I started learning about person first language as a freshman in college. As a special education major we were immediately trained to look at the child as an individual, not as a label or disability. Instead of using the words “the autistic boy”, it is respectful to say, “the boy with autism.” Or, instead of saying the “emotionally disturbed girl”, one should say “the girl needs emotional support”. I embraced the concept immediately and used person first language throughout my career.
Yet, as a parent I realize I haven’t been giving my own children the same respect. If I look back at Facebook posts I see I have referred to my daughters as my Irish Dancer, my ballerina, my quiet girl, my artist, my little scientist, my musicians, etc. Are they positive? Yes. Are they hurtful? No. Is it necessary? No. Is it detrimental? Maybe. I have labeled my young children based on their gifts and interests. At times, it seems I forget that they are not the product of their activities and accomplishments, but they are my children. They are individual people first, who happen to enjoy dance, piano, ballet, art, science, and so much more. They also enjoy playing and occasionally bickering with each other. They are children first.
What if they begin to identify themselves as one of the labels I have used? What if they experience a setback or a failure? What if their interests change, or something happens and they are not feeling they are living the label? Maybe they will feel unsuccessful. Maybe they will feel that they have not lived up to expectations. Maybe they will struggle to know what their true qualities are if they do not fit the label I have used for them. I would like to think that they are strong and resilient enough that these concerns are irrelevant and the words would not negatively impact them. But, if person first language was deemed important enough to learn as an education major in college, I think it is important enough to at least consider as a parent. I will continue to cheer, support, encourage (and chauffeur) my daughters in their various interests, however, I must try to remember that they are children first!
It has been a custom in our family to try to avoid all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t wear Christmas themed clothes or sweaters until after Thanksgiving. We don’t listen to Christmas music until we put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, which is our tradition instead of joining the craziness of Black Friday shopping. The girls are not to start talking about what they want for Christmas. (This never sticks, and as the main gift shopper a little discussion about this early on is helpful.) Even I would do my part by not ordering a Peppermint Mocha or buying Peppermint Bark until after Thanksgiving! My husband and I made this effort with the best of intentions to be sure our girls were filled with gratitude before joining in with the commercialism “I wants” of the Christmas season.
This year seems different. When the girls weren’t with me, I admit, I have already had a few Peppermint Mochas while enjoying conversation with friends. A few days after Halloween I heard Christmas music coming from upstairs. I went up and the oldest quickly turned it off. With a smile on my face I told her she could leave it on, but while pointing my finger told her to keep it in her room. Guess who decided to stay in that room with a Pandora Christmas station playing and help her put away her laundry?!?! My little one excitedly played her favorite Christmas CD in her bedroom. A few days later we were listening to Christmas music in the family room and in the kitchen. It’s not constant. It’s not frequent. It does bring joy.
I don’t think it’s completely wrong to experience a little early some aspects of the wonderful, miraculous season that is Christmas. My husband isn’t even complaining about it or expressing concern that we aren’t taking time to be thankful first. The girls seem to know how to minimize their toy catalog gazing and discussions. When they do discuss, because I have asked for planning purposes, the conversation is about a gift they want for the two of them to SHARE. They have favorite traditional carols which remind them of Christ, the true gift of Christmas. They are thinking ahead about what gifts to give to others.
Why has it changed this year? Nothing has changed for the girls other than I am not stifling their Christmas spirit. What has changed for me? I think it has something to do with the events over the past few months in our national and world news. We are all in need of the extra joy and love the Christmas season brings. We need Christ every day, but it seems as a society we naturally think of Him more at Christmas. We need to keep our focus on Him in these trying times of our world.
We have not forgotten Thanksgiving. We take time to give thanks every day. Instead of the children feeling like we are getting through Thanksgiving before doing anything related to Christmas, this week we will joyfully prepare for our family Thanksgiving.
