Pre-school and a Post at Multicultural Mothering

My kids have been in pre-school for almost a week now. Thankfully, the transition couldn’t have been smoother. Day 1 was fine. They didn’t really know what they were in for.

Second day Rahul wouldn’t let go of me. Leila waved good-bye, and tried to get her brother to let go of my hand. “Come on Rahul, let’s go.” There was kicking and some crying.

At lunch that afternoon Leila looked at me and said, “Where are you from?” I was taken aback and unprepared for that one. I wrote about it at Multicultural Mothering. Please drop by when you get the chance. Also, mums out there who want to share a story, please, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Third day being a Monday, I was a little apprehensive. Both of them went into their class room, put their folders into the basket, took their snacks in, flashed big smiles and waved good-bye.
Me: Bye guys, have fun!
Leila: Bye.
Rahul: Have fun!

At the end of every school morning, they are tired, almost collapsing into our arms. The first thing they ask for is MILK! No signs of trauma, so all is good…

Maher asked them if they made any friends in their class:
Rahul: Yeah, mi fan (Chinese for rice)
Maher: I think we have rice for lunch. But, what are your friends names?
Rahul: Uhhhh, mi fan, spinach, and whiskey.
Maher: Ah OK, you have 3 friends already!
Rahul: Yeah.
Leila: And my friends are Lili, Dede, Dada, and Juju.

Today was day 4. On the way to school Leila was whimpering, “but I don’t want to go to school today.” I asked her what was up. “Because I’ll be with myself (alone).”
Me: You’ll be with your teacher, Rahul, and all your friends. And we’ll pick you up when you’re done.

They enter the classroom and go through the first few bits of the routine. When Leila found her name for where her snack box goes, she was very proud. They both smile and wave good-bye. I noticed a hint of excitement in their eyes!

 

 

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Baby Newton

“Mum look kshhhhh, looook, kshhhh doing kshhhhh up kshhhhh down.” That’s what I heard this morning. Rahul was trying to tell me something. Something BIG of course.

I was focused on staying out of his and Leila’s hyper-excited way, working hard at Facebook.

I look at him as he’s throwing a toy into the air, about to move on to another game. I might still be able to listen this time. “What’s up love?”

“Look mum, when I throw it up, it falls down.”

I smile.

“Yeah! Amazing isn’t it.”

I tell Maher about it when he walks into the room.

Leila is a keen listener and vibe picker-upper. Half an hour later she tells me when she throws her doll up, it falls down. She looks me in the eye. She knows I caught her out. We smile.

The only requirement for preschool – which starts middle of next week – is that they’re potty-trained, well other than that they’re 3-years-old by November 1st. Now I don’t know how early Newton figured all that stuff out, we’re still working on it. Baby Leila’s pretty much got it. Our baby Newton might need a little longer.

Teaching Your Kids Yoga Early: A Guest Post by Dana Vicktor

Dana Vicktor is the senior researcher and writer for duedatecalculator.org. Her most recent accomplishments include graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in communications and sociology. Her current focus for the site involves ovulation pain and the menstruation cycle.

Teaching Your Kids Yoga Early

Yoga has many benefits for everyone. It can help to relieve stress, improve circulation, and tone muscles. It can promote greater heart health, improve digestion, and provide greater energy.

Yoga has many excellent benefits for children, as well. Yoga can help:

  • Promote balance and flexibility
  • Build confidence and self-esteem
  • Improve concentration
  • Promote calmness
  • Build strength

You don’t have to wait until your children are grown to start teaching them how to practice yoga. Here are a few tips for how to teach your kids yoga early:

Get Started Right Away
You can start teaching your kids about yoga from the moment they are born. “Mommy and Me” classes lead you through yoga exercises with your baby — though baby’s main role is to lie there and look cute. Later, toddler classes start showing your kids how to do modified versions of some of the moves with you.

By practicing yoga with your kids early, you help them to develop a love of the practice so that they can make it a part of their own routines later.

Start Small
You don’t have to introduce your kids to yoga by showing them how to do shoulder stands or other complicated moves. You can start with the basics: chanting and breathing.

