Deconstruction at Fidgets2Widgets

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Have you ever wondered about machines and the mechanics that make them work? Well, our Widgetarians have wondered just that! So last week we took apart some notebook computers and other small machines. While one child carefully removed the screws, freed the battery, unplugged the RAM, explored and deconstructed the motherboard, another child read about the internal mapping on google. It was great fun. Tiny metal pieces were strewn everywhere, keyboards were reduced to toothless pieces of plastic with scrabble like alpha-tiles jumbled together on the table.  You have often heard us talk about how creative and constructive the kids are at F2W, but we’ve learned this week that “deconstructing” is just as important as “constructing.”

Family Energies

Lori loves the 4th of July with all of its loud noises and fireworks.  She could hardly wait for the celebrations to begin this past Wednesday.  She chattered on and on in excited anticipation. When dusk finally arrived, she was a whirlwind of activity.  Her brother Sage, on the other hand, was nonchalant.  He moved deliberately and cautiously.  He enjoys this holiday as much as Lori, but prefers to savor the moment and not rush things.  Lori’s incessant babbling and grabbing of sparklers, irritated him.  The more she talked, the quieter Sage became.   Finally, unable to stand another moment,  he ran into the house and slammed the door.  Lori stopped her chattering and stared at the front door.  She was confused and overcome with disappointment.  ‘The 4th of July won’t be the same without Sage!” she cried as she ran tearfully into her mother’s arms. 
 
I’m sure you have realized by now that Sage and Lori bring very different energies to their family.  Lori’s primary energy through which she experiences the world is “water.”  She moves quickly and spontaneously through her daily activities and can do several things at once.  She is expressive, a feeler and artistic.  Sage is “earthy” by nature.  Thoughtful and deliberate, he understands how critical planning is to any endeavor and takes his time in order to avoid mistakes.  These children’s parents have their work cut out for them, as normal sibling rivalry will be compounded by the very different energies these children bring to the family. 
Wise parents will help these children see the strength in their differences rather than focusing on the dissimilarities.  Lori can benefit from the grounded and wise energy that her brother has to offer, just as he can profit from her effusive and flexible nature.  Their parents may need to proactively intervene before conflicts and squabbles erupt.  For example, Sage could be encouraged to take more of a leadership role in planning out the small family firework exhibition.  He could select the order of the firework detonation and make sure all the necessary gear is on hand (i.e. bucket of water, lighter, garbage can).  Lori can be encouraged to channel her creativity.  Once the order of the firework detonation has been determined, she might arrange the various cannisters artistically in the driveway .  Maybe she wants music to accompany the fiery display and can preselect songs and CDs.  Lori might be in charge of discarding the fired cannisters into the bucket of water for she is quick and needs to keep busy.  Maybe she can create invitations to share with neighbors or friends.  As you can see, there are many ways that both children can participate.  This will minimize the need for contention and competition, encouraging rather collaboration and celebration.

What to Wear

One of the things that parents and children often disagree about is clothing.  I knew a little boy of five who insisted on wearing red glittery shoes just like Dorothy’s in the wizard of oz.  I’ve known a little second grade girl who refused to wear anything but dresses 365 days a year, no matter the weather.  Some boys must wear black, or tight clothes or saggy and baggy pants.  Some girls must wear shirts or hair in a certain style, or they won’t leave the house.  Despite the fact that their are fads and trends, children manage to hang on to some of their own unique preferences even in the midst of what’s cool.  You can often tell a lot about a child by what they wear.  I know it is hard for parents who are purchasing the wardrobe to always keep a healthy perspective. Sometimes logic and practicality fly in the face of fashion trends and personal style.  I grew up with the adages that you can’t judge a book by its cover and it’s not outward appearance, but what’s on the inside that’s important.  I remember well the embarassment and humiliation of wearing something dorky to school as a kid.  How I wish my mother understood how cruel kids could be and how a perfectly good outfit to her was drab and outdated to me.

I see kids who wear black T’s with skulls and baggy pants, preppy kids who wear polos and khakis, athletic kids who wear designer sportswear and underneath it all, they’re just regular kids.  Some of them are happy and well-adjusted, some are depressed and lonely, some get straight A’s, others flunk out.  Bottom line–clothes are important, but not as important as a kid’s sense of self and place in the world.  If we as parents and teachers focus more on what’s happening inside our children, clothes will become less and less of an issue.  For a kid that is seen, heard and understood won’t need to rebel or seek attention through their clothing.

Transformers

Yes, I saw the new Transformer movie over the holiday.  I stood in line waiting to enter the theater for about an hour.  Next to me, stood a father and his three daughters.  The girls were bubbling over with enthusiasm.  All three had brought along their favorite transformers.  They kept asking their father questions about the movie and he kept saying, “I don’t know.  I haven’t seen it yet.”  It was cute.  I happened to sit fairly close to this family in the auditorium and was able to hear the girls cheering and laughing throughout the movie.  The youngest girl, about nine, stood up at the most exciting points and squealed.  They all left the theater with big smiles and happy sighs.  They kept chattering about their favorite parts and arguing about who they liked best. 

