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Where are the kiddos?! I do things very differently, in my retirement, than the way they were done in the preschool or when I had young ones at home. For instance, this morning, I got up (not terribly early) and decided to make a huge pot of broccoli soup including onions, leeks, garlic, squash, 2 huge heads of broccoli and any other vegetable within reach, puree it and grate some cheese and make croutons to serve alongside. Then I started some very hot green chili in the crockpot for tomorrow. All of my days with adventures to museums and movies, visits with friends, and trips have been wonderful and rewarding. In fact, it has been a rip-roaring riot! My time alone has been invaluable. But now I ask, “Where are the kiddos?!!” Of course I know where they are. I’m only complaining that I only occasionally see them except on Facebook.

So perhaps working part-time is just right for me. Starting in a month I will be helping out at a Waldorf school and will also have completed a course in Simplicity Parenting and will be ready to start with my first group of “Greeny” Simplicity Parents. Most of you have heard of Simplicity Parenting, but if not, google it or its founder Kim John Payne online. I encourage everyone to get his book Simplicity Parenting. Perhaps you will be in that first group to share this new journey with me and other parents. The children won’t be in attendance at these classes but we will be focused on them, our precious ones.  I can’t wait to hear all of your stories! I am also looking forward to seeing the sweet faces of children in the hallways at school and hearing them shout, “Greeny, look what I made, did, lost (tooth), have!!”  I will quietly sidle up to my quieter friends and just smile and listen to hear if small voices have something to utter or if I will just get a smile back.

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Over the course of late Fall and over the holidays I must have heard from at least 10 of you, all asking related questions, having to do with wanting to know how to address “big” subjects (santa, tooth fairy, sex, death) to children at different ages. We did address that some in my blog about protection, but I think these type of questions require more conversation. To me the most important aspect is to understand the different ages and stages of your child. If you think of your child and where they are developmentally with their thinking before you have a heart-to-heart with your child, you can’t go wrong. Most of you are masters at this (remember we don’t have to say things perfectly) but I am going to start out with one example of a VERY hard conversation some parents in one of my classes (years ago) needed to have with their child, and another example of a disastrous conversation that one of my son’s classmates had with his parents (which of course he couldn’t wait to report to other children) and how we made it better for my son. It is important to note that your child will tell others what you have told them. It is also important to note that every family will not handle things exactly the same, and if your child is told something you wish they did not have to deal with, you need to step in and repair that for your child as well as you can. When all the parents gather for class meetings is a good time to discuss issues in general so all of the class parents can get on the same page.

With the youngest children – think of rhythm. Anything that will upset their rhythm should be avoided. I hoped none of them would hear anything about Newtown by having parents turn off the tv’s and radios. I talked about protection from these shocks to their beings, in my protection blog, as being the most health giving thing you can do. Young children are not prepared to carry this type of news, and if they hear of it, you need to reassure them that nothing like this could happen to them and that you will protect them. Children approaching 9 years old are getting peeks at what the world is like, and it is a bit disappointing. You may need to sit down with children this age and talk to them about disasters when they hear of them. Remember how sensitive they are, how they still look to you to be noble, and remind them of all the good things in the world. Talk to their teacher about what is being done at school to offer reassurance.

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For most children, hearing about death first comes in the form of the family pet. It is sad, honorable things are said about the pet, they are reverently buried and then they are missed. Over time, funny and sweet stories are remembered about these beloved pets. This prepares the child for the time when an older friend of the family or a grandparent passes. Most children up to about 6-7 may be sad at times when a loved one dies, but children older than that can grieve a great deal as they may understand in greater detail. Younger children can have their worries, and are adamant about finding out how they themselves will be cared for and need great reassurance. It is such a sad day for a child when a parent dies. At the end of my blog I will write down a pedagogical story told to me by Nancy Blanning to tweak for your situation and have on hand when your child loses a loved one.

