Hurry Up!

“Hurry up!”  These are 2 words that I continually find myself saying in my head.  As a mom, I made myself a promise that I would not subject my child to the spirit of “hurry”, even though hurry is one of the ways I function & always have.  And so I say it to myself instead: “hurry up. . . .get in the car. . . .we’re going to be late!!!!”  And then I calmly say out loud to my child, “we need to go honey. . . .please get in your seat.”  And sometimes I even turn it into a hurry game!  I say, “ok. . . .let’s see how quickly you can get in your car seat. . . ready. . .set. . . .go!!!!”

If you are a parent, you have probably guessed that I have a 3 year old.  She is just independent enough to dress herself, go potty and get ready to leave.  HOWEVER, she is just young enough  that she puts her shoes on the wrong feet. . . .or wears a tank top when it’s 30 degrees outside.  Thus, the reason for my sense of “hurriedness”.  It doesn’t matter what I do, we are either ridiculously early or crazy late to every function.  When I set aside a good 30 minutes to get her ready, allowing for those expected threenager behaviors, my little girl is an angel.  She gets ready, wears the appropriate clothing and says, “sure mommy!” to every request.  And so we are super early.   Then there are other days.  You know. . . .the days when we are crazy late because I am logical.  I cut the time down to allow 15 minutes to get her ready since we were left with too much time the day before.   And so she then pees all over the toilet seat, spills her milk, falls off her chair hitting her head and is screaming the whole way out the door.  Throw all planning efforts out the window!

Because of my desire to cure my hurriedness, I have done some serious self-assessment over the past few months.  I am a music therapist.  So I have this strong tendency to give myself therapy and dig deeper.  I love figuring out the real reason behind why we do the things we do.  After some self-reflection, I realized that I am hurrying because of focusing on completing the task more than enjoying the process of completing it.  I love fitting in just one more task.  “Oh. . . .I still have 5 minutes!  I think I’ll do a quick zumba workout before we leave!”  I’m not kidding.  This is me.  But the reality is that I am so focused on completing the tasks, that I forget about enjoying the process that is involved in getting me there.  As a therapist, we focus on the process instead of the product.  When I am teaching a child with developmental disabilities to play the piano, we see every opportunity as a learning opportunity because our goal is not to make that child a concert pianist or even a good pianist.  But the goal is to increase fine motor skills, on-task behavior, and following directions.  In typical piano lessons, this process is often overlooked.  And I need to bring that thinking into my personal life.  Instead of saying to myself. . . .”naptime is at 1.  We have to clean the car, get gas & go at the park by noon.  I hope we can fit it all in!”  I need to switch my focus so that I can enjoy some of these tasks with my daughter.  I desperately want to enjoy spending time with my 3 year old.  She can be so much fun!  I find that I only enjoy her when I am in the moment, focusing on the process instead of the product.  Once I slip back into:  “the task must be completed!!!!”, then she becomes an annoyance and hindrance to the task’s completion. That is not fun for either of us.

Hurried mommies (and daddies):  Take life one moment at a time.  Pour yourself into each moment, reminding yourself that those tasks will get done one way or another.  Don’t rush them.  That little child will grow up so fast.  Take time to smell the roses.  I bet your 3 year old will do it without even trying!

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I have THAT child

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Look at this face!  You would never guess that I have THAT child.  Oh you know. . . .the one who bites HARD, the one who kicks, the one who throws trucks at other children’s heads.  I have that child.  Over the years I have spent a lot of time with children other than my own.  I worked in church childcare 4+ days a week for 7 years.  I taught preschool and PreK.  I spent years with autistic children.  I have experience with children and discipline and behavior.  The problem is, I always saw “that” child as being the child who was in full time daycare.  Because of course, products of daycare are hellions, right?  They are exposed to other children’s bad behaviors and they are influenced to act that way also.  Or maybe the parents aren’t doing enough.  They are letting their children run amuck and don’t discipline them.  And that’s where the problem begins.  What a horrible mentality to have.  My child is not in daycare.  She only goes to church childcare for an hour a week and to our gym childcare for 1-2 hours a week.  I am her biggest influence!  This realization has shocked me—the realization that my child is the product of a SAHM (Stay at home mom) and does these things that I have never modeled.

Funny thing is, I am not that bothered by the fact that she bites.  Many moms tell me that she will grow out of it.  I know this is true & pray for that day to come soon.  She will NOT be a 10 year old who bites her friends.  At least. . .I’m pretty sure she won’t be.  But nevertheless, I am not concerned that she bites.  What concerns me is the perception that others have of children who bite & how it makes the mom of a biting child feel about her performance as a mom.   We question ourselves enough and certainly don’t need to add this to our lists.

When I worked in childcare as a young college student, we were very judgmental.  Any act of the child was directly related to how the parents disciplined, or so we thought.  What a horrible attitude to have.  I kept this attitude until I had my own child in my 30’s!  My opinion changed drastically after I saw with my own eyes how much a child’s personality type can affect their behavior.  I knew my little girl’s personality within a few weeks of her birth.  She was always very determined & “spirited”.  While parents do have a very important role in their child’s behavior, not every act of our children can be prevented.  And on the flip side, just because you have a compliant child doesn’t mean that you are an awesome discipliner.  I bet I just burst someone’s bubble!!!!   If your child is pretty compliant without you intervening, chances are, your child’s personality is very easy going.

