Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 3: Good Luck on Your First Day!

Dear Robert,

Good Luck on your first day on the job.  We hope it goes smoothly for you; we know you will do great and be effective as you care so much about everything you do.  You are determined, hardworking and intelligent.

We miss you, love you and are eagerly awaiting your safe return!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 2: Thank you for your Support

Dear Robert,

You always support me, my hobbies, my passions.
Even when they sound crazy ...

Me: Lets become vegetarians!
You: I hope this is a phase.
 ... haha ... okay, so that one took a little getting used to, but even before you converted you were so supportive :)
Me: Lets start a dog rescue and house 12'ish dogs all the time!
You: Okay, we will be saving lives.

Me: Lets feed our dogs raw meat!
You: Lets do it!
Me: What if we un/homeschool?
You: Sure, I think you'll be good at it.

Me: What if we have our next baby at home?
You: Sounds great!

Me: Want to clean up (and my "clean up", I mean purge the closets!)?
You: At 11pm?!
Me: Yes.
You: Okay.

I can't tell you how much your continual support and faith mean to me and our family.

We are thinking about you, missing you, loving you and anxiously awaiting your safe return.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 1: Missing You Already

Dear Robert,

I love you my Dearest Robert.  I know you don't want to be there, but that you choose to be there so that I can choose to be here: home, every day taking care of our precious little angel.  We thank you and appreciate your hard work and dedication.  We are thinking of you, love you and anxiously await your safe return.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stop Calling Children "Drama Queens"

Two toddlers are running around at the playground, turn a corner and run right into each other.  The force knocks each of them to the ground.  As one toddler's parent asks the little one if she is okay from the fall, the other toddler's parent rolls his eyes, chuckles and tells her not to be such a "drama queen".  The kids get up and continue playing.  You wouldn't be able to tell which child had which discussion, at least not on the surface.  While one child feels respected, validated and that her feelings matter, the other one doesn't bother to show any feelings because they will not be taken seriously anyway. 
The sidewalks are crowded and icy.  While one adult is rushing to get home from a long days work, another is engulfed in their cell phone while waiting for a cab.  The person in a hurry turns quickly and bumps into the other adult, knocking them down.  The fallen adult shrieks in pain and and grabs his ankle.  Is he a "drama queen" also?

There are a lot of situations that are similar that happen to adults and children.  Adults are almost always taken seriously, but it seems that children rarely are.  Their reactions and emotions are often made trivial by surrounding adults.  But, they are not trivial and each interaction teaches the children something far bigger that what is seen on the surface.

 An Unfinished Brain

Humans are born with a very immature brain; it is only 25% of the final adult brain size.

90% of the growth of the human brain occurs in the first five years of life.1  The lower part of the brain is emotional, triggering strong emotions.  The higher part of the brain, the last part of the brain to develop, is in charge of reasoning, empathy and keeping the strong emotions in check.  The higher part of the brain continues to develop in the teenage years and even into the early 20s!2  Children are not setting out to be "excessivly emotional" as Merriam Webster defines a "Drama Queen". "Drama queen" emotions and reactions in children are simply an example of the higher part of the brain not being developed enough to calm and control the impulses of the lower brain.  

They are simply being children who have the same needs of love, empathy and understanding as the rest of us adults.

During the first five years of a child's life, the higher brain is forming a huge amount of connections between its cells.  These connections affect how the child will function socially and emotionally.3  The base of these connections rely very heavily on what the child is exposed to, reactions they experience, words that are said to them.  When children are exposed to bullying at a young age, the brain structures and chemical systems in their brain actually change.4  It is vitally important not to mock or bully a child. 

Minimizing Feelings & A Blow to Self-Esteem
When a child is called things such as "drama queen" and their feelings are not taken seriously, they may start to feel they do not deserve to be taken seriously.  If those around them are telling them they are insignificant, then they believe that they are insignificant.  They slowly start believing that what they say or feel really doesn't matter.  They may hide their feelings or loose their self respect leaving them even more vulnerable to bullies, drugs etc. The last thing a parent wants is a child afraid to be honest or express themselves openly in the parent-child relationship.

Shaming & a Fear of Vulnerability
Children learn by example.  What example does it set for a child on how to treat someone in a time of upset if when they are upset, they are not taken seriously, validated or shown empathy, but instead shamed?  Shame is an intense and painful feeling.  One way to protect oneself from shame is to put up a shield against ones own vulnerability.  Any weaknesses are hidden so that no one can cause the child to feel shame.  Children learn that pointing out another's vulnerability, they can protect their own.  They may try to rid themselves of their shame by projecting it onto others and become a bully.

Namecalling & Labelling are Self Fullfilling Prophecies
Children naturally look to adults for direction and information and internalize things said to or about them.  Namecalling and labelling are self fullfilling prophecies.  If a child is constantly called or labelled as something, then that becomes true to them and they actually will strive to fit the label.  Maybe the fall doesn't hurt, but the child knows they are a "drama queen", so they know they need to yell and scream and make an excessive commotion, which will result in them being called a "drama queen", and so on.

