Understanding Parenting: Toddler Talk

We LOVE Rudolph! I mean, it is an absolute classic and a necessity to kick off Christmas! Clarabelle especially loves the movie because of the name of Rudolph’s girlfriend (Clarice) as this is also her “princess” name. However, she has a serious issue with the way that the other reindeer behave.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” she says as she provides her wisdom, “why are the kids so mean and why don’t the mommies and daddies tell them to stop?”

“Well,” I struggled, “they have never seen a red nose before so they don’t understand.”

“But even the grown-ups are being mean! I am not mean to different people. You and mommy aren’t mean either.”

“You are right. That’s because we know that being different is a good thing.”

“Yep, you told me that!” she stated proudly, “Different is special!”

 

Who knew that Rudolph was so profound? There is a growing trend for more detailed children’s shows to teach inclusion and diversity. Adults go through specialized cultural competence training to learn how to not be mean. Shouldn’t we have all learned this from the Christmas classic? Simply put, “different is special.”

Of course, it is easy to see that the young reindeer learn this lesson and that, as children, we all felt sorry for poor little Rudolph. However, I never really caught one point that Clarabelle brought up….the parents!

Why are parents not teaching their children to be nice? Why are they not teaching them that different is a good thing? Why are they depending on the television to teach them and then being horrified at what is being taught?  Do they not realize that the children are listening when they are speaking out against this group or that individual and then mimicking these behaviors?

Why are we not all shocked that the adult reindeers not only allowed but also participated in this behavior?

Perhaps, it is because we, as a society, are still doing this! We don’t need specialized training to be decent human beings! We just need to be nice!

 

Niceness is a classic, too!

“Gigi”

 

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Take a Bite but DO NOT Bite: Ways we Confuse Toddlers

Have you ever experienced the shocking pain of someone so cute and dear to your heart closing their teeth firmly on your arm? OUCH!!! With four toddlers running around the house, obviously, we have all felt the cringing pain more than once. I remember discussing this with other parents when my own children were little and the answer was always something along the lines of “they are just figuring it out” or “this is just something children do!”

Okay, maybe if it is only adults who are falling prey to this “rite of passage” so to speak, then maybe I could accept those answers. However, again, with four toddlers we have ALL (children included) experienced this pain at one point or another as the four take turns transforming from sweet little children to the spawn of Dracula!

Usually, Clarabelle alerts us as to the culprit shouting “Elliott bit Gloria,” or “Braxton bit Elliott!” I mean, they are quick with it. One minute they are all sitting around with blocks and we think it is safe to refill cups and the next minute there is a shriek and an announcement of the bite!

As most parents and grandparents have done, I searched the internet for methods to stop this and these methods all lead to some form of punishment for the action and align the “fault” with either the child or simply development. To understand why I disagreed with these methods, you have to understand two things about our situation.

  1. These are my grandchildren so I simply cannot see “fault” in them (smiley Gigi face icon not available!)
  2. Seconly, one of my grandchildren was the victim of child abuse as an infant and one has Down syndrome. Punishment takes special circumstances because of these situations and we try to be fair regarding all four children.

With that said, punishment occurs in the form of timeout or standing against the wall but it is hard to assign punishment based on the words of a three-year-old (no matter how verbal and advanced Clarabelle is.) So, if we do not see it happen, it is really hard to punish over biting.

Besides, I got to thinking, there has to be a significant reason why most children at this age think biting is okay. I mean, I tell them one time on most things such as “the trash is dirty do not touch,” or “do not hit” and they generally comprehend what I am saying and refrain from these behaviors. But biting, for some reason, is different. It is like they forget following each incident that biting is wrong and that being bitten hurts.

During my whole thought process, I found myself snacking on some cookies. (Hey, it is the holidays so no judging)!!! As the children passed, I asked them if they wanted a bite….

Let me say that again. As the children passed, I asked them if they wanted a bite!!!

Wait, a minute ago, a bite was bad but now bite means cookie?

We work with children on context clues, vocabulary, synonyms, phonics, etc. but not before the age of 2. Maybe, just maybe, if we could use more specific words for specific actions, then they would understand the context clearer.

Granted, I realize that this offers little to no advice for all of us who are struggling with the toddler teeth situation, but I hope it offers a different way of thinking about a child’s behaviors. Sometimes, we expect that they should just know things. If that was the case, what are we here for?

 

If we do not teach then they will never know,

“Gigi”

Smile! The Sun made another Spin!

