The Train

A commuter train passes behind our house every hour. It whooshes by quietly with a notion all is working right in the world. The commuter train is dull and boring. My husband can attest, he has taken it into NYC for twenty years. But one day we brought five children on that same commuter train, and suddenly everything was different.

As the train crept into the station a light, high on the engine declared its arrival. Squeals of delight and pent up excitement forced our grips tighter to five little hands as they waited in the cold. When the train stops the doors all open in sync and let off a loud blasting sigh. The children were frightened at first.

Children do not understand leaving and entering passengers or time schedules. They jump over the gap and rush in, looking at every single part, wondering what to do next. This is their train now; their adventure! The seats are red and silver. We guide them through cars, trying to find a spot for them to move around and talk facing each other. Their excitement cannot be harnessed. The doors close. They are not belted in like they are in an automobile. The sense of freedom is exhilarating and they look at the grown ups in an innocent yet wicked grin.

The train inches slowly out of the station. The engineer has seen our entrance and comes to our spot.

  “Do you want to sound the horn?” He asks.

Only two are brave enough to go. As the train hits the intersections where red cross lights are blinking for cars to stop, the horn sounds in the distance a bit longer and more erratic than usual. The two return with their eyes as big as saucers. We then watch as the train picks up speed and scenery speeds past the park, then glides past the back of Grandmas’ home.

“There is Grandma’s house! Hello Mommy and Daddy.” The children all wave but it glides by in a blink.

Our house looks odd from that view. It is the opposite view from what we see every day.

The children notice everything. They point and chat together. The blinking red lights at intersections, the bridges, the sounds of the intercom, satellite dishes, other station stops, tracks and faster trains as we feed into a larger city track–clickity clack-swoosh. They want to touch every hook, every button, every shelf. They stand at the window and watch and watch and watch. They don’t want to sit. Bravery sets in to move seats, to  wander, to discover more. They follow each other. The conductor comes for tickets. Even the tickets are magical as the hole puncher clicks through the funny paper, making marks. He hands the tickets back.

We get to our destination to once again watch the doors open in sync and let off a whoosh. We wait for awhile and watch people get off then on again.

The doors close and we once again return back the same way we came.

They are pros now.

Fruit snacks and Vege straws make a delicious picnic on a commuter train.

One discovers how to open sliding doors to enter a new car. Push, Push. open-shut. Repeat…One begins to jump from seat to seat. All follow. Giggles and laughter the entire way home.

The train slows. We hear the horn. We pass Grandma’s and the park. The train creeps into the station then stops. We gather our coats and put them back on.

Hands to ears anticipating the huge sigh–The doors open.Whoosh! They jump over the gap and give a loving pat to the side of the commuter train car. The train is their friend.

Hands to hold back to the car to drive back to Grandmas and see mommy and daddy.

All buckled in.

What an adventure!

Once at Grandma’s house, whenever the train rushed by, the “little’s” would stop and run to the window and exclaim.

“There goes the train.”

How could a commuter train ever be boring and dull.

 

 

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What the heck is this Christmas thing

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sophie this Christmas.

She is my two year old grand daughter coming to visit soon.

She doesn’t remember Christmas last  year because one year olds just think Christmas is a big giant chew toy and science exploration.

I wonder what her little mind is thinking about the Christmas holiday.

Do you ever wonder what our children think of Christmas time…

The house gets decorated like there is some kind of celebration.

A real or fake tree is brought in a significant spot and decorated.

Schools have parties for three or four celebrations.

Everyone begins to practice songs.

Bells seem to be constantly ringing and we are supposed to laugh when they do.

There’s rumor some old heavy set man comes to our houses to bring presents.

When we see this old guy we are supposed to run up and sit on his lap and love him, then tell him our secrets…and we don’t know who he is and don’t want to. When we cry our parents get mad because we are supposed to have a cute picture with this  guy.

There are pictures constantly being taken.

We attend church and learn about a baby Jesus and a mother Mary. Why?

We dress up more than usual.

Everyone seems to move faster than usual.

Everyone seems to have more happy energy, but also grouchy tired energy too?

Stories are read about Santa as a fish, a pirate, a ninja, a snowman, a prince, etc.? What is this all about?

Ok, I’ll go along with it…

Do you ever wonder why children don’t need to be asked if they have Christmas spirit?

Do you ever wonder why Christmas seems so magical for them?

They must know something more about Christmas, that adults forget as they get older.

Sophie knows the secret already and she is only two years old…

 

a dose of wonder does us good

If you need a dose of gratitude go for a walk with a child.

“…Wonderment is the willingness to be surprised by life, and gratitude springs from wonderment, to practice gratefulness we need to let life surprise us…” (pg. 115).

Ryan. M.J. (1999). Attitudes of Gratitude. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.

What does your face say?

Many times our children do an action because of the reaction they receive from their parents or other adults. They like to watch– what does your face say?

