(sort of) Kennings Glossary by a Toddler and his Mother. InNaPoWriMo Day 13

play_activity_18closet-drawer: transferring time

toilet paper-pyramid: boy this is mine!

 

fascination-monster: garbage truck

saucepan-spoon: what a great drum!

 

crumble-bun: fine motor skills

hypnosis-circles: stroller wheels

 

nature-symphony: best music player

onion-peel: translucent layer

 

sandal-sole: chewing device

ice-cream-shop: I run so nice!

 

daily life-thing: I get creative

battery-operated: makes me so passive

 

window-palette: a subtle rainbow

lightswitch-click: to you I bow!

 

heaven-portal: that’s the front door

biscuit-jar:  my ultimate goal

 

eyes-light: my little child

bed-time: dream sweet and mild

future-insight: until the blessings of a new day

respect-parenting: rewards you with uninterrupted free-play

 

(wait… what is a kenning?)

With my hand on my heart: where are you taking me, dear Education?

julia margaret cameron niñaI visited my friend and colleague Alejandra last Thursday morning.

Sane people would have taken around 5 hours to process the enormous amount of information we exchanged. But we both work in education, so we pushed contents forward and fit the whole thing into intense 90 minutes, before the bell rang.

Time and again I directed the conversation towards free education. I can´t help it. Since I have memory I feel an urge for change. For transformation. I can almost visualize the image of a renewed humanity born from the re-education of adults learning to allow the self-education of infants. As if a revolutionary spirit would revolve within my self, frustrated and satisfied concurrently… Much has been seen and said, but I sense much more has to be done yet!

It would be easier not to feel like this, but I do.

Then I came back home to pick up my husband and our youngest child. We needed to drive him to a health center. He got bitten by a cat, which is stuff for another post to warn you why you should not allow your child to caress stranger cats. But that would drive me off the story and since our boy is ok there´s nothing to really worry about.

So, now we are in the car and Ricardo asks me how did the visit to my friend go.

– You can´t imagine!… She has been working in public infant education for 25 years. She tells me… the little ones, from 1 and 2 years old are asked to sit at the table with their hands held in their backs, while teachers place the materials to “work” with in front of them – I can almost see the image I am describing; innocent children handcuffed in the back in some kind of concentration camp camouflaged by good intentions. The one who moves hands, is the bad guy, the one that misbehaves. They are so automated that by K5 they do it by themselves, she says…  no one has to tell them.

I sense within an emerging indignation that ignites while I speak… Is perchance a sin to move little hands around? This is so far from what I dream infant education to be… I am outraged and my disapproval is evidently expressed in the pitch of every word I say. 

PGP%20EPS%20100

Unexpectedly, from the rear of the car reaches us the soft voice of our 5 years old boy:

– Yeah mom, but it is not as bad, you know?

– Do YOU have to put your hands in the back when you sit at the table at school???

– Yes, but I don’t mind, he wisely answers. It is just like keeping them still on your lap.

Our little boy is far from being automated, flattened by education, destroyed in his uniqueness… He is far, far from that. He is one of the most self-determined people I know, if not the most one. But he knows how to lay his hands on his back without further psychic damage.

Then I ask myself. I ask my self. I ask myself.

Am I exaggerating?

I would like to end this post with this question. Right here.

But I can´t.

I am not pretending you to give me an answer…  if I do exaggerate, if I don´t… I am not expecting anything from you (even though I would definitely appreciate your comments).

I want to throw this question within, let it resound and observe wherefrom its echoes resurge.

Am I exaggerating with my vision of actual education? I ask my self and wait…

julia-margaret-cameron2

I am what I am, I am not going to tell little children to lay their hands on their backs. But I believe I can give me the chance to lower my hypersensitivity and look at formal education with better eyes.

The Education… I imagine her as a distinguished lady, standing in front of me, no age or time yet as old as humanity itself. I look at her in the eyes and new words surge from my lips…

– Education, until today I was bound to you by my anger, my desire for you to be different. Now I see you and accept you as you are…   I take what you have for me and that is enough… I wasn´t able to acknowledge you before. I apologize for that… And I thank you.

She is standing there, calmly looking at me. She smiles, in glowing eyes.

I feel the desire to go closer. We hug.

Me from underneath her arms, she embraces me over my shoulders: I feel her generous hands surrounding my back.

I feel sheltered, I am a little one.

I am free.

