Friday, December 6, 2013

Unrealistic Expectations and Perfect Beauty - Lessons from the Tree

December with a five-year-old is a December of Magic. It's only Dec 6, and already my heart is full of undeserved Christmas riches and hands are full of words that must be set down on a page. But first, lessons I learned from my Christmas tree.

December 1st - Finding the (im)perfect tree

I walk amongst the evergreens at the tree farm, grimacing wistfully at the prices of the tall, full, beautiful trees standing in neat rows. I sigh and turn for the back of the lot where the bargain trees are kept. On the end of the back row is a noble fir about my height with several bare places. The branches show signs of recent vigorous pruning, ending in blunt white tips, instead of smaller fir needles. I head back to the taller noble firs, look again at a price tag that still hasn't changed, sigh, and head back to the little tree on the end in the back.

As I stand examining the asymmetry of the tree, my husband remarks casually, "You know, a real Christmas tree should be at least somewhat authentically imperfect..."

God bless that man. 

We choose the less expensive (and naturally imperfect) tree. Jane was delighted, and I quickly warmed to the thought of a smaller, authentically imperfect tree.

Jane already has a present from Tete Tanya even before we get our tree.

Home from choosing a tree, Jane begs Steve to put up lights outside. With only a few moments of daylight left hanging on the horizon, Steve and Jane decorate the little palms in front of the house. (And yes, for anyone not in Southern California, as long as the sun hasn't gone down here in the desert, we can put up Christmas lights in shorts. Wrong on sooo many levels, I know.) 

While Steve and Jane are working on the lights, I have a moment to look at our tree again, and smile. I'm very happy with our choice, and wonder what kind of tree I had envisioned before we chose this one. "I dunno," I say to myself, "maybe a smaller version of... the White House Christmas tree standing somewhere in my living room?" I laugh, knowing we have no room for a large tree, and that any evergreen that smells like Christmas would serve the purpose. Why would I spend time looking at trees, entertaining unrealistic expectations, even for a moment?  

Then I realized with groaning admission that I have unrealistic expectations in other corners of my brain, concerning, for example, the time required to complete an given task, the willingness of my daughter to be corrected, the potential of perennially clean hardwood floors and a tidy house, and of course, looking as young as I think I should, etc. 

Or, even better, dealing with THAT guy. We all have that one person we have to endure, who seems to have been put on this earth to make us better people. No amount of wishing that person were different will make it so, just like no amount of kibbles fed to a bear will make it a golden retriever. It will always maul you if you try to pet it. It's a bear. That's simply the way they are. 

Realistic expectations. 

I could do a lot to keep my disappointments and frustrations to a minimum by really checking my expectations. So, I know that going to any retail location between Thanksgiving and Christmas will take twice to three times as long because of crowds and traffic, and there will be a long line of impatient people. Thus, I can prepare in advance to meet this scenario, and come armed with either a Kindle to bury my nose in, or I can bring printed copies of my favorite carols to pass out to others waiting in line with me. Perhaps they like to sing. (Yes, I'll take pics if I do this. The idea's sounding better all the time.)

In addition to maintaining realistic expectations, my tree reminded me that natural imperfect beauty is... beautiful.  At a time when our society seems to prize perfect beauty, and the old and imperfect need not apply, it's good to embrace the very natural with all its imperfections. I know this is something I want Jane to do, and she takes her cues from me. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Teaching My Pre-schooler About Money

Jane receives "Five Whole Dollars!" for her birthday from Mimi

Last year shortly before Thanksgiving when my 4-year-old daughter was in the garage and found an unwrapped set of mini monster trucks that she wanted for Christmas, I had to think quickly. (Jane has loved monster trucks since her little friend Chase introduced her to them at age two.)

"Oh! Well, those are for Nicholas. It's his birthday present," I fibbed, not wanting to give away that it was her own present she was holding.

