Monday, March 28, 2011

Talking and Listening

I have made it a habit to carefully watch my mother as she goes about the business of being a mother, daughter, grandmother, and teacher.  It's only been a conscience effort for the past 10 years or so, but she's been teaching by example my whole life.  I've picked up a lot from her, too, over the years.  

I'm pretty good with children, if I do say so myself.  But my skill pales in comparison to that of my mom.

We call Mom the Toddler Whisperer. Children actually flock to her at parks.  They wave at her, and smile, and offer her bites of their food.  This is an international phenomenon.  When Mom went to China to support my aunt as she was adopting my cousin, a toddler came up to her in a restaurant and started chattering away in Chinese.  Mom had no idea what the little girl was saying, but she did what she always does with children:  She listened.  And smiled.  And made eye contact.  

How often do adults talk around children?  Not "around" as in close proximity, but "around" as in we allow the conversation to flow past the small people, not including them.  How often do adults talk about children as if they're not present?  How often do adults keep the interaction at their own eye level?  And how frustrating must it be to get left out of meaningful human connection?  No wonder children "bother" grown-ups so often.  They just want in on the fun.  

But when adults do take the time to talk to children, I've noticed that very often they talk too much.  Or too quickly, or with unrealistic expectations.  

Below is a "conversation" I overheard between a pre-school teacher and a 20 month old.  I've put what I imagine were the pre-verbal child's thoughts in parentheses.

"Hey, kiddo.  Do you want to paint a firetruck? (Nope, I'm happy playing in the kitchen.)  

Do you?  (Um... still no.)  Come on, come over here and grab a paintbrush!  (But I don't want... oh, ok.)

Put some red paint on it and paint a firetruck! (A what?  Which one's red?)

What does a firetruck say?  Weeeeeee-oooooo, weeeeeee-ooooo!  (Why are you screeching at me?)

Oh, no, don't paint your hand, paint the paper! (Why not?  This stuff feels neat; all slimy and cold.)

We're not doing finger paint today.  (Yes, I am.  See?)

Oh, you got some paint on my shirt.  Say sorry.  We don't paint teachers' shirts! (I was just showing you my red hand.)

Come on, let's wash your hands.  (What?  I thought we were painting today!  I'm not done!)"

I hear variations of this between parents and their children, too.  Please, for the sake of building a strong rapport with your child, slow it down.  Let your child process what you have just said before you say something else.  And use non-verbal communication:  smile while you wait for an answer, tip your head attentively while you listen to that answer, and offer hugs to go with your acceptance of it.

Children are people, too.  Talk with them.  Listen to them.  Show them they are important.  

Because they are.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring has sprung!

How do I know spring has arrived?

My bike
The bikes are in the shop.  They're getting put back together!  And cleaned!  And tuned up!  Soon we'll be kangaroo riding with Gus and Jack.  We got them helmets, which are now being used as toy "hats" to get the boys used to them before they need to wear them.  On the bikes! I cannot wait.  I have missed my bike.

My nose
I sneezed so loudly today that Jack jumped.  Poor baby.  Mama's not mad, just stuffed up.  It's spring!

The windows
We took down the plastic covering from the windows.  It's warm enough to not need the extra insulation.  The windows can be opened to let in the freshening breeze... which may explain why my nose is getting stuffy.

Corn hole
A sure sign of spring around here is when the corn hole boards appear in the side yard at my parents' house.  And sure enough, they were set up today!

The park
We have been to the park two times in the past three days.  Love it!  I am so ready for spring!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sweet Dreaming

Part of the work I've been doing to overcome the birth trauma I experienced when Gus and Jack were born is attending EMDR therapy.

"Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma." ~from the EMDR International Association's website.

Basically, I follow a green light with my eyes as it tracks from one end of the panel to the other.  Dr. D controls the speed of the light and the pulsing of little "mice" that vibrate in my hand, alternating left to right.  Every so often she stops the light and asks me what's there.  I tell her what was racing through my mind as I watched the lights.  There's deep breathing, there's examination of somatic reactions, there's a scale of negative and positive associations, and there's a safe space in my mind to which I can retreat when the work becomes overwhelming.  Sounds weird, right?  Sounds iffy, out there, suspect, maybe?  I don't care!  It works for me.  

There was once a time when I would have been hesitant to admit I'm in therapy, but today I want to sing from the rooftops!  Shout from the mountain-tops!  Share on my blog!

I've had three sessions with my doc, two of those being EMDR.  I've processed my birth experience and the months after.  I also re-connected with my body.  I didn't realize there even was a disconnect-- never mind how all encompassing it was-- until I reclaimed it as my own.  I've processed my fraught high-school years, and I've connected expectations of myself I formed in college with my current reality.  I am a very willing and eager participant, and EMDR can be fast.  I'm not done with my emotional work yet, but I am happy with where I am along my path.  

And the best part of all this is the dreaming.  

I used to dream in vivid detail that I could remember upon waking.  But somewhere along the journey of bed rest and a life steeped in worry, I stopped dreaming.  I don't remember when, but it was awhile ago.  During the worst of the early months with colicky twins, I was sleeping at most three hours of every 24, and no more than one hour at a time.  There was no REM sleep.  Since then, as the amount of sleep improved, the quality of it did not.  

Until now.

I'm dreaming again!  It started the very day of my first EMDR session.  I have vivid, rich, whole dreams now even when I nap.  And my nights are filled with crazy sub-conscious processing, healthy, beautiful dreams.  This means I am getting REM sleep again, and it shows in my daily life.

I'm happier, and calmer, and refreshed.  Things are still amazingly chaotic with 13 month old twins, but I am better able to cope now.

And that is a dream come true.

Until they learn to take pictures of me while I dream, this will do.