Category Archives: Preschool

Learners and Teachers

Posted December 11, 2018

by, Sarah Sivright

I’ve been struck recently by the quality of this community as learners and teachers. As powerful as this school’s three-fold mission of intergenerational programming and nature and art education is, what keeps this place satisfying, nurturing and exciting is the electric eagerness to learn.

A teacher I was mentoring once told me, “Know me and appreciate me—and challenge me.” That’s pretty much it—for adults and children.  We all need this from our environment and the people around us.

A framework of respect and trust is at the heart of my own formation as a learner and a teacher.  At the beginning of my teaching career, I had the privilege of working with Vivian Paley, master teacher and author, now retired.  She was brilliant and funny, and was attuned to young children in a way I have never seen. She was also fearless, ready to try anything to support her young learners.  In the afternoons after the children had left, she and I would talk about the day–what had gone well and what hadn’t. She actually relished revisiting the tough parts of the day.  To paraphrase; “Give me a tough day anytime. I learn from those in a way I don’t when everything goes right.” We would strategize ways to rearrange “the doll corner,” as it was called back then, or new approaches to children who were struggling.  The following morning she would come in, saying, “No, that won’t work. Let’s do this instead.” I learned that it was the teacher’s job to keep trying new ways to understand and support the children, not throw up our hands in frustration over the children’s behavior.  Vivian treated me with the same patience and respect. When I told her at the end of our three years as a teaching team, that she had never once criticized or corrected me, she was shocked and said I must be mistaken. But she knew me as a learner, knew that I was self-critical and sensitive, and that I would learn best through kindness and faith in my own discernment.

The children walk in the door eager to learn and be loved. They live in a constant state of trying to figure out how the world works.  That process can be frustrating and overwhelming, since they have had so little experience with school, teachers, friends, schedules—life outside home.  But teachers and parents are here to be their guides, and help create emotionally and physically safe spaces for discovery.

All Seasons staff has a particular focus of study each year and our monthly meetings and professional development days address related topics. This year we are learning about early childhood mental health issues.  The increase in the identification of increased anxiety, attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder and even depression in young children prompted our study. We’ve been reading relevant articles and books and listening to experts in the field.  All Seasons parents of special needs children continue to be crucial resources. This fall we attended a related staff development workshop presented by Tina Feigal, noted parent coach. This week’s parent forum’s topic is “Mental Health and Building Resilience.”  We’ll learn from parent Joe Robertson, an Inver Grove Heights police office experienced in community mental health, as well as hear about the latest research on the topic.

All Seasons parents are no different.  Our parent-teacher conferences and conversations on the fly have made it clear to us that you are all eager to discover what All Seasons has to offer.  You ask: What is my daughter or son like as a school child?  Do you know my child?  What happens outside? In the studio?  Upstairs with the grandmas and grandpas?  As a school philosophy, how do you handle misbehavior/anger/sadness/fears/friendship issues?  Some of you have asked about specific issues around parenting, pretend play, death and loss. We have offered resources that have been helpful to us or other parents.  A mutual respect and trust is established as we learn together, just like what happens with the children.

Lucky us, we’ve all landed at All Seasons, where the learning and teaching never ends.

 

Heartfelt Appreciation

Posted November 26, 2018

By, Jenny Kleppe

On November 2, when there was no school at All Seasons, our teaching staff had the privilege of attending a presentation by Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Mental Health Professional. Ms. Feigal focused on how parents and teachers can best help children who have experienced some type of trauma. Trauma can be defined as “big trauma” such as abuse or neglect or “small trauma” such as overhearing their normally loving parents fight with each other. Children who experience either type of trauma tend to display challenging behaviors that can be difficult for parents and teachers to navigate. Ms. Feigal discussed how to support children when they exhibit these difficult behaviors, which as we all know, is truly all children at one time or another!

She recommended that instead of giving children consequences for difficult behavior or focusing on punishment, parents and teachers should instead work to emotionally attune to the upset child and focus on strengthening their relationship. When children engage in their most challenging behaviors (crying, screaming, kicking, spitting, throwing, etc.), they are using the part of their brain that is used for survival (the amygdala). The message their behavior is communicating is “I am afraid I am not safe.” During this time, a young developing brain is incapable of using the logical, thinking, prefrontal cortex part of the brain that oversees registering consequences. Children will simply not hear adults giving consequences and the adults are basically wasting their breath, becoming even more frustrated.

