Fighting the FOMO: Rediscovering Wonder this holiday season

The holiday season is upon us, with its myriad of options and guilt-inducing Pinterests about what the “good” parents are doing for their kids this season – the must-have toys, shows, character events, daily gifts….

it’s too much.

There. I’ve said it. It’s too much. No one thing in and of itself is wrong, per se, but the sheer volume is too much.

When my oldest, J, was 2, my parents took us to a children’s museum. We spent a few minutes in the first exhibit, and then they pushed us to move on, because there was so much to see, and we only had a couple hours.

That approach may work for some, but for us, doing a few things, and doing things well, will always be preferable to running from one activity to the next, making sure we don’t miss out.

This summer, we took our kids to their first fireworks display. It was a big deal – one that, because of sensory issues, involved careful planning and air-traffic-control grade earmuffs. (Aff)

We sat next to a family who had already been to four displays that week, and while my kids were in awe of this display, they were comparing and critiquing it against all the other ones. It’s their hobby – what they enjoy doing as a family, and I don’t pretend to tell them what’s right for them, but it sure isn’t how we roll.

So, in the spirit of intentionality and wonder this holiday season, we are NOT doing

  • Elf on a Shelf
  • Character appearances
  • Polar Express
  • Holiday Theater
  • Daily Advent presents
  • Santa or themed pictures
  • Large, chaotic crowds
  • Elaborate presents or shopping

What we ARE doing

  • Spontaneous dance parties by the Christmas tree
  • Light shows – well decorated homes, a couple local ones for good causes
  • Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s from Trader Joe’s (they’re amazing)
  • Lots of Christmas books & crafts
  • Time with family & friends
  • Supporting local businesses & charities that we believe in
  • Time at church and at home recounting the true Christmas story (This Little People Nativity (aff) is great for littles!)

Our goal, at the end of December, is not for our kids to have felt entertained, spoiled, or pampered, but that instead they would have sensed, even more fully, what a gift Christmas is, what Love come down to Earth, is all about, and that they can take that with them in the weeks and years to come.

Merry Christmas.

… and for those of you who, like me, aren’t well versed in internet slang, FOMO means “Fear of Missing Out”.

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. ANY LINKS TO RESOURCES ON THE AMAZON WEBSITE ARE PART OF THE AFFILIATE PROGRAM. WE ARE A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR US TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES.

Kids Don’t Skip Stages

Kids don’t skip stages.

I read this on some online forum months ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. And it shook my entire parenting paradigm too – in a good way.

We have asynchronous kids. They do things on their own schedules. Some things happen very fast, and they fly past their same-age peers. Other things take more time. It’s okay. It’s part of the gifted game, and I am learning to accept that.

Somehow, though, in my mind, the stages that my kid seemingly skipped over had nothing to do with the behavioral issues we were currently dealing with. 

Piaget‘s theories of cognitive development made the case that children need the foundation of the earlier stage before they progress to the next, though he was looking at that development in much broader, more global terms.

Freud also stated that if people were prematurely moved beyond an early stage, they would go back later in life to make up for that absence. 

Now, I’m not a psychologist. I took a couple undergrad psych courses about 20 years ago, but all of this started to make sense to me.

When he was three, my son spent much more time reading and doing worksheets than the ordinary kid, who would have been exploring the world, climbing, tumbling, touching everything. Now that we’ve started to tackle some of the sensory issues that may have been in the way, he’s catching up for lost time. 


It’s not immaturity; it’s filling in the gaps.

J skipped crawling almost entirely. He bear crawled for a bit (sensory avoider, anyone?!) and then was an early walker. He didn’t have motor skills delays until he was about 3. Then the other kids who had spent more time on their hands and knees kept progressing and he slowed down a bit. We’re now intentionally crawling, wheelbarrow walking, laying on our tummies (he HATED tummy time!), and doing the work that most other kids would have already done.


The same with chewing. He didn’t really put things in his mouth… until he was 5. 

It’s a stage we have to work through rather than a negative behavior we need to correct. 

Of course, now that he is older, we can help him find appropriate ways to work through these things. I can still tell him not to lick the shopping cart handle. I’m not indulging his every impulse simply because there’s an unmet need. 

Instead, we work together to find ways to work through these developmental imperatives together.

Why am I sharing this? 

Because you might have a six year old wiggler too. Or a seven year old that needs to pretend play on the four year old level because he was so caught up in non-fiction books that he had no interest in pretending. Or maybe a ten year old who suddenly needs to touch everything. And it’s okay. They’ll get there. 


