By Esperanza DeLaLuz
Being a mother is a thing which changes you forever. Once you make that commitment to a child, it’s the child’s well-being, growth, and happiness that is the most important thing in your world. You’ll go without sleep, go hungry, clean up disgusting substances, labor for hours to create the perfect event or costume, and spend hours and hours repeating activities that would otherwise be incredibly boring.
Recently I found myself playing 27 games of Candyland in a row because my 5-year-old granddaughter loves that game and can play it competently. I don’t like Candyland, but I love the excitement on her face when she makes a good move, or the exuberant thrill when she wins. Even the sadness when she has to go backwards is just adorable!
Do you know the history of Candyland? An article in the Atlantic recently described it! During the Polio era, before vaccines, there were lots of very young children in hospitals and they were very bored, lonely and unhappy. But many of them were too young to read and unable to play games without adult involvement.
In 1948, a retired schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott decided to create a board game that could become a distraction for very young patients. The outbreak had forced children into extremely restrictive environments. Concerned with the spread of polio, parents kept their children indoors, and children were frustrated. Games like Candy Land became an ideal way to keep them occupied.
Children who had contracted polio were isolated, physically weak and often confined by equipment. Candy land was designed to let young children play by themselves. As long as the child can count to 2 and match colors the child can play. Candy Land offered the children confined in hospitals welcome distraction—but it also gave immobilized patients a liberating fantasy of movement. The joy of movement, especially for polio patients, seems to have been integral to Abbott’s design philosophy from the start. The original board even depicts the tentative steps of a boy in a leg brace!
The game teaches pattern recognition and following instructions. It shows children how to play together—how to win humbly or lose graciously. The game is designed to be outgrown. As soon as a child realizes that there is nothing that, they can do to alter the course of the game, they begin to desire more challenging entertainments. But there will always be young children who need a game that they can play, and Moms and Nannas who will play 27 games in a row for the pure joy of watching a child play.
READ the whole history here: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/07/how-polio-inspired-the-creation-of-candy-land/594424/
My twin daughters are in a kickboxing class at the local community college and this video was assigned to them as homework. It struck me as so simple that it is well worth the couple of minutes to review information we likely are already aware of but need continual reminders about. Moms, this is what we do -- we are the reminders, the repeaters, the consistent, kind, and friendly reviewers and encouragers!
From the YouTube Description:
Wellness means overall well-being. It includes the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery. This short animated video explores the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and helps people understand the practical strategies and ways they can begin developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. To learn more about SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative, click here.
Being empathic -- able to feel the emotions of others -- can be a gift, showing compassion and wanting to ease sadness. It might also be stressful, since the other person is the one in charge of whether their complex emotions get resolved in healthy ways or not. Being able to "LET GO" is a skill that empaths must learn and practice! But what does it mean?
In high school, I took a class called Peer Facilitation, and it taught us how to keep ourselves emotionally level while reaching out to those who were off kilter. Here is one of the handouts from that class, which I've kept almost 30 years! It describes both what "LET GO" is AND what it is NOT.
May it help you in your journey as a mother, definitely a position of empathy! Also, a position with the temptation to try to control another person. Gaining this perspective, this ability to LET GO will make motherhood a much more enjoyable journey -- full of love instead of fear.
To "let go" does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can't do it for someone else.
To "let go" is not to cut myself off,
it's the realization that I can't control another.
To "let go" is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To "let go" is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To "let go" is not to try to change or blame another,
it's to make the most of myself.
To "let go" is not to care for,
but to care about.
To "let go" is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
To "let go" is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To "let go" is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcome,
but to allow others to effect their own destinies.
To "let go" is not to be protective,
it's to permit another to face reality.
To "let go" is not to deny, but to accept.
To "let go" is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To "let go" is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.
To "let go" is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
To "let go" is to fear less and love more.
Many years ago, this little essay was included in the newsletter at the School for the Deaf in Washington State. The author was listed as Carol Turkington. I'm not sure how it came to be included in my pile of papers, but whenever I would thin them out, this one would get saved. May her message help you as you adjust to whatever Holland-type situation your baby has brought you too.
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like you're planning a vacation to Italy. You're all excited. You get a whole bunch of guidebooks, you learn a few phrases so you can get around, and then it comes time to pack your bags and head for the airport.