When you are waiting at the doctor’s office, or you are driving in the car, or you are getting ready for your day in the morning, take advantage of that time to practice together. Get your children to mimic you, and talk to them about the benefits of these practices.

Keep It Age-Appropriate
Young children have short attention spans. Don’t try to fight that, but rather, work with it. Limit the time for each exercise to no more than a minute. Take frequent breaks during your yoga practice with your children so that they don’t become too bored or restless. Speed up the pace of the routine, as well.

The key is not to overwhelm kids or to push the limits of their patience. Yoga should be enjoyable, not feel like a chore.

Make It Fun
Yoga shouldn’t feel like exercise or something that kids are forced to do. It should be fun! Help make it fun for them by including silly songs, fun challenges, or even props. Use a silly voice when you call out the moves, invite their favorite doll to “practice” with you, or use fun names for some of the poses (some of them are already pretty funny…).

Do whatever you can to make yoga a fun practice for your children, and they will learn to love it and will be more likely to practice it for years to come.

Be a Role Model
Children learn best by watching you. Show them how fun and rewarding a yoga practice can be by enjoying your own practice in front of them. Don’t treat your practice like exercise or like a chore, or your children will learn to view it in the same way.

Make yoga  a regular part of your life so that you may show your children how regular practice can benefit them.

Teaching kids how to practice yoga will have a number of benefits for them, such as promoting their self-esteem and confidence while also improving their strength and flexibility. Teaching kids this wonderful practice early will make it more likely that they will continue to practice it later in life, when it will also help them to relieve stress and protect against disease.

Do you practice yoga with your children? How old were they when you started?

The Role of Yoga in your Child’s Wellbeing: A Guest Post by Danny Mitchell

Danny Mitchell writes about yoga, fitness, parenting at www.travelinsurance.org

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years both as exercise and for spiritual meditation. It is highly controlled athleticism that allows the body and the mind to connect. It is great for adults and it can do wonders for children too, in both mind and body. In fact, yoga will help children learn to control themselves in every facet of their being.

Also, they will become more athletic, thanks to difficult poses that need strength and endurance. They will become mental warriors, because they will have to learn to reach a mental state that will allow them to both push themselves and stay calm at the same time.

Childhood is the best time to teach children skills, so here’s why you should get started NOW!

Flexibility and Stamina
For many, the main reason for children to practice yoga is to improve their flexibility. Being limber helps a child improve their ability to play sports and games. In addition to this, it is great exercise for a child who does not like to run around too much. It will increase their stamina.

Patience
Children will learn patience with the slow rhythm of yoga. They are not dancing or moving around. Instead, as they learn, their muscles will become stronger, thanks to determination. Yoga is a great way to make sure that your kid is patient and determined at a very young age.

Self Awareness
Becoming aware of their mental and physical spirit at a young age is a fabulous thing for any child. Through yoga, they will develop skills such as thinking before acting and recognition of limitations. Furthermore, a child will become aware of how much more powerful the mind is over the body. If they believe they can do a difficult position, then it will happen.

Mental Serenity
Yoga is renowned for its calming capacity. It is a form of meditation. Your child does not need to reach their limit each session, but a good workout followed by a quiet rest can teach a child about both the value of hard work and moderation. In this rest (known as Savasana), kids also can learn how to push stressors out of their mind for the time being, which is perfect for kids who have tests and adolescent troubles to worry about.

In conclusion, yoga is one of the best ways to improve your child’s well-being, both mentally and physically. They will become stronger and more limber after each session. They will learn that being calm and quiet is not a chore. In fact, it is rather relaxing and it can help calm a child’s apprehension over school, dating, family, etc.

Yoga is a way of being. If your children learn how to control their mind and body at such a young age, then there is no telling what they can carry out down the road!

Too Loud

I wrote this 6 weeks ago.  I would *never* have done such a thing today!

—————————–

“Do you think we should tell Rahul to talk less loudly?” Maher asks me as he enters the kitchen in the evening.

I walk over to the door, peek into the living room where L and R are playing. They’re excited.

“No. I don’t think so.  It’s not a big deal that he talks a little loudly.  And it’s not all the time anyway.”

