October 2019

This morning my sister woke me up in the dark to have breakfast with her before she headed off to a conference and I started my day care week. Before joining her in the kitchen I put on my daughter’s hand-me-down comfy pants and my son’s hand-me-down hoodie, soft items and comfort objects which hold their energy now they’ve grown up and moved out of these items and into other worlds.

It was fine to talk with my sister about her date last night, to catch up after missing her last night because I was tired and went to sleep before she returned to sleep in my son’s old bed, third of my children mentioned here in this post, whose room I painted and freshened, while trying to preserve his essence and leaving space for his remaining at home possessions, guitar cases, books, art materials, clothes he has yet to integrate into his new life or to discard.

Last week my friend and I went to a day long workshop on chakras and energy meditation. One of the most powerful pieces of the day was the guided meditation on the chakras and the invitation to totem animals into our individual psyches. All week my friend and I have been relating to these images and they have been shaping our lives.

On Friday my friend got news the cabin his family has shared the last many years was damaged by a tree that fell in a recent storm. His worry was not for the furniture or books or structure so much as for the worry it would cause his family and for the objects that live there which are his links to his grandparents, which he felt sure would be safe, due to their location in the space.

I’ve been reading a book given to me by the woman whose home held the workshop last weekend, a book by a woman in the Jungian tradition. She tells of an image created in her mind when she was a child and feeling insecure due to a family who traveled a lot and parents who weren’t always present and how that image of an island shaped her life. The island exploration she writes about leads to a description of the importance of stones to humans. The rock her partner discovers when they visit the island of her imagination, which turns out to be an island in real life, Iona, contains the universe, and in noting that, the writer explains how we all are created from elements of the universe, and thus contain it, as do the rocks.

All around my house are piles of stones, lines of stones, jars of stones, pockets of stones, from around the world, from beaches, from mountains, from other countries, from east and west and north and south. Some I remember finding, others I do not. I’ve loved stones such a long time I can’t remember the first ones I collected, though I know I’ve carried some with me for decades.

My friend Alice collects stones and bits of nature, too. Many of us do. When I enter a home with piles of stones or shells or pine cones or childhood treasures, I know I’ve found a kindred soul. We understand the memory and meaning an object can embody, the power it has to link us to important people, places, and times in our lives, to the universe.

I hadn’t thought so much until last weekend about the power a totem animal or image could have to help me/us relate to deeper parts of myself/ourselves, to help me/us imagine new ways and worlds. Life surprises that way. If we are open to possibility options continue to unfold.

I’m happy to have returned to Jung as I begin my applications to grad school and imagine myself transitioning at some point in the next few years to work as a therapist. These images and totems and meaningful objects in our lives are guides, perhaps, to how I want to work with others, to the power we can access via intuitive or meditative or contemplative or narrative routes.

Last night I visited the home of new people. When I arrived one of the hosts gave me a tour of the space he and his partner have only recently been living in. The most powerful piece of the tour for me was a book shelf carefully arranged, across from a baby grand piano in their living room, with small carved wooden figures lined up on a shelf above a menorah, which the host told me had been in his family a long time before he turned from it to a shelf by the window on the other side of the piano which held photos of his parents and his partner’s mother, all dead, reminding me of an altar Thich Nhat Hanh had described in a book I read this weekend about creating space in our homes for meditation and making an altar with images of our ancestors to return to and honor and to include as we go about our lives, and which I had talked about with my friend as he was worrying about the cabin and his parents who are going through a big transition.

Maybe that will be my project for the week, to create a space like that for myself, to honor the life of the spirit and my ancestors and to relate to them in my home space, in a physical way that might offer opportunity for a ritual of grounding in the knowledge of my place in the spirit world. We’ll see. Just the image of it created here holds power. For me, writing is ritual, and words are power. Also objects. As the workshop last weekend reminded me, the grounding in the everyday, earthly world is not to be dismissed or contrasted negatively with the spiritual, but to be connected and honored as a place of equal importance and power.

Heaven on earth, heaven and earth, both are true.