Thereby, fueled by a new inner force I turn and look into the future, towards my own destiny.

If there is to be the revolution, so be it.

After the Manner of Perugino_Cameron

Photos by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879).

Tech Free Tree Fest (read this out loud and quick if you´re looking for a tongue-twister. For a nature love story read the post to the end).

We are back in town after a long stay in the countryside.

Those 4 months were intense, beautiful and tech free! We didn´t even have an oven, so we became experts in baking bread and cookies in the pan! Anyhow, this post is not about emergency cooking recipies, therefore you got my in-law (don´t miss her cooking blog). It´s not about countryside photography either, therefore you got my mom (her photo blog is beautiful).

This humble post is about what I could see from my kitchen window, beyond the house limits, in a world where kids had no TV, no internet, no phone, no mobile, no playstation… A tech free playful life! More specifically, this post is about how my kids rediscovered, enjoyed and loved trees.

It took them some time to realize trees were something they could interact with. The first weeks they explored the surroundings wanting to do the usual things they were used to: they asked us to take them to the playground and wanted to ride their bikes and skates on the road side (actually on the road, there was no “side” at all, but no traffic either).

It surprised me how many scrapes, minor cuts and bruises they collected in their feet and legs during this period. This brought me to think they were “city” kids, who never had a true extended opportunity to roam around freely, barefooted, without my constant warning advises behind. I trusted them, though. So I resisted the temptation to confine them into the house and they quickly developed the necessary skills to keep themselves safe during their games.

Slowly, they stopped asking for a daily visit to the playground and they started to realize there was a great world of play opportunities all around them, in front of their eyes. First thing they noticed was they could climb a big bush which they named “The Fat Sumo”. They literally went into the bush, took position on different branches and started moving them as the arms, legs and head of a big fat sumo wrestler.

Fat Sumo Wrestler (the bush, not the boy!)

It took three to four kids to complete the task and they spent hours and days repeating the game. Unfortunately the bush was not used to such high risk experiences and its left arm-branch broke. So we kindly invited them to explore real trees to climb and play with, remembering them trees are living creatures too.

From then on they chose a Weepping Willow as a King´s Court (throne included), a Shade Tree became a swing and a riding horse and some sort of Medlar was transformed into a den wherefrom some “fruit munitions” flew into the open field (some reached me and let me tell you the word munition applies perfectly well here). Finally, a beautiful Sweetgum in its Fall dress became the Everest, but only the older child in the troupe made it to the summit.

They didn´t left behind any tree to explore and play with. But the old grumpy Chestnut. It was that time in the year when the tree drops it´s distinctive spiny fruit shells  to the ground… did I mention kids were barefooted all day long? One or two stings were enough to establish safe zone limits.

So there it was, as a Selfish Chestnut Giant, standing alone, sorrounded by it´s own natural barrier, keeping kids at a distance. But as Oscar Wilde knew (and we parents all know) kids are not easily discouraged, specially when it comes about limits. Actually, kids love barriers… just to be able to cross them and see what´s up on the other side. And this is precisely what happened.

Slowly, very slowly, autumn neared winter and the good old Chestnut tree run out of its porcupine like little bombs and the field was cleared. Our gardener helped a lot, ignorant of the love battle that was going on he did score the final goal kids needed to win the game.

Helpless and naked, the tree surrendered. For good.

It became the most adored, trusted and cared for tree in the world. In my kids world at least. They lived great adventures around it and asked me to read them fun stories while sitting on its bare branches.

Finally, one sunny autumn afternoon it became the most fashionable spiritual Grandpa Tree there has been. Kids had organized a fest in its honor. They decorated the branches with silk wool and polyester wadding, wrote little love letters to hung on the threads, made invitations for neighbors, created tree masks and prepared fresh lemonade for everyone (I did help a bit with the little boy´s mask and cutting the lemons into halves). The lady opposite our home brought a copper inverted pyramid containing dry dung, rice and clarified butter (ghee) and offered us to burn a small fire praying for the healing of the Earth. She explained this was called HOMA Therapy.  We accepted.

So there we were, experiencing joy, unity and peace, praying for the healing of the Earth under the Great Tree our kids learned to conquer…

Recalling the whole experience I don´t feel anymore like advocating for the importance of playing in nature which was my first idea when I started writing this post. I don´t know you, but what my heart is whispering into my mind right now is a simple question: am I ready to release my well fostered ill-feelings towards thorny life experiences? Are you ready? I hope we all are. A true natural love story might be waiting behind.