"But, I want them," she said sadly, looking at the little trucks she was holding. I knew I couldn't just give her the trucks simply because she found them in the garage. 

"You could buy them from me," I suggested. "How much money do you have?" 

She brightened quickly at the idea, having just had a birthday and received some money. "I have a lot! I want to buy them!" she told me excitedly.

"Well, let's go see how much you have. And if you have enough, you can buy these from me, and I'll use the money to get more for Nicholas," I told her. 

We've worked pretty hard to help her understand that all the things we want cost money, and we have to work for money. If we are given money as a present, then we do our work by being thankful and also by being generous to others.

I've found that the easiest way to teach a child the meaning of money is by answering the familiar, "Mommy, I want this, can I get it?" by responding, "Of course. How much money do you have?" and putting the responsibility back on the child. Jane receives birthday money, coins from Father Al, coins from the lucky laundry jackpot, and she also earns money by doing jobs around the house. 

Which begs the question, what can a small child do to earn money or feel like he has made a contribution? Glad you asked.

Easy Jobs for Small Children

  • Unloading the dishwasher flatware - $0.25
  • Picking up things that aren't your own - $0.25
  • Dusting - $0.25 - $0.75
  • Helping in the kitchen - $0.25
  • Helping with grocery shopping - $0.25
  • Becoming a dental hygienist - $32.81 per hour

Jane, 18 months, unloads the flatware.

Jane, age 2, cuts meat for turkey salad (using a frosting-spreader)

Jane, age 4, shops for groceries using homemade index cards

Jane, age 4, is brought on to the dental team help clean my teeth
(a bigger job than initially thought)

Sometimes when I tell her she doesn't have enough money for a desired toy, she responds, "But, but I want it..." This is where I tell her, "I know. It's a really great [toy]. I wish I could get all the things I want too, but I can't. I have to save up. Everyone does. Would you like some ideas for ways to earn more money?"

We all want some degree of control over our life situations, no matter how small. When there's a defeat (No, you can't...), it's helpful to find something to hope for (...but here's how you can next time).

So we headed back inside the house from the cold garage, the box of little monster trucks under Jane's arm. Jane emptied her money bank at the dining room table, the contents spilling out in front of us. She's still not proficient at counting money, but she is good at sorting things, so I had her separate the coins while I made a rubbing of the coins for a reference page.  

We always line up coins two-by-two before counting. The pennies we lined up in groups of five, separated by toothpicks to keep them in order.

Jane had just over $10. 

"Well, I paid $14 for these monster trucks. You don't have quiet enough..." I hesitated.

"What?!" my husband protested, "You're not even going to give her a family discount?"

Sufficiently shamed, I nodded to Jane, "Alright Jane, you can buy the monster trucks from me."

"Yay!!" she exclaimed.

Jane, very proud of the monster trucks she bought with her own money.

Jane snoozes the next day, having taken her monster trucks with her in the car.

Jane has learned very quickly to save when she can, and spend her money on the most important things. As an added bonus, and perhaps the best thing for me, we almost never argue in the store about getting some new toy she sees. While there may be the occasional huff at not getting some item, it's usually after she's been given things without earning them, and has learned to expect it. A full-blown melt-down, even at age 3, was pretty rare. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jane's Zoo (and my pending Parent of the Year Award)

Attempting to thwart the impact of entropy and the accelerating effects 4-year-old can have on any given space, I moved all the toys out of Jane's room, leaving only books and stuffed animals. But Jane's room only began to look like the Wild Animal Park every afternoon, not a federally declared disaster area. 

I thought if I could make cleaning up her stuffed animals "fun", a la Mary Poppins, I'd win the battle and the war. After checking online images for creative ways to contain animals, we made a "zoo" by using an old cabinet and some long dowels I had on hand. 

Armed with my garden pruning shears, I measured and cut the dowels, then stuffed them vertically between the shelves to make bars. The effect was instantaneous. Jane (with a little help) picked up all her animals, separating the smaller from the larger. The smaller animals, needing more bars on the cage, went on top, and the larger animals went on the bottom (where I had cut a couple dowels too short, and only had one left). 

