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ExperiMOMent Life in CA Mommy Lessons (on Parenting) On Becoming a Better Mom

Teaching Independence in the Home

If there’s one thing I definitely miss about Manila, it’s the monthly #BetterMe sessions.  I really feel like I learned a lot each time and it made me a better parent (and a #BetterMe!).

Coming here I hoped to find another area to pursue my continuous learning as a parent.  After all, isn’t that the essence of this blog in the first place?

Thankfully, Jamie’s preschool offers free sessions for the parents.  It’s part of the perks (well at least the expensive tuition goes a longer way!).  And it makes sense — because what’s taught in school needs to be reinforced at home.  The other bonus to these learning sessions is getting to know the other  parents.  We see each other at drop off and pick-up, it’s nice to sit with them too and share concerns (which are more often than not, similar to mine!).

The first session was about teaching independence in the home.  The sessions are usually conducted by the school director, with the help of her teachers.  It’s nice because they make practical suggestions for  the parents to immediately apply.

Quote by Maria Montessori
Quote by Maria Montessori

I’ve always been big on teaching my kids to do things on their own, especially since we moved here,  It’s also necessary for my sanity.  And here were some of the nuggets of information that struck me the most:

1.  Demonstrate first, then let them continue on their own.  I often tell the girls they need to pack away their toys by themselves, and then I get frustrated when everything is just dumped to the side.  You’d think it’s second nature to put things back where they got it from.  Apparently, it’s also expecting a little too much.  So now we pack-away together — at least for the first half.  Jamie in particular hates the chore, and will only do it if I do it with her.  Now it’s not so much of a problem, once I say, “Watch what I do, and then you can do it too.”  That is after all her strongest learning style.

Here’s another aspect that surprised me about Montessori:  They use glass in the classroom.  They believe it teaches the kids to be more careful when handling these items rather than if they were to use plastic.  And they teach the kids to cut too, with real knives and scissors.  Of course this is closely supervised — but it changed my mindset about allowing the girls to handle sharp objects.  They’re going to learn eventually, better teach them how under my watchful eye.

2.  Keep things within reach.  As adults, we subconsciously build and shape our homes according to our height specifications.  Imagine what that feels like for a child though, where almost everything is unreachable.  Not only is it intimidating, it makes independence impossible.

Now I “try” to keep everything at their level.  Jamie’s drawers are the bottom ones, so she can reach in and pick her clothes.  She dresses and undresses herself everyday now.  I put art supplies in a corner where the girls can get to them.  The they don’t need to ask if they want to create something.  Their books and toys are on easy-access shelves too.

Sam knows where her homework is, Jamie can reach all her toys.  I am quietly relaxing on the bed.
My uninterrupted view from the bed.

I also learned through an experiment, that for as long as I leave enough food and drink within reach, I can get an extra 30 minutes of shut-eye in the morning.  I’m not woken to prepare breakfast.  The girls can do it themselves.

I left a note with instructions and to my happy surprise, they were followed (Any mom knows an extra 30 minutes in bed in the morning is GOLDEN.)

My little experiment worked!
It worked!

3.  Provide a safe environment for failure.  An article that got passed around on Facebook about praising the effort and the process rather than the result, reminded me of this.  If there’s any place a child should feel like it’s okay to “fail”, it should be at home in the comfort of their parents.  We learn by failing and trying again.  We can’t expect them to get it perfectly the first (or second or third) time around.  Failure brings about focus, patience and perseverance — tackling one challenge at a time until they succeed.

The learning session made me re-think part of the way we’ve set-up the home.  We’ve made a few changes since.

It’s also helped me see more clearly what the girls can do on their own, or learn to do, and where they still need my help (the bathroom sink for instance is still too short for Jamie, despite our step stool).  I’ve also adjusted my expectations to accommodate time for “practice”.

Practicing with the shoes always needs extra time.
Shoes always needs extra time.