Now that Mikey has landed safely in Japan, Clarabelle has noticed that Mommy says “good night” and “good morning” at weird times. She thought her mommy was being silly or that Mikey needed a nap. So, we reminded her about our discussions of the map. For instance, she knows we go up to West Virginia and down to Florida. She knows that California (where Mikey was stationed) is way across the map and she knows that Japan is across the water. (Pretty good grasp for a 3-year-old). But, we had never really thought to cover time zones. I mean, seriously, she is THREE!

Of course, she is a very inquisitive three-year-old and was not letting this go. So I found this video on youtube and we began to work through her questions. About 4 minutes into the video, she asked if we could switch to music. I asked her if she understood about the times and, as usual, she simplified it just right. “The earth spins around because we are supposed to share the sun. When we have night, it is Mikey’s turn for the sunshine.”

So, we switched to the music and went on about our evening. Isn’t it just amazing how simple life really is? If we could wake up each morning and realize that the other half of the world is sharing with us, then maybe we would be a little quicker to share with others.

So, this morning, as you sip your coffee and plan out your day, pencil in some kindness and enjoy the gift of sunshine!

May you all have a beautiful day!

“Gigi”

Understanding the Military: Toddler Talk

There are some things that we wish children would never have to understand. Death. Distance. Alienation. War. Danger. Just to name a few. But the fact remains, that these things do occur and this is the world that we are passing off to our children and grandchildren. Hell, this is the world that was passed on to each of us.

Today, Clarabelle and Elliott’s stepfather will be boarding a plane Washington state where he, along with other members of the United States Marine Corps, will check in to prepare for their flight to Okinawa, Japan. The following is our exchange this morning about his departure:

Clarabelle: Mikey is leaving today. Mommy looks a little sad. I feel a little sad too.

Gigi: Well, it is okay to be sad that you are going to miss someone but remember, he can call you a lot and he will be home before you know it.

Clarabelle: What if it is a long time? It is a long job to keep us safe. (This is how we had described his work…keeping everyone safe).

Gigi: Yes, well, when his time is up keeping us safe, someone else will take his place so he can come home.

Clarabelle: Maybe no one will have to leave their family to keep us safe. That would be good, huh?

Gigi: That sure would be good, baby. That sure would be good.

 

Isn’t it amazing that a toddler understands how wrong it is that families have to be torn apart because grown-ups cannot get along? A three-year-old should be dreaming of ponies and princess castles instead of world peace and safety. But this is her world. This is all of our world. And this is what we have made it.

It makes me sad that she is so aware but so proud of her awareness at the same time. Perhaps, one day, she can simply dream a little girl’s dreams.

Today, let’s remember the families torn apart and pray that one day, we can see the world through a toddler’s eyes!

“Gigi”

Understanding Sharing: Toddler Talk

So, mom and I were heading out town to do a little light shopping. Clarabelle opted to journey out with us rather than to take a nap (who can blame her?)!!! When we asked her where she wanted to go, her answer was “to get a sucker snack.” Simple enough, while we were out, we would grab some suckers and be considered the greatest Gigi and Nanny ever!

After a few stops, we ended up at the Dollar Tree where Clarabelle will typically pick up a four pack of ring pops to share with her brother and cousins. I mean, four ring pops for a dollar equals four happy toddlers for under a buck!!!

Today, however, Clarabelle saw a bag that had around 25 regular stick suckers in it. She took her time looking through the little plastic window of the packaging and said, “I could share with everybody!!!”

I told her to pick whichever one she wanted and she galloped proudly through the store to show Nanny her “find.” Nanny teased and said, “but I wanted ring pops!”

“Nanny,” Clarabelle said so matter of factly, “don’t you get it. These are still suckers! There’s some for everybody. Even you and my cousins!”

Nanny looked at the package and smiled saying, “wow, you are right!”

Clarabelle proudly placed her bag of suckers on the counter and has since been giving one to everyone that she sees! Granted, with each one she gives, she enjoys one with the person for herself!!!!

As adults, we preach to the children that we should share. We tell them that it is wrong to keep all the toys or crayons to themselves if other children do not have anything to play with. Of course, we typically only say this through words rather than actions. When is the last time that you put back something and opted for a similar, less expensive item so that the difference could be placed in a donation jar or given to a total stranger holding up their sign on the street? When is the last time you have paid for someone else’s gas rather than buying that overpriced bag of chips and soda at the gas station? How can we expect our children and grandchildren to truly learn to share when we are oblivious to the needs of others and blindly concern ourselves with our wants?

The holidays are coming and so many people are more anxious about what they won’t have rather than excited about hanging the star on the tree. Perhaps we could all opt for the bigger bag of suckers and spread the sweetness around a bit. After all, it is only a dollar!