Sometimes the act isn’t the angelic act you wished for, but they do it because they “get” the reaction. They know how to push your buttons and they are expert at holding out until they get what they want. If you hurry and help to calm them, give them something, or threaten to behave they learn how to get you moving quickly in their favor. You feed the action. They are in control.

Another thing your child will do is begin to talk about things that may seem inappropriate to you. They don’t know it is inappropriate they are simply curious learning about the world but sometimes it is to get your reaction. Any attention is better than no attention.

I recently returned from a five day Autism Seminar. There was a lot of discussion on this topic. Tantrums and obsessive topics are a challenge for autists but they are also a challenge for parents of neuro-typical children too.

One of the parents asked our instructor what do to with her child who was obsessed with death and talking about death to anyone who would listen. The Instructor said these wise words:

If you do not want to have your child do something than do not feed it. If you get angry you are feeding it with a reaction; even if it is a negative reaction. They like the reaction. That feeds it. If you react by listening with gusto and showing you have great interest than you are feeding it with a positive reaction and they will keep doing it. If you act bored and uninterested, or in a tantrum case, ignore; you are starving the reaction and therefore showing your child that you have no interest in what they are saying or doing to stop it. When you act bored and then connect it to something a bit more positive and act really excited about the other thing, you are not feeding but “rerouting” it.  You may have to reroute over and over. It takes practice to not react but reroute. But don’t feed the negative action your child is trying to get a reaction from you. They know it works! They know they can break you. And they do it all the time.

Here is an example:

Child: Did you know that when people die they bury their bodies in dirt?

Adult: (Little reaction.) Oh yes, I knew that. Did you know that there are all kinds of cool things inside of dirt? Plants grow in dirt with seeds.

Child: Did you know that they put bodies in a box and then throw dirt on it until you can’t see the box anymore.

Adult: (Still little reaction with very little emotion and attention, but acknowledging the child speaking.) Yes I did know that. (Now get animated.) Did you know that if you put dirt in a box and put seeds in the dirt that something will grow? Do you want to try that? Lets go outside and get a shovel and dig in dirt.

You get the idea.

Reacting feeds the action…notice during a tantrum.

If you run and get the item your child is tantrumming about or refuse with  a reaction of anger, they don’t stop. They know they are getting to you and they will log that away for the next time.

It is really true.

Don’t feed.

Reroute if you can.

Don’t let them break you!

Your face will tell.

 

Child Gold

What is  your favorite candy?

I know everyone has a secret favorite.

EVERYONE!

I have strong feelings about candy.

Especially Halloween candy.

Many adults bug me big time at Halloween.

An adult has completely lost their sense of childhood, their sense of play, their sense of joy when they allow their children to receive candy on Halloween but will not let them eat it. Or worse, not let them dress up for however long they “need” to!!!!!

This infuriates me.

Halloween is not about getting cavities, it is not a time to stress about the most perfect costume,  it isn’t about scaring children to mental illness, it is not about indulgence, or a time to enforce the evils of sugar, or on and on and on with the countless ridiculous excuses!

It is a child holiday.

Don’t your remember!!!!! I want to shake frustrating adults and say, “C’mon, think about your own Halloweens as a kid!”

…They get to stay up late and go outside in the dark.

…They get to dress up in a character they love and be someone special.

…They get to go outside after dinner!

…They get to see other friends.

…They get to visit your neighbors you rarely see and say hi, and smile for a second.

…They get to ask for candy in a cute, silly way and someone will giggle and give them some.

…They get to hold their special treat and go on to another house and another. How cool is that! And each house is waiting for them!

…They get to fill up a bucket, or bag or pillow case with a treasure chest full of  child-gold. That is what it is to them…gold in a treasure chest.

And to rush them home in a hurry, take the dirty sweaty costumes off, get the paint off the face or hair, and then…

THEN,

take the candy away…

is just…

destroying a moment  of happy.

That is it.

How very very sad and terrible.

C’mon!

Think parents!

Parents are the scary ones after the holiday.

I can see you sneaking out all the Almond Joys, and Laffy-Taffy’s before you dump the treasure in the trash…You know you do!

Give your kids their childhood memories which include, OH NO—EVIL CANDY!

Have FUN for heaven’s sakes!

I am sick of hearing another bucket of candy getting thrown in the trash or giving your child money for it, or sending it away to the needy!

They want their treasure and the memory of how they got it.

Sit down on the floor and open a Tootsie Roll or Heath bar together and laugh and lick and talk about how fun this moment is. Blow bubbles with gum. Put them in piles.

Then go brush their teeth and kiss them good-night with another year of love in the bank.

One day it will be over. And you will have to buy  your own Snickers or M&M’s. Which is honestly not as fun or good as Halloween candy.

You are missing the point big time!

Give them their treasure.

Give them childhood!

 

Like a “bug”

We catch things from our parents like a “bug.” But unlike a cold, I believe those things we catch never go away. I know I caught claustrophobia from my mother. In my child recollection it was either in the stuck elevator going up to the top floor of my orthodontist or when they had to back up the submarine ride at Disneyland. Not sure which–maybe both.