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Fly within. A postcard

Today we had a wind storm.

Our little 3 years old and I were going outside to the front garden and we both were surprised to feel the clean autumn air against our skin. Yellow and golden leaves where dancing all around.

The small boy stretched out his arms wide open and asked:

– Why doesn´t fly?

– Do you mean why aren´t you flying?… May be because you didn´t close your eyes, I answered stretching out my own arms. Just before closing my eyes I could peep at him: a little, radiant, smiling face told me he was soaring his inner sky. Joyously I joined in, entering my own spiritual field.

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I used to be a perfect mom until I had my first child

Fritz Zuber Buhler. Girl feeding her doll

I mastered to perfection level every single detail a mother needs to know until husband and I decided to expand our family.

I mean it: EVERYTHING.

I had all motherly skills you can imagine, from infinite patience to unconditional love, from breastfeeding readiness to chef cooking abilities (husband doubted that part, though. But I knew I was going to delight my kids with every dish). I could meet any challenge finding the best solution to all sort of life situations and I used to boast about it.

I didn´t notice then, but I really went around boasting about it. Proudly standing on my perfection pedestal I would judge almost every single mother for their mistakes. How can she loose her temper like that? How can she put her kid aside to keep talking to her friend at the coffee shop? How could she wait for her husband to come back home to complain about her difficult day, about kids behavior, about feeling frustrated? Motherhood is life´s hightlight, how does she dare to complain?

Ok, I had been practicing to become a mom since I was age 3. Maybe they hadn´t. So I even dared to feel some compassion.

Then, the first month I didn´t get pregnant I suddenly became a mass of uncontrolled emotions that altered my nervous system to unknown heights and depths at the same time. Husband was worried (about me? about himself??). Under normal circumstances I´m a happy, smiling, fresh and calm person. But now I was hysterical.

Maybe just to save our marriage, the next month pregnancy test showed two beautiful soft pink lines the day after I missed my period. I was restored to normal (husband relieved). To normal did I say? Oh, poor man. He didn´t imagine what was coming next. The first three or four days I was radiant, shining like the moon and the sun together, smiling to everyone on the street and “feeling” the new life growing safe and sound in my womb. So I put a bit on weight to show everyone my belly, I felt dizzy, I had nausea all day (forget about morning sickness, that wasn´t enough for me), I cried and laughed for uncertain reasons and suddenly I started doubting… Doubting my body, doubting my emotions, doubting my mental health, doubting nature. So I started reading to solve my doubts.

By the time my first boy was about to be born I had read a real size piramid of books which drove me safely to motherhood insanity. There were so many “professional” opinions as there are stars in the sky, as so many diverse experiences as water drops in the ocean. And all claimed to bear the flag of final, unquestionable truth. Inspired by them, I started listing my brand new motherhood decisions: I wanted to give birth naturally. Caesar section was unimaginable. I  din´t want to receive epidural anesthesia, I wanted to breast feed my baby immediately after birth, I wanted to avoid hospitalization and keep my baby with me from the moment he was born onwards, forever after… Husband patiently listened to my loud voice thoughts, listed my wishes and promised he was going to stand by my side to grant and protect my rights…

Oh! How afraid I was to become a mother. I protected my fear with a thick coat of bookish knowledge and argumentative talk, so no one would notice I DID NOT KNOW how to be a mother. It took me a long time until I finally realized I was a complete ignorant on the matter. I recognized I was afraid of becoming a mother and accepted the fact that I needed to slow down my crazy mind and listen to my heart, that part of me which had kept silence all the way, from the very beginning of this story, waiting for me in its nonjudgmental characteristic mood.

But I did not find this revelations on my own. Oh, no! My first baby gently and consistently guided me in the introductory steps of this awesome discovering.

I defended breastfeeding on demand so he called me every two hours day and night for months, and months and months.

I defended not letting babies cry, so he wouldn´t fall asleep if not being in my arms.

I defended safe attachment, so he wouldn´t like being alone not even when I needed to pee or have a bath.

I had dreams of men wanting to breastfeed (imagine husband´s look when I told him?).

I was exhausted and really desperate. I knew there was nothing wrong with my baby, but big changes needed to be done… with me.

Today, nine years after that life long transforming experience that motherhood has meant for me, I´m more than happy to recognize I´m as simple and common as a mother can be, far, far away from perfection. A while ago a young, sweet, smiling new neighbor approached my husband with true concern to warn him the nanny had been yelling (yes, yelling) to one of our boys the day before.

