Category Archives: connection

The Philosophers Among Us

This morning my daughter and I had to walk to the backyard neighbour’s door and gather our beloved Finnegan, the family dog.

“Um is your dog okay? His skin looks awful” my neighbour asked.

“He has a disease.” I replied “He probably won’t be with us to much longer.” I added forgetting my daughter was with me. The neighbour gave me a knowing look, we said our goodbyes and the three of  us walked home.

I picked Finnegan up when we reached our home. He can’t get up the stairs anymore. Helaina my daughter watched me with a perplexed look on her face. When we got inside she asked “Mommy what did you mean when you said ‘he won’t be with us much longer’?” My heart sunk when she asked. I had been keeping the fact our dog was probably going to die to myself. See we don’t know when, we just know the tumor in his brain will kill him. Right now he is comfortable and I didn’t want to worry my children with the knowledge that his days are numbered.

Helaina and Finn, six years ago.
Helaina and Finn, six years ago.

So there in the foyer I told my daughter that Finnegan was sick and he will die. The tears came to her eyes immediately. Followed by howls and screams of “But he is only eight years old!!!” I grabbed her and did my best to console her. I cried too. My daughter’s heart was broken and there was nothing I could do to make it better. When she calmed, I said to her “It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry. We don’t know how much time with Finnegan we have, what’s important is we enjoy our time with him and make sure he knows we love him.”

I decided to take her for Mother and Daughter pizza date after to cheer her up. We then wandered around downtown. She was quiet. Not many smiles appeared on her face. She was thinking and I wondered what to do. So we went to the bookstore, her favourite place, she perused science books while I desperately searched for a story about death and mourning.

I found a beautiful book by Glenn Ringtved titled Cry, Heart, But Never Break. A fantastic story about a grandmother and some grandchildren trying to distract death with black coffee. I got a little teary when I got to the end of the story.  My daughter and I went to purchase our finds. The lady who helped us looked at the book I purchased and gave me a  look with a trace of tears in her eyes.

Helaina and I walked onto the street and Helaina said to me “Mommy it’s good anything can happen.” I nodded, she continued “It’s good anything can happen, even death.” Holy truth bomb. How do you reply, what do you say to such wisdom?

In my case you nod, stand in awe and reflect on the wisdom of children. I so wanted to make things better for her today, I wanted to fix it for her. We can’t always fix it though, sometimes we just have to let them work through it.  Allow them to develop their theories and understandings and listen when and if they want to share their findings with us. Maybe, just maybe if we really listen we will learn something.

“It is the same with life and death,” Death said. “What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for day if there were no night?”                                                                                                                                                      excerpt from “Cry, Heart, But Never Break” by  Glenn Ringtved

 

Fake it till I make it

InstagramCapture_54d78944-37eb-41d8-b17a-296a53177b9e_jpgAt the beginning of this preschool year our class was inundated with babies. There were babies everywhere. Little wee babies only weeks old, smiling cooing babies, and almost toddler babies. We had families who were defining new normal for themselves now becoming families of two or three. We even had a couple of families who were adopting preschool children and becoming parents for the first time. It was an exciting time in the preschool. I myself had a little secret of my own I was 15 weeks pregnant expecting a baby in the New Year. It just seemed like a perfect time to have a gaggle of babies and new families surrounding me.

635601429133700103In early February I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. He was preterm but perfect. Small yes but ready for this world. So ready he was out in 13 minutes flat. We were now a family of four and going home to define a new normal for ourselves. My daughter was a big sister and my partner and I were now parents of two. A little adjustment period was to be expected.

What I didn’t expect though and what shook me to my core was an absolute feeling of disconnect. I absolutely did not feel connected to my baby. This feeling of disconnect lead to feelings of guilt, sadness and shame. My partner adjusted to having two children so smoothly he was so in love with his family and children. I did not want to burden him with my shame. My baby gained weight slowly and the midwives were concerned. I was fearful of telling them how I was feeling, scared they would blame this disconnect on his inability to gain weight quickly or latch properly. So quietly on my own I decided to fake it till I made it. I put my best parenting foot forward. To the outside world I was a good mom, I snuggled my baby, I smiled and I griped about lack of sleep. Inside I felt like I was dying. How could I not have a connection with my own child? I connect with other people children every day.

I was also overtaken with anxiety. I was constantly worried my baby would get hurt and that it would be my fault. So I tried not to be alone with him often. I was thankful for sharing circles with colleagues, preschool pick up for my daughter and family functions.