Only when you land, the stewardess says, ‘Welcome to Holland.”
You look at one another in disbelief and shock, saying “Holland? What are you talking about? I signed up for Italy!”
But they explain there’s been a change of plans and that you've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
“But I don’t know anything about Holland!” you say. "I don’t want to stay!”
But stay you do. You go out and buy some new guidebooks, you learn some new phrases and you meet people you never knew existed. The important thing is that you are not in a slum full of pestilence and famine. You're simply in a different place that you had planned. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy, but after you've been there a little while and you have a chance to catch your breath, you begin to discover that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland has Rembrandts.
But everyone else you know is busy coming and going from Italy. They're all bragging about what a great time they had there and for the rest of your life, you’ll say, “Yes, that’s what I had planned.”
The pain of that will never, ever go away.
You have to accept that pain, because the loss of that dream, the loss of that plan, is a very, very significant loss.
But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, very lovely things about Holland.
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
By Grant Colfax Tullar
By Kandis Lake, RN, BSN, guest blog post contributer
Parenting can be challenging for everyone, but parenting with a chronic or life altering illness brings a unique set of difficulties. It is important for you to accept outside support and take it easy on yourself. Realize there are many simple ways you can be an amazing parent, even if you're not feeling up to doing many activities.
Use Outside Support
Don't hesitate to seek and accept outside help. Get help with childcare, housework, meals, or whatever you feel in need of.
It has been found that new mothers with outside support are more optimistic about parenting. That finding could apply to any stage or situation in parenting, and it makes sense that if you're more optimistic about something you will feel happier doing it. If you’re happier parenting, you will show up in more positive ways for your child. Because of this, accepting help will benefit not only you, but your child as well.
It could be beneficial to talk to a trusted person about your feelings surrounding your difficult circumstance. If you're struggling to cope, you may benefit from seeing a counselor who can help you work through your emotions.
Take it Easy on Yourself
Taking care of a child is a lot of hard work. It is more consuming physically, emotionally, and mentally than any other job. Add illness on top of it, and there is no doubt a need for as much rest as possible. Let yourself rest whenever you can without feeling guilty about it.
Focus On The Ways You Can Parent Well
You may feel disappointed or feel a loss if you are unable to do active physical activities with your child. It's okay to feel that way, but it is important to remember that your value as a parent isn't dependent on how much or what things you do. You can love your kid and bond with them in many simple yet profound ways.
Find ways to make deep and meaningful connections with your child through spending time together. Some ways bonding can occur without expending a lot of physical energy can include
snuggling on the couch, talking, reading, or drawing together.
You could take turns telling stories. Try pulling up a list of questions for your child to answer, and as a bonus, audio record them giving their answers on your phone as a form of journaling. Listen to audiobooks together (you can check them out online from the library) or a podcast with children's stories. Color, draw, or watch movies together.
Having a secure relationship with your child will bring many benefits for both of you. Your child will have an increased feeling of stability and confidence, have resilience in difficult times, and a better ability to navigate difficult emotions. Connecting with your child will bring you joy and fulfillment amidst the difficulties of your illness.
Hugging and cuddling your child even has benefits for both of you. Hugging and cuddling causes the brain to release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin contributes to bonding with others and has many other health benefits as well. Oxytocin has been known to decrease stress, bring blood pressure down, increase pain tolerance, and help with anxiety.
As a parent with a chronic or life altering illness, you deserve to go easy on yourself. Don't hesitate to seek and accept the outside support you need, as this will benefit you and your child. Focus on all the ways you can parent well, and do those things to create meaningful connections with your child.
Crnic, K. A., Greenburg, M. T., Ragozin, A. S., Robinson, N. M., & Basham, R. B. (1983, Feb.). Effects of Stress and Social Support on Mothers and Premature and Full-Term Infants. Child Development, 54(1), 209-217. 10.2307/1129878
Uvnas-Moberg, K., & Petersson, M. (2005). Oxytocin, ein Vermittler von Antistress, Wohlbefinden, sozialer Interaktion, Wachstum und Heilung [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother, 51(1), 57-80. 10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57
Kandis Lake, the author, is a professional health writer and can be found at www.healthwriterkandis.com
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