We have no nannies. It was me.

This is something I´m not proud about and I do my real best to avoid going into loosing my temper like that. It´s an exceptional situation, I know. I must also admit this has happened here and then since I became a mom.

Saying this is not easy for me, the “good old days perfect mom”. But I´m not perfect any more, I´m not free of all human eventual frustrations and emotional influences. I do have freedom, though. I´m free to accept myself as I am, no arrogance coats, no masks. As good as it gets. This prevents me from creating false images about myself and allows me to see what I really have, what needs to be changed, what is alright.

After divine love, I don´t think there´s a mightier love on earth than the love a parent feels for his/her child, a love that can move mountains and fulfill the most difficult task on earth: the transformation of a human heart. At least that´s what has happened to me.

You might think I´m exaggerating when sharing my story and you´re right. I´m an exaggerated person. But don´t worry. Since I´m not perfect anymore I can live with that.

Dear WordPress Santa

Hi you charming blogging software! We need to talk.  It´s not you, it´s me.

But I need you to change.

I met you one year ago, when I almost did not know what a blog was. Rearing three little boys, working as a teacher and as household did not leave time left for such luxury.

Quitting my job on March 2010 has been one of the most difficult (and yet great) decisions in my life. I became a stay at home mom and I was really happy about it. But I also needed to keep in touch with my interests, with my profession and my passions.

I found you, dear WordPress, to be a great tool to find that balance.

Starting my own blogs was just the beginning (about children birthdays celebrations, about education in human values, about children litterature, about solidarity, about family life and creativity). One day I discovered Freshly Pressed posts and I found enough motivation to start my own blog in English: amararama.

And I was loving it all. Really. Writing and reading is one of my life passions. And doing it beyond any boundary was amazing.

Then school was over (we have summer holidays right now) and I realized my balance was getting lost. Quite often my body was at home, but my mind was far away, writing, editing, uploading images, answering comments while my kids where complaining they wanted to be with me. So I decided to stop blogging as much and as often as I did before.

Now I write a post here and then in some of my blogs, when free time and inspiration meet in a magical conjunction of events. Which is not that often, though. So I started feeling a bit frustrated and I found my self blaming you, dear WordPress. I know finding external reasons for personal frustration is a favorite technique to avoid facing your own need for change. I know I could change, yes. I could close most of my blogs, for example. But since you are a software and I´m a creative mom, writer and educator desperately wanting to blog I´d deeply appreciate your good will and your cooperation so I don´t have to do that.

I know I come a bit late for a Xmas letter, but let´s just pretend you become some sort of Santa and surprise me placing the following presents under the holy tree of my creativity. I´ve been a good blogging girl for a full year and I think I deserve this:

Please enable direct access to all my multimedia files from any of my blogs, not only from the blog I used to upload the files initially. I like using my own photos and many a time they are useful to illustrate completely different articles in my various blogs. Since my user name and my account are the same, why not allowing me to grab images and files from an “account media library” instead of uploading the whole thing again from my PC? This would definitely save a lot of space to you too. Just think about it.

Please enable faster linking options for comments: some of my blogs, particularly Pedí3Deseos and La Casa Naranja have a good deal of discussion. Mothers and families ask lots of questions and I really like giving them good answers, helping them rediscovering the deep meaning of celebrations and a simpler and truer way to rear children beyond consumerism and social imposed stereotypes. I do have a FAQ section but they are lazy, you see? They simply ask the same question again. And being a polite person I tend to answer when people ask me a question. So please  allow direct access to links, direct linking to older posts and direct access to the multimedia files folder in comments feature, instead of asking me to find the URL of the image, the previous post or link.

Please help me finding great blogs in my own language creating a Freshly Pressed Home Page section for other languages, particularly for those languages you already have as an option to use in our dashboards and as an option for WordPress home page. And even if you want to see it that way, for languages which are massively spoken in the States. Bingo! Spanish is Nr. 1 on that list! I spend a lot of time surfing the Spanish tags cloud and no way! I cannot find as easily as in the English version those great posts I know are hidden somewhere in the WordPressish-Spanish-Blogosphere. So I end up subscribing to English blogs (wow! really amazing blogs I must say) because you make them available for me. Give all world citizens who use and love WordPress the chance to enrich their blogging experience reading great posts in their own language! And I wouldn´t mind if you start by Spanish (I think I mentioned this already?).