Rahul and Leila are shouting now.  Fighting over the same toy as yesterday.

When Leila screams, I motion Maher to go and check on them.

Same toy, same fight.  Yesterday she wouldn’t let him play.  She ended up crying from a bite in her arm.

It’s that same cry.  Today. I barge in, demand to know what happened.  They’re still at it.  Loudly.  She’s wailing now.  He’s nagging even more loudly.  No one is able to tell me what happened.

“STOP SHOUTING RIGHT NOW. BOTH OF YOU,” I shout.

L and R look at each other.  R continues to nag.  He wants the toy.  She won’t give it to him.

My eyes are bigger than he’s ever seen, my index finger points at him and then at his room: WHY ARE YOU STILL SCREAMING?  YOU HAVE THE SAME TOY IN YOUR BEDROOM.  GO SCREAM IN THERE.

Maher looks away from me. I notice a quiver of a smile on Maher’s face. He looks away and speeds out of the living room.

“WHAT?” I glare at him.

——————-

After the children fall asleep that night, Maher laughs uncontrollably. “Only 2 minutes before you screamed at Rahul for shouting, you said that we shouldn’t say anything about him speaking loudly!”

I relax. I break into laughter. “OK, so I fu*ked up.  I know.”

My mum calls soon after.  Maher insists I tell her the story.  She bursts out laughing.  We all do.

“It happens sometimes….”  I’ve heard that line of hers before.

Dammit – I was screaming at my children uncontrollably because they were screaming.  I hate that shit.

—————————–

I came across this the next morning, from a 1924 series of talks by Rudolph Steiner.

The first essential for a teacher is self-knowledge. For instance, if a child blots its book or its desk because of impatience or anger with something a neighbor did, the teacher must never shout at the child for making blots and say: “You must not get angry! Getting angry is something a good person never does! A person should never get angry but should bear everything calmly. If I see you getting angry once more, why then—then I shall throw the ink pot at your head!”   If you educate like this (which is very often done) you will accomplish very little. Teachers must always keep themselves in hand, and above all must never fall into the faults that they are blaming the children for.

Parenting and Practicing Yoga: From Pregnancy to a Year Old by Marisa Findlay

Marisa is a photographer specializing in baby and maternity photography. You can see some of her work on her Facebook page or her website.

From Pregnancy to a Year Old

You are reading this post three days after my daughter, Yara, turned a year old.

My journey with yoga began about 11 years ago and has been an on and off love affair that has gently carried me to where I am now.  Along this journey I trained as a Sivananda yoga teacher in Kerala, India and dabbled in a bit of teaching both in Zambia, a place that will always be home to me, and Brighton, where I currently live and have subsequently discovered Scaravelli yoga which I absolutely adore.

If I could play a sound track to you as you read this post, it would be Monsoon Point by Al Gromer Khan & Amelia Cuni, so perhaps you could play it in another window as you read.

I discovered this music while I was pregnant with Yara and preparing for my planned ideal home water birth.  Some of you after reading the previous sentence already have an inkling that this story isn’t going to reveal the ideal birth, but instead the birth that was meant to be.

I loved being pregnant and marveled at my ever-changing body giving space to this little being growing inside of me.  My yoga practice took on a new dimension, which I loved and my body really understood on a deeper level what it needed to do in order to release the spine.

I practiced under Marc Woolford, my first Scaravelli yoga teacher in Brighton, during the first few months of my pregnancy.

Despite me practicing yoga, learning tai chi from my partner Edward, and all the mental preparation I did during my absolutely idyllic pregnancy (most of which was spent in the sunny Turks & Caicos islands) it all changed at 35 weeks when I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.  After a 5 day stay in hospital I was put on a heavy concoction of medication to bring my blood pressure down and then at 37 weeks I had to have an emergency c-section.  I am so grateful to the knowledge that yoga has given me to handle this extremely stressful time and remain somewhat centred.  During this time I had a fantastic doula, Lucy Skelton, who is also a yoga teacher and was able to gently guide me through the process.