Sam needs an additional 10 minutes to tie her own shoelaces and get her jacket on before entering the car.  Jamie needs the dining chairs slightly angled, so that she can climb in and out on her own without falling over.  The changes are small, but I can see how they’re making the bigger differences.

Pretty interesting stuff. 🙂  I’m excited to learn from the next session.

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Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Lessons (on Parenting)

Adjustment Phase 1B: Finding a School for Jamie

Finding Sam a school took quite a lot out of me, I wasn’t ready to go hunting for a school for Jamie just yet.  We never had much time alone I always say, and I was happy to take my time.

Jamie though had a different idea.  Every morning she’d come with me to bring Sam to school.  She’d have a little pout when Ate would say goodbye to her and run off to be with friends.  Then she’d ask:  “What about me mom?  When do I go to school?”

So I took a breath, and re-opened the computer once more in search for a preschool.  We’d been on the look out since we knew we were moving, but it wasn’t a serious search.  Jamie’s too young for the public school system, so it was definitely going to be a paying preschool for her.  Location and zoning didn’t apply yet.  It was just a matter of whether or not they still had a slot.  Of course, location was still a main consideration for me since I would be the school bus driver.

I asked around (and looked around), and from what I gathered in the limited amount of time, I concluded that preschools were classified into three:  the “learning” Day Cares (which might’ve been too basic for Jamie already), the parent-participative types where the parent plays a heavy role in volunteering and teaching the child (sorta like a pseudo Homeschool set-up is how I understood it… too much for me! 😉 ) and the Montessori’s of this world.

Every Montessori Classroom looks the same.
Every Montessori Classroom looks the same.

Each one has its pros and cons, but considering my brain was about to explode from information overload, I immediately gravitated to the tried and tested, all-reliable Montessori option.  I suppose a lot of parents wanted the same thing too, since I called four Montessori’s around my area and each one had a one year wait list!  Yikes.

In a frantic panic I searched for schools that claimed they followed the Montessori Method — and found one that was a few miles away from Sam’s school (insert happy dance).  I toured and was convinced.  They were very much a Montessori school, just as I knew and understood it to be.

I immediately made a deposit to secure a slot on the “short” wait list.  I was told that if Jamie were to join, she’d be in the class of the incoming Filipino teacher.  They couldn’t guarantee me a start date, but at that point I felt relief.  At some point this year, Jamie was going to a Montessori preschool.  And so we had time. 🙂

It turned out to be pretty short wait list indeed, because they called us back after a week to confirm our slot.

Jamie's (and Bunny's) 1st day of school.
Jamie’s (and Bunny’s) 1st day of school.

Jamie LOVES school.  She’s loved it before back in Manila, so the wonderful experience continues.  She gives me a kiss and a hug goodbye and doesn’t look back.  Sometimes all I get is a wave.  When I pick her up, she has so many stories to share.

So far so good.  Jamie’s always been an independent person, which works because independence is the basis of the Montessori education.

Photo credit:  howtoparenttoday.com
Photo credit: howtoparenttoday.com

And in Jamie’s case, it does follow — “I want to do it myself mom,” and she feels better about herself.  Jamie’s so much more confident now, and more outspoken.  She’s not as timid to try new things.

I'd never thought to let Jamie handle a glass pitcher at this age.
I’d never thought to let Jamie handle a glass pitcher at this age… but she can do it!

She’s also making friends.

Two of Jamie's favorite playmates.
Two of Jamie’s favorite playmates.

Her teachers say everyone loves Jamie.  And though she’s one of the younger ones in her class, it seems like Jamie helps some of the older kids too with  concepts she’s already mastered.

I’m quite happy for this find.  The tuition is pretty steep (each month’s payment increases my husband’s white hair), but hearing all of Jamie’s stories and seeing her blossom day after day makes it all worth it.

Jamie "at work".  Punching I think is what it's called.
Jamie “at work”. Punching I think is what it’s called.
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A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Mommy Lessons (on Parenting) Mommyology at Work My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

Do You Trust Me?