Patient and calm is an understatement of my mom who was the second mother of 10 children (her sibs), a mother of six, and grandmother of 27. Feeling stuck and out of control made her a crazed animal. She was my rock, so I became crazed too. When we finally got air, we both were bonded with the “bug.”

Drapes or blinds closed, tight clothing, an escape route, locked doors, summer heat…  flying in a closed up tin can called an airplane, and of course elevators and submarines; these are just a few…

But, the good thing about claustrophobia is appreciating how nice it feels letting the sun shine on you as  you awake in the morning with those little dust sparkles floating in the beams; letting the cool earth air in through the window to freshen a room and make it feel alive; feel the gentle presence of the tree as it offers us shade and stability of the earth; comfortable clothing to make you feel exactly that–comfortable; sitting by “the door” gets you to the bathroom quicker, and who really likes planes, elevators, and submarines anyway! No one or you lie.

What we catch we endure.

But we do catch things…

Terror to the Core

It was Halloween night. We were making our way around the neighborhoods standing back as self appointed flash light holders while our two children, four and six years old, were filling their pillow cases with more candy than they could ever dream of. Most houses welcomed children with that “happy spirit” of Halloween with silly-faced pumpkins, orange lanterns, a few hairy spiders, and mild scary ghosts. You could hear giggling and “trick or treat” and doors closing and opening as dressed up fairy’s, firemen, ninjas, or princesses scurried ahead, behind, and across the street, each with their own designated grown-up flash light holders, carrying out the happy ritual of the best children’s holiday besides their birthday. Then there are the fright fest houses whose intent is to give heart attacks by the thrill of terror; smoke machines, creepy music, hanging or hiding demons and devils and people dressed up to jump. These places are gruesome on purpose and do not care what it takes to give that fright.  It is their goal to terrorize. But for the sake of a free Twix Bar, Dum-Dum, or Tootsy Roll parents push their little children inside these domains, thinking it is funny, or silly. Most adults would wet their own pants if someone pushed them inside. We skip those.

Our children were only noticing, like children do, what was directly in front of them as they now understand what this amazing holiday means. They were picking up speed now; more porches more candy. My husband and I could see, and hear up ahead that people were running from a dark eerie property. It was the place the teenagers rushed past to get to, talking quickly, explaining about someone who had lived through it.

In our family we do not promote scary, ever! It is one thing in our parenting points of view that my husband and I are completely in-sync with. (The rest is a toss up). We were already planning the U-Turn, when our son, who was the youngest of the two dashed across the lawn towards the house of doom. He did not even make it to the front of the property when a woman slithered out of nowhere, dressed like the most horrifying witch, and grabbed our little boy by the arm leaning down into his face. I am not sure what she said but Halloween was over.

I would consider myself a peaceful soul. In fact I run from conflict. But my mother lion was about to transform into a very large evil serpent and crush this person into dust after I bit her in two and ripped her black heart out! No one messes with an angry mother of any type of animal!!

We ran to our son and knew in a sense, his spirit had been wounded– forever. That is the piece about scary that people do not understand. It never leaves your memory but sits dormant waiting to leak out of your sub conscience through imagination and nightmares.

He was inconsolable with fear and practically climbed on top of my head when I reached him, candy thrown on the pavement. My husband began yelling at her as she kept in character, smiling the most evil smile as she looked back over her shoulder and slunk back into the darkness of the bushes ready for the next kill. What kind of evil adult would do such a thing to a four year old child.

My husband had to carry him the whole two blocks to our house while he shook and cried the entire way with his eyes tightly closed so nothing would pop out at him. We did everything we could to calm him down, giving him his candies to eat, diverting him with singing, his favorite toy, etc. Nothing would console him. He closed his eyes and hid.

The only thing I felt would get this child to calm down was a dose of reality so we would go back and look, in a safe way without any surprises. I hoped it was the right thing but I was not sure. Somehow I had to show him this was not real and that the people were only pretending for silly Halloween. But what I did not fully understand at that time is that it IS real to him as a four year old! All of it is real!

We waited until it was later then went. I wish I could say it worked great. Our son stayed in the car as we went in to explain what happened. He was hiding behind the drivers seat in the fetal position with his eyes still closed.

The witch was there. I hated her with a mother’s hate that is fierce. YOU! HURT! MY! BABY’S! SOUL! And I constrained myself. It was difficult to say the least.  We had to right this wrong in a good positive way somehow. Good always wins, right? I wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t working out so well.

They all continued to stay in character (which baffles still to this day) but they were in their lighted garage. There was a little too much blood and gruesome even in the light. We pleaded for them to talk to our little boy and explain they were real people, when he came in so he could see. Needles to say the witch never got out of character but she stayed away and he could see her in light. She still looked creepy. He did not want to see her. But the Frankenstein was nice and a little silly and got him to giggle a tiny bit. We left with a little hope. But Halloween was never the same ever again…

Ask him…