On the day of Yara’s birth, all within the space of an hour I had to transform my mindset from having a routine check at the hospital, after which I had planned a leisurely lunch in town, to deciding to be operated on immediately for the safety of my baby. Focusing on the breath and being present to what was, helped me regain my centre after the initial shock and panic of the unexpected news. After delivery it was my breath that got me through three hospital-bound days sharing a room with three screaming babies.

Lucy came to my house when Yara was about one week old to help me do some gentle stretching and mainly work on encouraging my shoulders away from up around my ears where they had found a new home after the terror of the experience.

When Yara was 8 weeks old we started attending a weekly mother and baby yoga class taught by my doula.  It was a challenge to be ready to head out the door across town for the 10:30 start, yet it was so worth the experience.  Meeting other mothers and their babies and feeling the connection through our common experience.  Sharing the delights and concerns as well as creating the space to allow our bodies the chance to ever so slowly stretch and strengthen once more.

The course only ran a month and then with the arrival of family from abroad, Yara’s ever-changing routine, and my efforts to start a photography business while improving my knowledge of the craft…yoga slipped away.  I would have snippets of it as I reminded myself to breathe while nursing Yara or attempted a sleep-deprived practice on the mat.  If I was particularly lucky I managed to escape for a yoga class with my delightful teacher Dot Bowen and came away feeling Marisa again, yet it was not enough to sustain me each day.

This was until about two months ago when I discovered this blog and was deeply inspired by a post about committing to 5 sun salutations for a month.  I went easy on myself and committed to 7 days to see how I would go.  I realized it was the first time I had consistently practiced yoga probably since my teacher training 6 years ago and I felt fantastic for it!  It wasn’t about how long I did or whether I completed the 5 sun salutations – it was about rolling the mat out each day and giving my mind and body the chance to reconnect.  Each week now I recommit another 7 days and marvel each day as I notice the change, the strength developing and most of all the chance to reconnect to myself.

I’ve realized that my yoga practice doesn’t have to involve the candles, relaxing music and solitude that I knew prior to being a mother, but rather takes the form that the day presents. If I have the energy I rise before everyone is up and relish the peace, however if not I grab a moment during the day while Yara plays around me or wait until the day is complete and I have my mat time.  I’m so grateful to have found a way to incorporate my yoga practice back into my life and the irony of it all is that now as I have less time for myself, I’m able to have a more consistent and fulfilling practice.

Parenting and Practicing Yoga: Always get Back by Petra Carmichael

Petra is a yoga teacher and the owner of Divya Yoga Studio in Zagreb, Croatia.
She is currently based in Boston, travelling and managing the yoga school in Croatia.  She is also studying at Middlesex University of Ayurveda London.

Always get Back

I’ve been practicing yoga for a several  years. Do I really have the right to say that considering it’s a 5000 year old practice? Anyway let’s just say I have some experience.  I can definitely say that it’s something  I’ve been looking for my whole life.

Yoga teaches you to focus and aside from the physical exercise, it takes you away from the everyday activity in to your own space.  A space where you can see the real values helping to step besides your own little world and realize there is more to everything. Now this might be a little confusing. First I said it takes me into my little world and then besides it.

About a year and a half ago I found out that I was pregnant.  As you practice yoga you definitely develop some sensitivity towards the changes in the body.  I remember the time when I felt that something was different.  I took a home test and it was positive. That moment was amazing – I was happy and scared. At the same time I kept the big news to myself for another couple of days.  Straight away I stopped practicing asanas trying to take the best care of myself.  I really loved being pregnant.  It’s a special time in a woman’s life.

When my pregnancy was stable I came back to the physical part of yoga, to the asanas, and I must admit, it felt great.  My back especially, but the whole body and mind were almost screaming for movement.  When you are pregnant people sometimes treat you like you are sick or disabled.  I definitely took precautions and was very careful with what I was doing with my body.  But I was on my mat everyday.

The practice was completely different from what I was used to. It was soft and gentle all the way into the ninth month of my pregnancy carrying a big baby.  My little son (10 pounds 6 ounces – so much for little) was born six and a half months ago.  I felt more love than I have ever felt before.