This blog has been part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop, Ages & Stages. “Hop on over” to read more about what various developmental stages look like for gifted kids and adults, and maybe recognize your kids or even yourself in their words. 


Stealth Spelling – Games to work on those crucial skills

Spelling. It’s important. Your entire life (until everything is voice to text automated), people will be judging you based on how well you can spell.

Some people excel at spelling. For others, it’s harder. But spelling lists are boring and drudgerous. Is there a better way?

The cool thing is that, in the early years especially, if we do activities with our kids that encourage them to look closely at letters and how they work together, especially in a non-threatening game format, we’ll be sharpening their spelling muscles and causing them to pay more attention to how words are spelled as they progress educationally.

Some of our favorite activities are

Crossword puzzles

Word searches

Scrabble (and Scrabble Junior)

IMG_20170824_155003906

Bananagrams

Boggle (and Boggle Junior)

Spelling puzzles

Hangman

Jumbles

Apps: Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader

Websites: Spelling City, PBS Kids

This isn’t to say that spelling lists need to be banished. There can be a time and place for them too, but the more we train our kids to be aware of how things are spelled, the easier they will find the skills needed to learn and spell words correctly.

Your turn: how do you incorporate spelling into your routines in a fun and collaborative way?

 

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. ANY LINKS TO RESOURCES ON THE AMAZON WEBSITE ARE PART OF THE AFFILIATE PROGRAM. WE ARE A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR US TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES.

 

An Imperfect Analogy – what “gifted” looks like

The term “gifted” is a loaded one. One that seems covetous to some,  but for those who live it and their families, the journey is hard. And people seem to have little understanding for the unique challenges that this label brings, so I’ve been thinking about ways to somehow make it clear that “gifted”, especially in a world without accommodations, can be pretty miserable.

Imagine, if you will, that your child has been born with a genetic mutation that causes him to be 20% taller than the average classmate. That means that when the other 7yos are 4 feet tall, he’s 5 feet tall.

People say that being tall is a perk, a bonus, something to celebrate, but for your child, it’s actually rather uncomfortable.

Desks at school don’t fit. Playground equipment and gym activities are awkward, clothes made for this height have inappropriate content for a 7yo who would rather be in the world of Ninja Turtles or Legos. 

Teachers say he should just adapt, that the other kids will probably catch up, that he doesn’t need modified activities (the pull up bar in gym involves no pulling up whatsoever), and often enlist his help getting items off of high shelves. 

His classmates resent him in sports because he seems to have it so much easier than they do. They find it unfair when he scores a basket or runs the fastest. He has an advantage, after all! 

Out in public, he’s often mistaken for an 11 or 12 year old and held to the same behavioral expectations. In fact, his family and teachers also unintentionally expect more of him, just because he *looks* more mature than he actually is.

For as long as he can remember, he’s felt like an outsider, like he doesn’t entirely fit in. 

When he hangs out with 12 year olds, he breathes a sigh of relief. He doesn’t stand out, at least initially, and the environment is definitely more comfortable. But then their conversations and interests, once again, exclude him as he can’t keep up with them in other ways, especially when the subject of girls comes up. When they play sports, he seems awkward and unskilled, as his motor skills and body control are years behind those of his same-height peers.

He’s unsure of his future. Everyone expects him to be a basketball player, or some other occupation where height is of an advantage, but he’s not sure that’s what he wants to do, and he is only 7, for goodness’ sake.

Left with his same age peers, he starts slumping down to minimize his height, and he refuses activities that look like they would be uncomfortable or make him stand out. His teachers label him as withdrawn and oppositional, and they leave him to sulk in the back of the room.

………..

Now. This is an imperfect analogy and a pessimistic point of view. In this story, the adults in his world don’t know how to cope with a kid like him and therefore don’t handle it well.

Imagine if training and supports were in place (as is the case for some but not all gifted students) that would allow him to be himself and comfortable in his own skin. 

That’s what we want for our gifted kids — not preferential treatment but appropriate supports because they are unique learners with unique needs who struggle in a regular classroom environment unless their needs are recognized and considered worthy of accommodating.

Shadow Play

October is the perfect time of year (where we live) to play with shadows. We spend time on the playground, on our asphalt driveway, and wherever else we go looking for and exploring shadows.
One of my earliest “learning” memories of my kids was my son chasing light on the floor of our living room. The light floods in through the windows differently in winter than summer, and we get these “patches of light”. He was fascinated, at around 11 months, with how the light was on the floor but wasn’t really there and with how he could manipulate those patches by holding his hand over them.

