Monday, July 15, 2013

Peaceful Parenting - Day One

"If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men."  Romans 12:18

For the most part, I feel that I am a fairly peaceable, likable person.  At work, I think I get along with everyone (as far as I know).  I was even voted "Nicest Girl" my senior year of high school.  Kinda dorky I know, but I suppose it proves my point.  

However, this easy going image of myself tends to go up in the puff of smoke billowing out of my ears when going toe-to-toe with one of the most masterful foes I've ever come across: my six-year-old.  He and I both are struggling with my current tactics so I've been doing some real soul searching lately when it comes to disciplining.  

I come from a line of feisty Dutchmen, a laser-eyed Indian, and booming Germans who tend to pride themselves on gut wrenching guilt trips and making their children cower in fear.  They're not evil, horrible people.  My brothers and I were never ever abused or unloved.  We were deeply cherished, but strictly punished when we were small.  And I guess I turned out okay, so I've been attempting to parent this same way.  I don't punish nearly as harshly, but it's still there.  But I'm not convinced that it's the best way.

While looking for some validation that I was not the only one with a kid who does this or that, I was skimming the internet when I came across, "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" by Dr. Laura Markham.  Her website is  Her website had a handful of videos and several really struck a cord with me.  I've not read her book, but I plan to.  I don't know if this is good stuff or not, but I do know that I'm ready to have more tickle fights and bear hugs than arguments and hurt feelings.  

My son doesn't need to get away with everything, nor does he need to be punished every time he turns around.  He deserves a parent that will stay calm, or take a break herself when she can't.  He deserves to be treated with sympathy and respect when he's upset.  If it depends on me to live at peace, then I'm going to keep trying.  He deserves to know that it is possible.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's Okay Mommy, You'll Fit!

Quick shallow breaths, struggling to keep my eyes glued on my son while maneuvering all kinds of hidey holes, mini-slides, and iron grate ladders in near darkness, picking our way through a sea of hundreds more giggling, squirming kids.  Through the dim light, I could just barely keep up with him.  Two terrible fears of mine were clogging my brain: One - getting stuck in a small dark place, where I wasn't completely convinced that help would even be able to hear me call out over all these munchkins and Two - losing my son in this twisted mess.

The Saint Louis City Museum gave this girl a run for her money. By the way, I would not categorize this tri-level jungle gym a "museum", but I guess there were a few historical corners of this place.  If you're thinking about going you either need spider monkey ninja skills to be able to stay with your kid or absolute faith in God's ultimate protection of your family.  Because when you let your child slip off into this Alice in Wonderland labrynth  and see them pop out an entire story above you, it can be a bit unnerving. 

Needless to say... I was scared.  Scared for me and scared for Dakota.
But.  Dakota was amazing.  He was the perfect size for this place and though it was dark a lot of the time, he was having so much fun he didn't even notice.  He was totally in his element.  The best part was him leading me.  Not just him picking the direction, but he was choosing the way with me in mind.  Picking paths that were challenging, but doable.  And more than once came a little voice over the crowd, "Come on Mom, you can do it," or, "This way Mom, this way will work". Sometimes he'd take my hand or scout ahead a little then come back to show me the best way. 

After I finally hauled my cookies up through a hole in the floor under an elephant skill, I had to call it quits.  I was emotionally exhausted (and physically!).  Later, after I regained my adult composure, I scooped up Dakota, gave him the biggest bear hug, and whispered into his ear, "Thank-you for helping Mommy to be brave." A huge smile crossed his face and he simply nodded his head.  

That day I was lead through my "what-if's" by my child.  As adults, I think we tend to forget what kids can feel like when adults are pushing them out of their comfort zone.  It can be downright scary, but by letting them know we're looking for the best way for them, being positive, and yes, maybe even taking their hand once in a while, the reward is a huge sense of accomplishment and a stronger bond than before. 

And I guess I don't always have to be in control, or even completely safe to have fun. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Next Chapter

Dear special education family,

It is bittersweet to say that I will be moving into a general education position this fall.  Out of respect for the incredibly hard work that you all do, I wanted to give a bit of explanation.  
I have always had a special niche in my heart for reading and writing, and especially teaching.  However, as a young girl at Syracuse Jr. High, I was able to go down to the elementary and help my mother a few times with the "Readiness" class.  I fell in love with those kids and helping them seemed to make my life more complete.  Then, I was able to take "Intro to Special Education" with Judy.  Her heart and passion for her job solidified my desire to become a special education teacher.  I was asked to interview only a few months after graduating college, and I've been here ever since.
Last summer, I set out to become "highly qualified" in English and Math.  By the grace of God, and support of Sarah and Ryan along with other friends and family, I was able to achieve this goal.  
Then a little birdie mentioned that I could actually teach those classes with this new qualification on my licence.  I started to give it serious thought this last year after returning from maternity leave.  To be honest, it was pretty tough.  I've worked through tough years before, but when the 8th grade English position opened, I knew it was a chance to try something different, yet also (hopefully) be something I could do well.  
My family and I prayed over this decision, that it would be God's will, not mine.  When I applied, I honestly didn't know if they'd even consider me.  When Susan offered me the job, there was a quiet peace and reassurance in my heart, so I accepted.
We all know this job is stressful and demanding.  I've always thought that we needed to steal that old armed service slogan: "It's the toughest job you'll ever love."  I have learned, lost and loved more than any college class could ever prepare you for.  Each one of you have poured into my life in your own way, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I take all of this with me as I forge a new path in my life.  
God bless,

I sent this email out this last week.  Initially I wanted to send it for the people I've worked so closely with these last 10+ years.  But the more I thought about it, I felt I needed to document this in my life somehow.  Solidify it in my memory.  I tend to be more of a roll with the punches type-a-gal.  I'm one of those that stammers a little when asked my children's birth weights.  Those things tend to slip through the pockets of my mind.  Things that in the moment don't seem like too big of a deal, but later I wish I had taken the time to make it more permanent.  

So - I don't want to miss this.  I don't want the school year to start in a rush and miss this change in direction.  I don't want to gloss over where I came from and the people that got me here.  They deserve much better than that.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Have you been writing?

This quiet question came from a dear friend, but also one that I greatly respect.  I murmured a slow, "no..." and probably added some comment like, "I should be".  I hated letting her down.  

My excuse before was that I was so terribly busy and exhausted.  Which I was.  But now that I'm on summer vacation, I don't have much for an excuse.  I do write some, just with pencil and paper so no one can see except me and God.  

During the Slice of Life Challenge I had a reason to write that made sense in the outside world.  Now that I'm on my own, it has a different quality.  Before, I had some sort of an audience in mind. Now, I may have no audience.  It drives me into a quieter, deeper place.  It's as though I've stepped out of my warm comfortable home for a late evening walk - hesitant steps into the darkness with a single candle burning.  I have no intention of leaving those fond and familiar things completely, but the desire to discover something new drives me out.  I may find a swarm of mosquitos, or a perfectly still, moonlit masterpiece.  Most likely, a bit of both.