This movie was attended by young and old, everyone applauding at the very end.  Everyone yearns for transformation on some level. We can relate to the various vehicles in the movie that appear ordinary and hum drum on the surface, who with a moments notice, are able to transform into all powerful giants.  Fascinated by the idea of pure coursing energy animating the metal autobots, we cheer as they conquer their enemies and protect those who are smaller and vulnerable.  This movie is a wonderful illustration and reminder of the fact that we too are animated by pure energy coursing through our bodies, energy that can be channeled to transform and heal our lives.

The Energy of Holidays

I love holidays, for they are usually family centered times.  Each Holiday has an energetic basis.  For example, Thanksgiving is the “earth” energy holiday.  We honor our earthy needs for food and shelter, spending time with our families sharing the spirit of gratitude.  Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza are “watery” holidays filled with the effusive emotion of goodwill, giving and love.  It is interesting that frozen moisture (snow) is also the physical element associated with these holidays.  July 4th (in the US) is the holiday associated with “fiery” passion, conviction and celebration of our freedoms.  Time is spent honoring this day with fire works, and loud boisterous celebrations.  Labor Day, Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Day are all US holidays that focus on the “airy” quality of self-expression.  We move through the world with others, voices raised in a spirit of solidarity, memorializing our workers, our soldiers, our civil rights.  New Years is an “etheric” holiday of transcendence.  We make resolutions for the coming year based on our desire to evolve beyond our present condition.  We resolve to become the best that we can be by enlisting our conscience, our powers of higher intellect and motivation.  The elements surround us, infusing our everyday lives and special days of celebration with power and meaning.

Right Answers

I spoke yesterday about modeling honesty for our children.  One of the aspects of honesty that I didn’t address, is a child’s innate need to please.  This need for adult approval and acceptance can take several forms.  One way a child can appear to lie, is by changing their responses when questioned.  Desperate to find the right answer, some children will totally change their story or answer to a question, just to please the all powerful adult.  The same adult who once hung over the baby crib gesturing, jabbering and making a sundry silly faces, is now glowering and disapproving.  Tammy doesn’t want mom or dad to be angry.  She desperately wants those approving smiles to return. She will change her answer over and over again in her attempt to hit upon that magic answer.  There are no dark or ulterior motives here, just an innocent child trying to make a parent or teacher happy.  So, if you find yourself in a situation where the “truth” is hard to find, remember that giggling, engaging infant. For unconditional love is the soil from which truth springs.

Honesty

I once lost my keys when shopping for groceries.  My oldest child was only five then and loved to join me in  perusing the shelves and picking out our food for the coming week.  We had been at the store for about 45 mintues and I was done!  I wrote a check, grabbed my purse and headed for the parking lot while pushing the cart full of grocery bags.  Arriving at the car, I couldn’t find my keys.  I looked through my purse, my pockets, then checked out all the bags to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently dropped my keys there.  Finally, I concluded that I must have left them somewhere in the store.  My son and I retraced our steps, searching every aisle.  No keys!  I started to panic.  I could call a locksmith to open my car, but then what about getting into the house?!  Worse case scenarios raced through my mind.  I approached the check-out station once again and asked the store employee if any keys had been turned in.  She called the main office, she checked her drawer.  No keys!  It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I had left the keys in the ignition.  I hurried out to the car, pushing the cart, with my breathless worried child straggling along behind me.  As I bent to peer in the driver’s side window, my little guy said, “Mama, aren’t those your keys?”  I quickly turned to look where he was pointing.  There they were, nestled deeply in the outside pocket of my purse.  I squealed with delight, gave him a hug and quickly loaded all of the groceries into the car.  I kept telling him what a brilliant boy he was and laughed at how silly mama was to have not seen them there.  As I was about to lift him into his car seat he asked, “Aren’t you going to go tell the lady that you found your keys?”  I didn’t want to return to the store, but I had given the woman at the checkstand all my information and she had asked me to let her know if I found them.  I sighed.  I returned to the store that day and lied to the store employee.  I was embarrassed and pretended that I had found my keys on the ground underneath my car.  Whereupon, my son corrected me in a very loud voice, reminding me that he was the brilliant child who had seen the keys in my purse.  I skulked out of the store midst laughter from the woman behind the counter. 

It’s an amusing story today, but the truth of the matter, is that this was the very first lie my son experienced.  Sadly, it wasn’t a lie told by a stranger, but a lie heard from the mouth of his very own mother.  I’ve heard adults say that ALL children lie.  They seem to wag their heads and declare this fact as if children are inherently liars.  I know that this is not true.  Dishonesty is a learned behavior.  I’ve carried the burden of my “white lie” for 18 years now even though my son forgave me long ago.  I don’t want to forget that children are little blank slates.  They trust us and confide in us if we are trustworthy.  They lie to us and manipulate only if they have experienced lies and manipulation themselves.