We now play in a similar way, holding objects up to our walls to see how the light changes. It offers great opportunities to talk about opaque, transparent, translucent, angles of refraction, and more.


We love watching our shadows change on swing sets. The length of certain body parts, what’s visible from different directions.



It’s fun to compare the shadow to the original. Why might the shadow seem wavy if the board seems to be straight? Why is the shadow at an angle? 


One of my daughters is obsessed with flashlights, so we set up various objects in front of the light to see what they create.


Our driveway is perfect for shadow observation. We use chalk to draw each others’ outlines (and then fill in the details) and to mark the shadows of the trees at various points during the day. We play a version of “freeze tag” where if someone steps on your shadow, you’re frozen and the “home base” is anywhere your shadow is hidden by tree shade.


Shadows offer accessible introductions to how light moves, the change in the sun’s angle because of earth’s rotation (and revolution), and great opportunities for line drawing. And kids love them too. 

Your turn: how do you play with shadows? 

Natural Innovators

If you had walked by our house a couple of weeks ago, you would have seen this.

img_20170907_160234243
My periodic-table-obsessed 6yo was experimenting with different ways the table could be drawn and expanded. He drew 4 different variations on our driveway.

We had just watched PBS’s documentary about how Mendeleev developed the precursor to our modern table, and suddenly, in his mind, the table was no longer a fixed set of rules but instead a fluid construct that could be improved upon. So he set out to do just that.

His goal, at least for the day, was not to develop a new system but instead to play with the current system and bend it to see how it responded.

This is not an isolated incident.

We play a board game, and after a couple of rounds, he wants to change the rules, see how tweaks will affect game play and outcome.

When playing with Think Fun’s (aff. link) River Crossing this summer, he was much happier creating his own challenges than simply solving those provided on the cards by the game.

It’s like his brain is hard-wired to ask, “What else?”

This used to drive me crazy (and still does sometimes).

I’ve learned not to take it personally, that his rejection of my options A-D in pursuit of Q is the way his brain works, not a direct assault to my parenting. If I offer choices, logically, there must be more choices out there to be discovered.

We as his parents have also learned how to clearly communicate what is negotiable and what is not, which has been very helpful.

This innovation, this ability to think outside the box, is a huge asset that will serve him well later in life — if we can figure out how to navigate these early years in a way that celebrates and  channels his creative impulses.

That is the big challenge for us as parents and educators – how can we celebrate this unique ability to think in unorthodox ways, not squash their enthusiasm, but also help them learn when it would be helpful for them to choose to follow directions and be part of the group.

27019648_unknown-1
I’ve recently been taking a gentle approach. We haven’t been participating in a lot of rigid activities but have been doing things like origami where the payoff for following directions is clear and immediate. Sometimes, there’s so no room for negotiation, but when there is, I’ve been trying to give space and freedom to create, to try new things, and then gently suggest checking the instructions if frustration starts to set in.

And who knows – maybe someday the periodic table will be updated, and I’ll be able to say I have the first drafts. 🙂

I share these things, not as an expert in any sense, but as a parent who has benefited from reading about others’ experiences and in the hope that some of you will be saying, “Me too!”

This blog has been part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page’s Blog Hop. “Hop” on over to their page to read various perspectives on creativity and productivity, as it affects the gifted population.


THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. ANY LINKS TO RESOURCES ON THE AMAZON WEBSITE ARE PART OF THE AFFILIATE PROGRAM. WE ARE A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR US TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES.



Please Stop Telling My Kid He’s Smart

Dear World, 

let’s talk. I’ve been spending hours upon hours on character training, talking about kindness, respect, reading books that model healthy social relationships, and you seem insistent on highlighting my kid’s intelligence.

We know he’s smart.

He knows he’s smart. He’s been told since he was 1. In fact, he’s overconfident in his own abilities.

Every time someone plays the “smart” card, that reinforces that he needs to show off his intelligence for people, which is not what we want him to do. At 4, it was cute. At 6, it’s sometimes cute. Soon it’ll be obnoxious.

You know what you could say instead? Maybe something that can be learned, practiced, that helps others.

Kindness.

Respect or concern for others.

Creativity.

Curiosity.

Courtesy.

Helpfulness.

Solid work ethic.

Resourcefulness.

Resilience.

These are the things we value and want him to value as well. 

Thanks. I really do appreciate your taking the time and wanting to say something nice to my son.  He’s more than his brain, and I’d love your help getting that message across.