Struggling hurts, struggling alone is soul crushing. Two things saved me. At eight weeks the health nurse called. I found a quiet room in our house I locked the door and I told her everything. I cannot thank her enough for listening, letting me say a hard truth and all the follow up phone calls and appointments.

The other thing that saved me happened at pick up for preschool for my daughter.  Morgan one of her wonderful educators came and checked in with me. She said to me “Just so you know we haven’t brought up baby with Helaina. We are waiting for her to talk about him. We are just focusing on her right now and she is doing great.” I cannot tell you how much those words meant to me. They were exactly what I needed to hear. Two wonderful caring educators were looking out for my daughter every morning and focusing on her. Which gave me permission to just focus on my baby.

Ten weeks have passed since that time and I am absolutely in love with my baby. I can’t wait to see his smiles in the morning. He is the happiest little man a parent could ask for. He gains weight like a champ so much so that he is already at four months of age wearing 12 month old clothing. The health nurse informed me on our last visit that he was in the 90th percentile for head circumference, length and weight. So in her words “He is a big baby but he is proportionately big.” I feel absolutely connected to both of my children.InstagramCapture_087684b2-76b5-4623-b048-8d3d6aa641de_jpgI can’t help but think about all those babies in September, all those families defining a new normal for themselves and I wonder were any of them faking it till they made it? If they were I hope we said or did something to help.

If you are struggling with  postpartum depression or anxiety please don’t fake it till you make it. Seek help. Talk to your midwife, doctor and/or health nurse.

 

jessie

Rituals

jessieThe following post is a guest post from Jessie Gill an Early Childhood professional who practices at Moss Rock Preschool.  Jessie has been an Early Childhood Educator since 2007. She studied at Vanier College in Montreal. She then went on to get her BA in Education and Cultural Anthropology.  She has strong image of the child, educator and Family and we were so happy to have her join our team at Moss Rock Preschool.

A Preschool is a cultural community; one that includes children, families, teachers, and community members. In beginning my new position as Educator at Moss Rock Preschool, my main objectives during the initial weeks was to observe the culture of the group and begin the relationship building process. In my observations of the children and how the group navigates through their morning, I have begun to notice daily patterns occurring, that the children, parents and educators move through with confidence.

 

I was recently reading a blog written by a particularly reflective Educator that brought to light the distinct difference between routines and rituals within an Early Childhood Environment. We all have routines in our lives that are repetitive and perhaps we go through the motions without giving much thought to what we’re doing. However, Danielle, Morgan and the children of Moss Rock have established some routines that hold significant importance for the group. Despite their apparent simplicity, I argue that they are more than routines, but in actuality special rituals. Coming from a cultural anthropology background, I studied rituals of all kinds but had never really taken the time to notice the incognito rituals that enrich Early Childhood Environments.

 

Cracker Time at Porter Park

It’s 10am and the group is dispersed around Porter Park, some children play in the spacious sand area, others groupings of children are tucked away in the trees, others stand or crouch a top the mossy rocks. The children appear deeply engaged in their work, their play. Wendy approaches Morgan in the sandpit area and asks, “Is it cracker time? Cuz I’m hungry!” Morgan replies with enthusiasm, “Yes yes yes!” The two of them head over to the coniferous tree that is our gathering place at various times throughout the morning. Wendy announces “CRACKER TIME” with gusto. The message of cracker time is passed amongst the group and children flock to the big tree. Circling around the educator, eager anticipation can be seen on the children’s faces. Morgan retrieves the crackers from the backpack and hands out crackers to the children, acknowledging each child as they are crowshanded a cracker “one for Rory, one for Polly, one for Gerta” and so on. Our park cohabitants, the crows, swoop to lower branches in anticipation of fallen crackers. The children munch on their snack and some notice and comment on the crows behaviour. As crackers are finished, the group naturally returns to play.

 

Rituals don’t have to be complex, but they must offer a sense of belonging and predictability to the children. Cracker Time can be initiated by any group member, however all participants have active and important roles. I wonder if Cracker Time would exhibit the same message of care and group belonging if the children didn’t gather all together under the same tree each day, or if the Educator didn’t acknowledge the children as the snack was handed out. From my point of view, this ritual provides children with more than a daily snack. It is a ritual that the group collectively looks forward to, where the children willingly break from their play to spend a moment gathered together with other members of their community. It is more than a routine; it is a daily ritual that holds value for the children and Educators of Moss Rock Preschool.
Jessie

 

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Another Letter of Support for the ELC Program

IMG_2884We will be posting stories and letters of support for the ELC program at Camosun. Tonight’s letter comes from Western Communities Family and Early Childhood Resource Network.