Jane and her zoo.

Jane was so excited, she had me make a two-sided sign: "The Zoo is open at 9am", with "The Zoo is closed at 7pm" on the flip side. 

Jane's Zoo is open at 9am.

Jane's Zoo is closed at 7pm.

Once the zoo was complete, she insisted we make Zoo Passes for visitors. I gave her a copy of Zoo Nooz (from the San Diego Zoo membership), and she chose images to put on the zoo passes. Then it was just a matter of putting them together on card paper and encasing them in plastic using wide packing tape.

Jane gets ideas for animal pictures on her homemade Zoo Passes.

I cut pictures for Jane's Zoo Passes.

Putting the passes together.

Passes for Jane's Zoo.

Pass for Jane's Zoo.

Once the Zoo Passes were completed, she dragged her little table into her room and found a calculator, so that she could scan the zoo passes and tell people how many visits they have made.

Before she sat down at her table to be the zoo keeper, she told me that we had to also have a box for money. 

"What do you mean, for money?" I asked.
"For the people," Jane told me.
Thinking she meant, for people to put money in a box to enter the zoo, I reminded her that when people have zoo passes, they have already paid.
"Nooo!" she said, irritated that I didn't understand her. "You know..." and she cupped her hands like she was about to receive something, hunched her shoulders and tilted her head, raised her eyebrows in expectation, and let out a little "Eh?"
My eyes flew wide with recognition, as she was imitating the hunched-over posture of one of the Red Cross or Salvation Army volunteers who regularly sits outside the zoo exit. We always give the woman a dollar to put in the box, and when Jane asks why, I tell her it's for people who need help.

I finally understood that Jane assumed that the woman volunteer with the money box and the red cross was just another part of the zoo! So Jane wanted a box to collect money as part of her zoo. I explained a bit about how the Red Cross and Salvation Army donations work, and we eventually made a Red Cross donation box, but that's a whole 'nother blog entry. Whole 'nother.

When you enter the zoo, Jane greets you as the Zoo Keeper, takes out her calculator and "scans" your zoo pass. She then encourages you to meet the animals, assuring you they are very tame. She usually brings out the parrot to sit on your arm, gently brings an animal out of its cage and hand it to you to hold, being very careful to hold the animal's feet, so that it feels safe.

It's been almost a week, and Jane is still very excited about her Zoo. She is careful to make sure all the animals are in their cages at night, that they are fed, and tended to before the end of the day when the zoo closes. (Winning!!)

If you are in the San Diego area, you are hereby cordially invited to come visit Jane's zoo, open from 9am - 7pm weekdays, by appointment.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Homeschooling Adventure

Now that Jane is four and pre-school age, people have started to ask me if she is in school. When I tell people I have chosen to homeschool Jane, I am most often met with, "Good for you!" The second most common reaction is a genuinely curious, "What are you doing for her lessons?"

In asking other homeschooling moms I trust about curricula, I came across an amazing book: The Charlotte Mason Companion. 

Great Guide to Homeschooling

Although I am still not finished with it, from this book, I learned two things immediately: 1) I can teach my child, and 2) more than teach my child, I can help create in her a love of learning and develop her natural curiosity about life. 

As a means of instruction, Charlotte Mason advocates nature walks during which you and your children observe nature, and like a scientist, study, analyze, and report your findings.

Nature Walks
For our first Nature Walk, Jane and I went on a bike ride from the cafe to the horse stable. When Jane wanted to stop at the stable and watch the horses, I groaned inwardly, knowing that the horses were not going to do anything interesting. But we stopped and parked the bike and bike trailer, and sat on the low limb of the tree. I had been past that stable dozens of times, so there was nothing new for me to see. Or so I thought.

