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Too Tired To Sleep: How a Supported Cry Can Help

Tootiredtosleep_katesurfs

When I put Goldie to bed at around 7pm, I thought for sure that she would fall asleep and be out cold for the night… I mean, the kid was BEYOND exhausted after having a massive day out. She usually sleeps through the night every other night, but within a half an hour of me putting her to bed, she was up crying!

Ugh!” I thought! “What the FRICKING HELL! She is exhausted, why won’t she sleep!

I went in the bedroom to lay down with her so she would fall back to sleep. She kept dozing and then waking back up, whining, squirming and half hearted crying. I started getting so annoyed! Really! I knew she was exhausted, so why wasn’t she sleeping?!

Luckily, the lightbulb switched on for me. She hadn’t had a big cry in a very long time, maybe a couple months. I knew it was time.

I picked her up and held her close. She started to scream and writhe and arch her back and kick and sweat. She kept trying to stick her hand down my shirt to grab my boobs, and I gently blocked her every time. This got her even more enraged. After about 20 minutes of having a very deep emotional release, she said to me, “Mummy, I just cried…” Then, she settled in my arms, her body completely relaxed, her breath steady and a peaceful look on her face. We laid down on the bed together, where she found a comfortable position and she fell into a deep sleep for the rest of the night.

Often times we try to stop a child’s crying when it is happening, either through giving them distraction, punishment, or ignoring. But, I tell you, crying for emotional release is such a blessing! It’s a quick, yet natural way to take the emotional garbage out and to relieve the stress of an overstimulated child. Children naturally go to emotional crying as a way to eliminate stress from their system, but often, we don’t realize that this is what they are doing, so we start to try and ‘fix‘ their cry.

I don’t go looking for ways to get my kids to cry. In fact, I do everything I can to keep them happy and content by providing them with their physical needs as well as giving them plenty of connection time. I do my best to make sure that they feel safe and secure in my presence. But, even in the most loving and nurturing household, there are enough natural upsets and frustrations in the world to make kids cry.

An overtired child will be able to sleep more peacefully if they are allowed to release their stress through tears, but the benefits are not limited to just that! By allowing a child to fully release their emotions in the form of tears, you may start to notice many of the following behavior improvements:

  • A generally more contented child
  • Less whining (whining as in you keep trying to make a child happy, but nothing is working)
  • The child will sleep better sleep at night
  • More gentle behavior from the child/less aggression
  • Less public meltdowns as the need to release the big emotions will gradually start to happen more at home or in a place that the child knows it is safe to do so.

Next time your over exhausted child is ready for a crying fit or a tantrum, let them have it! Give them the loving support they need to release those emotions and observe the benefits that follow.

One thing to remember about tantrums is that a child should not be left alone, ignored or punished for crying. A child is not crying to manipulate you or to be ‘naughty‘. If you feel that you can’t deal with a tantrum at that moment, it’s ok to distract it until later, and know that there are still be plenty of chances for it to come out another time (often this happens in the car for babies and toddlers). Sitting with a raging child is not always pleasant, as it stirs up unpleasant feelings and emotions in our own self, so don’t feel bad if it’s hard for you to accept your child’s crying!

(Completely aside from the focus of my story, my older daughter, aged 4 1/2 was sleeping inches away from our crying session, and she didn’t even move a muscle. I have no idea how it happens but my kids have almost always slept through each other’s crying!)

For another more detailed post on how to deal with tantrums read a previous post on Why I Love Temper Tantrums

 

A Child’s Intuition: However Powerful as We Listen

Katesurfsintuition

The kids and I had been running around all morning and when we finally got home, I collapsed in a heap on the couch. Straight away, Margo, 4 1/2 came crashing over to me, jumped on my lap and said, “Can we go to the beach?”

She did have a good idea. It was boiling hot at home. We had already eaten and we didn’t have anything else to do. However, the thought of leaving the house again was not at all appealing to me. I rolled my eyes. I was grumpy. I was tired. I didn’t want to go. I said, “Well….why don’t we go later?” A friend of ours had said she wanted to meet us there that afternoon anyway. Margo said, “No! We need to go now!” As I was trying to string together my argument for going later, she ran into the bedroom, with her sister, and they both put on their swimsuits. I groaned and peeled my self off the couch to get ready for the beach.