April 3, 2014

 

The Camosun College Board of Governors
Attention: Dr. Marilyn Pattison, Chair, Board of Governors

Dear Dr. Marilyn Pattison,
 
On behalf of the Sooke / West Shore Family and Early Childhood Resource Network, a community early years table with a shared vision to promote a better future for young children and their families, we are writing to express our concern regarding potential budget cuts to Camosun College’s Early Learning and Care Program. The Early Learning and Care Department are to be commended for their leadership, growing partnerships and ongoing initiatives that address the needs of the early years community throughout the Region.
 
The recent announcement proposing potential cuts to the Early Learning and Care (ELC) program has come as significant blow to our communities. At many of our community table meetings we hear from local service providers about the need for more qualified Early Childhood Educators, Special Needs Educators and Infant Toddler Educators, which this cut in funding would dramatically impact. We also hear from local families that have been through exhaustive searches to find quality childcare which these cuts in funding would have a significant impact on.
 
The West Shore Communities of Langford, Colwood and Sooke continue to experience growth as increasing numbers of families are relocating due to affordable housing and greater access to family focused opportunities. It is projected that the West Shore communities will experience a continued growth in population with a forecasted 92% increase by 2026. With this rapid growth and development continuing for the foreseeable future, there is an increasing need for support of new and existing childcare spaces and programs for families and children. If cuts are made to Camosun’s ELC program it would limit access to trained Early Childhood Educators which would significantly jeopardize our ability to work with government to create more childcare spaces and “improve Early Childhood Educator and out-of-school care provider training.”
 
With the recent announcement made through the Provincial Office of the Early Years to include more childcare spaces across the province over the next five years we need to be in a position to provide quality educators that are equip to provide exceptional care for children – our greatest natural resource.
 
On behalf of the Sooke / West Shore Family and Early Childhood Network we strongly encourage you to continue to invest in the ELC program and consider our collective voice and the impact that this potential decision will have on our communities, our families and our children. The vision of providing quality education to future Early Childhood Educators is vital to supporting the broader vision in the early childhood profession.
 
Sincerely,
Shantael Sleight
Sooke / West Shore Early Years Coordinator
Darlene Manthorpe – Belmont Park Pre-School
Ramona Melanson – Early Childhood Educator
Nicky Logins – Sooke Family Resource Society
Mitzi Dean – Pacific Centre Family Services Association
Scott Branch – Military Family Resource Centre

Invisible Lines

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The doorway the site of many invisible lines in our schools and programs many many unsaid but established guidelines. Some classrooms a child walks across that threshold and they know they are safe and cared for. Some classrooms children walk across that threshold and they know they must leave the person they are aside. Some thresholds only allow exit if they stand quietly in a perfectly straight line. Some thresholds demand joy upon exiting or entering. The guidelines are clear to the members of that class, program and/or school.

The thresholds don’t just speak to children though. The threshold speaks to parents as well. Sometimes it speaks to parents far more loudly and clearly then the children.  It says drop your child off here.  It tells them not to cross. That past this invisible line is only a place for children and educator to participate. YOUR PARTICIPATION does not matter! You are not welcome. I believe it says these things unintentionally sometimes but sadly it says these things.

I know this because I was once one of those educators who at one time put an invisible line up. I thought my job was to build a relationship with the child not the parents. I thought my job was to focus only on the child between drop off and pick up. This invisible line was supported by policies and procedures in parent handbooks as well.  You must drop off your child by 9:30 a.m. It was also supported by how rooms were set up. Sign in sheets were right by the door. This myth that our jobs were easier if parents just dropped off their children and left was a truth, not just a theory.

I practiced it as truth but I didn’t believe it.  So eventually I started to question it. How can we ask parents to trust us when they don’t know us? How can we welcome families into our program? How can we erase those invisible lines?

When I arrived at Moss Rock Preschool I wanted to establish my pedagogy of relationships and listening. I had a question of inquiry How can our preschool program create community? So I developed practices that encouraged that.  These will sound terribly simplistic. I greeted every person entering our preschool at the beginning of the day. I used their names.  I asked parents how they were doing. I would ask personal directed questions like “How was your boat trip this weekend?” At the end of the day  I greeted them the same way. I would share stories of our day. I would open the door to our class a few minutes early inviting families to come in and participate. I would point out when there were new narratives in the room and invite them to read them. I would throw preschool parties.   The sign in was put in the middle of the room inviting parents to come in.

Today I feel like we have a great community within our preschool. It is my hope that what our threshold says is you are all welcome here.