What to do instead? When a child is stuck in the emotional state of fear, our job is guide them with love and to make them feel safe and seen. Sometimes that looks like a hug. Sometimes that looks like saying, “I see you” or “I’m here for you when you need me.” It is only after a child is calm and feels safe that they can use the parts of their brain that can make connections between their behaviors and the results.

This is not to say we should do nothing and simply be passive observers waiting for a child’s next outburst. Parents and teachers should be active and proactive during calmer times by creating opportunities for future success.

Ms. Feigal’s calls this “heartfelt appreciation,” which is sending children positive input or messages that make them feel seen, appreciated, and loved. The easiest way to do this is use the following phrase:

“When you…. I feel…because.”

Here are a few examples of these types of statements:

“When you do your chores without me asking first I feel so happy because I know you are helping take care of our family.”

“When you play kindly with your sister I feel so proud because I can see you are trying to share.”

“When you are quiet when Mommy is on the phone I feel so cared for because you understand Mommy needs to have a grown-up conversation.”

“When you remembered to give that toy to your friend when you were done with it I felt happy because you remembered he wanted to play with it.”

When you…I feel…because.

It feels so silly to do this at first – prescribed and phony, even. But consistency with these types of messages to children will form deep rut neural pathways in their little brains, permanent messages telling children “I am smart,” “I am kind,” “I am caring,” or “I am loved.” These “when you…I feel…because” messages are ways to essentially download success into their hearts.

I have been using these types of statements more and more both when teaching here at All Seasons and at home with my own children. My daughter has always been the type to beam at any sort of praise. But these statements go beyond simple, pat praise. They provide specific descriptions of the type of behavior we want to see in our children.  They describe the qualities and roles that all parents and teachers hope children will develop: helper, friend, problem solver, thinker, champion.

My son is very different than my daughter. Daily, he does something to push my buttons, his dad’s buttons, or his other teachers’ buttons. These phrases have been eye opening. When I take the time to make these statements, even for the smallest thing, he lights up and hangs onto the words. Just a few days ago, I told him, “When you got your pajamas on right away I felt so happy because now we can read three stories and I love reading with you.” He absolutely lit up, ran to get the books, and said, “I love reading with you too, Mommy, and I love you.”

Another one for him: “When you cleared your dishes without being asked I felt proud because you were helping.” His response, “I’m a great helper! Can I help you with anything else?”

It is important to note that Tina Feigal specifically stated that When you…I feel…because statements should only be used for positive input and NEVER for a negative interaction. It does more harm than anything else for a child to hear that they made someone feel sad, bad, or angry, even if they did indeed do something to elicit those emotions. So remember- only for good, positive, input!

These statements won’t solve all the problem behaviors, but they will make it clear to children that they are good, they are seen, and they are loved.

For more on Tina Feigal’s work, her books Pocket Coach for Parents and Present Moment Parenting are excellent resources for parents and teachers alike.

Tina Feigal works with families as a Parenting Coach in the Midwest area at Anu Family Services www.anufs.org

Why Are There Kids Here?

Posted November 15, 2018

by Amy Lemieux


As part of our community, it is likely that All Seasons parents intuitively know in their hearts what many do not; for a young child, being in a space full of grandmas and grandpas can be a great asset. But it is a legitimate question and one that is asked frequently. Why did we put young children inside a building full of retired people?
Conversely, the same can be said about the senior citizen side of the pairing. The presence of young children can be a treasure to seniors. Mary Pipher, clinical psychologist and cultural anthropologist, studied the social and emotional diseases of aging in the United States; diseases of the mind and heart, not the body. We live in a society that values independence and self-sufficiency. What happens in a dependent-phobic culture if you are an adult who needs help meeting their most basic needs like grocery shopping, preparing a meal or even going to the bathroom? You feel ashamed, you isolate yourself and become lonely and depressed.
Mother Teresa said, “The greatest disease in the west today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. Western medicine can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the west is a different kind of poverty. It is a poverty of loneliness.”
In “Another Country; Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders,” Mary Pipher asked, “Under what conditions do children, families and communities thrive?” The answer? We all thrive in an authentic community. What do both groups, the very young and the very old, crave more than anything? They crave time, attention, and to know that they matter. The beauty of intergenerational pairing is that the young and the old provide for each other what both groups need, and they are a perfect fit!