He was a strong healthy baby, but he didn’t pass the hearing test. That really scared my husband and me.  Further testing showed that our little one is profoundly deaf.  That moment when you find out such news is indescribable. First you start questioning what you have done wrong. Why you. Why your baby.? There is no answer to these questions.  I know I didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s simply how it is.

But to come to that point of understanding it definitely takes some time and energy.  The practice helped. I got back on the mat 10 days after my C-section; only tiny stretches to keep myself sane.  It wasn’t easy not to be able to touch my toes and to go through pain as the body was slowly getting back into shape.  But it definitely kept me out of my mind and of the situation.

I hear a lot of parents complaining about how they can’t keep the practice because of the child.  It’s not easy and I am very lucky to have a calm child who watches me as I practice, with a smile. But it’s not always like that.  There are days when I have to assist him many times, get off the mat and feed him or change a diaper, but the important thing is to GET BACK ON THE MAT.

My Transcendental Meditation (TM) teacher, dearest Narasimhan, told me if there is someone at the door, go get it, do what needs to be done but then return and continue with your meditation.  I think that’s really what it is and it doesn’t only apply to parents.

So I have  one suggestion for every soul fighting with tapas – the daily practice.  Just get on that mat every day no matter what happens, and keep returning.

At the moment we are in the process of getting cochlear implants for our son.  Hopefully he will be able to hear his first Om in late July this year.

Parenting and Practicing Yoga: Golden Child by Catherine Platt

Catherine first came to China as a student in the 1980s and has lived in Chengdu, Sichuan, with her family since 2004. She and her husband both work on development projects with Tibetan communities across China.

Golden Child

One of Sam’s first words was “Buddha.” When he was just over a year old and could say maybe ten words, Buddha was one of his favorites. He would gaze up at the Buddha statue on the bookcase and draw the word out into two long syllables, “boooooodaaaaaaa”, then look at us expectantly for approval. Of course he received it in abundance, which encouraged the performance, and it is also an easy word for a young child to say. But beyond that, Sam has an innate interest in spiritual matters, which is quite different from his brother, a born rationalist and scientist. Sam asks the big questions: what is life, what happens after death, what is a soul, where does it go, where is God, when will the world end, and looks at us expectantly for answers.

I am not sure when he started sitting in the full lotus position, or how he figured it out. Certainly not from copying me. He has always enjoyed joining in my yoga practice, usually by lying on my mat underneath me, or climbing on my back and sliding down in downward dog. I think one day I must have shown him what the full lotus position is supposed to look like and he just effortlessly tucked his feet up into it, then closed his eyes and brought his hands together in prayer like the Buddha statue.

Any child might do it, but it comes naturally to Sam. He does it quite often now and tells us that he is meditating, though only for a few seconds at a time. Last month when we visited the giant stone Buddha at Leshan in western Sichuan, he closed his eyes in front of each of the Buddhas in the nearby temple and told me he was communicating with them. It’s the kind of behavior that, if we were a Tibetan family, would have him recognised as a reincarnate lama and whisked off to a monastery. Which I suppose goes to show why the Tibetan system works: you may not believe in reincarnation, but there’s no doubt that some people have an aptitude for spirituality and it manifests early, and those people are well suited to the monastic life.  Not that I expect this for Sam, he is full of curiosity and mischief and his current ambition is to be both a singer and a writer. But I do anticipate that he will have a rich spiritual life, and that he will grow up to love yoga.

Parenting and Practicing Yoga: Against all Odds by Maher Kassar

Maher lives in Chengdu with his wife Natasha, and children Leila and Rahul. An amateur runner and yoga practitioner; he openly admits the difficulty of balancing his activities with work and raising children.

Against all Odds

Hong Kong 2009. These were stressful yet exciting times. Times where everything was possible, yet everything was impossible. Times where we hoped for life, but feared death. Times where the most skeptical became believers. And I, among them, turned to my own invented superstitions.

It was during my 40 minute runs at the Happy Valley Race Course that I started singing my reggae hymn to Rahul and Leila. I would repeat it in my head over and over like a mantra. It was my own prayer to whomever.

