Perfection & Professional Burnout

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
― Immanuel Kant

“The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.”
― Oscar Wilde

I had a very successful day at work on Monday. After two years of partnering with the family of one of my students, we finally got him to receive the services that he needs. Speech, integrated pre-k placement, the whole nine-yards. I was so happy. So relieved. And so excited that this little boy who, crazy as he is I totally love, will finally be given the chance that he needs to be successful in life. It was definitely a professional high. We fought long and hard for this to happen.

And then today rolls around. Even though the sun was shining as I drove in to work…I felt so burdened. This has been a really rough year. We had a training last week on Secondary Trauma. That pretty much sums up my school-year. So exhausted by the problems of everyone else, and so frustrated that there is only so much that I can do to help.

No matter how hard I try…it’s never enough.

And what about all those people out there? The ones who have suffered domestic violence. The children who are challenged by developmental delays and parents who possess limited skills and knowledge too.

We had a parent express her desire to become a lobotomist. From the bottom of her sweet, sincere heart she meant phlebotomist.

And I just feel so heartbroken for her. She has just beautiful dreams, but only time will tell if she possesses the ability to actually see them fulfilled. Though I doubt that they ever will. I guess we can’t all be rocket-scientists. And some of us can’t all be phlembotomists either. To each his own. And we all possess varying degrees of skills and abilities.

As I drove to work, I found myself wondering about the brokenness and lack of perfection in this world. It really is just not fair when you think about it. My heart started spontaneously communicating with The God Who Sees Me…me as I’m driving to work, surrounded by my own problems and worries. And I started asking why some have nothing and others have everything. Why I have hope while others have none. Why my dreams might come true, but theirs will not. Why God? Why can’t You just perfect the life of everyone around me?

And the truth always has a way of just staring you right in your face.

I already have.

I have already made a way. I am already making a place. And sometime soon, I will come and perfection will be once more.

Those truths that you have heard over and over again suddenly come flooding back to you. And it all starts to make sense. There will come a day. 

Maybe it’s not so much about attaining perfection here in this world. And maybe it is more about preparing to live in perfection in the world to come.

Maybe it’s not about helping others achieve a sense of perfection here and now, as it is about showing them the way to perfection that will last forever.

Still, there is only so much that I can do. I can’t force people to believe. But I certainly will alter the way that I pray.

Instead of praying that they will succeed in this world, I will also pray that their hearts will be willing to believe and that they will know the eternal perfection that only He can provide.

And I really hope to see the faces of these sweet people and their children that I work for alongside me in heaven someday soon.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

Ellie and Kreade, I want you always to remember that you can only do so much on this earth. Your heart has to do the rest. I pray that your hearts too will grow in faith so that you also will be perfected through His love. And as you learn to understand this, know too that you can only do so much for those around you. Their hearts have to do the rest also. So pray. Pray that they will know Him. So that one day we will be surrounded by the lives that we have touched during our imperfect life here on earth as we stand in awe of the One who has perfected eternity for us.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

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It’s Your Turn To Smell the Baby’s Butt: On Parenting and Committment

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“Mothers can forgive anything! Tell me all, and be sure that I will never let you go, though the whole world should turn from you.”
Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys

“No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education.”
Plato

Children. To those who don’t have them they are serene, perfect little faces on a Christmas card or Picture People portrait. And while children might have perfect moment, like us, they really are far from perfect.

And their imperfection allows for some interesting adventures that a mother or father would rather not embark upon.

Yet we do it anyways. We bring our children into the world and raise them through all of its uncertainty and chaos. Here’s a high-five or pat-on-the-back to all the parents who are doing their best to love and teach their children…because really, who has time to raise their glass in any sort of toast, ’cause when you’re holding the baby in one arm there is a good chance that they might grab your glass of wine and try to drink from it themselves. A high-five is definitely the safer route.

And for all of those who do not have children…well, you’re honestly missing out.

Yes, parenting is sure an adventure. Perhaps it is the most exciting, thrilling, exhilarating,important, interesting, terrifying, and fulfilling adventure you may ever embark upon in your lifetime. And what a responsibility parents have! Plato really hit the nail on the head when he references the commitment that parenting is.

