Posted in Parenting

With Toddlers, They’re ‘All In’

My beautiful little toddler is everything an experienced mother expects: sweet, affectionate, super fun, soaks up learning like a sponge, and, yes, ultra-moody. Like most toddlers he’s all sunshine-and-giggles one minute then, with a blink of an eye, he’s red-faced, toy-throwing, screaming mad. It’s shocking. Nearly everyday for the last few months he’ll be happily playing with his train set (he calls it “I play tracks”) while I’m practicing, then I’ll be spooked out of my long-tones or scales with top-of-the-voice screaming and toys being hurled across the room, smacking into the wall. Crazy! And I thought my mood swings were bad… With toddlers, they are “all in” when it comes to emotions.

According to Robert Marvin, Ph.D., a professor of child psychiatry at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, “a 2-year-old has only just begun to develop cognitive skills to make sense of those feelings — and to control them. That fact, coupled with a toddler’s limited attention span, results in what seems like a wildly fluctuating emotional seesaw.” (http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/understanding-your-2-year-olds-mood-swings/) When they are happy, they are really happy, and when something doesn’t turn out the way they would like, well, watch out for flying blocks! So, when my toddler is trying to defy the laws of physics with his train tracks, he gets incredibly mad when they inevitably fall down from the awkward position he has assembled them in.

I’ve picked up on a few tricks that I’ve learned over the last few years that seem to work quickly (and they need to, I usually have to get right back to practicing!). First, I’ll typically try to ascertain what the issue is that is making him so upset. Sometimes it’s a quick fix: the train tracks aren’t lining up correctly, the trains aren’t coupling properly, a toy is stuck in another toy. Once the issue is resolved and after a brief lesson on what I did to make it “right”, he’s usually happy and starts playing again. Sometimes, however, he gets so upset and frustrated that he’s forgotten why he’s upset in the first place, and it’s difficult to calm him down — toddlers can have a hard time turning off the “I’m really angry” part of the brain — this often results in him hitting me or throwing things at me (he knows he’s mad, and I’m a convenient target). I’ll have to put him in time-out (it’s never OK to hit), and we’ll count to 60. This does two things: it changes the scene and gives him a chance to just breathe and listen to my very soft counting. We get hugs at the end, all is right with his little world again. Another great tool to use is distraction. Take advantage of their short, little attention spans and when you either can’t fix the issue, or they won’t stop defying gravity, find another toy to play with or take him to another room (change of scenery!) and read a book to him. Moving to another room works so well because then they aren’t reminded of what they were trying to do, and it allows them to start thinking of something else.

This can be a really fun time for the toddler and the parent, but it can also be an extraordinarily challenging time as well. They don’t always understand you, and they certainly don’t understand the world around them yet, so it can be frustrating for the toddler and the parent. When they have older or younger siblings, the difficulty (and the fun) amps up even more. Having a few tools, or a few tricks, as I mentioned above can really help improve the situation, and if you can make it a learning experience at the same time, it’s even better, though, understandably it’s not always possible.

As a performing musician and a mother I feel the pull to keep my children happy and all-around satisfied while fostering learning and independence (within reason, of course) and keep my skills maintained. Helping them to understand why stuff works the way it works really goes a long way towards this goal. Yes, they are young with a limited cognitive ability now, but the more you work with them in a positive setting, they better it will be in the long run and with fewer tantrums. So, for my toddler now and my other children when they were toddlers, I use the above-mentioned methods, and I believe they have worked towards helping them learn to entertain themselves, solve problems for themselves (we’re still working on that!), and behave themselves without me hovering over them constantly. We play together; we work together; but we can also play and work independently, and that is crucial for how I am able to juggle all of my responsibilities on a daily basis.

Posted in Parenting

A Little Reassurance

I have come to love grocery shopping time. I practice 2-3 hours in the morning, have lunch, then off we (my toddler and I) go to the store. It has become special time just for us. I put him in the grocery cart seat, and somehow, it becomes special play time for us while I do my shopping. We do things like say silly words to each other, make silly (soft) noises to each other, find letters and numbers around the store, and just all around have a good time. My absolute favorite thing that happens, though, is when we are making our silly soft sounds face-to-face and then he grabs my face and plants a beautiful (often sloppy) kiss right on my cheek. LOVE it! No matter what has happened to me that morning or even that week, those gorgeous kisses make it all just right.

As a mother, you really need those little bits of reassurance from your children. Day after day it’s often an onslaught of attitude, push-back, tantrums, arguing, the list goes on. It can wear you down emotionally and even physically. Any little sign of adoration from your children can be a little rainbow or ray of sunshine in an otherwise weary day. I treasure any of these moments, as any mother would.

I love my children so much. I give them spontaneous hugs and kisses. I read to them, play with them, and remind them how much they mean to me. I don’t actually expect it in return. I just want them to know how much I love them and care about them. I explain why we have rules, why I get frustrated, why I’m upset, etc. We communicate well. So, it makes it all so worth the effort to get a random hug, smile, or kiss from your children. Talk about encouragement! It’s one of the many reasons why I love being a mother and why there is no other love to be felt than that of love for your children. We need that reassurance, and I’ll take it over anything. Period.

Posted in Health and Fitness, Practicing

Run (or maybe any cardio), then Practice. Immediately.

This post is really a supplement to two previous posts, and I’m excited to share some more discoveries!

I tried my experiment, again, of running then practicing to give myself another go at learning from it. I ran 1.5 miles (2.4km) — not a lot, but enough — then picked my flute up. I didn’t get quite the massive sound that I remember from the first time (or maybe it has grown in my imagination!), but I learned something a little new: while the intake of air did improve from my everyday practice, it was the out-breath that was affected the most by the running. It was fluid, uninhibited, uninterrupted, everything that an out-breath should be. You get your lungs working hard, yet efficiently with running, then blowing through a flute is much easier work because your lungs are really working for you. They take in more air deeply and fluidly as your body is desperate for the oxygen, they then release that air in the same manner. Perfect. Obviously, we probably can’t do this exercise every single time we practice, but even just learning from the experience once or twice can have huge implications for how we proceed with our practicing thereafter.

Happy jogging, readers!