Aside from needing time and attention, what do the very young and the very old have in common? So much! Both groups:
• Live in the moment
• Have short attention spans
• Benefit from predictability and routine
• Find satisfaction in successfully completing simple tasks
• Experience joy simply from being together – the activity is secondary
• Have limited agility and coordination
• Love music
• Benefit from physical contact
• Have a limited social filter
• Experience frustration with multiple step directions
• Are egocentric – their own needs are paramount

With these similarities, we see in great and small, but most importantly, personal ways, the benefits of relationships that develop between the young and old. We see benefits for real people, many of them planned and expected, but many surprising and unexpected.

So why are there kids here?

For the young:
“Communities are real places with particular landscapes, sounds, and smells. Particular people live there and everyone knows their names. Children need to grow up surrounded by adults who care for them.” – Mary Pipher

For the old:
“You can have a nursing home that strives for the absence of pain but that isn’t enough. There needs to be the presence of joy. One of the greatest gifts the children bring is simply their unpredictability for those whose lives have become so predictable.” – Don Greener

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Posted November 1, 2018

By Kylen Glassmann

If you read our last blog, written by Amanda, you have a clear image of Friday mornings at All Seasons Preschool, and the excitement that comes with “popcorn day!” Now, let’s take a trip down memory lane (for many of us, anyway). Picture yourself coming home from school, probably exhausted from the day and all its challenges. You plop down on the couch and turn on the T.V., excited to see his familiar face, his cozy sweaters, and the iconic red trolley headed to the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” You snuggle in and wait for another adventure as he welcomes you to the neighborhood and makes you feel safe, calm, and loved. That’s right, I’m talking about none-other than Fred Rogers and “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

If you’re like me, these are among your most treasured memories from childhood – maybe it was an after school tradition or something you did when you were home from school, sick on the couch. No matter the occasion, I could not wait for the next episode. There is something so personal about “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the way it approaches childhood. It is one of the most unique shows that I have ever seen, and it has been beyond wonderful to witness our young students and beloved seniors join the “neighborhood” together, as we watch episodes as part of our Friday morning popcorn tradition.

 

What about this show is so extraordinary? Maybe it is its simplicity: there is nothing overstimulating or fast-paced about it. It is just a person, his neighbors, and their imaginations. They live in a space where all feel safe and learn from each other. Perhaps it’s the fact that Fred Rogers had a platform to sit in front of children (and adults!) and tell them things like, “It’s okay to feel disappointed.”

It may be all of those things, but it may also be that we recognize that we are part of such a neighborhood ourselves.It’s because Grandma Ruth, who could barely walk herself to a chair one Friday morning, saw Mr. Rogers, and came to life. “I’m going to try that!” she said excitedly, as we watched him make spaghetti using a pasta maker. It’s because Grandma Lou, who often babbles incoherently, looked at one of the aids and said, “He’s talking to me!” when Mr. Rogers sang his welcome song. It’s because all of us teachers watch, with tears in the our eyes, as the children ignore their cups full of popcorn and watch, wide-eyed, as Mr. Rogers tells them to be brave. It’s extraordinary because, as an adult, I still watch the show and feel safe, calm, and cared for. These are the reasons why “The Neighborhood of Make-Believe” continues to fill a special place in my heart – Mr. Rogers transcends time with his gentle presence and accepting messages and reaches all audiences.

So now, as you picture our Friday morning popcorn tradition, imagine children, teachers, and seniors, learning and growing together, all part of our own “neighborhood.” Any with that, I’d like to say, from the words of Fred Rogers himself…

 

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you!
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

 

Is It Popcorn Day?

Posted October 17, 2018

by Amanda Janquart

Fridays at All Seasons have an energy all their own. The smell of fresh popcorn at in the morning is ubiquitous. The Spring and Autumn Rooms take turns making it, which always draws a crowd of excited children. They count down waiting for the first pop, help melt the butter or add salt, and simply enjoy watching the steam rise. Making five large bowls could easily become a chore, but somehow it never does.
At 11:00, teachers call out, “Walleyes and Eagles, it’s time for movies and popcorn with the Grandmas and Grandpas!” Children from both preschool rooms gather and head upstairs to visit Memory Cove West (Walleyes) or Memory Cove East (Eagles).
Anticipation builds before we open the Cove doors, as children are asked to think of what they might say to the seniors. They are challenged to not forget anyone, shake each grandparent’s hand, make eye contact, and verbally greet everyone. As names are learned, there isn’t much sweeter than listening to children call out, “Good Morning, Grandma Ruth!” or “I like your sweater, Grandpa Bob.” The smiles they receive in return can be breath-taking.