It’s being committed to finding which of your children is emitting that awful smell from their body. No, that was definitly NOT a fart. The stench is lingering way too long. So off you go picking up the baby and smelling his cute little bum, ’cause when you are a parent, little bums are cute. It’s not him so you begin to freak out that you potty-trained child might have had an accident..no maybe it was a fart. So you cautiously peak down her backside only to stick your thumb into ACTUAL POOP only to quickly withdraw it and start demanding the march of -oh-my-word-you-just-pooped…anti-biotics-nasty-poop- and-its-all-over-your-butt-get-to-the-bathroom-now up the stairs and to the bathroom where your almost three year old is freaking out because she pooped, not on the toilet, and you STILL have it on your thumb. Yes, parenting is a commitment. It’s being committed to taking care of your children and wiping poop off your potty-trained children’s bums even though you are missing the latest episode of The Voice.

It’s being committed to making sure that everyone gets fed and actually eats. Which often likely appears like a circus to anyone who happens to be watching you. The baby starts off in the highchair…you take a bite of your food, give him a bite, repeat like twenty-five times. At the same time, you are talking to your husband while also bribing your almost three year old to eat her food if she wants any snacks. The baby starts screaming. You put him on your lab while continuing to finish your food, which is now a good foot away from you so that the baby cannot reach it. Hopefully it’s not soup. But somehow that little angel grabs your plate, sticks his fingers into whatever-it-is-you-managed-to-cook and proceeds to splatter it all over him and you. Your other child thinks this is funny and proceeds to imitate the baby and also ends up with food splattered and spread all over her head.

Looks like everyone needs a bath. Yes, being a parent means committing to never eating a normal meal again until, well I’m guessing until those little dears grow up and move out. Of course, then normal might feel abnormal…so will it ever really be normal again?

Being a parent is walking around your house and noticing the stickers that your child loving has placed because she is “decorating”. Or walking into a store with said stickers on your butt because she decided to decorate you, and you don’t notice until you go to bed at night and find them on your pants. Well, I probably made someone at the story laugh anyways.

Being a parent is being committed to watching anything with a somewhat interesting rating or title until at least after 8 PM. And that’s only if bedtime goes as planned. Which never happens. So really it’s like 9 PM, so you only have time for a short show instead of a movie  because you also have to  be in bed and sleeping by ten since your children wake  up all night long and you have to be awake enough tor drive to work in the morning. Oh the sacrifices. At least there is coffee. Unless you’re also breastfeeding and your baby is sensitive to caffeine.

Being a parent is knowing all of the songs that Sofia the First sings. It is also driving down the road without your children and finding yourself singing along to these songs for a good ten minutes before you realize that you don’t have your kids and could be listening to grown-up songs. Eh, who cares…Frozen songs are pretty fun to sing even when your kids aren’t with you.

Commitment to parenting means being peed on, pooped on, a walking-talking tissue for your boogery children, never saying anything that remotely resembles a bad word. It’s getting your kids bathed and dressed and running out of time to do the same for  yourself. It’s reading stories and playing games instead of going out with your friends. It’s never being alone again, or if you are it’s thinking about your kids most of the time you’re not with them; which really is like never being alone. It’s working hard to live as an example. To provide love and support. To forgive them when they need forgiveness. To teach them, guide them, pray for them. Commitment to parenting means doing these things all of the time.

Parenting is hard. Parenting is an ongoing sacrifice. But you’ll never regret it.

Parenting is also sitting back on the couch with your husband and looking…just looking (while also simultaneously listening to MasterChef) at your beautiful children now that everyone is clean an poop free. And they’re really just the most beautiful thing in the world. And they notice you staring at them and just smile at you…and you know they love you.

Parenting is the joy you feel when your oldest wants to pray before you start eating. I’m doing it right…they’re catching on. All the hard work is paying off…in that one simple prayer. “Thank you Jesus for our food, and monkey and blankey. Amen”

Parenting is watching your children splash each other in the tub. And being thankful that you have a tub and clean water to bathe them in.

Parenting is seeing those stickers all over your house and smiling inside because the intent to help “decorate” was so innocent and sweet.

Parenting is looking at your sleeping child and thinking of the day that really isn’t far off when they will be old and too big to really hold in your arms.