It’s been ten months since our move back to Manila, but I still think about our time in Chapel Hill a lot.  Everything still seems so fresh and vivid and clear.  I will forever be eternally grateful for the experience because I don’t think I’d be the mom that I am today if it weren’t for those four years away.

I developed my first ideas about parenting there.  I made my first set of mommy friends.  I opened myself up and learned a lot from the midwives, doulas and doctors, and I use the knowledge they’ve imparted  to me up to now.  It’s nice because we’re all still in touch and I still continue to check in with them and ask for their opinions on certain questions I have.  A whole lot of my formation as a new mom came from here.  It’s what’s ingrained in me and I will carry this with me everywhere we go.

My Chapel Hill "village". (still lacks a lot of other faces).
My Chapel Hill “village” (still lacks a lot of other faces).  I miss them all so.

Of course I still maintain that my biggest, most constant set of teachers are my girls.  My “parenting style” is forever changing and adjusting to their varying needs and personalities.  There is no one set way to discipline or engage them both, precisely because they have different strengths and interests. While Sam likes to involve me in the decisions that she makes, Jamie is very direct and decisive with what she wants.  Sam reasons out and negotiates in a logical manner, while Jamie “argues” on an emotional level.

Now that we live in Manila, there are still so many things that I have to learn and re-learn (the irony of it all!).  The girls are learning too, but it isn’t an easy transition.  How can it be when I suddenly have to divide my attention onto other things as well.  And so the one thing – or better put, the one “value” — that I use to ground my relationship with my girls in as firmly as possible, is trust.  I know that it’s a given:  parents and children are supposed to trust each other, but I feel that sometimes it gets lost in the smaller, everyday things.  And those add up.  If I’m not consciously putting it at the forefront of all that I do with them, then it could slip through the cracks in the long-term.  And so, I make a conscious effort to ensure that the girls trust me wholeheartedly, even when it comes to the smallest things.

Looks like a familiar image in the house...
Looks like a familiar image in the house…

I don’t hide things in their food and drink.  Even if I know that it’s good for them, I tell them what it is and use other tactics to convince them to take it.  I would rather have Jamie in a screaming fit, trying to get down necessary medication than hide it in her milk.  I show Sam facts about vegetables that are good for her and convince her to take little bites at a time.

I make it a point to say goodbye when I leave without just disappearing from sight.  I remember reading from a parenting book, that even if they cry, it helps them cope better with separation anxiety.  I do think it has worked well in our case, because the girls can trust that I will come back.  With Sam, it was especially helpful during her most recent ballet recital (the post on this is coming up soon — I’m still recovering from the experience), and she had to perform on a large stage.  During the tech rehearsal the parents weren’t allowed to go into the theater and the audience area was dark.  Sam, one of the younger dancers in a group of about 200 kids, would get swallowed up in tutus as they made their way down backstage.  Her teacher told me she kept looking for me and wouldn’t perform because she couldn’t see me.  It’s a good thing we had a chat, because I told her she had to trust me when I said I’d be watching her on the day itself, and that I’d be at the back to get her when she got out.  Thankfully it worked and Sam was the “smili-est” ballerina in her group.

I answer questions honestly, even if it is an answer that they don’t want to hear.  “Will the injection hurt mom?”  Rather than trivializing it or distracting her from it, I say,  “yes it will, but only for a while.  And we’re only getting it because it’s good for you.”  Sam cries at the thought but it helps her get over the pinch faster if I tell it to her straight.

Sometimes I really don’t have the answer.  Existential questions or why certain things are the way they are — it’s quite hard to explain to a two-year old when she asks me why.  Even to my four-year old Sam.  And so sometimes I really just have to look at them and say, “Can you trust mama when I say we should just believe?”  And often times they nod their heads yes.  I think they do understand.

As much as possible I say what I mean and I keep my promises.  And when I can’t follow through, I quickly apologize.  Nothing gets past my kids and I can’t pretend it will.  I’m actually glad since this is good practice for them in the years to come.