Power Struggles

I really don’t like the term “power struggle.”  When parents, teachers or childhood experts use this phrase, they are usually talking about a battle for control or dominance.  Families seem like the last place to me that such struggles should occur.  Remember, we’re talking about a family where parents waited with baited breath for their little one’s arrival.  Books are read about feeding, nurturing and bonding with baby.  Yet months later, a haggard set of parents start talking about “power struggles.”  Parenting is not about controlling or dominating, but about empowering, teaching and guiding. 

Let’s look at an example.  Marcus hates the taste of green beans.  He gags at the mere smell of the little morsels on his plate.  Mom wants to make sure that Marcus has a balanced diet, so includes green vegetables in the family meals.  The first time that Marcus shows an aversion to green beans is in toddlerhood when all food is eaten with little fingers.  He picks up a plump bean from his plate, and plops it into his mouth.  His face immediately contorts, he gags and spits the green bean out.  Initially, Mom and Dad think it is funny and chuckle in response to his outrageous facial expression.  Now does anyone honestly think that a toddler is out to “control” or “assert his power” by not eating the green bean?  Of course not!  But somewhere Mom or Dad remember being “made” to eat something they disliked.  They heard about starving children in other countries who would be grateful for such food and were made to sit at the table until their food was gone.  This distant memory influences their behavior in the current situation and these parents begin to “parrot” some of what was said to them and try to assert their power in this situation.  Marcus, balks.  He knows he doesn’t like those yucky green objects on the plate.  He is afraid to try them again.  He hates the feeling of gagging or throwing up and naturally tries to avoid this.  Parents begin to interpret his unwillingness to eat this food as stubbornness.  A “power struggle” is born.

These unique little children in our lives who are made up of 50 trillion vibrating energetic cells have preferences just like we do.  Just because they are smaller beings, does not mean that their desires shouldn’t count.  A child’s inclination or desire is valid as long as it is not dangerous.  In the previous scenario, Mom can add other green vegetables, or a vitamin to her child’s diet.  Further, Mom can say, “You don’t like green beans right now, do you?  Maybe some day you will grow to like them.”  In this way she is supporting his very real dislike of green beans, while introducing the concept that all dislikes are not necessarily permanent.  Mom is modeling flexibility and tolerance.  Marcus is much more likely to ask to try green beans again months or years later if he doesn’t feel forced to do so in the present.  He may find that he still dislikes them, or maybe his tastes will have changed and matured by that point.  Whatever the ultimate outcome, Mom has contributed to raising a young man who not only knows what he likes and dislikes, but is respectful of other’s choices as well.

Cells

I am reading a fascinating book about cell biology.  I’ve learned that the human body is comprised of about 50 trillion cells, an almost mind blowing fact when you consider that the 50 trillion cells began as just two little cells joining and subsequently dividing.  These vibrating cells energetically talk to each other as they unite to form a physical body complete with skeletal, vascular, and central nervous systems.  To further complicate this system of cell reproduction, genetic code influences the grouping of cells.  Thus, each person is physically unique.  The fact that life begins so simply and culminates in such complexity is miraculous to me. 

Too often, we cease to marvel at who are children are a few years after childbirth.  We get caught up in the challenges of daily living and forget the miraculous series of events that took place in order to produce such an exceptional human being.  The newness wears off and instead of bragging about who are children are, we complain and commiserate with each other about the challenges of parenting.  Having read this book, I don’t think I’ll be complaining any day soon, for I am once again captivated by the wondrous and distinctive characteristics that make up my children and yours.

Happy Noises

I’ve had the opportunity to be around two children this week who have exhibited great exuberance and joy.  The first child, a pre-school age girl, was allowed to emote through squeals and laughter.  She wasn’t “shushed” or corrected.  She was the epitome of happiness.  The second child, a first-grade boy, was equally as happy.  I noticed however, that every time he raised his voice or moved quickly, he was admonished to be careful or be quiet.  The little girl’s face was alight with smiles.  The little boy furtively smiled or giggled, would glance at his parents and stop himself.  Although the little boy was quieter overall and probably supposedly better behaved, he didn’t elicit the same sense of lightness that the little girl did.  He struggled to keep a lid on his feelings and it showed.  Of course squeals and laughter must be muted in some situations, but often we as parents squelch our children’s expressions of joy without even thinking about it.  It is almost reflexive for some parents to say, “Shush, be careful, easy now, don’t do that, quiet, no, no, no.”  All it takes to change this inclination is self-awareness and a willingness to change.  Embrace the giggles, for a child that laughs today will be a positive and upbeat adult tomorrow.