Like the book Love You Forever. Now that I have children I finally understand this book. And whenever I read it, even to my students at school, I get tears in my eyes. Those little beings join you in this world and often turn in upside down. You spend so much time cleaning up their messes and working to ensure that they turn into a somewhat normal person. But its also those times that you spend rocking them and holding them, telling them that you’ll love them forever…no matter what. And knowing that someday they might be the ones rocking you, and whispering how much they love you in your ear.

No, you will never regret being a parent.

And so Ellie and Kreade. I want to thank you for being the reason for the greatest and best adventures of my life. And through all of these adventures please remember…I’ll love  you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my babies you’ll be.

See Where They’ll Go…On Literacy in Preschool

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Defined, literacy is the ability to read and write. When people first think about literacy they generally think about the ability to read. Reading books, reading signs, reading a menu at a restaurant… But the truth is, literacy is so much more! Especially during the preschool years!

Yes, reading is important. Reading books can serve as an entertainment for children, can expose them to new ideas, help them calm down for bedtime, or aid in sharing information. Reading quality children’s books can also support preschooler’s development in understanding themselves and others. Some books support this emotional development by increasing the positive self-concept of children. They also help to increase respect for and appreciation of human diversity. Books such as On Mother’s Lap by Ann Herbert Scott and Someone Special, Just Like You by Tricia Brown support this development as well as helping children to be aware of the different ways that people live while also supporting the development of empathy and positive values. Books such as Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie can help children cope with problems and learn how to respond to difficulty appropriately. Not only are they fun, but books double as learning opportunities!

While your child is being read to at school, it is important. I mean very, very, very important that reading is also taking place at home. Not only is the time spent sitting with your child reading fun, reading with them supports many parts of literacy development. Read to your child everyday! Twice a day…six times a day…ten times as day! As often as they want, but at least once. You can visit a public library to borrow books, find them for little cost at places such as The Salvation Army, or even print them out from websites that offer free printable books. Don’t be afraid to read your child’s favorite book more than once. Reading books over and over is great for emergent reading: children learn to participate more in book conversations and discussions, they may be able to act out the story after repeated readings or even read the book independently!

So yes, please go ahead and read to your children!

But like I said before…literacy is so much more!

Literacy is play. And the goal of play is to have fun and communicate ideas. In the experience of play, literacy is seen as the acquisition of communication skills: speaking, listening, writing, reading, and representing. Oral language – listening and talking- is the foundation of reading and writing. Plat is the best way to enhance and develop literacy skills when teachers and parents interact with and support their children’s play experiences. Encourage your children to ask questions – ask them questions and encourage them to answer. For example, if your child comes running up to you and says, “Mom, I found my dinosaur!” Instead of replying with “That’s great honey…” engage your child and support their literacy development by asking them “Wonderful! Where did you find it? How do you think it got there?” Be sure to use appropriate communication skills by giving them time to respond and maintaining eye contact while conversing with them. These little things will go a long way in your child’s ability to develop literacy skills.

Literacy is also written language. And while in preschool we don’t expect children to be able to write words or sentences we can encourage skills that will support their ability to do this in Kindergarten. There are two parts to writing – the physical ability to hold a writing instrument and make meaningful marks, and thinking of ideas and expressing them on paper. At this age, expression doesn’t need to be writing…it can be a drawing or painting…even angry scribbles represent emotional expression. In preschool the focus for written language is developing the muscles needed to support writing. Some activities that can help your child to strengthen and develop his or her motor abilities are: play on monkey bars, crawl around, play with scarves, swing a jump rope, play catch, paint on a vertical surface such as an easel, use scissors and hole punchers, play with legos, use eye droppers, and play with playdough.

Not only is literacy written language, spoken language, and reading books…it is phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge. Support your child’s development of phonological awareness by making up rhymes with your child, reading rhyming stories, describing things you see, rhyming with names, and singing songs. Support their development of alphabet knowledge by playing ‘I Spy’, looking through a book and searching for the letters in your child’s name, helping your child write a note to a friend,  and pointing out letters on signs, flyers, books…any letter anywhere!

If parents and teacher work together, we can support children as they develop literacy skills. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even the simplest activity can help support literacy development.  So, go ahead and read to your child…talk to them, rhyme with them, write with them…and just wait and see “all the places they’ll go”!