Please, please, please, dear WordPress Santa, make me not fall asleep at 8 pm when my kids go to bed so I can blog a bit more every day. Ok, I know this might be too much even for you, oh! Almighty Software Wish Granter. But may be not. Who knows. If you can fulfill my other wishes, maybe you can do something for this one too. There´s nothing to loose. Just in case, I dare to ask.

Thanking your for considering my requests I must say farewell. Muppets from Space is over and I´ll leave you now to go and play with my boys some “animal basketball” (I´ll let you know about this new game soon).

For a blogging community that celebrates diversity, warmly yours,

Fernanda

From a Self Directed Playing Baby to a Self Responsible Creative Citizen

 

About two years ago my mother sent me a link to watch a video of street musicians singing and playing Stand by me. Towards the end of the song there was a link to Playing for Change organization. Somehow -maybe destiny?- I misspelled the web address typing Play for Change instead. I really liked what I found there and very much appreciated the game you must play to enter the site.

 

This made me curious enough to accept the challenge and I finally defeated the 7 myths that “still keep millions of would be world-changers lost in the maze”.  I proudly read the information beyond the maze and convinced myself of the importance of keeping my own myths under constant check. So I signed in to become part of Creative Communities. I was feeling really enthusiastic about it… but maybe the evil myth monsters caught my eyes and hipnotized me a bit after all:

Slow and steadily, I forgot most of this enlightening concepts regaining my daily routine of problem solving oriented thoughts. Until recently.

On December 16th my Inbox had a Christmas greeting from Play for Change: a provocative article as a gift from David Engwicht and the staff at Creative Communities. Today, finally, I had enough time to read the article which, again, fueled my enthusiasm about the “playful perspective” to change and improve communities. But best of all, I suddenly realized there was an existing link between self directed play for babies and self responsible citizens. Engwicht article reads:

“The late Hans Monderman was a Dutch engineer who pioneered the removal of traffic control devices from villages. His grand vision was the ‘re-democratization of public space.’ He said, ‘As an engineer, it is not my job to try and forecast every potential problem the village may have in the future and resolve that potential conflict, in advance, through design. Every time I resolve a potential conflict through a new regulation or white line, I de-skill the community in resolving its own conflicts. And resolving conflict is at the heart of building robust, resilient communities.”

Just as the inhabitants of any community deserve to develop their own problem solving skills, babies have the right to conquer their own skills in a safe environment through self directed play. So many times I´ve felt tempted to anticipate their difficulties and to resolve their conflicts. And I did it with the best intentions under the spell of my own myths: they looked so little, so innocent, so helpless. But as a result of this “help” (not only the one I offered but the one most of well intended adults tend to offer) they really de-skill their inborn abilities and learn to become adult centered and dependent.  Later on, during their childhood and teenage they´ll have to struggle hard to regain  what was inborn but lost. This is something no one wants to happen and as an educator I did worry a lot about older children´s need for an adult intervention to reach independent and creative play. Ironically, well intended “helping” adults become would be childhood saviours lost in the educational maze. Through its corridors, educational myth monsters hypnotize them: babies are not complete humans, babies need everything done for them, babies need to be stimulated constantly, all healthy babies should reach developmental stages at certain ages. Is it so?

Mainly thanks to Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber contributions (whom I discovered thanks to Janet Lansbury) I´m starting to learn my lesson and open my heart so I would stop “thinking” how to stimulate babies development and start “observing” them mastering their own interests. This does not mean “abandoning” babies. No! This means trusting babies and offering an adequate safe play oriented context where they can unfold their inborn potential knowing they are fully free precisely because we are standing by them, supporting and respecting their unique way of being and their enthusiastic way of becoming. And we reassure our love and support being 100% present when nursing, changing and bathing them.

Just as a playful perspective transforms world “problems” into real “solutions” created by responsible citizens, a respectful approach towards infants self directed play transforms educational problems born out of an adult interventionist model into real “babies developmental activism”. Being their uniqueness accepted, they also learn to love and accept themselves and to love and accept others, though they might be different. I´m sure societies at large will be greatly benefited  if infants and children are reared in such trust, support, respect and freedom. If babies could say it in one sentence, I´m sure that would be:  “Oh, darling, darling, stand by me”.

By the way if you would like to watch the video I mentioned above, here it is. Enjoy and celebrate diversity!