It wasn’t just the beach that Margo wanted to go to, it was this protected lagoon that had been forming every day at low tide. A gigantic ocean water swimming pool that was a perfect depth for the little ones and no waves to worry about. We got there and the conditions were perfect. I jumped in and felt the cool water slap my body and I let out a big sigh of relief. It had been so hot and I had been in such a foul mood. We splashed and played for about half an hour. I looked up and suddenly saw some dark clouds rolling in. We decided to head home. Three hours later, the time when we were ‘supposed‘ to have gone, as in, when *I* had wanted to go, the girls were fast asleep and a massive thunder storm was raging. I couldn’t believe how perfect our timing had been, and it was all thanks to a little person, not much taller than my belly button.

I cannot tell you how many times my girls have been in tune like that. Countless times. They remember things that I forget. They find things that I’ve lost. They see things that I don’t see. They want to go places and do things that I feel like I don’t want to do. And, when I end up doing those things, I almost always end up having a fantastic time. While they’re tapping into their zen, I’m busy thinking and worry about ‘adult‘ things. They’re so plugged in, directly to the source!

From birth, a child’s mind is naturally so pure, so uninhibited, so free from thoughts and garbage and day-to-day stress. How clear does a child’s mind have to be in order to learn things at the rate of which they do? If an adult learned as many things as a child did in one day, then ever person in the world would be a genius. Whatever you want to call it, young kids have a direct line to God/the Universe/Spirit. Think of how many less years they have of being bogged down by conditioned responses, or schedules or artificial limitations, or fears.

I can’t always drop everything and do what my kids want to do. There’s no way! But, if I can, in any possible way, listen to what they want to do and to give them as much opportunity to guide the day as I can, then I’m almost 100% guaranteed that we’re going to have a magnificent time. I used to hate when some of my unschooler friends would say, “Let the kids be the teachers.” I used to think that adults were the only one who could instill knowledge into a little brain. But now I get what they’re saying. I listen to my children more and more these days. They have as much to offer as I do, and probably even more because their mind is not clouded by thoughts and drama. If I follow the rhythm of their day, it’s almost always far more in sync with nature than mine is. Doing what my kids want to do is almost always way more fun too! And having fun is something I’ve really come to appreciate over the years.

The Moment You Realize You’re Way More Unschooly Than You Thought You Were

katesurfsunschool

Right before we were about to leave to meet twenty people we didn’t know, Margo, 4 2/3 disappears into the bedroom for a few minutes and proudly emerges with black facepaint all over her face. Not like nice pretty color facepaint. Like smeary… black… can-barely-stand-to-look-at-her facepaint. I said, “Oh! You painted your face! Ok, we’re leaving as soon as I get dressed!

My little one, Goldie, 2 1/3, who had been wandering around naked, also disappeared into the bedroom and emerged, showing off her own outfit. Every article of clothing she had on had stripes. Striped shirt. Striped pants that were 3 size too big for her, but functional, as they were not falling down. A mismatched pair of socks, both with stripes. Oh, and a tutu on top. No undies.

Let’s go!” I said, and we went flying out the door. It was a twenty minute walk and we were starting to run late. A friend of mine organizes this homeschooling meet up once every two weeks and I’d been meaning to go for a while as a way to start getting to know the home educators in our area.

Along the way, a young lady walking on the beach path was handing out chocolates. She was an employee of Max Brenners, (The Bald man chocolatier chain store).

Hello! Would you like to try a piece of salted caramelized chocolate?” she said. Um… hell yeah, and how random!?

Until 2pm, Max Brenners is offering free salted caramelized milkshakes in celebration of our grande opening today. We’re just across the street!” she pointed.

Margo was like, “Yeah!!! Let’s go! I want one!

We walked across their street to get our milkshakes. They were the nasty kind. God knows what was in them and they were way too sweet, but they were good and we drank them and got tummy aches and they made my gall bladder hurt.

When we got to the meet, I exclaimed to everyone that Max Brenners was giving out FREE MILKSHAKES, “Go get one!

Blank stares… “Oh, we saw that lady, but we told her ‘no thanks.’ they said.