As much as I hate to admit it, we can’t have complete control over our children.  They have their own personalities & are certainly not puppets.  I have a very strong willed & determined child.  Her personality is vibrant and energetic!  She doesn’t just follow the rules because “I said so.”  She has to test the rules.  She is a sweet, empathetic, loving little girl.  She is smart & loves to sing.  She is also an easily frustrated little girl when things don’t go her way.  And the result of that feeling is usually biting, hitting, or kicking.  Toddlers, even those who have an amazing vocabulary, still have a hard time connecting their emotions with words.  They still connect emotions with actions.  For many children, they are not able to fully express themselves verbally until 4-5 years old.  While these acting out behaviors are not ok or permissible, they are understandable & very NORMAL.  Acting out doesn’t make a child bad.

I am thankful that I have had many church childcare workers who were empathetic to us and very encouraging.  They didn’t make me feel like a bad mom.  They didn’t make my child feel bad either.  But there have been a few workers at our gym and church who were just fed up with her behavior & I could tell when I walked up to the door.  There is no worse feeling as a parent than knowing your child is “in trouble” and has angered the staff.  These folks probably don’t act this way intentionally.  They just don’t understand.  Most of them are super nice individuals and care for the children.  But unfortunately, in my mind, those negative encounters have influenced me more than the encouragement I have received.  All the more reason to take the time to give encouragement to the parents out there as often as possible!  Being a parent can feel like a gamble.  Many of us question whether we are “doing it right” or not on a regular basis.

Parents, caregivers, childcare workers, grand parents, friends:  Go easy on the moms.  It isn’t easy being the mom of a toddler.  We work until our body is bone tired trying to keep the house in order, teaching our children how to be Christ-like and compassionate to others, taking care of the dogs, finding time to spend time with our husbands and preparing meals for everyone in the house, keeping in touch with parents who live far away, maintaining friendships.  Maybe you don’t mean to judge us, but you may wonder if we parents are doing enough to discipline our children.  Maybe it has been 30 years since you were in our shoes.  Do you remember these hard times?  Do you remember how hard it was to deal with potty training and biting?  Take some time to remember the way it really was.  Maybe you have never had your own children, but you have taken care of many children over the years.  Someday you will understand and empathize with those moms who had to deal with biting and kicking and spitting.  And before you say I will never let my child act like that, remember that our children are not puppets.  Instead be understanding.  Give us the benefit of the doubt before criticizing.

This week, take the time to notice a parent of a toddler.  Even if it is a stranger in a store.  Offer a word of encouragement to let her know that she/he is doing a great job.  A small word of praise can go a long way.

 

Even though this was written from the perspective of a mom, there are dads out there who have experienced similar feelings and situations.  This blog is for all of you parents out there!

Toddler Tip Tuesday!

IMG_2343Yes, I know.  It is still Monday.  However, time is valuable and with a toddler in the house. . . .it becomes scarce!  So excuse me for taking the time on Monday to write a blog for Tuesday 🙂

Toddlers.  They are a handful.  They want to explore and touch everything, especially new “things!”  They need sensory input on every level.  Toddlers want to touch, see, hear and smell new and exciting “things.”  Many times they get bored with the same old “things”.  So how can you keep them interested without having to stock your shelves like a preschool classroom?  Here is where my Peter Pan tendencies help out!

It doesn’t matter how old I get, I still think like a child and that’s why I enjoy them so much. That is my tip for the week.  Think like a child.  You don’t have to spend much more than a penny to occupy a toddler all afternoon.

*Take a barefoot walk in your grass or even on the concrete.

*Turn on some upbeat music, put on some noisy shoes and stomp around on the kitchen floor (or buy some awesome removable taps here)

*Squeeze some blue hair gel into a ziploc bag along with some small toys for a sensory bag.

*Clip on a few bells and shake around the house!

*Lay out several different tastes & use it as a teaching moment: sour lemon, sweet honey, salty pretzels, bitter. . . .hm.  Can’t think of anything bitter.

*Smell the flowers at the supermarket.

*Stick your hands in a bowl of rice

*Crinkle up some paper

*Pet your dog

*Open up a container of vanilla and sniff!

*Turn an empty toilet paper roll into binoculars by taping two of them side by side.

*Put several small earrings or barrettes into several Tupperware midget containers and shake!  The lids are nearly impossible to take off for an adult, so with supervision, they should be safe for a toddler!

Would you like a little music on the side?

I have spent around 15 years of my post high school days working with children in some capacity:  as a teacher, nursery worker, music therapist and now as a mother.  This has resulted in the acquisition of a plethora of books!  My daughter will never be in want.  I have books for toddlers,  books for school age children, books about animals and Santa Claus and even books about grief.  But some of my favorite books are those that are about songs.

As if reading isn’t cool enough, there are books that you can sing to!  How cool is that?  I stumbled upon this idea back in the nineties and have been collecting them ever since.  When you add music to learning, a child retains the information.  Remember learning your ABC’s?  I bet you learned it from a song, now didnt you?  Music is an excellent tool for a music therapist to have in his or her back pocket!  Oh and for a parent, too!

Here are a few of my favorite sing along books:

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Iza Trapani

Its Raining, Its Pouring by Kin Eagle and Rob Gilbert

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?  By Iza Trapani

They are all published through whispering coyote press and have beautiful illustrations, especially those created by Iza Trapani.  The reason why I love these so much is because they don’t just follow the lyrics most of us know and stop there.  They have several verses that add to the fun of reading, I mean singing!  They also use traditional songs that most of us grew up singing.  With all of the budget cuts schools have to deal with these days, music tends to be one of th first courses to go.  This is a great way to keep music alive in your child’s life!

Check these books out and see how much fun it can be to add a little singing to your life.  And hey, you don’t have to sing well to sing to your child.  They don’t care!  They just want to spend some quality time with you.