First, I prayed for them to hang on as long as possible with their mother, inside her belly. Then, when they were in the Neonatal ICU, I prayed for them to start breathing on their own, to start eating, and digesting on their own. To put on weight and be strong enough to get out. I prayed for Leila’s test result to show no sign of intestinal necrotizing, and for Rahul’s apnea to stop.

I always carried 2 dollar coins with me. I would stop by the Frangipani trees inside the racecourse, kiss the coins and throw them at the feet of the two trees I thought were the frailest and neediest looking. And I would repeat my prayers.

Often, I would look up, and between the glowing skyscrapers try to spot the majestic kite eagles that fly the skies of Hong Kong. If I spotted two at a time, our day would go well.

It was then, in apartment 20F of the V-Residencies, Causeway Bay that against all odds, it happened. I didn’t expect it, and didn’t even expect to try it. It was awkward and ugly. But it was there undoubtedly: my first padmasana. In my eyes it was like a rare sporting moment when the ultimate underdog becomes the champion. Me, the stiff runner, from a notoriously stiff family; I suddenly found myself in the lotus pose.

Everything else happened as well. Rahul came out, and then Leila came out. The New Year came and all our relatives flew to Hong Kong. We celebrated with the twins at home. When they grew stronger, we returned to Chengdu. Slowly, normal life returned and the feel and memory of these strange times vanished.

I sometimes miss that edginess; the feeling of improbable yet realized hopes.

I remember the coffee in a jam jar and the triple layer peanut butter sandwich I prepared every Friday evening and kept in the fridge. Early the next morning, I would drink the ice-cold coffee in the car to the airport. I would board the 7:10 China Airways flight from Chengdu to Hong Kong. Up in the air, I would savor my sandwich. From Hong Kong airport it was straight to the NICU. Wash hands, facemask on, and I could finally see Rahul and Leila.


Parenting and Practicing Yoga: Maybe Tomorrow by Ian Hoke

Ian Hoke is a husband, father, and teacher living and working in Zurich, Switzerland. Catch more of his thoughts at his education blog.

Maybe Tomorrow

I am, by no means, a yogi. I have practiced, enjoyed, and benefited from yoga, in particular from the practice of Ashtanga. For several years I delved into and became absorbed by my yoga practice. My practice developed into something regular, five to six days a week. My body felt stronger and simply more comfortable than it had for years. My mind was more focused and disciplined. The two years in which I explored Ashtanga were also the first two years of my eldest daughter Dorothy’s life.

Dorothy is like a clock, wedded to routine, and has been from three months old. The predictability of her schedule and the amount of freedom afforded by life in Chengdu, China, where a teacher’s wages made us fabulously wealthy allowed me to attend several yoga classes each week. Household chores were nonexistent. My job was relaxed. Once per year, we flew to a fabulous Thai island for a week of clean food, yoga, and massages. These were, in the words of H.I. McDunnough, the salad days.

When I arrived in Switzerland, I practiced several times, tried out some new yoga studios, and ultimately stopped cold. The reasons for this are myriad, but can be boiled down to a poor reaction to change on my part and a reduction in what I perceive as my free time. For the first year in Zurich, I could easily have continued to practice, but in May of last year, we had a second daughter and I no longer see any spaces at all for practice. I have no doubt that opportunities exist, but I do not see them.

As such, the past two years have seen my body weaken, my posture slump, and my mind become more distracted. What I learned through my brief yoga practice, I still know. What I gained in a concrete sense, like improved discipline, is gone. But what I wonder is this: Am I stopped on the path or have I lost the path entirely?

That yoga is a tradition emphasizing the importance of gurus makes sense to me now more than ever. What is a teacher if not a guide who cares enough about the long view to keep us working today, against human nature that seems remarkably myopic? I have not found a teacher yet, or maybe I have and chose to forget. In a virtually connected world, the importance of physical proximity to one’s teacher remains clear, uncluttered by wires and silicon chips. I don’t have that.

What I do have is a mat and the knowledge of part of the Primary Series. What I lack is the will to roll out that mat and begin. I should. I may. It would be, for a man with two special daughters, powerful modeling that inaction is no thing, no way, and that right action is better.

I think “Maybe tomorrow,” but there is some today yet remaining.