One of the hardest questions I have been asked as a teacher was when years ago the Dad of a child in my class committed suicide. The boy did not live with his Dad and considered his Mom and Step-Dad his primary caretakers. He did love his Dad and spent time with him occasionally. The Step-Dad called me and told me that he felt they should tell their child of 6-7 that his Dad committed suicide, that he would hear about it, and they wanted him to hear it from them. I begged him not to tell the child the details. We spent a very long time on the phone and when Step Dad did not feel totally convinced, I referred him to a priest of the Christian Community. First I asked the priest if he felt the Step-Dad should tell the child the way his Father died and he said, “No”. I don’t know how it unraveled over the years, but strongly felt that it would have been extremely hurtful to the child to hear this news at 6-7 without the maturity to deal with it. If he found out later, and he would,  he would be in a better position to understand that his Father was ill. Hard, hard question the Step-Dad asked.

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Here is an example of parents who did not understand the developmental thinking of children. Back in the day when my son was in 2nd grade, AIDS was a big scare and not completely understood. The subject was emotional and created fear in the hearts of many. The parents’ of my son’s classmate sat their two young children down and explained to them how it was contracted, including sexual acts (hetrosexual and homosexual). They were told not to “play” having sex because they could exchange bodily secretions and contract AIDS. Of course their son could not contain that kind of information and told his friends about it. My boy came home looking green. I listened to all he had to say, and then asked the good ol’ (but important question), “What do you think about that?!” My quiet little son couldn’t wait to spew out his feelings, “I hate that! I don’t want to do those things! I don’t want to be sick!……………..” When he was done talking, I told him, “In our family (another important thing to say) we don’t need to think about this. In our family kids just get to play. None of us are going to get sick and Daddy and I will take good care of you. Brian’s family thinks it is important to talk about, but we don’t. We just get to be together, have friends and play and be happy………..” “All right?” I asked. My son said, “ok” and surprisingly he let it go. When your children are young you have great authority.

My young son couldn’t digest this line  of thought, didn’t want to pursue it and chalked it up to, “Crazy ol’ Brian”. He told his friend to stop talking about it, and he did. Later on I called my friends and told them that I felt an injustice had been done to their son to give him information he would have a hard time digesting and that they may want to consult the teacher to find out a way to do some repair work. I also told them that my child was hurt by the information and that I was going to tell my son that we loved their family dearly, but this time we thought they were full of hooey. They were defensive about their stance which came from a very intellectual place and not from the viewpoint of what a child would need to hear. It sounds like what I told my son wouldn’t work, but my son told me later that he hardly ever thought about it again because the boy in question was always telling him “crazy” stuff and he much more trusted my advice. You are the one your child trusts and what you have to say on stuff – MATTERS!

In every middle school class there are children who know more about sex than others. We had two girls in one of my daughter’s classes who were obsessed. The parents of the girls asked our teacher to speak to these two girls and their parents to support them in helping to ensure that the girls had no reinforcement for this behavior. The teacher did a great job in supporting the parents, and the girls, and we heard so much less about precocious information. The two girls were kept a little “younger” for a while and the other girls were left in freedom to be themselves instead of continually being exposed to inappropriate information. My daughter reported being happier for herself and the two girls and asked me, “Why do they know so much stuff!” The girls were initially allowed to watch unlimited media which was too stimulating for them. Their parents did not believe it was doing them harm, but were amazed to see later how their daughters became relaxed without the continual stimulation. I assured my daughters that these girls did not know everything “right” and that I was very open to explaining anything to them.

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Since I have been talking to my kids incrementally about sex since they first started asking about babies when they were 4, they felt free to ask me about sex and I explained it – what it was all about and how I felt about it. My girls were on a more relaxed path than the two girls who were somehow exposed to so much inappropriate information. There isn’t a child in the world who doesn’t wonder where babies come from at some point. Usually the first answer they want is “the baby is grows in Mommy’s tummy.” Little by little they want more information and I loved having a beautiful book by that name written by Margaret Sheffield and illustrated by Sheila Bewley. My kids took it out year after year and looked it over. It has all the hallmarks of a book worth having, truth, beauty and goodness. It is direct and beautifully written.