For additional information, check out these websites:

A free printable book : http://firstgradealacarte.blogspot.com/2011/10/orange-pumpkin-orange-pumpkin.html

Fun ideas for motor development: http://www.scribbledoodleanddraw.blogspot.ca/2012/12/squeezing-in-some-fun.html

Literacy activities:  http://30days.familieslearning.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/NCFL30Days.pdf

Easy literacy games: http://www.getreadytoread.org/early-learning-childhood-basics/early-literacy/building-literacy-every-day

A fun matching game: http://b-inspiredmama.com/2013/08/upper-and-lower-case-letter-match-printable/

Literacy information: http://www.earlyliteracylearning.org/pgparents.php

 

The Battle of No

 

 

 

“To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and
plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no.”

Jean Anouilh, French dramatist

Last week brought about Ellie’s new most used word: “no.” She uses it in various tones…the high pitched and short “no!”, the low and drawn out “noooo” along with a serious look, the casual and flippant “ah noo”, and the tearful and saddened “noooooo”. It’s really become quite a huge battle. Ellie do you love me? No! Ellie it’s time to eat. Nooooo. Ellie teeth are not for biting. Ah noo. Ellie , it’s time to change your diaper. Noooooooo. Ellie are you all done eating? No! Nooooo. Ah noo! It’s amazing how many “no’s” she can cram into thirty seconds.

20130528_102155It seems that this might be quite a long battle. Patience is part of what I do for a living; it is basically half of what makes a good teacher, in my opinion. And I have always considered myself to have a lot of patience, but oh my word this little cutie is proving to test that patience in a big way. Maybe it’s partly to do with the fact that I am home for the summer break from school and trying not to go crazy, but in just a week’s time this short word has made me even crazier than I could imagine. I have always heard parents (I used to say they complained, but I would never say that now that I have an…understanding) say that the whole “no” struggle was not fun to deal with, and now I can appreciate their stories. This word is literally driving me nuts! Every time it escapes her mouth in whatever tone she chooses to use I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and reflect something else back to her. Reflecting is an awesome trick I learned while doing my practicum for my Early Childhood A.S. Basically when a child says something that is either pronounced improperly, or in my case not what I want to hear, you repeat what they are trying to say, or in my case what I want to hear. So every time Ellie exclaims “no!” I take a deep breath and reflect “yes”, or “do you mean, “I don’t want my diaper changed?”, or “oh, I’m not all done eating mom?” So far, she is winning. Now I have to keep reminding myself that Battles aren’t won overnight…well not all of them at least. I also keep reminding myself that this trick is not instantaneous, it is largely about exposure. Let me tell you, she is getting a lot of exposure. I’m praying that it sinks in soon and she can come up with some other word to express herself.

I really don’t know why this bothers me so much. I mean, I have worked to instill a sense of independence in her and I’m all for it. But I feel like she is taking it just a little bit too far. I know, how far can a one year old take something on purpose. I’m pretty sure she knows that it annoys me though; as my college professor would always say “they’re short, not stupid”. Yeah, she is short and definitely not stupid, she knows this word gives her some control over me. Maybe it shouldn’t bother me so much. I mean, is it really worth it to get into a power-struggle with my one year old over a two letter word? Maybe she is just like me:stubborn. I should probably let her know though that she has gone to war with the queen of power-struggles. In just over four years of teaching I haven’t lost one yet. I really hope that this is not the struggle that ruins my record. Maybe I should re-think my strategy?

I really hope that at the end of this battle of “no” Ellie is left with a greater understanding of just what “yes” and “no” mean.  In life it can be so much easier to just say no…to never try anything new, to say no to adventure, experience, love, forgiveness, or anything really. The challenge and reward usually comes by saying yes…yes to hard work, to a challenge, to trying something new, to love and the fullness of life. Saying yes is certainly not always easy; I am learning that through experiencing this whole battle of “no”. Though she is still quite small, perhaps when she finally learns to say “yes” even to the small parts of her young life Ellie will have formed the foundation for saying “yes” to life. Learning starts now, the foundation for the rest of her life starts now, and I hope and pray that I can help her build a strong “yes” foundation. For now, I will continue to fight the good fight of “yes” against Ellie and her “no’s”.