Next up is popcorn distribution, with the children hand delivering a cupful to each senior. When Grandma Mary declines, they know to move on to Grandpa Greg. After double-checking to see if all the seniors have what they need, then, and only then is it time for the children to receive theirs.
After gathering at the feet of Grandmas and Grandpas or getting the “lucky” spots on the couch between doting seniors, the movie begins. Finding movies that appeal to both generations is an ongoing pursuit. We look for the ones which evoke long-ago memories for the seniors; watching with their own children or grandchildren. And the ones that are still appealing and appropriate for today’s children. Many movies have failed or were rejected for a variety of reasons. Old animated cartoons include jokes rooted in racism or sexism. Classic movies like Swiss Family Robinson demean females’ potential, and many have scenes too frightening for children such as the ‘child snatcher’ in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Some are simply too slow-moving or over the heads of preschoolers (vintage Lassie or Singing in the Rain). We have skipped scary sections, explained gender equity over the TV volume, translated British accents, and fast-forwarded to the musical numbers when yawns were apparent.
Thankfully, there have been successful finds. Mary Poppins is returned to year after year and has the added benefit of songs to connect the generations. The music becomes a part of community sing-a-longs and the catchy lyrics are requested time and again when we sing with the Grandmas and Grandpas. Milo and Otis, Winnie the Pooh, and episodes of Mister Rogers have also been well received. While the challenge of finding good fits can take up multiple staff meetings, we continue to search because those twenty minutes a week of comfy, cozy, casual time, without an agenda are what we are after – being at home with each other.

Grandma Faye

Posted October 4, 2018

by Sarah Kern

In September, we lost our Grandma Faye. I say “our” because she was as much a part of this school as any of the teachers or any of the children. Perhaps she was more so “ours” because we loved her — and she us — for many years. We built Grandma Faye into our curriculum, from her weekly visit to read to the children to our spontaneous visits to her apartment — a favorite place to visit with her old doll carriage, polar bear figurines, and view of the playground. “Can you see us play, Grandma Faye?” “Oh yes, I love to watch you.”

I first met Grandma Faye in the pines. I was being trained in for my new teaching position in the Autumn Room on a beautiful fall day. Grandma Faye was out for a walk. She immediately filled me with a feeling of warmth that only a Grandma can. She had a simplicity and a sincerity about her.

Faye loved the children. She adored them. She brought small gifts around holidays. She shared her handmade puppet who had on one side a smile and on the other a frown and brought favorite books. She asked questions and remembered favorite students. Faye invited struggling children onto the couch to sit next to her as she read. She loved to  make the children laugh. She loved to hug them. She loved to be with them.

Faye loved us teachers, too. She remembered details about my life I’d forgotten I’d shared, asked after my husband, and delighted in my pregnancy. I will always cherish the memory of her holding my baby girl when we came to visit. She sent me two cards after my baby was born. I know each of us teachers has treasured memories of Faye.

It became clear early this fall that we may not have much time left with Faye. Her wish was to see the children as much as possible. We brought them to her every chance we could in her last days. They sang with her, hugged her, held her hands, asked her questions. Though Faye was declining, she was ever herself. She lit up when she saw the children. I will never forget the tenderness they showed her, somehow grasping what teachers failed to explain– don’t step on the tube that goes into her nose, be quiet, be gentle, sing clearly. One morning, a group gathered flowers for her and brought them to her. As she held them, they shared a book with her. Though Faye could no longer read to us, we could read to her. Faye died the next morning.

There is a melancholy to loving anyone. We know they are not ours to keep or change, only ours to hold close to us for a time. For some, we are blessed with a long time. For others, it’s much shorter. When we grow to love the seniors, we know in our hearts we will have a short time. We know Inver Glen will likely be their final earthly home. Sometimes it is with fear and a bit of sadness that we begin to care for these people — We don’t know how long we will have. But it is impossible not to know and love them. With Grandma Faye, we were blessed with many years and many happy memories. We are grateful.

 

Grandma Faye’s obituary

 

 

My Sick Day My Children Needed

Posted September 18, 2018

by Jenny Kleppe

Today, I have the flu. I can barely move, I am shivery, then sweaty, achy all over and I’ve lost my voice. It’s summertime and I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old home with me in all my glory. It’s 1:45pm and everyone is still wearing pajamas. I have no idea what we will have for dinner and honestly, I cannot remember what my children ate for breakfast. I do know that no one brushed their teeth this morning.
The five-year-old wanted to bring me juice to make me better and hence there is a layer of sticky orange slime covering the kitchen floor. Dishes are everywhere. Toys are EVERYWHERE. I can’t see the table because it is covered in every art supply we own. I do not want to know the state of any other room in the house.
This is NOT how my house usually runs. I am an organizer. A planner. A teacher. A scheduler. A, “You have 5 more minutes to do that until you need to clean up,” kind of mom. I thrive on routine. This summer we have been able to do so many great things because my routine allows me to get two kids up, dressed, fed, and onto our next fabulous adventure. I have only been able to tolerate the disaster that is our current existence because moving from my current couch position is more than my equilibrium can bear.