Today at lunch one three and two fours were talking. I felt lucky to listen to their conversation. I had been talking with a friend about the importance of friendship in his life and so I was attuned to the way we support and witness the emergence of friendship in our day care, to how important a part of our days and lives are our friends and the way we see and value one another.

Sharing Dreams – Lunch time conversation – What do we want to be when we grow up? How will our selves and our connections evolve over time?

Today at lunch my lunch group was doing their thing, eating way too much cous cous, dripping bits all over the place, talking and laughing. I had the pleasure of offering seconds and thirds and fourths and listening and cleaning up, roles I am happy to play in my current life as family child care provider more than teacher.

Friendship is important. These kids are working on that right now, talking about what they will be when they grow up. And I get to stand by and watch and listen to the images of self emerge and the friendships blossom.

My three and two fours were talking. One four was telling her friends she plans to be a mother and and an artist when she grows up, something she’s been telling me awhile.

The other four and the three were telling her they plan to be firefighters, something they have been pretending for awhile.

Then the first four added that she also wants to be a veterinarian and a dentist. Her friend the four thought she might like to be a dentist for animals and she agreed. He felt sure at first as did the three that he only wanted to be a firefighter, just one thing.

The conversation was so interesting, I tried to capture it in notes on my phone. This is what I got before it was time to clean up from lunch, though the conversation and the play continued, wtih more about growing up, and then another game of hockey in the kitchen, this time in a game where the four suggested they were playing a game of hockey and that they didn’t want anyone to win. “Yes,” said the three. “We don’t want anyone to win, but someone always wins, right?” Always there is that tension between self and other, between the expected and what we have the power to re-imagine, to change.

But at lunch, imagining the future of their friendship, the first four suggested, “One day you can visit my artist studio and I’ll show you my paintings.”

“And you can come over and see how I fix the animals’ teeth and you can see my cute little baby.”

And her friend the four replied, “And you can see how we go down the fire pole.”

“Do you want to go down the fire pole with us?” wondered the three.

At this point, they got up, cleared their places, and began to walk around the kitchen and talk.

“I’m gonna be a firefighter and an artist, too.” decided the four.

“Can you draw a picture of us in our fire engine?” the three asked the four intending to be an artist and a mother and a veterinarian and a dentist for animals.

“Yes,” she replied. “I’ll also draw a picture of you spraying out a fire.”

“And us driving a fire truck.” suggested the three.

“I’ll draw the hose and the ladder and the fire truck.” added the four.

“How about you will work at the same artist studio as me, too,” she suggested to her firefighter and artist friends.

“Only on some days,” agreed the four.

“Only on days there’s no fires,” agreed the three.

“I might not be there. I might have to check out some animals,” said the four, making sure to be clear in her commitments.

That the children imagine themselves as firefighters, mothers with cute babies, artists, dentists who take care of animals, and veterinarians, makes me happy. That they imagine their lives well into the future also makes me happy. That they imagine themselves continuing to be in each others’ lives is why I do what I do.

The reality is that it has happened, again and again and again. Children who have played together in the early years have remained friends into adulthood and beyond. They have continue to feel cared for by us, by one another, to be in many ways similar and connected beyond the time they have spent with us.

Teens have visited after years of being away. Teens and young adults share wishes for a reunion of day care kids. Teens have hugged me in faraway places after years of not having been with us. Teens and young adults have helped one another through hard times, have been each others’ rocks when ground has shifted.

What is it, I wonder, about this shared imaginative life, about this day to day, sleeping, eating, playing, talking, laughing, wrestling, running, jumping, swinging life that binds us to one another, maybe for life?

In my life it was my sister, my neighborhood friends, my cousins, who shared my early life of play and daily living. I feel connected still to those early days when we made up the story as we went, when our imaginations and games and lives were so easily intertwined. But it wasn’t all smooth and easy, nor was it all full of happy dreams.