Many of you have asked about what to tell the children about Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Toothless Fairy……..I actually emailed back and forth a bit with a parent in our school who is a therapist. Her daughter was at that in-between stage of enjoying the magic of the season but also having her logic creep in from time to time to inform her that these myths might not be possible. My youngest daughter is by nature both dreamy AND logical. My girls believed in Santa “forever” because I think they understood the essence of giving, but I remember when my older daughter used to say things like, “I saw Santa flying through the sky on his sleigh,” my youngest would say, even when very small, “No, you didn’t!” So, it is never a straight path – either that they totally believe, or they totally don’t, and you have to help them artfully maneuver through this time of life. You want them to enjoy childhood fully and gracefully lead them “to the other side”. I can’t tell you exactly how to do that, but here is what I wrote to one of our dear parents:

It is such a bittersweet time when children want to believe but their logic causes them to doubt – especially when classmates gloat with their newfound knowledge. When my son asked me about it, I asked him, “What do you think?” and he said, “Maybe the parents help out because there are a lot of children in the world.”  I said, “Maybe they do help bring the spirit of _____(Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, etc.) Santa’s spirit lives on in the hearts of parents.” When my girls complained that people were saying there was no Santa, I asked them the same thing, “What do you think?” They told me that they still believed and I said, “That is good, because when no one believes, it is not as magical.” They seemed to understand what I was implying because they “believed” for several years beyond what one would expect. They wanted the whole nine yards – the stories, the loot, the excitement. They were doubting but they still wanted to enjoy the child fun for a few more years. It is nice for the older child, when they are done believing (not yet for your girl), to bring the spirit of Santa to the younger child, doing a little wrapping, or whatever, so they can be in on the secret and feel the joy of giving in this way. It sounds like your girl is “in-between”. I would only ask her what she thinks and go along with what she says if possible. There absolutely IS a Halloween Fairy, or the spirit of the fairy, brought to your home by loving and caring parents. Your girl wants to hang on to this for a year or two. I invited my children to listen to their own voice, not to what other people say about things. Follow her lead.
Crazy ski boys.

 

Next time I think I will write about having grown children. Even though that is a long way off for most of you, it might be fun to imagine what that day will be like. I have found that parenting  is a lifelong process. More about that later….
Here is the story I promised. Unfortunately I recently rewrote it to fit the life of a dear friend whose husband died at a young age. If you need this story, and of course we all will in time, here is the frame of it, but be sure to rewrite it in your mind to fit your situation. I can help you with that, if you wish:
                    Story About Crossing Over To The Other Side
  There was once a woman (or man) who had planted a beautiful garden.  She found a caterpillar in her garden one day. She took it home and placed it in a cup next to her bed. At night the caterpillar would sing to her and the singing caused her to dream. She dreamed of the meadow from which all children come, on the other side of the great wall we that we know of from our birthday stories. There, in her dream, she saw a woman she dimly remembered and finally recognized as Mother of the Meadow, in whose lap she had long ago rocked. Each night she dreamed of the meadow and the Mother and realized that the woman was calling to her, asking her to return to her lap, as she had been away for so long. As she awoke each morning, the memory of the dream became stronger and stronger, and she also felt herself grow more tired and less able to tend the garden she had so carefully planted and cared for.  At last one night in her dream she said to the Mother that she would like to come to the meadow but could not leave her garden, for who would tend it? The Mother answered that she had been the only one who could have planted the garden, but there were other loving gardeners who would nurture her flowers and help them grow into beautiful, strong plants. At last the woman said, “Yes, I will come, but how can I travel such a great distance when I am so tired and no longer strong?” The Mother told her that the secret lay at her side, and she saw that the caterpillar had transformed into a beautiful butterfly with wings so vast that they could carry her anywhere. She had one more question before she climbed upon the butterfly’s back. “Can I never come back and visit my garden and the beautiful flowers? How can I ever find my way?” The Mother answered, “Yes you may come back. Whenever those who have known you and love you light a candle and remember you, that light will shine across the great distances and show you the way back. You can speak to them in your dreams, and they will know that you have been nearby.  So she mounted on the back of the butterfly and flew up into the great starry sky. When she reached the meadow, the Mother wrapped her arms around the woman, who again had become small like a tiny baby. “Today is your birthday in the meadow, and for that we celebrate.”
Most of the fabulous pictures in my blog have been taken by Brianna Doby of little o photography, a former Waldorf parent and Mama to two beautiful children. You can see her picture here.  Brianna is a professional photographer, but some of these photos were taken in my classroom. She just quietly slips in, making friends with the children, chatting with them, showing them her camera, waiting for “those” special moments, and the ultimate outcome is precious pictures of relaxed and happy children. Look at her website, little o photography for more information.