In the stillness, sitting on the tree limb, I heard a low hum. Turning around, I saw the source: a beehive in the base of the tree, with bees coming and going. Since I had never stopped there before, and since the beehive is on the back side of the tree, I had never noticed it before.

Beehive at the base of the tree.

Suddenly our standard ride to the stables became a lively discussion about bees, what they were doing, how they got there, why they chose to live there, whether the horses minded them being there, etc. We left the stables looking for more signs of life, and flowers that the bees might fly to. Before heading home, we stopped at the library and looked for a simple story about bees. The unanticipated surprise of the beehive would be the first of many as we began our Nature Walks.

Next year or the year after, we'll visit the bees and return to the library in search of books that tell us how honey is made, what is pollen, how do bees help tomatoes grow, and answers to other questions.

Taking the lessons further, we can easily incorporate math and natural science - count the bees on the page of this book; how many bee legs are there, draw a bee, and ultimately perhaps, if a bumblebee were an aircraft, what would be the minimum forward thrust required to get him off the ground?

Learning Letters
Besides nature walks, I do a letters lesson, à la "Today is brought to you by the letters R and M, and the number 4."

Jane has a wooden alphabet puzzle. I put all the letters in a box and have her draw one or two from the box to be our letters of the day.

 Jane draws a letter from the box.

On this particular day, she drew the letter U. We had construction paper, scissors and markers to draw things that started with the letter U. Jane drew a robot, because she likes robots. I gave him an umbrella and asked Jane what else started with U. She suggested underwear, so the robot got underwear.

U is for robot with Underwear, holding an Umbrella.

A few days later, she drew the letter W. I cut out some construction paper pieces of things that would start with W. I give her as many choices in this as possible (i.e., what color paper, do you want to draw it or cut it out, etc.). 

W is for Walrus, Whiskers, Wreath, and Wolf

Any time we work on academic things like a letters lesson, I let Jane be the time keeper. Usually she's good for ten minutes, and I don't push her to do more past that. We move on to another activity, then possibly return later.

Reading / Listening Comprehension
I try to read her books that are more than just Cat in the Hat. Charlotte Mason says to give a book the "one-page test." Start reading aloud to your children and stop after one or two pages. If you hear, "Read more!" then you know you have a good book.

I picked up a few of the Boxcar Children books, and we read the Bicycle Mystery (#15) over the course of two weeks. The children in the story were taking a bicycle trip from their Grandfather's house to their Aunt Jane's farm. To get an idea of what was happening and to keep track of the action, I drew a map. Any time we would resume reading after a few days pause, I would ask Jane about the story and what had happened. Following the map made this much easier, as we could look at the River Road, see the G on Grandfather's house, and the animals way far away at Aunt Jane's farm. She already shows remarkable listening comprehension!

Map of the route from Grandfather's to Aunt Jane's from Boxcar Children: Bicycle Mystery

There are times when all this gets very tedious, but I know intellectually that the most critical time for building a love of learning, reading, and writing are right now. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day

Today for Veteran's Day, Jane and I went to the Veteran's Day Parade in downtown San Diego. Any time we salute our veterans or or thank them in any way, I explain to Jane that these men and women all fought with Captain America against the bad guys, and that it's important that we say thank you, and recognize them as heroes.

Only once before had I been to a San Diego Veteran's Day parade, and I forgot how much of a hometown feel there is to it. Everyone is right there close enough to speak to. As we waved at people, we were close enough to tell them "thank you," and hear them respond. 

We were not far from a corner near the end of the parade route, so occasionally the parade would stop in front of us, waiting for a group to turn the corner. At one point, with a number of troops in front of us (vets of different ages), I was somewhat overcome and burst into a decent rendition of God Bless America. 

I FULLY expected everyone to join in with me, as I had envisioned a crowd singing together with voices united in a big Veteran's Day warm fuzzy moment. Of course, I got to the end of the song and realized that the only ones who had joined in were the troops in front of us, who, by the end of the song, had turned the corner and were gone. I was singing solo on the streets of downtown San Diego. No matter, I was in the Veteran's Day groove.