Oh yeah, silly me, I remembered that lots of people don’t eat sugar or let their kids have sugar.. like ever, even when it’s free Max Brenners!

I sat for a while, nursing my tummy ache, when my kids came over to me. They were fighting loudly over a hoppy ball. I said, “Hmm, you’re going to have to work it out girls.” I didn’t interrupt and they eventually worked out some way to share, despite some screaming banshee-type communication.

As my tummy ache started to subside, I looked at the other homeschooled kids. They were all smartly dressed. Their clothes matched. They had nothing smeared on their face. They were eating organic blueberries. Their hair was brushed. They had shoes on. The little ones were not screaming like banshees over toys.

Completely out of the blue and unrelated to the homeschooling meet at all, friends of ours, an unschooling family, whom we haven’t seen in ages, rocked up to the park. They are the real ‘radicle‘ ones. The ones that don’t even stay in the same country for more than six months. Their kids stopped to play too. Their kids had no shoes. Their kid’s hair was not brushed. When I told them about the free milk shakes at Max Brenners, they happily skipped across the street to get some. They came back with the same tummy ache that the girls and I had. In case you’re not familiar, unschooling is similar to homeschooling, in that the kids are educated a home, but unschooling is a bit more… how do you say it… free or something?

The whole thing suddenly made me realize that I can just about slap that unschooling label on myself and be proud of it, because somehow along the way, that’s what we’ve become. I am in no way saying that unschooling is better than homeschooling or vice versa, or even that school is bad. Because, to be honest, it can all be good or bad. I don’t like labels as they can be really limiting to who we truly are. I also know that I am obnoxiously labeling and generalizing people for the purpose of the post. And, my kids are still really young, so anything can happen or anything can change… It was just one of those funny realization moments.

Two and a half years ago, when I first heard of unschooling, I thought it was a crazy idea. But it looks like today, that crazy idea has become our life!

Surprise! Children Are Not Born Racist

Katesurfsracism

Nippers training was happening at the beach on Sunday morning (Nippers is Australian life saving thing for kids). One of the nippers coaches, a lady in her mid fifties or so, was leading a group of younger kids down the beach to do some exercises. She was barking out instructions, telling the kids where to go, but one of the boys didn’t hear her. When she was asked to repeat herself, she yelled out, “Just go down to where you see that brown skinned person with the broken arm!”

Um, what? Seriously… Like, who says that?!?!

I picked my eyes up from watching my own kids, to see if there actually was a ‘brown skinned person with a broken arm‘ on the beach. Sure enough, there was…

Well, I looked at the ‘brown skinned person with a broken arm‘ and thought about the hundred other ways I would have described this person to a group of children. If I had been the nippers coach, I would have told the kids to look for the girl with the red hat. Or, to look for the girl with the big blue towel. Or, to look for the girl with the big cast on her arm. Or, how about to just look for the plain old ‘girl‘. The nipper coach didn’t even use the word ‘girl‘, she used the term ‘brown skinned person’!

For all the grumpsters out there, I know that describing a person by the color of their skin is actually a legitimate descriptor… but for me, using the color of a girl’s skin would have been one of the last ways in which I would have described her.

My older daughter is 4 1/2. While we live in a relatively ‘white‘ part of the world, she still sees people from all different cultural and racial backgrounds. We have friends of all different skin colors and, guess what… she’s hardly ever mentioned their skin color. Maybe once or twice, she’s asked me an honest question if we’ve seen someone with very dark skin, but that’s only because we rarely see it here! My reply to her skin color questions, is that we’re all born with different color skin. That is all. The conversation goes no further because frankly, she doesn’t give a crap about skin color. I never mention skin color to her, so she never portrays skin color as anything to take notice of. To her, skin color is no different than the texture of someone’s hair or the shape of their big toe.

When I was doing my masters in education, I read several research articles which stated that babies and young children don’t even notice skin color unless it is pointed out to them. They will make friends with any child of any skin color with absolutely no fuss about it. From observing my own children, I see that what I read is true.

