Monday, March 31, 2014

The Benefits of Allowing Babies to Struggle via The Natural Parents Network

For those of you who do not follow Hand in Play on Facebook, I didn't want you to miss out on a Hand in Play essay that the Natural Parents Network so graciously posted on their site. 

I plan on posting a follow up essay in the next couple of days so stay tuned.  

The Benefits of Allowing Babies to Struggle

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beyond the Boogie

I'm lying next to my 7month-old daughter as she plays.  She picks up a book and studies it, rolls onto her side and smiles at me, then drops the book and grabs both feet. She tucks the tips of her toes into her mouth. 

However, the only thing I see is a boogie happily lodged in her nose.  It doesn't seem to be bothering her, but it is bothering me, immensely. 
She looks at me and says, "dadadada baba?" 

In this moment, I cannot appreciate her sweet, melodic voice. 

All I hear is the boogie. 
All I think about is the boogie.  
Maybe I can get that boogie right now? 
If I'm fast, she won't even realize what I'm doing! 

In the meantime, I notice the dried avocado from lunch smeared on the side of her face.  I decide to give her ears a quick check for wax.

At this point, I have lost sight of my bright-eyed daughter who is playing and choosing to engage with me.  I am distracted by these small imperfections and desire to fix them ASAP.  This is evidence that the motherly instinct to constantly groom my child can easily become an overpowering distraction.  

Changing the lens in which I view my loved ones is the work that lies ahead of me.  By reigning in my critical eye, I keep myself from interrupting moments that matter with things that do not. With practice, I am one step closer to becoming the mother that always...

  • lights up when her child enters the room, instead of assessing attire and state of hair.    
  • listens with her whole heart, instead of correcting pronunciations. 
  • looks past the arbitrary imperfections to recognize that her child is perfect, boogies and all.

But who's going to get those boogies!?  

Instead of sporting my tunnel vision goggles to execute a drive-by nose picking, wax mining, and face wiping, I plan on giving future care practices their own time and space, out of respect for my daughter and her body.   

And from now on...

it's going to take a lot more then a boogie to distract me from sharing special moments, with those I love the most. 

To read more about grasping moments that matter check out Hands Free Mama

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hurry Up and...Wait!

One reason I love being in a classroom environment is that the day is never short of AH HA moments.  I was training to be a substitute teacher in a nearby progressive elementary school and chose to spend the first part of my day in one of my favorite classes, Kindergarten.  

If you hang around Kindergartners, you already know you are instantly welcomed into their community.  They open themselves up to you without question, eagerly discussing their home life, favorite colors and what they packed for lunch.  You also know that getting eighteen Kindergartners dressed and out for recess is no easy feat, especially when it's winter. 

I was quickly swallowed up by the

snowsuitbootsmittenshatscarf dance.   

Consumed with attempting to get the children ready for recess, I felt the rush of adrenalin and "THERE IS A FIRE!" like urgency to herd them out the door.  “I see snowsuits without bodies in them!” I exclaimed in the direction of three boys facing the window.

The Kindergarten teacher knelt down next to them and said, “You’re looking at our science experiments in the window.  They are really neat, aren’t they?” 

Three glass jars of water containing three different vegetables half way submerged, had sprouted roots. 

One of the boys responded, “Yea, I like this one, because in the jar, the potato looks huge!” Then, the other boys chimed in with their own observations. 


Nurturing curiosity isn't always convenient.   The opportunity often arises in short bursts and interrupts even the most well planned transitions.  

I was so preoccupied with my agenda, I did not see children fascinated with their science experiments, I saw children failing to put on their snowsuits. If only I remembered to pause and look closely, I would have seized the opportunity to learn about the thoughts and interests of these three children. 

 Did you ever set aside your agenda to pause with your children and in return, learn something?  

Please share!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When Babies Connect (video!)

There are moments when I'm astounded by the sensitivity of babies. Babies carry a reputation for toy taking, hair pulling, and being spatially unaware of their surroundings and each other. As caregivers, we often have a 'no touching' rule when it comes to interacting with other children.  The fear of safety, spreading germs, and unpredictable impulsive behaviors keeps babies from communicating, exploring and showing affection the best way they know how, through touch.

This tender video illustrates that babies are much more complex and dynamic in nature, then they are given credit for.

Hand in Play now has a Hand in Play Facebook Page

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meet that Milestone Today!

Milestones are anxiety provoking.  They exist for a reason but the time line is enough to make any parent sweat at their scheduled wellness check-ins.  I was relieved when I had a three month block between the 6month and 9month check-in, because El had not rolled over yet.  I knew we were going to need some time.  She still hasn't at 7months.  Don't worry, I Googled it, there is still hope.

Sometimes, when I'm having a rough day and I'm laying on the floor watching El play and she begins to roll to her side, and then looks as if she's about to tip over on her belly I think,

If you rolled over, that would make today so much better.

This is a strange thought coming from somebody who used to create and facilitate workshops that advocated for natural gross motor development.  I don't believe that tummy time and baby positioning contraptions make things happen any faster, that we can teach motor skills, and that it's healthy to push typically developing babies to meet milestones that only THEY can meet when they are ready.

So, repeat after me, or I should say, repeat after Magda Gerber...

"Earlier is not better!"

My rational brain KNOWS this is true.  I'm often perplexed when my feelings and behaviors don't align with what I know and believe in.  

When people ask me  how El is doing, I sometimes say, "She's so great.  She's not rolling over though."  I'm met with the response, "That's okay!  She'll get there! Every child is different." Again, I KNOW this.  I'm saddened that against my best intentions, I'm defining my child by her deficits and not her strengths.  This competitive mindset runs rampant through our educational system and it has no place in my home and in my relationships. 

Therefore, from now on, when you or anyone asks me about my daughter I will gladly tell you how she...
  • brilliantly comes up with ways to get toys to come to her.
  • runs her fingers gently through my hair without tugging.
  • plays peek-a-boo with anything she can get her hands on.

     As for the rolling over milestone...?  

From a dance perspective, her fully integrated baby body breaks down even the most seemingly simple movements at a pace where I can appreciate the grace of her limbs as they move through space. What a gift.  
Whenever I feel the urge to compare my daughter to other children or Google, "When should my baby..."  I'm going to look my daughter in the eyes and say,

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hand in Play

Everyday I spend with my daughter, I am compelled to write down what she teaches me about myself and the world around her as I get to know her through play. Even when she is playing independently, I have my hand in play, which requires a level of mindfulness that I am attempting to hone and cultivate.

To not judge, interrupt, or manipulate her experiences is much harder than I anticipated.

As an early childhood educator and a stay-at-home mom, I notice reoccurring themes that emerge through the day-to-day interactions with my daughter, peers, and young children, both in the classroom and at home.  
Themes such as acceptance, trust, patience and resilience surface and resurface when I am observing play. Once identified and recorded on paper, I move forward as a better person, teacher, spouse, and mother.

The more I write, the more I realize, the more I realize the more I am called to practice what I preach. 

With a renewed sense of purpose, I join the ranks of mommy blogging in hopes to reach out to parents, teachers, and caregivers to advocate for reflective practices and to provide time and space for play, so that together we begin to make sense of it all.

Note:  Even though I am not committed to any one parenting or teaching philosophy, my work is largely inspired  and influenced by RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers), founded by infant specialist Magda Gerber.