As the parade passed by and some of the older Vets walked alongside the parade shaking hands with kids, I encouraged Jane to go up and shake hands or even give a hug to a veteran. One older man, obviously a VietNam Vet with a big welcoming smile and easy manner was shaking hands with the kids as he passed. I told Jane she should give him a hug. As she walked toward him with her arms outstretched and he realized what was happening, he hugged her back and almost burst into tears. After he passed, I told Jane that she really made his day.

A few minutes later, a Navy unit was passing by, and stopped in front of us. I told Jane to run up and shake the hand of the man standing alongside the rows of men and women. Evidently it was a good choice, because she came back with a gold coin from the commanding officer of ARCO ARDM-5 - Medium Auxiliary Repair Dry Dock. She told me he was like Father Al. If the children ask our priest, Father Al, for a blessing at church (the proper way to greet a priest), he gives the children coins. 

Jane was good for a little over an hour's worth of parade, then she was ready for something else. Since we were both hungry, we rode the bike (I had brought bike and Weehoo trailer so we could park anywhere) down to the Embarcadero and got pizza. While we were eating our pizza, I asked Jane what was her favorite part of the parade. She said, "All those peoples, and I got a flag, and that man, I made him's day." 

Indeed. That was the best part of my day, too.

Mom - thanks for always encouraging us as kids to give a hug and a kiss to the veterans we saw, and to tell them thank you. I'll do my best to pass the torch to the next generation.

Veteran friends - thank you so much for your service, for enduring the bad food and ill-fitting clothing, the blisters, bug bites, the tedium of ill-informed superior officers, and all those things too terrible to mention. We love you so very much!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Explaining 9/11 to My 4-year-old

It was Sunday, September 9, 2012, when I realized it was... Sunday, September 9.

For the past few days, when I would notice a calendar and see that once again it would soon be Tuesday, September 11, my pulse would quicken, my throat would begin to close, and tears would start to well in my eyes before I could push the emotions down, refocus, and move forward. In those micro-seconds of grief, my mind would invariably flood with images of the lat time it was Sunday, September 9... I was running a sprint triathlon on the Jersey Shore, the sun was high, there was a cool breeze in the air, and life was good. 

Lower Manhattan from the Jersey side

For the past few days, I just wanted to go back and see things as they were, the Manhattan skyline like I remembered seeing it from the Jersey side, one more time. I didn't want Tuesday to come, and a part of me dreaded it.

One of the more profound things associated with 9/11 for me, was getting turned away from the blood bank in the days that followed the attack. For someone who is O-negative, a universal donor, who gets phone calls from the blood bank the day I'm legal to donate again, getting turned away was something uncanny. It seemed all the donors had come out to donate, but there were no survivors to donate to. I remember sitting in my car outside the center, weeping.

Now it's eleven years later, and it's again Tuesday, September 11.  My four-year-old daughter Jane and I enter Balboa Park, looking for a hot dog and "free Tuesdays" admission. As we near the fountain at the south end of the park, I notice a large 9/11 Memorial display, and slow my pace as I walk, her little hand in mine. 

Do I tell her the story? She's only four. The horrific images of the planes crashing into the Towers are in bright colors on the long display walls, along with images of the survivors, firefighters, police, and all the chaos that was Tuesday, September 11. 

I take a breath and lean down on one knee, drawing her close and pointing to the images as I tell her the story.

"Eleven years ago, before you were born, a terrible thing happened. Evil men wanted to hurt people."

"Why?" she asks.

"Because evil people will always want to hurt good people and take away what they have. That's why good people need to be strong, so they can fight the bad people." (Credit here goes to Dennis Prager for the pithy brilliance of this statement.) 