Take time to smell the flowers. Honestly, we took time to look at a dead lady bug, under a microscope no less. I’m sure you all have priorities to keep and tight schedules to follow, I know I do. Just the other morning we were reading about Chemistry and decided, reluctantly for me, that we’d do the suggested observation. I was really considering skipping it that day and just moving on to math, outlining for the new writing assignment or studying for Memory Master (which is like preparing your Baltimore Catechism for First Holy Communion in the 1970’s, but for six academic subjects). Of course, we want to cover all of our academics before we leave for dance class in the afternoon. Something nudged me to get the microscope out of the box and look at the salt up close. As I boiled the salt and let the water evaporate the girls continued to look at EVERYTHING under the microscope. They looked at coins, an avacado smear, a leftover toast crumb, my engagement ring, an emerald necklace, and fish food. I let them explore as I monitored the boiling salt on the stove. At this point I was realizing this was good quality learning fun, and not just something in the way of what really needed to be done. Then I heard it. Enthusiastically, my 5 year old declares, “Let’s look at a dead ladybug!” Sure enough they found one. (We have ladybug issue from time to time in our house. They say the are good luck, right? But are they good luck if they are dead? I digress…) I realized what a love for learning I almost let slip by because it wasn’t what I had scheduled for the day. And get this, once we put the microscope away, they joyfully continued with the regularly scheduled assignments. So, whether you homeschool or monitor homework in the evening, please learn from my almost mistake, and take time to look at dead ladybugs.
For the past week or so my daughters and I have been reading about Galatians 5:22-23 in our daily devotional. We decided among ourselves that when one of us was not living out the Fruits of the Spirit instead of nagging, yelling or tattling we would kindly ask, “Are you being fruity?” As the day went on I did find the need to ask it a few times.
“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
As the week went on I was asking myself “Am I being fruity?” several times both at home and out in the community. I needed to show more love while I was replying to an email and a child wanted a hug. I needed to show joy while doing housework. I needed to demonstrate peace while getting the girls out the door and into the van to go to an activity. I needed to show patience with kids talking out of turn and off topic in our homeschool group. I needed to show patience when my own girls were fighting. (Yes, I know I listed patience twice.) I needed to show kindness and goodness when discussing a recent change of dance schools among friends. I needed to show faithfulness instead of expressing worry. I needed gentleness and self-control while discussing stressful and sensitive topics with loved ones. I needed self-control when I yelled at one of my children for not doing what she was told when she was told. (Again, I know I used self- control twice.) Wow! I’m not too proud, but I do consider myself to be kind and strive to be a good Christian woman. I guess the key word here is strive. I guess that is what we are expected to do. We aren’t expected to be perfect. Christ died on the cross for us because he knows of our sinful nature. We, in return, try to live a virtuous life.
The Holy Spirit produces this fruit in our lives and we must make the conscious effort to practice using it until it becomes an automatic part of us. I believe a fruitful life is contagious. I am blessed to have “fruity” friends and family. I feel more at peace when I am with them and the more time I spend with them the more fruitfully I live out my life. I emphasize I am striving and this is a work in progress for me as well as my children.
How can we help each other be more fruitful? What have you been learning about yourself as you teach* your children?
*I am not just speaking to homeschooling parents. Parenting is teaching, so I’d like to hear from all parents.
I’ve been contemplating starting a blog. I have been reading several blogs… Blogs about homeschooling. Blogs about dancing. Blogs about faith. Blogs about politics. I’ve tossed the idea of starting my own, but then tossed it right out again……until last month. For some reason, I can’t let go of the idea of starting a blog. I actually voiced the thought a couple of days ago and my husband was very supportive. He immediately started looking for the best blog program to use. Surprisingly, my daughters were excited about the idea, especially my 9 year old. When my husband told me to write what I’m passionate about, my oldest daughter immediately said, “Write about being a mom!” (Good to know she realizes I’m passionate about being a mom to her and her little sister.) She proceeded to give me more suggestions: “Write about being a homeschooling mom, a dance mom, a crafty mom, a mom of creative kids, a teacher mom….” We jokingly stole an idea from Disney’s “Dog with a Blog” to title mine “Mom with a Blog”. Then one evening my oldest was at the computer acting very secretive and told me she had a surprise for me…..MOM BLOG!
How can I NOT do this? Look at the encouragement and motivation I am receiving from my family! What if the girls rejected me when I encourage and motivate them rise to the occasion to learn new school material, dance, play the piano, or just try anything new? So many times lately I hear them play the piano, see artwork or watch them on stage in amazement, and I am somewhat envious of their abilities and dedication. They have inspired me. I have to respond to their encouragement in a positive forward motion. I will do this to let them see that you are never too old to try something new. You are never too old to step out and take a risk. A topic of my blog? Well, it will be about things I love and things we learn. It may change from week to week, but most of the time I will blog about being a mom and the many things moms contemplate as we continue to love and learn with our children.
Please follow me on this new adventure!