And this has been, without a doubt, my children’s favorite day of the summer. They are so happy! They are GETTING ALONG and playing together. Kindly, even. They are playing with every toy, even the ones I have not seen them use in weeks because today, they have the time to use them.
The table is covered because for the last 30 minutes they’ve been making me pictures, cards, cut out hearts, and “Feel Better Crowns”. I’m covered in all their favorite stuffed animals and blankets. My usually clean floors are sticky – all because my preschool aged children are doing everything their wonderful little minds can think of to make me feel better. They continue to come up with new ideas and are even evaluating their own thoughts. My son just gave me my third construction paper and tape bracelet and said, “This one is much better. It’s your favorite color and it won’t break like those ones.” Through the mess and the sickness, my children’s kindness and creativity are shining through. And it is letting me know I need to slow down. I want to create more days like this.
It is all well and good to have a routine, to have fun activities planned. I am a do-er, a planner. It is part of what makes me a great mom and a great teacher. I go stir crazy when I’m sick and can’t leave the house. Being sick today helped me to see that when it comes to young children, part of the plan needs to be time. A lot of time. Uninterrupted, independent play time. Time to just be. To read all the books on the shelf. To work it out with your sibling. To use as many pieces of construction paper as they want without their mother limiting or reminding them, “The bigger mess you make, the longer it will take to clean it up!” They need time to set up and then play with their toys. To come up with the ideas and ask, “What’s next?” This is the kind of play and time that will help their young minds learn to focus, to plan, to evaluate, to execute, and to have more fun than I have seen with most of my planned adventures. And deep down isn’t that what we want?
Maybe I’ll be sick tomorrow…

Swimming Upstream

Posted May 31, 2018

by Sarah Sivright

All Seasons Preschool is a small fish, swimming upstream. We have some good friends swimming with us, but the current is big and powerful, and hardly knows we are there. You all know how we spend our days here with your children; much of the day outside in wild spaces, and a classroom full of good books, writing and drawing tools, dramatic play supplies, manipulatives, blocks, art materials—and all available for the children’s choosing for most of indoor time. Outside of free play, we visit the seniors and go to the studio. We believe—and evidently you do, too–that the world we offer here is a pretty great version of what’s best for young children.

Years ago, as an assistant teacher, I had this very vision in my head and heart, and was ready to put it into action in my own classroom. My principal put the brakes on, telling me I needed to go to graduate school first, to understand child development, and have the pedagogical foundation and language to support what my instincts were telling me. Graduate school was crucial to my development as a teacher, and I was grateful to have the theories and research to explain good practice to parents, colleagues and student teachers.

But the “real world” kept getting in the way. My kindergarten teaching experiences were frustrating, with the obstacles of bureaucracy, state and federal standards and assessments, and parental pressure for early reading skills, feeling insurmountable to me. I moved to preschool, where I thought I would have more freedom to create the classroom I imagined.

I taught at Dodge Nature Preschool for several years, where the curriculum is similar to ours. The Lower School principal at St. Paul Academy was on our preschool board, and I asked him how our graduates fared in his kindergarten. He said they tend to be “behind” in knowing numerals and letters, but catch up in a month or two. He also said our students were outstanding in their love of books, creativity with materials, comfort outdoors, and social relationships. That was enough for me.

However, when I came to All Seasons and Amy, with her elementary school background, suggested doing fall and spring assessments with the children to demonstrate growth, I was a little nervous. I didn’t need to be. With our literacy and numeracy-rich environment, the results were gratifying. Children can and do learn through play very well, thank you.

Now on to kindergarten, and many of you are anticipating being shell-shocked by the transition. But truly, your children will do just fine, even if the first weeks are bumpy. What you and they will carry into the next years is the knowledge of what children need to thrive—you’ve seen it. So maybe you feel like being a bit of a rabble-rouser next year, and decide to advocate for longer recess, turning that little bit of woods off the playground into a play space, or contributing materials to a small dramatic play corner. You were willing to swim upstream with us—thank you! As Dory would say, let’s all “just keep swimming!”