Solving Problems, Hard Times, and Sorrow – Earlier in the day, working things out on the swings and on the rug and in the kitchen

Earlier in the day, my twos were screaming mad. When we arrived at the park, they both expected to swing. There was one swing available and one got it, while the other one cried and cried. Offers from her older friend to push her on a tire swing with her little buddy and close friend did not help. Holding my hand she told me through tears how she had wanted the swing, how her friend had pinched her cheek before climbing onto the swing.

Nearby her friend watched and listened, pumped and lilted, looking less clear in her dominance as the back story to her triumph was revealed. Eventually she got off, her friend got on, thanked her at my suggestion. Still, the winner stormed. She lay on the ground and cried. She cried at the top of the climber where two friends had taken two seats and she had none. She cried at the monster sounds a friend made. I offered a hand, offered solace, was rejected again and again until on the walk home, I offered my hand, rather than a loop to hold and she accepted. Partway home, she smiled again, looked up, asked me a question about my life I’ve now forgotten, asked about something I might have in my life which she also has, establishing our shared vision, our commonality, our connection, and from there the storm had passed.

At home my three and four who shortly after shared dreams of a future fighting fires, making art and visiting their friend’s cute baby and art studio and animal dentistry practice, tugged viciously at an old copy of The Magic School Bus they both wanted to read, until the book was bent and torn. I took the book, asked them to choose another, went to the kitchen to prepare lunch.

Soon the four was tugging another book out of his friend’s hands. I called him to the kitchen for a talk. What was going on? I wondered.

“I had planned to read the book after I got back from the bathroom.” he shared, “But —- was reading it.”

“Ah!” I could see this could be a problem.

” Well, can I tell you what I do if someone uses something I was planning to use?” I asked.

“I know!” said the four, enthusiastically. “I can tell him I was planning to use it and ask him to give it back.”

I looked out only to see him asking while tugging on the book, and called him back.

“It didn’t work!” he said, tearing up.

“You need to ask without tugging on the book. And sometimes it doesn’t work the first time. What else can you do”

“I know!” he replied. “I can ask if I can have it when he’s done!”

And sure enough, I was able to continue making lunch while the young ones worked things out and read.

It isn’t magic, the way friendship and connection builds. It does take time and coaching. Insight and empathy help. Some say patience. I prefer understanding.

As I was preparing lunch, my two who had been stirred up at the park climbed up on the chair and slipped off, wool socks lacking traction, and bumped her head. I gave her a hug and a cuddle and her friend the three brought a boo boo buddy, a small furry dog with a plastic ice cube inside.

Children do this often. They want to help one another heal.

At lunch we sat down and I began to serve the food. My four who had figured out the book problem reminded me we forgot to pause and put our hands on the table, so we did, breathing deeply and holding hands around the table before saying our thank yous to the world, “Thank you for this food and for our friends and family to share it with.” My three who had the book, ended it with Amen, and Bon Appetite. I added Namaste. Someone remembered we had forgotten to do the gentle squeeze, so we reconnected hands and squeezed gently, began our meal.

It feels good to share these moments as a group, to share food with gratitude, to heal one another with kindness, hugs, and boo boo buddies, to see that we matter to one another, to feel our power to connect and to repair.

There was more I wanted to say, but the children are waking one by one and my time today is done. Thanks for sharing your children and for reading. I feel lucky to have time with them and to write about our days.

Today I am thinking about math with our little people and the way they teach themselves and talk about concepts they are learning.

Growing Up – Past, Present, Future, Age, Sequence, Years, and What they Mean, Including the Continuity of Self

In the swings, a two was learning to pump and her friend, a four, was pumping powerfully. Power Pumping Girls! I called them. They looked strong. Both girls stretched out their legs in front of them as they swung, but only the four could get going really high. I let the two know that she was doing a lot of pumping for a two, and that when she was four like her friend she would be bigger and stronger and be able to pump like her.

The four remembered being a little girl and looking up to older friends, mostly the older sister of her buddy, another four, who is now six.

The two thought of her life moving forward. “Now I’m two,” she said. “Next I’ll be three, and then I’ll be four.”

