Category Archives: Our Kids

Hallow….wait!

Becoming a parent changes you, in ways that you never thought possible.   It goes without saying that your entire world and focus changes.  All of the sudden you start to care about things like schedules, and bedtimes.  And you worry about routine, and friendships, and whether or not you are doing a good enough job.  Are you present enough?  Are you offering enough freedom and independence? And if you indulge yourself, there is an endless supply of doubt and worry to be had. Then there are the things that pop up and blindside you – things you thought you had an idea about but were completely wrong.

For me, this was Halloween.  I was a new-ish parent with two young kids, 2 and 1.  I had bought all the Halloween decorations and even a couple of costumes for my littles.  I kept things pretty mellow and stuck with the smiling jack-o-lanterns and black cats.  I was excited to decorate our house and create memories with my kids. That is what we are supposed to do right?  I had memories of my own Halloweens as a child and couldn’t wait to get going on creating those with my own children.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I remember one afternoon walking with my daughter to our neighborhood park.  It was a cool fall day in mid-October.  Halloween decorations were out in full swing in our neighborhood.  We started walking, and only got about a half a block before she stopped all of a sudden, grabbed my hand tightly, and said, “Go home Mama?” I could see that she was nervous about something but I didn’t know what.  “No, we are going to the park remember?”  She insisted, “Go home Mama!” she said pulling me in the opposite direction.  “Baby girl, what’s wrong?” I asked.  “I scared,” she said crawling up my as if something was chasing her.  I looked up to see a skeleton hanging on the front porch of my neighbor’s house.

That skeleton knocked the sense back into me.  All of the sudden I could see our neighborhood through my daughter’s lens.  There were giant spider webs, ghosts, skeletons, creepy bloody goblins, and all kinds of spooky things.  Out of nowhere, her normal had changed.  What was once a simple enjoyable and predictable walk to the park had all of a sudden changed to something very horrifying and unpredictable.  Of course, she wanted to go home.  It was scary out there.

You see, young children are not developmentally ready for Halloween.  Their inability to decipher fantasy and reality makes Halloween very confusing and very scary for them.  What young children need is time spent in hands-on three-dimensional reality. Halloween is so far from reality, that it causes confusion, even worry and anxiety for many young children.

I never ended up decorating our house for Halloween that year, in fact, we never even bought candy or opened our door for trick-or-treaters.  Instead, we held my daughter in the night as she suffered through some awful night terrors.  We spent our days, crunching fall leaves in our little courtyard, painted pumpkins, enjoyed the pumpkin patch, and we let Halloween go.

My daughter is 6 now and Halloween still makes her nervous. I also have two younger sons (5 and 3), and while Halloween doesn’t appear to be as scary for them as it was for her we are still very conscious about how we choose to partake or not in this holiday.  In fact, we have adopted a love for celebrating the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos.  It has given us the opportunity to honor and learn about our family in a real meaningful way, yet enjoy the traditions and desire to decorate and celebrate.

So this year, as Halloween approaches, I would encourage you to pay close attention, and really think about what your children are experiencing.  It’s okay to make Halloween wait.   Take solace in the fact that the time will come when your children will make Halloween memories like those ones you have from when you were a child, it just might be a few years down the road.

How Was Your Day?

“How was your day?”  It’s the automatic question that just pops out of our mouths as parents. You pick up your children from school, you haven’t been with them all day, you want to connect, and so you ask it.  You might even follow-up with “What did you do today?” And more of than not the answers to those questions go something like, “Good.”  and “I don’t know.”

Here’s the thing about those questions.  Asking them becomes a habit, which gives the effort for connection little meaning.  The truth is, our little ones don’t have the capacity to really answer that question.  It’s so big and broad that it is overwhelming to them.  They don’t spend their time at school cataloging all of their activities for the day.  They are living in the moment, working for the sake of working, because it feels good.  They are figuring out routine, learning how to concentrate and make decisions, and feeling what it feels like to be a member of our classroom.

So what should we ask when we greet our children after a day at school?  Is it possible that a question isn’t the greatest greeting for your child?  Consider just a warm welcome with a hug and a smile, and perhaps “It’s so nice to see you.”  Give the connection some space to land, and let your children lead the way.  Do they want to talk?  Do they need some quiet? Are they hungry?  Your children have been on their best behavior holding it all together at school, and you are their comfort.  Be that for them.

There is absolutely a time for learning about each other’s day, and it may even be right after pick up. Sometimes I even start the conversation with a story about my own day.  “Do you want to hear a story about something that made me laugh today?”  My kids love it, and often the conversation about our days will organically unfold from there.  If questions feel more natural to you consider asking specific questions.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

“What made your smile today?”

“Who did you play with on the playground?”

“Which teacher lead line time today?”

“Did you help anyone today?”

“Was there anything that was challenging for you today?”

“What made you laugh today?”

“Who did you sit by at lunch/line time today?”

“What is something you saw that made you think?”

“Were you brave today?”

“Did you ask any questions at school today?”

“What was for snack today?”

“Did you do a work on a rug or a table today?”

I mention this as it is all fresh in my mind these days.  This year for the first time I’m not part of my daughter’s classroom, and I have no idea what is happening during her day.  As her former teacher, this is super tough for me, and I’m working through the adjustment.  I’m practicing patience and learning this new dance with her.  I’m trusting that she’ll share what she feels she needs to and leaning more into the uncomfortable of not knowing every single part of her day.  And as habitual and instinctive as it is, I’m working on refraining from asking her, “How was your day?”

 

 

 

 

Ready or Not

I’ve been a mix of emotions lately, and they seem to be just mixing more, getting bigger and more unclear.  Some days I think things are all settled and I’m good.  I’m at peace.  She’s ready to move on, the teacher in me knows this.  I see her on the playground leading games, and cracking sarcastic jokes – clearly she’s moving… er has already moved into the next plane of development. She’s barely small enough for the little chairs, and hunches over every day to wash her hands.  I’m sure that little potty is really far down there too.  The little circles are all checked in Montessori Workspace, she’s keeping tabs on everyone and everything, reminding me that we need to get more paper towels, and she noticed two friends fighting on the playground  said, “I think maybe we need to have another Peace Flower lesson before we graduate.”

Graduate. That word hit me like a ton of bricks.  She’s going to be a graduate.  Just breathe that in for a moment.  It means she won’t be part of our class anymore, and that I won’t be her teacher anymore.  It means that her work, and mine (as her teacher) are done.  The mother in me is having a hard time accepting that.  I’m going to miss her smiles, and surprise hugs.  I’m going to miss hearing her belly laugh from far away on the playground.  I’m going to miss staring at her while she works, standing back in awe as she helps little ones like it’s in her genetic code.  I’m going to miss racing her to the front door in the early mornings, and listening to her talk about her day, knowing most of what happened already because I was there too.  But she is ready.  My head knows this, just not my heart yet.

I remember I couldn’t wait for her to start school – she was a spirited toddler, with an unquenchable thirst to learn and I was thrilled that a team of some of the greatest teachers I know were going to punch her in the face with some Montessori.  Not much has changed in four years – our teachers are still some of the greatest that I know, and she is still as spirited as ever.  And that unquenchable thirst for knowledge? It’s still there too.

 

In three short days, she will walk over our bridge, and I will shake her hand and whisper congratulations.  I’m sure there will be tears rolling down my eyes but hopefully they won’t show behind my sunglasses I’ll be wearing because I want her to know that while I feel sad for all the things I’m going to miss about her not being there, I’m extremely proud of her, and feel more lucky than ever to have had the honor of being her teacher.  Ready or not, here she comes.

photo credit: Mary Pantier Photography