I’d like to believe that it’s this process that has helped the girls be more independent and self-assured.  The fact that they can trust their mother, the one constant presence in their lives — day in and day out — makes a big difference with how they interact with the world.  In school, both their teachers have told me stories of the girls being able to complete tasks independently, and having little difficulty saying goodbye (to me).  They exhibit the demeanor of confident children, very capable of handling any experience that comes their way.

And the best part of it is, I’ve learned to trust them too.  Sam uses it on me too when she wants to prove her point and says, “trust me mom!”  I have a feeling I’ll be hearing a lot more of that in the coming years.  Jamie will negotiate to get her way, but once that’s done then she shows me she knows what comes next.  And it makes for easier transition periods with a lot less fuss.

This definitely is not the easiest way to get things done; and building a trusting relationship takes time, particularly with kids.  Sometimes it’s just so tempting to “trick” them to make it easier (after all it was done to us many times growing up), and then I think:  Trusting adults (who supposedly know better) is all they have.  It’s got to be solid from the get-go.  And it’s too big a consequence to risk.  At least in my opinion.

Am I making things harder on myself?  Maybe.  For now.  But if it means that my girls will have an undeniable amount of faith and trust in me, and eventually in others too, then it will all be worth it down the road.

***

Thank you Philips Avent for including me in your Trusted Moms Circle.  I’m honored to be a part of such an esteemed group.  I’ve been trusting the products since we were in Chapel Hill during Sam’s infancy days.  We continue to do so until today, with Jamie’s spill-proof sippy cups.

The Trusted Moms (and Dad!) with Brand people and Brand endorser Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan.
The Trusted Moms (and Dad!) with Brand people and Brand endorser Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan.

To know more about the brand and what they have in store for us, follow them on Facebook and Twitter @PhilipsAventPH.

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A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Mommy Anecdotes

“You Want to Eat Lunch with Friends”

Last week I lost another hour of Mommy-Daughter time to pre-school, as Sam has recently voiced out that she “wants to eat with friends“.  When I pick her up after her 3-hour school day, we linger outside the classroom of the 2’s as she watches them and some of her 1’s classmates sit down and pull out their packed lunches. (she was put in the 1’s because of her cut-off birthdate, but the teachers allow the 1’s and the 2’s to play together every now and then.  Plus, she reads all their names outside the classroom door so she knows who they are by heart.) Usually I take her home like most of the 1’s, get some food into her and then put her down for a nap.

My Mommyology Lunchbox
Thank you Tita Cris, Tito Nik and Brandon for making this photo possible!

But — the request came.  Why would I say no, if so much good can come out of it?  She’ll learn to eat more independently, and she may just eat a wider variety of foods (Her teachers tell me she eats anything they put in front of her, unlike how she is with me at home).  She’ll get more time for socialization with friends, also signaling that she’s okay to be away from me for longer periods in a day.  This will be beneficial to me too, as the extra hour allows me to get more things done.  Plus when the baby arrives, it’s one hour less of adjustment time for all of us.

How providential was it that the week we decided to put her in for the extended lunch hour, Sam received an insulated lunch box as a gift.  She absolutely adores her little owl.  There are no complaints when you ask her to carry her lunchbox to the car and into the classroom.  It’s actually quite cute.

Obviously, she was ready and took the initiative to say so.  The irony of it all was that I wasn’t, and yet I couldn’t say no!  The first day I had lunch alone at home, I missed her terribly.  Even if I actually was able to sit down and eat without any interruptions, it just felt that there was something lacking and I’d misplaced my child somewhere.  Talk about separation anxiety!  I had this vision of a not-so-distant future when I’d just hear her running out the door, “bye Mom, not having lunch here!” and it closing behind her.  Heck I used to do that, and now here it is, happening to me, slowly but surely.  It’s nice, it’s exciting, but also bittersweet.  Literally speaking, in the blink of an eye, things start to change right in front of you.

Ahh, the Little Owl that made me cry.  Damn pregnancy hormones! 😉