I take a breath, and use the story of The Incredibles to help me tell the story of 9/11. "Remember how Syndrome sent a giant robot to hurt people? Well, these bad men used airplanes instead of robots, and they flew them into buildings to try to hurt people," I tell her. "And a lot of people died."

She looks at the pictures, seeing people with blood and ash on their arms and faces, and asks, "Why them have blood?" 

"They probably got hurt when something fell on them," I tell her. She gazes at the images a few more seconds, then buries her head in my neck. 

I take a deep breath.

"But that's not the whole story," I tell her, quickly realizing I need to give her more information. "Do you remember when Mr Incredible and Frozone went into the burning building to save the people before it collapsed? Well, they had superheroes in New York City, too. See all these people going down the stairway, but the firefighters are going up? They're going in to save people." 

Note: There were 10,000 people or more evacuated from both towers that day, but this information is rarely remembered. We only remember the nearly 3000 that died.

I point to the images of people covered in ash, walking hand-in-hand from the rubble, "See these people? They didn't know each other. But they are helping each other to find safety. See this man? How he's hurt, but he's still helping this lady? They don't know each other, but they are helping each other like brother and sister..." 

"See these people? They're all working together, not like the people in the movies who scream and run away."

"See this one? They didn't know each other, but they're holding hands like brothers and sisters, too. This picture shows how they cared for each other, even when they were all very scared." 

"And this man here that is being carried out. Is he a fireman?" I ask her.
"Yes," she says.
"It looks like he's a fireman, because he's wearing a helmet and a fireman's jacket. But look at his shoes. Those are office shoes. This man was working at his office, and he got hurt. But a fireman came and rescued him, and gave him his helmet, and his jacket, so he wouldn't get hurt by anything else. These men are saving his life..."

And as I point out the triumph in each of the pictures, my own story of 9/11 shifts from one of grief and anger, to the story it was in the days immediately following the attack: the story of courage and unity in the face of absolute chaos and destruction. It becomes the story of the triumph of the human spirit, of endurance, and resilience. It becomes the story of the amazing orderly evacuation of over 10,000 people from two burning buildings, and the people who turned and walked straight into danger in the hopes of doing good for someone else. It's the story of people coming together like brothers and sisters, and choosing to take care of each other. 

I look at the wall of images and names, and suddenly, I don't dread Tuesday, Septerber 11, any more.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jane Doesn't Want to Go Home from the Fair

Tuesday Jane takes her first trip to the fair. Not knowing what to expect, she at first doesn't want to go, asking instead to go to the playground. I assure her we will have a good time. 

Wow. I have no idea the good time we are in for.

 We arrive at noon and go promptly to see the FFA/4H animals, the pig races, the petting zoo, we get something to eat (sorry, not deep-fried pizza on a stick) then head to the children's area, we ride an elephant (!), ride rollercoasters, and win a stuffed cow... all by 4pm. As I steer her back towards the exit, thinking she's had a full day and will be collapsing at any moment, we stop and get a snow cone in hopes that the sugar will hold her upright till we get to the car. 

Almost to the exit, she wants to see the monster trucks one more time, so we duck into the main pavilion to sit and watch the monster truck races till 5:30, when I tell her it is time to go.

"Noooo!" she begs me. Couldn't we ride just one more ride?? She doesn't want to go home just yet.

Well, if she is up for more walking around, I suppose I am too. I tell her she won't be tall enough for any of the rides, but we can walk back towards the midway and have a look. On the way, we get kettle corn then walk through the shopping pavilions. We look at all kinds of things I had no idea we needed, but realize I can't live without. 

We walk through the midway, looking at all the rides that Jane is too small to ride. I buy Jane a rainbow-swirl lollipop. The sun is setting. It is time to go.

This time when I tell Jane we have to go she has a full-on melt-down. She begins to cry and scream, refuses to follow me, and doesn't want me to take her hand to lead her. If it had been me causing this scene when I was 3-1/2-years old, my candy would have been thrown in the trash and I would probably have been taken to the restroom (or not) for a spanking. The beatings would have continued until morale improved. It was simply the way things were done, and it wasn't really questioned. I never questioned it till Jane came along. But I really wanted there to be a better way.