Puff…Off They Go

Posted May 17, 2018

by Amy Lemieux

As the school year draws to a close and we say goodbye to some of our students heading to kindergarten, I get sentimental. Puff the Magic Dragon, a poem written in 1959 and later turned into a song, was a childhood favorite of mine, sung with great gusto. As a child, I knew it to be a happy song about a friendly dragon who empowered and played with a little boy. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized it was about the enchantment and subsequent fading of childhood. (Author’s note; this blog will be meaningless if you don’t read the words to the song).

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff
Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail
Noble kings and princes would bow whene’er they came
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name
A dragon lives forever but not so girls and boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
One gray night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave 

The few times our student have gleefully sung this song upstairs with the seniors, I admit I couldn’t get through it without crying. It is not all tears of sadness for the passing of time, however. Mine are largely tears of gratitude that our teachers have created a space where children are free to play with dragons every day.  I am so thankful these teachers understand that joining the children in their wonder is a central factor that generates this magic.  It is walking into a classroom and to see Kylen strum her air guitar, getting as into the “Firetruck” song as the kids, or Jenny acting out a believable interpretation of the big bad wolf at our community room plays. It is Amanda being as wide-eyed as the kids because there are pirates living upstairs and poop trees growing outside, Rita composedly going along with having “witch hair” for Halloween, or Sal being as happy about a child getting his jacket on as the child. My gratitude comes from listening to Sarah Sivright read from Jenny and the Cat Club and being on the edge of her seat at the end of every chapter even though she’s read the book forty times, for Diane Dombrock whose passion has created a genuine reverence for rocks and for Diane Belfiori who is so generous and trusting with her own instruments that she allows preschoolers to play them. And it is Sarah Kern who excitedly created a cozy bear cave this year that not one child played in – ever.  Embracing the true nature of early childhood only happens with those who are totally devoted to and have an affection for children this age.
The original words of “Puff” were a poem written by Leonard Lipton, a 19-year-old college student at Cornell University. Lipton added another verse that never made it into the song, where Puff meets another child to play with. I know I would have found great comfort in this verse. As some of our children head off to kindergarten, new students will arrive to play with Puff and our teachers.

The World Feels Much Bigger When You Have Kids In It

Posted May 3, 2018

by Amy Lemieux

photo from “hybridparenting.org”

Cliché as it is to say, having a child changes the world for a parent.  Raising children is not for sissies.  The leap from “competent adult” to “hovering freak show who follows a tiny person around” is not that giant when you consider you’re responsible for the very survival of another human being.  The gravity of this responsibility can be misinterpreted.  In hindsight, I inflated my job of “keep him alive” to “make every aspect of his life perfect and don’t ever let him suffer a moment of discomfort.”  This distortion made letting go more difficult than it should have been and did a disservice to my son.

Maybe it started at ten weeks gestation when my husband suddenly started cooking vegetables for me every night.  Maybe it was when I began running through the neighborhood seven months pregnant thinking it might make me strong enough to deliver a baby with a perfectly round head.  It could have been me riding in the backseat with our infant son while my husband chauffeured us around, not just on the ride home from the hospital but for a solid six months.  When my sister-in-law asked, “Has Nick ever even cried for anything?” we should have heard her intended message, but we proudly said, “No.  Never.”

I remember the visceral reaction I had the first time my oldest was invited to play at a friend’s house.  I think the mother’s actual words were something like, “Eddie really likes Nick and talks about him all the time.  We would love to have him over for a play date.”  The words I heard were, “I’m going to rip your heart from your chest and take it to my house.  You might never see it again.”  My reaction was so strong and unexpected that seventeen years later I haven’t forgotten it.  Nick never did play with Eddie, even though I liked and trusted the family.  What I could not articulate at that time was how frightened I was to send my son into an unfamiliar setting even though I liked and trusted the family.    Eddie’s parents’ job was to keep Nick safe for two hours while he played, not to make his afternoon perfect.  But I felt like the universe was going to swallow my son if he wasn’t with me.

Obviously, his range grew as he got older, but I wish I understood in his early years that my job was never to make his life seamless, but to let him grow and venture away from me with the confidence of knowing I’d be his home base even if everything wasn’t perfect.  I wish I had let him tell me his needs (a necessary part of growing up) rather than anticipate them.  I wish I hadn’t taken my role as protector to such an extreme.  I wish I had let him play with Eddie.

The world really does feel bigger once you have kids in it, but it would not have felt so overwhelming if I hadn’t misunderstood my responsibilities when he was young.