Under the Rainbow Parachute

I spend my mornings hanging out under rainbow parachutes and surrounded by babies and bubbles. It's hard to feel cynical in this setting. When the world starts getting a little dark, I bask in the light of childhood optimism. I dwell in their joy and possibility. And I am recharged. 

So here is my holiday wish list for you dear friends:      

May you feel the happiness found under a rainbow parachute, 
and experience the wonder of bubble time.
May your soul soar with abandonment.
May you know the confidence of reaching the top alone
and the support of a loved one when you need it most.  
I wish you the optimism found in a baby's smile
and the comfort and delight in being found yourself.  Either in a game of hide-n-seek or by being seen in the real world as you actually are...  
I hope you laugh
and use your imagination to the fullest
and that you play. 
And dance like a chicken. Or a robot. Or anything else that makes you smile. 
I hope you look at things from a new perspective everyday. 
And that you take time to rest and be peaceful. 
May you dwell in the cheer of good company. 
And most of all, I wish you the joy of possibility. 
Love, Angel  

Love, Angel  

Normal Love

A few months back, a mom in one of my Parent/Child classes confided to me that her child was born with a section of brain missing. I'll give you a moment to reread and absorb. Yes, she was born with a piece of brain missing. I've taught nearly 1000 toddlers over the last decade. I thought I'd heard it all. But I was surprised. And not just because this diagnosis was unfamiliar to me. I was more surprised to hear that anything was wrong with this particular child, let alone something so serious sounding. 

In my interactions with the child in class, it never entered my mind she might have any serious developmental delays. I saw a curious, attentive, well-adjusted, happy, beautiful toddler. And she is all of those things. She is also missing a Corpus Callosum. A fact that her mom keeps a guarded secret. She doesn't want anyone to treat her differently.  

So while I respect and admire her mom's decision to keep the diagnosis private, I was inspired by this amazing child and asked if I could share her story anonymously on this blog. My first thought was that I wanted to write a story about how incredible the human brain is. Emphasize the ability the brain has to grow new connections and expand. Tell you all that in addition to bringing her to The Little Gym, they take her strawberry picking, and to museums, and to parks, and they do Pinterest Projects, and play in water and sand and paint. I wanted to point out that by exposing her to rich and varied environments and experiences, her brain is building connections and expanding its capacity everyday. I wanted to say that no one should assume someone can't or shouldn't do something because of a diagnosis, or because of a test score, or because of their gender, or because of the opinions of others. I wanted to say, feed your child's brain and your child will learn and grow. Because the brain is elastic.  

But the more I watched the family, and the more I talked to her mom, I realized that as amazing as the capacity of the human brain is, the more amazing part of this story is the capacity of a parent to love a child in a normal, healthy way. This mom did not let a diagnosis or doctors define her child. She is letting her child define herself. At the same time, she is not unrealistic or unprepared to help her in any way she needs. Sometimes she'll ask me in class, "do you think she is doing this because of what I told you?" And so far, I've been able to honestly answer, no. I don't. Every issue her mom has identified to me, I've seen many times in other toddlers with no brain defects. This is not to say that this child will never exhibit delays due to her condition. But when and if she does, her mom is ready to handle them and support her. In the meantime, she treats her like she is completely normal and healthy. 

The result of her family treating her like she is normal and healthy, is that she is normal and healthy. Her mom says she wants her to have a normal life, whatever that means for her. She made a conscious decision to not be frightened by the doctor's list of scary possible outcomes. She told me she decided to treat her like she was able to do anything until proven otherwise. She wrote, "To me it's the same if you were told you're not smart. Then you are not going to try your best. I think you get a better outcome if you feel supported from the very beginning." The same as if you were told you were not smart. While I agree with her, I also want to point out how remarkable this mom is. Her child was born without a piece of her brain. If anyone deserves to feel sorry for themselves or be over protective of their child, it certainly would be her. But she chose not to feel sorry and not to hide her daughter away. She chose to parent and love her child in a normal, healthy way. 