We've chosen not to spank Jane because we think there are better ways of teaching kids to make the right decisions. But not spanking your kids requires you to really think, and forces you to teach self-discipline by modeling self-discipline. The whole, "How can you expect your kid to learn to control himself in the heat of the moment if you are unable/unwilling to control yourself in the heat of the moment?" thing. 

Because we are trying to adopt another child, the State of California has mandated that we take parenting classes as part of our certification. Steve and I found the first 40 hours of classes so helpful (minimum is 36 hours of instruction) that we recently signed up for more. Here was my chance to put some of those lessons to the test.

With Jane screaming and crying, amidst a sea of people I take her wrist in my hand, I take away her lollipop before it gets dropped or stuck on me (which brings on bigger wails from her), and lead her from the middle of the crowd about 50 yards away to a bench, where I put down my bags, place her lollipop on top of one of my boxes, pick her up, put her in my lap and begin to rock her gently, stroking her head and telling her quietly, "You're OK, Jane. I've got you. I'm here. You're OK."

The conversation goes like this:
Me: Honey, come on, you know we have to go home some time...
Jane: (shakes head violently and sobs) Don't wanna go home!
Me: We had a lot of fun today! Don't you want to tell Daddy about it?
Jane: (hesitates, continues to sob) Don't wanna go home!

I think to myself, Aw man, this is not working! Why isn't this working?! She's still crying. What do I say? I can't carry my bags and her all the way to the car. 
Then it hits me.

Me: Jane, are you afraid that if you leave and go home, you won't ever have this much fun again?
Jane: (stops crying, sniffles, nods head, then continues to sob)

Wow. I've been there. I've been in places and moments I wished could last forever, and would've done anything to hold the moment just a bit longer.  I know exactly how she feels. No wonder she's so sad and so afraid.
I hold her and rock her a bit more, letting her calm down.

Me: Jane, do you remember when Kay Kay visited and you played and played, and when she had to go you were angry and didn't want her to go because you didn't want the fun to end?
Jane: (nods head)
Me: And do you remember when Grandmother was here and you played at the playground, and when she told you it was time to go you got very angry and kicked her because you didn't want to go home? 
Jane: (nods head)
Me: I think you were afraid that you wouldn't ever be able to have so much fun as you were having right then, and you didn't want it to stop. But there's always another time to play and have fun. It won't be the same, but it will still be fun...

I stop here, remembering I'm not going to teach her much while she is still in a distressed state. I ask her if I may sing her the Old Lady and the Fly song. She doesn't object, so I sing, "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly..."

I can't tell if it is having any effect until I miss a verse and Jane corrects me. We chuckle together about the old lady eating a horse, and I know Jane is mostly back to normal. I go to give her the lollipop, but it is stuck to the box (thankfully a glossy box, so it comes off easily). We chuckle about the stuck lollipop, and I ask Jane if she is ready to go. Yes, she is.

We walk hand in hand to the exit, get on the tram to the parking lot, chat about the cars in the lot and the passengers on the tram and about the monster trucks we had watched until we return to the car.

Of course within minutes of leaving the fairgrounds, Jane is asleep, exhausted from a long day of fun.

Tomorrow morning or maybe the next when we're both fresh, I'll talk to Jane about saying goodnight to the fun, and about finding ways to minimize the fear that she will never have fun again. I'm not sure how to do this for such a strong-willed and high-energy child as Jane, but I do know that as her parent, it's my job to teach her how to keep from stressing out in stressful situations. I know I won't do that by teaching her to fear me, but by strengthening the bond between us.

If you are interested in the techniques of this parenting method, I recommend Parenting with Love and Logic, and Beyond Consequences. There is a lot of good information in both books.