When children become the example, adults should pay close attention!

“Gigi”

An Addiction to Festivals: How a Toddler Decides what to Remember

It was a long week. There is no need to elaborate other than to say that we had to take some time to reassure Clarabelle that everything in her little was is okay. She is a thinker which is probably how she gives me so much material for the blog! But anyway, there was a moment that upset her and all she kept saying to get through it was that she wanted to go to a Blackberry Festival.

Yes, we went to a Blackberry Festival this year. In fact, it was shortly after the children were returned to their mother. Now, in case you don’t know, the Blackberry Festival is a small town gathering that is literally all about Blackberries to include little girls being crowned the Blackberry Queen and vendors selling everything made with blackberries. There is something similar in every small town movie or country song that you can imagine and, if you have never crashed a small town festival, you are definitely missing out!There was a man on stilts making

Anyway, there was a man on stilts making balloon animals and he scared Clarabelle to the point of hiding behind my legs. It was unnatural, this insanely tall man looking down at her and trying to get her to smile! She was having nothing of him and only accepted the balloon poodle after it had passed from him, to her mother, and then to me. But this was a happy day. Her uncle and cousins came along and solidified this as the first major family outing after our reunion. Forever in her mind, her safe place will be the Blackberry Festival.

On Friday, when the situation was resolved and she was able to finally calm down, she and I were chatting about finding a Blackberry Festival. She said, ” I really mean it. I want to go there!”

As with all festivals based on seasonal vegetation, the Blackberry Festival is a once a year event. Uhoh! I began scanning websites, search engines, and local Facebook groups to find something that would do the trick. Ultimately, I came across the Experience Asia festival in Tallahassee, Florida on the following day. I explained to her that she could see things that her stepdad will see when he heads out to Japan next week with the Marines.

She was sold. With only one little detail left. “Can we call it a Blackberry Festival?”

So, ladies and gentlemen, on Saturday, we attended the “Asian Blackberry Festival” and she felt safe again.

Whatever it takes. Wherever we must go. She will feel safe and for that, I am forever grateful!

When a grandchild says jump, a Gigi says how high!

“Gigi”

 

Understanding Needs: Toddler Talk

While sitting at my computer, I can anticipate Clarabelle needing to use “Gigi’s bathroom” at least 3 times per hour so that she may enter the room and say “sooooo, what’s up?” I smile and ask what’s up with her and she toddles off to the bathroom only to repeat the conversation as she finishes and exits the room. It’s a thing we do.

So, anyway, today she enters, does her little exchange, and goes into the bathroom. I hear “Gigi, I need you.”

I jump up from my computer and open the bathroom door. She seems just fine. She is adjusting her pants as she pulls them up and so I asked, “what do you need?”

“You,” she responded.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Nothing,” she smiled, hugged me, and said, “sooooo, what’s up?” She then toddled off to the living room.

I stood there for a minute and reflected on this odd exchange. She did not need me to do anything. She just needed me. What an amazing concept!

 

During the year that the children were in foster care, I remember going to eat at Cracker Barrell with my son, Zach, one Sunday afternoon. Across the room from us, I looked up and saw them! My heart dropped. I wanted so badly to go to them but I was afraid. I didn’t know the rules about these things. I did not know how the foster parents would act. I did not know if it would cause a scene. The ache of being so close and yet unable to reach them was unbearable! It was like drowning just below the surface of the water where you can see the way out but you are held down so as to not be able to gasp in the air that is just above you.

 

Before we left, I took a deep breath and approached the table. I spoke cordially to the foster parents and their family and then turned my attention to the children. I was happy to see them. I wanted to stay in that moment. But I knew I had to be brief. As I leaned down to tell them by, Clarabelle stated, in the same matter of fact tone that she had in the bathroom today, “But, Gigi, I need you and Elliott needs you, too.” I held back the tears. I wanted to meet that need. I wanted to be with them every moment of every day to help teach them and guide them through life. I wanted to tell her that I was trying so hard to bring them home. I wanted to take them from their high chairs and run as far away from the nightmare that we were living as possible. But, instead, I looked in her sweet face and said, “I know, baby, Gigi needs you and your brother, too. But I have to go now so I can keep working to bring you home.”

After a few more times of her stating that she needed me, I turned and the tears fell.

It was a terrible feeling to know that I could not give her what she needed. But, in the same breath, it was a beautiful thing to know that she did then and still now knows that our needs are essential to our wellbeing and those needs include being with one another.

A child does not need a fancy home or an abundance of “things.” They need love, time, and attention.

May we always Meet the Needs of Children

“Gigi”