And I believe that when or if any developmental delays manifest, this incredible little girl will still be normal and healthy. That just might look different in her. As it does in many people. Healthy doesn't have to mean perfect. Normal doesn't have to mean identical to everyone else. Maybe being healthy and normal should mean being loved in a healthy, normal way. 

Our children deserve to be defined by who they are and what they have to offer the world. To be supported when they need it but expected to do great things. And we all deserve to be loved in a healthy, normal way. 


Confession of an older sister

I have a sister who is 3 years younger than I am. I know this because as an adult she has been a tremendous source of love and support for me. Truth be told though, my memories of her as a child are sketchy. Almost non-existent in a weird selective amnesia way. And as I watch my own younger daughter trying desperately to get the attention and approval of her older sister these days, I sometimes shake my head in shame... 

One day a few years back, my sister said something about my 16th birthday party. I was like, "oh, were you there?" She assured me she was... but perhaps the worst thing I have no memory of is the day she entered puberty. She says she was home alone with me the day she got her first period. My loving response? Allegedly I told her to walk to her friend's house for help (and to get supplies!) because I was about to be picked up for a date... This sounds like it could be true to me....I mean, if I had a date, right?!? And when she told me this story as an adult, I asked her if I knew it was her first time having a period, she responded with a pretty emphatic, "OH, YOU KNEW!" 

So I'd like to say sorry to her now for that abuse. And for all the other slights I don't even remember making. And I'd like to tell her that I see and remember her now. I see the wonderful woman she grew up to be. I see her strength and her compassion. And I'd like to take some of the credit for those things, I mean clearly my ignoring her led to her learning to be strong. And I imagine gave her a sense of compassion for others mistreated and marginalized... Wait. No.... 

There is research to show that the biggest predictor of personality is birth order. This gives me some comfort. I can't be the only older sister in history to have overlooked my younger sibling... So on behalf of older sisters everywhere, I'd like to apologize. It's not that we didn't like you little ones. We never thought about you enough to not like you. It was nothing personal. And hopefully you will give us the chance to be real friends as adults. To see you as you are, and appreciate all you offer the world and our family. Like my sister has.

Thank you Kristy for coming down to take care of me recently after my surgery. Thank you for always being there when I need you. And when you need me, I will never again pawn you off on a friend so that I can go on a date... 

Did your child throw a fit?

Did your child throw a fit?

Your heart is beating fast. You start to sweat. You can’t concentrate on anything around you. It’s like you have tunnel vision. Don’t worry; you are not having a heart attack. You are simply a loving parent watching your child behave in a way you find totally inappropriate. And you are sure everyone in the room is watching your child and horrified. This magnifies your anxiety, and you just want to run. Fight or flight your body is saying. Scoop up that child and flee! And on your way out, you are thinking, apologize to anyone listening…
I can’t tell you how many times a parent has approached me after a class at The Little Gym to apologize for their child “throwing a fit.” My response is almost always the same, “did your child throw a fit? I really hadn’t noticed.” And I’m not saying that to be nice. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am direct and honest sometimes to a fault. Ask my staff…
But anyway, back to you and your experience...

Be Still and Blow Bubbles

Be Still and Blow Bubbles

Don't just do something, stand there. What profound advice. In the midst of all our busy lives, it's sometimes difficult to just be. To be present to the miracles around us and hear our own heart beat...

So today I'd like to share with you the secret magic of bubbles...

I own The Little Gym of Huntsville where I teach Parent/Child classes. In every class, we have bubble time. And bubble time is magical. Every single day in every single class. You blow bubbles, and toddlers and babies stop everything else they are doing and they watch the bubbles. Every time. And if a child is crying before I start blowing the bubbles, the tears stop almost immediately when the bubbles start. And they are present. Present in that magical moment. And I assure you they are not preoccupied that they were hungry or wet or anything else possibly minutes before. Nor are they worried that maybe later they will be hungry or wet. They just enjoy the bubbles.