The Effects of Labelling on the Labeller
Labels such as "drama queens" have a negative connotation.  How would your reactions towards someone or a situation change if you thought of someone as "drama queen" versus thinking of them as human beings who have the same needs and feelings as yourself?  How would you respond differently?  Think about the examples at the beginning of this page.  You have convinced yourself that your child is a drama queen.  Clearly, when they fall and are upset, you are annoyed because you have already decided this reaction is in excess and only to get a reaction or attention which you have no intention of giving.  Later, you see an adult, who you have no pre-conceived notions of, fall.  You rush over to see if they are hurt, need help to get up, need a doctor.  Perhaps you empathize with them, at their embarrassment of the fall.  The two scenarios are similar, but your reactions are polar opposites.  The difference is the labels you already had set, or not, in your own mind.

Whether negative comments by adults to and/or about children are meant to be insulting or whether they are said in what is meant to be "good natured fun", there are serious and long term consequences to minimizing childrens' feelings, shaming, namecalling and labelling. Stop doing it!

This post was inspired by an actual event as described in the first paragraph.  The other parent went so far as to imply my toddler was also a "drama queen" after the two toddlers collided and Gumby asked for a mooch.  The problem is that neither Deeda nor myself are good with confrontations.  We said nothing and just ignored the folks, though we both wanted so badly to explain to him what the consequences are of his actions.
What did you think of the post?
What would you have done in the situation?
How could we educate folks should this happen (and we all know it will) in the future?

1, 3, 4.  The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gumby's World: 2/12/2011-2/28/2011

The Gumby's World series is a journal of how we spend our days with Gumby :)

Two weeks ago was exciting as we had a glimpse of the spring weather that is soon to come! 
It was also exciting because Gumby's vocabulary and thirst for knowledge just continues to swell right in front of our very eyes.  She has picked up "Yep!" and "Nope!" from I'm not sure where, but it is so cute.  And, she is asking all sorts of questions that she has never asked before.  She wants to know where everybody goes and what they are doing.  She notices background noises and asks what it is.  In the car, when we arrive at our destination she asks "Where you gonna park, mamma?"  She is always so inquistive and eager to learn about her environment.

We took advantage of the warm weather and spent lots of time outside.

Gumby couldn't wait to take her love for art back to the outdoors on the front porch with her chalk!

We also spent the better parts of  several days out and about!
Gumby has been big into going to the library again.  She likes to play the computer games with me.  There are a few that she likes to use the mouse or keyboard for, but a lot of them she points or tells me what to click on.  There is one where you can play music to put animals to sleep, feed them or play with them and she thinks it's hilarious.  Sometimes, the music makes them dance and she yells "Don't do the jig, go to sleep!" :)

The library has these foam fishes that we've been sorting and putting together by color.  Over the summer we made choo-choo's out of the fish, as in the photo, but the color sorting was new.  She took it very seriously.  I think it's important to remember that in the eyes of children, their play is just as serious as any work us adults undertake.

Gumby almost always helps me clean up.  It is her choice and she rarely refuses.  But, on the times that she does, I am okay with it.  Surely, there are times she asks me to do things and I refuse.  Autonomy is a basic human need, important to those who are both big and small, old and young.  I want her to help me and others, not because of a threat of punishment or consequences nor because of a promise of a reward or bribe, but because she truely wants to, because the motivation comes from within her.  For that to be the case, it always has to be her choice, her decision.

We met Deeda for lunch at the park and then stayed to play.  Her and Deeda just love being barefoot.  They are talking me into it.  There is a lot of sensory experiences to be had when your feet are bare which is probably why Gumby and most other children enjoy it so much.

She played on 2 different play grounds, climbed, went down slides and rode this duck.  There is also a quarter mile track that surrounds the local highschool football field.  I think it's a quarter of a mile all the way around it.  She walked just about the entire track!

We took Gumby bowling for the second time, this time to a bowling alley that has these ball ramps that the ball can be placed on and toddlers can give them a shove to get them down the lane.  Gumby enjoyed this.  We explored a toy store that had wooden toys out to be played with, played in the mall play area, and went to the book store. 

We brought home a 3' by 2' floor puzzle which is really neat and lots of fun.
At home we did molding with her model magic foam/clay, colored, read books, read her new purchased and library books and played with the nanobugs and iPad. 

While reading, she started pointing at the words in the book and saying the letters.  She knows most of the letters, lower and upper case.  Chica Chica ABC has been a great book for showing lowercase letters in very large print and she likes to name them as they go up the coconut tree in the story.

Another new thing she has started doing is wanting to hold hands when we are out and about <3  And, wanting to walk from the parking lots to the store (holding hands required here of course!).

As the weather got colder, we spent less time outside!  Gumby is not big on cold weather.  She only likes to play outside in the cold occassionally.  When we woke up to about 8 inches of snow, she wanted go to outside to see it, did not want to walk in it, and wanted to sled ride with Mamma ... once.  That was it :) 

When the temperatures get more around the mid 30's and higher though, she likes walking in the show paths that Deeda shovels for her and making "paw prints" <3

We are still thinking spring and took a little sneak peak at the sandbox and added a few snow sculptures to it :)

Gumby and I spend our days immersed in play.  She is constantly learning what she wants, when she wants and how she wants without having to separate life experiences into subjects or play time versus learning time.  It is all intermingled, inseparable and fun.  We follow her interests wherever they lead and encourage her to explore her world.  It is impossible to go through life, even one day, and not learn something - try it!  All learning is valuable.  Life is learning.