As a school educator, I rocked it. It was like I stepped into my purpose and the days, emotions, and behaviors flowed. My classroom motto of “love, laugh and learn” became the lungs of the room, filling my students and me with life.
“Tough kids,” no problem. “Disruptive,” I could handle it. “Big emotions,” I could connect and help regulate. I felt confident that I had the ability to unlock the code of any child and guide them through challenging moments, which would result in learning and, just as important, fun.
I felt that I had this whole teaching thing down and I simply could not wait to have a child of my own – to be that rockstar teacher, one-on-one.
I had been teaching for 5 years when I married the guy who was an instant and long-term best friend from high school. I know what you are thinking, highschool sweethearts, but that wasn’t us.
When our love did grow past friendship, it did so with a force and we knew in our hearts that we were ready to start a family. All of our boxes felt like they were checked – we had great jobs, we were in love, we were happy.
He was ready to be a father. I was ready to be a mother. But, what we didn’t know at the time, was that in trying to have a child, we would be the students of many big life lessons – that of time, patience and resilience. It took seven years, more failed pregnancies than I can count, seas of tears and heartbreak before our miracle came.
Two pink lines gave us hope. It was that hope that carried us through nine months of illness and anxiety, complications and preterm labor. But, as our journey would have it, three days before a scheduled induction, our sweet ladybug carved her own day into the calendar of our hearts. We did it! She was here!
As first-time parents often do, we became students yet again … this time of having a newborn – learning about diaper blowouts, projectile vomiting, sleepless nights/days/months, cluster feedings, a triple tongue/lip tie that led to breastfeeding issues. All of the lessons, and I wouldn’t change a thing. She was quite literally a bundle of joy.
After maternity leave, I decide to shift from my role as a teacher of an academic classroom to that of teaching our “one and only.” My full momma heart told me that I would nail it. I mean, how hard could it be to teach one child when I had taught so many?
Eagerly, I created a classroom in our home. We talked about feelings, we taught manners and verbal skills, and we practiced autonomy and offering choices. My husband and I quickly realized that our daughter was a remarkably brilliant child.
Her verbal skills were shocking. Before 2 years old, she was saying words like “stethoscope” and asking me to look up the word for the ear-checker-thingy (it’s called an otoscope, by the way). My husband and I were beside ourselves with pride. Our daughter was the best thing we had created together since our high school newspaper!
As our sweet thing approached the realm of “threedom” however, things took a turn. Her tantrums were off the charts. Our daughter would spiral from happy to screaming, kicking, hitting, and throwing herself on the floor within seconds. Tears flowed until the point of vomiting.
The tantrums seemed to escalate despite my best efforts. Seventeen on Saturday grew to 33 on Monday. Thirty-three meltdowns in ONE day. ONE DAY! My teacher’s toolbox of tips and tricks was empty. I had tried everything I could think of … twice … but nothing was working.
I could not cope. And I was losing my patience. I was crying every night wondering what I was missing. I mean, place me in the midst of 30 students and I thrived. But place me in front of one, my own, and I struggled. I felt like I couldn’t reach my child when I had been able to reach so many others within my classroom. It felt like a failure.
I remember seeing something from a company called Generation Mindful (GENM) – something about a tool they created called the Time-In ToolKit. We had never used a “time-out” so, while I agreed with the mindset, I didn’t think that my family had a need for the program.
But my momma’s intuition kept calling me back to their page. You know that little voice inside of you that says, “Listen up. I am here to help.” So I followed my inner wisdom and listened to my heart. I went back to GENM’s website and I read the line that changed it all for me: “help children calm their bodies and process their emotions.”
That’s it. That’s all it took. I purchased the kit immediately. Two AM. Without even telling my husband. I just did it. I knew our daughter needed our help to name and tame her emotions – to process whatever big feelings her normally verbose vocabulary wasn’t able to communicate clearly.
I was equal parts desperation and hope the day our Time-In-Toolkit arrived. Since we had talked about the program and watched some of the GENM videos, our daughter was very interested.
With the help of the tools, I taught our daughter about big feelings – that they are sacred, neither good nor bad – and that it is safe to feel them… all of them. And I taught her about calming strategies – how to help calm our bodies when our bodies feel out of control.
We spent the first two days pretending to have big feelings like mad and sad, discussing new feelings like critical and anxious and practiced every single calming strategy card in the deck.
We also purchased the entire set of SnuggleBuddies. She immediately chose where each SnuggleBuddies would “live” and with whom. There was one for mommy, daddy, the houses of all her grandparents, the car, her calming corner and one to be with her at all times. She chose Red Bear as her day to day pal. Red Bear symbolizes Power and man did she own that.
But things in our household were shifting. Remember the 33 massive meltdowns on Monday? Well, the box came on Tuesday and by Thursday her meltdown count was down to three … for the entire three days!
It’s so much more than the number of meltdowns in a day, week or month. It is about the connection running through my home. It is in watching my daughter put words to her big feelings and the two of us working on calming our bodies, together.
It’s like we both became students… and teachers.
Now, when our little girl sees her daddy upset, she asks him if he can name his big feelings. And in moments that she notices my fleeting patience, she offers me a calming strategy.
We are all learning. All growing. Connecting and communicating on a level I never knew possible.
And while life is life and unexpected rage, sadness, frustration, joy, and excitement will always find a way, we now have the tools to work through all of our feelings together.
** This article was written by a Generation Mindful mom member who wishes to remain anonymous. Do you have a story about mindfulness and/or connection to tell? Visit here for details and submit an article to our editor for consideration.
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