Category Archives: parenting

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.

 

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The Good, The Bad, The Mindful and The Self-Regulated

IMG_7269Sometimes when I have a few minutes free to myself I like to peruse the parenting or education section of bookstores to see what is being shared. My last visit to the bookstore the shelves were inundated with books with mindful, present, self-regulated in their titles. I was bothered.

I was at a professional lunch not long after when a colleague said “I just want the children to be more mindful.” As the word mindful slipped out of her lips I felt an inner cringe occurring deep within me. I was rejecting this word.

A week later I found myself facilitating a professional group discussion on practice. The word mindful came up several times in our conversations.  As the word came up again and again I could feel my body rejecting the word, cringing at its use. I wanted to interject into their conversation and ask “What does it mean to be mindful?” I knew though I may use a judgemental tone in that moment that wouldn’t convey a desire to understand but more a desire to reject that word. So I listened to their thoughts on it, as well as my own body and thoughts. What was it about this word that upset me?

What does mindful mean?  When I looked it up Mindful was defined as being conscious or aware of something. I have watched children consciously kick or bite someone. Would people label that behaviour as mindful? Probably not. To me it feels like mindful is another way to label a child. Being a mindful or self-regulated child is just another way of telling them they are a good child.  Telling parents they are not mindful or present parents is just another way of saying they are bad parents. Who decides who is mindful and who is not? Who decides how much being present makes you a good parent?

We as educators know it is wrong to label people as good or bad. We know that we internalize these labels and no longer see our choices as good or bad choices but ourselves as good or bad people. We know this but yet we still struggle not to label a child or parent. These words mindful, present, self-regulated, etc… are still labels no matter how enlightened they are.

I think all children are mindful. I think they are very aware of the choices they make good or bad. I also think parents are some of the most mindful people I know revisiting and examining  every choice they make as parents. I also think all children have the ability to self-regulate, I think we as a society just don’t like it when their way of regulating feels like chaos. I believe language has power, it’s probably one of the most powerful things I have as an educator. Words like mindful and self-regulated are not used in my practice because it requires me to make a judgement about someone and that is not my job.

 

I matter to a healthy economy

My Dilemma

I matter to a healthy economy

She sits across from me with the biggest smile on her face.

“Danielle” She says “We would like to offer you a promotion.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yes” with a huge grin she goes on to describe what the promotion entails. A wage increase, increased hours, more responsibility, more autonomy, and benefits.

“We understand childcare may be an issue, so you can do some of the admin work from home.”

“Wow” I either say or think. I am certain I said thank you but I can’t be sure. I was in a bit of shock.

I want to tell you I was bursting with joy and excitement. I want to tell you I jumped up and said “Thank you, I’ll take it!” I want to tell you that but I can’t. What I was thinking at that exact moment was “can I afford to take this opportunity.” The organization thought of the childcare issue but I know my track record of being able to work from home with a three, soon to be four year old running around the house. Blog posts, admin, feedback that I used to be so good at getting done in a timely matter has taken a back seat to snuggles, walks, playing, cleaning and the constant feeding a growing preschooler needs. I know that if I do choose to take this opportunity, I will need child care. Child care costs money. So the numbers start rolling around in my head.

The meeting is over. She asks me to let her know by the following Friday if I will take it.

I go home and I look at the numbers and the reality of the situation is this. Even with an increase in hours and wages my monthly income will be greatly reduced by taking this position. The cost of childcare will take up what extra income I could be bringing home and then some. Based on finances taking this promotion will hurt my family.

How can this be okay? How can we live in a time or place where this is our reality. I love my job, I love what I do, I so desperately want to take this promotion and be happy.

Last year during elections we heard the slogan families first. We heard our premier talk about growing a healthy economy. There was an early year’s strategy, which was fantastic and welcome news. New childcare spaces would be created. I don’t feel like families are first. It’s all well and good to create more childcare spaces but if you can’t afford those spaces what are our options. Doesn’t my contribution to the economy matter?

I can’t sit here and take this reality. Can you? So on July 12th I will be joining the stroller brigade for the $10 a day Childcare. I would invite you to join me. Affordable childcare is part of a healthy economy. More importantly I am part of healthy economy.

Side note: I took the promotion. Fairfield Gonzales Community Association and Kristina please know I felt so valued and so honoured by this opportunity. I may have been fretting about numbers but I was elated.Thank you!

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The Power of “I can”

I can dress myself!
 
I think sometimes as adults we forget the power of “I can”. Its been so long since we acquired a new skill that the feeling of discovery, joy and power can sometimes be lost on us.
 
Childhood is full of those moments.
Chalk full of those moments.
 
As  adults though we can find those “I can” moments frustrating because we forget the thrill of learning something new.
 
For instance my daughter can take her own diaper off. Everyday this week she has removed her diaper when she wakes up from nap and happily played naked as a jaybird in her crib. This has frustrated me all week. The constant pee everywhere, the constant laundry, followed by the constant baths.
She happily holds up her diaper when I walk in the room to show me like its a prize she just won with the biggest proudest smile on her face.
 
Today as I walked into her room to catch her taking off her diaper, I asked myself “why is she doing this?”
It hit me like a tonne of bricks.
“She did it because she could.”
Last week she couldn’t, now she can.
 
It wasn’t to drive me crazy. It wasn’t to purposely create more laundry for me.
It was because it felt good to do something new.
 
Of course all this pondering has me thinking of all the other “I can” instances in my career that passed me by because I was to busy being frustrated. 
 
 Looking at children through a lens of being capable can change frustration to elation.
What “I can” moments have you shared in lately?