After some more pumping, the four said to the two,” -E— ,when you are four, you will still be E—“

“Yes!” said the two. “And when I’m five I will still be E—-, and I’ll be a grown up!”

“Well, E—,” said the four, “You’ll still be E—, but five is not a grown up.”

As I write this I remember a video at a conference on early childhood learning at Lesley College. There were children riding around a big room on wheeled vehicles, coming up with theories about the solar system. The researchers who had filmed the children talked about how in early childhood, movement and deep thinking often coincide. Today that seemed true on the swings.


Puzzles – Problem Solving, Geometry, Sorting, and Persistence

In the house, our three is obsessed with puzzles. His last two days with us he was not ready to go home when it was time to leave the park. I was able to convince him by reminding him there might be more puzzles at home hiding in the cupboards. Both days it worked. Today he found himself a place on the floor apart from the other kids after breakfast and before lunch to work on a set of vehicle puzzles.

Izzy had been working with him on those puzzles in the morning and had requested zip loc bags to store the separate puzzles, as separating the pieces all mixed up in a boxed set took a lot of energy. I suggested Izzy label the different puzzles on the back by drawing a particular shape on each piece of a particular puzzle, so the children could sort them if they got mixed up. They put hearts on the backs of the train puzzle pieces, and different shapes on the airplane, dump truck, and tug boat.

When it was time to clean up, our three was able to organize his pieces into a bag. His friends were eager to help.

Math in the form of figuring out puzzles and sorting sets happens all day long in family day care. Kids are naturally drawn to solving problems, to fitting things together, to scanning for patterns and similarities, to putting things where they belong.

This year, though, we have a group that just loves puzzles and teachers who enjoy working with them and so more than in many years past, there are puzzles in use almost all the time, kids asking for puzzles that have been kept up high, and energy spreading from one kid to another about the fun and fascination of puzzles.


Keeping Score – Numbers, Counting, and Comparing Quantities

After lunch the last two days, the children have turned a collection of brooms into hockey sticks. Today they made hockey pucks by rolling paper into balls. They scooted the balls around the kitche with the brooms while I cleaned up from lunch, keeping score. The scores were all over the place, One hundred to One Million, Five to Six, Ten to Twenty. I can’t even remember, but what I noticed, was that again, kids were moving and relating to math, calling out scores to one another and us teachers, lively, laughing, eager to master these concepts called numbers, to think about big and little numbers, relative size, adding scores to the numbers before, playing a game in which the higher score wins.


Finding and Exploring Commonalities

At lunch, my two turned to me, after hearing a story requested by my four about why I started the day care which included me not wanting to drive my baby a long way to the school where I was working when he was born, and asked, “Maria, do you have a car?”

“Yes, ” I have a car, I replied.

“Me, too!,” replied the two. “My family has a car, too!”

“Maria, I have a mom. Do you have a mom?” she asked, continuing the thrill of finding all we have in common.

“Yes, I do” I smiled back.

“I have a dad, Maria. Do you have a dad?” she asked, the question which inevitably follows in this sequence, which turns things a bit for me.

“I don’t have a dad.” I first replied, then added for clarity. “But I used to.”

“What happened to your dad?” one of the kids asked.

“He died,” I let them know.

“So sad,” said my three who loves the puzzles. “Maria, that is so sad.”

“What happened to him?” my four wanted to know.

“He was very sick,” I replied.

“Very sick, so sad” said the puzzler with deep compassion.

“___ was so sick and died” relates my three who has until been silent, thinking I imagine about someone in his own life who has died.

Then my other four popped an edamame out of it’s pod and it hit her friend the puzzler and made everyone laugh and laugh and laugh, dead father conversation alleviated with humor for now, though I always wonder when I share this news if it will travel home and if families might think death of a father is too much for their child.

Mostly, though, I’m happy the children and I know one another well, that we care, that we share parts of our stories every day, that we are exploring life’s big and little questions as we squeeze poppy peas and twirl pasta and nibble oranges from their rinds.