Today, the world is a small place. Once upon a time, people with different skin colors lived relatively isolated from each other, but those days are long gone. We live in a sea of diversity and it’s important to teach our children racial, religious and cultural acceptance. If we want to live in a more harmonious world and if we want to feel belonginess and love, we need to start, first, by teaching our children the value of diversity. We need to show them that ADULTS are accepting of other races. Children are not born racist, they learn to discriminate against others from watching and hearing the people around them. Racism is born from ignorance, greed and fear. And, racism only exists in our culture today because the lack of acceptance in our society is still deeply entrenched in the minds of miseducated people.

Every child should know the value of diversity and how different cultures enrich our lives. You can enjoy Indian food without being Indian. You can enjoy African music without being from Africa. You wear clothes that are made in Asia and you might swing in a hammock made in Mexico. This is the world we live in today. A world full of variety and different flavors. Flavors that we need to honor and respect.

I know the nipper coach was not intending to sound racist, but it just goes to show that we have to watch very closely what we say and how we act around children when it comes to acceptance of all people. Above skin color, we are first and foremost all people on this planet. Not just ‘brown skinned’, ‘white skinned‘ or any other colored skin! We are all just people, and as my 4 year old daughter, who was eating a mango, said to me this morning, “Everyone is just a little bit different, just like every fruit is a little different. The same, but different.” Take it from her… she seems to know what she’s talking about.

 

Common Questions for Parents of Aggressive Children

Previous article on aggression

Common Questions

What about when a child laughs after being aggressive?
Sometimes children laugh after being aggressive. This happens when a child is trying to understand a previous similar situation, where they may have become upset by someone else’s reaction. A good way to overcome this would be to do some role playing directed towards that incident. Anything to elicit laughter from you and your child over the situation should help them to understand and process the impressions from a previous event. For example, if your child always pulls the dog’s tail. You can pretend to be the dog and let your child pull your tail and you can pretend it hurts. If your child laughs, you’re doing it right! They might ask you to do this sort of play over and over again until the emotional charge of the event is dissipated. And you let them know they are playing, that way they know not to do it again unless you are playing.

What about children who suddenly become aggressive when a sibling is born?
Having a sibling born can be one of the most traumatic events for a child. A good thing to do in this situation is lots of meaningful connection time and role playing. Older siblings LOVE pretending to be babies. When my daughter was 2 1/2 and her little sister was born, I used to rock her like a baby and sing songs to her like a baby. She used to ask to put a nappy on for fun and to drink from a fake bottle (even though she was toilet trained and never usually drank from a bottle). This sort of play can help tremendously to ease the pain that is experienced from one day being the baby to suddenly becoming the ‘big kid‘.

How will a child learn that hitting, pushing, etc. is not ok?
When a child’s true emotional and physical needs have been met, you will see that they will naturally not act aggressive. When they are acting aggressive, there is some underlying reason why. It’s not ‘just’ their personality or ‘just’ something they’re learning about. There is something much deeper going on.

Can children learn meditation or do other calming activites?
I’ve been practicing daily meditation and yoga for over 12 years. I know the value in it. Except for children living in situations of extreme stress of fear, most children under the age of 8 or so, are living in the present moment and don’t really need too much stress relief like us adults do. As long as they are given plenty of exercise and allowed to fully express their emotions, in the form of tears, laughter and raging, they really don’t *need* to do anything extra. Meditation and calming activities are nice, especially quiet time, and I encourage parents to expose their children to awareness building activities, but they are not essential for younger kids. After 8 years old or so, children change and then stress relief and calming activities become more appropriate.

What about aggression in older children?
Older children (say over the age of 7 or 8) fall into a slightly different category, although some of these ideas still apply. The reason is that children of this age are less likely to be so open about raging and crying to release their frustrations because they live less in the present moment than younger children do and they may not be as open about expressing their emotions. Connection time with older children is vitally important, although can be tricky because they may already have some barriers up. Also, if you are concerned about their stress levels, there may be several stress relief youth programs out there. Older children can benefit from calming activities or meditation.Contact me for more details if you have an older child who is acting aggressive and you’re not sure what to do.

