteps ahead.

When we were inside school I put my things away, and so did he.  His breath was that kind of staccato breathing that happens after you’ve been crying really hard for a long time.  I quietly grabbed our classroom peace flower and walked over to him.  His eyes were red and puffy, and his cheeks were stained from tears.  “I can see you are very sad.  You don’t have your shoes and you want them.  I feel sad too.  I didn’t like it when you ignored my words, and when you made an ugly face at me.”  He looked me in the eyes, his extra long eyelashes were drenched in tears.  He said, “I’m sorry Mama.”  My heart was beating fast, and I felt both sad and relieved.  Sad because he was truly sad and truly sorry and I don’t like it when my kids feel anything other than happiness and joy even though it is necessary.  I felt relieved because I knew he got it.

“H, I need you to be more helpful in the mornings so that we can get to school on time, and part of being helpful is putting your shoes on before we go.”

“Okay, I will, I promise.”

“I know you will.  I brought your shoes today but I need you to understand that if this happens again I will not bring your shoes and you will spend the day at school without them.”

“Okay, I believe you”  And he did.

“H, one more thing… can we declare peace?”

We held the Peace Flower together and said, “We declare peace.”  We hugged it out.  I held the line.

It’s hard, that line holding, but it is so very important.  Sometimes it hurts, often it’s the harder choice and is met with a battle.  But if we don’t hold the line now, if we don’t set limits, and hold boundaries who will?  When you hold the line you are creating safety and predictability for your children.  You are allowing them to experience disappointment an discomfort in turn, helping them develop a sense of empathy and minimize narcissism as an adult.  You are allowing them to struggle just a bit which is important because there is no learning or mastery of anything without struggle.  So I encourage you – make the hard choice, stay strong, and hold that line, you be glad you did one day I’m certain.