When Your Nurtured Child Acts Aggressive: 7 Gentle and Effective Ways to Make It Stop

Katesurfsagro

It’s a stab to the heart… When your gently raised child starts biting, hitting, pushing and smacking. You always hear that children learn by watching their parents… but YOU do not bite, hit, push or smack, so why is your child? It’s baffling and it can become quite frustrating to deal with. Deep down in your heart, you know that you’re doing the right thing by not using authoritarian punishment for your child, but you’re seriously questioning yourself and don’t know what to do. Read the rest of this entry

I Bet You’ve Never Done Yoga WITH Your Yoga Mat

I know lots of you have done yoga ON a yoga mat… but how many of you have done yoga WITH their yoga mat? This is how Margo, my 4 1/2 year old, did it. She gave me explicit instructions on how to fold, bend and stretch, for optimal benefit. For those of you who may not know, ‘asana‘ is a sanskrit word for yoga pose.

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Womb-asana (Footling Breech Variation)

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Paper Airplane-asana

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Yogi Taco-asana

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Head-in-the-Sand-asana

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Bow Down Before Me-asana

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Heels In Your Buttcheeks-asana

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Float in a Boat-asana

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Yoga Mat Full Body Massage-asana

 

To Let a Child Blossom: Earlier is Not Better

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There’s a little magnolia tree at the top of the hill near our house (it’s spring in Australia). The only blossom that was low enough for Margo to smell, was one that was not fully open. She took a long deep sniff of the partially opened flower, and said, “I wish I could pull it open so we could see the whole thing.”

Well, if we did that, what would happen?” I asked.

She paused for a few long seconds and considered. “If we pulled it open, we would break it. That would be really sad.Read the rest of this entry

Life is But a Dream…

Lifeisbutadream

‘Row row row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream…’

A little girl in Australia is very very sick.

I’ve been following Eva’s story for some time now. She’s the niece of one of my babywearing friends, so I kept hearing her story circulating on my Facebook feed. Under most circumstances, I would choose not to follow a child’s fight against cancer story. Too painful. Too sad. Don’t want to surround myself with that energy, etc. It sounds mean, but that’s how I felt at first, and I think many people would understand. Somehow though, Eva’s story has stuck with me. I started following it and I gave a few, what seemed like microscopic donations (in the scheme of things), to help the family with the astronomical costs of facing years of treatment, travel and care. It seemed like she was doing pretty ok, despite loosing an arm to stop the cancer from spreading, until just a couple weeks ago, when her condition deteriorated rapidly. Now, she truly is fighting for every breath she takes. This quote came from her mother via her Facebook page today:

“We’re all in a dream, aren’t we Mummy?”

I think she’s 6 years old. Maybe 7?

How can a child so young know such a great secret of life and be articulate enough to say it!?

Time and again, people and events come into our lives to remind us to be grateful for what we have. Time and again, we are reminded that people, places, things or situations can change at any given moment. It’s not to say that in a sad and depressing way (although Eva’s story is utterly heartbreaking). But, knowing that everything is changing and that everything in our past will become like a dream, is a powerful piece of knowledge to consider.

There is nothing on this Earth we can take with us when we go. No amount of money, property or fame can come with us. I forget over and over again.

Time and again, I can be reminded… I am not here to waste my time complaining over small things. I are not here to get bogged down, only worrying about myself. I am not here to make a mess of the world.

If I can take anything positive from a six year old fighting for every last breath she can take, I can be reminded to live life. I can be reminded to be grateful for what I have. I can be reminded to love unconditionally and to let myself be loved. I can be reminded to be kind and compassionate to all the people around me, because I never know what other people are going through or where they have been. I can be reminded that I am here to help and uplift others. I can be reminded to be courageous. And, I can be reminded that if I’m going to fight over something, it better be a fight worth fighting for!

Thousands of people have been thinking about Eva the past few days, and many people, including myself, have never even met her or her family.

(I’ve just learned that brave little Eva has passed, early on the morning of 28th October. Rest easy little babe, you have touched more people than you can ever imagine).

Click here to find Eva’s story on Facebook, her and her family are truly an inspiration about living and loving.

 

4 Things I’m Thinking When You Ask Me If I Want to Have Another One

Havinganotherone

At the right time and place, when a friend asks me if I want another one. I’ll sit down and yap about my life and what’s going on because he or she knows me and it’s cool to talk about my personal life with a friend, you know? But, many people do NOT ask at the right time or place. The few times I’ve asked it, myself, to random mothers at playgrounds, I afterwards thought to myself, “What business is it of mine?

Read the rest of this entry